If oil and gas is a profoundly dynamic phenomenon, then so too must be environmental risk and conflicts over natural resources—and we are not getting the full picture from the mainstream media, according to Michael T. Klare, professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, TomDispatch blogger, and author of Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy (Metropolitan Books, 2008). As risk multiply, conventional sources evaporate and we are left with “extreme” energy, renewables may be the only way to avoid war and disaster.
In this Tom Dispatch exclusive interview with Oilprice.com, Klare discusses:
• Why we are talking about a “resurgence” of American power
• Why the issue of US natural gas exports is a geopolitical dilemma
• Why Myanmar is important but not critical to the US Asia-Pacific “pivot”
• Why Myanmar IS critical to China
• Why India and Japan are key to the US’ evolving Asia policy
• Why the shale revolution is the number topic around the world
• Why unconventional oil and gas has the unfair advantage
• Why WE don’t need Keystone XL, but the tar sands industry is desperate
• Why the renewables are the only way forward
Interview by James Stafford of Oilprice.com
James Stafford: In a recent article, you opined that "Militarily, culturally, and even to some extent economically, the US remains surprisingly alone on planet Earth in imperial terms, even if little has worked out as planned in Washington." Can you add to this from the perspective of the unconventional oil and gas boom in the US? ( Continue… )
Christof Demont-Heinrich wrote a recent article on SolarChargedDriving.com, about his home solar system, and the threat that squirrels pose to unprotected systems.
In 2010 REC Solar installed a 5.59 kilowatt photovoltaic solar array at Christof’s home. He reports that the system has been working great, but complains about the amount of effort it takes for him to keep his solar panels safe from squirrel attack.
His paranoia began when a neighbour had a similar PV system installed in 2011 (under a lease with Sungevity, whereas Christof bought his panels outright), and he noticed that the installers, Namaste Solar, put in place a squirrel guard (a.k.a chicken wire) around the whole system.
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He then noticed that REC Solar were installing another PV system (on a lease) in Denver in 2012, and unlike his Solar panels, REC were using a squirrel guard. He wonders whether solar companies don’t bother warning customers who buy, about the damage that squirrels may cause to solar arrays, even though they are fully aware of the threat and put up protection when only leasing the panels. (Related article: Solar Power Offers Saudi Arabia a Win-Win Energy Solution) ( Continue… )
I hate the phrase “Innocent until proven guilty.” When serial killer Ted Bundy killed his first victim, he wasn’t innocent just because a court had yet to convict him. The correct phrasing — which practically nobody uses — is “Presumed innocent until proven guilty.” Yet nearly everyone declares that a person is innocent until proven guilty.
Language is important. The way we write and say things is important. I can’t count the number of times I have seen a news headline that would lead most people to conclude something entirely different than what the data actually suggested.
Take the recent release of the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2013. There are a number of key takeaways from the report, and I will be delving deeper into the data in upcoming articles. Some of the important points were: ( Continue… )
In the last week, two news stories really captured the potential future for nuclear energy. The New York Times Matthew Wald reported from Georgia, where construction crews are slowly building the first two new nuclear reactors in thirty years. And National Geographic’s Will Ferguson reported from Tennessee that engineers and scientists are taking core samples and mapping regional geology as part of the early planning stages of building the first small modular nuclear reactor in the world. Both projects face unique challenges, yet they both represent the beginning of two potential nuclear paths for reducing climate-warming carbon emissions in the United States (and potentially the world).
Big-Box Nuclear Energy Innovation in Georgia
The nuclear generators we are all familiar with is physically recognized by large, curved cooling towers and billowing white steam, and pragmatically recognized as a significant source of carbon-free electricity. Big-box nuclear reactors across the United States provide about 19 percent of all electricity.
But for thirty years, the nuclear energy industry has remained stagnant. Due to a mix of factors including more stringent regulation, rising construction costs, falling fossil fuel prices, and the Three Mile Island meltdown, no new nuclear power plants were developed. That changed in 2009, when the Department of Energy provided an $8.3 billion loan guarantee for the Alvin Vogtle nuclear project, aimed at constructing two new reactors. In 2012, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) gave its approval and construction began. Vogtle, along with the two reactors under construction at the Virgil Summer Nuclear Generating Station in South Carolina, represent the “next-generation” of large-scale, traditional nuclear power. ( Continue… )
G8 leaders took on corruption and exploitation in global resource markets at this week's G8 summit.
Many of the world's most valuable resources happen to fall in the poorest places on the planet. Large, multinational companies mine precious oil, gas, and coal from developing African, Asian, and Middle Eastern nations.
That can generate much-needed job growth and infrastructure development, but the exchange isn't always balanced. Host countries are often stripped of commodities for profits to be made halfway around the world. In other cases, corrupt leaders exchange their national resources for their own personal profit.
"Mineral wealth for developing countries should be a blessing, not a curse," British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement last month. "And I urge our G8 partners to champion the same high standards of transparency." ( Continue… )
BP, and the US government, have decided that beaches in Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi are clean enough now compared to just after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, and that BP no longer needs to send out regular patrols to clean the tar from the coastline.
