Solar has Become Dazzlingly Cheap for New Plants

image

Courtesy of Robin Mills @ The National:

‘I believe solar will be even more economic than fossil fuels,” said the Saudi oil minister Ali Al Naimi at a climate change conference in Paris last week.

Recent bids in Jordan confirmed last year’s results from Dubai – solar is now cheaper than gas-fired power in this region, with major implications for energy strategies.

In Manaar Energy’s 2012 report, “Sunrise in the Desert”, published in collaboration with PwC and the Middle East Solar Industry Association, we were optimistic on the future of solar power in the region and saw it as competitive with power generation from oil or from more expensive gas. Costs have halved in just three years, meaning solar can now beat all conventional generation apart from the very cheapest gas.

Bids in Jordan’s recent solar auction were just over 6 US cents per kilowatt-hour, slightly above the record 5.84 cents from Acwa Power last November for the 200- megawatt second phase of Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar park near Bab Al Shams. Egypt, struggling with a gas and power crisis, is up next with a reported 6,500MW of solar deals.

Solar prices should continue to fall because of improvements in manufacturing and installation, and steady gains in efficiency. There is also the possibility of breakthroughs, such as the recently announced possibility of perovskite crystals replacing silicon, which could be cheaper and capture a broader range of the sun’s light. Continue reading

Leader of Al Qaeda Group in Iraq was Fictional, U.S. military Says

image

Courtesy of Michael R. Gordon @ The NY Times 2007:

BAGHDAD — For more than a year, the leader of one the most notorious insurgent groups in Iraq was said to be a mysterious Iraqi named Abdullah Rashid al-Baghdadi.

As the titular head of the Islamic State in Iraq, an organization publicly backed by Al Qaeda, Baghdadi issued a steady stream of incendiary pronouncements. Despite claims by Iraqi officials that he had been killed in May, Baghdadi appeared to have persevered unscathed.

On Wednesday, a senior American military spokesman provided a new explanation for Baghdadi’s ability to escape attack: He never existed.

Brigadier General Kevin Bergner, the chief American military spokesman, said the elusive Baghdadi was actually a fictional character whose audio-taped declarations were provided by an elderly actor named Abu Adullah al-Naima.

The ruse, Bergner said, was devised by Abu Ayub al-Masri, the Egyptian-born leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, who was trying to mask the dominant role that foreigners play in that insurgent organization.

The ploy was to invent Baghdadi, a figure whose very name establishes his Iraqi pedigree, install him as the head of a front organization called the Islamic State of Iraq and then arrange for Masri to swear allegiance to him. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s deputy, sought to reinforce the deception by referring to Baghdadi in his video and Internet statements.

The evidence for the American assertions, Bergner announced at a news briefing, was provided by an Iraqi insurgent: Khalid Abdul Fatah Daud Mahmud al-Mashadani, who was said to have been captured by American forces in Mosul on July 4. Continue reading

Is Open-Ended Chaos the Desired US-Israeli Aim in the Middle East?

Courtesy of Counterpunch:

During the last week we have seen Sunni militias take control of ever-greater swathes of eastern Syria and western Iraq. In the mainstream media, the analysis of this emerging reality has been predictably idiotic, basically centering on whether:

a) Obama is to blame for this for having removed US troops in compliance with the 2008 Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) negotiated and signed by Bush.

b) Obama is “man enough” to putatively resolve the problem by going back into the country and killing more people and destroying whatever remains of the country’s infrastructure.

This cynically manufactured discussion has generated a number of intelligent rejoinders on the margins of the mainstream media system. These essays, written by people such as Juan Cole, Robert Parry, Robert Fisk and Gary Leupp, do a fine job of explaining the US decisions that led to the present crisis, while simultaneously reminding us how everything occurring today was readily foreseeable as far back as 2002.

What none of them do, however, is consider whether the chaos now enveloping the region might, in fact, be the desired aim of policy planners in Washington and Tel Aviv.

Rather, each of these analysts presumes that the events unfolding in Syria and Iraq are undesired outcomes engendered by short-sighted decision-making at the highest levels of the US government over the last 12 years.

Looking at the Bush and Obama foreign policy teams—no doubt the most shallow and intellectually lazy members of that guild to occupy White House in the years since World War II—it is easy to see how they might arrive at this conclusion.

But perhaps an even more compelling reason for adopting this analytical posture is that it allows these men of clear progressive tendencies to maintain one of the more hallowed, if oft-unstated, beliefs of the Anglo-Saxon world view.

What is that? Continue reading