As one goes further back in time, fewer and fewer links actually work ... So it goes.
Instability In Venezuela
Just as the US was planning a little regime change activity in the middle east, it turns out that the people of Venezuela have similar plans closer to home. q.v. It could be quite a problem for the US economy if either oil flow was disrupted; if both were simultaneously disrupted it could be, uh, an even bigger problem. Meanwhile, it seems that Al-Quaeda has taken up trying to blow up oil tankers.
Much like the decades that preceded it, the 1990's saw very little tangible progress toward either restraining petroleum demand or doing anything about the fuels that exacerbate global warming. Looks to Pete like a market-based, business-as-usual approach isn't working. Then again, we have the new energy bill to look forward to, right?
Energy Consumption (Quadrillion Btu)*
* Data is from the U.S. DOE/EIA. Geothermal and other minor energy sources are not included.**Includes solar thermal and solar photovoltaic. Thanks to Roger Blanchard.
War As An Energy Policy
Pete is not yet willing to proclaim that what is about to happen is merely a grab for Iraq's oil reserves.* He still thinks it's possible that we're all caught up in some weird Texas poker game where somebody has bet more than the ranch that the UN can be hustled into supporting a little regime change activity. Heaven knows, Pete's all in favor of packing Saddam Hussein off to whatever resort he may choose for his exile. But Pete keeps watching the stock market head ever further south, and concludes that Mr. Bush's constituency is a little nervous about whether their boy knows what he's doing. True, he's showing boat against a very lousy pair, but there's good reason to worry about what Mr. Hussein's hole cards could be.
Maybe after the showdown the American people can decide whether their long term energy policy is going to rely on military strength or something more proactive.
*Chester Wells suggests reviewing an article in the Oil and Gas Journal to see what governments already understand about petroleum in the coming decades.
Conservation As An Energy Policy
Undoubtedly the discussion surrounding any energy bill that may yet emerge will pay lots of lip service to conservation. Keep in mind there has been no per capita conservation (or any other kind), aside from the brief period twenty years ago following the most severe of the price spikes. And the sorry record of negative conservation was accompanied by 25 years of mandatory appliance redesign, innovative housing research and development programs, superior furnace technology, improved building codes, Energy Star this and that, and all the rest. None of it made any difference. The only thing that produces conservation is persistent higher prices.
News From Hydrate Ridge
Most of the energy situation is so well known the only wild cards are political -- will the US go for Iraq's oil fields?, will the Saudi monarchy vanish in a puff of smoke?* etc. etc. -- but that is not the case with gas hydrates. Even though it's well known that the nodules are abundant and contain methane, the principal component of natural gas, it is not at all well known whether the hydrates could be mined economically with acceptable environmental risks. Since the US seems to be ready to prop up gas prices to support the cost of a gas pipeline from the north slope of Alaska, the answer is of more than passing interest. DOE has just got the results back from a scientific foray to Hydrate Ridge off the coast of Oregon. q.v.
*Pete's answers: no and no
Nuclear and Kyoto
That the Kyoto Protocol was seriously flawed from conception is no longer really open to debate in the US. However important, indeed crucial, the need to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the implementation measures proposed by the treaty were unsatisfactory, their obligations unfairly distributed, and the schedule impossible. So the US abandoned the entire Kyoto construction as a sort of Rube Goldberg device that was never going to be useful. The rest of the world, feigning surprise, continues under the Kyoto umbrella, but without making tangible progress. Needless to say, the underlying problem remains and continues to grow worse ...
One of the most curious features of the treaty was its treatment of nuclear power. As anyone who has really studied the problem can attest, repowering the electricity production sector with more reactors is one of the few measures that can produce serious, long-term reductions in CO2 emissions without damaging the general economy. This is because a kilowatt hour of electricity from a nuke only produces 2.5-5.7 grams of carbon-equivalent emissions, while the same kilowatt hour produced by a fossil fuel-fired plant emits 105-366 grams. (And yes this is figuring in the CO2 emissions required for the cement used for the containment building and cooling towers of a nuclear plant). Even renewable energy emits 2.5-76 grams of carbon equivalent, and it has major reliability problems.
