Monday, April 18, 2022

US to Resume Oil, Gas Drilling on Federal Lands, With Increased Oil Royalty Rate

The Biden administration on April 15 said it would resume plans to facilitate oil and gas drilling on federal lands, but that it would offer fewer acres of land than initially proposed for lease sales, and charge higher royalties to oil and gas companies.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will make 144,000 acres of federal land available for leasing by energy companies. The figure is about 80 percent less than the 733,000 acres that had previously been under evaluation.

The decision came as a result of “robust environmental review, engagement with Tribes and communities, and prioritizing the American people’s broad interests in public lands,” the Interior Department stated.

Companies will be charged royalties of 18.75 percent of the value of extracted oil and gas products—a bump up from 12.5 percent—to “ensure fair return for the American taxpayer and on par with rates charged by states and private landowners,” the department said.

“For too long, the federal oil and gas leasing programs have prioritized the wants of extractive industries above local communities, the natural environment, the impact on our air and water, the needs of Tribal Nations, and, moreover, other uses of our shared public lands,” Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said in a statement.

“Today, we begin to reset how and what we consider to be the highest and best use of Americans’ resources for the benefit of all current and future generations.”

The move comes amid ongoing pressure for the Biden administration to address high energy prices across the nation, especially gas prices above $4 a gallon.

It also brings the administration into compliance with an injunction from the Western District of Louisiana.

Biden, just a week after taking office in January 2021, paused new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters, via Executive Order 14008. The administration was ordered in June 2021 to resume the sales, with the federal judge in Louisiana siding with several oil- and gas-producing states and saying Interior officials had offered no “rational explanation” for the pause on new leasing.

The BLM is set to issue final environmental assessments and notices for upcoming oil and gas lease sales on April 18. The sales notices will cover leasing decisions in nine states—Alabama, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming.

Interior Department officials declined to specify which states would have parcels for sale or to give a breakdown of the amount of land by state, saying that information would be included in the April 18 sales notices. They said the reduced area being offered reflects a focus on leasing in locations near existing oil and gas development, including pipelines.


How Big Green Undermines Pennsylvania’s Energy Potential

Pennsylvania sits at the epicenter of what is aptly described as America’s “natural gas revolution,” which is why the state is well positioned to help free America and Europe from relying on foreign adversaries for their energy.

But there’s a problem. Average residents who stand to benefit from affordable and reliable domestic energy supplies are operating at disadvantage against anti-energy campaigns that receive financial support not just from outside of the state, but also possibly from outside of the U.S. That’s why now is a good time for policymakers to take a hard look at the oversized influence green activists are exercising in Pennsylvania at the expense of their constituents.

While testifying before the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee in September 2018, Ken Stiles, a former CIA analyst, now a professor with Virginia Tech, described how “agents of influence” either knowingly or unknowingly work to advance the interests of foreign powers.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine further highlights the geopolitical importance of the Keystone State and its vast supplies of oil and natural gas. Innovative drilling techniques such as hydraulic fracturing (also known as fracking) have been used to access these precious natural resources in the Marcellus Shale, a geological formation of sedimentary rock that cuts across a large portion of Pennsylvania.

In his testimony, Stiles makes the point that “covert support for anti-fracking and anti-pipeline groups is a form of espionage.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and the League of Conservation Voters, are among the groups that have come under congressional scrutiny for maintaining close ties with China and Russia. All three are active in Pennsylvania and all three have been complicit in efforts to undermine natural gas production. The NRDC, for instance, has been instrumental in efforts to block fracking in the eastern part of Pennsylvania, which prevents the state from realizing its full energy potential.

Pennsylvania is number two only to Texas in terms of natural gas production, according to the Energy Information Administration. Government figures also show Pennsylvania is the third largest coal producing state and the third largest net supplier of total energy to other states.

Stiles told lawmakers that if the U.S. can export natural gas, oil, and coal to its allies, then Russia will no longer be in position to “blackmail” western democracies. This would certainly help to explain why America’s strategic competitors might view environmental advocacy groups as an ideal conduit for espionage campaigns aimed at restraining American energy.

