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11 May 2013

Press review 11-05-2013

This week the most important piece of news is naturally the war on solar energy. Without surprises the Commission announced a 47% tariff on solar panels made in China. The goals of this measure are not those issued by the press: (i) almost all manufactured goods sold in Europe are fabricated by folk of the like that died last week crushed in Bangladesh - without changing the rules of international trade there's no way solar panels can ever be fabricated in Europe; (ii) in 2008 oil prices dropped clearly below production costs and no tariffs where imposed on OPEC; (iii) companies in Europe operating in the solar sector are installers and technical service providers - they will certainly be negatively hit. The goal of the Commission is simply to delay the growth of solar power in order to protect traditional electricity suppliers, nothing else. I'll now be waiting for similar measures on LNG imports from the US, where market gas prices are about half of production costs.

Deutsche Wella
EU imposes anti-dumping duties on Chinese solar panels

The European Commission has agreed to impose high, anti-dumping tariffs on imports of Chinese solar panels. The decision is now up for debate among EU member states.

Brussels has decided to levy preliminary duties of around 47 percent on Chinese solar panel imports, European Union sources said Wednesday. A consultation process had been launched among EU member countries with a final decision expected to be announced on June 5. Germany's energy revolution - Who will pay the price?

The European Commission will be able to impose preliminary, half-year anti-dumping duties. Individual EU governments now only have the power to decide whether the tariffs would stay in place for five years or be revoked completely. In the latter case, fees collected within the first six months would be fully reimbursed.
And on the Commission's long time predilect source of energy, another bombshell was dropped on the Polish shale gas hopes. Any prudent investor should henceforth consider shale gas reserves in Poland to be zero cubic meters and avoid the reap off many fell into with the hype in the US.
North American firms quit shale gas fracking in Poland

Two North American energy firms have ended their shale gas fracking operations in Poland.

Talisman Energy of Canada and the US oil company Marathon said they were pulling out of what is seen as potentially one of the largest sources of shale gas in Europe.

Marathon said it decision was based on "unsuccessful attempts to find commercial levels of hydrocarbons".

"Poland's shale gas exists only in the media, because in reality nothing happens," said Grzegorz Pytel, energy expert at Sobieski Institute, a Polish think tank.
Across the Atlantic it is now clear that institutional agents (including President Obama) had an active role in luring investors to the shale gas débâcle by grossly overstating reserve estimates. This story will still have many more chapters and plenty of money "lost" in the process.
Shale Gas is not the Saviour you Think – Bill Powers Interview
The Energy Report, 07-05-2013

Energy pundits sing natural gas' praises, but Bill Powers, author of "Cold, Hungry and in the Dark: Exploding the Natural Gas Supply Myth," isn't buying it. He sees serious flaws in how reserves are reported, and his own research shows steep, across-the-board production declines in the near future. Nonetheless, he expects a multiyear bull run for the resource, and recommends investors get positioned before scarcity hits—just five to seven years from now. Find out who Powers is betting on in this interview with The Energy Report.

The Energy Report: Numerous experts, including T. Boone Pickens and Porter Stansberry, have said that, thanks to natural gas shale recovery technology, the U.S. is set to become energy independent. In your new book, "Cold, Hungry and in the Dark: Exploding the Natural Gas Supply Myth," you say that the U.S. has only a five- to seven-year supply of shale gas rather than the 100 years estimated by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). What data are you consulting, and why are your conclusions so different from what the EIA projects?

Bill Powers: First of all, the EIA has since backtracked on its estimates of shale gas recoveries. At one time it was over 800 trillion cubic feet (800 Tcf), which is approximately a 40-year supply at current consumption rates. Due to reductions in estimated future recoveries in the Marcellus Shale and elsewhere, EIA estimates are now down to 400–500 Tcf, which is closer to a 20-year supply.
Chris Nelder authored a piece some days ago laying out some of the tactics the press uses to lure investors into dead ends like shale gas. His notes on methane hydrates are rather simple and right to the point, the kind of facts hardly seen in the mainstream media.
The Atlantic
Are Methane Hydrates Really Going to Change Geopolitics?
Chris Nelder, 02-05-2013

If Mann's data on methane hydrates is correct, then Japan's experiment so far has taken 10 years and $700 million to produce four million cubic feet of gas, which is worth about $16,000 at today's U.S. gas prices, or about $50,000 at today's prices for imported LNG in Japan. At this point, it is an enormously expensive experimental pilot project, and nothing more. We do not yet know when it might be able to recover commercial volumes of gas, or at what rate, or at what price. We have no reason to believe that if commercial quantities are recoverable by 2018 as Japan hopes--which seems incredibly optimistic--that the price of that gas will be competitive with imported LNG.

At the same time, we have numerous forecasts projecting that renewables like wind and solar will be competitive with fossil-fueled grid power in most of the developed world by 2020, including much of Asia. For example, a recent report by Citigroup, and another by researchers at Stanford University, among many others. A 2011 report by WWF and Ecofys projects that by 2018, solar PV will be the cheapest way to generate power in much of Asia. If these forecasts--based on more than a decade of real-world cost data for large-scale solar and wind are correct, then there is no reason to believe that gas from Japan's methane hydrate experiment will be able to compete with renewable grid power, which would constitute the largest market for that gas (unless Japan rapidly deploys natural gas vehicles in the interim, which it currently has no economic reason to do).
About a decade ago when I started working as a researcher at the University I had the opportunity to witness in first hand a slow motion transformation in student quality. Some of my colleagues lectured a first year course on Topography, where students were simply required to apply high school mathematics into a novel context. In the span of five years the approval rate in the first exam went from 80% down to 20%. Eventually my colleagues where called beyond the Faculty board to explain why the course had become so difficult. One of my colleagues once commented: "Today they all drive their own cars to the Faculty, but are incapable of applying the rule of three; they are completely unprepared for the labour market, let alone University.". The 50% youth unemployment rate is first of all the reflex of a chronic lack of preparation, the product of a sense that everything would be ever easier to get. The generation gap is a natural and permanent feature of our society, but the present youth in Europe (and remainder of the OECD) is facing a particularly complex setting: they where brought up during one of the most stately epochs of our society just to meet one of the most challenging in adulthood.
Science Daily
Growing Gap Between Teens' Materialism and Willingness to Work Hard

San Diego State University psychology professor Jean M. Twenge -- along with co-author Tim Kasser, professor of psychology at Knox College -- has set out to answer that question.

In a study published today by Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Twenge and Kasser show that there is in fact a growing gap for today's young adults between materialism and the desire to work hard.

"Compared to previous generations, recent high school graduates are more likely to want lots of money and nice things, but less likely to say they're willing to work hard to earn them," said Twenge, author of the book "Generation Me."
Have a pleasant weekend, if winter lets you.


  1. Hello Louis, that do you think of these recent results on solar power in Spain?

    "But what troubled Prieto most were the paltry energy returns of some 57,900 solar plants, both big and small. He reviewed Spain's excellent data on the energy outputs of the nation's solar network and than compared those findings to actual energy inputs. To his dismay Prieto found that solar offered only slightly better returns than biofuels. Or 2.4 to one."

    Solar Dreams, Spanish Realities


    1. Dear Alexander,

      The methodology used by Pedro to calculate the EROEI of PV in Spain is unconventional and quite different from the methods used in standard LCA or EROEI analysis. Pedro translated non physical inputs (such as "debt") to energy in ways that have proved controversial. So you cannot compare the figure calculated by Pedro to any previous EROEI studies on other energies. Had Pedro applied the same methodology to Gas or Nuclear electricity in Spain, he would had got a similar value to what he got for PV.