Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Oil isn't running out: expert
As car makers race to wean themselves off the world's dwindling supplies of oil, an academic in the United States has made the startling claim that we may be facing an oil glut.
Energy expert - and former oil industry executive - Leonardo Maugeri has authored a report that claims oil production will actually increase in the coming years, flying in the face of theories that suggest there will be a "peak oil" scenario in the foreseeable future.
Maugeri's report, published by the Belfer Center at Harvard University, states: "contrary to what most people believe, oil supply capacity is growing worldwide at such an unprecedented level that it might outpace consumption."
Maugeri's explanation for his claims comes from broader use of existing technologies in drilling for oil, including horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracking. He claims that oil production may ramp up by 20 per cent over the next eight years, and there may even be a "collapse" in oil prices, and, in turn, lower prices for fuel from about 2015.
The claims - if correct - could lead to a huge turnaround in the way the car industry is currently developing future models. Every major car manufacturer is investing heavily in alternative fuel technology, with electric cars, hybrids and hydrogen fuel-cell models all possible options for future mobility.
Electric cars are already struggling to establish themselves as mainstream alternatives to petrol, with high prices, limited infrastructure and customer concerns about range hampering acceptance.
Unsurprisingly, a recent report from the US National Petroleum Council backs the findings of Maugeri. It says petrol and diesel engines: "are likely to be the dominant propulsion systems for decades to come, with liquid fuel blends continuing to play a significant, but reduced role".
The study found that infrastructure and technology barriers – as well as high costs – would delay any mass-scale transition to alternative fuels.
The Petroleum Council also suggested that governments shouldn't invest too heavily in alternative fuels, instead suggesting that commercial interests should drive any change.
"There is a great deal of uncertainty regarding which individual fuel-vehicle systems will overcome technology hurdles to become economically and environmentally attractive by 2050," the study said. "Therefore, government policies should be technology neutral while market dynamics drive commercialisation."
In praise of packaging
The proposal to require 'plain' packaging for tobacco products has now completed its consultations. The ASI submitted evidence against plain packaging, and we published Chris Snowdon's report on the subject.
The case for plain packaging is weak since it has not been tried anywhere. Proponents claim that glitzy packaging leads people to take up smoking, whereas the tobacco companies say it is about promoting their brands over others. Supporters cite tests in which subjects said they felt 'negative' about cigarettes in plain packs. I myself would feel pretty negative about having to look at other people's packs showing tumours and corpses.
Counterfeiting and smuggling would be easier with plain packaging, reducing tax revenues. Already one cigarette in nine is smuggled or fake. The civil liberties issue makes a strong case against plain packaging. Although proponents tell us that it will only apply to tobacco products, activists in Australia, which took the lead in plain packaging laws, are now campaigning for graphic warnings on alcohol and for what they deem to be 'junk' food to be sold in generic packaging.
Packaging can influence choice of brand by projecting an image that users want to identify with. The feelings that go with a product are part of the intangible value that it adds. Malt whisky in India is seen as an 'aspirational' product associated with success and ambition. Young Indians enjoy feeling part of that world, in addition to enjoying the whisky itself. Similarly tobacco companies like to project an image for their brands. Friends of mine who started Regius Cigars wanted to convey an image of top quality, and designed distinctive packaging in black and gold. Plain packaging would require them to forego the distinctive imagery that marks out their brand and gives it class.
I applaud the New World vintners for the innovative and bold wine labels they have adopted. They brighten up the table, and I doubt they make people drink more wine. I do think that putting disgusting pictures on them would make people 'negative' toward them, however.
It would be a duller world if everything activists thought bad for us had to be sold in plain packaging. It would be less informative, and would deny us the intangible pleasures of associating with images and lifestyles we aspire to be part of. It would be a drabber world and one considerably less free.
Another "Green" car goes up in flames
In yet another example of a federally funded “green energy” failure, Fisker has confirmed that its Karma hybrid “burst into flames” in a California parking lot last Friday, in the words of Reuters.
The car was not charging at the time, and Fisker said the fire was not caused by problems with the vehicle’s lithium-ion battery pack, new technology components or exhaust routing.
A Fisker Karma driver from Woodside, California parked his hybrid at the grocery store… and after grabbing the items he needed, returned to the parking lot to find that his vehicle was on fire.
He called the manufacturer immediately, who then told him to call 911. The Woodside Fire Department arrived to put out the fire, saying there was considerable damage to the front left area of the car.
Fisker Automotive’s Karma is a plug-in hybrid luxury sports sedan that goes for about $102,000 and up.
This fire is the second occurrence this year. Back in May 2012, a Karma plug-in was held responsible for a house fire in Houston, Texas. Before that, Fisker and A123 Systems, which is the battery maker for Fisker’s Karma, recalled over 200 batteries for the Karma. No fires had occurred at that point yet, but A123 Systems said that a poorly positioned hose clamp could potentially be the cause of such issues.
