The Future of Oil; Canada's Keystone Power Play

The Atlantic on future sources of energy, National Geographic on energy scarcity in South Africa, The New York Times on Canada's power play in Washington, Quartz on solar power in California, and The Guardian on Reuters' climate change skepticism.

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The Atlantic on future sources of energy Deliberating on the fate of energy — both renewable and fossil-based — Charles C. Mann turns to natural gas, obtained from both hydraulic fracturing and deep-sea methane deposits, and asks if we will ever run out of fossil fuels. At the very least, gas may help us transition into renewable energy, he writes in The Atlantic's May issue cover story: "Nobody can predict the future, but it is dumbfounding to hear left and right alike bemoaning the 'reality' that society cannot change, particularly at a time when both sides are bemoaning the consequences of convulsive social change. Natural gas, both from fracking and in methane hydrate, gives us a way to cut back on carbon emissions while we work toward a more complete solution. It could be a useful crutch. But only if we have the wit to know that we will soon have to lay it down."

National Geographic on energy scarcity in South Africa The profound lack of dependable energy in South African slums isn't an occasion for cynicism, says Saleem Ali, who witnessed South Africans become entrepreneurs as they searched for a reliable source of electricity. For South Africans, Ali writes, "utility connections are by no means adequate for the population density and people are forced to be creative in finding ways to serve their needs. The slum dwellers of Khayelitsha have come up with an informal market for electricity and share connections between homes which have a connection and those which do not. There are entrepreneurs who are selling small solar-powered lighting with battery packs through organizations such as the Micro Energy Alliance."

The New York Times on Canada's power play in Washington As outlined by Times columnist Joe Nocera, Canada's natural resource minister Joe Oliver is trying to renew faith among Washington lawmakers in the transcontinental Keystone Pipeline, which would ferry tar sands oil to the United States—and millions of dollars into the Canadian economy. "Oliver came to New York and Washington earlier this week to preach Canada's energy message. In part because of enormous new natural gas finds, made possible thanks to hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking), and in part because of the oil sands, energy independence is finally within reach for North America. As recently as five years ago, this goal would have been 'inconceivable,' Oliver said on Monday, at a Bloomberg energy conference." Nocera himself is hopeful: "For all the hysteria over the environmental consequences of the oil sands, there is oil in California that is actually dirtier than the oil from the sands."

Quartz on solar power in California Can the Golden State position itself as the Saudi Arabia of solar power? Todd Woody is skeptical of massive solar thermal plants that have cropped up across the state: "Unlike photovoltaic panels, which directly convert sunlight into electricity when photons strike silicon cells, solar thermal power plants deploy mirrors called heliostats, which focus the sun on a liquid-filled boiler to generate steam. ... Solar thermal plants are more efficient than solar panels at generating electricity and are less prone to having a passing cloud interrupt power production. ... But those advantages have not been able to compete against a 75% drop in solar panel prices in recent years. And while solar thermal power plants involve complex engineering challenges ... developers of photovoltaic plants simply take rooftop solar panels and put them on the ground, albeit in the tens of thousands."

The Guardian on Reuters' climate change skepticism Responding to an April Reuters report about climate scientists "struggling" to understand a recent slowdown of climate change, John Abraham and Dana Nuccitelli explain the odd timeframe on which the report is based: 'When people say 'no warming in 15 years', they're cherry picking the timeframe to begin in an abnormally hot year. It's like arguing that your car must have broken down because it hasn't moved in the 15 seconds while you've been stopped at a red light. The argument selects a short timeframe that's not representative of the whole." The pair continue: "Just a week earlier, Reuters interviewed the lead author of that paper in an article with the headline "Oceans may explain slowdown in climate change". ... Reuters didn't connect the dots between these two articles, telling us one week that oceans help explain the surface warming slowdown, and the next week claiming the slowdown is puzzling climate scientists."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.