Norwegian energy company Statoil said last week it was forming a special operations division to handle emergency operations in response to a terrorist attack on a natural gas facility in Algeria. The company said it would double the amount of employees it had designated for existing security operations after reviewing the measures in place at the In Amenas gas facility. A January attack there left employees with Statoil and BP dead in what al-Qaida said was a response to French intervention in Mali. With the economy just as much a viable target as any, counter-terrorism may becoming more than just the military's game.
A January attack by a division of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb left several energy company employees and foreign fighters dead. The Algerian attack had the logistical support of Islamic fighters who traveled across the western border from Libya, still unsettled nearly two years after the revolution. (Related Article: Open Season on Syria’s Civil War)
Statoil said last week it was forming a special unit in response to the attack as part of a comprehensive response to the tragedy. Operations at In Amenas resumed at a limited capacity after the attack for owners Statoil, BP and Algeria's state energy company Sonatrach. French supermajor said it too was spending more on industry-wide security operations since the January attack. Natural gas production has declined more or less since 2005 for Algeria and lingering instability in the region suggests a turnaround isn't likely in the medium term.
BP said it had its own concerns, noting it was holding back on natural gas projects in the country because of the security situation there. Algerian Energy Minister Youcef Yousfi told a Houston energy conference in March the country "remains a stable country" despite the terrorist attack. He said the country wasn't discouraged by the incident and remained committed to developing its natural gas sector. Algeria has enacted policies that would give foreign investors an incentive to take a closer look at unexplored fields in the country. Algeria in 2011 produced around 2.9 trillion cubic feet of gas and has since worked to return to its previous glory. (Related Article: Why the US government Spies on its own Citizens) ( Continue… )
The Supreme Court blocked the oil and gas industry's challenge to a high-ethanol blend of gasoline Monday, scoring a point for a renewable fuel industry aiming to mix more plant-based materials into the nation's gasoline.
The Supreme Court decision comes as fuelmakers find themselves up against a so-called ethanol "blend wall." Companies struggle to meet federal renewable fuel requirements as a slow economy and more efficient cars push gasoline demand down.
Renewable fuel advocates say the solution is to allow blenders to mix a greater amount of corn-based ethanol into gasoline in order to satisfy the federal standard, reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil, and help curb greenhouse gas emissions. Opponents say the higher blend gasoline can damage today's engines and require large-scale infrastructure updates that would push up prices at the pump.
In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the government's renewable fuel standard, raised the legal volume of ethanol in commercial gasoline from 10 percent (E10) to 15 percent (E15) for use in cars and light trucks from model year 2001 and newer. ( Continue… )
Debate about the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing or fracking usually centers around the potential risks to our water supply from contamination by toxic fracking fluids, which are pumped at high pressure over a mile under the ground to break up gas-bearing shale formations. In recent months, however, there has been renewed controversy over the effect that gas drilling has had on greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Proponents of fracking assert that the boom in natural gas has helped to cut America’s emissions of carbon dioxide, by encouraging coal-burning power plants to switch over to the cheaper and cleaner burning natural gas. CO2 output is now at its lowest level since the early 1990s, due in part to the increasing use of natural gas, and also to greater fuel efficiencies and the slow but steady growth in renewables.
But critics counter that the climate advantage of less CO2 may be canceled out by higher emissions of methane. Natural gas is primarily methane, the most powerful of the greenhouse gases, and the next most abundant in the atmosphere after CO2. The critical question is how much methane leaks during the drilling process, and also subsequently during processing and transport of the gas. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) says that if leak rates are greater than 3 percent of the total output, then fracking may actually be increasing America’s greenhouse gas load rather than diminishing it, as the industry claims.
That’s because methane has anywhere from 20 to 70 times more warming potential than CO2, depending on the time frame that one considers. It is especially damaging in the short term, but has a briefer half-life, leaving the atmosphere quicker than carbon dioxide, so methane’s long-term effects are not as great. ( Continue… )
As Kurdish authorities in Northern Iraq announce they will begin exporting crude oil by pipeline to Turkey as soon as the last link is finished in September, Gulf Keystone Petroleum launches a new exploration round that could reveal the best resource potential in the region.
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Drilling for the company’s first deep well will take an estimated 9 months, and there is a lot of optimism for this play. Gulf Keystone thinks it holds up to 10.5 billion barrels of oil and is targeting 2015 for production of 150,000 barrels per day. (Related Article: Kurdistan: Our Pick for the Next Big Buy Out) ( Continue… )
Suddenly, the gas station looks antique.
Electric carmaker Tesla Motors debuted its much anticipated "battery-swapping" technology Thursday evening, replete with the Silicon-Valley flair we've come to expect from high-tech demos. Two Tesla Model S luxury sedans drove onto a stage at the company's design studio in Hawthorne, Calif., to be "refueled" in less time than it takes to fill up at a gas station.
The question is whether the carwash-like "Tesla stations" will work as well in the real world as they appeared onstage Thursday, and whether drivers will abandon the traditional gas station for the new, costlier technology. A transition to electrified transportation isn't going to happen overnight, if it ever happens at all, and other companies have tried and failed to implement electric battery swaps. But if seeing really is believing, then Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk gave his detractors a lot to think about Thursday evening.
