Grid Parity, Low LCOE Driving 34% Global Renewables Capacity by 2030  

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CleanTechnica has an article on the growth factors for renewable energy -Grid Parity, Low LCOE Driving 34% Global Renewables Capacity by 2030.

When it comes to global electricity generation, coal is still king – but not for long.

Fast-changing economics mean renewables worldwide will represent 34% of all installed capacity by 2030, according to “World Energy Perspective: Cost of Energy Technologies,” a report from the World Energy Council (WEC) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

The report finds many clean energy technologies are already cost competitive with fossil fuels and only getting cheaper, echoing another analysis that found US wind and solar costs fell 50% since 2008. As a result, fossil fuel’s slice of the world energy pie is projected to fall fast, from 67% in 2012 to 40%-45% in 2030.

Eindhoven's Elevated Bike Roundabout  

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The Dutch really know how to build bike paths - bird's-eye view Hovenring Eindhoven.

Google could have a floating data center in Maine, too  

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CNet has a follow up to the recent story about a wave power driven data centre for Google - Google could have a floating data center in Maine, too.

As CNET reported Friday, it looks very much like Google has been building a floating data center made from shipping containers on a barge in the middle of San Francisco Bay. But it may not be the only one of its kind.

Google has not responded to multiple requests for comment. But the project in San Francisco Bay appears likely to be the manifestation of a 2009 patent for a "water-based data center," and would likely leverage the fact that wave energy can provide cheap and plentiful power.

Now it seems as though Google may well have built a sister version of the project, and, according to the Portland Press Herald, it recently showed up in the harbor in Portland, Maine.

Canadian Solar sees global solar installs at 100 GW per year  

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ReNew Economy has an article on the future of solar PV takeup - Canadian Solar sees global solar installs at 100GW a year.

The head of Canadian Solar, one of the four biggest solar PV manufacturers in the world, expects the global installation rate of solar PV to treble by the end of the decade to more 100GW a year.

In an interview with RenewEconomy, Shawn Qu, the CEO of Canadian Solar, said the declining costs of solar, and the rising cost of fossil fuels meant that the future of solar was guaranteed, although he had doubts about the future of large-scale centralised grid.

In 2012, the world installed more than 35GW of solar PV, which is expected to increase to around 40GW in 2013. Qu says that in two to three years, he expects to see a 50GW annual run rate, before rising to 100GW a year.

Russell Brand On Buckminster Fuller  

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Russell Brand has attracted a lot of attention as a result of his recent interview with Jeremy Paxman on the BBC. This followed his contribution to a recent issue of The New Statesman, which included a Bucky Fuller quote - Russell Brand on revolution: “We no longer have the luxury of tradition”.

These problems that threaten to bring on global destruction are the result of legitimate human instincts gone awry, exploited by a dead ideology derived from dead desert myths. Fear and desire are the twin engines of human survival but with most of our basic needs met these instincts are being engaged to imprison us in an obsolete fragment of our consciousness. Our materialistic consumer culture relentlessly stimulates our desire. Our media ceaselessly engages our fear, our government triangulates and administrates, ensuring there are no obstacles to the agendas of these slow-thighed beasts, slouching towards Bethlehem.

For me the solution has to be primarily spiritual and secondarily political. This, too, is difficult terrain when the natural tribal leaders of the left are atheists, when Marxism is inveterately Godless. When the lumbering monotheistic faiths have given us millennia of grief for a handful of prayers and some sparkly rituals.

By spiritual I mean the acknowledgement that our connection to one another and the planet must be prioritised. Buckminster Fuller outlines what ought be our collective objectives succinctly: “to make the world work for 100 per cent of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous co-operation without ecological offence or the disadvantage of anyone”. This maxim is the very essence of “easier said than done” as it implies the dismantling of our entire socio-economic machinery. By teatime.

The 3D Printer That Can Print A 2,500 Square Foot House In 20 Hours  

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Industry Tap has a post on the expanding horizons of 3D printing - The Printer That Can Print A 2,500 Square Foot House In 20 Hours.

We have seen huge advancements in 3D printing. We’ve even seen oversized wrenches printed that measure 1.2 meters in length. Now, we can print an entire 2,500 sqft house in 20 hours. In the TED Talk video below, Behrokh Khoshnevis, a professor of Industrial & Systems Engineering at the University of Southern California (USC), demonstrates automated construction, using 3D printers to build an entire house in 20 hours.

Chevron Sniffing Around In The Great Australian Bight  

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The Australian reports that Chevron is looking to explore for oil offshore from South Australia - Chevron shifts offshore in $500m Bight Basin push.

ENERGY giant Chevron is preparing to spend almost $500 million on oil and gas exploration as part of a massive push into the Bight Basin off South Australia, in a departure from its primary focus on LNG projects in Western Australia. Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said yesterday that exploration permits had been awarded to Chevron to explore in two frontier offshore blocks spanning more than 32,000sqkm -- almost doubling the US group's total offshore acreage holdings in Australia.

The Bight Basin, part of the Great Australian Bight, is believed to be highly prospective and is similar in size to the Gulf of Mexico. Last year, the federal government granted permits to BP in the Bight Basin, marking the first time the environmentally sensitive region had been explored for more than a decade.

New Tubes Using Hydraulic Pistons Could Harness Ocean Waves for Energy  

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Inhabitat has a post on a new wave power design - New Tubes Using Hydraulic Pistons Could Harness Ocean Waves for Energy.

The cylinders ride the peaks and troughs of waves, which spins concentric shafts working in pairs to push and pull hydraulic fluid (similar way to how a piston works). This double action then creates pressure which is stored in accumulators and released at a capped limit into a hydraulic motor. Etherington, who is an engineering graduate from Brunel University in London, got his inspiration for the device when he was kite surfing off the coast of Cumbria and he noticed that the waves rarely moved in a predictable fashion.

Replicating the unpredictable conditions of the ocean was one of the main challenges when testing the device. Etherington had to use data from buoys moored in the Orkney Islands which were used to create suitable waves in a water tank at Lancaster University. Since then, the engineer’s design has proved so good that it won him the UK round of the James Dyson Award, along with £2,000 (approx. $3230) to create a bigger prototype for further testing.

In Almost Every European Country, Bikes Are Outselling New Cars  

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NPR has an article on the increasing popularity of bikes in Europe - In Almost Every European Country, Bikes Are Outselling New Cars.

