Topic A: Energy - Analysis, discussion & commentary on energy exploration, development and innovation
Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 18, 2014

Texas Feud Over Climate Education Reflects National Battle

Clare Foran of the National Journal reports on a Texas Board of Education proposal to introduce textbooks that “teach climate-science doubt—presenting the link between greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity and global warming as an unsubstantiated and controversial theory.”

“The skirmish over Texas textbooks is part of a national battle over climate education.”

“Science-education activists are pushing states to adopt a new set of science standards that reflect the scientific consensus on global warming, rather than the popular controversy. The academic framework, known as the Next Generation Science Standards, has been endorsed by organizations such as the National Science Teachers Association and the American Meteorological Society.”

“But the standards have faced intense pushback from conservatives and tea-party groups in a number of states. Earlier this year, Wyoming legislators blocked the standards due to the climate-change requirement. South Carolina’s Legislature also passed a bill that would prohibit the standards from being adopted.”

“The Lone Star State adopted its own set of science guidelines in 2009—so for now there’s no room for debate. But a fight over how climate change should be taught in schools continues to rage in Texas. The focus has just shifted from standards to textbooks.”

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The ‘Greenwashing’ of Big Business

Naomi Klein, writing in The Guardian, asks why humanity is incapable of taking collective, substantive action on climate change.

“What is wrong with us? I think the answer is far more simple than many have led us to believe: we have not done the things needed to cut emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have struggled to find a way out of this crisis. We are stuck, because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe – and benefit the vast majority – are threatening to an elite minority with a stranglehold over our economy, political process and media.”

“It is our collective misfortune that governments and scientists began talking seriously about radical cuts to greenhouse gas emissions in 1988 – the exact year that marked the dawning of ‘globalization.’”

“What the climate needs now is a contraction in humanity’s use of resources; what our economic model demands is unfettered expansion. Only one of these sets of rules can be changed, and it’s not the laws of nature.”

WY May Face EPA Ozone Violations

The Casper Star-Tribune reports that “as many as eight Wyoming counties could exceed the federal standard for safe air quality if, as expected, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposes lowering its threshold on ozone pollution later this year.

“Many factors remain undetermined. EPA will not finalize the rule until 2015. Then it needs to embark on a new round of air quality monitoring before determining what regions are in violation of the new standard. Exceptional events — those rare high pollution days that skew an area’s air quality averages — also need to be accounted for before a decision is made.”

The piece continues: “Environmentalists said that news should be a call to action, prompting the state to improve its air quality before the federal government forces it do so. State officials said it is too early to tell where EPA is headed, but added they are monitoring the discussions. And a top oil and gas lobbyist questioned the revision altogether, asking how much more Wyoming can reasonably be expected to improve the quality of its air.”

Does ‘Environmental Extremism’ Threaten Canadian Energy?

The Toronto Globe and Mail reports that “RCMP analysts have warned government and industry that environmental extremists pose a “clear and present criminal threat” to Canada’s energy sector, and are more likely to strike at critical infrastructure than religiously inspired terrorists, according to a report released under Access to Information.”

“Written by the force’s critical infrastructure intelligence team, the 22-page RCMP document argues there is a ‘growing criminal phenomenon’ associated with environmentalism that aims to interfere with regulatory reviews and force companies to forego development.”

Cost of Keystone XL Pipeline In South Dakota More Than Doubles

Reuters reports that “the cost of the South Dakota portion of TransCanada Corp’s Keystone XL pipeline has more than doubled to $1.974 billion in the last four years the project has awaited federal approval, the company said in a petition filed with the state Public Utilities Commission on Monday.”

The leap in costs from the previous 2010 estimate of $921.4 million is due to factors including the protracted regulatory process, inflation, currency changes, labour cost increases and materials storage, TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard said.”

“The project to build the 1,179 mile (1,900-km) pipeline to carry 830,000 barrels per day of Canadian crude from Alberta’s oil sands to the Gulf Coast, is in its sixth year of waiting for a U.S. permit after running into fierce environmental opposition.”

