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What We Read Today 01 June 2016

Econintersect: Every day our editors collect the most interesting things they find from around the internet and present a summary "reading list" which will include very brief summaries (and sometimes longer ones) of why each item has gotten our attention. Suggestions from readers for "reading list" items are gratefully reviewed, although sometimes space limits the number included.

This feature is published every day late afternoon New York time. For early morning review of headlines see "The Early Bird" published every day in the early am at GEI News (membership not required for access to "The Early Bird".).

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Topics today include:

  • Review of Renewable Energy with Focus on Solar

  • The Headwinds Facing Solar Thermal Energy

  • U.S. Solar Farm Development

  • Why Solar Farm Opposition is Increasing

  • OPEC Working on a Unity Deal

  • How OPEC Bid to Crush U.S. Backfired

  • The Biggest Insider Trading Investigation Ever

  • Latest Democratic Delegate Count

  • The Week for the Fed to Decide

  • 2,000-Year-Old Documents Unearthed in London

  • Black Box Signals from Under the Mediterranean

  • New Government Blunders Strengthen Rousseff's Hand

  • Henrique Capriles Rises Again in Venezuela

  • Fort McMurray Residents Start to Return Home

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

Global

  • OPEC Said to Work on Oil Deal to Restore Unity After Doha (Bloomberg)  OPEC is making a last-ditch effort to rescue an organisation many dubbed dead only weeks ago by working on a deal to restore unity among some of the world’s largest oil exporters as ministers gathered in Vienna. 

U.S.

SUPERDELEGATES

These are elected and party officials who automatically attend the convention and can vote for the candidate of their choice. The AP has surveyed these delegates several times and noted their on-the-record endorsements.

These delegates, however, can change their minds.

Clinton: 543

Sanders: 44

___

THE TOTAL

Clinton: 2,312

Sanders: 1,545

Clinton needs 71 delegates to reach the 2,383 needed to win.

___

OUTSTANDING

These are the pledged delegates to be chosen in upcoming races and the superdelegates who have yet to commit to either Clinton or Sanders.

Pledged: 781

Superdelegates: 127

UK

  • UK's oldest hand-written document 'at Roman London dig' (BBC News)  Over 400 Roman tablets and other artifacts discovered during an excavation in London include the oldest hand-written document ever found in Britain, archaeologists have revealed.  The Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) said it had deciphered a document, from 8 January AD 57, found at the dig at Bloomberg's new headquarters.  The first ever reference to London, financial documents and evidence of schooling have also been translated.  Over 700 artefacts from the dig will go on display when the building opens.  According to MOLA, the tablets reveal the first years of the capital "in the words of the people who lived, worked, traded with and administered the new city".  Director Sophie Jackson said the findings had "far exceeded all expectations" and would allow archaeologists "to get closer to the first Roman Britons".

Egypt

  • Ship detects signals from crashed EgyptAir plane's black box (Associated Press)  A French ship searching the Mediterranean has detected black box signals from a missing EgyptAir flight in the waters between the Greek island of Crete and the Egyptian coast, a development that could help solve the mystery of why the aircraft crashed into the sea last month, killing all 66 on board. 

Saudi Arabia

  • OPEC states that wanted production cuts buckle under the new oil order (CNBC)   Saudi Arabia engineered OPEC's policy to kill off U.S. shale oil production. The plan was straightforward: Keep pumping oil, maintain market share and outlast the Americans.  But the plan is also producing casualties within the cartel itself: Angola, Nigeria and a Venezuela that's on the verge of implosion.  Six months after OPEC left its high-production policy in place, some of the cartel members who called loudest for output cuts are feeling the most pain. Inflation is soaring and currencies have plummeted in lesser petro states, as top exporter Saudi Arabia continues to dictate policy.  While Riyadh tries to embark on a new path toward economic diversification under its influential deputy crown prince, those other OPEC states are seeing fragile gains slip away and threats to stability creep in.

Afghanistan

  • U.S. military sees Afghan talks with new Taliban leader unlikely (Reuters)   A U.S. military spokesman said on Wednesday that talks with the Afghan Taliban on ending the war in Afghanistan are unlikely any time soon after the militant group chose a conservative religious scholar as its new leader.  It was the first time that an American military official has publicly voiced doubts that U.S. President Barack Obama will realize a key foreign policy goal of bringing the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table after years of war before he leaves office in January.  Last week, the Afghan Taliban selected Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada as their new leader after the United States killed their former chief, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, in a drone strike in Pakistan.