Fisker is currently investigating the cause of the fire, but does not yet have any concrete answers.
According to the New York Times, the government approved $529 million in guaranteed loans for the company, but it has still struggled to maintain its workforce, laying off 66 workers earlier this year.
Commenters have noted a number of interesting aspects about the story. “Ironic isn’t it? They put all their money in a car to have zero emissions. Now how [many pollutants] are being expelled as it burns?” one asked.
A Jalopnik reader added: “Wait. His first response to ‘oh dear, my exceedingly expensive car is on fire’ was to CALL FISKER? That…Is just not even something I can comprehend.”
Gov. Romney’s Statements on Global Warming Allow for Greater Scientific Skepticism
Gov. Mitt Romney has been talking a good game on energy policy. He will approve the Keystone XL Pipeline on his first day in office, and opposes the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulation of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) through the Clean Air Act. Those are all good signs from a free-market point of view.
But where the concept of man-made global warming is concerned, the Republican presidential nominee is not exactly a skeptic. In fact, as Investors Business Daily noted in an editorial, Romney once sought out advice from no less than President Obama’s science czar John Holdren, an anti-population zealot.
“Why Gov. Romney, a reasonable person, would pick such a man to advise him on anything is beyond us,” IBD lamented.
Although Romney has been sharply critical of anti-energy schemes advanced in the name of global warming, he has been reticent to challenge research that has been used to rationalize the policy proposals. This approach is problematic because it allows discredited global warming alarmists to frame the debate, Marc Morano, the editor of Climate Depot, has repeatedly warned.
Since it is always possible to cajole the political class and frighten the public into action that may not be in their best interests, Morano has long argued that free market groups should challenge environmentalists not only on economics, but also on the science.
“Obviously the economic side is very critical to the debate, but to uproot the environmental agenda you have to take on the science,” Morano has said.
In his 2010 book, “No Apology: The Case for American Greatness,” Romney wrote “I believe that climate change is occurring — the reduction in the size of global ice caps is hard to ignore. I also believe that human activity is a contributing factor. I am uncertain how much of the warming, however, is attributable to factors out of our control.”
In subsequent interviews and statements, Romney has hued close to this position.
At a campaign stop in Pittsburgh, Pa., for example, the Republican candidate said the following when asked about global warming.
“My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet,” he said. “And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us. My view with regards to energy policy is pretty straightforward. I want us to become energy secure and independent of the oil cartels. And that means let’s aggressively develop our oil, our gas, our coal, our nuclear power.”
Since he has been careful to stop short of embracing alarmist rhetoric, there is ample opportunity for Romney to gravitate more in the direction of well-credentialed scientific skeptics who have been vindicated in recent months.
Morano, reports on his web site that over 1,000 scientists from across the globe are on record challenging the theory of man-made global warming. Moreover, there is the unfolding “climategate” scandal implicating researchers at the University of East Anglia in Great Britain.
This means the debate has shifted dramatically from where it was just a few months ago.
Within the skeptical scientific community, there are a range of views including some that closely correlate Romney’s recent statements. There are skeptics, for instance, who accept the idea that humanity has had some influence on the environment, but that influence stops well short of inducing catastrophic climate change, they have argued.
That should be where Romney goes. He is in position to gravitate toward a skeptical stance that questions the premise of man-made global warming theories. It would be both politically shrewd and scientifically sound.
Energy Resources Too Important To Waste
As state and federal lawmakers debate the country’s energy policies and Colorado’s role in the ever-expanding energy economy, let’s hope they remember that unnecessary regulations stifle growth while doing nothing for public safety or health. They would also be wise to listen to voter dissatisfaction regarding overly-burdensome regulations.
Every time Washington regulators pass down another heavy-handed rule or levy another hefty fine, Colorado loses potential jobs, revenue, and economic security. Our state has the resources to play a major role in the nation’s drive for cheap domestic energy, and it’s a shame when lawmakers get in the way.
The Centennial State is home to ten of the 100 largest natural gas fields in the United States, and three of the 100 largest oil fields. Increased production in Colorado’s Front Range is also expected to produce at least $50 million a year in tax revenue for the state.
Colorado’s collective shale deposits contain somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 trillion barrels of oil. That’s almost as much as the entire world’s proven oil reserves!
The benefits of these resources are real and tangible. In 2008, the refining industry employed about 570 people in Colorado. Those workers earned, on average, an annual pay of more than $150,000. In 2009, the oil and natural gas industries accounted for more than $10.2 billion in labor income, and contributed more than $20.4 billion to the state’s economy. It’s also worth pointing out that for every one oil industry-related job that is created in Colorado, another 3.3 jobs are created in related industries like trucking and pipeline construction.
