Other stories below: Super fracking goes deeper to pump up natural gas production; Rick Santorum’s Big Coal buddies
The nation’s most powerful business groups are dialing up the political pressure on the White House to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.
December’s payroll-tax-cut deal gives the administration 60 days to approve or reject TransCanada Corp.’s pipeline to bring oil from Alberta’s tar sands projects to Gulf Coast refineries.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue plans to highlight the pipeline in his closely watched annual speech Thursday on the state of American business.
“Keystone — and energy as a whole — will be a major element of Tom’s speech tomorrow,” a spokesman for the business group said Wednesday.
As regulators and environmentalists study whether hydraulic fracturing can damage the environment, industry scientists are studying ways to create longer, deeper cracks in the earth to release more oil and natural gas.
Energy companies are focused on boosting production and lowering costs associated with so-called fracking, a technique that uses high-pressure injections of water, sand and chemicals to break apart petroleum-saturated rock. The more thoroughly the rock is cracked, the more oil and gas will flow from each well.
The world’s largest oilfield service providers are leading the search for new technologies, with some companies focused on splintering the rock into a web of tiny fissures, and others seeking to create larger crevices in the richest zones.
“I want to crack the rock across as much of the reservoir as I can,” said David Pursell, a former fracking engineer who’s now an analyst at Tudor Pickering Holt & Co. in Houston. “That’s the Holy Grail.”
Hoping to defuse a three-decade-long feud over whale hunting, three academics are making an audacious proposal: the world should put a price on killing whales, and allow conservationists and whalers alike to bid on the right to take them.
Calling it “a market that would be economically, ecologically and socially viable for whalers and whales alike,” an economist and two marine scientists suggested in a commentary published by the journal Nature on Wednesday that the International Whaling Commission (IWC) could allocate catch quotas between whaling and anti-whaling nations while holding some back for an open auction.
The idea of a market-based trading system for commercial whaling is not unprecedented — a Canadian natural resources professor mentioned it in 1982, and a Virginia economist offered a more detailed scenario a decade ago. But the new proposal is attracting interest from Obama administration officials as well as some environmentalists, who have become frustrated by the ongoing impasse over how to enforce a global whaling moratorium rejected by Japan, Iceland and Norway.
China tripled its solar energy generating capacity last year and notched up major increases in wind and hydropower, government figures showed this week, but officials are still struggling to cap the growth in coal burning, which is the biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the world.The latest evidence of China’s promotion of renewable energy has been welcomed by climate activists, but they warn that the benefits are being wiped out by the surge in coal consumption.
After burning an extra 95m tonnes last year, China will soon account for half the coal burned on the planet.
This has alarmed state planners concerned about the impact of air pollution and climate change, but their efforts to cap the nation’s energy consumption are said to have run into resistance from local governments who fear restrictions on economic growth.
At a key policymaking meeting in Beijing this week, Liu Tienan – the director of the National Energy Administration – called for energy use to be kept below 4.1bn tonnes of coal equivalent per year by 2015.
Rick Santorum likes to brag about how he helped a poor local company fight big, bad government regulations on greenhouse gas emissions. “My grandfather was a coal miner,” Santorum said at a debate in New Hampshire this week. “So I contacted a local coal company from my area. I said, look, I want to join you in that fight. I want to work together with you.”
But Consol Energy, the company for which Santorum was a “consultant,” wasn’t some bare-bones local outfit—it’s one of the largest coal mining companies in the United States, and its largest shareholder is the German utility RWE. And Santorum wasn’t doing volunteer work: He was paid quite handsomely for his services, to the tune of $142,500 from 2010 to August 2011. He only ended his role with Consol when he launched his presidential bid last spring.