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French Senate Report Calls for EU Action to Counter Climate Change, Peak Oil

France in 2000 as an example. Transportation has a double problem: the largest amount of CO2 emissions, and almost entirely from petroleum. Click to enlarge.

A report on sustainable development prepared by two French Senators for the French Office Parlementaire D’Evaluation des Choix Scientifiques et Technologiques (OPECST) calls for the EU to lead a global energy transition to avoid the worst impact of climate change and an oil shock they predict occurring by 2020 at the latest.

The report by Senators Pierre Laffitte and Claude Saunier calls for financing the transition by taxes that would be dedicated to promoting renewable energies, buildings insulation, biofuels, hybrids and electric cars and other low fossil-carbon technologies, particularly in the transport sector.

The Senators assert in the report that:

  • There is a real risk of a level of climate change for which the physical and financial consequences are very underestimated. The economic cost of climate change could increase to 2.5 to 3% of world GDP, they conclude.

  • The combination of an insufficient supply of oil and ongoing demand from the US, China and India will create by 2020 an oil shock of great reach that will push the price of oil to more than $150/barrel. That shock will take another 2% out of global GDP.

The senators argue that while the transition away from fossil fuels is an urgent requirement, it also offers opportunities for developing new industries. They also assert that the technologies required either exist or are close to being market-ready.

They estimate that their financing schemes could raise about €4-5 billion (US$5.1-6.4 billion) to be applied to the development and deployment of such solutions.



Rafael Seidl

Ah, if only we could all run our cars on French dirigisme.

Note that the EU's budget for farm subsidies is EUR 400 billion for the 2007-2013 period. France is the biggest net recipient. The budget is supposed to be reviewed in 2008/2009 when Frere Jacques' term limit is up but I'm not holding my breath. There is a chance that some of the money will diverted away from food to energy crops. The WTO recently prohibited further mollycoddling of Europe's sugar barons. The sugar can be turned into ethanol or butanol to bypass the restriction. Rape seed is another popular energy crop, especially in biodiesel-mad Germany and Austria.

In an ideal world, we'd be importing biofuels from tropical countries in e.g. Africa to supplement domestic production and give the people there a reason to stay put instead of becoming illegal immigrants. Sadly, it is the Amazon rainforests that are still being cut down to plant soy for the European cattle herd - as if there wasn't enough space for them to roam freely in Eastern Europe.


Quick question. What is dirigisme?

Rafael Seidl

Neil -

dirgisme = government telling businesses what to do.


thx Rafael,

Maybe a little off topic, but what about this item frightens people more, CO2(global warming) or Peak Oil(economic problems due to high energy prices).


I'm more worried about Peak Oil, myself. But I also think algae for BTL or oil would pretty much solve both problems.


Cervus, have you seen Al Gore's film? If not do yourself and the rest of the world a favour.



Do yourself a favor and look up Dr. Richard Lindzen and Dr. Roger Pielke. But as I said, algae would solve both problems.

allen Z

Spain is trying out sweet sorghum. It has much better energy balance and uses less water than either sugar beet or corn. The yields (gallons/acre) for ethanol from sweet sorghum is ~2x corn (300-400), and on par or better than sugar beet (~600). The issue is that much of Spain is dry, and will require irrigation. However, even the ethanol (or butanol) from this would not totally replace European imports of oil/diesel from oil/diesel exporters.
___As to biofuel from 3rd world countries, there are issues of corruption, and environmental destruction to be dealt with. Changing/uncertain rainfall patterns may make this risky, even foolhardy.
___Germany, and Austria could try making algae biomass/oil from nito/mineral/ organic carbon rich agricultural runoff/ sewage. Add in CO2 from all those fossil energy plants and presto, you got fuel, sort of. Use waste heat to dry the algae, and there goes another energy intensive step. This could be done in eastern Germany to revive the moribound economy there. Repeat in Eastern Europe, and across southern Europe (Portugal to Turkey). Use brownfields, and other contaminated sites for production locations. Pay for cleanup/ construction via subsidies, bonds, and maybe IPO's.
___Another way would be using less productive farmland to be converted to celluostic biofuel/biomass/ethanol when the tech arrives. Biomass for sequestation via burying it. A more destructive method would be to take those less productive farmland and turn it to algae production.
___On a side note, the US govt. pays for farmers not to use tens of millions of acres of farmland. Some of it is in drier areas. IF the top/subsoil could be saved, and then the land be developed, then a large source of land for algae production could be had. The land could be downstream of a major city, like Denver, or Oklahoma City, and be used for final stage sewage treatment too. _
___Usage of water saving methods for algae production is needed too. The huge Ogallala Blue aquifer is running out in many places. A switch over to less water intensive crops and practices is warranted. This may mean desert irrigation practices, and a switch in crops (ie from corn to sweet sorghum). If the aquifer becomes unusable, 1/5 the food supply for US that is from the high plains would be diminished. Major meat industries would be damaged, and the cost of meat will rise. Then there are the 1.9 million people in cities and towns there. They depend on the water from the aquifer.
___Europe will problems for clean water supply as well. As the rainfall pattern may change, meeting proposed green energy objectives may prove to be even more challenging. There are also enormous aquifers in North Africa from the wetter periods 5,000+ yrs ago. Libya has tapped into it.
___Here is a link to soil bank info I'm talking about:
The Ogallala aquifer:
Europe water problems and possible solutions:
Lybian fossil water:


You can pont me to a few fringe scientists claiming this kind of stuff but the Scientific consensus is absolutely crystal clear. I am a scientist and I read peer reviewed scientific journals. This is where the consensus is.