We know that Europeans love their bicycles — think Amsterdam or Paris. Denmark even has highways specifically for cyclists.

Indeed, earlier this month, NPR's Lauren Frayer reported that Spain, which has long had a love affair with cars, is embracing the bicycle: For the first time on record, Lauren noted, bicycles outsold cars in the country.

But it's becoming a Continent-wide phenomenon. More bikes were sold in Italy than cars — for the first time since World War II.

This prompted us to look at the figures across the 27 member states of the European Union for both cars and bicycles. New-car registrations for Cyprus and Malta weren't available, so we took them out of the comparison.

Here's what we found: Bicycle sales outpaced new-car sales last year in every one of those countries, except Belgium and Luxembourg. The top five countries by bicycle sales can be seen in the top chart.

3 Reasons Germans are Going Renewable 'At All Costs'  

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REW has an article on Germany's (self) interest in renewable energy - 3 Reasons Germans are Going Renewable 'At All Costs'. It's something we all should be emulating.

Germany is racing past 20 percent renewable energy on its electricity grid, but news stories stridently warn that this new wind and solar power is costing "billions." But often left out (or buried far from the lede) is the overwhelming popularity of the country's relentless focus on energy change (energiewende).

How can a supposedly expensive effort to clean up the energy supply be so popular?

1. It's about the cost, not the price

Most news stories focus on the cost of electricity in Germany, which has some of the highest rates per kilowatt-hour in the world. But they don't note that the average German electricity bill – about $100 a month – is the same as for most Americans. Germans are much more efficient users of energy than most, so they can afford higher rates without having higher bills. ...

2. It's about vision

Germany doesn't just have an incremental approach to renewable energy, but a commitment supported by 84 percent of residents to get to 100% renewable energy "as quickly as possible." ...

3. It's about ownership

I lied in #1. Support for Germany's renewable energy quest isn't about cost of energy, but about the opportunity to own a slice of the energy system. Millions of Germans are building their retirement nest egg by individually or collectively owning a share of wind and solar power plants supplying clean energy to their communities. Nearly half of the country's 63,000 megawatts of wind and solar power is owned locally, and these energy owners care as much about the persistence of renewable energy they own as they do about the energy bill they pay. Not only do these German energy owners reduce their own net cost of energy, every dollar diverted from a distant multinational utility company multiplies throughout their local economy.

Not only does local ownership flip the notion of energy costs as consumers become producers, it also flips the notion of political ownership. Three-quarters of Germans want to maintain a focus on "citizen-managed, decentralized renewable energy."

The tunnel vision on cost so prevalent in the press reflects the perspective of incumbent utilities, whose market share declines as their former customers produce their own power. It's a story that plays out in the U.S., when debates over new power plants focus narrowly on the cost per kilowatt-hour rather than how an individual or community can retain more of their energy dollar.

It may seem that Germany is going renewable "at all costs," but only if we are resigned to being energy consumers. Because their and our energy transition is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take charge of our energy future. That's priceless.

Is Google building a hulking floating data center in SF Bay ?  

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CNet has an article speculating Google is building a floating data centre - possibly powered using wave power (which seems cool but unlikely - though I guess if you couple it with solar and energy storage it might be feasible) - Is Google building a hulking floating data center in SF Bay?.

Something big and mysterious is rising from a floating barge at the end of Treasure Island, a former Navy base in the middle of San Francisco Bay. And Google's fingerprints are all over it.

It's unclear what's inside the structure, which stands about four stories high and was made with a series of modern cargo containers. The same goes for when it will be unveiled, but the big tease has already begun. Locals refer to it as the secret project.

Google did not respond to multiple requests for comment. But after going through lease agreements, tracking a contact tied to the project on LinkedIn, talking to locals on Treasure Island, and consulting with experts, it's all but certain that Google is the entity that is building the massive structure that's in plain sight, but behind tight security.

Could the structure be a sea-faring data center? One expert who was shown pictures of the structure thinks so, especially because being on a barge provides easy access to a source of cooling, as well as an inexpensive source of power -- the sea. And even more tellingly, Google was granted a patent in 2009 for a floating data center, and putting data centers inside shipping containers is already a well-established practice.

Why energy producers need to pay heed to global warming  

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Jeff Rubin has a post on the latest IPCC report - Why energy producers need to pay heed to global warming.

The world’s top climate change scientists are now 95 percent certain that humans are responsible for global warming. That’s the headline takeaway from the latest findings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Global temperatures are the hottest since the last ice age and the planet is only getting warmer.

What to make of this news? On one hand, it’s likely not much of a surprise to most of us. Extreme weather events like superstorm Sandy are becoming more commonplace. Glaciers are melting, drought is gripping more parts of the world, and the amount of Arctic sea ice shrinks more each year.

A warming planet clearly holds profound consequences for us all, but one group that should by paying particular attention are the world’s energy producers. The details of the IPCC’s findings take direct aim at the long-term value of fossil fuel reserves.

The IPCC has put new numbers to the planet’s so-called carbon budget. To limit the rise in average global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius from preindustrial levels, the IPCC says we can burn no more than 1 trillion tons of carbon. The bad news is that we’ve already combusted more than half that amount. At our current rate of fossil fuel consumption, we’ll burn through the rest in less than three decades.

Global energy producers have already found more than enough reserves to ensure we can blow past this mark without breaking a sweat. Even after using up our carbon quota, it’s estimated the world will still have 2.5 trillion tons of carbon waiting to burn. Every year, moreover, producers add to global reserves, whether through unlocking natural gas shale formations, oil sands bitumen plays, or drilling deep into the ocean floor. It’s worth asking, though, are these carbon reserves really valuable resources or will they end up as stranded assets ?

A Staff of Robots Can Clean and Install Solar Panels  

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The NYT has an article on the use of robots for improving the energy efficiency and construction cost for solar power plants - A Staff of Robots Can Clean and Install Solar Panels.

In a dusty yard under a blistering August sun, Rover was hard at work, lifting 45-pound solar panels off a stack and installing them, one by one, into a concrete track. A few yards away, Rover’s companion, Spot, moved along a row of panels, washing away months of grit, then squeegeeing them dry. But despite the heat and monotony — an alternative-energy version of lather-rinse-repeat — neither Rover nor Spot broke a sweat or uttered a complaint. They could have kept at it all day.

That is because they are robots, surprisingly low-tech machines that a start-up company called Alion Energy is betting can automate the installation and maintenance of large-scale solar farms.