A U.S. Senate report describes how the San Francisco-based Sea Change Foundation pulls in funds from overseas that are then steered into U.S. environmental groups. Stiles went into detail about this money trail in his testimony.

“No doubt Moscow has been funneling money into U.S. environmental groups for years, worried that fracking technology would one day become viable – and a threat to Russian economic prowess in the world energy market,” Stiles said in his prescient testimony.

Despite public testimony and congressional investigations highlighting their connections with foreign powers, green activists continue to have the upper hand over free market outfits in Pennsylvania like the Marcellus Shale Coalition that favor the development of domestic oil and gas supplies.

That’s partly because the alleged foreign agents cited in congressional reports now have allies in government in the form of Tom Wolf, the chief executive in Harrisburg and Joe Biden, the chief executive in Washington D.C. But it’s also because they continue to benefit financially from left-leaning foundations inside and outside of Pennsylvania that spend billions of dollars in grants to support litigation and regulations that stifle production of the most affordable, reliable, and accessible forms of energy.

The Sea Change Foundation is a key player here. But so are its San Francisco neighbors namely the Energy Foundation and the Tides Foundation. There’s also the Bloomberg Family Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation both based in New York to name just a few more.

From within Pennsylvania, Heinz Endowments based in Pittsburg, and the William Penn Foundation based in Philadelphia, are among the biggest funders of anti-energy activism. Big Green Inc., a project of the Institute for Energy Research, a Washington-D.C.-based group that advocates for free market energy policies, tracks donations from these foundations on a state-by-state basis. In 2019, Heinz donated $375,000 to the Clean Air Task Force, an anti-oil think tank, $590,000 to the Clean Air Council, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit created in 1967 to push environmental litigation, and $90,000 to the Sierra Club “to protect the region from impacts from fossil fuel use and development, according to Big Green.

The database also shows that since 2000 the William Penn Foundation has donated $10 million to the Open Space Conservancy, which acquires land so it can block development and construction, $7.1 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a federally endowed conservation group that bankrolls left-leaning conservation groups, and $2 million to the Delaware Riverkeeper Network that opposes natural gas development and frequently sues government agencies.

With the midterm elections approaching, Pennsylvania has reached a critical turning point where energy policy concerned. The state could either cut an even larger figure as an energy powerhouse or succumb to green activism that serves to benefit America’s strategic competitors. In fact, the outcome of the governor’s race will probably determine whether Pennsylvania enters the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, also known as RGGI, a multistate climate change compact built around “cap and trade” regulations. On Tuesday (April 5) the state senate fell just one vote shy of the two-thirds majority needed to override Wolf’s veto of a resolution that would prevent the state from joining RGGI. But the Commonwealth Court has blocked Wolf from implementing RGGI pending expected litigation. In a joint statement, Senate Republicans praised the court for prevent Wolf from taking executive action they view as unconstitutional.

“The governor’s attempt to unilaterally enter Pennsylvania into RGGI would put even more financial pressure on Pennsylvania families with increased electric bills at a time when they are already struggling due to inflation and the anti-energy policies of Governor Wolf and President Biden,” the senators say in their statement. “We need an energy strategy that makes the best use of our natural resources and unleashes the full potential to our economy – not cripple it for the sake of political ideology.”

That’s well said. But the NRDC, with roughly $180 million in assets, and the Sierra Club, with more than $88 million in assets, are sure to play a prominent role in the upcoming elections. Both groups have repeatedly testified in favor of joining RGGI and both groups have the resources to drown out the voices of state residents who pine for American energy independence.


PetroChina taps shale oil in ageing western China field

SINGAPORE, March 29 (Reuters) - Top Chinese oil and gas major PetroChina is exploring shale oil in an aging western China basin and aims to build a pilot zone to pump one million tonnes of crude a year, or about 20,000 barrels per day (bpd), by 2025.

The state giant started drilling four horizontal wells in Yingxiongling in Qinghai oilfield, part of the Qaidam basin in western province of Qinghai where oil exploration began in the 1950s, Petrochina's parent company CNPC said on Tuesday.

