Why China’s big plan to cut emissions is good for tech business

What China does to curb its emissions is good both for the environment and for tech companies looking for a large market. So it’s worth paying attention to a report released Monday that argues that the world’s largest polluter could double its renewable energy use between 2010 and 2030 by investing $145 billion annually.

What the crisis in Ukraine tells us about the energy economy

What do Germany’s rising energy prices, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and renewable energy deployment have to do with each other? Consider the following issues.

A New York Times article this past week addressed the question of backlash in Germany against the country’s ambitious energy policy that has pushed electricity prices up, a whopping 37 percent rise since 2005. Germany’s ambitious national goal is to generate the bulk of its energy from renewables by 2050. It has already begun its phaseout of nuclear power.

The issue of Germany’s renewable energy goal has come into greater focus over the last month as the political situation in the Ukraine unraveled. Germany is slowly acknowledging that it can get a lot of power from renewables but that it will need some other source of energy, namely natural gas. Germany gets 11 percent of its power from natural gas and 35 percent of that comes from Russia.

Russia’s position as provider of natural gas to much of Europe is one of the issues preventing a stronger show of sanctions in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. There are fears in Germany of a Russian retaliation against any sanctions. Such a retaliation could disrupt Germany’s energy economy and could make already expensive electricity even costlier.

So what are Germany’s options if it wants energy independence? The country has almost no natural gas of its own though it does have some gas in the form of shale rock, but fracking isn’t exactly in the spirit of Germany’s energy transformation geared at becoming a renewable energy leader. An IHS study did say that if Germany were to frack, it could completely resolve its natural gas dependence on Russia within about 20 years.

There is, of course, another looming option here. The U.S.

For natural gas hawks pushing the administration to approve natural gas export permits, the Ukraine crisis was a gift. Russia provides 30 percent of Europe’s natural gas and the U.K., Italy, and Germany are major recipients. It also provides 60 percent of Ukraine’s natural gas. The U.S. is now the largest producer of natural gas in the world, setting it and Russia on an inevitable collision course. The Crimean crisis may have just been the first skirmish. The quickest way to shift the balance of global power would be for the U.S. to become a major provider of natural gas to Europe and the former Soviet Republics.

And Wall Street’s take on the situation should be telling. Research analyst and investment advisor Jessica Rabe noted:

As the U.S. and Europe try to find ways to undercut Putin’s geopolitical influence, the crisis in Crimea provides the catalyst for the U.S. to go full throttle on natural gas. Both Congress and the oil industry are pressuring the Energy Department to approve more permits for exports of liquefied natural gas to be delivered via tanker. The goal is to wean Europe and Ukraine from dependence on gas from Russia, thereby weakening Putin’s greatest geopolitical asset.

She adds:

The problem is that U.S. liquefied natural gas won’t reach overseas for at least a few years. Still, long-term investors should benefit from exposure to what will soon be the world’s largest natural gas producer, and to companies that operate in this energy ecosystem (oil services, refining, pipelines, exploration and production, etc.).

So what is the potential long term impact for renewables? Domestically natural gas prices should continue to creep north, particularly if export terminals open up and the U.S. becomes the supplier of choice to Europe, weakening Putin’s hold on Europe’s energy supply. The global price for natural gas is often almost double the U.S. domestic price. Those prices should move closer to each other once the U.S. starts exporting at scale.

That’s all good for renewables since they still represent the alternative to being dependent for energy on dictators. Not to mention the reality that as natural gas gets more expensive domestically, renewable energy benefits. In Europe a further pullback in renewables is inevitable given the reality that electricity prices have gotten so expensive, not to mention the multi-year trend of subsidy rollbacks relate to sovereign debt problems.

If Germany’s skyrocketing energy prices and its dependence on Russian natural gas has taught us anything, it’s that while globalization is great, energy interdependence is tricky. I’ve long believed that renewable energy is very much about energy independence and national security. The current situation in Crimea is just one more example.

Spain suspends clean power incentive program to rein in costs

Spain once symbolized a great solar boom – and then bust – as its government lowered incentives to reign growth. That repercussion of that boom has continued, however, and on Friday the government announced a suspension of the incentive program to cut costs.

Cleantech: a question of national security

As the Solyndra fallout drags on, it’s clear that the government’s support of cleantech is becoming increasingly political — as it should be. After all, the value of developing an economy not dependent on fossil fuels is ultimately about national security, which means it should be held to a different standard than, say, an economic stimulus package. Otherwise we’re gambling with our own economic, social and political stability.

Today in Cleantech

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair once said, “we have a four week election, and you [the U.S.] have an election that’s, well, four years.” So with elections over a year away, the lobbying for political support for cleantech began on the national stage last weekend where Republican presidential candidates in Iowa strolled up to a wind turbine blade and signed it (wind power accounts for almost 20 percent of power in Iowa). But there are reasons for concern. The Breakthrough Institute’s Jesse Jenkins has gone as far as previewing a “coming clean tech crash.” Clean tech is an industry largely reliant on subsidies to make its products price competitive and it will see 70 percent of those subsidies expire in the next three years. Energy policy and incentives matter to green IT because, in the end, you can get a data center as energy efficient as possible, but getting electricity from a renewable source will always be the other side of that equation.

IEA: Energy Innovation Needs More Public Support

Global investments in renewable energy have risen dramatically over the last decade, but governments need to step up support for clean energy innovation. That’s one of the findings in a report out this morning from the International Energy Agency.

Sponsor post: Your Killer App Could Win $100,000 From PayPal

PayPal is giving away $160,000 USD in prizes to the most innovative apps to use the
PayPal X Platform, judging based on app innovation and business potential, with additional awards honoring innovation in use of the eBay Developer API, integration with Yahoo and cross-border
payment systems.

Chrome for Mac Imminent, Why We Should Care

It has been a long time coming. Google’s (s goog) Chrome web browser has been available on Windows for over a year, while Mac users have been left with three options — take their chances with a nightly build of the open-source fork of Chrome (dubbed Chromium), use Google’s developer release, or wait for an official Google release.

TechCrunch’s MG Siegler reported yesterday that Chrome for Mac is just a handful of bugs away from a release — specifically, seven bugs, in case you’re counting. But in order to reach their end-of-year deadline for release, the code-jockeys at Google had to do a bit of a hatchet-job on the Mac version of their browser.

So far, Siegler says, all signs point to the exclusion of the Bookmark Manager, App Mode (which emulates the single-window web app functionality offered by Fluid), Task Manager, Gears, Sync for Mac (for syncing bookmarks across Macs), Multi-touch Gesture support, Full Screen Mode and Extensions. Read More about Chrome for Mac Imminent, Why We Should Care

Rumor Has It: Camera Still Bound for iPod Touch

At the Apple (s aapl) iPod event this past September, the iPod nano got a video upgrade, but despite rumors to the contrary, the iPod touch didn’t get a similar treatment. The Internet was ablaze with expectation thanks to the appearance of a number of iPod touch cases with camera holes built in, all positioned the same, which seemed like a fair indicator that video was coming to the touchscreen iPod.

Even after the newest touch model was released, teardowns revealed what looked like a space reserved for the camera internally. Apple seemed to be holding back for some reason, and recently reports have been made that that is indeed the case, and that a camera-wielding iPod touch will appear in Spring of 2010. Read More about Rumor Has It: Camera Still Bound for iPod Touch