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09 May 2015

Press review 09-05-2015 - The Tesla hype

This week was marked by the hype created around the stationary battery put on sale by Tesla. The news were out last week, but since there was nothing outstanding about the figures presented, it was not part of the last review. However, the web soon burst with excitement, even with anti-renewables outlets lending a great deal of attention to it.

There is nothing special about the Tesla technology, lagging the competition in various aspects, but the hype is a case study in itself. Almost at the same time Toshiba firmed one more contract with its own stationary Lithium ion technology, that is supposed to last 6 to 7 times longer that Tesla's. To that the media remained widely silent, while on Tesla they went wild. Forbes started by claiming a manufacturing cost of 0.02 $/kWh, meaning it would be essentially free. It then switched discourse to claim that figure was relative to operational costs - but even in that case it still remains ridiculously low.

Once again the media appears little interested in informing the public, it ignores relevant developments while promoting dubious products. As long as the hype lasts there is money to be made in stock markets; but at some point reality settles in. This same dynamics was in great measure responsible for the shale sub-prime bubble.

There have few developments to report in Iraq since the Shiites retook Tikrit. However, on the western front against the Syrian government the Sunni have been making important gains, reducing even further the territory controlled by the Shiites. The article below explains how new technologies provided by the US to the Sunni have been switching the balance in this war. If (when?) the Sunni win the western front they can them focus their resources entirely on the eastern front in Iraq. This war is far from any ending.
Climbing into Bed with Al-Qaeda
Daniel Lazare, 02-05-2015

After years of hemming and hawing, the Obama administration has finally come clean about its goals in Syria. In the battle to overthrow Bashar al-Assad, it is siding with Al Qaeda. This has become evident ever since Jisr Ash-Shughur, a small town in the northeastern part of the country, fell on April 25 to a Saudi and Turkish-backed coalition consisting of the Al-Nusra Front, Ahrar al Sham, and an array of smaller, more “moderate” factions as well.

Al Nusra, which is backed by Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, is Al Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate. Ahrar al Sham, which is heavily favored by Qatar, is also linked with Al Qaeda and has also cooperated with ISIS. The other groups, which sport such monikers as the Coastal Division and the Sukur Al Ghab Brigades, are part of the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army and are supposedly as anti-terrorist as they are anti-Assad. Yet they nonetheless “piggybacked” on the offensive, to use The Wall Street Journal’s term, doing everything they could to further the Al-Nusra-led advance.

American clients thus helped Al Qaeda conquer a secular city. But that is not all the U.S. did. It also contributed large numbers of optically-guided TOW missiles that the rebels used to destroy dozens of government tanks and other vehicles, according to videos posted on social media websites. A pro-U.S. rebel commander named Fares Bayoush told The Wall Street Journal that the TOW’s “flipped the balance of power,” giving the Salafists the leverage they needed to dislodge the Syrian army’s heavily dug-in forces and drive them out of the city.
In Ukraine the Minsk agreement is yet to succeed with full war operations taking place in various regions. Tension remains high, Europe and Russia are yet to reproach. In the article below it is very interesting to note which news agencies are reporting what.
International Business Times
Ukraine Attacks Donetsk People’s Republic With Tanks, Grenade Launchers: Is Kiev Violating Ceasefire Deal?
Cristina Silva, 02-05-2015

Ukraine's military reportedly attacked territory in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic with tanks, infantry combat vehicles, armored vehicles, grenade launchers and small arms for more than 24 hours, according to Tass, a Russian state-run media outlet. In all, Kiev launched more than 30 attacks against the area held by pro-Russia rebels, the DPR’s defense ministry said on Saturday.

"A total of 30 ceasefire violations have been registered, including three artillery shellings, 11 mortar shellings and the launch of an anti-tank guided missile," the ministry representative said. There is no information about the casualties, he added.

Ukrainian military officials, meanwhile, accused the separatist rebels of killing two Ukrainian serviceman in attacks on government forces in eastern Ukraine on Friday. "In the past 24 hours the situation in the conflict zone remained not quiet, but under control. Rebels continue to use weapons banned under the Minsk agreement," military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said, according to Reuters.
The oil price rout continues to claim victims. This time is a large offshore company, pointing that no only source rocks and tar sands are uneconomic at these prices.
Another rig company stumbles
Daniel J. Graeber, 04-05-2015

One of the largest rig services companies in the world, Diamond Offshore Drilling, said Monday it lost $256 million during the first quarter of the year.

Crude oil is trading in a bear market, forcing most major energy companies to spend less on exploration and production. That's led to major profit losses for rig services companies ranging from Schlumberger to Halliburton.

Diamond said Monday its net loss of $256 million for the first quarter compared to a net income of $146 million year-on-year. Three of its rigs are to be retired and scrapped.
Iran continues its path towards the expected return to the market in full. Behind the apparent desire to internationalise its petroleum and gas sector is the ageing of Iran's resources. The country is likely needing the technology for a tertiary recovery programme plus a move to the offshore.
Iran launches international oil conference
Daniel J. Graeber, 06-05-2015

Iran said Wednesday it opened its doors to international investors to gather for an oil and gas exhibition with hundreds of foreign companies in attendance.

