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The geographic roots of Europe’s energy crisis

German nuclear power plant running again

Energy prices have risen across Europe in the last year, and as winter approaches many fear that an energy crisis might be on the horizon.  This brings up many questions, with the first and most obvious one being, why did energy prices rise?  Complex global markets are, well, complex, but large geopolitical events are often the stage for trade disruptions that can lead to shortages.  The Russian invasion of Ukraine in April 2022 was a major move, one that many European countries were quick to condemn.  Russia is an energy exporter with large oil, coal and natural gas reserves.  Russia supplied 40% of the EU’s natural gas before the war, but only 9% now after the Nord Stream 2 pipeline ceased being utilized.  Nord Stream 1, which pipes gas through the Baltic to Germany, has a very limited flow currently (officially, this is annual maintenance, but skeptics note that the flow is lower than regular maintenance and suspect Russia is putting the squeeze on the EU). This summer’s heat wave wouldn’t have been as big and issue if energy were abundant and relatively cheap in Europe.

Europe has stumbled into an energy crisis because of these geopolitical maneuverings. Natural gas is a primary energy source, but one that is especially used for heating and therefore, more critical in the wintertime.  The United States and European countries sought to impose strong economic sanctions against Russia, hoping to cut into Putin’s revenue stream and stop the war; or at least not feel as though they were funding the war.  This overvalued the power of an embargo of an and underappreciated the reliance of the European economy and standard of living on access to affordable energy. 

A quick animated explanation of the current energy catastrophe in Europe

Natural gas prices in Europe were at times in the summer, 7 to 8 times more expensive than gas in the United States. Many private individuals, small businesses, and any business with a thin profit margin, felt the squeeze of energy bills. Russia isn’t backing down from any economic sanction, saying that other regions besides Europe will gladly buy Russian gas. China has kept Russian production from grinding to a halt, effectively breaking the westward embargo, by sending it East.  Consequently, Europe is facing the negative consequences of the economic sanctions more so than the Russian energy sector. 

Europe has diversified natural gas and other energy sources, and launching a package of emergency proposals to get through the winter. Some analysts are optimist that Europe has solved the energy crisis before winter, by building more storage, increasing domestic production, and diversifying their supply. .  Countries like Germany have been reluctant to use their nuclear power and were caught flat-footed.    Coal, nuclear energy, and other energy sources that were dismissed for carbon emission concerns or environmental concerns are being reevaluated as the need is high in an energy-hungry market.  The prices will continue to fluctuate but this is an issue worth keeping an eye on in the next few months.

The Nord Stream 1 pipeline is currently functioning far below capacity

TAGS: Europe, energy, geopolitics.

OPEC’s Worst Nightmare: Permian Is About to Pump a Lot More

"An infestation of dots, thousands of them, represent oil wells in the Permian basin of West Texas and a slice of New Mexico. In less than a decade, U.S. companies have drilled 114,000. Many of them would turn a profit even with crude prices as low as $30 a barrel. OPEC’s bad dream only deepens next year, when Permian producers expect to iron out distribution snags that will add three pipelines and as much as 2 million barrels of oil a day."

Source: www.bloomberg.com

Overall global commodity prices are impacted by countless local production costs. A large shift in how business is done in one place (in this example, Texas’ Permian Basin) can have reverberating impacts on the local productions of other places that focus on that same global commodity (OPEC).  

GeoEd Tags: energy, resources, economic, political ecology.

Scoop.it Tagsenergy, resources, economic, political ecology.

Chile’s Energy Transformation Is Powered by Wind, Sun and Volcanoes

“Once energy dependent, Chile is on track to become a renewables powerhouse with the potential to export electricity. Chile is on track to rely on clean sources for 90 percent of its electricity needs by 2050, up from the current 45 percent.”

Source: www.nytimes.com

The definition of a natural resource changes as the societal and technological context shifts.  Firewood was once the most important energy resource and now there are tree removal companies that haul are paid to haul away what some would consider very valuable goods. The coastal breeze of the Pacific, the harsh sun of the Atacama desert, and the rugged volcanic landscapes of Chile were never an energy resources…until they were made so by technological advancements and shifting economic paradigms.  As this article and embedded video demonstrate, Chile and South America are fully investing in the transition from a fossil fuel-based economy to renewable energy resources.

 

TagsChileSouth America, industry, sustainabilityeconomic, energy, resources, unit 6 industry.

