Thursday, May 16, 2013

Interior Department Spends $472,150 to Train Fish to ‘Recognize and Avoid Predators’

Worthy of Ripley, as they used to say

The Department of Interior is providing $472,150 grant funding to increase the survival of two endangered fish species by “training” them to “recognize and avoid predators.”

“The objective of the proposed project is to determine if training increases Bonytail and Razorback Sucker survival when exposed to predators,” the grant abstract states. “This proposal builds upon the 2012 Bureau of Reclamation assistance agreement with the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) tasked with investigating the potential for training Bonytail and Razorback Suckers to recognize and avoid predators.

“One of the early conclusions of the prior work is that the schooling behavior of Bonytail may allow untrained fish to show improved survival because they recognize predator avoidance behaviors exhibited by trained individuals,” the abstract states.

The funds, announced on on May 9, 2013 and set for a June 22, 2013 activation, will be given to the Bureau of Reclamation, Lower Colorado Region. The two species – Bonytail minnow and Razorback Sucker – are found in the Colorado River.

The grant abstract says that the funding is for the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program, and the Habitat Conservation Plan.

The abstract gives the three “components” of the almost half-a-million dollar project:

1) Pond restoration

2) Intensive predator avoidance training and marking

3) Remote sensing of marked fish to assess short-term post-training survival

“The effort will be coordinated with Valle Vista Golf Course (VVGC) in Kingman, Arizona, with whom AZGFD is establishing a long-term memorandum of agreement,” the abstract states. “The VVGC will provide a location for the ponds and access to the site for experimentation purposes.”

Inquiries by to the Grants Officer in charge of the project seeking details about how fish are trained were not answered.


US shale oil supply shock shifts global power balance

Even the BBC (below) says so

A steeper-than-expected rise in US shale oil reserves is about to change the global balance of power between new and existing producers, a report says.

Over the next five years, the US will account for a third of new oil supplies, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).  The US will change from the world's leading importer of oil to a net exporter.

Demand for oil from Middle-East oil producers is set to slow as a result.

"North America has set off a supply shock that is sending ripples throughout the world," said IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven.

Canadian oil sands production is also contributing to the "supply shock", the IEA said.

The surge in US production will reshape the whole industry, according to the IEA, which made the prediction in its closely-watched bi-annual report examining trends in oil supply and demand over the next five years.

The IEA said it expected the US to overtake Russia as the world's biggest gas producer by 2015 and to become "all but self-sufficient" in its energy needs by about 2035.

The rise in US production means the world's reliance on oil from traditional oil producing countries in the Middle East, which make up Opec (the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries), would end soon, according to the report.
Slower growth

US production is set to grow to a level that is some 3.9 million barrels of oil per day (bpd) higher in 2018 than it was in 2012, accounting for some two thirds of the predicted growth in traditional non-Opec production, according to the IEA.

Meanwhile, global oil demand is set to increase by 8% which would be met mainly by non-Opec supplies, the report said

The IEA still expects production capacity among traditional Opec suppliers in the Middle East to continue to grow over the next five years, but at a slower rate.

Opec capacity, which counts for 35% of today's global oil output, is expected to rise by 1.75 million bpd to 36.75 million bpd in 2018, about 750,000 bpd less than predicted in the IEA's 2012 forecast.

The IEA cites the "growing insecurity in North and Sub-Saharan Africa" in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings as a key reason for the slowdown.

"The regional fallout from the 'Arab Spring' is taking a toll on investment and capacity growth," the IEA said.

The sharp rise in US oil production is largely thanks to shale oil, a product many have hailed as the saviour of the US energy market.

Fracking, the process of blasting water at high pressure into shale rock to release oil (or gas) held within it, has become widespread in the US.

But critics of shale oil point to environmental concerns such as high water use and possible water contamination, the release of methane and, to a lesser extent, earth tremors caused by drilling.