Brazil

  • Temer’s Blunders Are Rousseff’s Hope Back to Brazil Presidency (Bloomberg)  When Dilma Rousseff stood down as Brazil’s president last month to face an impeachment trial, it looked all but certain she wouldn’t come back. Yet a series of setbacks for her interim replacement, Michel Temer, may win her the few votes she needs to return to office.  Here is some background on how Brazil got to the present point:

Venezuela

  • Drive to oust Venezuela's Maduro returns old foe to front line (Reuters)  Sweating, hoarse and jostled at every turn, opposition leader Henrique Capriles is back pounding Venezuela's streets, exhorting crowds and fuming about corruption and shortages.  Capriles' profile faded after his failed presidential runs in 2012 and 2013 but the Miranda state governor is again on the political front line, this time driving an opposition push for a referendum to remove President Nicolas Maduro.

Canada

  • Fort McMurray fire: First residents return home (BBC News)  Thousands of evacuees who fled a huge wildfire the in Canadian oil city of Fort McMurray a month ago are beginning to return home.  Officials expect up to 15,000 people to go back on Wednesday, although three neighbourhoods remain off-limits.  The water is reported to be not safe to drink yet, and other services are limited.  Authorities will continue assessing conditions daily, and the plans could change if conditions worsen.  See The devastation inside Fort McMurray.

Other Scientific, Health, Political, Economics and Business Items of Note - plus Miscellanea

Today we have here a section devoted to renewable energy with a focus on solar.

  • There are more jobs in renewable energy than in oil, gas, and coal combined (grist)  Solar may be taking away old jobs, but it’s offering new ones. That’s especially true for women. IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency) found that the renewable energy sector employs more women than oil, gas, and coal. In fact, the percentage of women working in solar is rising — up from 19% in 2013 to 24 percent of the estimated 209,000 solar jobs in the United States. That’s not yet great — women hold 47% of the jobs in our economy. But it’s still a higher percentage than in the bro-topia that is the conventional energy industry.  Worldwide, employment in green energy grew 5 percent in 2015, to 8.1 million jobs, while the slump in oil prices that began in the fall of 2015 eliminated an estimated 350,000 oil jobs across the planet.  See Renewable Energy and Jobs Annual Review 2015 (IRENA) and Renewable Energy and Jobs Annual Review 2016 (IRENA).  Econintersect:  For those who doubt the rapid growth of solar, note that 46% of the renewable energy jobs globally were in solar energy at the end of 2015.  See next article.

renewable.energy.employment.global.by.tech

renewable.energy.employment.global.2015

  • Renewable Energy and Jobs (IRENA, 2013)  The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates that 5.7 million people worldwide were employed in the renewable energy sector, directly and indirectly, in 2012 (see Table 1)1 . The largest number of jobs is found in biofuels and solar photovoltaic, 1.38 million and 1.36 million, respectively. The solar heating/cooling, wind power and biomass (heat and power) industries each employ several hundred thousand people. By comparison, biogas, geothermal energy, small hydropower and concentrated solar power are much smaller employers. Generally, better information is available for electricity-generating renewable energy technologies than for those relating to transportation and heating/ cooling.  Econintersect:  In 2012 solar power jobs were 40% compared to 46% three years later.  (We have been unable to find this detailed data for years before 2012.)  One area that has lost employment is CSP (concentrated solar power), falling from 37,000 employed in 2012 to 14,000 in 2015.  See next article.

