The Dernogalizer

November 22, 2010

Fossil Fuel Factual Fallacies: New York Times Called Out by Renowned Geoscientist

Filed under: energy — Matt Dernoga @ 12:25 am
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I received an excellent rebuttal in my e-mail today regarding a New York Times article about how plentiful fossil fuel energy supplies were in the future despite fears from a few years ago.  Reading the article and reading from a Geoscientist actually literary in the topic shows an incredible contrast between the lens the media reports about energy, and what reality actually is.

Fossil Fuel Factual Fallacies: New York Times Called Out by Renowned Geoscientist

Santa Rosa, CA (22. November 2010) Rarely is the public treated to such inaccurate, misleading and unhelpful journalism as in “There Will Be Fuel” <source: “http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/17/business/energy-environment/17FUEL.html?_r=1> by New York Times correspondent, Clifford Krauss (New York Times, November 17, 2010), even in this era of political spin and smoke and mirrors surrounding energy.

Let’s begin with the article’s concluding comment:

“When you add it up,” Mr. Morse noted, “you get something that very closely approximates energy independence.”

The facts of the matter are that no nation on earth is more dependent on imported oil than the U.S. Although consumption has declined somewhat, due to the Great Recession, imports accounted for more than 61 percent of U.S. oil consumption in 2009. Net 2009 U.S. imports of 11.5 million barrels per day exceeded China’s TOTAL OIL CONSUMPTION of 8.6 million barrels per day by 33 percent. Americans, with a population of 310 million, consumed 18.7 million barrels per day in 2009 compared to China, a country with 1.32 billion people, which consumed a mere 8.6 million barrels per day. This works out to 22 barrels of oil consumption per American in 2009 compared to 2.4 barrels per person in China.

Although American oil production increased slightly in 2009 from a recent low in 2008, it is down 36 percent from its all time peak in 1970. Meanwhile oil imports are up by 358 percent since 1965. The vaunted 100,000 barrel per day growth in shale oil production by 2013 in Krauss’ article, if it occurs, would amount to half a percent of current U.S. consumption.

The search for subsalt oil in deepwater locations in the Atlantic, deepwater exploration in the Gulf, and Arctic exploration, represent the last frontiers, as less hostile locales have already been thoroughly explored and exploited. Enough growth in deep water production in the Gulf of Mexico to offset declines in the onshore U.S. fields remains to be seen, given the fallout from BP’s Macondo blowout. The Santos Basin fields in the Atlantic off of Brazil may contain 40 billion barrels, and the mean estimate in the recent circum-Arctic study by the USGS was 90 billion barrels. Added together these equal perhaps four years of world consumption at current rates of 31 billion barrels per year – the catch being that this oil, if it exists, will take decades to produce.

Groups other than the uber-optimists at CERA cited in the article have expressed concern <source: http://peakoiltaskforce.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/itpoes_deepwater-briefing-note_nov20101.pdf> about deepwater production by non-OPEC countries, which constitutes much of the future potential for new production, and about the implications <source: http://peakoiltaskforce.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/final-report-uk-itpoes_report_the-oil-crunch_feb20101.pdf> of peak oil production globally. There are many other credible recent reports on the implications of peak oil, which the author of this article willfully chose to ignore.

Notwithstanding the IEA’s recent projection of increases in world oil production to 99 million barrels per day by 2035, this represents a stunning decline in IEA estimates of future oil production, which as recently as 2005 were at 118 million barrels per day by 2030. A closer look at how the recent IEA oil production estimates are to be achieved reveals that all growth in its forecasts will be due to unconventional oil (including biofuels) and natural gas liquids, and that conventional crude production will remain on a plateau below 2006 production levels through 2035 (a highly optimistic assumption in my view).

With respect to shale gas production in the U.S., which the author hypes along with LNG, U.S. gas production in 2009 was still four percent below the 1973 gas production peak. The U.S. is still a net gas importer via pipeline from Canada and via LNG from many countries. Despite the hype of people like Aubrey McClendon, the CEO of shale gas producer Chesapeake, who was recently featured on 60 Minutes, and who testified <source: http://startelegram.typepad.com/barnett_shale/files/AKM_US_Congress_Testimony_FINAL.doc> before Congress that U.S. gas production could increase by 50 percent or more in the next decade, the realities of shale gas make this unlikely. Shale gas wells have very high decline rates, between 65 and 85 percent in the first year, are high tech and hence expensive, utilize large amounts of water, and have environmental costs that are now becoming evident. The EPA has begun an extensive investigation of the environmental issues surrounding “fracking,” upon which shale gas production depends.

In summary, oil and gas are finite resources that are being consumed at unprecedented and growing rates. Despite what Krauss’ article says, the U.S. is the worst offender and is highly vulnerable to future energy price and supply shocks. The growth trajectory of the already high consumption levels in the industrialized world and the rapid growth in consumption in the developing world is patently unsustainable. Articles such as this falsely promote complacency and thus are an extreme disservice to understanding the energy sustainability dilemma facing the World. The premise of this article that the U.S. is approaching “energy independence” could not be further from the truth.

