Shale Oil: The Next Energy Revolution?

A new report by the UK branch of PriceWaterhouseCoopers assesses the future of shale oil in the United States and globally.

In the United States, the report concludes that shale oil production has grown at a rate of 26% annually, reaching 553,000 barrels per day in 2011. It is projected the shale oil production in the United States will rise to anywhere from 1.2 million barrels per day  to 3-4 million barrels per day by 2035, with total shale resources pegged at 33 billion barrels. As such shale oil could displace a whopping 35-40% of waterborne crude oil imports to the United State. Moreover, beyond substantially reducing U.S. dependence on imported oil, it could also result in substantially lower oil prices.

The report also pegs global shale oil resources at between 330 billion and 1.4 trillion barrels, with significant recent discoveries in many countries, including New Zealand, Australia and Argentina. Based on scenarios projecting oil prices of $127-133 per barrel, PWC projects that global shale oil production could rise to up to 14 million barrels of oil per day in 2035, comprising 12% of total oil supply. Depending on OPEC’s response (i.e. whether it chooses to lower production to maintain prices), oil prices may range from $83-100 per barrel in real terms. The study concludes that this could result in global GDP increases of 2.3-3.7% by the end of 2035, translating into a $2.7 trillion boost in global income. .Of course, there would be winners and losers in this scenario, with India and Japan doing particularly well, and Russia and the Middle East suffering the most from the decline in oil prices.

However, the report also cautions that oil price declines associated with shale oil production may substantially reduce investments in renewables. To avoid this scenario, countries will have to develop policy responses, e.g. keeping fossil fuel taxes higher and recycling proceedings into R&D for low carbon technologies. Moreover, major oil producing nations may have to consider substantial limitations on supply to maintain oil prices.

Some of the class discussion questions that this reading could generate would include the following

  1. Is it realistic to believe that countries will use oil taxes to artificially elevate petroleum prices to prevent the displacement of renewable energy?;
  2. What would be the optimal way for governments, from a climate policy perspective,  to spend the tax windfall associated with shale oil production?
  3. What are the environmental implications of shale oil production in terms of climate change?;
  • Associated with this question might be parsing out the arguments of proponents that higher GHG emissions associated with shale oil production might be more than offset by displacement of coal production and production of energy from more environmentally sensitive areas, e.g. the Arctic and Canadian tar sand regions.


Call for candidate cities for Sustainable Cities International for the SCI Energy Lab 2013-2016 program

Sustainable Cities International (SCI) and the SCI Energy Lab is a participant in the Sustainable Energy Development project.

The Sustainable Energy Development project is supported by John Hopkins University Masters of Science: Energy Policy and Climate Program.

EPC students are welcome to support the SCI Energy Lab through their Capstone projects.

A call for candidate cities for Sustainable Cities International for the SCI Energy Lab 2013-2016 program is currently underway.

In order to participate, please complete and send the attached statement of interest to Jane McRae, [email protected], by February 20th, 2013
Energy is the defining issue of the 21st century. Our cities, the powerhouses of our economies and home to more than half of humanity, require large, reliable sources of energy to meet the needs of individuals, companies and institutions. Our current reliance on fossil fuels, for the generation of electricity and to power our industries and transportation systems, is at the heart of the climate change challenge. How we develop our energy sources, distribute and use energy will impact our future on the planet.

Organizations and cities around the globe report that the technical challenges of sustainable energy systems are not the greatest barriers to implementation, rather it is in the lack of capacity in the organizations and individuals that can move these ideas into action.

The Sustainable Cities International (SCI) Energy Lab is a program designed to improve this capacity through a series of learning exchanges between cities as well as providing a framework for analysis, action and evaluation to assist cities to move forward with their work on sustainable energy. Working with an initial cohort of 10-12 cities, the SCI Energy Lab aims to go well beyond being a simple exchange of pre-existing “best practices.” Structured as an Innovations Lab, the goal is to provide a multi-disciplinary forum for collaborative problem solving and idea generation around all aspects of the design, implementation and regulation of urban renewable and local energy systems.

The purpose of the SCI Call for Cities invitation_Jan30_2013Energy Lab is to accelerate the transformation towards sustainable energy development by supporting the “next wave” of cities that have an interest in learning from leading cities and sufficient capacity to act on what they learn.

The call for candidate cities is directed at intermediate cities with 200,000 to 5 million inhabitants.

In order to qualify, a candidate city:
1. Has the capacity to undertake sustainability energy planning within the city (capacity includes expertise you can provide in the fields of: planning, sustainability, energy, engineering and/or finances);
2. Has undertaken or planned 1-2 sustainability/energy initiatives and can provide evidence for local level government support of these programs;
3. Designates 2 representatives to attend the annual SCI Energy Lab workshop event;
4. Commits to host a peer exchange event (at least once over the 3 year program), should they be selected as a host city;
5. Will be expected to actively participate in city exchanges and web-based events in addition to the annual workshop event;
6. Have the capacity to communicate in English, as well as organize events and read/write documents in English.
The decision on which cities are selected will be announced in March 2013. Selected cities will be invited to attend the SCI Energy Lab launch on May 28-30th 2013 (location to be announced).