Working in near secrecy until recently, the company, based in Richmond, Calif., is ready to use its machines in three projects in the next few months in California, Saudi Arabia and China. If all goes well, executives expect that they can help bring the price of solar electricity into line with that of natural gas by cutting the cost of building and maintaining large solar installations.

In recent years, the solar industry has wrung enormous costs from developing farms, largely through reducing the price of solar panels more than 70 percent since 2008. But with prices about as low as manufacturers say they can go, the industry is turning its attention to finding savings in other areas. ...

Modules dropped to 35 percent of system costs in 2013, down from 53 percent in 2010, while labor, engineering and permitting rose to 15 percent from 9 percent in the same time period, according to Greentech Media, which tracks the industry. ...

Several companies are developing or selling robots to aid in installation or cleaning, including the Swiss outfit Serbot, which makes robots that can wash the windows of glass skyscrapers as well as clean solar arrays.

Another start-up based in California, QBotix, has developed a robot that controls tracking operations, moving along an array and tilting the panels to follow the sun and maximize their output. Getting as much as 40 percent more electricity out of each panel than in a fixed-tilt system, said Wasiq Bokhari, the company’s chief executive, allows developers to build smaller, cheaper systems to meet their energy production targets.

The ocean is broken  

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The SMH has an article about a voyage through the Pacific - The ocean is broken.

It was the silence that made this voyage different from all of those before it.

Not the absence of sound, exactly. The wind still whipped the sails and whistled in the rigging. The waves sloshed against the fibreglass hull. And there were plenty of other noises: muffled thuds and bumps and scrapes as the boat knocked against pieces of debris.

What was missing were the cries of seabirds that surrounded the boat on previous voyages across the same seas. The birds were missing because the fish were missing. ...

''After we left Japan it felt as if the ocean itself was dead,'' Macfadyen says. ''We saw one whale, sort of rolling helplessly on the surface with what looked like a big tumour on its head. I've done a lot of miles on the ocean in my life and I'm used to seeing turtles, dolphins, sharks and big flurries of feeding birds. But this time, for 3000 nautical miles, there was nothing alive to be seen.''

But garbage was everywhere. ''Part of it was the aftermath of the tsunami that hit Japan a couple of years ago. The wave came in over the land, picked up an unbelievable load of stuff and carried it out to sea. And it's still out there, everywhere you look,'' Macfadyen says.

His brother Glenn, who boarded at Hawaii for the run into the US, marvelled at the ''thousands on thousands'' of yellow plastic buoys. The huge tangles of synthetic rope, fishing lines and nets. Pieces of polystyrene foam by the million. And slicks of oil and petrol, everywhere. Countless hundreds of wooden power poles are out there, snapped off by the killer wave and still trailing wires in the middle of the sea.

On other voyages, when their boat was becalmed, the Macfadyens would just crank the motor and chug off. Not this time. ''In a lot of places we couldn't start our motor for fear of entangling the propeller in the mass of pieces of rope and cable. That's an unheard of situation out in the ocean,'' Ivan Macfadyen recalls. ''If we did motor we couldn't do it at night, only in the daytime with a lookout on the bow, watching for rubbish. In the waters above Hawaii, you could see right down into the depths. I could see that the debris isn't just on the surface, it's all the way down. And it's all sizes, from a soft-drink bottle to pieces the size of a big car or truck. We saw a factory chimney sticking out of the water. ''We were weaving around these pieces of debris. It was like sailing through a garbage tip.''

Amazon's Biodome Greenhouses  

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Inhabitat has a post on some green buildings proposed by Amazon - Amazon's Biodome Greenhouses Receive Green Light From Seattle's Design Review Board.

Last night Seattle's Design Review Board voted unanimously to approve Amazon's plans to build a set of futuristic biodomes for their new downtown headquarters. Now that the project has received the green light it will move on to the city’s planning and development department before the domes receive final approval for construction.

Chinese oil companies attempt to slash shale gas drilling costs  

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Platts has an article on Chinese progress in extracting shale gas (Chinese wells still take 3 times as long to drill as US ones and cost around 4 times as much) - Chinese oil companies attempt to slash shale gas drilling costs.

Chinese companies are aiming to cut costs and enhance efficiencies as they become more familiar with shale gas development in the country, delegates at an unconventional gas conference said in Beijing this week.

State-owned Sinopec has been focused on the gas-rich Sichuan Basin, where it already has experience working on complex fields with high sulfur in tight reservoirs, particularly with its Puguang and Yuanba projects. Its main shale development is the Fuling project in the Sichuan Basin in Chongqing covering up to 500 sq km. Sinopec said in March that it hoped to reach 1 billion cubic meters/year of production capacity at the project by 2015.

Ma Yongsheng, the company's chief geologist, told delegates at the Global Unconventional Gas Summit on Tuesday that Fuling has produced more than 20 million cu m since late last year from an ongoing trial production, and daily output has hit 60,000 cu m of gas. There are now five wells with stable output. Working on the project has already yielded some efficiencies, Ma said, with the drilling time for each well cut by half to about three months. Ma added that the cost of one shale gas well is now around Yuan 90 million ($14.7 million), including costs for drilling, fracturing and procurement of services from technical service companies.

Gas still is the subject of much debate in Australia, with The Age recently running an article on opposition to natural gas export projects pushing up the price of domestic gas - Gas companies 'hoarding' for export projects.

Gas companies have been accused of leaving gas in the ground that could be profitably sold today, so they can sell the gas more expensively in the future. The claim comes as gas prices along the east coast are forecast to rise to international levels after the development of a string of export gas projects in Queensland. This has already driven the price of gas for some large industrial users to $9 a gigajoule from 2016, up 50 per cent.

''An oil company that expects to sell … LNG [liquefied natural gas] at a price of $14.85 ma unit in 20 years' time would be better off if it secured $3 for that same unit of gas in the domestic market today,'' Mike Lauer, director of Gas Trading Australia, told the Australian Pipeline Industry Association on Monday. ''The overwhelming focus of our oil and gas producers on big, exciting and sexy LNG developments has come at a substantial cost to resource allocation in Australia. This focus has seen oil company executives decline to profitably sell gas in domestic markets today so that the gas can be reserved for sale in 15 or 20 years as LNG.''

