Friday, April 25, 2014

An interesting admission

"Nature" magazine admits that more CO2 is good for plants -- which includes crops.  Skeptics have been saying it for years, of course

Elevated CO2 further lengthens growing season under warming conditions

By Melissa Reyes-Fox et al.


Observations of a longer growing season through earlier plant growth in temperate to polar regions have been thought to be a response to climate warming1, 2, 3, 4, 5. However, data from experimental warming studies indicate that many species that initiate leaf growth and flowering earlier also reach seed maturation and senesce earlier, shortening their active and reproductive periods6, 7, 8, 9, 10. A conceptual model to explain this apparent contradiction11, and an analysis of the effect of elevated CO2—which can delay annual life cycle events12, 13, 14—on changing season length, have not been tested. Here we show that experimental warming in a temperate grassland led to a longer growing season through earlier leaf emergence by the first species to leaf, often a grass, and constant or delayed senescence by other species that were the last to senesce, supporting the conceptual model. Elevated CO2 further extended growing, but not reproductive, season length in the warmed grassland by conserving water, which enabled most species to remain active longer. Our results suggest that a longer growing season, especially in years or biomes where water is a limiting factor, is not due to warming alone, but also to higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations that extend the active period of plant annual life cycles.


Australia: It's starfish, not global warming that is damaging the Great Barrier Reef

More than 250,000 crown-of-thorns starfish have been removed from the Great Barrier Reef off Queensland in the past two years, Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt says.

The pest is considered to be one of the biggest threats to the reef and has traditionally been hard to destroy.

In recent decades, the crown-of-thorns starfish has been responsible for 42 per cent of coral loss on the Great Barrier Reef.

Researchers are now using a single injection that causes the starfish to break up between 24 to 48 hours, replacing the previous method requiring up to 20 injections.

The single injection method is harmless to other marine plants and animals.

Mr Hunt says the method has lead to a four-fold increase in the eradication rate.

"We have provided $1 million now - we have $2 million in the budget going forward and we believe that this is likely to be an ongoing program," he said.

"It's necessary for the reef and it's the single best hope we've had in dealing with the crown-of-thorns since people have been working in this space."

Mr Hunt says the new method has made a big difference.  "This is a nasty critter - it does damage to the reef, it does damage to aquatic life," he said.  "We can make a difference - we have saved literally billions of eggs from being released onto the reef."

Crown-of-thorns cull part of long-term reef plan

The Government's crown-of-thorns eradication plan is a key element of its Reef 2050 Plan.

Divers from the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators can cull over 1,000 crown-of-thorns starfish on a 40-minute dive.

Project manager Steve Moon says this includes 27,000 in just eight days at Arlington reef and 9,000 at Batt reef, as well as 14,000 at Spitfire reef near Cooktown, north of Cairns.

"What we have noticed is a significant increase in coral cover, which is absolutely spectacular," he said.

"That was the aim of the whole program - to try and give the coral a chance to grow and we've seen that, despite some of the extreme weather events that we've had."

Other measures under the Government's Reef 2050 Plan will see improvements to the quality of water entering the reef, which will limit the ability of larval-stage starfish to thrive on water-borne algae that results from nutrient-rich waters.

The Government has also funded a second control vessel, Venus 2, as part of the program.

But Mr Moon says more resources may be needed.  "I don’t think we’ve seen the peak of this current outbreak yet," he said. "I think we’re going to be looking further down the track somewhere around this time next year, given that we’ve already had a spawning season in recent months.

"What we’re going to see - is two boats going to be enough? Possibly, but probably not."

Jairo Rivera from James Cook University helped to develop the single injection and says it is working with scientists from the Sunshine Coast University on a contraceptive to further control the spread of crown-of-thorns starfish.

"We found a protein on the surface of the sperm and that can be [bound] to a molecule that turns the eggs sterile," he said.

"If we can do that, that will be awesome because one single starfish can produce up to 60 million eggs per year."

Mr Rivera says the new method could be ready to trial in two years but $300,000 is needed to support the research.



Candra Kolodziej’s concern for the environmental impacts of the meat industry had her looking for alternative options. Instead of going vegan (the diet most noted for being environmentally friendly) and searching for protein sources that do not originate from animals, the 32-year-old came up with the horrible idea to turn to the pet store for her next meal. For one meal a day, Kolodziej ate animals that could be found alive and well at your local pet store, such as mice, minnows, crickets and mealworms.

Kolodziej claims that she didn’t do this experiment because she cares about the horrors of factory farming. She says, “At this point I should note that I’m not some granola here to chew your ear off about how fucked up factory farming is. In fact, I eat a lot of meat myself. I’m from northern Michigan, where there’s only one day in the Christian calendar year when most folks will intentionally choose fish, and I’m the type of heathen who doesn’t even abstain on that day. So this little experiment was done for my own sake, to know what sort of animal-based dishes I can look forward to when hamburgers are enjoyed exclusively by the one percent.”