In the three years since the spill, BP has spent $14 billion on clean-up work according to The Huffington Post, and it whilst it has stopped directly searching for oil slicks and tar balls to clean up in the three states mentioned above, it will continue to send out crews in Louisiana, who was more affected by the spill.
Some locals and environmentalists wonder at the decision to stop patrolling the coast, believing that the effects of the spill are still very noticeable in some areas, but Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Natalie Murphy explained that the amounts of oil are minute compared to before, and it has gotten to the stage that the clean-up work itself could actually cause more damage to the environment as it damages habitats and nests for birds and sea turtles. (Related article: No End to BP Settlement Deal)
Compared to 2010, the chemicals smells and thick oil slicks across the sand have gone. On most beaches the white sand no stretches unmarred, for miles along Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi. ( Continue… )
In my opinion, too much emphasis has been placed on the alleged strength of public opposition to shale as rationale for not investing. The entrance of Centrica is ironic, given their past statements on shale, but the fact they changed their mind is the key point today. With an eventual commitment of £160 million, the value of the entire company is over $1 billion.
Some, I’m among them, may say Centrica are getting a great bargain, but $1BN is nevertheless a great price for what is still a prospective play. Centrica have essentially anted up, and put a value on European shale assets. Because the M+A between the minnows of European shale gas has been so limited, assessing value has been problematic. Someone serious, putting serious money on the table, is going to bring other players into the game. Centrica’s investment puts down a marker, or benchmark, as to what other assets might be worth.
If you've ever looked at the elements that create the images in a kaleidoscope, they are unremarkable: pebbles, beads and bits of colored glass, all mixed together. But when seen through the viewing end of the device, this mixture creates the illusion of pleasing, colorful and multiple identical designs where, in fact, there are none. It's done with mirrors; and the illusion is convincing to the eye as it looks through the narrow tube that connects it with the mirrors and the colored items on the other end.
Like children looking through a kaleidoscope who are unaware of its actual workings, the media and the public have been misled into believing that early production results in the shale natural gas and tight oil formations in the United States will be repeated again and again across the United States and the world. This has led to exuberant forecasts of energy independence for the United States, an end to the dominance of OPEC in world oil supplies, and fossil fuel abundance for decades to come.
Two important trends cast doubt on this naive view. First, in the United States, home of the hydraulic fracturing "miracle," domestic natural gas production has been flat since January 2012. The shale gas revolution may well be over in the United States as the current production level becomes increasingly difficult to maintain in the face of ferocious decline rates for shale gas wells--rates that range between 79 to 95 percent after just three years according to a comprehensive survey of 65,000 oil and gas wells in 31 U.S. shale plays. This means that at least 79 percent of all shale gas production must be replaced every three years just to keep shale gas production flat! With shale gas making up more than 34 percent of all U.S. production in 2011, merely keeping overall domestic production stable will be a formidable task and, given these decline rates, one with no historical precedent.
Further undermining the abundance narrative, U.S. crude oil production has gone almost flat since October 2012. This is not a long enough period to indicate anything definitive about the trajectory of domestic crude production. But, it comes at a time when reports from newer tight oil plays in Ohio and Colorado have proved hugely disappointing. Ohio pumped just 700,000 barrels of oil from its tight oil fields for all of 2012, an amount being pumped daily from the same kind of fields in North Dakota. In Colorado several years of development of tight oil have only been able to raise production statewide by about 100,000 barrels per day. ( Continue… )
Finally, there's a reason to feel good about sitting in coach.
Packed elbow to elbow with fellow passengers, knees pressed against the seat in front of you, you occupy less space. That translates to more passengers per plane and thus fewer carbon emissions per passenger, according to a study published last month by the World Bank. The economy in "economy class" is as environmental as it is financial.
First-class fliers, by contrast, have a carbon footprint that's as much as seven times larger than the average passenger's, according to the World Bank's study. Not only do first-class passengers take up more space, those first-class seats are also more likely to remain unfilled than economy seats.
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The study comes as airliners push the envelop of luxurious accommodations, while simultaneously aiming to 'green' their operations. Those goals appear paradoxical. Can travelers enjoy the comforts of modern air travel without the guilt of the contrails they leave behind? ( Continue… )
Oil and gas companies have begun to struggle to grow due to their inability to find skilled workers; and tactics such as offering large bonuses and building high-tech training facilities, have not helped.
Maersk Group, the giant energy and shipping company, is trying a new technique to train and encourage new work staff; it is offering a video game called “Quest for Oil: A Sub Surface Gaming Experience.”
In the game the player must make similar decisions to an oil executive in the real world. He must locate and drill into deep oil reserves situated in extreme environments, which vary from the cold, dangerous North Sea, to the blazing heat of the Qatari dessert. Gamers must explore the rocks, use 3D seismic maps, secure licenses, use realistic advice from a team of advisors, and reach production targets faster than their opponents. (Related article: NRG Lures Shareholders with Renewable IPO)
The true aim of the game? The players who earn the highest scores could land a job at Maersk! ( Continue… )