If you had seen Gore's film you would have been informed of the fact that while no peer-reviewed scientific articles published in recent years express any doubt that climate change is happening, more than 50% of news media coverage of the issue includes the oil industry's position on the subject.

Just as there are a few fringe scientists claiming evolution is lie, the same can be said of climate change. Unfortunately however the consequences of listening to these fringe dwellers are a lot more serious.

Again I urge you to go see the film.


Lastly I also point you to this commetry on the film.,2933,201208,00.html


Marcus: How many times do I have to say "algae would solve both problems"?


Whatever the outcome of the warming situation, I would say it is a mistake to impose new or higher taxes and dedicate, which I assume means, spend the money on renewables.

It they want the new tax then they should cut taxes elsewhere and not earmark the revenue. When money is earmarked you create a lobby for the favored activity. This makes it almost impossible to later correct mistakes.

Consumers, both individuals and companies, will shift the market to renewables automatically when carbon is taxed more or prices rise. Public transportation is pretty much all government anyway so there the government has an obligation to make the decisions.

Rafael Seidl

Neil -

in France it's probably CO2. They have a large nuclear industry that would very much like to persuade voters to let them get back to building more reactors. Conservative politicians in Germany also want to revisit the previous governmnet's commitment to abandon nuclear power, as does PM Blair of Britain. Eastern Europeans and Finland have never had much of a problem with the technology.

Peak oil, in the sense of factually declining output, is simply a reality over here. For example, Norway will run out of oil in the next decade. They've known this for some time and have put the proceeds in a piggy bank for future generations. The UK has not been so prudent, yet its oil wealth will not last much longer, either.

In terms of general energy security, there is a new sense of vulnerability wrt natural gas. This is used for space heating and cooking throughout much of Western Europe. Domestic supplies are either non-existent or being drawn down rapidly in most countries. With Europes economies so intertwined, an energy crisis in any one given country would have immediate ramifications for the whole continent. The gas crisis of January 2006, brief though it was, therefore sent shock waves through the continent. It is not currently in Russias interest to disrupt supplies, but clearly gas is a weapon at the disposal of what was once a democracy. Still-communist Belarus is a pipeline transit country, as is fragile Ukraine (newly-restored PM Yulia Timoshenko, who made her own fortune in brokering gas, has vowed to revisit last winter's dodgy gas deal).

Similarly, Europe recognizes is it at a disadvantage against the military might of the US, which (believes it) can secure access to oil by the use of force. Plans to construct the Nabucco pipeline to tap into Middle East gas reserves are on hold due to problems in Iraq and Iran - problems that have been exacerbated by the Bush administration. The fossil fuel alternative is GTL or LNG terminals, of which there are only a few in Europe so far. Coal is not a major factor as most of the easily recoverable reserves have already been used up.

Another alternative, favored by greens and Big Agro (an odd couple), is biofuels. The EU has set itself the goal of 20% alternative fuels by 2020, a target in which renewable fuels feature prominently. Sweden has gone even further. At the same time, there is a clear realization that renewable fuels cannot be produced in arbitrary quantities. This, as much as the GHG issue, is prompting the EU commission to demand new registration average targets of 120 g/km (~50 MPG) by 2012 and 90 g/km (~66 MPG) by 2020.


Ok Cervus, lead me to some algae links. I understand that we can make biofuels from algae and that algae use up CO2. But to have absolute faith that this one proposed technofix is going to solve all the problems seems like wishful thinking to me! How much algae is going to be required to stablilize CO2 emissions? Who is gearing up to do it? Where is this going to happen? Also, if you burn up algae to make biofuels that make CO2 that the algae absorbs again the net change in CO2 is zero. That still doesn't sound like a reducing strategy to me. Inform us of your vision!



Better a carbon-neutral technology than an increase, right? Besides, you wouldn't want the amount of CO2 to go too low, either. Also, I still think it's as much in our interest to prevent another Ice Age.

August 2004 article by Mike Briggs of the UNH Biodiesel Group. He details in this article what would be needed for a total transportation fuel replacement. Briggs and UNH are currently working on a system for using wastewater for algae. There's a forum over on, which Briggs runs, dedicated to the topic.

GreenFuel Technologies has a system that uses flue gasses from coal and natural gas powerplants to accelerate growth. This reduces the emissions from said powerplants by 40%. GreenShift is another company working on a similar process, but their web site seems to be down. While neither tech is actually carbon-neutral, we're not going to stop using coal anytime soon and this is a good way to mitigate emissions while also turning a profit. GreenFuel has also gotten about $16 million in venture capital over the past year.

We've also seen a couple articles here on GCC on companies getting into algae. Two on the same day, in fact. Here and here. Also, a New Zealand company has recently produced biodiesel from algae (Also detailed here, but I don't have the link handy)

As far as oil yields are concerned, nothing else holds a candle to algae. The best we can do with common crops in the US is canola/rapeseed, which has a yield of about 120 gallons per acre. The range for yields for algae is 5,000-20,000 gallons. And it has the advantage of not needing farmland, so it won't displace food crops.

Maybe I am hanging my hopes on this technology too much. But given its potential, I don't think I'm being unreasonable.

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