The process has been banned in France, while the UK recently lifted a moratorium on drilling for shale gas


The EU green hell

Limits to growth ideology a self-fulfilling prophecy

The European Union’s utopian scheme of transforming itself into a green energy powerhouse is faltering as its fantasy plan is colliding with reality. As the EU’s economic and financial crisis deepens and unemployment continues to rise, what used to be an almost all-embracing green consensus is beginning to disintegrate.

The spectre of green stagnation, the loss of competitiveness and economic decline has replaced 20 years of collective wishful thinking. The green folly was founded on two apocalyptic fears: firstly, that global warming was an urgent threat that needed to be prevented at all cost, and secondly, that the world was running out of fossil fuels, which meant that oil and gas would inexorably become ever more expensive. Both conjectures, however, turned out to be bogus.

The unpredicted arrest of the global warming trend since 1997 has made clear that the IPCC’s climate models had artificially inflated the immediacy of any climate risk, while the sudden arrival of enormous amounts of shale gas and oil terminated the peak oil hysteria.

In the meantime, however, the EU and its waning economies have become prisoners of their own green shackles. The once thriving continent finds itself enslaved in a self-inflicted trap of renewable energy mandates and unilateral climate targets that are prohibitively costly.

The green ideology of limits to growth has turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Ecological rejection of traditional industries, the obstruction of new technologies together with an almost all-embracing hostility to every form of conventional (let alone unconventional) energy generation is gradually shifting the centre of economic growth and innovation away from an ageing and depressed Europe.

Green prophecies of climate doom and salvationist central plans for the creation of millions of green jobs are no longer trusted. Instead of the blooming green economy promised by political leaders and activists, Europe is facing a competitiveness crisis and an economic nightmare with almost 27 million people out of work and many countries facing bankruptcy.

Europe’s manufacturers, who are rapidly losing ground to international competition, have announced plans to expand in the United States. Instead of investing in the energy-expensive EU, they are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the U.S. where energy prices have fallen to a third of those in the EU, largely due to the shale gas revolution. Industry leaders are warning that more manufacturing will move to North America unless energy prices come down significantly. They blame unilateral energy targets and the green opposition to shale gas exploration for the energy crisis and warn that it has become one of the biggest threats to European industry.

According to Austria’s energy regulator, European consumers have subsidized renewable energy investors by a staggering 600 billion euros since 2004. Germany’s green transition alone may cost energy consumers up to a trillion euros by 2020.

The naive faith of policy makers that Europe’s main competitors would follow this shift from cheap fossil fuels to expensive green energy has gone up in smoke. In reality, most nations are completely unimpressed by Europe’s approach. Europe, the Washington Post recently warned, “has become a green-energy basket case. Instead of a model for the world to emulate, Europe has become a model of what not to do.”

EU leaders are beginning to wake up to the enormity of the green energy fiasco. They will meet in Brussels for an energy summit on May 22 to discuss how to respond to the crisis. “High energy prices and costs hamper European competitiveness,” a leaked EU document says and indicates that the EU will have to re-consider its unsustainably costly climate policies.

Europe’s emissions trading scheme which has more or less collapsed in recent months has cost consumers more than 300 billion euros to date. Massive amounts of green investments that were originally projected on the back of a high carbon price have been shelved and are no longer feasible.

In most EU members states energy prices have skyrocketed while millions of families have been forced into energy poverty. Public protest against the growing cost of going green are forcing law-makers to renounce support for costly policies that are hurting ordinary families. The rapid decline in competitiveness has alarmed governments. For the first time, many are no longer willing to prioritize the green agenda which is publishing the green lobby back to the periphery.

As a result, there are signs that some governments are trying to shift policies away from the green agenda of the olden days towards economic realism. Yet the question remains whether European leaders can actually roll back the green belief system and overcome this self-inflicted eco-disaster. In particular the race for shale exploration will decide whether policy makers can win the battle against massive green rejectionism.