PetroChina aimed to build the pilot zone with annual production of 100,000 tonnes this year, expanding to 500,000 tonnes a year by 2023, after having achieving breakthroughs in explorations in 2021, CNPC said on its website.

The shale oil structure is located at an average altitude of 3,200 to 3,800 metres above sea level and is typically of high pressure and high output, the company said.

China produces only 35,000 bpd of shale oil mostly in the northern Ordos basin and northwestern Jungar basin, less than 1% of national oil output.

Under Beijing's call to enhance domestic energy supply security, state energy giants are spending more to develop more geologically challenging formations to compensate for fast declining reserves in mature oilfields like Daqing. read more

China, which imports more than 70% of its crude needs, intends to maintain domestic oil production at about 4 million bpd for years to come.


Climate-change clots have well and truly lost the plot

Below is a a scathing attack on the Australian Greens. Much the same could be said of Greenies elsewhere

Anthony Albanese – the man who fights Tories but emulates John Howard – has got it in hand. Together with Adam Bandt, he will transform a land of droughts and flooding rains into a land of milk and honey.

Albanese and Bandt have a plan, and with at least 20 of their fellow Australians dead, thousands homeless, and tens of thousands dealing with damage and hardship, the Labor and Greens leaders have decided life would be better without floods – in fact, without any natural disasters.

As Bandt tweeted during these floods: “Let’s be clear, this could have been avoided. The Liberals are supercharging climate disasters with new coal and gas mines and have failed to prepare for the devastating impacts.”

It makes you question the patriotism and humanity of Scott Morrison and the Coalition doesn’t it? Because what sort of callous ideologues would refuse to dispense with natural disasters if they had the option?

The Greens leader said: “Nothing is natural about this. And nothing will save this climate-wrecking government this election.” You have got to admit, he has a point – if you could stop this and you chose not to, then why would people vote for you?

Thankfully, Bandt and Albanese do not just whinge, they have solutions. Bandt says we just “have to leave the coal and gas in the ground” – which I guess makes sense.

We could lead the way, abandon fossil fuels, and then just hope we are followed by China, India, Indonesia, Russia, America, Canada, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Nigeria, Kuwait, Iraq, Papua New Guinea, Brunei, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates. You never know.

The Labor leader says, “too many Australians have first-hand knowledge of the brutality of bushfires, drought and flood – climate change is here now”. And, according to his policies, the way to fix this is to build more renewable energy generation and subsidise people to buy electric cars.

If only Morrison had thought of that. Half price Teslas for all, and Lismore stays high and dry.

The good news is that, according to the politicians and esteemed oracles of the fourth estate, all this can be fixed. All voters need do is use the election to switch from the Coalition’s net zero by 2050 pledge to Labor’s net zero by 2050 promise. Painless.

ABC regular and NSW Senate candidate Jane Caro is on to this solution. This week she posted a video, standing under a collapsed ceiling in her kitchen – which seemed a particularly perilous place to be, given it had apparently fallen in after the torrential rain that hit Sydney.

“Climate change is real and happening now, even in my kitchen,” she posted. In the video she said it might “take a while” to get her ceiling repaired, but selflessly she conceded many people might be suffering greater trauma.

“Stay safe, stay dry, let’s hope the sun comes out,” she implored her climate-savvy followers, “and we get a change of government”. Yep, that will do it. Change the government, and you change the climate. Barack Obama proved that in 2008 when he proclaimed that this was “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow, and our planet began to heal.” Job done. No wonder he got that Nobel prize.

We have seen the same healing effect here. The last time Labor was in power, under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, when they were trying to impose an emissions trading scheme and then teamed up with the Greens to impose a carbon tax, the only natural disasters we had were the Black Saturday bushfires that took 173 lives and the Brisbane floods.

Oh, and cyclone Yasi, and cyclone Oswald, and some other bushfires.

But still, these must have been “natural” natural disasters rather than “supercharged” by global warming because I do not recall any politicians or media blaming the federal government for those extreme events at the time.

Climate obsessed, so-called independent candidate Allegra Spender this week noted that “three years ago we had historic drought, two years ago we had historic bushfires, now we have historic floods” and then linked these events to emissions targets.