J. David Hughes – Fellow, Post Carbon Institute

ABOUT DAVID HUGHES

David Hughes is a geoscientist who has studied the energy resources of Canada for nearly four decades, including 32 years with the Geological Survey of Canada as a scientist and research manager. He developed the National Coal Inventory to determine the availability and environmental constraints associated with Canada’s coal resources. As Team Leader for Unconventional Gas on the Canadian Gas Potential Committee, he coordinated the recent publication of a comprehensive assessment of Canada’s unconventional natural gas potential. Over the past decade, he has researched, published and lectured widely on global energy and sustainability issues in North America and internationally. He is a board member of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas – Canada and is a Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute.

ABOUT POST CARBON INSTITUTE

Post Carbon Institute provides individuals, communities, businesses, and governments with the resources needed to understand and respond to the interrelated economic, energy, and environmental crises that define the 21st century. PCI envisions a world of resilient communities and re-localized economies that thrive within ecological bounds.

In addition to Senior Fellow Richard Heinberg, PCI Fellows include Bill McKibben, Majora Carter, Wes Jackson, David Orr and 24 others. Full list of PCI Fellows.

POST CARBON INSTITUTE

Tel: +1.707.823.8700 • Fax: +1.866.797.5820

http://www.postcarbon.org •   media@postcarbon.org

 

September 24, 2010

World’s Largest Wind Farm Opens off UK Coast

Filed under: energy — Matt Dernoga @ 11:22 am
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Spanning a site as large as 4,000 football fields, England has gotten the world’s largest wind farm spinning.  The farm can power up to 200,000 homes, and produce 300 MW of electricity and operate for 25+ years.  See the AP article for more.

Photo by: AP/Gareth Fuller/PA

August 20, 2010

Weekly Mulch: Green Daydreams? A Clean Gulf, Energy Efficiency, and More

Filed under: energy,environment — Matt Dernoga @ 9:14 pm
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Below is a free cross-post from the Weekly Mulch, enjoy!

Weekly Mulch: Green Daydreams? A Clean Gulf, Energy Efficiency, and More

by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

Yesterday, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) took Obama administration officials to task for encouraging Americans to believe that the majority of the oil in the Gulf of Mexico had dispersed.

“People want to believe that everything is OK and I think this report and the way it is being discussed is giving many people a false sense of confidence regarding the state of the Gulf,” Markey said.

Belief, after all, is powerful force. As coal baron Don Blankenship says, “You have to have your own beliefs, your own core beliefs, your own strengths and do what you think is right. You can’t do what others believe is right, you have to do what you believe is right.”

But what if your beliefs, even those backed up by science, are wrong? If you believed government officials who reported the oil in the Gulf of Mexico had dispersed—wrong. If you believed McDonald’s or Sara Lee really was helping save the planet—wrong. (Does anyone actually believe that one?) And if you believed you were conserving tons of energy by flicking off the light switches when you left the room—wrong again!

Gullible Greens

Wait, what? Yes, it turns out that environmentally friendly folk don’t know how little energy they save by line-drying clothes, recycling bottles, or turning off the lights, Mother JonesKevin Drum writes. Don’t worry! Those activities still conserve energy. Just not as much as you might have thought.

Drum’s evidence comes from a study that asked people to estimate the amount of energy they were saving by engaging in a given activity. Green-minded people tended to miss the mark on how much energy certain activities conserved. Perhaps they want to believe their conservation activities have a more dramatic impact, the studies’ authors suggested.

There’s a kicker, though. “The most accurate perceptions about energy use, it seems, are held by numerate, conservative homeowners who don’t bother trying to save energy,” Drum writes. Ouch. Apparently, knowing how much energy they’ll save, conservatives decide it’s not worth it to even try.

“A green-tinged fog”

But perhaps energy conservationists aren’t to blame for their own confusion. After all, as Anna Lappé writes at Yes! Magazine, corporations increasingly are using green messaging to sell their products:

McDonald’s recently launched an “Endangered Species” Happy Meal, “to engage kids in a fun and informative way about protecting the environment,” explains project partner Conservation International…. Earlier this year, Sara Lee unleashed with much fanfare a new line of “Earth Grains” bread that promotes “innovative farming practices that promote sustainable land use” as part of what the company calls its “Plot to Save the Earth.”

Lappé calls the confusion created by these campaigns “a green-tinged fog” that consumers can get lost in. And in the same way that green advertising is increasing, tips for green living are proliferating, which could explain the confusion about which ones are actually useful.

Government spin

But for the government, there’s no excuse for spreading misinformation. For instance, earlier this month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a report showing that most of the oil in the Gulf had either been collected or dispersed. Scientists questioned the report from the very first day of its release, and this week evidence is mounting that the report misrepresented the situation in the Gulf.

