May 12 news: French lean toward fracking ban; Gas prices push commuters to the train

French Lean Toward Ban of a Controversial Gas Extraction Technique

French lawmakers opened debate on Tuesday on proposals to ban a method for extracting oil and gas deposits from shale because of environmental concerns, throwing up the first serious stumbling block to firms that want to use the practice.

Looking with alarm at the experience in the United States, where shale gas is booming, even members of President Nicolas Sarkozy‘s governing conservative party have come out against the practice, known as hydraulic fracturing, in which water, sand and chemicals are pumped deep underground under high pressure to free scattered pockets of oil and gas from dense rock formations.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, “is not something we want to use in France,” Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, the environment minister, said on RMC Radio.

“Shale gas is the same as any other gas,” said Ms. Kosciusko-Morizet, who in February announced a halt in all exploration, pending the results of a study. “What poses a problem is the technology used. Today there aren’t 30 technologies, there’s only one for extracting shale gas “” hydraulic fracturing.”

Gas prices push commuters to the train

Rising gas prices are helping drive big growth in ridership at several public transit systems across the country.

In Miami, passenger counts on the regional rail service connecting the city to the northern suburbs were up more than 12% in April from a year earlier, according to the American Public Transit Association.

In New Mexico, the “Rail Runner,” a commuter train that runs from south of Albuquerque to Santa Fe, attracted 14% more riders last month.

And in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area of North Carolina, ridership on the express bus service connecting the three cities is up 18%.

The spike is being attributed to people going back to work after the recession, and a steady rise in gas prices that’s taxing the budgets of many motorists.

“Transit can be one of the quickest ways to avoid those high costs,” said William Millar, president of the transit association.

One indication that gas prices are playing a factor: Ridership is increasing on trains and busses that serve suburbs, where gasoline usage is more intense.

Nationwide statistics are not yet available, and such percentage jumps are not expected in the larger transit systems in New York, Boston and Chicago.

Clean Energy Investment ‘Bank’ Has Bipartisan Support, But No Money

Two top senators are again toying with the fancy of enhancing the Department of Energy’s ability to finance clean energy projects.

Those in the business are certainly eager to embrace the resurrection of what is called the Clean Energy Deployment Administration (CEDA).

However, they’re jittery that it will emerge as a piece of “all hat and no cattle” legislation if the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee can’t definitively map out where to find an estimated $10 billion in upfront costs.

Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman is talking about having a piece of legislation “” likely without accommodations for offsetting the cost “” prepared this month. It’s possible that the committee could mark it up and vote on it within the next few weeks.

Oil CEOs on the Hot Seat

With gas prices above $4 a gallon in much of the country, Democrats and Republicans are squaring off over whether to cut tax credits for oil companies enjoying a banner profit year.

Senate Democrats plan to grill the CEOs ofExxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp.,ConocoPhillips and the U.S. units of BP PLC and Royal Dutch Shell PLC about the taxes they pay at a Finance Committee hearing on Thursday.

Republicans, who have criticized the Obama administration for not acting faster to approve more offshore drilling, won passage of a House bill Wednesday that would require decisions to be made about offshore-drilling permits within 60 days.

The vote took place hours after the Obama administration approved a proposal by Shell to drill five new exploratory deepwater oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico, the second such approval for the gulf since the lifting of a federal moratorium on deepwater drilling last October.

Exxon CEO lays out industry defense

The head of ExxonMobil says Democratic efforts to curb incentives for it and the other four largest private U.S. oil companies “discriminatory” and “counterproductive.”

ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson “” likely echoing the message of the heads of all five companies “” is pushing back against a Senate Democratic proposal to repeal $21 billion in incentives for the companies over 10 years.

“It is not simply that they are misinformed and discriminatory. They are counterproductive,” Tillerson will tell the Senate Finance Committee Thursday regarding tax changes Democrats are pushing according to his prepared testimony.

Shed reliance on oil to upgrade strategy

The death of Osama bin Laden is good news but will not make the United States safe enough. One real danger of Al Qaeda is that it has no central leadership. Instead, it is a widely dispersed, anti-hierarchical group of franchises and agents, funded by loose petrodollars in the Middle East.