But we are left to wonder why the highest floods in so many regions – and the worst droughts in most of the country, and many of the worst bushfires – occurred way back in the 19th century, or in the early to middle years of the 20th century.

Were the early settlers secretly driving V8s? Did those sneaky convicts have a coal-fired power plant running on the sly? Best ask Bruce Pascoe.

The blaming of floods on global warming makes more sense than the finger pointing about droughts, given anyone with a basic understanding of climate science understands a warmer planet is a wetter one.

But this just makes us wonder why the very same people blaming climate “inaction” for the floods were doing the same in recent years for fires and droughts.

In 2005, the former climate commissioner Tim Flannery said, “if the computer models are right then drought conditions will become permanent in eastern Australia”. I am no climate scientist but a quick gaze around the Nepean-Hawkesbury these past two years would struggle to find evidence of a permanent drought – perhaps he was misquoted, and actually referred to “drowning” conditions.

A couple of years later, Flannery told the ABC that “even the rain that falls isn’t actually going to fill our dams and our river systems”. Maybe he was right, it has not so much filled them, as overfilled them.

These inconsistencies and this opportunism cannot be easily dismissed, even if the only media Flannery speaks to never question him on it.

This permanent drought fearmongering, backed up by other climate alarmists, led to the mainland state governments spending a total of more than $12bn building desalination plants.

Only Perth’s was necessary and has been useful; the others are expensive white elephants kept on standby, chewing up money and energy in the hope they will be required some day.

In NSW and Queensland, the money spent on desal plants would have been better spent on flood mitigation dams.

Another one of the climate-­obsessed so-called independents, Georgia Steele, is running in ­Hughes, in Sydney’s south. She reckons the evidence is clear that Morrison has “botched” climate policy because it fits a pattern of him botching the bushfire response, Covid quarantine, Covid vaccine supplies, submarine deal, religious discrimination bill, federal integrity commission, making Parliament House safe for women, and the flood response. Wow, that is some list; it leaves you wondering who is putting the Prime Minister’s pants on in the morning.

All this politicking, fact-free partisan abuse and phantasmagorical opposition promises of kinder, gentler natural disasters are undone by plain facts and logic. As Alan Finkel – the nation’s chief scientist at the time – told a Senate committee in 2018 that if all of our country’s carbon dioxide emissions disappeared overnight the impact on the global environment would be “virtually nothing”.

At that time we contributed about 1.3 per cent of global emissions; we now account for even less, about 1.1 per cent – while China, India, Indonesia, in fact, most of the world’s 10 most populous nations continue to increase emissions.

The fear, alarm and unquestioning coverage is every bit as astounding as the loopy claims of the activists.

Every hot day, dry day, cold day, wet day or fire day is cited as evidence of global warming.

The Guardian Australia’s Katherine Murphy leads the charge; her fringe views are elevated as mainstream commentary by the ABC.

“If every country acted with the abject derangement that ­Australia has exhibited for a decade,” she ranted this week, “then the planet will most decidedly cook.”

You will have to ask her whether that cooking will lead to floods, droughts, fires or snowstorms. But I reckon she would be likely to bet on the lot.

There is precious little questioning by our media about record maximums posted from weather stations that are barely three years old, or temperature records that are revised downwards and ignore all readings before 1910, and rainfall records that disregard detailed measurements from the 19th century.

Curiosity and facts have lost all value – ideology and narrative reign supreme. Presumably we will see the eyes of the world descend on this nation in May, because the global climate and the fate of the planet are going to be decided at our federal election.

For the green left and the media, it has become a simple world with simple solutions. None better than the flood mitigation strategy proposed by ACTU boss Sally McManus.

“I know there must be a really obvious answer to this, but a question for the hydrologists,” she tweeted last week.

“When Warragamba Dam is near capacity, why doesn’t Sydney Water suspend billing and ask people to turn on all their taps to take it down a bit before more rain comes?” Yep, and if that doesn’t work, I suppose the unions could just picket the rain.

The climate arguments are so simplistic and stupid that mainstream voters surely could not swallow them, no matter how ­disenchanted they are with the government.

Still, if they do, it will only ­confirm that the climate is the least of our problems.




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