So Kyoto was all for nukes? Au contraire. The protocol excluded them from two of the three "flexibility mechanisms" that can be used by parties to the protocol to meet their obligations (the so called joint implementation and clean development mechanisms; restrictions on nuclear energy do not apply to emissions trading credits). The OECD's Nuclear Energy Agency has published the full story. q.v.* For more info on the rest of the world's use of nuclear see EIA's page on the subject. q.v.
*Warning: makes no attempt to hide the political correctness so favored by the international civil servant: e.g. EITs (economies in transition) instead of developing countries, etc.
It Turns Out That Secretary Abraham Is Not a Missing Person
Pete was afraid he was. Like all technology aficionados, Pete tries to take advantage of all the free stuff available on the net, so he had Yazoo setup to e-mail him whenever energy secretary Spencer Abraham's name appears in the news. Not only did Pete get far more spam from Nigerian widows attempting to smuggle their late husbands' contraband out of the country then he did news about the energy secretary, he was becoming somewhat alarmed as each new week passed without any mention of the man. Perhaps he had disappeared, or was practicing some weird, zen-master like form of energy secretaryship from the void. Yazoo has at last let Pete know that Secretary Abraham is alive and well and attending a conference in Japan. q.v.
Of course Pete wasn't overjoyed when the secretary blew his one chance to speak to the public with, "We can produce more oil and gas in Alaska and do it in an environmentally safe fashion, and it makes sense for the United States to do so for our own reasons and for global energy reasons." This was his response to OPEC's decision to keep existing production quotas and therefore continue with high prices for, say, the next six months. Too bad there's not an Mcf of Alaskan gas that can be sent to the lower 48 without a new pipeline (at least five years), nor any prospect for at least as long of incremental increases in Alaskan oil without an energy bill. Pete looks forward to the day when the energy secretary can announce that he has one.
Norwegian Production Begins to Level Off
The 1990s were a period of strong production growth in the Norwegian OCS, but production has since leveled off.
Meanwhile, the state oil company is continuing to assist the governments of such new frontier offshore areas as Angola and Vietnam with technical advice on how to develop their resources. q.v.
The second chart shows the government's estimate of what the down slope will look like. It should hit 5% and greater annually after 2004 but quite a lot of the loss in oil will be made up by expected increases in natural gas. qv1 , qv2. In fifteen years, gas production should equal oil production.
Pete's Annual Attempt to Get Cut In on the Pork
year Pete tries for some of the $330 million in slush that DOE doles out
to the coal industry for 'clean coal' technology. q.v.
Every year he is ignored. Here's his traditional submission, in
toto: "Turn all the coal plants into nukes." Pete will
spring for lunch with all readers when the federal money spigot starts to
drench him. Hope you're not too hungry.
BP Gets Ready to Play the Hydrogen Card
BP, Pete's favorite wolf in
sheep's clothing (or perhaps oil salesman dressed in green Birkenstocks),
is getting ready to play the hydrogen card. q.v.
BP plans to be active in both the production and distribution of the
stuff, presumably because the magic of no pollutants at the tail pipe has
captivating appeal. While the production part is pretty easy, assuming use
of steam or oxygen in reforming a natural gas stream, which BP already
does to the tune of 1,300 tonnes per day for its petrochemical business,
the distribution part is not at all easy. The gas that results embrittles
steel pipe, so use of the current natural gas delivery system is not an
option. New pipe would have to be laid or something else not now evident
would have to be thought up. And once it gets to a service station,
storing a week's supply would require very large and expensive tanks
capable of holding 14 tonnes of a dangerous gas. BP is participating in
trails of various hydrogen distribution schemes, and is also looking into
the possibility of producing hydrogen at the local station using on-site
reformers or using local electricity for electrolysis. Unfortunately,
these are pretty big obstacles that translate into a current cost roughly
equivalent to $500 per Kwh of power delivered. Perhaps we can get
the State of California to snap some up; otherwise BP may be holding the
card quite a while.