These Al Qaeda-inspired agents pose the immediate danger “” and they still exist. They know they can’t beat us on the battlefield, so they target critical infrastructure and soft targets. Petroleum facilities are high on Al Qaeda’s hit list, as they seek to wreak economic damage in the U.S.

Our best strategy for follow-up is multifaceted: Continue to hunt and kill terrorists, and reduce our dependence on petroleum, a commodity for which there is no free market.

Middle East Oil Rises as Processing Profits Boost Refiner Demand

Middle East crude oils for sale to Asia rose against their benchmarks as higher-than-average processing profits drove demand from refiners.

Murban for July loading, produced in Abu Dhabi, climbed 18 cents to a premium of 63 cents a barrel above its official selling price, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Lower Zakum, also produced in the emirate, advanced to the same level. Qatar Marine climbed 10 cents to a premium of 23 cents a barrel.

Middle East crudes have been supported by a surge in refining profits for middle distillates including gasoil and kerosene. Gasoil’s premium to Dubai crude was at $18.20 a barrel, about 58 percent higher than a year earlier, according to data from PVM Oil Associates Ltd., a London-based brokerage. Murban, Lower Zakum and Qatar Marine is prized by refiners for their higher yield of middle distillates compared with heavier Middle East crude such as Saudi Arabia‘s Arab Medium.

UN climate services eyed for vulnerable nations

The global economy could reduce $100 billion a year in climate change-linked losses by providing the most vulnerable countries with “climate services” to help them prepare, a United Nations expert panel recommended Thursday.

The panel proposed creating a $75 million-a-year U.N.-administered agency, or program, to help developing nations deal with an increasing onslaught of tropical cyclones, storm surges, floods and droughts.

The World Meteorological Organization “” the U.N.’s weather agency “” said most of the funding would come through development aid, and then be handed out for specific projects in the most vulnerable nations.

It said in a statement that more surveillance and early warning information is needed because about 90 percent of disasters in recent decades were caused by weather or climate-related hazards. It said the findings were based on concerns raised at a 2009 world climate conference

Sierra Club calls on Gov. Brown to revise global warming plan

The Sierra Club of California, the state’s oldest and largest environmental group, called on Gov. Jerry Brown this week to substantially rewrite the cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases that former  Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger considered to be his greatest legacy.

The trading system, which would curb emissions from 600 California industrial plants, is the centerpiece of the state’s 2006 global warming law, AB 32. Scheduled to take effect in January, it would be the nation’s most extensive program to cut carbon dioxide and other gases that are trapping heat in earth’s atmosphere.

However, in a letter to the governor released Wednesday, Sierra Club California Director Bill Magavern called Brown “well-suited to the task of scrutinizing and revising the cap-and-trade rule adopted by the previous administration. The rule has some serious flaws that will limit its effectiveness in reducing emissions and generating green jobs.”

Texas grid says EPA rules force gas-plants to shut

The electric grid agency for the state of Texas said on Wednesday that stricter federal air, water and coal regulations could force the retirement of more than 8,000 megawatts of natural gas-fired power generation in the state, making it difficult to meet electric demand in 2015.

The report, requested by the Public Utility Commission of Texas, looks at four proposed rule changes proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Arctic Council to address role of soot in global warming

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton touched down Wednesday on Greenland’s rocky, snow-flecked coast for two days of talks on the Arctic, as the Obama administration seeks to draw attention to the rapidly accelerating loss of sea ice and surging interest in the region’s natural resources.

Rapid warming above the Arctic Circle has led to shorter winters and a dramatic thinning of Arctic ice in the past two decades, and new scientific data suggest that the rate of polar melting has accelerated far beyond what scientists had forecast a few years ago. One study, the conclusions of which were released last week, predicts that the resulting rise in global sea levels could reach as much as five feet by the end of the century.

WH opposes expanding offshore drill area

The Obama administration said it opposes a U.S. House bill that would increase the area available for offshore, deep-water drilling leases.

