Other stories below: Keystone China connection is overblown; Climate scientists call for think tank to reveal funding
Federal forecasters are expected to confirm on Monday what the energy industry already knows: Oil production is surging in the U.S.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration is likely to raise by a substantial amount its existing estimate that U.S. oil production will grow by 550,000 barrels per day by 2020, to just over six million barrels daily.
The forecast will include new production data from developing oil fields, including the Bakken shale area in North Dakota, which could hold as much of 4.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil. North Dakota’s output of oil and related liquids topped 500,000 barrels per day in November, meaning that the state pumped more oil than Ecuador. In fact, U.S. oil production grew faster than in any other country over the last three years and will continue to surge as drillers move away from natural gas due to a growing gas glut, experts say. The glut has sent natural-gas prices to a 10-year low.
The three oil giants will post billions more in profits than they did in the fourth quarter of 2010, thanks to higher oil prices.
When President Obama rejected the Keystone oil sands pipeline expansion last week, critics immediately sounded the China alarm.
“If we don’t build this pipeline … that oil is going to get shipped out to the Pacific Ocean and will be sold to the Chinese,” said House Speaker John Boehner, echoing statements from pipeline supporters on both ides of the isle.
Yet experts say the situation is more complicated than that.
In an effort to diversify its export base and sell to growing markets, Canada has been looking to build a pipeline to its West Coast long before the Keystone controversy even began.
And actually laying a pipeline to the West Coast will be just as hard as building one through the United States.
“It’s not a question of either or,” said Sarah Ladislaw, an energy analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “That [talk] is just politically convenient.”
Four years after the GOP’s rallying cry became “drill, baby, drill,” environmental issues have barely registered a blip in this Republican presidential primary.
That’s likely to change as the race turns to Florida.
The candidates’ positions on environmental regulation, global warming as well as clean air and water are all but certain to get attention ahead of the Jan. 31 primary in a state where the twin issues of offshore oil drilling and Everglades restoration are considered mandatory topics for discussion.
“It’s almost like eating fried cheese in Iowa,” said Jerry Karnas of the Everglades Foundation. Drilling has long been banned off Florida’s coasts because of fears that a spill would foul its beaches, wrecking the tourism industry, while the federal and state governments are spending billions to clean the Everglades.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a slogan that captures its odd position in the federal hierarchy: “NOAA may be the most important agency you’ve never heard of.”
That contradiction was on full display earlier this month, when President Obama announced a reorganization plan for the Commerce Department. Some agencies were to join Commerce. But NOAA, which received only a brief mention, was to move to the Interior Department.
So the agency in charge of tracking everything from the weather to fish in the sea is slated to switch over to the nation’s premier public lands department, prompting a question: Is that the right move?
Of course, whether it should even be in Commerce is a point of contention. It ended up there because President Richard M. Nixon was miffed at his interior secretary.
“The [Obama] reorganization aimed to create a new, consolidated department with a laser-like focus on business, trade and economic growth,” Lisa Brown, executive director of the Government Reform Initiative at the Office of Management and Budget, said in an interview. “NOAA focuses on weather, ocean and coastal management, and science. Those are two fundamentally different missions, both of which are critically important.”
General Electric Co. is trying to convince developers that have bought its wind turbines to double down on clean energy by purchasing its solar panels as well, said Vic Abate, who runs the company’s renewables unit.Invenergy LLC is planning to install 23 megawatts of GE’s thin-film solar panels at a site adjacent to a 210-megawatt wind farm it operates in Illinois with GE turbines.
It’s GE’s first solar order from a wind customer and Abate said he’s pushing the hybrid concept to other turbine buyers. Offering solar panels may offset an anticipated decline in turbine sales, he said. U.S. developers have curtailed orders for 2013 on concern that a federal tax credit for wind energy will expire at the end of this year.
“It wasn’t until of late that costs came down enough for solar to make sense,” Abate said Jan. 20 in an interview. “Plugging them in to wind farm locations, you already know the community, how to get the permits and secure interconnections to the grid.”
Leading climate scientists have given their support to a Freedom of Information request seeking to disclose who is funding the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a London-based climate sceptic thinktank chaired by the former Conservative chancellor Lord Lawson.
James Hansen, the director of the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies who first warned the world about the dangers of climate change in the 1980s, has joined other scientists in submitting statements to be considered by a judge at the Information Rights Tribunal on Friday. They will argue that Lawson’s foundation routinely misrepresents and casts doubt on the work of climate scientists. Their statements will form part of the supporting evidence being presented by an investigative journalist who is appealing against an earlier rejection of his FOI request to the Charity Commission for it to make public a bank statement it holds revealing the name of the educational charity’s seed donor, who gave £50,000 when it launched in 2009.
During howling winter weather two years ago, the thousands of windmills dotting Denmark and its coastline generated so much power that Danes had to pay other countries to take the surplus. The incident was the first of its kind, and lasted only a few hours. Low temperatures were an aggravating factor, because Denmark’s combined heat and power plants were also running full bore and generating a lot of electricity.
Since then, there have been just two more instances in which the price of wind power in Denmark turned negative for a significant period of time because of excess wind, according to the national grid company, Energinet.dk.