Space Helmets. (Obviously)


R.I.P. Hubert Sumlin

I recently got an email that legendary blues guitarist Hubert Sumlin died on December 4th.  I had the privilege of photographing the man at his home earlier this year for the New York Times. (The news of his death came from the writer of that article, Tammy.)

What else can I say other than R.I.P.

The music lives on.


Jalan Besar Stadium



I had just witnessed The Singapore Lions get frankly thrashed by China PR in their World Cup Asian Zone Qualifying Match and was on my way home when I saw this wonderful scene.  I think I'll head back one day and see how this shot turns out with a 4x5.

Mackerel Smackerel


On the buses, in the rain



Singapore International Energy Week 2011

After, before, or while you read this post, or at any other time you wish, you should listen to this:


Anyway, the 4th Annual Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW) 2011 was a week of conferences, exhibitions, workshops and networking events for policymakers, industry players and commentators to discuss energy issues, strategies and solutions.  The event is organised by the Singapore Energy Market Authority (EMA), a statutory board formed in 2001 under the aegis of the Ministry of Trade and Industry.  Some of the biggest names in the industry attended with representatives from companies, banks, investors, governments, ngos. You name it.  The expo's showed off a huge range of technologies.  It was quite overwhelming at times.  You can check out some information here: www.siew.sg

I have a growing interest in energy.  I think the way we produce and consume energy is one of the most important issues of our day. It affects so many other aspects of our lives.  During the week I photographed lots of speeches, talks, addresses, panels and events.  The following is my overall impression from the week.  I know there are notable exceptions to all the points I raise but this is my overall impression and I welcome any discussion...

The main thing I took away from all of this (aside from the fact that the nitty-gritty of trading in Liquid Natural Gas is mind numbingly dull) was that the Oil Industry is stepping up it's efforts to squeeze every last drop of oil from the ground. Indeed, production is going up, not down.  Natural gas is the next prize these companies have their eye on.  The CEO of Shell proudly announced that soon they will be a natural gas company, not an oil company.  As for renewable energy, while these companies and others with prominent positions in the energy industry admit that renewables will 'eventually' have to be the way we get our power, their dismissal of it as a solution to our energy needs was astonishing, if not wholly surprising.  This is a big issue for me, as I keep hearing the same arguments against renewable energy which quite frankly I do not agree with.  The arguments usually revolve around the notion that power should be centrally produced then distributed, that renewable energy sources are erratic and the energy they produce difficult to store, and that the cost of switching to renewables is too high.  All of these are valid points, but we actually have the solutions to these issues so it renders those issues irrelevant. The real problem is that changing to renewables would require changing the way companies like those in the hydrocarbon industry do business.  And as with so much in business, if you are currently making huge profits, you're not going to pay attention to anyone who tells you to change that.  The attitude that was on public display was that energy demand is going up, and so that means larger profits for the energy companies and even though yes we know that we need to change, we won't, because we're making money.  It was that brazen.

The other thing that struck me was that even as the oil and gas companies dismissed renewable energy as a niche, the renewable energy companies showed a shocking lack of interest in engaging them (aside from one notable example in a challenge to the CEO's of Petrobras and Shell from the founder of Solarcentury during a panel).  The view seemed to be that these were outdated dinosaurs that refused to change and ignoring them was the best strategy.  In my view it is up to those working in the renewable energy sector to make fossil fuel companies sit up and take notice. These are the guys with the money, the network, the infrastructure. These are the guys you want to get on board. One exhibitor said to me he thought it would be maybe 20 years before the fossil fuel companies started to take notice of the renewable energy companies and deal with them seriously. I hope it's a lot sooner than that.

Thirdly,  we have government policy.  One thing that everybody was in agreement with was that government policy drives the behaviour of the energy companies.  Which means of course that government policy is something that energy companies are keen to influence.  But that is not news to anyone.

Basically, our demand for energy (electric power) is growing.  And growing fast.  At the moment, our energy infrastructure is set up to benefit the fossil fuel companies.  As we use more and more electricity we put greater demand on the energy companies, who are more than happy to sell it to us and will dig ever deeper to find the reserves to fill that need.  As consumers of energy, if we wish to make the change that we will inevitably have to make - that is a switch to renewable sustainable sources of power - we have to demand it from our governments, from our energy suppliers and we have to take matters into our own hands.  Support renewable, sustainable, decentralised, distributed energy. Consume less energy yourself. Grow your own, buy local food wherever possible. Walk, bicycle, use public transport, drive less, shop using your own bags, reject unnecessary packaging. These are just a few small steps, simple things we can do to reduce the amount of energy we use.  We don't have to go back to the stone age.  It's a myth that we cannot progress if we switch to solar power, that suddenly we'll all working in fields 10 hours a day again and we won't have time to piss about on facebook.  We just have to manage our resources much much better than we do now.  When I was a little boy I thought the future would be that we'd all be living in garden cities powered by renewable energy with everyone having access to the most incredible technology, mining dead asteroids in space for minerals and metals, instead of gouging holes in this living breathing planet and fighting over territory and access to resources. Now I am living in that little boy's future and looking at my kids, I want them to get closer to that peaceful future than I have.

We are so close to being there, and we can get there sooner if we put in the effort.  And make no mistake, we will have to do it, fossil fuel is a finite resource, even if it takes the next 250 years to exhaust it completely, when it is gone it is gone, and in that time, if our current trend continues I dread to think what that world will look like then - massive inequality, pollution, climate chaos, war. Don't believe me? take a look around now.  Which direction do you want to take?

Mr Jose Gabrielli, CEO of Petrobras.

A petroleum industry lunch meeting.


The audience at Carbon Forum Asia.

Mr Gil-Hong Kim, Director of the Sustainable Infrastructure Division, Regional &S ustainable Development Department, Asia Development Bank.

Ambassador Burhan Gafoor, Chief Negotiator for Climate Change, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore.

Mr Chee Hong Tat, Chief Executive of the Energy Market Authority of Singapore.

 The Asia Smart Grid Exhibition.

 The Asia Smart Grid Exhibition.

Liquid Natural Gas Focus Day at EMART Asia, a summit for energy trading.

Liquid Natural Gas Focus Day at EMART Asia, a summit for energy trading.
Dan E. Arvizu, Director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy.
The Asia Smart Grid Exhibition.
The Asia Smart Grid Exhibition.

Mr Nobuo Tanaka, former Executive Director of the International Energy Agency.
His Excellency Mohamed bin Dha'en Al Hamili, Energy Minister for the United Arab Emirates.

 Dr Michael Levi, Director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change, Council on Foreign Relations.
 Mr Peter Voser, CEO of Shell (center).

Clearing flowers off the VIP table at the end of the Singapore Energy Summit Dinner.