“The administration is committed to promoting safe and responsible domestic oil and gas production as part of a broad energy strategy that will protect consumers and reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” the Office of Management and Budget said Wednesday in a statement. “The administration opposes H.R. 1231, which would undermine and circumvent the transparent public process for determining which new areas are appropriate to lease.”

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., and has 69 co-sponsors.

16 Responses to May 12 news: French lean toward fracking ban; Gas prices push commuters to the train

  1. prokaryotes says:

    Let’s say you end up with Rex Tillerson in a lifeboat after some random weather extreme. What would you ask him?

  2. Jeff Huggins says:

    When Will We Get Serious?

    Reading Rex Tillerson’s prepared testimony to the Senate Committee just now made me “weep” and nearly blow a gasket.

    But we can’t expect (or wait for) him to change. We have to ask ourselves when WE’RE going to get serious.

    We are (apparently) ineffective at getting through to enough of the politicians. (This is frustrating given that a Democrat is in office and hasn’t been able to communicate effectively to the public on these matters.) Meanwhile, the supposed “paper of record” has been (and most likely will continue to be?) ineffective at educating the public about the ExxonMobil BS. And so on and so forth.

    SO, are we just going to continue to tell each other to “hang in there” and “have heart”, or are we actually going to do something differently and EFFECTIVE for once?

    Relevant tax and policy experts (at CAP, in the White House, in leading universities, and etc.) should do nothing less than entirely “dismember” the arguments being made by Tillerson and Company, in light of all things considered, and President Obama should be able to communicate EFFECTIVELY and repeatedly to the public why such arguments are nonsense, all things considered. The New York Times should also dismember Tillerson’s arguments — although my guess is that it doesn’t have the talent, depth, time, or will to do so.

    A change in strategy is fast becoming necessary. Does anyone disagree?


  3. Leland Palmer says:

    I think that’s good news about the French consideration of a ban on fracking.

    Beyond our current CO2 based warming lies a massive potential for methane based warming. As methane concentrations in the atmosphere rise, concentrations of the hydroxyl radical fall, generally, although recent results show a more complex response, with hydroxyl radical increased in some areas and decreased in others. The hydroxyl radical is what oxidizes methane into CO2. Most or all modelers I am aware of project a longer residence time for methane in the atmosphere, increasing its greenhouse potential.

    It turns out, though, that increasing methane emissions greatly is projected by one recent paper to cause indirect warming 250% to 400% greater than the warming caused by the methane itself. This warming, according to the authors, would result from increased production of water vapor, CO2, and ozone.

    Water vapor, with methane concentrations 13 times the current levels, would increase in the stratosphere by up to 700%.

    Hydroxyl radical, according to the authors, would decline in the troposphere, where most methane oxidation takes place, but increase by up to 250% in the stratosphere.

    Ozone, which itself is a strong greenhouse gas, would decrease in the stratosphere, but increase by up to 100% in the tropical troposphere.

    Methane lifetime in the atmosphere, at 13 times current methane concentrations, would increase by 2.85 years, according to their models, an increase of roughly 20%.

    The authors claim to have exaggerated realistic methane increases, but considering methane production from permafrost and methane hydrates, their high projections might turn out to be more realistic than they think, and might come sooner than they think, IMO.

    Overall, it seems like a lot of drastic changes. Methane is projected to be more dangerous due to its indirect effects, such as water vapor increase in the stratosphere, general CO2 increases, and tropospheric ozone increases, than it is directly. These indirect effects make the past methane catastrophes such as the PETM and the End Permian more understandable, perhaps.

    I wonder, for example, what a 100% increase in tropospheric ozone near the equator would have on tropical forest biomass production? Ozone is great in the stratosphere, but damaging to human health and plant life on the ground. The hydroxyl radical is reactive, too.

    If we are going to use natural gas, which is mostly methane, we need to burn it using something like oxyfuel combustion, and then deep inject the resulting CO2 into the earth, I think. We may be forced to do this, to get rid of methane from methane hydrates.

