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Analysis and Comment (41)

Gas guzzled: OPEC’s 1973 oil embargo threw America into crisis and underlined the political power of energy. David Falconer/Wikimedia Commons

Four decades later, has America finally got over the oil crisis?

The Australian Financial Review recently trumpeted America’s “re-emergence as a world oil power”. It is an accomplishment four decades in the making and its success is still under debate. Energy security…
The G20’s impressive declaratory record on energy cooperation hides serious practical shortcomings. www.shutterstock.com

Global commitment issues on display at the G20

With the Brisbane G20 Leaders Summit only a matter of weeks away, Australia is increasingly succumbing to G20 fever. Rarely does a self-declared middle power such as Australia get to play host to such…
The International Energy Agency was set up to avoid a repeat of the 1973 oil crisis - but four decades later the rules need updating. David Falconer/US Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons

The G20 has a crucial role in preventing future energy crises

Next week, Brisbane hosts the final meeting of the G20 Energy Sustainability Working Group before the main G20 summit in November. Government officials and energy experts from 20 of the most powerful countries…
Is the sun setting on West African oil? A platform in Limbe, Cameroon. VirginieVV

US fracking boom puts West African oil economies at risk

After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the US made a point of diversifying its sources of oil to reduce dependence on the Middle East. It was a strategic move which promised a huge boost to West African…
Big may be beautiful but it’s also inflexible and expensive. Andrew Parsons/PA

Small nuclear reactors may be the key to a low-carbon future

Take a hard look at the painful process of de-carbonising the UK’s electricity supply, and it’s clear that the options on the table are not great. From the outset, changes to the system generate further…
Installations of the main natural gas pipeline in the Boyarka village near Kiev. Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA

Russia’s game of chicken with Ukraine leaves Europe on the edge

As with the previous Russia-Ukraine gas disputes in 2006 and 2009, how we describe the current stand-off between the two countries is a matter of semantics. Those earlier disputes found solutions based…
While there may be gold beneath the surface, it’s hard to reach. Wu Hong/EPA

US-style fracking success far from guaranteed on British soil

Britain’s energy-hungry population is highly dependent on oil and gas, which powers around two thirds of the UK’s energy needs. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) projects that by 2030…
Assembling the Nord Stream in 2011. Bair175

Russia, Ukraine, and Europe are tied by gas dependency

The German energy giant RWE has begun to “reverse flow” supplies of gas from Europe back to Ukraine via Poland, a process first arranged in 2012, with an agreement to deliver up to 10 billion cubic metres…
The future will be dimly lit without tackling the growing energy gap. Ben Curtis/PA

The energy policy pendulum must cease its endless swinging

The Conservative Party apparently plans to introduce a moratorium on future onshore wind farms from 2020, hanging their hat on the growth of offshore wind instead, and following Germany’s lead by expanding…
Eastern Europe relies on the network of gas pipelines that runs from Russia through Ukraine and Belarus. EPA/Eustream/AAP

Will the Ukraine crisis open up a new gas market for Australia?

The ongoing standoff between Russia and Ukraine has exacerbated Europe’s vulnerability caused by its reliance on Russian gas. The situation has locked the two nations into a dispute over paying for gas…
Trust between Vladimir Putin and Gerhard Schröder helped lubricate the Nord Stream deal. EPA Pool/Yuri Kadobnov

Energy trade between Europe and Russia will depend on trust

Much of the discussion on the current Ukraine crisis concerns European energy security and dependence on Russian gas. The different reactions of EU member states to the Ukraine crisis highlight an underlying…
Australia only keeps an estimated 23 days' worth of fuel in the country. Bidgee/Wikimedia Commons

Running on empty: Australia’s risky approach to oil supplies

It might sound unlikely, but Australia’s fuel gauge is worryingly low. We’re one of the world’s top energy exporters, but our stocks of liquid fuels – such as the oil on which almost the whole transport…
Too complex by half. Albert Bridge

UK energy policy gets more complex, but goes nowhere

With floods sweeping the country, energy policy has slipped down the agenda since Labour’s attention-grabbing price freeze policy announcement. And this of course is unfortunate, as energy policy is central…
Brisbane’s annual City of Lights show, which is sponsored by an oil and gas company. Flickr/Wei Lun Koh (some rights reserved)

When will Australians finally stop wasting our energy?

From flicking on a light to travelling around town, our lives are utterly dependent on energy. That’s why it’s so surprising that Australia has been so bad at thinking about our country’s future energy…
Would you buy a used energy market from these people? PA

Three visions for reforming the electricity market

The impending third reading of the Energy Bill in the UK’s House of Lords marks the final stage of a long and intensive review process for legislation designed to overhaul the UK’s energy market. The question…
The future Hinkley Point C nuclear power station (centre), with older reactors. EDF

Hinkley C goes ahead, but future nuclear costs must fall

There has long been talk of the need for a “nuclear renaissance”, and now it seems underway. The deal has been struck that would see the first new British nuclear power station in a generation. But is…
New South Wales needs to consider all the options to avoid a gas crisis. Flickr/mikeyp2000

Is New South Wales really facing a gas crisis?