An example is the Northern Territory, where more than 150 petajoules of gas is brought into Darwin each year and exported to Japan. ''Apparently, there was not 12 PJ to 20 PJ of gas per annum available to supply Channel Island, 12 kilometres away from the LNG plant, because the gas was needed to supply LNG in the plant's 17th contract year,'' he said. ''It beggars belief that there was no price at which such small volumes of gas could be liberated from the LNG project. ...

His comments came as pipeline owner and operator Jemena said government must be prepared to intervene to prevent ''demand destruction'' among some gas users when the gas price spikes, which would put trade-exposed industries that use large volumes of gas at risk. ''Temporary, targeted government assistance for trade-exposed industries would be justified to ease transitional pressures,'' said Shaun Reardon, Jemena's executive director.

The Daily Reckoning reckons this is all as it should be (I'm not sure your average punter would be swayed by these arguments but they are preaching to the choir) - Should Australia Have a Shortage of Natural Gas or Cash ?.

If you can buy something for $3.15 in America and sell it for $16.40 in Mexico, should you? Not if you're a patriotic Australian, as you'll discover below.

Oddly enough, Australia is at the centre of the story the image is trying to tell, but we don't even get a price label. Maybe that's because there are some foul smelling goings on within our borders. We're talking about the natural gas industry, of course.

'Rip and reap, baby' is for the wimpy resource cowboys of the past, reports The Age. 'Rip, reap, hoard and flog overseas' is the new motto of the Australian gas industry. And they're infuriating the greenies, industry, politicians and every other busybody in the country. So, as a matter of principle, let's give the scroungedrels some support.

Why are they 'scroungedrels'? Well, instead of providing much needed cheap natural gas to Australian homes and industry, the scoundrels are scrounging around for higher prices overseas. Despite having one of the largest gas production booms in the country, Australia could end up with a shortage of natural gas!

That's a bit misleading. The correct way of putting it is that local consumers of gas are being outbid by foreigners. We're not willing to pay the international market price. But for the sake of the journalists who have to write about this stuff, let's call it a gas 'shortage'.

More and more gas export terminals are coming online, but not fast enough for the natural gas producers. Now the villains have gone one worse than just selling Australia's valuable and needed resources overseas for a higher price. [Gasp!] They're hoarding and storing natural gas in anticipation of being able to sell it overseas at a higher price. [Outraged gasp!] And that's driving up the price of natural gas here in the meantime. [Bang fist on table.] There's nothing worse than a hoarding scroungedrel, is there? [Shake head.]

Actually, things are just as they should be. For now anyway. Politicians and lobbyists are already on the move to 'fix' the 'problem'. As always, they're being egged on by big business trying to get some protection from international competition. BlueScope Chief Paul O'Malley pointed out that Australia is the only country in the world that exports gas without having a national gas policy.

Maybe it's not a coincidence we're in the middle of a gas boom then. But try substituting 'gas' for something else like 'cabbage'. 'Australia is the only country in the world that exports cabbage without having a national cabbage policy.' Ridiculous, right? ...

First of all, hoarding in anticipation of future use is a signal to the economy that a lot of gas will be needed soon, so production needs to be ramped up. Nothing ramps up production like higher prices, and that's just what hoarding causes. So hoarders are actually quite helpful. They also stabilise prices when they sell their amassed holdings. And prepare the rest of the economy for the coming higher prices.

Secondly, selling your exports overseas for multiple times their local price generates a greater benefit than cheap natural gas would here. It's just that the dollars flow into different hands. So the real question should be how Aussie investors can get their hands on the Aussie companies that will be making a mint.

One widely touted answer to natural gas availability in Australia is (naturally) shale gas, with the ABC's Landline program recently having a look at action in the Cooper Basin - It's a Gas.

Australia is on the cusp of a new resource industry, one based on extracting gas from shale rock.

Like coal seam gas, this new industry raises questions about how gas extraction will interfere with underground aquifers, an issue that's troubled some farming communities.

Although shale gas reserves are found throughout Australia, the initial exploration and drilling is being done in a remote part of the Cooper Basin. ...

MIKE SEXTON, REPORTER: This is well number 191 in the Moomba gas field at the Cooper Basin. It isn't the most impressive piece of infrastructure, a 2m high wellhead with a length of 20mm pipe. But it's the closest you'll ever see to an iceberg in the desert, because it's what's hidden that counts.

JAMES BAULDERSTONE, SANTOS: Quite rightly say it doesn't look overly impressive. What you don't see is what happens under the ground. So here you have a well that's some 3.5km deep and is extracting a resource from that one single well that provides the energy for 40,000 homes in Adelaide and Sydney.

MIKE SEXTON: It's Australia's first production well for shale gas, which is often referred to as unconventional gas. And the company operating it, Santos, believes it's a game-changing resource.

JAMES BAULDERSTONE: In the Moomba field and surrounding fields we have some 700 producing gas wells. This is one of those 700 and we're hopeful we can drill many wells like this that can really take the production from central Australia that's been producing, supplying half of the gas of the eastern seaboard for 40 years, and provide that for another 40 years.

MIKE SEXTON: Geologists have long known about the shale deposits. The reason they're now being exploited is because of Asia's continuing demand for energy.

In 2010 Santos signed enormous contracts to supply gas from the Cooper Basin via its joint venture LNG plant at Gladstone in North Queensland. Leaving themselves five years to find enough gas.

The Cooper Basin was slowly being turned off. Now the dynamic has dramatically changed.

The Australian also has an article promoting shale gas production - Shale gas will transform energy market, says experts (sic).
Santos last year became the first company to begin commercial production of shale gas in Australia, after developing a well near its conventional gas activities in the Cooper Basin, which straddles South Australia's border with Queensland.

Chatham House energy expert Paul Stevens said a strong shale-gas industry in Australia could be expected in the medium-to-long term, and a more attractive tax regime should be implemented to ensure it happens. Professor Stevens said the shale gas revolution in the US had developed while companies were receiving a US$0.50 tax credit for producing unconventional gas until 2002. "Government's can't change geology, but they can change the commercially of the geology,'' Professor Stevens told The Australian after the event. "Tweaking the fiscal terms is quite a good way of doing it.''

Australia has about 396 trillion cubic feet (TCF) in potential shale-gas reserves. Proven conventional gas reserves which do no require "fracking'' - a process in which fluids and sand are injected into rocks to split them in order release gas trapped inside - are about 133 TCF.

Making Gas Turbines Smarter  

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GigaOm has an article on GE's efforts to make turbines for power generation using natural gas more efficient - Putting data centers on turbines to save billions of dollars.

