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Jeremy Wakeford

Rand Airport – Joburg’s first hub of civil aviation

By: Jade Davenport     31st March 2017 Since it was established  in 1886, the city of Johannesburg has been at the forefront of much of the economic, industrial and infrastructure development in South Africa and the broader African continent. However, there is one notable exception to that general historical and ongoing trend, and... 

Oil price volatility masks deeper trends

By: Jeremy Wakeford     30th January 2015 The falling price of oil continues to dominate global energy news. By mid-January, the price of crude had fallen below $50/bl for the first time since the depths of the global recession in 2009. Why has the price plunged so dramatically? The short answer is that a combination of slackening demand... 

What’s driving the oil price plunge?

By: Jeremy Wakeford     24th October 2014 In early October, Brent crude oil was trading as low as $92/bl – a marked drop from the $115/bl it reached in mid-June and the $105/lb to $112/bl range it has held for most of the past three years. In the midst of some serious geopolitical threats to oil supplies in the Middle East, this price... 

Solar PV takeoff firmly under way

By: Jeremy Wakeford     12th September 2014 The Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), an international grouping of governmental, industry and research and nongovernmental organisations with an interest in renewable energy, publishes a yearly report entitled 'Renewables Global Status Report'. As in previous years,... 

Global energy consumption trends in 2013

By: Jeremy Wakeford     15th August 2014 Each year in June, British Petroleum (BP) publishes its ‘Statistical review of world energy’, which draws on various public and official sources of data on production and consumption of fossil fuels, nuclear power, renewable electricity and liquid biofuels. While some of the figures need to be... 

World needs prodigious energy investments to keep the lights on

By: Jeremy Wakeford     11th July 2014 In June, the International Energy Agency (IEA) published a special report titled ‘World Energy Investment Outlook’ (WEIO). This document charts the financial investments needed to meet expected energy demand over the coming two decades. The numbers indicate starkly the magnitude of the task that... 

Oil’s not well in the medium term

By: Jeremy Wakeford     13th June 2014 International oil prices have been remarkably stable over the last three years, trading in a fairly narrow range between $100/bl and $120/lb, with the exception of a few brief dips into double-digit territory. This price stability has reflected a fine balance between world oil demand and supply.... 

Is gas entering a ‘golden age’?

By: Jeremy Wakeford     16th May 2014 Natural gas has been widely touted as a bridging fuel between dirtier fossil fuels – coal and oil – and renewable-energy sources. In a 2011 report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) declared that gas was poised to enter a 'golden age'. But is gas as good as it is cracked up to be? Natural gas... 

Simmering geopolitical hot spots pose risk to energy stability

By: Jeremy Wakeford     28th March 2014 The tensions between the West and Russia, sparked by the political turmoil in Ukraine, carry echoes of Cold War geopolitics. But, in today’s world, energy often lies at the heart of geopolitical manoeuvrings. Conflicts over energy resources – particularly oil and gas – often given rise to... 

Low-energy reactors poised for commercialisation? 

By: Jeremy Wakeford     28th February 2014 One of the threads this column has been following over the past couple of years is the apparent renaissance of what used to be known as 'cold fusion' but is now usually referred to as low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR) or controlled electron capture reactions (CECR). In short, the process... 

Mind the gaps in the IRP debate

By: Jeremy Wakeford     31st January 2014 The publication in November last year by the Department of Energy of a draft revision to the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for electricity was very welcome, if overdue. The electricity crisis has, to some extent, woken the country up to the reality that economies cannot function without adequate... 

IEA highlights shifting energy landscape

By: Jeremy Wakeford     6th December 2013 Last month, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released its 'World Energy Outlook (WEO) 2013' report. The WEO is a yearly publication that reviews recent developments in energy markets and also projects energy demand, supply and price trends over the coming two decades, based on varying... 

Shale gas on the front burner again

By: Jeremy Wakeford     1st November 2013 October saw the gazetting by the Department of Mineral Resources of the regulations set to govern exploration for and production of shale gas in the Karoo basin, and the public has been invited to comment on this sensitive issue. 

Is fracking getting oil out of a tight spot?

By: Jeremy Wakeford     23rd August 2013 The International Energy Agency (IEA), in its 2012 World Energy Outlook, projects that oil supply will continue to rise until 2035 without encountering geological or technical production constraints. The agency reckons that conventional oil production peaked in 2008 and is, thus, relying on the... 

Innovative jatropha biofuel production in Malawi

By: Jeremy Wakeford     5th July 2013 Enthusiasm surrounding conventional biofuels such as maize-based ethanol has waxed and waned over the past few years, particularly in the African context, where food security is a major issue. On a recent trip to Malawi, I had the opportunity to visit a small company called Bio Energy Resources... 

Interest in LENR device resurges as independent report is released 

By: Jeremy Wakeford     7th June 2013 Last year I wrote two columns about developments in the field of low-energy nuclear reaction (LENR) technologies. After a relatively quiet few months, with no major news, May yielded a resurgence of interest with the publication of an apparently independent third-party evaluation of Italian... 

Can Malawi leap-frog the fossil fuel age?

By: Jeremy Wakeford     17th May 2013 Malawi represents an interesting case study in energy transitions and also helps to put South Africa’s energy challenges in perspective. Our northern neighbour has barely begun to enter the fossil fuel age but, unless it discovers oil, it is doubtful whether this largely agrarian economy will be... 

The dynamics of energy transitions

By: Jeremy Wakeford     12th April 2013 One of the defining features of the twenty-firsy century will be a transition from fossil fuels to other energy sources. To try to understand how this process might unfold, scholars have turned to past energy transitions for clues. 