The NSW Energy Security Summit being held in Sydney this week looks like turning into a debate on the relative economic and environmental credentials of coal seam gas, while at the same time exposing a…
New South Wales relies heavily on gas, but gets nearly all its supply from elsewhere. Warren Rohner

Coal seam gas and New South Wales' looming energy crisis

New South Wales is the only major state in Australia that does not have energy security. Its reliance on Victorian and Queensland gas, paired with the vital role gas plays in its homes and industries…
The Champagne Pool at Wai-O-Tapu, New Zealand: hot water for free. Rebecca Naden/PA

Tapping into the energy that lies deep underground

Geothermal energy is derived from heat produced by the decay of radioactive elements within the Earth’s molten core, where temperatures reach 6000°C around 6000km below the ground. This heat naturally…
Blackouts remind us what life was like before cheap, readily available electricity - but it’s time to think about the true price of our power. Candle in the dark image from www.shutterstock.com/Ronen

Save now, pay later: the hidden costs of lower electricity bills

No lights, no power, no internet - and no easy solutions. Fumbling around in a middle of a blackout, hoping to find a torch or some spare batteries, I was struck by just how utterly dependent most of us…
Australia’s energy security will fall again after Caltex’s decision to shut its Sydney plant at Kurnell (pictured), but the Federal Government is yet to have a coherent stance on domestic refining capacity. AAP/Mick Tsikas

Oil-slick politics: Canberra slippery on refinery shutdowns

Last week, Caltex decided to close its Kurnell refinery in Sydney. This closure follows a recent decision by Shell to close its refinery at Clyde in Sydney and it will leave the city without any oil refineries…
State of dependency: Australia imports the majority of its oil for the first time since 1970. Flickr/Sr. Samolo

Australia’s growing oil imports are an energy security issue

For all the talk about Australia’s resource and energy riches and the country’s economy riding the waves of a resource boom, one facet of the country’s energy situation has largely been under the radar…
Serious, interconnected risks are closing in on the globalised community, from climate change to anarchy. Are we heeding the warnings? AAP/EPA/Daniel Deme

Highway to dystopia: time to wise up to the looming risks

In that world of peripheral vision, essential for business, social and political leaders, it is surprising that the World Economic Forum’s report, Global Risks 2012 has not received greater publicity or…
Driving away from fossil fuels: fields of rapeseed which is used in biofuels, many of which are under development in Australia and abroad. Flickr/roger g1

Growing the grunt: developing green biofuels for Australia

In 300 BC, the Syrian city of Antioch had public street lighting fuelled by olive oil. At the 1900 Paris World Fair, German inventor Rudolph Diesel demonstrated his engine powered by peanut oil. Biofuels…
Facing the music: Australia is losing its capacity to refine oil. AAP/Andrew Brownbill

Security in doubt as Australia’s aging oil refineries shut down

The looming closure of three Australian refineries will affect the security of liquid fuel supplies in Australia. This is particularly so if the government and the oil industry do not devise a joint strategy…
There’s no shortage of hype around thorium, but how justified is the excitement? AzureGrackel

Thoughts from a thorium ‘symposium’

You have probably heard at least a little about thorium. There are certainly advocates out there who strongly believe it could help solve the world’s energy problems. The idea is that thorium-based nuclear…
Coal’s heyday is coming to a close, but is gas a long-term solution? Guy Gorek

The future of gas power: stepping-stone or snare?

The past few years have seen the rapid expansion of the coal seam and shale gas industry. Combine this expansion with the recent introduction of a price on carbon here in Australia, and you end up with…
Solar is now a viable industry that should be taken seriously. AFP Photo/Sakis Mitrolidis

Solar will force coal and nuclear out of the energy business

A solar energy revolution is brewing that will put the coal and nuclear industries out of business. Solar is already reaching price parity with coal in many parts of Australia. In contrast to coal and…
OPEC president Mohammad Aliabadi believes speculation in futures is inflating oil prices. He is wrong. AAP

Why it’s wrong to blame speculation for pushing up oil prices

OPEC Conference president Mohammad Aliabadi recently joined a chorus of international observers to blame speculation as the source of ongoing volatility in the global oil market. Speaking at an OPEC Conference…
Australia struggles to keep up in the efficiency race. Flickr/adambowie

Australia ignores energy efficiency, burns money

Energy efficiency is globally seen as the biggest and best option for cheaply reducing greenhouse gas emissions and dealing with rising power bills. But in Australia it still struggles for recognition…
Our old-fashioned addiction will be hard to kick. JD Hancock/flickr

Going up: peak oil wolf is scratching at the door

Oil is a finite and non-renewable resource. Its production is going to peak. “Peak oil” is the point at which half of the world’s original endowment of oil has been extracted. This is the point at which…
Is paying for power lines pushing up bills? AAP

What’s really pushing up the price of power?

Household electricity bills are rising and about half of a typical bill goes to paying network costs. Are we paying too much for network infrastructure? Electricity networks are undeniably important. They…

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