Next time, we hope veganism seems like the best option to protest the environmental impacts of the meat industry. A good seitan dish can satisfy even the most devout carnivore.


Shale Boom Sends U.S. Crude Supply to Highest Since 1930s

What happened to "peak oil"?

The U.S. is stockpiling the most crude since the Great Depression, thanks to the shale boom that has boosted production to the most in 26 years.

Inventories rose 3.52 million barrels last week to 397.7 million, the highest level since 1931, according to Energy Information Administration data going back to 1920. Crude output climbed 59,000 barrels a day to 8.36 million, the most since January 1988, as the combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, unlocked supplies from shale formations in the central U.S., including the Bakken in North Dakota and the Eagle Ford in Texas.

The burgeoning supply has sparked arguments over whether a 1975 law that prevents most U.S. crude exports should be repealed. It also may reduce the impetus for a quick approval of the Keystone XL pipeline moving Canadian crude to the U.S. Average weekly imports are down 3.7 percent so far this year, compared with the same period in 2013.

“This paints a secure supply picture for the U.S.,” said Stephen Schork, president of Schork Group Inc., a consulting group in Villanova, Pennsylvania. “This will add to the political debate about exports and Keystone. Whatever issues arise, it’s important to remember you would rather deal with the problems of a supply glut rather than a dearth.”

Inventories along the Gulf Coast, known as PADD 3, rose 2.44 million barrels to 209.6 million last week, the most in EIA data going back to 1990.

Much of that inventory is light, sweet crude, or oil with low density and sulfur content, from the shale fields. Many refineries along the Gulf Coast are designed to run most efficiently on cheaper heavy, sour barrels imported from Mexico and Venezuela.

“The problem is that we have a glut of light, sweet crude when what we need is sour,” Schork said. “There have to find a way to swap the barrels we’ve got in hand or exporting them, so we can take full advantage of the rise in output.”

Energy Independence

Harold Hamm, the chairman and chief executive officer of Continental Resources Inc. (CLR), who became a billionaire drilling in North Dakota, told U.S. lawmakers Jan. 30 that the country, which EIA data show supplied 86 percent of its own energy last year, can drill its way to full independence by 2020. Hamm is leading an effort to get Congress to allow crude exports for the first time since the 1970s.

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the senior Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in a Jan. 7 speech that she also supports changing the export rules.

Imports decreased 475,000 barrels a day to 7.8 million in the seven days ended April 18. Arrivals have averaged 7.46 million barrels in 2014, according to EIA figures, down from 7.74 million for the first 16 weeks of 2013.


Welcome to the Revolution

Despite its doubters and haters, the shale revolution in oil and gas production is here to stay. In the second half of this decade, moreover, it is likely to spread globally more quickly than most think. And all of that is, on balance, a good thing for the world.

The recent surge of U.S. oil and natural gas production has been nothing short of astonishing. For the past three years, the United States has been the world’s fastest-growing hydrocarbon producer, and the trend is not likely to stop anytime soon. U.S. natural gas production has risen by 25 percent since 2010, and the only reason it has temporarily stalled is that investments are required to facilitate further growth. Having already outstripped Russia as the world’s largest gas producer, by the end of the decade, the United States will become one of the world’s largest gas exporters, fundamentally changing pricing and trade patterns in global energy markets. U.S. oil production, meanwhile, has grown by 60 percent since 2008, climbing by three million barrels a day to more than eight million barrels a day. Within a couple of years, it will exceed its old record level of almost ten million barrels a day as the United States overtakes Russia and Saudi Arabia and becomes the world’s largest oil producer. And U.S. production of natural gas liquids, such as propane and butane, has already grown by one million barrels per day and should grow by another million soon.

What is unfolding in reaction is nothing less than a paradigm shift in thinking about hydrocarbons. A decade ago, there was a near-global consensus that U.S. (and, for that matter, non-OPEC) production was in inexorable decline. Today, most serious analysts are confident that it will continue to grow. The growth is occurring, to boot, at a time when U.S. oil consumption is falling. (Forget peak oil production; given a combination of efficiency gains, environmental concerns, and substitution by natural gas, what is foreseeable is peak oil demand.) And to cap things off, the costs of finding and producing oil and gas in shale and tight rock formations are steadily going down and will drop even more in the years to come.