“We’re almost putting a data center on a gas turbine,” Ruh said during a session at GigaOM’s Mobilize conference on Wednesday morning, referencing the hundreds of sensors the company is placing on those machines to capture data. If those sensors, combined with GE’s (or anyone’s) software for managing and analyzing the data, is able to improve efficiency by just 1 percent, that could save nearly $6 billion a year.

Or think about air travel. Forty-one percent of unplanned downtime for airlines is caused by mechanical errors, Ruh explained, so GE wants to be able to predict when its engines or other airline systems will fail. With this knowledge, carriers can fix problems during scheduled downtime and save everyone precious time.

Speaking of jet engines, Ruh noted just how much potentially predictive data they’re generating. If someone captured everything coming off of a jet engine, he said, “We’re talking several hundred terabytes a day.”

However, he acknowledged, the macro effects of the industrial internet — cost savings, carbon-footprint reductions and efficiency gains — will come with shifts in the employment sector that might not be good for everyone involved. “There will be new kinds of jobs that get created that don’t exist today,” Ruh said. But, he added, “Some things people used to do will be done more efficiently through these machines.”

The World’s Largest Wind Turbine (2013)  

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REW has an article on the construction of the world's largest wind turbines (7 MW) off Fife in Scotland - Securing the World’s Largest Wind Turbine.

At 7 megawatts (MW), Samsung Heavy Industries' S7.0-171 is the world's largest offshore wind turbine. The 196-metre tall structure is being installed 20 metres offshore in Fife, Scotland, with a connecting walkway to enable visitors to get up close to the structure. ...

In the next five years, an estimated 4,000 new fixed structures are scheduled to be installed in the North Sea alone. This is mainly due to the upsurge in offshore wind activity associated with Round 2 and Round 3 projects.

Ethiopia Announces Plans to Build 1000 MW Geothermal Power Plant  

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East Africa has become something of a hotspot for geothermal power - the latest project announced is in Ethiopia. Inhabitat has a report - Ethiopia Announces Plans to Build Massive 1000 MW Geothermal Power Plant.

American-Icelandic company Reykjavik Geothermal just invested $4 billion towards a massive new geothermal farm 124 miles south of the Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. The deal signed on Wednesday secures three-quarters of the funding necessary to build the 1000 MW geothermal project, which is the first of its kind in the country, and paves the way to a cleaner energy future for one of Africa’s most populated countries.

Volvo develops light-weight battery storage in car panels  

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ReNew Economy has an article on an interesting idea for energy storage in electric cars - Volvo develops light-weight battery storage in car panels.

Swedish car group Volvo is working on what it calls a “revolutionary concept” of developing lightweight energy storage components that could be incorporated into the body of a vehicle and greatly enhance the efficiency of electric vehicles.

Volvo has teamed up with nine other participants, including the EU and Imperial College London, to identify a feasible alternative to the heavyweight, large size and high costs associated with the batteries seen in hybrids and EVs today.

The solution – a battery system made from carbon fibres, polymer resin, nano-batteries and super capacitors – has been developed to act as body panels of the car as well as a fully functional battery.

The three and a half year research project has been tested on Volvo’s S80 model. The reinforced carbon fibres sandwich the new battery and are moulded and formed to fit around the car’s frame including the door panels, the boot lid, and the wheel bowl – saving large amount of space under the hood.

Australian Cyclists Party plans upper house bids in Victoria, NSW  

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The SMH reports that the success of various random minor parties in the Senate in recent federal election has prompted cyclists to get in on the action, launching a new party for upcoming state elections - Australian Cyclists Party plans upper house bids in Victoria, NSW.

We've seen the Motoring Enthusiast Party, the Sports Party and the Shooters and Fishers Party fight for upper house representation in federal and state elections. Now cyclists are hoping to become an independent political force.

Cycling activist Omar Khalifa spearheaded the launch of the Australian Cyclists Party with a membership drive at the AusBike expo in Melbourne at the weekend.

“Many people are saying, my goodness, if this group or that group can do it, why can't we?” said Mr Khalifa, a former CEO of Bicycle New South Wales. “It was a very easy sell to get people to sign up.” Omar Khalifa at the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne. He is launching the Australian Cyclists Party, which will contest for the Senate in Victoria and NSW state elections. Photograph Paul Jeffers The Age Newspaper Oct 12th 2013.

The fledgling party intends to register for the state elections in Victoria next November, and in NSW in 2015, and is signing up members via its website, IcycleIvote.com.

Turn your bike electric just by changing the wheel  

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Grist has a post on a new type of electric bike wheel - Turn your bike electric just by changing the wheel.

FlyKly Smart Wheel “looks like any other rear wheel, except that it has a monster-sized hub stuffed full of electronics,” Gizmodo says. It’s like the Prius of bike wheels — it stores energy as you pedal and while you’re going downhill. And then it uses that energy to speed you along, if you want, at up to 20 mph for 30 miles. It also can track your routes, speeds, and times, and suggest better routes.

Solar storage plant Gemasolar sets 36-day record for 24/7 output  

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ReNew Economy has a post on baseload solar thermal power in Spain - Solar storage plant Gemasolar sets 36-day record for 24/7 output.

The ground-breaking Gemasolar Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plant with storage near Seville, Spain, has marked its second anniversary with another breakthrough – producing round the clock power for a record breaking 36 consecutive days.

The power plant, owned by Torresol Energy, has been producing energy for two years since its official opening on October 4, 2011. It was the first large scale solar tower power plant to use molten salt, which captures heat during the day so that the plant can still produce energy at night.

Torresol said in a statement marking the anniversary that the plant has exceeded the expected results and has demonstrated the sturdiness of the design. Producing energy 24/7 for 36 consecutive days from solar energy “is something that no other plant has performed so far.”

Action on climate is a duty above politics  

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I was amused watching PM Abbott spending much of the week in the bushfire zone while the News Ltd press complained the greens were politicising the event by linking it (obviously) to global warming. The Age has an editorial on the topic - Action on climate is a duty above politics.

As at least 56 bushfires rage across New South Wales in the worst fire disaster to hit the state in nearly 50 years, The Age endorses the sentiments of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who has expressed the nation's ''sorrow and sympathy for all who are suffering''. Likewise, we support Opposition Leader Bill Shorten's tribute to the brave and tireless work of firefighters and police. With one life already lost, and probably more to come as the infernos indiscriminately continue to take their toll, this is indeed a human tragedy.

