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Scientific Report: Keystone XL and Arctic Drilling Must Be Stopped

Energy
Scientific Report: Keystone XL and Arctic Drilling Must Be Stopped

By Andy Rowell

This is the scientific paper that should stop all Arctic drilling now. It should also stop the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

It is yet another warning that business as usual for the oil industry is just not acceptable.

And it once again reiterates a simple truth so, so unpalatable to the Canadians: that exploiting the tar sands is incompatible with preventing climate change.

The paper should make deeply uncomfortable reading for any financial institution or oil company thinking of investing in the Arctic or the tar sands, or the heads of Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. In short, it affects everyone involved in the oil industry.

It should be essential reading for the CEOs of Gazprom and Shell, for one. And it should force them to change their unsustainable business strategies.

The paper, Un-burnable Oil: An Examination of Oil Resource Utilisation in a Decarbonised Energy System, will be published by the journal Energy Policy in Jan. 2014. You can view a copy here. And then you should spread it far and wide.

The scientists warn of a large “disconnect” between developing new areas of exploration such as the Arctic and “pledges to restrict temperature rises to two degrees Celsius. The continued licensing of new areas for oil exploration is only consistent with declared intentions to limit CO2 emissions and climate change if the majority of fields that are discovered remain undeveloped, which fatally undermines the economic rationale for their discovery in the first place.”

The scientists argue that “large volumes of oil currently considered to be reserves cannot be produced before 2035 if there is to be an evens chance of limiting the global average temperature rise to two degrees Celsius.”

Globally, they argue, that nearly 600 billion barrels of oil reserves must remain unused by 2035, if widespread Carbon, Capture and Storage (CCS) is unavailable.

This is just under 50 percent of current available reserves.

Even in a future scenario where there is widespread and rapid adoption of CCS in both the electricity and industry sectors, nearly 500 billion barrels must never be burnt.

In a scenario with no CCS, the scientists argue that no region can fully exploit their reserves although some regions must leave greater proportions of their reserves in situ than others: the Middle East must not use 55 percent or around 390 billion tons of its current reserves before 2035.

The warning over Arctic oil is clear: “These results suggest that the development of Arctic regions is largely inconsistent with an evens chance of limiting average global temperature change to two degrees Celsius and that it may be reasonable to classify Arctic resources as ‘un-burnable’; this therefore calls into question the rationale for ongoing exploration efforts in Arctic regions, if stated commitments to emission reduction are to be taken seriously.”

Another way to look at this, if Shell or Gazprom are serious about pushing ahead Arctic drilling then they are not serious about addressing climate change.

If the Canadians are thinking that not drilling Arctic oil makes it more likely that the tar sands should be exploited, they should think again. “If the declared ‘proved’ reserves of these countries were to be believed, then 80 percent of Canadian reserves and 92 percent Venezuelan reserves must remain in the ground,” argue the scientists.

It is worth repeating that figure: 80 percent of tar sands reserves need to stay in the ground. And if that is the case, there is no need for the Keystone XL pipeline.

Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.

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A quality engineer examines new solar panels in a factory. alvarez / Getty Images

Transitioning to renewable energy can help reduce global warming, and Jennie Stephens of Northeastern University says it can also drive social change.

For example, she says that locally owned businesses can lead the local clean energy economy and create new jobs in underserved communities.

"We really need to think about … connecting climate and energy with other issues that people wake up every day really worried about," she says, "whether it be jobs, housing, transportation, health and well-being."

To maximize that potential, she says the energy sector must have more women and people of color in positions of influence. Research shows that leadership in the solar industry, for example, is currently dominated by white men.

"I think that a more inclusive, diverse leadership is essential to be able to effectively make these connections," Stephens says. "Diversity is not just about who people are and their identity, but the ideas and the priorities and the approaches and the lens that they bring to the world."

So she says by elevating diverse voices, organizations can better connect the climate benefits of clean energy with social and economic transformation.

Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.

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Scientists have found a way to use bricks as batteries, meaning that buildings may one day be used to store and generate power. Public Domain Pictures

One of the challenges of renewable power is how to store clean energy from the sun, wind and geothermal sources. Now, a new study and advances in nanotechnology have found a method that may relieve the burden on supercapacitor storage. This method turns bricks into batteries, meaning that buildings themselves may one day be used to store and generate power, Science Times reported.

Bricks are a preferred building tool for their durability and resilience against heat and frost since they do not shrink, expand or warp in a way that compromises infrastructure. They are also reusable. What was unknown, until now, is that they can be altered to store electrical energy, according to a new study published in Nature Communications.

The scientists behind the study figured out a way to modify bricks in order to use their iconic red hue, which comes from hematite, an iron oxide, to store enough electricity to power devices, Gizmodo reported. To do that, the researchers filled bricks' pores with a nanofiber made from a conducting plastic that can store an electrical charge.

The first bricks they modified stored enough of a charge to power a small light. They can be charged in just 13 minutes and hold 10,000 charges, but the challenge is getting them to hold a much larger charge, making the technology a distant proposition.

If the capacity can be increased, researchers believe bricks can be used as a cheap alternative to lithium ion batteries — the same batteries used in laptops, phones and tablets.

The first power bricks are only one percent of a lithium-ion battery, but storage capacity can be increased tenfold by adding materials like metal oxides, Julio D'Arcy, a researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, who contributed to the paper and was part of the research team, told The Guardian. But only when the storage capacity is scaled up would bricks become commercially viable.

"A solar cell on the roof of your house has to store electricity somewhere and typically we use batteries," D'Arcy told The Guardian. "What we have done is provide a new 'food-for-thought' option, but we're not there yet.

"If [that can happen], this technology is way cheaper than lithium ion batteries," D'Arcy added. "It would be a different world and you would not hear the words 'lithium ion battery' again."