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02 March 2013

Press review 02-03-2013

The story of the week has been the elections in Italy. The English speaking media reacted like the world has ended and markets tanked, but I'm not that impressed. Neither Bersani nor Berlusconi can afford a return to the polls, especially the later. A grand coalition will eventually emerge, not very different from the one that backed Monti, but with Berlusconi back again into some position that can keep him out of jail. I'm not impressed by Grillo either, with his badly recycled Democratic Socialism tainted with some Nationalism. But EPP leaders must understand the forewarning: if they insist on their failed policies of austerity one day someone like Grillo is going to win a major election in Europe.

Thus I prefer to highlight other news, that may be more relevant in the long term.

Beyond the Currency wars we now seem to have a Solar War. Confrontational actions from both the EU and China paint a tough road ahead. Under the light of what I wrote recently on solar power prices it is obvious this war is very convenient to many governments in Europe, that do not wish to protect traditional power suppliers.
Vanheukelen: ‘Plenty of concerns’ about Chinese solar retaliation

The head of EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht’s cabinet has told EurActiv that the bloc has many worries about a clean-tech trade war with China over unfair subsidisation of solar panels, but that its hands are tied.

Last July, the EU launched an anti-dumping inquiry into claims by the German solar panels manufacturer, Solarworld AG, that Beijing had unfairly granted state loans to EU solar panel imports worth some €21 billion.

China responded by filing a suit against Italy and Greece at the World Trade Organisation, claiming that they had unfairly subsidised their own solar panel producers.

With Chinese solar companies warning of a trade war if the EU follows Washington in slapping punitive duties on solar imports, fears are growing that the issue could spiral out of control.
Another renewable form of energy, Wind, has also been in the news, after a spectacular worldwide growth rate of 19% was known.
Wind Daily
Global wind energy capacity grows 19 percent in 2012

The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) recently released its 2012 market statistics, showing continued expansion of the market, with global installed wind energy capacity increasing by 19 per cent in 2012 to 282,000 MW. Canada remains a global wind energy leader as it experienced the 9th largest increase in installed capacity in 2012 (936 MW). Both China and the United States, the world's wind energy leaders, installed more than 13,000 MW of new capacity in 2012.

"While China paused for breath, both the US and European markets had exceptionally strong years," said Steve Sawyer, Secretary General of GWEC. "Asia still led global markets, but with North America a close second, and Europe not far behind."

Canada now ranks 9th globally in total installed capacity with more than 6,500 MW of wind energy in operation - providing enough power to meet the annual needs of almost 2,000,000 Canadian homes. Ontario is the Canadian leader in the production of clean wind energy with more than 2,000 MW of installed capacity now supplying over 3 per cent of the province's electricity demand.
Promises renewed for the Methanol Economy coming from Texas. No word on efficiency yet, hence prudence is mandatory.
Energy Daily
Turning carbon dioxide to fuel

Researchers from The University of Texas at Arlington are pioneering a new method for using carbon dioxide, or CO2, to make liquid methanol fuel by using copper oxide nanowires and sunlight. The process is safer, simpler and less expensive than previous methods to convert the greenhouse gas associated with climate change to a useful product, said Krishnan Rajeshwar, interim associate vice president for research at UT Arlington and one of the authors of a paper recently published in the journal Chemical Communications.

Researchers began by coating the walls of copper oxide, CuO, nanorods with crystallites made from another form of copper oxide, Cu2O. In the lab, they submerged those rods in a water-based solution rich in CO2. Irradiating the combination with simulated sunlight created a photoelectrochemical reduction of the CO2 and that produced methanol.
Something that is more was more or less obvious since the US decided to burn money on agro-fuels is growing to concerning levels. Subsidising agro-fuels is one of the most destructive energy policies ever put in place, and more than one way.
Inter Press Service
Biofuels Converting U.S. Prairielands at Dust Bowl Rates
Joe Hitchon, 23-02-2013

The rush for biofuels in the United States has seen farmers converting the United States’ prairie lands to farms at rates comparable with deforestation levels in Brazil, Malaysia and Indonesia – rates not seen here since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

A new study finds that, between 2006 and 2011, U.S. farmers converted more than 1.3 million acres of grassland into corn and soybean fields. Driven by high crop prices, biofuel subsidies and a confluence of other factors, states like Iowa and South Dakota have been turning some five percent of prairie into cropland each year, according to the report’s authors, Christopher Wright and Michael Wimberly of South Dakota State University.

The researchers suggest that farmers are growing crops on increasingly marginal land, in part because the federal government offers subsidised crop insurance in case of failure. In Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota, for instance, corn and soy are planted in areas that are especially vulnerable to drought.
See you next week.

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