What’s more – the refining, petrochemical, oil and gas industries have done a remarkable job of reducing their overall emissions by 71 percent since 1970. But despite this progress, new government regulations are imposing significant costs on business and consumers. Those costs will inevitably outweigh any potential environmental benefits by making it harder for energy producers and manufacturers to stay in business, which in turn threatens jobs and risks the long-term health of our nation’s economy.
Fortunately, most Americans embrace common-sense thinking when it comes to unnecessary regulatory burdens. In a national poll of likely voters conducted by MWR Strategies, 87 percent of Americans believe the federal government should allow enough time to determine if already-existing regulations are effective before trying to add more.
The survey also showed that most Americans harbor a deep skepticism of the federal regulatory process, with 89 percent of respondents saying that federal bureaucracy does a poor job of assessing the negative unintended consequences of regulations.
Even more telling is that fact that 77 percent said that federal bureaucrats need to adopt a more reasonable approach to the regulatory process. Another 65 percent agreed regulations usually come with more costs than benefits.
If those survey results seem surprising, they shouldn’t be. Consumers are affected every day by Washington’s heavy-handed regulatory process. Americans regularly pay more at the gas pump because of short-sighted regulations that require every gallon of gas to be blended with more and more corn-based ethanol. Ethanol is more expensive to make than petroleum-based gasoline and is less fuel efficient, which means higher gas prices and more trips to the pump to fill up our tanks.
The ethanol requirement is even more frustrating considering that while a major drought ravages the Midwest, nearly 40 percent of the nation’s corn crop this year will be committed to fulfill the ethanol mandate. That is, unless the EPA issues a waiver, which it shows no indication of doing. It makes little sense to continue diverting that much corn to make ethanol considering the impact rising corn prices have on every day consumer products. Frankly, we’d be much better off without it.
Coloradans need to work with policymakers in Washington to prevent unnecessary regulations from hindering growth in our vital oil and gas industries. Colorado ranks tenth among the 50 states in oil production, which is why it’s imperative we don’t let our resources go to waste.
Obama's Dirty Energy List
During a recent trip to Washington DC, I heard that “by the end of his second term, President Obama wants 40% of our natural resources to be imported.” Like Harry Reid’s “Bain Capital investor,” my source is reliable: a Capitol Hill staffer. While I do not have a secret White House memo to validate the premise, it explains a lot.
During his 2008 campaign, candidate Obama made it clear that he doesn’t have a problem with $4-a-gallon gas. His Energy Secretary is on record as having said that he thinks our gasoline prices should be more in line with those of Europe—which are typically more than double ours in the US. We know that supply issues are one of the leading drivers of higher gasoline prices, yet Obama’s policy decisions—such as Keystone—lead to reducing the resource.
In his first campaign ad of the season, President Obama touted his record on oil, claiming that we have more domestic production in America than at any time in recent history. While this is true, it is not thanks to his policies. The majority of the oil extraction is on private land, mostly thanks to North Dakota’s Bakken Field. The development that is being done on federal lands is thanks to leases made and wells permitted during the Bush administration.
New oil and gas leases and permits on federal land are down 50% under the Obama administration compared to the Clinton administration. Because of the time it takes to bring a federal lease into production (5-10 years)—especially with the Obama Department of Interior policies, he is likely setting the US up for an oil shortage (even without Middle Eastern unrest) by the end of a potential second term that will send gasoline prices past his acceptable $4 a gallon, toward Secretary Chu’s “European levels.” With a dearth of new American oil development, we’ll need to import more from places like Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela.
Candidate Obama’s comment about bankrupting anyone wanting to build a coal-fueled power plant is now widely known. His EPA’s actions surely support the statement as we are seeing record power plant closures. But it is not just power generation that is under attack, it is the extraction of the source fuel: coal, as well. Earlier this year, the EPA’s decision to pull a legally issued coal-mining permit that had been through years of environmental impact studies and analysis was overturned by the US District Court. Last week, his EPA was shot down once again. On July 31, the DC district court sided with coal miners. The decision declared that the EPA’s insistence that water discharged from a coal mine be clearer than bottled water was an overreach and should not hold up new mining permits.
While blocking new coal mining will probably not cause the US to import coal, it will prevent us from exporting it. Currently coal is a major export—one of our few exports—that helps bring a balancing element to our trade deficit.
Rare Earth Elements
On March 13, President Obama announced that the US was joining with Japan and the European Union to file a trade complaint before the World Trade Organization in Brussels to insure that China keeps exporting rare-earth elements. These unique elements, with names like neodymium, europium and dysprosium are what the Japanese call the “seeds of technology” due to their astounding electrical, magnetic, phosphorescent, catalytic and chemical capabilities. While most Americans are unaware of their existence, rare earths enable everything high-tech we use today—from MRIs, cellphones and iPods to hybrid automobiles and wind turbines—and are extremely important to today’s high-tech defense capabilities.