Creating RI’s Off-Shore Wind Farm

Today, to the southeast of Block Island, there are five new structures rising from the ocean. These are the towers of the Block Island Wind Farm (BIWF), the first offshore wind energy installation in the United States. The turbines will generate 30 megawatts of energy; providing electricity to 17,000 households on Block Island and coastal Rhode Island (McCann, 2016), and replacing the diesel generators that previously powered New Shoreham. The turbines are on schedule to begin turning in November 2016 once commissioning is complete.

Source: uri.maps.arcgis.com

One of the overriding, major take-home points of this ESRI StoryMap, is that a project of this scale, scope, and magnitude requires geographic data across many disciplines (to see the largest off-shore wind farm in the world, click here).

 

Tags: mapping, Rhode IslandESRIStoryMap, GISresources, water, coastalenergy, environment depend.

Dakota Access Pipeline: What You Need to Know

Conflict between Native American protesters and private security personnel over construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline has turned violent. What is the Dakota Access Pipeline?

 

Tags: industryconflict, economic, energy, resources, environmentindigenous, ecology.

Source: blog.education.nationalgeographic.com

Making Ethanol from Sugarcane

This segment highlights how sugarcane is processed into ethanol for fuel and other uses.

Source: www.youtube.com

Sugarcane ethanol has proven to be one of the most environmentally safe alternative fuel sources. In addition to its green energy properties, sugarcane ethanol has fueled the Brazilian economy for over a decade. The Brazilian automotive industry have developed a complex, “Flex Fuel” engine that allows vehicles to run off of both gasoline and ethanol. Also, sugarcane ethanol has been one of their leading exports in the global economy. Due to recently discovered fuel deposits in Brazil and around the globe, there has been a decline in the need for sugarcane ethanol. This has negatively impacted the economy in addition to the Brazilian job market. But thanks to the engineering of cellulosic ethanol, Brazil is striving to become the green energy superpower yet again.

 

Questions to Ponder: Since cellulosic ethanol production is so expensive, do you think that will deter production and customers from purchasing it? Do you think that Brazil will ever become independent of fossil fuels as a result of their successful sugarcane ethanol production?

 

Tagsenergy, resourcespolitical ecologyagriculture, food production, land use, Brazil, South America.

Ethiopia’s Dam Problems

“Ethiopia is three years from completing a dam to control its headwaters, and while Egypt points to colonial-era treaties to claim the water and to stop the project, the question remains as to who own the Blue Nile.”

Source: maps101blog.com

This 7-minute Geography News Network podcast (written by Julie and Seth Dixon) touches on some key geographic concepts.  85% of the Nile’s water comes from the Blue Nile that originates in the Ethiopian highlands–it is the Blue Nile that Ethiopia has been working on damming since 2011.  The Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam (GERD) will be located  near the border with Sudan.  Egypt is adamantly opposed to Ethiopia’s plan and is actively lobbying the international community to stop construction on the dam, fearing their water supply with be threatened. 

Tags: Ethiopia, Africa, development. environment, water, energy, borders, political.

Welcome to Baku, the Fiercely Modern, Millennia-Old, Capitalist-Socialist, Filthy-Rich Capital of Azerbaijan

“Since 2006, when the opening of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline prompted a surge in crude oil exports — up to a million barrels a day travel through neighboring Georgia and on to Turkey and the West — there’s been no shortage of cash in Baku. Now, the city is eager for the prestige that goes with it.”

Source: www.bloomberg.com

Baku is described in this article as an East-West, socialist-capitalist, Muslim-secular, ancient-modern mishmash due to the numerous cultural and political interactions that it has had.  This makes for a fascinating cultural landscape emerging in a city that has been dubbed “the Dubai of the Caucasus” but still has a rich Silk Road history.  Caspian Sea oil lies at the heart of Azerbaijan’s geopolitical importance and cultural aspirations. 


Tags: Azerbaijan, political, Central Asia.

Mapping the Anthropocene

Via Scoop.itGeography Education

As follow-up to an earlier post about how we have enter the age of the Anthropocene, this stunning map is a fantastic visual representation of the forces that merit the dawning of a new geologic age.  This map depicts the lights at night, major roads, railways power lines, oversea cables, airline routes and shipping lanes.  It also expands the areas according to population size.  For more on the production of this map, see the Globaia website.

Spotted on Living GeographyVia www.viewsoftheworld.net

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