Study: Fracking Didn’t Cause Tainted Water

The New York Times reports that “a study of tainted drinking water in areas where natural gas is produced from shale shows that the contamination is most likely caused by leaky wells rather than the process of hydraulic fracturing used to release the gas from the rock.”

“The study looked at seven cases in Pennsylvania and one in Texas where water wells had been contaminated by methane and other hydrocarbon gases. Both states have extensive deposits of gas-bearing shale that have been exploited in recent years as part of a surge in domestic energy production. Some environmental groups have suggested that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, could cause the gas to migrate into drinking water aquifers.”

The piece continues: “…in their analysis, published Monday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers found no evidence that fractured shale led to water contamination. Instead, they said cement used to seal the outside of the vertical wells, or steel tubing used to line them, was at fault, leading to gas leaking up the wells and into aquifers.”

Adds Fuel Fix: “Contrary to some suspicions, the researchers found, methane in the water reservoirs did not seep up from horizontal drills working deep underground. Instead, the gas leaked from a source much closer to the water: faulty casings and cement rings used to insulate the central shaft of a gas well.”

“The results, the researchers said, help clarify the industry’s role in water pollution.”

Can We Have ‘Energy Independence’ and Climate Change?

The New Republic runs a piece titled: “‘Energy Independence’ will Destroy the Planet: U.S. politicians are fooling themselves on climate change.”

The piece argues that “we are now entering a new era of climate schizophrenia, with energy policy that accelerates climate change celebrated as a solution to global warming.”

“As the costs of fossil-fueled global warming grow, our leaders are accelerating the extraction of carbon reserves.”

Report: Lifting U.S. Oil Export Ban Would Generate Economic Opportunities

The Energy Security Initiative at Brookings released a new report titled “Changing Markets: Economic Opportunities from Lifting the U.S. Ban on Crude Oil Exports.” The report “shows categorically that the crude oil export ban does not, and for some time has not, advanced U.S. energy security. Despite these policies (not because of them), the U.S. has swung from an abundance of oil supply, to scarcity and, today, back to abundance.”

According to Brookings: “Lifting the ban significantly enhances U.S. energy security in several ways. Allowing U.S. producers to connect to global price signals will generate expansion of U.S. oil production, securing self-sufficiency in light grades of oil. By encouraging this production of light grades of oil, the U.S. increases global diversity of oil supply, while reducing the volatility of global crude oil prices. The U.S. has the opportunity to create a source of diversification to the global oil supply and create a more competitive oil market which will not only lower the global price of crude, but also enhances U.S. energy security.”

Further: “…our analysis demonstrates that lifting the ban will increase U.S. oil production, diversify global supply, reduce U.S. gasoline prices and provide net benefits to the U.S. economy. An export option is indispensable to sustaining domestic production; absent the price support that exposure to international markets provides, U.S. production will not reach its full potential. Keeping the ban in place will forgo these benefits and likely lead to reduced production and by implication less national income, employment and security. We find that it would be unwise to base national policy on protecting a small subset of U.S. refiners and question how sustainable a business model based on artificially suppressed input prices can be.”

As a sidebar, Brookings also offers “8 Facts About U.S. Crude Oil Exports,” including:

  • “In all three cases — delaying lifting the ban until 2015, lifting the ban only on condensates or lifting the ban entirely — there are positive percentage change impacts on GDP throughout the model horizon.”
  • “U.S. gas prices could decline by $0.09 per gallon in 2015 if the ban is lifted entirely.”
  • “ Removing oil export constraints will enhance U.S. energy security.”

Oklahoma Oil Hub Gains with Additional Pipelines

The Associated Press reports that “new pipeline projects are expanding the size of an Oklahoma crude oil hub that is already one of the most important oil storage facilities in the world.”

