fossilfuelopolis

Prospecting the academic grounds on global energies patterns

Alternative energies

We have seen that our economic model was mostly fueled with hydrocarbons; and while a few countries were until the early 21th running on coal (China), it seems the global tendency to use hydrocarbons will not be decreasing as they now turn to this source of energy production.

Why do our economies so desperately need those hydrocarbons? And why, even after the two oil shocks which have driven the political class to view with much consideration the energy issues, don’t we have develop alternative (specially not depletable and much reliable such as sun or wind) sources of energy? Are there technological obstacles? (The post “path dependence” dealt with that question)  Are there political (lobbying by the oil/nuclear industries) or sociological obstacles?

In particular, and as considering the case of France, even if there was a great concern for energy dependency in the late 70s and a strong will to develop alternative sources of energy the picture below highlights that our oil dependence has not been really reduced. Consommation_finale_par_énergie_en_France_1981-_2011

The development of alternative energies has hardly started and grows ridiculously slowly as compared to our German neighbor (which has planned to cease its dependency on nuclear), the US and China.

The Bloomberg report  Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment recently published was highlighting the advances taken in that field by growing China. If the supporters of green energy were happy to hear that global investment in large-scale renewables jumped 32 percent in 2010 compared with 2009, they would need to remember that the world outside of China, large-scale renewables investment actually fell. China can be deservedly proud of its meteoric rise in renewables investment, taking the top spot , above Germany and the U.S.

inv_renewables1inv_renewables2

The retardation of Europe (Germany and Spain excepted- while Spain economic bankruptcy may slow its path down) in developing alternative energies may in a near future deeply undermine our already weakened economies.

Further [once more to relate efficient energy policies to economic sustainability and growth (as related to this problematic)] as we struggle to build the European Union and endlessly debate over financial and fiscal policies common rules, we don’t often(never?) hear of common energy projects- common energy production and savings policies while anything built at the scale of Europe would promise to be more efficient and insures a fair distribution of this necessary factor of production. Maybe, the fact that France draws massive benefits from selling its electricity to its European neighbors, and Germany has already launched its individual program for alternative energies as explained on this page could provide some intuitions to answer this puzzle.

Let’s go back to France:

Would there be a gradual switch to alternative energies in France?

Production_énergies_renouvelables_France_1970-2011Production_énergies_renouvelables_hors_bois_et_hydraulique_France_1970-2011

This graph which show some recent increases in the production of renewable energies (from 14000 ktep in the 70s, to 22000 ktep) , accounting in 2011 then to about 22 millions tep needs to be compared to the 275 millions tep consumed in 2007 in France, which ranks France as the 7th largest consumer in the world.  (see this page)

Why haven’t we observe any gradual shift to renewable energies, or any policy comparable to the one occurring in Germany to develop alternative energies?

Maybe because it was not in the interest of the three main pillars of energy policies in France, namely TOTAL (which recently has acquired 60% of Sunpower – US photovoltaics company- for US$1.38 billion though), EDF, GDF all three in the top 7 most competitive companies in 2010 [TOTAL was ranked first in term of revenue with 186 055 millions dollars of revenue (CA) and 14 000,9 millions of benefits in 2010.]

Without mentioning than in the CAC40 Veolia Environment, Alstom, or AirLiquid also compete in the energies production or provision field. That is to say energies oriented companies in France account for the most profitable ones. TOTAL revenue given above could be compared to 189,800 millions dollars, the Romania GNP in 2011 thus higher than Kuwait (176,700 millions) or Qatar (173,800) GNP.

Further informations of renewable energies investment on this page, this map-site (REN21), this report.

At the European level, this map provides the current consumption of renewable energies as % of final energy use.

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