    And if fracking causes significant indirect loss of methane to the atmosphere, which it seems to do, we should not frack, I think.

  4. Leland Palmer says:

    One problem with methane production from hydrates is bubbles.

    Big bubbles rise to the surface. Small bubbles are more likely to transfer their methane to the surrounding sea water, for oxidation by methanotrophic bacteria.

    I wonder if we could partially remediate methane plumes just by putting screens or perforated sheets over the plumes, and making small bubbles out of the big ones?

    Of course, this would likely increase ocean acidification, while reducing atmospheric methane, if it works.

    Oh, brave new world and the wonders in it! What lovely decisions we are forced to make, in our brave new radically screwed up world!

    Better would be to capture the methane from the hydrates, burn it via oxyfuel combustion, export the electricity to shore to pay for the whole program, and inject the resulting CO2 below the ocean floor into fractured basalt formations for in situ mineral carbonation, I think.

    Much, much, much better to be wise, and avoid the whole fracking problem, by decarbonizing our energy sources ASAP, and by using BECCS to put carbon back underground.

    The atmosphere speaks the language of billions of tons of carbon, and we better start talking to it in very effective ways, very soon, if we want to avoid totally destabilizing the whole system.

  5. prokaryotes says:

    “One problem with methane production from hydrates is bubbles. ”

    I read that high methane concentration can make ship sink. (One explantion of the bermuda triangle)

    An explanation for some of the disappearances has focused on the presence of vast fields of methane hydrates (a form of natural gas) on the continental shelves.[28] Laboratory experiments carried out in Australia have proven that bubbles can, indeed, sink a scale model ship by decreasing the density of the water;[29] any wreckage consequently rising to the surface would be rapidly dispersed by the Gulf Stream. It has been hypothesized that periodic methane eruptions (sometimes called “mud volcanoes”) may produce regions of frothy water that are no longer capable of providing adequate buoyancy for ships. If this were the case, such an area forming around a ship could cause it to sink very rapidly and without warning.

    Publications by the USGS describe large stores of undersea hydrates worldwide, including the Blake Ridge area, off the southeastern United States coast.

  6. Leland Palmer says:

    From Tillerson’s testimony:

    “They [cutting tax breaks] would discourage future investment in energy projects in the United States and therefore undercut job creation and economic growth. And because they would hinder investment in new energy supplies, they do nothing to help reduce prices.

    That’s a threat. Cut our tax breaks and we will refuse to develop oil and gas in the U.S., is what he is saying.

    So, he’s using the economic power of ExxonMobil to fight back against Congressional regulation. If ExxonMobil was a country, it would be the fifth largest carbon emitting country on earth. If ExxonMobil was a country, their gross revenues of around 400 billion dollars per year are more than the GNP of all but a handful of countries.

    Countries of the world need to band together, and nationalize ExxonMobil. All of their assets should be seized, I think. The executives should have all of their past wages seized, and be tried in a World Court for crimes against humanity. The Rockefeller family, which has traditionally controlled ExxonMobil and its parent corporation Standard Oil, should also have its wealth seized, and be tried for crimes against humanity.

    Until we destroy the power of ExxonMobil and other supremely rich corporations and dynasties which refuse to deal with the reality of climate change, real progress will be very difficult- perhaps impossible. Consider the success of the ExxonMobil and Koch covert climate change denier and propaganda network, financed with a tiny fraction of their tens of billions of dollars per year in profits.

    No unelected power should be this powerful.

  7. Vic says:

    Prokaryotes @ 8,

    If only we could pump some of that water to China…

    Drought on China’s Yangtze river has led to historically low water levels that have forced authorities to halt shipping on the nation’s longest waterway, the government and media said Thursday.

    The 6,300-kilometre Yangtze is China’s longest waterway and is indispensable to the economies of many cities along its route.

    The drought has left 400,000 people in Hubei province without drinking water and has threatened nearly 870,000 hectares (2.15 million acres) of farmland in the grain-growing region.