Without the development of new pragmatic policies and a forceful defence of a cheap energy strategy in face of green opposition, many governments will lack the will to free themselves from the green shackles that are hindering technological progress and economic advance. Even so, much of the green ballast that is holding Europe back will have to be thrown overboard if Europe wants to keep up with rest of the world.

Just as socialist central planning failed miserably before it was replaced by free market economies, green central planning will have to be discarded before Europe will be able to see a return to economic growth and technological optimism.


Galileo and the shale gas revolution

The news that Exxon is to build a $10 bn LNG export facility in Texas marks another significant step forward in the story of shale gas and its disruptive impact on the world energy market. Those who want a parallel for the painful process through which so many of the established forces of the industry on one side and the lobby groups on another have struggled to come to terms with the reality of shale gas over the last three years should read John Heilbron’s fascinating book on Galileo.

Back in the 17th century, those who had tied their reputations to old ideas used ever more elaborate and unconvincing arguments to deny the truth of new discoveries. Nothing but the old status quo could be conceived, particularly if new ideas threatened the very foundations of received beliefs. After all, didn’t the Bible say that the earth didn’t move? And, of course, if one idea was permitted where would it end? Rather than permitting open discussion, dangerous thoughts were suppressed. Galileo was tried by the Inquisition and forced to recant before being put under house arrest for the remainder of his life.

Over the last few years, the assertions of the ancien regime in the energy business have become ever more strident. Shale gas would never be developed because fracking didn’t work. The resources were inadequate to make development commercial. Fracking could not be done safely even by the best engineers in the business. There would be mass earthquakes. The resource base would soon run dry. The infrastructure could not cope. And then, more recently, no other country could match what had happened in the US. There were no resources, no skills, no water, and even less infrastructure. And no, shale gas would never affect the market beyond the US because no US president would ever permit exports.

    There will be winners and losers and surprise, surprise the losers have been the loudest voices in denial

One by one these assertions have become more desperate and further from reality. Shale gas development is now within reach of a dozen different countries around the world. Some development will no doubt be too expensive to be commercially viable but the technology is not static. Costs are falling not rising and companies are learning how to handle complexities such as the recycling of water.

Prices will be volatile – that is the nature of many new commodity market developments. There will a boom and then the first overinflated bubble will burst – which is what has been happening to a degree in the US. But then, as so many times in economic history, the pieces will be picked up and consolidated and an enduring industry will emerge around more stable prices. And beyond that there is tight oil to come as well.

The impact will be profound. The UK may not have as much shale gas as the US – but let’s just wait for the British Geological Survey to be finally released. The fact that such a reputable study is not being published is raising a lot of questions. Who exactly in Government is claiming to know more about geology than the BGS. ?

Some communities do not want shale gas development – and they should not be forced to accept it. France may never allow its shale gas (or tight oil ) to be developed. But because of trade, energy prices everywhere will be affected . This is where US exports are so important. Exxon is not a company to invest big money lightly. There is a market for gas in the Far East where the demise of the Japanese nuclear sector has left a supply gap which has to be filled. Now it will be filled. And in a world where all prices are linked that will drive down prices in Europe too.

Meanwhile companies like Centrica will bring gas from the US into the UK. There will be winners and losers and surprise, surprise the losers are been the loudest voices in denial of the reality and potential of shale gas. But they too will adjust – even relics such as Gazprom who for so long have been determined to try to maintain a price structure which ties gas to oil prices are starting to recognise that there really is gas to gas competition now.

The climate change lobby has to adjust too. The shale gas revolution is in the process of lowering the cost of using hydrocarbons just when they wanted the reverse to happen. Shale gas is not all bad. It has reduced coal use in the US, and could make a major positive difference in China and India – reducing emissions from their likely path by more than any other change which is in prospect.