Insulting the Saudis and Other Bush League Mistakes
Before the untutored junior yahoos on the fringes of this policy institute or that are encouraged to make obnoxious remarks about the Saudis, the Bush administration would do well to look at the petroleum balance. It's quite simple really. The Saudis have what the US not only needs but depends on to an unhealthy extent. The Saudis do not provide oil because they like the US, nor as a favor. The US buys from the Saudis not because they are sympathetic fellows who may in time become democratic pluralists if only the US senate keeps telling them what to do. The US buys oil because it has to; the Saudis sell it because they have a great deal of oil and little else. This understanding has been at the heart of a key commercial relationship for the entire post-World War II period.
The US has suffered a quarter century of weak governments unable to restrain petroleum demand, and therefore must face the inevitable consequences visited on everyone with few options. The US has even fewer options than it supposes, because that quarter century of excess was financed by credit from abroad. Foreigners have lent the US what was needed to continue a lifestyle Americans now learn they can no longer afford. The magnitude of foreign claims on the US economy is unprecedented, and the bills may be presented whenever the creditors wish to press the matter. The US would also do well to remember, before it launches attacks on Iraq, that any such war will be financed from the social security promised the generation about to retire. The spoils have to be much more than bombed-out neighborhoods in Baghdad to make it even conceivable.
Any advice that
suggests the US can rely on the Caspian resources as a substitute for oil
from the gulf over either the short- or long-term is not only misinformed, it is
dangerously quack. This is not to say that Caspian resources shouldn't be
brought online, and brought online quickly, but one is talking dozens (of
billion barrels) in
the former case and many, many hundreds in the latter.
Stalin's famous dictum about how many divisions the Pope controls may
apply here: let those who throw stones at the Saudis first show how much oil
they control, or how much they've done for a sensible energy policy.
Energy Fundamentals: Is There Such a Thing as a Hydrogen Card?
Well, yes, but no one, including BP, is going to have an easy time playing it both for the reasons set forth above and for the reasons much better presented in Don Lancaster's new guide to energy fundamentals. q.v. Anyone can have opinions on energy policy, but it helps if those opinions weren't vetoed at the creation of the universe by the laws of thermodynamics.
While at it, have a look at Exxon's background information page. q.v.
USGS Bumps Up the Resources of the NPRA Significantly
There is even more in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska than was thought: bringing it up to about a Kashagan's worth, or 9.3 billion barrels. q.v. Interestingly, there's probably more there than at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge next door, but NPRA is at least a dozen times larger than ANWR. q.v. Also significant are the likely gas resources of almost 70 Tcf, assuming a pipeline were built to bring the gas south.
For purposes of symmetry, Pete would like to apply a title to the next part that heralds Colin Campbell for bumping them (and everything else) back down again. He is the undisputed champion of the idea that the USGS has it wrong and the world-wide Hubbert Peak is due in about a decade. His arguments seem very cogent to Pete, and especially his criticism of USGS's particularly curious methods for estimating some petroleum resources. q.v. (see #02-3)
Sec. Abraham on the Illogic Of Environmentalists
"Nuclear power could, conceivably, accomplish far more toward eliminating greenhouse gas emissions than many of the proposals to sacrifice economic growth put forward by those who advocate the Kyoto Protocol. Yet many of the fiercest enthusiasts for Kyoto are the most ferocious opponents of nuclear power. To put it bluntly, the opponents of nuclear power offer an illogical and inherently inconsistent argument.
These are folks who happily embrace the virtues of solar power, wind power, and biomass, but somehow miss the reality that nuclear power has the same type of benefits touted for renewable energy sources, along with the added virtue of being extraordinarily economical.