The evidence from what has been happening is now overwhelming. Efficiency gains in the shale sector have been large and accelerating and are now hovering at around 25 percent per year, meaning that increases in capital expenditures are triggering even more potential production growth. It is clear that vast amounts of hydrocarbons have migrated from their original source rock and become trapped in shale and tight rock, and the extent of these rock formations, like the extent of the original source rock, is enormous -- containing resources far in excess of total global conventional proven oil reserves, which are 1.5 trillion barrels. And there are already signs that the technology involved in extracting these resources is transferable outside the United States, so that its international spread is inevitable.

In short, it now looks as though the first few decades of the twenty-first century will see an extension of the trend that has persisted for the past few millennia: the availability of plentiful energy at ever-lower cost and with ever-greater efficiency, enabling major advances in global economic growth.


The shale revolution has been very much a “made in America” phenomenon. In no other country can landowners also own mineral rights. In only a few other countries (such as Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom) is there a tradition of an energy sector featuring many independent entrepreneurial companies, as opposed to a few major companies or national champions. And in still fewer countries are there capital markets able and willing to support financially risky exploration and production.

This powerful combination of indigenous factors will continue to drive U.S. efforts. A further 30 percent increase in U.S. natural gas production is plausible before 2020, and from then on, it should be possible to maintain a constant or even higher level of production for decades to come. As for oil, given the research and development now under way, it is likely that U.S. production could rise to 12 million barrels per day or more in a few years and be sustained there for a long time. (And that figure does not include additional potential output from deep-water drilling, which is also seeing a renaissance in investment.)

Two factors, meanwhile, should bring prices down for a long time to come. The first is declining production costs, a consequence of efficiency gains from the application of new and growing technologies. And the second is the spread of shale gas and tight oil production globally. Together, these suggest a sustainable price of around $5.50 per thousand cubic feet for natural gas in the United States and a trading range of $70–$90 per barrel for oil globally by the end of this decade.

These trends will provide a significant boost to the U.S. economy. Households could save close to $30 billion annually in electricity costs by 2020, compared to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s current forecast. Gasoline costs could fall from an average of five percent to three percent of real disposable personal income. The price of gasoline could drop by 30 percent, increasing annual disposable income by $750, on average, per driving household. The oil and gas boom could add about 2.8 percent in cumulative GDP growth by 2020 and bolster employment by some three million jobs.

Beyond the United States, the spread of shale gas and tight oil exploitation should have geopolitically profound implications. There is no longer any doubt about the sheer abundance of this new accessible resource base, and that recognition is leading many governments to accelerate the delineation and development of commercially available resources. Countries’ motivations are diverse and clear. For Saudi Arabia, which is already developing its first power plant using indigenous shale gas, the exploitation of its shale resources can free up more oil for exports, increasing revenues for the country as a whole. For Russia, with an estimated 75 billion barrels of recoverable tight oil (50 percent more than the United States), production growth spells more government revenue. And for a host of other countries, the motivations range from reducing dependence on imports to increasing export earnings to enabling domestic economic development.


Fracking could generate £33bn and 64,000 jobs for UK

Fracking could generate a £33bn investment windfall in Britain thanks to the creation of a new industrial supply chain, a report has claimed.

Drilling of an estimated 4,000 horizontal shale gas wells over an 18-year period would generate 64,000 new jobs and spur massive investment to serve the industry, according to the UK Onshore Operators Group.

Of the £33bn of investment identified within the report, the production of specialised equipment such as pumps trucks and other oil field services needed for hydraulic fracturing will require £17bn of investment.

In addition, the study highlights the need for 50 new land-based drilling rigs to meet the industry’s demand along with the fabrication of 8,000 miles of steel casing and £4.1bn of investment into other services such as transportation.

“We are building an industry in this country which will not only potentially give the UK energy security, and make a big contribution in tax revenues, but will also bring immense benefits to other industries and create sustainable, well-paid jobs,” said Ken Cronin, chief executive of the oil industry body.

However, the development of fracking in the UK has so far proved controversial, despite its potential to safeguard energy security. Most of these concerns centre around the disruption that could be caused by drilling in rural communities and fears over the possible environmental consequences of the fracking process.

Business has broadly welcomed the findings of the study, which, based on comparisons from the US fracking experience, has outlined the potential scale of the new market for British oil and gas services industries.

Deirdre Fox, Tata Steel’s director of strategic business development in the UK, said the report was an “eye-opener as to how big an opportunity the responsible development of a shale gas industry is for the UK economy”.

Part of the push for shale gas comes from the UK’s growing dependence on foreign energy since North Sea supplies started to slow. By 2020 it is estimated that 70pc of the UK’s gas will come from overseas. Wholesale gas prices, which have climbed about 120pc since 2005. However, in the US, fracking has helped to reduce the cost of energy over the same period.

In a further boost for the industry, Ed Davey, Energy Secretary, confirmed that the Government is looking at changing trespass laws to give companies the right to carry out fracking under private land.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

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