President Obama is going after China because the Chinese produce more than 95% of all rare earths used in the world by high-tech industry, while sitting on only 23% of the world’s resources. Obama insists that the Chinese continue to ship rare earths to the rest of the world’s economies despite the fact that the Chinese require the use of essentially all of their rare-earth production in Chinese industries.
The Chinese had announced, in 2011, they could become net importers of some of the most critical rare earths by 2015. But in July, they said they would be importers a year sooner—in 2014. And on top of that, the Chinese are creating a national rare-earths stockpile, shutting down production from the worst polluters, and tacking on higher tariffs for those rare earths they will export.
We don’t need a protracted legal hassle in Brussels that won’t produce a single American job or a pound of rare earth produced from America. The solution is streamlined and accelerated permitting, recognizing that American miners and manufacturers employ the world’s best environmental scientists and engineers and geologists. Instead of paying lawyers to push paper in Brussels, we need to be creating jobs from mining and the upgrading of rare earths in America, providing a secure domestic source of these vital “seeds of technology.”
Early in President Obama’s first term, he announced his intention to increase the quantity of national monuments and introduced a new “wild lands” designation—both of which serve to limit the extraction of natural resources. Two such cases I’ve repeatedly addressed are the proposed tungsten mine in Montana and the swath of land that extends from the Mexican border up into rich farming/ranching land that also includes potential oil, gas, and rare-earth extraction in New Mexico.
In the Montana case, the Forest Service continually throws obstacles to extraction in the way of potential mining activity. Because the tungsten—needed for the manufacture of steel—is located in an inventoried roadless area, the Forest Service has mandated that, among other things, the site must be cleared and, later reclaimed, with hand tools. The drilling equipment must be hauled to the site with a team of pack mules which must be fed certified weed-free hay—all this to move equipment less than 1000 feet from a Forest Service road. If the case were not so tragic, so representative of similar stories being played out all over America, it would be comical.
In the New Mexico case, ranchers and farmers fear being thrown off of land that has been in their family for generations. With a simple stroke of President Obama’s executive-order pen he could remove 2.5 million acres—though 600,000 is the number generally bandied about—from any economic development or useful purpose by creating a new national monument.
Currently the verbiage coming out of the White House favors natural gas extraction—but actions speak louder than words. America’s newfound natural gas abundance is made possible through the use of multi-stage hydraulic fracturing—which Obama’s EPA has, unsuccessfully, been trying to link to the contamination of drinking water. Plus, we know that much of Obama’s energy policy is driven by an environmentalist agenda—with the Keystone pipeline being the most obvious example.
A few weeks ago, the Sierra Club announced its “Beyond Natural Gas” campaign attacking natural gas, saying “The natural gas industry is dirty, dangerous and running amok,” and “the closer we look at natural gas, the dirtier it appears; and the less of it we burn, the better off we will be.” With this in mind, by the end of an Obama second term, we can expect the availability of natural gas to be diminished—and what we will have will be far more expensive, driving up the price of what is currently low-cost electricity generation.
We may not think of electricity as a natural resource, but effective, efficient, economical electricity generation requires natural resources: coal, natural gas, uranium, and, occasionally, oil. Uranium is the source fuel for nuclear power and we have an abundance of it in America—yet we import more than 90% of what we use. A couple of days ago, it was announced that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission “would stop issuing licenses for nuclear plants until it addresses problems with its nuclear-waste policy.” The “problems with nuclear-waste” are a direct result of White House policy. The Obama administration effectively shut down Yucca Mountain with a 2009 decision to reduce Yucca Mountain’s budget. This new problem for nuclear power has the potential to impact many US reactors.
In Germany, they used to export their nuclear-generated electricity. Since they shut down nearly half of their reactors, they are importing electricity from other countries.
Former Obama adviser Austan Goolsbee has been out talking about getting the economy “revved up.” Part of his solution? “More exports.” Yet, as you can see, the Obama plan seems to call for more natural resource imports. 40% by 2016 adds up.
The countries with the best human health and the most material wealth are the countries with the highest energy consumption. So, why is it that Obama’s policies push us to use less energy, while paying more for it?
As we head toward the November 6 Election Day, keep in mind the stark contrast the satellite photo of the Korean Peninsula at night points out—the country without freedom, North Korea, is dark. With nothing separating them but an invisible line and a vastly different style of government, South Korea, the free-market, democratic, and developed country is bright.
Which do you want?
Do you want a bright future badly enough to step out of your comfort zone and talk to friends, family and neighbors; to talk to them about energy and its importance? Take the points made here and share them in good, old-fashioned conversations, and through new media like Facebook and Twitter.
We are down to 86 days to save America. Can we do it? With your engagement, “yes, we can!”
For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here
Posted by JR at 12:36 AM