Adriatic Drilling: What are the Energy Alternatives?

Total Croatia News

The debate about Adriatic oil drilling continues, with both sides of the camp producing claims and facts. 

A very powerful visual argument, guaranteed to touch the emotions of locals and tourists, is of course images of pristine seas and the threat of oil pollution. That one can accept, but it does not take away the fact that Croatia is in deep economic crisis, a crisis which will be mitigated by all the expected oil and gas revenue. At least in theory. 

It was a point I put to the Clean Adriatic Sea Alliance, and I invited them to put forward their ECONOMIC reasons why there are better alternatives for Croatia’s energy security than Adriatic oil and sea drilling. Their answer is reproduced in full below, and it makes VERY interesting reading.

“Then I say the Earth belongs to each generation during its course, fully and in its right no generation can contract debts greater than may be paid during the course of its existence”

Thomas Jefferson, September 6, 1789

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim addressed Georgetown University students on 18 March outlining a five point plan for reduction of the drivers of climate change of which the increased use of renewable energy was one. In many countries, developing utility-scale renewable energy is now cheaper than, or on par with, fossil fuel plants and without any of the negative related carbon issues. What’s more, renewables outstrip hydrocarbons in the ability to create jobs. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) government subsidies support the fossil fuel industry to the astonishing sum (2013) of $1.9 Trillion (USD) dollars (likely an underestimate) which is responsible for some 7 million jobs on a global basis. Renewable energy already provides 5.7 million jobs but with a mere $60 Billion dollars received globally, representing just 3% of the government support which fossil fuels receive. Let’s just try to imagine the scope of impact on job creation in a world where fossil fuel subsidies were entirely eliminated and such investment was made in clean technology innovations.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has presented the 2014-2015 economies competitiveness report and, for the eighth year in a row, Croatia continues its downward trend – dropping two places to 77th on the list of 144 countries as a result of low scores in the macroeconomic environment, innovation, market size, high education and infrastructure. Croatia’s National Competitiveness Council (NVK) chairman Ivica Mudrinic said that a majority of negative factors affecting Croatia’s competitiveness result from its public sector and he has called for “an overhaul of the public administration, public politics and the national tax policy.” Croatia imports half of its energy and foodstuffs to support its population of 4.3 million people and its 11.5 million visitors each year. According to Croatia’s trade deficit has nearly doubled in recent years, making tourism a major pillar to its economy and trade, while the deficit is largely balanced by the resulting foreign exchange. With an unemployment rate holding steady at 20.3% it’s somewhat easy to understand why under such seemingly desperate circumstances the Croatian government, and its handlers and minions, take a position similar to that of Chicken Little running around saying “the sky is falling, the sky is falling” compelling us to believe that the fatigue of the Croatian economy can only be corrected in drilling for hydrocarbons – and this is simply not true.

Whale oil was once considered impossible to live without, then kerosene, and so too now hydrocarbons have now outlived their practical usefulness. The portfolio divestment of fossil fuels movement is gaining stride globally including such unlikely persons as the Rockefellers, the heirs to the Standard Oil fortune, and less than two weeks ago the United Nations framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC) said it was lending its “moral authority” to the global divestment campaign in advance of the UN global warming summit in Paris being held in December.

In the United States and in Canada, and in other countries around the world, amidst the worst recession in decades, clean innovation has thrived. The companies who received an influx of investment from 2008 to 2014 are now poised to deploy such renewable energy platforms as concentrated solar thermal in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, and the city of Portland, Oregon, USA now successfully generates electricity from turbines installed in its city water pipes. An innovation of Lucid Energy Inc., the renewable energy system enables municipal water, wastewater, industrial or agricultural facilities to produce reliable, low-cost electricity from their gravity-fed pipelines.  Portland’s initial project, consisting of a single 50 foot long installation with 4 turbines, is expected to generate enough electricity to power 150 homes for a year.  Installing Five of these 50 foot long installations, realising similar output, could provide enough energy to support all 640 private households in the town of Vis.  In fact, considering the smaller square footage of a home in Vis and its smaller baseline consumption versus an American home our estimated calculation would actually provide a surplus. Success stories exist such as Costa Rica’s with its power now 100% renewable and an expressly stated goal of being carbon neutral in conjunction with its 200 anniversary of independence in 2021. Taken on the whole Croatia enjoys (on average) 2700 hours of sunshine per year, Germany with about 1600 hours has been successful at producing between 40-60% of its energy requirements from its investment (and subsidies) in photovoltaic technologies. The north Adriatic island of Krk is making a compelling case for broad scale adoption of carbon neutrality and renewables (including recycling facilities and biomass) – though their efforts have been blocked by the Croatian government seemingly at every turn. “Solar energy is the only power capable of addressing the needs of the entire planet”, according to Ubiquitous Energy, whose team  has recognised that capturing the invisible light spectrum of ultraviolet and near infrared spectrum using clear skim is not only more aesthetically pleasing but has application in charging mobile devices as well as providing energy to entire skyscrapers.

Croatia is sitting at the table with a clean energy buffet at the ready, solar and wind in abundance and, ready to be exploited, marine. Yes, harvesting the motion of water through wave technologies offered by companies such as Sea Wave Energy, Ltd. (SWEL) based in the United Kingdom with development and testing facilities in Cyprus. Just five weeks ago SWEL was amongst those presenting at the Cleantech Innovate Summit. Theirs is an innovative, low cost, high output approach to harvesting the energy produced by waves by using a series of inter-linking platforms called Waveline Magnet Technology.

The truth is best summed up by the words of –

The most significant thing missing to solve the climate crisis is political will. […] Passivity in a time of crisis is complicity; our children deserve better.

Real, innovative, compelling solutions exist to solving Croatia’s energy needs and economic shortfalls. Despite purporting to be “smart people” it is the narrowness of thinking, the steadfast resolve by individuals such as Minister of Economy Ivan Vrdoljak, Croatian Hydrocarbon Agency’s Barbara Dorić, and clearly Prime Minister Zoran Milanović that hydrocarbons are the future when in fact they are mired in the past that keeps Croatia from attaining true energy independence, creating a dynamic economy and owning a premier place in the Green Economy.

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