Now, my point is not to knock the benefits of renewable energy ..." etc, etc.. q.v.
Oil Price History When Iraq Goes To War
Not exactly computer graphics at their best, but it does show that the
oil price heads north big time when Iraq heads out for the inevitable
hosing. The worst came in 1979 when Iraq attacked Iran. 1990, when it
attacked Kuwait, proved relatively minor because of the ability to draw
down from strategic stockpiles. Any price spike in the near future would
likely be moderated by the weak economic condition of the major industrial
economies. On the other hand, it wouldn't do them much good, particularly
if Iraq succeeded in disrupting other supplies from the Persian
Gulf. EIA expects oil prices to stay about the same: "we
think that likely scenarios for OPEC and non-OPEC output growth imply
continued tightening of markets (lower commercial inventories) and
continued support for crude oil prices near or slightly above current
levels through mid-2003. The
average WTI spot price is expected to edge upward toward $30 per barrel by
early to mid 2003 under our current Base Case assumptions (Figure
OPEC Members Continue to Produce Over Quota
But why gloat? It is the overproduction that has kept prices in the agreed band ever since last March, which has kept the industrial economies from falling even deeper in the hole. True, prices are on the high end of the band just now, and no one is quite sure what will happen at the next OPEC ministerial meeting. But the system seems to be working relatively well from Pete's view. Keep in mind that Pete thinks oil prices should be high and that price stability is good, not bad. For more information on recent events, see EIA's analysis. q.v.
Exxon: Earning Less, Spending More
Exxon Mobil Corp.
|Second Quarter||First Half|
|Net Income ($ Millions)||2,640||4,460||4,730||9,460|
|$ Per Common Share||0.39||0.64||0.70||1.36|
|Revenue ($ Millions)||50,909||56,184||94,440||113,484|
|Capital & Exploration Expenditures ($ Millions)||3,393||2,834||6,367||5,350|
Is the Saudi Regime Close to Collapse?
Because speculation of this sort can be argued to be irresponsible and dangerous, Pete was amazed to return from vacation to find a paper with no less a reputation than Britain's Guardian raising the issue.* q.v. Just in case that weren't enough, the Guardian also suggests the world's safest banks are thinking twice before touching new cash from members of the Saudi royal family. q.v.
What is clear is that the Saudi king is very ill, and that a period of substantial uncertainty and possible turmoil is likely were he to die. It has always appeared that Al-Qaeda was more popular among the Saudis than the U.S. would publicly acknowledge, and it remains to be seen which faction, Crown Prince Abdullah or one of his rivals, would end up in control. To the extent the Guardian may be right, perhaps the real rationale behind US military preparations will become clearer. But if so, isn't the US playing into the hands of either Al-Qaeda and / or Abdullah's rivals?
* Gavin Longmuir writes to Pete as follows: "Re your link to the Guardian article on tensions within Saudi Arabia, it has to be stipulated that the Guardian (or Gruniad as the satirical English magazine Private Eye used to call it because of its reputation for typographical errors) is a left wing rag. In this case, it is an unconvincing rag. See the following from the (admittedly frequently unreliable) Debka files web site re tension within the Saudi royal family. While the Gruniad characterizes the Regent Abdullah as pro-western, Debka files puts Abdullah on the anti-American side -- not that the Fahd side is pro-American."
"I tend to credit Debka's analysis because of a talk given several years ago by Robert O. Anderson (of Atlantic Richfield fame) in which he characterized Abdullah as a very strict Muslim who might be tempted to use the oil weapon against the infidel west if he ever got the chance."
"But maybe this is beside the point? Various sources are indicating tensions within Saudi Arabia and within their ruling elites. It may not matter who is on which side -- it is simply worrisome news for us petroleum users."
[Rather than reproduce the quote that accompanied the e-mail, the full story is available directly from the link above. When accessing the Debka files, look on the lower right for the picture of Fahd for the relevant story.]