Given the scale and terrible consequences of the fires, and the fact that NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell has declared a state of emergency, it might have appeared unnecessarily churlish of the Greens' deputy leader Adam Bandt to criticise the Abbott government's policy on climate change. Mr Bandt says that the Coalition is dismantling Australia's global-warming action in the face of scientific opinion that global warming and its associated dangers are increasing. Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt has accused Mr Bandt of scoring political points from the fires.

The Age believes Mr Bandt has a valid point. Rather than politicising on his own behalf, his criticisms draw necessary attention to the Abbott government's own politicising: the swift fulfilment of its election promises to downgrade the prominence of science in general and the effects of climate change in particular. As we wrote a month ago, ''It is reasonable to fear that science and the science portfolio are being sacrificed to politics.''

It is not just Mr Bandt who is concerned. The Climate Institute's chief executive, John Connor, says there are high risks in disregarding the nexus between the advancement of climate change and the growing severity and frequency of bushfires. An analogy may be drawn with the responsibility of government to respond to road safety issues as they arise. When causes of tragedies on our roads are identified, it is not politicising the issue to demand they be tackled.

40 Years Back, 40 Years Forward  

Posted by Big Gav

RMI Outlet has a look back at the 1970's oil crisis - "What the 1973 Arab oil embargo taught us about energy efficiency, innovation, and moving to a fossil-free future" - 40 Years Back, 40 Years Forward. There is an accompanying article from Amory Lovins - What Did the 1973 Oil Embargo Teach Us?.

Today, in 2013, we are approximately halfway between the Arab oil embargo of 1973 and the fossil-free future RMI envisions by 2050 in Reinventing Fire. There are both similarities and differences in what happened in the 70s and what is happening today. The main impetus for conserving energy four decades ago was our lack of access to oil and the realization we should not depend on foreign imports. Now, forty years later, instead of a fuel crisis, we have a climate crisis. We recognize the environmental urgency of curbing our fossil fuel use as we never have before. Hopefully, we can learn from what we went through 40 years ago to help us get to where we want to be 40 years from now. ...

Yet we learned that in a crisis, the nation can do what it takes to reduce our energy consumption. Today, while we no longer have an artificial shortage of imported fossil fuels, we have melting glaciers, rising sea levels, and a warming planet. It’s time to take the innovation that occurred in the 1970s to a new level as we face today’s crisis—climate change.

We’re already on the way, thanks in part to some of the efficiency initiatives and innovation that came out of the 70s. Today’s appliances require less than half the energy they did four decades ago. Heating systems are now 20 percent more efficient. The past couple of decades have seen a renewed interest in solar and wind power. Global wind power capacity has grown from 18 GW in 2000 to 282.5 GW today. Over the past five years alone, global installed PV capacity grew by 900 percent.

U.S. car manufacturers, who were being outdone by Japanese companies faster to bring fuel-efficient cars to the American market in the late 1970s and early 1980s, are making not only more fuel-efficient cars, but a plethora of electric cars. And some of today’s American-made fuel-efficient cars are modeled after the unsuccessful 1970s cars Detroit produced in response to the oil crisis (with some improvements, of course!). Yet we still have a way to go.

A 75-Million-Gallon Cellulosic Ethanol Plant In Italy  

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Climate Progress has an update on advanced biofuels - How A 75-Million-Gallon Plant In Italy Heralds The Rise Of A More Efficient Kind Of Biofuel.

The world’s first plant able to produce cellulosic biofuel at commercial scale using enzymatic conversion recently opened in Crescentino, Italy. When it’s fully up and running, the plant is expected to deliver 75 million liters (just shy of 20 million gallons) of ethanol to the European market.

Admittedly, the “world’s first” title rests on narrow grounds. The plant uses a particular process developed by its owner, Beta Renewables, that first breaks raw materials down into sugars using enzymes, and then converts those sugars into ethanol through fermentation by bacteria.

Another commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant is already up and running in Florida, but it uses a different process in which gasification — exposure to high heat — transforms the raw materials into a mix of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen called syngas. The same fermentation process then converts the syngas into ethanol.

The Florida plant is anticipated to produce 8 million gallons of biofuel a year when it’s fully up and running. A plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa with a capacity of 25 million gallons is in the works, as is a 30 million gallon facility in Nevada, Iowa, and a 23 million gallon set up in Hugoton, Kansas. The current conventional wisdom says that large-scale commercial production of cellulosic biofuel remains out of reach, and the target set by the federal government’s renewable fuel mandate is too high. But that may not be the case much longer.

Can Australia become the world's leading LNG exporter ?  

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The ABC's "Fact Check" has a look at claims from the new energy minister that Australia could be the world's leading exporter of LNG from natural gas and coal seam gas - Can Australia become the world's leading LNG exporter ?.

The LNG industry claims to be Australia's fastest growing export sector.

Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane shares the rosy outlook. "Australia will shortly become the second largest - or optimistically, the largest - exporter of LNG and that is nothing short of amazing," Mr Macfarlane said during the Australian National Conference on Resource and Energy on October 3.

Is that a reasonable prediction?

Mr Macfarlane's office told ABC Fact Check he based his comments on advice from the Department of Industry and research by the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics, the national energy forecaster. The bureau says Australia will produce 83.0 million tonnes of LNG by 2017. How does this compare with the rest of the world?

According to statistics from the International Energy Agency, whose 28 member countries from the developed world are large users of energy, Australia is currently the third largest LNG producer in the world, behind Qatar and Malaysia.

The agency says Australia has the capacity to produce 33 billion cubic metres of LNG a year. In tonnes, the measurement used commonly in Australia, that converts to 24.4 million tonnes.

While Australia is in third place, the agency says Australia has more new LNG plants under construction than any other country.

On completion, the new projects will add a further 61.4 million tonnes of LNG capacity, bringing Australia's total to 85.8 million tonnes. These are due to be completed by June 2018.

Not many other LNG exporting countries have new projects underway, according to the agency. The closest is the United States, constructing plants capable of producing 17.8 million tonnes.

When plants under construction are added to current capacity, Australia will lead the way with 85.8 million tonnes. Qatar, the current leader in LNG exports, will be next at 77.7 million tonnes and Indonesia third at 36.3 million tonnes.

An Oil and Gas Boom for Southeast Asia ?  