  8. Vic says:

    Or pump it to Britain – much closer…

    Parts of southern Britain are suffering from drought conditions following the warmest April on record amid a heatwave sweeping across northern Europe, researchers said on Thursday.

    England and Wales received the lowest March and April rainfall since 1938 with some regions getting the lowest rain in records dating back more than 100 years, according to the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH).

  9. Vic says:

    The Taimyr is one of two nuclear icebreakers built for the Soviet Union by Finland in the late 1980s.

    It’s backup diesel generators allowed it to limp back to port earlier this month after a “micro-fracture” that resulted in the leakage of 6,000 litres of nuclear reactor coolant, the second such incident to inflict the craft in the last year.  

    The US-based research organisation said the two Finnish ships were “originally designed for 100,000 hours of reactor life, but this was extended first to 150,000, then to 175,000.

    Russian authorities have announced plans for a quick repair job in order to send the vessel back out to sea.

  10. prokaryotes says:

    Offshore wind farm
    Volkswagen plans to invest in wind

    As of 2008, Volkswagen was ranked as the world’s third largest motor vehicle manufacturer and Europe’s largest.

  11. prokaryotes says:

    “We will produce electricity, hydrogen and methane gas – the fuels for our cars,” said project manager Reiner Mangold, according to Audi’s “FTD”.

    For the automakers, the subject of green energy more attractive. By the politically required entry into the electrical mobility, manufacturers can sell their cars in the packet stream. VW plans to launch its electric car “Up” 2013 on the market. The Group will thus take over the e-mobility lead. The Group also promotes the use of renewable energy in production – for example, in Emden.

  12. prokaryotes says:

    Guide “Renewable Energies”
    Germany, your wind turbines
    Solar Ferry, biogas plants and wind farms: the Attractions, the new Baedeker guide for Germany are a listing, unusual and highly explosive. Martin Frey, the author takes his readers on a journey through a land of opportunists, visionaries – and opponents.

    Martin Frey sees the world through different eyes. If the 40-year-old sits in the shade of a cafe and marvel at the small solar cells that cover the whole roof, then he finds the “simply beautiful”. And when he talks about the solar panels on the roof of his house in Mainz, it is sometimes the word “romantic”.

    Because the solar energy in the eyes of geographers and journalists is studied in comparison to all other renewable energies. It is quiet, easy to work without gigantic structures such as wind power and geothermal energy they demand, and it’s available anywhere in the world. It has only one catch: The solar panels are still relatively expensive. Exactly what needs to change, calls Frey. Preferably immediately. And also the same for all other renewable energies.

    In order to rethink many people as possible as quickly as possible and obtain their power from alternative energy sources, Frey has now written a guide: “Germany – Explore renewable energy” is the small Baedeker. The idea was created six years ago, says Frey. Since then, the journalist has collected notes on some 160 locations and projects throughout the Federal Republic. Sense of the guide is to inform people on the different options off to make use of nuclear energy and fossil resources carefully.

  13. prokaryotes says:

    @Vic #9

    Earlier this year china used cloud seeding techniques to end drought, as we see today – not much effectiveness, my guess is it yield rather some opposite results.

    Ohhh, china proceeds with cloud seeding …

    Drought turns southern China into arid plain

    The government has embarked on a massive rain-making operation, firing thousands of cloud-seeding rockets into the sky

    The chinese government might very well rate this situation as uiet critical, given the historic proportions, as was re-assessed from the so called Great Chinese Famine during the 50s.

    Great Chinese Famine
    was the period in the People’s Republic of China between 1958 and 1961 characterized by widespread famine. Although some degree of drought and weather conditions contributed to the disaster, most of the deaths can be attributed to policies of the Communist Party of China which was led by Mao Zedong.

    According to government statistics, there were 15 million excess deaths in this period. Unofficial estimates vary, but scholars have estimated the number of famine victims to be between 20 and 43 million.[1] Yang Jisheng, a former Xinhua News Agency reporter who spent over ten years gathering information available to no other scholars, estimates excess deaths of 36 million.

    Today there are more mouth to feed and the onslaught of natural disasters will keep rising.