renewable.energy.employment.global.2012

  • Solar Thermal Electricity Global Ooutlook 2016 (Greenpeace International, ESTELA and International Energy Agency SolarPACES)  In 2009 the annual market volume for STE (which includes CSP - concentrated solar power - electricity - along with other uses of thermal energy) hit the $1 billion mark. By the end of 2015, the sector concluded nearly a decade of strong growth. The installed capacity of STE in 2006 was only 0.5 GW, it has increased by a factor of 10 to almost 5 GW today. The STE sector is now on a steady development pathway towards double digit GW capacity within the next 5 years, establishing a solid base for future growth. Especially for the firm supply of dispatchable power, for water purification and desalination purposes and for industrial process heat needs, STE technologies are in high demand and offer specific technical advantages.  This has occurred with a significant contraction in global employment for this technology between 2012 and 2015, from 37,000 to 14,000. But this report estimates that employment worldwide in this technology will increase to 70,000 by 2020, 237,000 by 2030 and up to 1.4 million by 2050.  There is also quoted a "Moderate Scenario" estimate of jobs in 2050 just under 1 million.   This report estimates that STE will provide 6% of global electricity by 2030 and 12% by 2050.  See next article.

ste.development.scenarios

  • Levelized Costs of New Electricity Generating Technologies (Institute for Energy Research)  This report uses the latest data available from the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA), published April 2015 and based on 2013 costs.  Crude oil is less than half the 2013 price so that fuel cost is certainly down significantly.  Coal prices are lower by about 20% and natural gas is lower by nearly 50%, as well.  Solar panel costs are down about 50%.  Thus current cost estimates should not change very much from those shown below.  But if fossil fuel costs rise in the future (expected) and solar panels continue to fall in price (expected) the future costs could be more favorable for solar PV.  The problem for thermal solar is the huge capital investment cost and large operations and maintenance cost.  If those do not come down the use of large amounts of PTE as outlined in the preceding article does not seem at all likely.  What will be needed for solar energy to become widely used (absent resolving the large capital investment costs and operation and maintenance expenses for PTE)?  See next article.

electricity.cost.comparisons.2013.pub.2015 

According to a new study published by researchers from the University of East Anglia (UAE), government subsidies should be used so as to encourage further investment in energy storage, without which the authors of the report believe renewable energy will struggle to be fully integrated into the energy sector. The inherent variable nature of leading renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar requires energy storage so as to compensate for times when the wind may not be blowing, or the sun may not be shining. Energy storage systems such as reversed hydro power plants, large scale compressed air systems, and battery storage, are quickly being seen to be a vital companion to most, if not all, renewable energy technology installations.

  • Some farmers growing profit with new row crop: solar panels (ncsu.edu, Raleigh News & Observer)  Solar farms dot the landscape from the Blue Ridge mountains to the sandy coastal plain – the result of an emerging renewable energy industry.  In many cases, solar farms are replacing cropland that doesn’t generate enough income from traditional farming. Other times, solar farms are being placed on vacant industrial sites or land that hasn’t grown crops in years.  Unlike many other Southern states, North Carolina has encouraged the development of solar power through generous tax incentives and a state law requiring electric utilities to use some renewable energy. These policies are a key reason North Carolina often rates high in national rankings of solar-friendly states – and why solar farms are growing steadily.  Econintersect:  When we drove from Ashville to Durham on I40 last week we saw several solar farm installations visible from the highway, one that appeared to be at least 50 acres, as best we could quickly estimate.  Others were only partially visible so no estimates could be made.  But there is not complete satisfaction with the development.  (See next article.)  This article quotes one GOP legislator who says:

"it’s a mistake to dangle tax incentives, which drain state revenues, for an industry that he contends would not be competitive otherwise. He and others question whether North Carolina is gaining any real economic benefit since solar farms don’t produce many jobs after the initial construction phase.

  • How a North Carolina village came to believe solar farms were 'killing the town' (The Guardian)  Solar farms in the small North Carolina town of Woodland were initially welcomed by the relatively impoverished residents.  But after several sarms have been established they feel differently.  When the latest proposal for an additional solar farm was presented in December, it was not well rteceived.  The town board ended up not approving the application.  Here is some of the oppostion:

According to the local newspaper the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Woodland resident Jean Barnes presented a petition on behalf of locals that opposed additional solar farms and personally requested a referendum for any future proposals.

Another resident, Mary Hobbs, lamented the loss of her home’s value as the result of what seemed like endless solar panels being installed.

The opposition intensified when one couple, Jane and Bobby Mann, claimed that solar advocates had secret agendas. Jane Mann expressed fears that solar farms had boosted cancer rates in the area. Bobby warned businesses would stay away from the town because the solar industry would capture too much of the town’s sun.


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