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