A judgment delivered but nothing resolved. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea tribunal has rejected China’s claim to large swatches of the South China Sea. China’s claim to the huge area of sea is based on what it calls a ‘historic ownership’, regarding the area for centuries as an integral part of China, the same claim it uses for Tibet. The so-called nine-dashed line issued by China, eats in the territory of several countries, including the Philippines, which brought the case to the tribunal after talks with China failed. The tribunal yesterday held that China had breached the sovereign rights of the Philippines and found no legal basis to its claims on the area. China, as it warned, has rejected the decision and is ignoring it. The oil and shipping markets have reacted to the news with worry, with crude prices jumping over fears that the situation could escalate militarily.
At the centre of this dispute are the Spratly and Paracel islands, where China has been furiously constructing communities and airstrips to back its claim, going as far as to issue banknotes for the uninhabited islands. This is where it gets messy. Vietnam claims that it has administered both island chains since the 17th century. China’s claim to the islands date to before the founding of the People’s Republic, meaning it may have been transferred to Taiwan. The Philippines’ contention is not so much about the islands, but over Scarborough Shoal, within its legal sovereign zone, but claimed by China. Brunei and Malaysia both claim some of the southern islands of both chains. But China’s purported historical documents only claim the islands; it’s nine-dashed line – a graphical flourish that includes no exact points or coordinates - extends well beyond the Spratlys and Paracel, coming within a dozen miles of Sarawak, Sabah and Brunei. Essentially, China believes it can bully the countries into handing over sovereign territory.
The prize is large. This area of the South China Sea is the most-trafficked shipping route in the world, connecting China, Japan and South Korea with Africa and Europe. Control over the sea, which is now considered international waters, could disrupt trade, and the US has supported ‘freedom of navigation.’ The area is also rich in fishing resources, which China wants to feed its population. And finally there is the question of oil (and gas). Though unmapped and largely unexplored, several large discoveries of oil surround it – Malaysia’s deepwater fields in Sabah, Vietnam’s southern offshore fields and the Philippine oil and gas deposits off Palawan – suggesting there could be rich pickings of energy buried beneath the sea. China, whose own crude oil production is declining, wants it.
The decision creates a stalemate. The Philippines, along with Vietnam, will champion the decision. China has chosen to ignore it, claiming the tribunal has no authority and would prefer to negotiate directly with the individual countries, prompting worries of economic bullying. The US is pivoting to the area, attempting to act as a counterweight to China’s worrying dominance. There is no clear solution, only clear continued antagonism. China will continue to stake its claim, and unless the US chooses to intervene, there is not much other countries can do to stake their claim. If the US does choose to intervene, it could mean war; war would settle the issue – to the victor goes the spoils – but war is something no side wants.
#CHexit – referencing to the recent popular term used for Britain’s referendum vote to leave the EU.
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Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly
Renewable generation provided a new record of 742 million megawatthours (MWh) of electricity in 2018, nearly double the 382 million MWh produced in 2008. Renewables provided 17.6% of electricity generation in the United States in 2018.
Nearly 90% of the increase in U.S. renewable electricity between 2008 and 2018 came from wind and solar generation. Wind generation rose from 55 million MWh in 2008 to 275 million MWh in 2018 (6.5% of total electricity generation), exceeded only by conventional hydroelectric at 292 million MWh (6.9% of total generation).
U.S. solar generation has increased from 2 million MWh in 2008 to 96 million MWh in 2018. Solar generation accounted for 2.3% of electricity generation in 2018. Solar generation is generally categorized as small-scale (customer-sited or rooftop) solar installations or utility-scale installations. In 2018, 69% of solar generation, or 67 million MWh, was utility-scale solar.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly
Increases in U.S. wind and solar generation are driven largely by capacity additions. In 2008, the United States had 25 gigawatts (GW) of wind generating capacity. By the end of 2018, 94 GW of wind generating capacity was operating on the electric grid. Almost all of this capacity is onshore; one offshore wind plant, located on Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island, has a capacity of 30 megawatts. Similarly, installed solar capacity grew from an estimated less than 1 GW in 2008 to 51 GW in 2018. In 2018, 1.8 GW of this solar capacity was solar thermal, 30 GW was utility-scale solar photovoltaics (PV), and the remaining 20 GW was small-scale solar PV.
Growth in renewable technologies in the United States, particularly in wind and solar, has been driven by federal and state policies and declining costs. Federal policies such as the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 and the Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credits for wind and solar have spurred project development.
In addition, state-level policies, such as renewable portfolio standards, which require a certain share of electricity to come from renewable sources, have increasing targets over time. As more wind and solar projects have come online, economies of scale have led to more efficient project development and financing mechanisms, which has led to continued cost declines.
Conventional hydroelectric capacity has remained relatively unchanged in the United States, increasing by 2% since 2008. Changes in hydroelectric generation year-over-year typically reflect changes in precipitation and drought conditions. Between 2008 and 2018, annual U.S. hydroelectric generation was as low as 249 million MWh and as high as 319 million MWh, with hydroelectric generation in 2018 totaling 292 million MWh. Generation from other renewable resources, including biomass and geothermal, increased from 70 million MWh to 79 million MWh in the United States between 2008 and 2018, and it collectively represented 1.9% of total generation in 2018.
Headline crude prices for the week beginning 11 March 2019 – Brent: US$66/b; WTI: US$56/b
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GEO ExPro Vol. 16, No. 1 was published on 4th March 2019 bringing light to the latest science and technology activity in the global geoscience community within the oil, gas and energy sector.
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