Posted by Big Gav

"The Financialist" ( a creation of Credit Suisse, apparently) has an article on the competition for south east Asia's offshore oil reserves - An Oil and Gas Boom for Southeast Asia?. Weirdly it's published as one large image...

Ivanpah Photo Essay  

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Time has a great photo essay on the Ivanpah solar thermal power project - The Ivanpah Solar Project: Generating Energy Through Fields of Mirrors.

When I visited the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, which sits in the Mojave Desert on the border between California and Nevada, I had to be careful where I looked. The engineers warned me not to look directly at the receivers arrayed on top of the centralized solar towers, which collected the desert sunlight concentrated by thousands of mirrors on the desert floor. The solar receiver was as bright as the heart of the sun, glowing with a retina-melting white. I had to force myself to look away.

Jamey Stillings, though, has far better eyes than I do. A photographer known for his work capturing mega-scale projects like the new bridge at the Hoover Dam, Stillings has been tracking the construction of Ivanpah since 2010, when he began an aerial survey of the site. His epic black-and-white images of Ivanpah reveal how different this solar plant is from other major infrastructure projects. Unlike solar photovoltaic plants, which generate electricity directly from sunlight, Ivanpah uses hundreds of thousands of curved mirrors to reflect and concentrate the desert sunshine. Three tall solar towers, each ringed by the mirrors, collect the heat and generate steam, which drives electric turbines. When it finally opens later this year, it will be the biggest solar thermal plant in the world.

Sydney heatwave: Is it hot enough for you ?  

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The Age has an article on Australia's warming climate (with Sydney experiencing an early spring that is warmer than any summer here I can remember), noting the increased risk of fire - Sydney heatwave: Is it hot enough for you ? (as does the recent PCC report - Australia vulnerable in a warming planet, leaked IPCC report finds). It didn't take long for the fires to appear, with the city covered in a pall of smoke this afternoon - Bushfires in NSW 'worst in more than a decade'.

One of the great oddities of recent times in Australia is that during our increasingly frequent and intense fire seasons – when we're losing houses and, unfortunately, lives – it is seen by many as rude or in poor taste to talk about climate change.

It is quite a bizarre response considering an ever-growing body of research highlights that increases in heat waves, fire danger and extreme temperatures are intimately linked to global warming. More importantly, these three areas are considered to be the earliest, most responsive and well-defined impacts of climate change.

In Australia, we have seen the Bureau of Meteorology add a new temperature colour to its maps, the creation of a catastrophic fire danger category, the hottest 12 months on record and heat records falling at increasing rates over the past 50 years. Worldwide research has shown that the number of new heat records being set has increased by 40 per cent while the number of extreme cold records being set has declined by 40 per cent.

We are seeing a shift in the climate towards warmer conditions that will unequivocally have an impact on the timing and intensity of fires. In Sydney, our fire season started this year in September. On Thursday we have had forecasts for a 39-degree day in Sydney and the declaration of catastrophic fire conditions in other parts of NSW.

Unfortunately, for me, this fire season shift comes as no surprise – it is exactly what is expected under climate change. We are no longer talking about projections, but observations made over the past 50 years and longer that reveal the change.

What happened to bio-butanol ?  

Posted by Big Gav in , , ,

While pondering what happened to advanced biofuels I found myself wondering what happened to another widely touted biofuel option - bio-butanol.

Bio-butanol was heavily promoted back in 2007 and 2008 as a biofuel option that had many advantages over ethanol.

The key way [butanol is better than ethanol] is higher energy density. Whereas ethanol is around about two-thirds the energy density [of gasoline], with butanol we’re in the high eighties [in terms of percent].

It’s less volatile [than ethanol]. It isn’t as corrosive, so we don’t have issues with it at higher concentrations beginning to eat at aluminum or polymer components in fuel systems and dispensing systems. And it’s not as hydroscopic–it doesn’t pick up water, which is what ethanol can do if you put it in relatively low concentrations. So we can put it through pipelines.

A range of companies are still pursuing the bio-butanol dream, with one (Optinol) recently declaring it had achieved "energy cost parity" with ethanol for its for (sugar derived) bio-butanol. Another company (Cobalt) is now producing reasonably large volumes of fuel at a pilot plant. BP and Dupont also have a joint venture that they hope will produce butanol at a price competitive with petrol.

There are also attempts underway to produce jet fuel using butanol produced at a converted ethanol facility.

As with ethanol, a number of organisations are looking at producing butanol from cellulosic material, with the University of Michigan and UCLA leading research in the area.

Sonar mapping for oil killed Madagascar whales: study  

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AFP has an article on the impact of offshore oil exploration on whales - Sonar mapping for oil killed Madagascar whales: study

A noisy technology that blasts high-frequency sounds below water to map the ocean for oil probably caused the deaths of 75 melon-headed whales off Madagascar, experts said Thursday. An independent panel of scientists found that sonar surveying by ExxonMobil in late May 2008 led to the sudden displacement of around 100 whales, of which at least three-quarters died.

The Age of Internet Empires  

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Interesting maps from The Atlantic - Age of Internet Empires: One Map With Each Country's Favorite Website.

Monthly Oil Supply Update  

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Stuart at Early Warning has his monthly oil supply update up - Monthly Oil Supply Update.

World record solar cell with 44.7% efficiency  

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PhysOrg has an article on the latest solar cell efficiency record - World record solar cell with 44.7% efficiency.

German Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, Soitec, CEA-Leti and the Helmholtz Center Berlin announced today that they have achieved a new world record for the conversion of sunlight into electricity using a new solar cell structure with four solar subcells. Surpassing competition after only over three years of research, and entering the roadmap at world class level, a new record efficiency of 44.7% was measured at a concentration of 297 suns. This indicates that 44.7% of the solar spectrum's energy, from ultraviolet through to the infrared, is converted into electrical energy. This is a major step towards reducing further the costs of solar electricity and continues to pave the way to the 50% efficiency roadmap.

Gen Y's Revenge - Opening The Back Door ?  

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My latest readings on the NSA scandal are 3 interesting pieces from Charlie Stross (Snowden leaks: the real take-home), Bruce Schneier (who is now writing for the FT and The Guardian) (The spooks need new ways to keep their secrets safe) and The Guardian's media blog, talking to Seymour Hersh about the woeful state of the American media (Seymour Hersh on Obama, NSA and the 'pathetic' American media) which included an interesting quip about the official story (one I've never believed for an instant) about the death of Osama Bin Laden "Nothing's been done about that story, it's one big lie, not one word of it is true".