Those prospective developments have yet to be proved commercial but the climate lobby should be hoping that they will be. Beyond that those who care about the climate have to adjust their strategy to a world in which hydrocarbons have a new lease of life and energy costs are significant lower than they have previously predicted.

On both sides the important thing is to start from reality. Galileo after recanting under intense pressure from Catholic authorities who wanted him to deny that the earth moved around the sun, is said to have whispered: “but still it moves”.


Britain 'faces energy crisis unless ministers abandon green policies'

Britain must abandon its bias towards green policies or face an energy crisis, a key parliamentary adviser has warned.

Peter Lilley, a member of the Prime Minister's Parliamentary Advisory board, has warned that the UK's hesitance to embrace shale gas comes at great expense to the country.

He cites decreasing gas prices in American as an example, where gas is a third of the price of what it is in Europe, and questions why Britain is "dragging its feet".

The UK is potentially sitting on enough shale gas reserves to heat all homes in Britain for at least 100 years, experts at the British Geological Survey claimed in April this year.

However, there has been resistance to excavate the fossil fuel amid concerns about the possibility of earthquakes and water contamination if gases are leaked into the water table while the "fracking" process is carried out.

In an article for The Spectator, the Conservative MP accuses the Department for Energy and Climate Change as being "in disarray" over the issue, with some ministers now beginning to question the direction green policies have been heading.

He claims that the green lobby is in control of the Department for Energy, dominates the EU and is institutionalised in Whitehall via the Climate Change Committee. He also accuses them of deploying "scare stories with reckless disregard for the truth" on a scale comparable to the MMR scare.

"Whatever the power of Big Oil in the past, it has been eclipsed by Big Green," he said.

Mr Lilley said the growing battle over shale gas is a prelude to an impending energy crisis, with the green lobby counting on green alternatives becoming cheaper as imported gas prices rise.

He argues that although viable alternatives to fossil fuels may be discovered in the future, any government policy based on the assumption that this will be imminent is "doomed to fail".

"The sooner we wake up to that fact and throw off the thrall of Big Green, the better," he added. "There are simply no affordable renewable technologies available [at the moment] to replace fossil fuels."

The case for decarbonising the EU economy has weakened, he added, because China, India, USA and other will not follow suit. "The idea of Britain going it alone is risible," he said.


Australia:  Qld. State Government to pass laws for drought-hit farmers to feed cattle in some National Parks

"Stunned the conservation movement"

THE State Government will rush legislation through Parliament next week. Drought-hit graziers will be given access to 4400sq km - five existing parks and a further eight properties bought for the public estate.

Acting Premier Jeff Seeney said the worsening drought called for action.  "This is a part of a range of drought-relieving measures the Newman Government will put together over the coming weeks and months, as we do everything possible to help those affected," he said.

Agforce chief executive Charles Burke said the move might help save the lives of 25,000 head of cattle.

The move has stunned the conservation movement, with Wildlife Queensland chief executive Des Boyland saying it was outrageous and yet another broken promise.

"Only last week the National Parks Association got an email from (National Parks Minister) Steve Dickson's office saying there will be no grazing in national parks," Mr Boyland said.

"I suppose this shouldn't come as a surprise, in view of the fact that this government is hell-bent on destroying hard-fought conservation gains."

Mr Dickson said the changes would see emergency hardship grazing authorities issued over land which had been selected on the basis of its previous grazing history and proximity to suffering properties.

"These arrangements are limited to only a select number of properties and national park land will only be available for graziers suffering from drought or wildfire and will only stay in place for a limited time to assist with the current crisis," he said.

The Nature Conservation Act will be amended so the eight properties bought with Federal Government funds will be grazed.

Moorrinya, Forest Den, Blackbraes, Nairana and Mazeppa national parks will become agistment paddocks until at least the end of 2013.




Preserving the graphics:  Graphics hotlinked to this site sometimes have only a short life and if I host graphics with blogspot, the graphics sometimes get shrunk down to illegibility.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here and here


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