Participating cities will benefit from:
Improved effectiveness of practitioners and accelerated action implementation;
In-depth learning from other cities that are leaders in sustainable energy solutions and their implementation;
Cross-sector exposure, access to expertise, and the opportunity to develop valuable professional relationships to support their sustainable energy initiatives;
Increased support from local stakeholders and decision makers as SCI Energy Lab participation is profiled globally;
Travel costs provided for two city representatives to attend the annual SCI Energy Lab workshop.

Ethics & Geoengineering

Instructors who include a climate geoengineering module usually seek to engage students on ethical and moral issues associated with research and/or potential deployment of geoengineering technologies. Professor Stephen Gardiner of the University of Washington has done some of the most interesting work in this context. In his most recent article, Gardiner examines one of the primary arguments advanced by proponents of geoengineering, that deployment would be ethical if those countries most vulnerable to climatic impacts either opted to initiate geoengineering, or requested that other countries do so on their behalf. Gardiner labels this the “desperation argument.”

Among the take-aways from the article:

1. From an ethical perspective, it is problematic to argue that the desperation argument provides a measure of consent by vulnerable countries to deploy geoengineering technologies:

  • There’s usually only a small percentage of countries invoked as candidates for “desperation” appeals for geoengineering. However, the universe of those potentially affected by geoengineering’s impacts are much broader, including future generations and other vulnerable States;
  • The concept of “consent” is attenuated when one is essentially doing it at “gunpoint,” i.e. when the only alternative is the full force of climate impacts;
  • There are far broader normative considerations at stake in this debate, including the moral implications of deploying technologies that “exert control over the planetary system;”

2. A second interpretation of the desperation argument is that it comports with a right to “self-defense. However, this is also ethically and morally questionable:

  • The right only applies where other strategies have proved unavailing; it is not clear that other options don’t exist to address climate change;
  • Self-defense, even when it can be invoked, must be proportionate; it is not clear that geoengineering approaches that exert profound influence on the environment, e.g. sulfur dioxide injection, meet this test;
  • The right to self-defense can be invoked by many parties, some of whom may wish to defend themselves with different kinds or levels of intervention. This can “give rise to a new emergency scenario, that of competition and conflict . . .”

3. It would likely be a fiction to argue that a vulnerable State could unilaterally deploy geoengineering technologies given the logistical issues involved. Moreover, powerful states would have the military and economic capability to shut down such deployment if they wished.

I think this piece would generate some good class discussion. Among the questions that might be pertinent:

  • How should principles of intergenerational equity be considered in the context of climate geoengineering?
  • Given how close we are to the 2C “cliff,” is it legitimate to invoke “self-defense” to justify climate geoengineering on the grounds that is now a “last resort” option?;
  • What are the moral and legal grounds for requiring the consent of other States to deploy geoengineering technologies?
    • What constitutes “consent” in this context?  Does it require unanimity? If not, what is the pertinent metric?


Harvard Distance Learning Course on Climate Change

The Harvard Extension School is offering an online course on climate change that starts on Wednesday, 30 January at 4:30pm.  It is entitled:

Global Climate Change: The Science, Social Impact, and Diplomacy of a World Environmental Crisis

This 15-week,  semester-long course may be taken for credit on an undergraduate or graduate school level, but it can also be taken with a “Not for Credit” option. Many citizens, fellow scholars, and environmentalists working in government or NGOs throughout this country and around the world have found these courses to be of great value as a source of strategic information and analytical insight as they try to address environmental problems in their own careers and workplaces.  From this perspective many active professionals engaged in the everyday work place — whether as businessmen, government officials, college or university professors, NGO and environmental activits — have found this course of exceptional value in the past. It has helped them orient themselves toward the largest shared experience before the human community in the coming decades, and it has given them the tools to take forward in their own lives to continue to make sense of the changes in our climate and help them formulate realistic and effective responses to it in their own lives.

Anyone enrolled in the course is given access to and instruction in using the “Clearing House for Environmental Course Materials” which can serve to support their ongoing work well after the completion of the individual courses.  Further, students in these courses will receive information about Food-Matters.TV where they can explore the emerging impact of climate change upon both local and global food systems and the ways in which this will express itself in the coming years as an environmental justice issue.

In addition the course is designed to exposed students to a variety of “outside” experts and opinion-leaders as a component of the weekly lectures.  For example, in the second week of the Climate course, students will be able to view (or attend if they are on campus) a presentation by former Vice-President, Al Gore, reflecting upon our current global climate predicament and offering insights about how we might proceed from here.  Further, the course offers students a “window” to other climate-related events going on at Harvard throughout the forthcoming semester.  For instance, the day after Al Gore’s presentation to the Harvard community, there is going to be an important public discussion of climate change policy in the United States, touching upon why nothing of substance has been accomplished by a wide variety of political figures over the last quarter century.