»»»» At last! A Coherent View of the Energy Future! ««««
When Congress considers what to do about energy in the coming weeks, it would do well to read Paul Grant's remarkable essay on the key elements of a workable energy future. q.v. The piece orginally appeared in the Industrial Physicist. Pete really thinks that Grant is on to something and suggests that everyone consider it carefully.
Measuring Energy Efficiency
From time to time Pete has pointed out that one of the main measures of the intensity of energy use in the economy, the real GDP to energy ratio, isn't all that satisfactory. EIA is proposing a more sophisticated standard, the aggregate composite efficiency index. q.v.
Very Important Step
Pete notes with satisfaction that the decades-long silly season on nuclear power may be drawing to a close: Congress has finally acted responsibly and authorized a permanent storage repository for nuclear wastes. q.v. It should have done so twenty years ago, but Washington is nothing if not a place where anyone with just a dash of moxie and a lot of money can delay almost anything almost indefinitely.
Meanwhile, EIA has released nuclear capacity projections for Asia. q.v. Fortunately, unlike the US, Asians have been adding to capacity and are expected to continue, which may help reduce that giant sucking sound when China begins going after energy in earnest.
Federal Price Controls Applied in California
Just for those who didn't know such a thing as federal energy price controls exit. q.v.
A First Hand Account of Iraqi Use of Poison Gas
Pete regrets that for a few days he put in a link to a piece by Jude Wanniski questioning Iraqi complicity in poison gas attacks, since he saw years ago the ghastly newsreels referred to below, has no doubt that the event happened, and only put in the link for its novelty value. He has now been sent a first-hand account by an Iranian witness to the aftermath of the poison gas attacks on both civilians and soldiers. The email below speaks for itself and is well worth reading.
Part II of The Perfect Energy Storm
Right now the problem isn't oil, coal, wind, or solar. It's natural gas, and by necessary implication, electric generating capacity. We survived $10 / Mcf gas and are back on the mend. The stock market doesn't yet reflect it, because even pooled-interest accounting couldn't make earnings grow during the first part of the energy storm. A few of the more notable practitioners of the newly black art of accounting fell apart trying, and we're still in the process of untangling the dishonest mess. But gas prices are back into the normal range (although holding at the very high end of that range), and OPEC has been good to its word, keeping oil prices reasonable. q.v.
Unfortunately, there's not that much solace to be taken from the eye of the storm. The eye is likely to still be around next year and perhaps a bit longer, but after that watch out. Pete suggests you might want to read Michael Vickerman's excellent piece for Renew Wisconsin, The $64,000 Question on Natural Gas. q.v. It's also certainly worthwhile going through Matthew Simmons most recent evaluation, Is There A Gas Crisis Ahead? q.v.*
*Forgive Pete's quibble that it is a $64K question only metaphorically. Literally, it is more like a $640B or a $6.4T question. Pete should also use this footnote to acknowledge that the perfect storm metaphor is Simmons' and not Pete's. Finally, it might be noted that while the economy can't afford any more $10 gas and it might take that again to get the industry really developing, the domestic industry has far fewer rigs searching for oil than gas (135 looking for oil; 711looking for gas).
Exxon Declares Kashagan Commercial
To no one's surprise, Exxon finally decided that the giant north Caspian Kashagan field, which contains 7 - 9 billion barrels, was a commercial discovery. According to the press release, ownership is shared between Eni (operator -- 16.67%), Exxon (16.67%), BG (16.67%), Inpex (8.33%), Phillips (8.33%), Shell (16.67%), and TotalFinaElf (16.67%). Of course, Exxon also owns 25% of the nearby Tengiz field of roughly the same size, and a 7.5% interest in the Caspian Pipeline Consortium which will move much the crude to market. Perhaps the US is about to get a bit more of the spoils of the Cold War. Or is Europe the real winner? Or does it matter?
