Top 3 stories
1) Wales votes for fracking freeze
Wales has followed Scotland in voting for a fracking moratorium yesterday afternoon, amid health and climate fears.
Edwina Hart, assembly minister for economy, science and transport, said: “The UK government are enthusiastic about developing shale gas however we take a more precautionary approach.” – the South Wales Argus reported
There are no definitive plans to devolve control of fracking to Wales but the result of talks among MPs on transferring further powers from Westminster is due to be published next month, the BBC writes.
This follows a report out last week from the Environmental Audit Committee says shale gas extraction is incompatible with climate targets, and former environment minister Caroline Spelman also called for a fracking ban.
2) Global oil prices crash again after four-day uptick
Reuters reports oil prices crashed on Wednesday as record high oil inventories in the United States cut short a four-day rally – caused by record high inventories in the US coupled with concern over global demand.
Benchmark Brent oil LCOc1 fell below the key $55 a barrel mark, after soaring to a one-month high of $59 on Tuesday.
Slate carries an interesting analysis proposing that the US is a ‘swing producer’ of oil as shale gas wells deplete quickly – their output could theoretically swing whichever way the market needs to prevent a massive boom or bust.
Meanwhile the FT reports that a wave of credit ratings downgrades is hitting the oil and gas sector, weighing on corporate bonds’ performance and raising the spectre of a rise in default rates after the plunge in oil prices. It is the largest set of ratings downgrades for a single sector since 2009, while the great financial crisis was under way.
And the WSJ explains why cheap oil doesn’t always boost economic growth in major oil importing countries, as it’s supposed to.
On the flip side, the FT posits that it’s oil producing countries that are the biggest victims of cheap crude – not oil companies.
3) US renewables sector could be boosted by oil price slump
Despite oil’s price slump having no direct impact on solar, a second-order effect could lead to greater stimulus to the US renewable sector, BNEF finds, according to Solar PV magazine.
The Washington Post also unpicks some headlines from the BNEF report, most importantly that wind and solar in the US have tripled since 2008.
Meanwhile, Grist takes a look at IRENA’s recent report and finds that to keep renewable energy prices declining – after technology costs have levelled off – focus will have to turn to best practices to giving every renewable energy project financing as cheap, operation and maintenance costs as low, and capacity factors as high as the best-in-class.
In other news
Reuters reports a shock state election result in Australia’s coal-rich Queensland state and heightened pressure to protect the Great Barrier Reef have thrown new doubts over plans by Indian firms – Adani and GVK – to build two huge mines there.
Vedanta has turned out to be the top bidder in India’s coal mine auction, The Times of India writes.
The US Department of Energy is terminating financing of the coal CCS FutureGen 2.0 project, effectively killing it off, reports Scientific American.