In an industry as unpredictable as energy, it's best to prepare for the unexpected. Here Kurt Cobb offers five possible surprises for energy in 2015.
Declining oil prices are supposed to have a balanced ledger of winners and losers, Cobb writes. But we may be on our way to finding out that in the long run we will have a much larger list of losers than winners.
The US could fight back in an oil prices war with OPEC by employing one simple, big move. But, I can confidently predict that the country will not do it. Why? Because it involves a tax, a tariff actually.
If oil prices continue to slide, OPEC will almost certainly achieve its goal of preventing significant investment in new US oil production. But low oil prices will also put financial pressure on some of the cartel's most vulnerable members.
US natural gas producers may be seeing their dream of substantial liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports suffer fatal injury because of Russian exports to the Chinese market, Cobb writes, a market that was expected to be the largest and most profitable for LNG exporters.
The swift decline in oil prices has the media buzzing about an oil supply glut, Cobb writes. But can oil – which now trades at eight times its price during 1998's glut – be said to be experiencing an oil glut now?
There are no shortage of theories for why oil prices have suddenly collapsed. Ultimately, Cobb writes, the whole issue of oil prices is too complex and too lacking in transparency to be discussed intelligently when it comes to short-term price movements.
Jockeying for oil and natural gas resources are one component of the conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, and elsewhere. A deep reduction in fossil fuel consumption wouldn't make these conflicts disappear, Cobb writes, but they might make them far less dangerous.
New energy extraction methods are touted as an answer to high oil prices, Cobb writes, but they more closely resemble emergency measures designed to forestall an inevitable decline in the world's fossil fuel resources.
The notion that the world will never run out of oil is misleading, writes Kurt Cobb. The real issue is about the rate of oil production.
Burning all the US's landfill waste would provide an extra 33 gigawatts – the equivalent of 33 large electricity generating plants, says Philipp Schmidt-Pathmann, founder of Zero Landfill Initiative. Could trash help power the future?
California has been abuzz for the past couple of years about the prospect of vast new oil wealth supposedly ready for the taking in the Monterey Shale. But new estimates appear to bolster the view that the US shale oil boom will peter out by the end of this decade, Cobb writes.
If President Obama fails to approve the Keystone XL pipeline soon or rejects it outright, the Canadians may challenge the delay or rejection under the provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Cobb writes. This move opens up a politically attractive option on Keystone XL.
US crude oil exports have been offered as a way to help Ukraine and Europe wean off Russian oil as tensions rise in Ukraine. But exporting US oil would do little abroad and have a perverse impact domestically, Cobb writes, leading to greater US imports of foreign oil.
The notion that oil is becoming abundant all over again is contradicted by the levitating price, Cobb writes, and by the evidence that actual worldwide crude oil production is either flat or growing at an infinitesimal rate.
The Ukraine crisis has led many to call on the US to use its growing oil and natural gas production to help Ukraine and Europe wean itself off Russian energy. There's one very big problem with this view, Cobb writes: The US is still a net importer of both oil and natural gas.
Most of us think of ammonia as a pungent household cleaning agent that disinfects and deodorizes, Cobb writes, but ammonia can also be used as a carbon-free, relatively safe form of fuel.
As we develop a renewable-energy economy powered by clean-energy technologies, we must in the meantime find ways to cut down on resource consumption, Cobb writes. Car sharing and other elements of the 'shareable economy' can help.
The hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling used to extract oil from shale deposits is supposed to glut the world with oil and drive down the price. The record so far is not compelling, Cobb writes, and talk of an American energy renaissance is essentially baseless.