"Iran has started holding a four-day international oil and gas show to lure investment for its oil and gas projects amid hopes for the removal of sanctions on the Islamic republic," reported Shana, the official news agency for the Iranian Oil Ministry.

Iran has touted its oil and gas potential since nuclear negotiations with multinational partners began in earnest earlier this year. A framework agreement that pulls Iran back from the brink of developing the technology needed to make a nuclear weapon could be formalized this summer. Iran's government said sanctions pressure should end once the deal is official.
Claims of peak oil are becoming frequent again. Petroleum extraction in the US has been declining for a few months and no other large petroleum power seems in place to hike theirs. Considering where prices are at the moment, these claims are possibly precipitous. However, the secular dynamics of reducing number of exporting countries is well in place.
The Ecologist
'Beyond petroleum' - fracking's collapse heralds the arrival of peak oil
Paul Mobbs, 05-05-2015

A few weeks ago tremors rocked the world of 'fracking' in the USA - though few heard them. The US Energy Information Agency (USEIA) had issued its latest Monthly Drilling Report and the news was not good.

It wasn't simply the economic failure of fracking (covered in The Ecologist last December) and the subsequent collapse in drilling (covered in January). The news from the USEIA was far more grim for those who understood its deeper meaning. Their press release was very matter-of-fact:

"EIA's most recent Drilling Productivity Report (DPR) indicates a change in the crude oil production growth patterns in three key oil producing regions... The DPR estimates include the first projected declines in crude oil production in these regions since publication of the DPR began in October 2013."
News from what is left of the German PV market after a de facto prohibition last year. The government now awards a very limited capacity figure to the highest bidder(s). Beyond the problems noted below, the real highlight are the bid figures, nearing 0.09 €/kWh. Utilities can not possibly compete with such figures and once again therein lies the reason for the prohibition of PV.
Lenz Blog
Flaw in German Solar Auction Model
Karl-Friedrich Lenz, 30-04-2015

I think that the 2014 reform of the German renewable energy law was a large step in the wrong direction. I think the auction model favored by that legislation over the feed-in tariff will be a failure.

I am also rather critical of the fact that the European Commission has had undue influence on that legislation, clearly overstepping their powers in a way not compatible with basic democratic values and the German Constitution.

So I noted with interest the failure of the first test case for the auction model. The auction price turned out to be above what the current feed-in tariff is, as this article at PV Magazine explains. Those first 154.97 MW will be built at €0.0917 per kWh, which is higher than the current €0.0902 of the feed-in tariff.
The sales of vehicles with electric engines (hybrid or not) in Europe has had a good start in 2015. At this pace, this sort of vehicles will likely account for more than 1% of car registration in Europe at the end of 2015. Encouraging, but also a statement that something else more fundamental must come about to fully rock the auto-market.
EV Sales
Europe March 2015
José Pontes, 01-05-2015

With some 18.000 units, the European EV market shattered a record it had made in December '13 (14.197 units), that at the time it seemed historic and looked it was going to last for a long, long time...As turns out, it lasted 15 months.

The YTD sales now mount to some 36.000 units, which makes my yearly sales prediction made early this year (120- something thousand), look somewhat conservative, with the current data, i will say that the numbers will end somewhere in the 150K ballpark.
Pretty much all Europe watched in suspense the final stretch to the general election in the UK. Instead of an hung Parliament and endless discussions to form a coalition government the result was a sweeping victory by the Conservatives with a comfortable majority of MPs. Chapeau. David Cameron ran a successful campaign, sticking to the housewife budgetary narrative, while stealing votes left and right, on the one hand promising to retake powers from the EU, on the other making the most of the rise of the SNP.
This victory also means the UK will be holding in short order a referendum on its EU membership and that a vote to leave actually has a good chance of wining. Below is a left-wing perspective on what might well become the first application to Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
The Independent
Election results: Could David Cameron be the PM who lost the Union and leaves the EU?
Andrew Grice, 08-05-2015

The history books may record that the seeds of David Cameron’s remarkable election victory were planted at 7am on 19 September last year. Two hours after the result of the referendum on Scottish independence, he promised “English votes for English laws” (EVEL) to ensure that the Conservatives rather than Ukip could play the English card.

His opportunist move was not part of a cunning general election plan but helped the Scottish National Party snatch an incredible general election victory from the jaws of defeat in the independence referendum. By saying that EVEL would run in tandem with further devolution to Scotland, Mr Cameron played into the SNP’s hands, giving it a new grievance.

The SNP’s rise and rise under its impressive new leader Nicola Sturgeon handed Mr Cameron a lethal weapon in the general election campaign. Labour’s expected losses in its Scottish heartland meant that Ed Miliband would have to rely on the votes of SNP MPs – a scare story which worked brilliantly for a Tory campaign thrashing around for ideas. English voters recoiled from the prospect of the SNP tail wagging the Labour dog. It made Labour look scary –a worst bet than the party many voters still regarded as nasty. The SNP factor wasn’t the only reason for Labour’s crushing defeat but it played a big part.
Have a good weekend.

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