Stross and Schneier argue that the NSA has a big problem emerging, with the revelations from Manning and Snowden being just a taste of things to come. They argue this is due to 2 factors - the first one being the total lack of job security that Gen Y has grown up with and the second being techno-libertarian culture which values openness and transparency above pretty much all else.

I'm a Gen Xer and thus entered the workforce in a world where a permanent job for life was still a relatively common occurrence. My political leanings were entirely neoliberal however (being based pretty much exclusively on what I read in The Economist and Murdoch's national paper here, "The Australian") and after watching the waves of restructuring in the late 1980's and early 1990's I quickly decided that only a fool would expect to stay in the same organisation for a long period of time and happily did (well paid) contract work for the next couple of decades, with my expectations of my employers being nothing more than being paid at the end of each week. This worked out well for me - however I was lucky to have in demand skills, worked in a growing industry and was happy to move to wherever the work was.

The members of Gen Y seem to have far less bargaining power (growing industries and skills shortages being much rarer in the post GFC world) and thus for them financial security is far more elusive.

As Stross puts it, the problem is this (he doesn't explore the techno-libertarian culture angle that Schneier mentions) :

The big government/civil service agencies are old. They're products of the 20th century, and they are used to running their human resources and internal security processes as if they're still living in the days of the "job for life" culture; potential spooks-to-be were tapped early (often while at school or university), vetted, then given a safe sinecure along with regular monitoring to ensure they stayed on the straight-and-narrow all the way to the gold watch and pension. Because that's how we all used to work, at least if we were civil servants or white collar paper pushers back in the 1950s.

But things don't work that way any more. A huge and unmentionable side-effect of the neoliberal backlash of the 1970s was the deregulation of labour markets and the deliberate destruction of the job for life culture, partly as a lever for dislodging unionism and the taproots of left-wing power in the west (yes, it was explicit class war by the rich against the workers), and partly because a liquid labour market made entrepreneurial innovation and corporate restructuring easier ...

Today, around 70% of the US intelligence budget is spent on outside contractors. And it's a big budget — well over $50Bn a year. Some chunks go on heavy metal (the National Reconnaissance Office is probably the biggest high-spending agency you've never heard of: they build spy satellites the size of double-decker buses and have so many Hubble-class space telescopes cluttering up their attic that they donated a couple to NASA in 2012), but a lot goes on people. People to oil the machines. People who work for large contracting organizations. Organizations who increasingly rely on contractors rather than permanent labour, because of buzz-words like "flexibility" and "labour market liquidity".

Here's the problem: they're now running into outside contractors who grew up in Generation X or Generation Y.

Let's leave aside the prognostications of sociologists about over-broad cultural traits of an entire generation. The key facts are: Generation X's parents expected a job for life, but with few exceptions Gen Xers never had that — they're used to nomadic employment, hire-and-fire, right-to-work laws, the whole nine yards of organized-labour deracination. Gen Y's parents are Gen X. Gen Y has never thought of jobs as permanent things. Gen Y will stare at you blankly if you talk about loyalty to their employer; the old feudal arrangement ("we'll give you a job for life and look after you as long as you look out for the Organization") is something their grandparents maybe ranted about, but it's about as real as the divine right of kings. Employers are alien hive-mind colony intelligences who will fuck you over for the bottom line on the quarterly balance sheet. They'll give you a laptop and tell you to hot-desk or work at home so that they can save money on office floorspace and furniture. They'll dangle the offer of a permanent job over your head but keep you on a zero-hours contract for as long as is convenient. This is the world they grew up in: this is the world that defines their expectations.

To Gen X, a job for life with the NSA was a probably-impossible dream — it's what their parents told them to expect, but few of their number achieved. To Gen Y the idea of a job for life is ludicrous and/or impossible.

This means the NSA and their fellow swimmers in the acronym soup of the intelligence-industrial complex are increasingly reliant on nomadic contractor employees, and increasingly subject to staff churn. There is an emerging need to security-clear vast numbers of temporary/transient workers ... and workers with no intrinsic sense of loyalty to the organization. For the time being, security clearance is carried out by other contractor organizations that specialize in human resource management, but even they are subject to the same problem: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

We human beings are primates. We have a deeply ingrained set of cultural and interpersonal behavioural rules which we violate only at social cost. One of these rules, essential for a tribal organism, is bilaterality: loyalty is a two-way street. (Another is hierarchicality: yield to the boss.) Such rules are not iron-bound or immutable — we're not robots — but our new hive superorganism employers don't obey them instinctively, and apes and monkeys and hominids tend to revert to tit for tat quite easily when unsure of their relative status. Perceived slights result in retaliation, and blundering, human-blind organizations can slight or bruise an employee's ego without even noticing. And slighted or bruised employees who lack instinctive loyalty because the culture they come from has spent generations systematically destroying social hierarchies and undermining their sense of belonging are much more likely to start thinking the unthinkable.

Edward Snowden is 30: he was born in 1983. Generation Y started in 1980-82. I think he's a sign of things to come.

PS: Bradley Chelsea Manning is 25.

After pondering this for a little while I wondered what the next Gen Y whistleblower to emerge could do that could top Snowden's revelations, given that almost every conceivable form of surveillance now seems to have been exposed as not only being possible but being done (and abused) routinely (OK - I haven't yet read any stories about the passive video and audio streams available through all phones and tablets being routinely tapped and recorded yet but I'm assuming it could and possibly does happen as well).

After thinking about this for a while I eventually concluded that the next big scandal could be one that could have far more real world impact than the current round of revelations (which are going to have a lasting effect on American technology providers over the next decade as foreign and multinational entities start trying to attain some level of information privacy that they don't enjoy today).

My thinking goes like this - if all our technology platforms now have backdoors built into them, what happens if some whistleblower decides to make public the mechanisms for accessing these backdoors ? Is there some procedure on the shelf that will allow a (relatively) rapid rollout of fixes to close the backdoors (and the cynic in me assumes, install new ones) ? Or is this just a hacker's wet dream waiting to come true...

Energy Storage Gets Exponentially Cheaper Too  

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Rameez Naam has a post on the exponential decrease in energy storage costs - Energy Storage Gets Exponentially Cheaper Too.

A back-of-envelope says we need to bring the cost of energy storage down by another factor of 10 in order to make grid-scale storage cheap enough to displace most fossil use for electricity. On current trend, it looks like we'll be there in the next 15-20 years.

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