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"Our goal here was to eliminate the objections people had," Mr. Musk said during the presentation. "There are some people that just – they take a lot of convincing, and so what we really want to show here is that you can actually be more convenient [in an electric car] than a gasoline car." ( Continue… )
This is a country that should be a wind and solar power hot spot. Instead, it is one where some one-third of the population does not have access to electricity.
But a new program from the World Bank aims to address the disconnect between developing countries’ abundant renewable resources and lagging progress in harnessing those resources to power economic development. Nine countries, including Pakistan, are set to partner with the World Bank in its Renewable Energy Mapping Program, which is putting $11.6 million toward the gathering of the hard data those countries need to pursue their ambitious sustainability projects. It's an initial step – though probably not a sufficient one – to push developing nations to choose renewable energy sources over fossil fuels.
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Electricity shortages and unreliable water continue to stifle economic progress in many parts of the world – schools cannot open; hospitals struggle; businesses fold; and foreign investment goes elsewhere. Some 1.2 billion people worldwide lack access to electricity, with just 20 countries in Asia and Africa accounting for some two-thirds of those people. ( Continue… )
The natural gas revolution is getting some wheels – and just in time for the gas industry.
Rising use of natural gas in the transportation sector will offset a global slowdown in the growth of natural gas to produce electricity, according to a report released Thursday by the International Energy Agency. That timely boost will mean that America's boom in natural gas is likely to continue for several years, even if the focus begins to shift away from power plants and toward cars and trucks.
Not everyone is convinced natural gas will do for auto companies what it did for utilities. Changing fuels requires an overhaul of existing infrastructure, and natural gas comes with its own set of environmental concerns. In many regions, it is difficult for natural gas to compete with the range, power, and price of gasoline. But natural gas has already proven itself a useful alternative for fueling large vehicle fleets and it's even more attractive in parts of the world where gasoline prices are high.
“Gas is already a major fuel in power generation, but the next five years will also see it emerging as a significant transportation fuel, driven by abundant supplies as well as concerns about oil dependency and air pollution," IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said in a release. "Once the infrastructure barriers are tackled, natural gas has significant potential for clean-energy use in heavy-duty transport where electrification is not possible.” ( Continue… )
No country emits more carbon dioxide than China, but at least some of that heat-trapping gas gets its start in Appalachian mines.
With cleaner-burning natural gas cutting into the their market in the United States, coal companies have found eager customers in the East, fueling urbanizing economies in Asia with cheap steelmaking coal. Coal's future in the US may have dimmed over recent years, but exports are hitting record highs.
It's why coal export terminals are emerging as a flash point in the fight against climate change. Don't be surprised if instead of reading about the Keystone XL pipeline, you are soon inundated with polarizing reports on Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview, the Gateway Pacific Terminal, and the Morrow Pacific Project.
President Obama made a historic visit to Germany this week, sounding more like a candidate with a mandate to lead instead of a president approaching his lame-duck era. During an address to an audience frustrated with U.S. national security policies, the president said the real threat for the 21st Century was climate change. Last year's Hurricane Sandy struck the U.S. East Coast with enough strength to bring most of New York City to its knees and was said to have formed over Atlantic waters that were unseasonably warm. Obama said bold action was needed to take on the best Mother Nature has to offer. A report from the World Bank published before his speech said he better be serious.
Obama said the United States is taking the lead in terms of renewable energy. Carbon emissions are down, the use of renewable energy is up and there are more fuel-efficient cars on U.S. roads. A recovering U.S. economy, meanwhile, means energy consumption is on the rise and with that comes greater concerns about environmental well-being. Storms like so-called Superstorm Sandy, he said, are the face of the new environmental future.
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"This is the global threat of our time. And for the sake of future generations, our generation must move toward a global compact to confront a changing climate before it is too late," he said. "That is our job. That is our task. We have to get to work." ( Continue… )
The issue with the shale gas debate in Europe is that too many people are framing it as an either/or problem. It’s neither black nor white, but one crying out for some gray matter.
A researcher for a BBC program that will remain nameless keeps calling me to sound me out on being on a panel program that purports to answer key environmental issues. The problem is that on a variety of issues, when asked, am I for this, or that, yes or no, the most honest answer I can think of is “That depends”. It isn’t the answer they want to hear, which explains why you haven’t seen me on that show.
Deep thought is the worst response one can give to many journalists. A UK journalist, among other problems, exists in a mediaverse where they are overworked and insecure, although not often underpaid it seems. Newspapers especially are on their last legs, with most UK papers seeing collapsing circulation. Newspapers are now like every other industry. Those who remain to actually make the product have to provide a 24 hour news narrative, often assisted by Internet robots or anchorperson-avatars, where everything is a constant story. The story of shale thus appeals to the believers in the confrontational narrative. Journalists blame their readers for demanding simplistic scenarios, laying the cause as arising from an instant vote Big Brother atmosphere. The reality is they, or their editors, are overwhelmed by the constant need to stoke the news monster with stories that can be explained in two minutes or less. ( Continue… )