The course starts on Wednesday, 30 January.  Syllabus for the course can be accessed by clicking here.  The initial meeting of the course from 4:30 onwards on 30 January 2013 is available in streaming mode by clicking here.

Stakeholder Forum article for WFES 2013: Integrated Approaches to Sustainable Energy Development for Small Developing States and Remote Nordic Communities

Integrated Approaches to Sustainable Energy Development for Small Island Developing States and Remote Nordic Communities for Stakeholder Forum publication for the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, UAE in January 2013.

Sustainable energy development can assist Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and remote communities and regions in mitigating and adapting to climate change, especially with pursuing an integrated approach to the development of renewable energy in synergy with heat and water and waste treatment. There are common linkages between renewable energy, water, carbon reduction and sustainable economic development, including tourism and sustainable economies, for SIDS and remote communities and regions. Communities and islands that embrace the integration of energy, water and carbon reduction will be more desirable destinations and economies for both travel and business.

The integration of renewable energy, heat and water is quite advanced across the Caribbean and Pacific, and for remote communities and capital cities in the Nordic region. There are common trends through all these regions. Integrated approaches to renewable energy can occur in synergy with heat, water and waste for SIDS and communities in these Nordic regions, and could inspire parallel development of these fields globally. This article builds on research under the Sustainable Energy Development project and the Nordic Centre of Excellence for Strategic Adaptation Research. It is consistent with the international collaboration on energy and water research at the World Future Energy Summit and International Water Summitin Abu Dhabi, and regional efforts for Latin America and the Caribbean under by the Department of Sustainable Energy Development of the Organization of American States.

One key aspect that ties together SIDS and remote northern communities are the high costs of electricity from imported fuel, and diesel generation, which in turn increase the cost of heating, cooling, and water and waste treatment. However, these locations also have significant renewable energy resources, or could, at a minimum, benefit from higher energy efficiency or burning natural gas liquids in substitution for diesel fuel.

The Renewable Energy to Desalination and Tourism Project for Caribbean Islands combines renewable energy based power generation and desalination, with cooling and heating as additional by-products. It works with Caribbean islands and businesses which are tourism dependent to integrate clean energy, carbon reduction, tourism and travel, and the project is a participant in the Climate Technology Initiative Private Financing Advisory Network (PFAN) Clean Energy Financing Forum in Central America and the Caribbean Business Plan Competition.

The island of Aruba in the Caribbean is working with Richard Branson and the Carbon War Room to transition the island to 100% renewable energy, thus creating the world’s first sustainable energy economy. In the Pacific, the three atoll islands of Tokelau, a non-self governing territory of New Zealand, have recently completed projects allowing them to meet all energy needs from renewable energy, with one of the world largest off-grid solar systems, along with batteries and electricity generators powered by coconut biofuel produced on the islands. All these islands have existing tourist economies.

Innovative energy approaches are being used throughout the Nordic region to integrate energy and heat, and increase energy efficiency, supporting local economies and the attractiveness of those communities for visitors and investment. In Nuuk, Greenland, a hydrogen plant uses hydroelectricity to electrolyse water into hydrogen and oxygen. This hydrogen is stored for conversion into electricity, and on-demand heat in a fuel cell. Excess heat from hydrogen production and fuel cells heats Nuuk, while the electricity goes to the grid or buildings.  In Qaanaaq in north-western Greenland, above-ground pipes combine multiple energy and water services, while diesel engines and district heating provide highly efficient fuel use exceeding 85%. If this system was supplemented by a thermal storage mechanism, wind could also be integrated, and biogas from wastes could be used to generate electricity and heat.

This article is also located at:

European Energy Centre’s free scholarship for renewable energy courses

Each year a proportion of donations made to the European Energy Centre (EEC) are allocated to sponsoring individuals to attend our training courses – helping them develop their education and experience in the renewable energy sector.

The EEC Scholarship Fund exists to help advance our primary aim of promoting best practice in renewable energy through training and conferences.

To apply for a free scholarship for renewable energy courses, please email [email protected] with subject ‘Scholarship Application’, providing the following information:

· The course(s) you wish to attend (View the list of training courses by clicking here )
· The reason for your scholarship request
· The name of the organisation where you are currently employed (if applicable)
· Who would finance your attendance on the course
· Your employment status

Your application will be processed by the Funding Department.

Full scholarships may be available
Merit-based scholarships
For individuals who have graduated with a relevant degree in the past 12 months and have achieved a first-class degree; through private funding, the EEC will cover up to 70% of the cost of attending a course.
Career-progression in Renewable Energy scholarship

For individuals who wish to develop a career in renewable energy by attending 3 EEC courses, the EEC has funding to cover 50% of the most expensive course you select, if you register for the 3 courses at the same time.
Student-specific scholarships

If you are currently a student and have achieved a merit the EEC has funding to sponsor 30% of the cost for you to attend the course.

Low-income scholarships
If you are currently unemployed, the EEC would like to support your training and education. By providing proof that you are not in work you may be eligible to receive a 50% discount on our courses.

Please inquire for other scholarship opportunities

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