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Energy in a thirsty world [Recharge]

Why the future of energy is inextricably linked to the future of water; A double dip in the oil markets; Energy politics heat up in Washington. Catch up on global energy with Recharge.

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A worker climbs stairs among some of the 2,000 pressure vessels that will be used to convert seawater into fresh water through reverse osmosis in the western hemisphere's largest desalination plant in Carlsbad, Calif.

Gregory Bull/AP/File

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Recharge is a weekly e-mail digest of energy news and analysis written by Monitor reporters David J. Unger and Jared Gilmour.

H2O: When 12 percent of your electricity comes from water, severe drought is doubly bad news. California’s years-long dry spell is crimping its hydroelectric dams’ output, which means the state needs even more water to cool the thermal plants that are now working overtime. It’s a dynamic that plays out in Brazil, China, India, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere, as nations struggle to extract resources and produce power in water-stressed regions. In the end, water may be cheaper than oil, gas, and lithium, but it will always be the world’s most precious commodity.

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Double dip: US oil stores are filling up, OPEC’s Kuwait says the cartel has no choice but to keep producing, and new oil from Iran remains a possibility, too. It’s no wonder, then, that prices are dipping again, much to the worry of smaller OPEC nations. But US shale production is finally beginning to show signs of a slowdown, and ISIS is taking a page from Al Qaeda’s playbook in its continued attacks on North African energy infrastructure. As with every price drop, this one won’t last forever.

Offense: In Washington, Republicans and Democrats can agree on one thing: Energy is worth the fight. While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell doubled down on efforts to block the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration unveiled an ambitious plan to cut emissions from, well, itself. On Friday, the Interior Department rankled GOP lawmakers with new rules for fracking on public lands. White House senior adviser Brian Deese told reporters Thursday that the administration would stay “on offense” on climate and energy. It appears the same could be said for Republicans in Congress.

In the pipeline

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Calls for Scottish independence rise even as North Sea oil prices fall [The Christian Science Monitor]
If anything, the crude oil collapse has only bolstered calls in Scotland for independence from the United Kingdom. Nationalists accuse the British parliament of mismanaging vast – if diminished – oil and gas resources under the North Sea. With oil prices so low, many say more must be done to attract and retain industry as many companies consider abandoning the region.

Crude glut: A lesson in supply and demand [The Globe and Mail]
With a glut of crude supply and little demand, oil producers are putting more and more oil in storage. But the industry isn’t saying how much storage space is left – and if tank farms in places like Cushing, Okla., hit capacity, it could send prices into a tailspin, forcing drillers to shut off wells until demand returns. That’s a growing concern in Alberta, where low oil prices are already straining the province’s finances and scuttling drilling plans.

Keys to a low-carbon future on both sides of the pond
[The German Marshall Fund via The Christian Science Monitor]
“[T]he larger forces of climate change, technology development, and market evolution in the utility sector are leading both America and the EU in the same direction when it comes to low emissions electricity policy,” writes Paul Bledsoe of The German Marshall Fund. “Which should be good news, for both consumers and climate protection, in the long run.”

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Recharge is a weekly e-mail digest of energy news and analysis written by Monitor reporters David J. Unger and Jared Gilmour.