Back to Basics: Oil Exporters and Importers
Here are the world's largest oil suppliers and users for 2001, from EIA
GAO Whacks FERC
The agency that was to preside over the partially deregulated energy industry has been found wanting by GAO. q.v. Pete's own view of the agency is far more sanguine. For several decades, FERC has been one of the more innovative regulatory agencies that scrambled, bobbed and weaved its way through a mine field of incredible dangers because Congress refused to pass coherent laws ending the chaos created by full-blown natural gas pipeline regulation. FERC did so by more or less nationalizing the interstate pipeline system without compensation, separating out the merchant function from the transportation function, and letting anyone wheel and deal in gas with a right to expect the pipeline to transport it, while freeing some of the pipelines from their onerous take-or-pay obligations. It was never very clear to Pete at the time that FERC had the authority to do this, but it had to act, and so it fashioned a solution that turned out to work very well and has since been blessed by Congress.
While You Wait
Pete was all set to do a careful piece of the administration's latest malapropism on global warming, complete with insightful analysis of the old having-your-cake-and-eating-it-too ploy, coupled with the even older it-sure-wasn't-me-blame-it-on-the-bureaucrats diversion. He was even going to throw in bitmap deconstruction of recent photos of the president to see how green he was getting. But why bother? Here's something to do while waiting for the picture to clarify. q.v.
Vela Rules the Waves
Vela, owner of the world's second largest tanker fleet, is hardly a household name. Unless you're in the trade, you won't have heard of it. Each day, Vela is responsible for bringing in 1.2 million barrels of crude to the US. All but 2 percent of the oil it ships originated in Saudi Arabia. Even though it is owned by Saudi Aramco, which in turn is owned by the Saudi government, it doesn't have a monopoly on moving the kingdom's exports: it handles somewhere between 27 to 35 percent. It does so with a fleet of 35 modern VLCC's (super tankers), as well as other smaller spot tankers. It started in 1984 and has grown very rapidly ever since.
Back in 1974, the Arab members of OPEC followed their traditional policy response to wars involving Israel and cut off oil supplies to the US and the Dutch for supporting their enemy. They had done something similar during the Suez crisis of 1956 and the war of 1967. Neither previous action had been very effective because the industrial countries still had supply-side options in those days. But the1974 cut-off caused major economic damage. Gas lines formed, the roads emptied, and aggregate demand dried up. The resulting recession was the worst in the post-war period. It would have been far worse for the US and the Netherlands had the international oil companies not blunted the impact of the boycott by dividing up the available supply and sharing the shortfall prorata among all industrial nations. In those days, the Seven Sisters not only controlled almost all oil moving in international trade, they also owned most or all of the equity in the concessions that allowed it to be lifted. Since they controlled the transportation segment, they just ordered their own ships carrying their own oil to go where the oil companies and the civil servants looking over their shoulder decided it should go.
Those days are gone. By tacit consent, and with full compensation in most cases, OPEC members nationalized the equity interests during the mid-1970s. Aramco (formerly the Arabian American oil company) in those days a joint venture of Exxon, Mobil, Texaco and Chevron, was nationalized to become Saudi Aramco, the world's largest oil company. It was only a matter of time until control over shipping also changed hands. This means that any future cut-off could be felt immediately and could not be redistributed nearly as well. A strategy of targeting countries with objectionable foreign policies from an Arab point of view would be far more likely to succeed now. Of course, industrial countries have attempted to provide additional options by building strategic petroleum reserves, but none of these are adequate to avoid the consequences of a sustained cut-off.
Duke Cleared (?)
It looks like California's Independent System Operator wasn't able, after investigation, to substantiate the allegations of deliberate withholding made by the California PUC. q.v.
Except the federal prosecutor has just served the company with a subpoena regarding California trading activities. So it remains to be seen whether Duke was cleared or not ...
Pete's Quick Guide to Why There Has Been No Conservation
Constant Dollar Cost To End-Users 1973-2001
Well, none since the early 80s or thereabouts..... Source: EIA
Miscellaneous side bar items:
BLM on future gas development. q.v. Also, it may not be clean but at least coal production land can be reclaimed. q.v.
