Wednesday, August 08, 2007

From Oil Kings to Uranium Kings

Whether you have an energy economy geared to oil or hooked on uranium, as in France, as the commodity becomes scarce, the prices rise and fights often break out among those who want the remaining stores. This Le Monde editorial talks about the dynamics involved as France negotiates with Niger to ensure an ongoing supply of "yellow cake" to fuel its reactors.

Mr. Tandja has observed the price takeoff. A pound has gone from ten dollars three years ago to close to one hundred and fifty dollars on the international market (not counting long-term revisable contracts). And the increase should continue as needs grow and tensions over supplies appear. A windfall for Niger, which sees Chinese, Canadians, and Australians flooding in. World reserves are abundant, but exploration only resumed recently after twenty years of under-investment linked to attractive oil prices up to 2003 and to the rejection of nuclear power after the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe. Demand from big American, German, French, Japanese, Chinese, and Russian electricity companies will grow as they build new reactors. With the exhaustion of military (especially Russian) stocks, recycled as fuel since the end of the Cold War to compensate for mining under-production, rationing looms.

Wind, solar, and geothermal are looking better all the time.