Twilight of the industrial metabolism

By: Jeremy Wakeford     8th March 2013 Human socioeconomic systems have evolved over thousands of years in concert with a changing natural environment. Every society is sustained by flows of energy and materials and can, thus, be seen as having a ‘socioeconomic metabolism’ akin to the physical metabolism of the human body. A... 

The oil price outlook – 2013 and beyond 

By: Jeremy Wakeford     8th February 2013 The price of crude oil on international markets dominates financial news headlines for good reason: it’s the world’s most-traded commodity. With a multitude of complex and dynamic factors at play, there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding oil prices both in the short term and the longer... 

Conventional oil peaked in 2008 – IEA

By: Jeremy Wakeford     18th January 2013 In November, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released its annual World Energy Outlook (WEO) for 2012. For the most part, the international financial press seized on one element of the report – the prediction that the US will grow its oil production to such an extent that, by 2020, it could... 

Airlines struggle with energy turbulence

By: Jeremy Wakeford     9th November 2012 News of airline carriers experiencing financial headwinds has been coming thick and fast of late. There are two main reasons for this: stalling global economic growth and the heavy burden of three-digit oil prices. The outlook for both of these drivers does not bode well for the medium-term... 

Coega refinery a costly cul-de-sac

By: Jeremy Wakeford     26th October 2012 National oil company PetroSA recently renewed its media blitz promoting Project Mthombo, its proposed giant oil refinery at Coega, in the Eastern Cape.  

Hydroelectricity powering on

By: Jeremy Wakeford     21st September 2012 Hydroelectric power is one of the oldest and best established sources of renewable energy, and world hydropower capacity has been growing at a steady rate of about 3% a year since the 1960s. The bulk of hydropower is generated on a large scale using water stored in dams. But, lately,... 

Wind power is blowing hot – for now

By: Jeremy Wakeford     7th September 2012 Wind power has been blowing hot for over a decade as one of the leading renewable-energy sources.  

LENR appears to be gathering steam 

By: Jeremy Wakeford     24th August 2012 In February, this column introduced a contentious possible new energy source called low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR) or lattice-assisted nuclear reactions (LANR) – a process that was formerly called 'cold fusion'. There have been enough developments in this arena over the past half year to... 

Conventional biofuels won’t take us far 

By: Jeremy Wakeford     10th August 2012 Liquid biofuels are often touted as a partial solution to oil scarcity and climate change. But what are the realistic prospects?  

Peak oil is no myth 

By: Jeremy Wakeford     27th July 2012 In late May, I participated in the tenth annual conference of the international Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (Aspo), a network of scientists, scholars, industry experts and analysts who are exploring the nature and implications of global oil depletion. Aspo has formal affiliates... 

Solar photovoltaic a rising star

By: Jeremy Wakeford     13th July 2012 While the global use of fossil fuels continues to grow by up to a few percentage points a year, solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity is exploding, driven partly by government policies but also by rapidly falling costs.  

Parsing BP’s review of world energy

By: Jeremy Wakeford     6th July 2012 UK-based oil giant BP recently released its annual Statistical Review of World Energy, which provides a wealth of reserve, production, consumption and price data on all the major primary energy sources. This instalment of Energy Matters highlights the review’s key findings on fossil fuels. 

Energy return on energy invested

By: Jeremy Wakeford     15th June 2012 Economists are fond of saying that “there is no such thing as a free lunch”. This adage applies to the harnessing or extraction of energy resources, whether they are nonrenewable – such as fossil fuels – or renewable sources like solar and wind.  

Pool of world oil exports dwindling 

By: Jeremy Wakeford     1st June 2012 The fact that world crude oil production has been stagnant since 2005 is now commonly acknowledged. But for all the world’s net oil-importing countries – including South Africa – the crucial oil supply variable is total world oil exports, rather than total world oil production – that is, oil... 

Scraping the bottom of the barrel 

By: Jeremy Wakeford     18th May 2012 Several articles in the international media in recent months have claimed that worries about peak oil – the peak and decline in yearly world oil production – are unfounded because vast new reserves of unconventional oil are coming on stream. But a closer look at these new sources of oil casts... 

The arithmetic of compound growth 

By: Jeremy Wakeford     11th May 2012 Economic growth is the favourite mantra and apparent cure-all for the majority of politicians and economists in South Africa, and indeed in the world at large. But how many people really understand the nature and implications of compound – or exponential – growth?  

The oil price roller coaster

By: Jeremy Wakeford     13th April 2012 In March, the price of petrol in Gauteng breached R11/l, breaking the previous record-high nominal price of R10.50/l set in July 2008. At R10.37, the wholesale price of diesel is still below the high of R11.43/l recorded four years ago.  

Hydrocarbon wars are on the rise

By: Jeremy Wakeford     30th March 2012 History is replete with wars fought over resources – whether they are agricultural lands, forests, minerals like gold and silver or energy sources. Fossil fuels – most especially oil – have fuelled plenty of conflict over the past century. As the world has entered an era of increasing oil... 

Shale gas debate needs a dose of economic realism 

By: Jeremy Wakeford     16th March 2012 The end of February saw the expiry of the one-year moratorium on shale gas exploration in South Africa that was imposed by Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu. The Shale Gas Task Team established by the Minister is due to present its report to Cabinet by the end of March. Thus, the great... 

A century of addiction to fossil fuels

By: Jeremy Wakeford     2nd March 2012 For most of the past couple of centuries of industrial capitalism, the majority of economists, politicians and citizens, in general, have taken energy supplies for granted. The exceptions were local energy constraints, periods of war and infrequent incidents of politically driven supply... 

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