DOE regulatory agenda q.v.
Chevron-Texaco goes big for LNG q.v.
Who wins when Europe expands? q.v.
Quick guide to nuclear power q.v.
Will drilling Kashagan cause serious environmental problems? q.v. Steve Andrews writes from Colorado to point out that the author of the linked piece misunderstands the relative size of the field: "... [the] article in the Guardian claims this field rivals Ghawar. The article you attached briefly alludes to this field being 'perhaps the world's largest field' or some such wording, before mentioning 10 billion recoverable. That would put it in the world's top 20, perhaps the top 15, but far from Ghawar's 85 or 95 billion (whatever the size of the latest estimate)..."
More on studying climate change in lieu of an actual policy to prevent it from getting worse. q.v. The study plan itself. q.v.
Did Mrs. Saudi Ambassador knowingly fund terrorists? qv1 qv2 Pete very much doubts it, but it is a bit, uh, awkward. Official Saudi government spokesmen have totally denied that she had any knowledge of how a third party to whom she gave money would spend it. Before 9/11 any such duplicity was unthinkable. Now, regrettably, it's just wildly unlikely.
The Baker Institute report on middle eastern oil q.v. Not brilliant, but competent, says Pete, with interesting coverage of Chinese oil policy, particularly in Iraq.
Situation in Venezuela remains extremely tense q.v. The strikes have brought the return of $30 oil.
OPEC's proposed quotas q.v. Can they stay this tight with Venezuela's output dropping so much?
Has the administration made clear the need to rely on constitutional procedures in Venezuela? q.v. Strike details. q.v.
Morgan Stanley's analysis of oil prices under three scenarios. q.v.
Exxon puts up $100 million for more study of global warming. q.v.
GM begins to see the light. q.v.
Good cop, bad cop q.v.
Slight tightening of SUV fuel economy standards. q.v. One-half an mpg isn't much, but it is something. Then again, fiddling while Rome burned was something.
2002 was the second warmest year in the last 140. q.v. 1998 holds the record. 2002 was nearly a half degree above the 1961 - 1990 average.
After millions and huge amounts of time were wasted, a court finally decided that the administration could make energy policy proposals without revealing who may have been looking over its shoulder. q.v. It would be nice to pronounce the decision a victory of substance over form, but it only illustrates the extraordinary penchant of the American political class to do anything but make real decisions on energy policy.
Merchant putzes ... US energy merchants continue to retreat from Europe. q.v. No, energy deregulation will not set you free. Markets are tough. They won't even set you free when your banker crawls into bed with you. q.v.
For the Record: Who Brings It In
Imports From Persian Gulf 2002
VOLUME (THOUSANDS OF BARRELS)
|MOTIVA ENTERPRISES LLC||
|VALERO MKTG & SUPPLY CO||60,212|
|MARATHON ASHLAND PETRO LLC||39,911|
|EXXON CO USA||39,332|
|AMOCO OIL CO||15,236|
|PHILLIPS 66 CO||11,872|
|CITGO PETRO CORP||8,593|
|FLINT HILLS RESOURCES LP||7,898|
|ATOFINA PETROCHEMICALS INC||7,486|
Coal and Health
Assorted points made by A. Cohen, director of the Clean Air Task Force in recent Congressional testimony (q.v.):
"Fine particulate matter. A succession of studies during the 1990s, starting with work out of Brigham Young University, began to link so-called ultrafine particulate matter with premature death and a range of other sub-lethal but negative health impacts. This body of work underlay EPA's 1997 fine particulate standard that was recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. More recently, studies have focused on the relationship of fine particulate matter impacts to fossil-fired electric plants specifically. The Harvard School of Public Health, for example, in two recent studies, found hundreds of annual deaths per year linked to coal fired plants in Massachusetts and Illinois due to fine particulate matter, and significant sub-lethal impacts leading to asthma attacks and respiratory hospitalizations. On a national scale, Abt Associates recently found that more than 30,000 premature deaths per year are caused by fine particulate precursor emissions from coal- and oil fired power plants, as well as 27,000 emergency room visits and hospitalizations, 600,000 asthma attacks and an astonishing 5.1 million lost work days per year. Notably, the densest concentration of particulate related health impacts was not in the Northeast U.S.--which has typically been the more vocal complainant in national air pollution policy debates--but in the Midwest and Southeastern U.S., where the bulk of the nation's coal fired electric generation is located. For example, cities in Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky and West Virginia dominated the rankings of coal plant-related death tolls per 100,000 residents."
