Energy New Recap: Tunisia Plans 2 GW Solar Power Plant in Sahara, ConocoPhillips' Massive Profits, More

Some really great solar news leads today: Tunisia shifts into high gear the massive Desertec project; and the increasing amount of solar power-generated electricity in Japan. Then there's another example of massive oil industry profits, the shifting world of coal imports. Here's what caught our eye this morning.

Tunisia Announces 2000 MW Solar Power Project
Once it was just a dream, and there are still a number of hurdles to clear, but the plan on tapping into the massive solar power potential of the Sahara desert is more quickly taking shape. Green Prophet reports that Tunisia has announced the fourth project in the Desertec initiative—and it's a doozy. The TuNur concentrating solar-thermal power plant will come in at 2,000 MW, six times the size of the current largest solar thermal project and four times larger than any other power plant in Tunisia. Why the huge size? Because a good portion of its electricity will be sent via undersea cable to Europe, of course.

Decentralized Solar Power Increases Output 50% in Japan
Small-scale solar power production is increasing in Japan. Reuters reports that homeowners and small businesses produced 50% more electricity from rooftop solar panels in 2011 than they did in the previous year.

Owners sold a total 2,150 gigawatt hours to power utilities last year [...] Last year's purchase volume is equivalent to 0.24 percent of sales from the power companies of some 884,000 gigawatt hours a year on average in the three years to March 2011.

China Now Leads World in Coal Imports, Overtaking Japan
China is the world's largest consumer of energy, the world's largest national carbon emitter, the world's largest consumer of coal, and the world's largest producer of coal. Now, it's also the world's largest importer of coal, overtaking Japan in 2011—a title the latter held from 1975-2010. In 2011 China imported 10.8% more coal than it did in 2010, for a total of 182.4 million tonnes. Read more.

ConocoPhillips' Profits Up 66% in Q4 2011
From ThinkProgress comes the word that oil giant ConocoPhillips has reported its fourth-quarter profits for 2011, $3.4 billion, which brings the total for 2011 to $12.4 billion. That's a 66% increase from the same period last year.

How did it spend that money? By becoming that single largest lobbyist in the oil industry, spending $16 million lasting year on convincing Congress to support Big Oil. By spending $200,000 in federal election campaigns in 2011, 90% of that going to Republicans. (More at the link above.)

Does anyone still think the oil industry deserves a single special tax break or subsidy from the Feds?

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