A View from Richard Martin
Recommended Energy Reads This Week
A roundup of the best stories on energy from other sites, collected by Richard Martin, MIT Technology Review’s energy editor.
Second Japanese Reactor Restarted
Far from abandoning nuclear power in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, energy-starved Japan plans to generate more than one-fifth of its electricity from nuclear plants by 2030, as part of its plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 26 percent from 2013 levels. This week saw the restart of the Sendai 2 reactor as idled nuclear plants across the country gradually come back to life. Kansai Electric Power Company has applied to the Nuclear Regulation Authority to begin prestartup inspections at its Takahama nuclear power plant, in Fukui prefecture, reports World Nuclear News, and more restarts will follow. New safety regulations have been instituted in an attempt to make Japan’s the safest nuclear industry in the world, and Michiaki Uriu, the president of Kyushu Electric Power, the operator of the Sendai plant in Kagoshima prefecture, said that the startup is “one of the important steps” in the rebirth of the industry.
For Pickens, Wind Claim May Be Last Power Play
The 87-year-old oilman Boone Pickens is “embroiled in what may be the last big battle of his career,” the New York Times reports, and this one is over wind power. Pickens is seeking $700 million in damages related to wind power auctions in Ontario that his wind power company, Mesa Power, lost out on. In an argument in keeping with Pickens’s combative career, he claims that a Florida company, NextEra, “was granted exclusive access through private meetings with important government officials that ultimately tilted the bidding in its favor,” the Times explains. The prize: $3.8 billion in wind power projects in the Canadian province.
U.S. Exports Its Greenhouse-Gas Emissions—as Coal. Profitable Coal.
Following up on the reporting I did for my book, Coal Wars, two publications published lengthy examinations of the death throes of the coal industry in Gillette, Wyoming, coal capital of the coal-rich Powder River Basin. Despite aggressive government policies to reduce domestic coal use, the Washington Post reports, “each year, nearly half a billion tons of this U.S.-owned fuel are hauled from the region’s vast strip mines, and millions of tons are shipped overseas for other countries to burn.” In fact, the Post may be overstating the case: while coal use is up, temporarily, in countries like Germany, both China and India are expected to reduce their use of exported coal, possibly dramatically, over the next decade.
Coal. Guns. Freedom.
The California Sunday Magazine takes a more anthropological approach, looking at a week in the life of Gillette—a town that is enjoying a coal-based boom that could be as fleeting as the energy booms that have swept across eastern Wyoming in the past. In Wyoming, writes Abe Streep, “miners do not go down into holes. They say all you need is a 3-iron.” The end of the coal boom is already starting to appear, though, and some in the capital, Cheyenne, have started to think about what comes next for the state’s economy. In Gillette, though, coal still builds McMansions and enables the purchase of gas-guzzling pickups—and President Obama is still the Antichrist.
It’s Time for the United States to Start Worrying About a Saudi Collapse
A similar chill has crept into the posh hotels and gleaming office buildings of Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, a country built on a sea of cheap oil that could now be witnessing the beginning of the end of its reign as the wealthy center of the OPEC universe. “From plummeting oil prices to foreign-policy missteps to growing tensions with Iran, a confluence of recent events is mounting to pose some serious challenges for the Saudi regime,” reports John Hannah, for Foreign Policy—and the implications are nearly as troubling for Saudi Arabia’s staunch Western ally, the United States.