"Toxic emissions. Coal- and oil-fired power plants are responsible for a wide array of toxic air emissions, including, most notably, mercury, as well as other metals such as arsenic and beryllium; and acid gasses such as hydrochloric acid and hydrogen sulfate. All of these substances have known toxic, neurotoxic or carcinogenic effects. In September of last year, a committee of the National Academy of Sciences estimated that over 60,000 children are born each year at risk for adverse neurodevelopmental effects due to in utero exposure to methylmercury. These children will likely have to struggle to keep up in school and might require remedial classes or special education. As noted below, however, and in an attachment to this testimony, there is some indication that mercury and other toxic emissions may be significantly controlled as a co-benefit from controlling nitrogen and sulfur emissions that contribute to fine particulate deaths, ozone smog, acid rain, and haze."
"Fossil fuel combustion waste. Combustion wastes are the solid and liquid waste left over from burning coal and oil to make electricity--ash, sludge, boiler slag, mixed together with a dozen or so smaller volume wastes. Every year, over 100 million tons of these wastes are produced at nearly 600 coal- and oil-fired power plants. Seventy six million tons are primarily disposed of at the power plant site in unlined and unmonitored wastewater lagoons, landfills and mines. These wastes are highly toxic, containing concentrated levels of contaminants like arsenic, mercury, chromium and cadmium that can damage the nervous systems and other organs, especially in children. Analyses performed for EPA show that some of these pollutants will eventually migrate and contaminate nearby groundwater--in some cases posing cancer risks thousands of times higher than EPA's standard risk thresholds. Despite these high toxic risks, there is no direct federal regulation of these wastes; they were exempted from such regulation by Congress, leaving it up to EPA to decide. Last year, EPA declined to directly regulate these wastes. Instead, these disposal units are operating under state rules that are frequently less protective than those applying to household trash."
Pete continues to think of clean coal as oxymoronic. Note, however, that Heiko Gerhauser writes from the UK to point out that there's some very interesting clean coal technology, such as that from Zeca. q.v.
Round-Up: Natural Gas Dependency
The percent of US supplies coming from abroad is much lower for natural gas than for oil. But the rise in dependency has been no less inexorable. Of course, the foreign gas is almost entirely Canadian, and a more reliable supplier is difficult to imagine. Still it is a big dependency and growing bigger all the time. Chart source: EIA.
Ok Then, Is the Bottom Near for the US Energy Industry?
Pete doesn't know the answer to that one either, but the Financial Times suggests not. q.v.
Round-Up: Carbon Emissions
Even since the dark satanic mills q.v. began belching out smoke at the beginning of the industrial era, the richest countries have been returning greenhouse gases to the world's atmosphere. The total is about 270 billion metric tons of carbon, but of this amount roughly half has been emitted since the mid-1970s (left figure). q.v.
The world's population was expanding so rapidly that the per capita total has remained relatively constant (right figure above). But real, cumulative emissions are heading for the asymptote (left figure below). As you'd expect, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations have been growing very rapidly. The world's longest-running monitoring site, Mauna Loa, shows a 17.4% increase in the mean annual CO2 concentration levels during the 44 years records have been kept. (right figure below).
The IPCC's summary is also worth reading. q.v. On a somewhat more positive note, the latest estimates for the US are available from EIA. q.v.