“One new pipeline is in operation at the hub in Cushing, another is almost complete and a new project was announced earlier this month when Tulsa-based NGL Energy Partners revealed plans for the Grand Mesa Pipeline, a joint venture with Rimrock Midstream LLC, the Tulsa World reported Saturday.”

“Grand Mesa, which will be open to oil producer commitments starting next week, will be a 550-mile system from Colorado to Cushing. Once completed, the pipeline could move more than 130,000 barrels per day from production.”

More Oil Growth for ND

Reuters reports that “North Dakota’s daily oil production jumped 5 percent in July to an all-time high, though the number was lower than expected as producers worked to meet aggressive flaring-reduction targets, state regulators said on Friday.”

“The production numbers, which have been steadily rising for years, highlight the massive investments Hess Corp, Whiting Petroleum Corp and other companies are making to develop the state’s oil-rich Bakken and Three Forks shale formations and others.”

Global Push for Solar, Wind Power Stretches Utilities

The New York Times reports that “Germany’s relentless push into renewable energy has implications far beyond its shores. By creating huge demand for wind turbines and especially for solar panels, it has helped lure big Chinese manufacturers into the market, and that combination is driving down costs faster than almost anyone thought possible just a few years ago.”

“Electric utility executives all over the world are watching nervously as technologies they once dismissed as irrelevant begin to threaten their long-established business plans. Fights are erupting across the United States over the future rules for renewable power. Many poor countries, once intent on building coal-fired power plants to bring electricity to their people, are discussing whether they might leapfrog the fossil age and build clean grids from the outset.”

“A reckoning is at hand, and nowhere is that clearer than in Germany. Even as the country sets records nearly every month for renewable power production, the changes have devastated its utility companies, whose profits from power generation have collapsed.”

Oil Industry Says Administration Playing Politics with Ethanol Rules

Fuel Fix reports that “an oil industry trade group unveiled its latest attack ads on the nation’s renewable fuels policy, accusing the Obama administration of ‘playing politics’ with a mandate to blend more ethanol into gasoline.”

“The American Petroleum Institute said Thursday it fears the Environmental Protection Agency will boost ethanol requirements to help a Democrat locked in a close U.S. Senate race in Iowa — a corn-growing state that benefits from the mandate because most U.S. ethanol is made from corn.”

“U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, an Iowa Democrat running to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, last month sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget urging the administration to reconsider plans announced earlier this year to roll back the blending requirements.”

IEA: US Shale Squeezes Saudi Oil Imports, Boost Gasoline Exports

Rigzone reports that “North America’s shale oil boom has started to squeeze Saudi Arabian oil out of the U.S. market in the same way it did with West African crude, the West’s energy agency said on Thursday.”

“The International Energy Agency also predicted a flood of U.S. gasoline exports to world market.”

Ukraine Looks West for Gas

The New York Times writes that “keeping Ukraine warm keeps Andriy Kobolev up at night.”

“Mr. Kobolev, the head of Ukraine’s state energy company, Naftogaz, is scrambling to keep gas flowing into his country as winter looms. Russia’s energy giant, Gazprom, had provided a little more than half of Ukraine’s total gas supply, but suspended its shipments in June in the face of fighting in eastern Ukraine between Russian separatists and the Ukrainian military, citing a price dispute. Europe — itself dependent on Russia but also expanding sanctions on the country — has not been able to fill the gap.”

“That means Ukraine will have to cut its energy use sharply or risk running dry, which could lead to more civilian deaths when the weather turns cold, and could further batter the country’s economy.”

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Hit Record High

The Carbon Brief: “Greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere reached a record high in 2013, according to the latest measurements by the World Meteorological Organisation.”

“The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached 396 parts per million (ppm) – 42 per cent higher than pre-industrial levels.”

wmo co2 increase 550x408 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Hit Record High

“WMO measurements revealed an increase in global carbon dioxide concentrations from 2012 to 2013 of almost 3 ppm. This is larger than recent annual increases of around 2.1 ppm and the largest annual increase since 1984.”

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