At the Washington Independent, Andrew Restuccia writes that a group of scientists in Georgia have released a report countermanding the claims of the government’s study, and that other scientists have found a 21-mile smear of oil still in the Gulf.

Riki Ott reports at Chelsea Green on a more vivid argument against the Obama administration’s claims that the oil in the Gulf is no longer a problem:

Off Long Beach, Mississippi, on August 8, fisherman James “Catfish” Miller tied an oil absorbent pad onto a pole and lowered it 8-12 feet down into deceptively clear ocean water. When he pulled it up, the pad was soaked in oil, much to the startled amazement of his guests, including Dr. Timothy Davis with the Department of Health and Human Services National Disaster Medical System. Repeated samples produced the same result.

How’d it happen?

So what is the government’s excuse? Right now, NOAA is standing by its analysis, Restuccia reports. Bill Lehr, a senior scientist with the agency, said yesterday that NOAA will release more documentation supporting its claims in two months.

“I assure you it will bore everybody except those of us that do oil spill science,” he said, according to Restuccia.

But as Ott explains, part of the government’s issue is the standard they’re using to evaluate the fate of the oil to begin with:

The problem is the ‘rigorous safety standards’ are outdated. The protocol relies on visual oil. What of the underwater plumes? The chart produced by NOAA last week shows, in effect, that over 50 percent of the oil (not to mention dispersant) is still in the water column as dispersed or dissolved oil. Scientists have found that the oil-dispersant mixture is getting into the foodweb.

In other words, just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. And in this case, what NOAA believes is less important than the scientific facts on the ground. To deal with the oil spilled in the Gulf, NOAA and its partners might have to admit that they were wrong.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

August 5, 2010

Solar Panels that are 50% Cheaper?

Filed under: energy,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 11:51 pm
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Check out this video on the Department of Energy website about new solar technology that the department is funding research for

July 27, 2010

Reid Unveils Weak Energy Bill

Filed under: energy,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 10:16 pm
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Harry Reid has unveiled his weak energy bill that can muster the 60 votes to break the filibuster.  Absent from it is a price on carbon, climate provisions, and a Renewable Energy Standard.  Here is the 24 page summary.

Now that there aren’t some good provisions, it’s just they feel like baby steps compared to the problem we’re trying to solve.  The good parts are…

1.  A section on new regulations for offshore drilling to prevent another massive oil spill like the one we just had.

2.  A transportation section that included $400 million for accelerating electric and plug-in vehicles, along with their infrastruction.

3.  A section on Home star, which is a $5 billion dollar energy efficiency measure to help retrofit homes across the county.

4.  A section on increasing the oil spill liability cap up to $5 billion dollars.

5.  A section on fixing the Land and Water Conservation fund, which is good bill, but environmentalists rightly wonder what it’s doing in an energy bill.

The bad part is a title in the transportation section on incentives for natural gas vehicles, which is as laughable as the money we’ve thrown corn ethanol.

So like I said, most of this stuff is good, but none of it is bold.  In fact, I’m disappointed that there aren’t more baby steps included that could add up to something significant.  A few things that come to my mind is Building Star, A Green Energy Bank, and Bernie Sander’s solar bill.  A big step would be a strong RES.

July 26, 2010

Algae as a Biofuel

Filed under: energy — Matt Dernoga @ 10:25 pm
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Algae strikes me as having incredible potential to displace oil and an environmentally friendly way, but first we need to bring our science and technology up to speed enough to produce a fuel from algae at an affordable price.  Check out this article in the NY Times Business section about research efforts to harvest algae for our fuel use.  Below is an excerpt from the article

“The goal is nothing less than to create superalgae, highly efficient at converting sunlight and carbon dioxide into lipids and oils that can be sent to a refinery and made into diesel or jet fuel.

“We’ve probably engineered over 4,000 strains,” said Mike Mendez, a co-founder and vice president for technology at Sapphire Energy, the owner of the laboratory. “My whole goal here at Sapphire is to domesticate algae, to make it a crop.”

Dozens of companies, as well as many academic laboratories, are pursuing the same goal — to produce algae as a source of, literally, green energy. And many of them are using genetic engineering or other biological techniques, like chemically induced mutations, to improve how algae functions.

“There are probably well over 100 academic efforts to use genetic engineering to optimize biofuel production from algae,” said Matthew C. Posewitz, an assistant professor of chemistry at the Colorado School of Mines, who has written a review of the field. “There’s just intense interest globally.”

Algae are attracting attention because the strains can potentially produce 10 or more times more fuel per acre than the corn used to make ethanol or the soybeans used to make biodiesel. Moreover, algae might be grown on arid land and brackish water, so that fuel production would not compete with food production. And algae are voracious consumers of carbon dioxide, potentially helping to keep some of this greenhouse gas from contributing to global warming.”

July 8, 2010

Solar Impulse Plane Flies 24 Hours Straight!

Filed under: energy — Matt Dernoga @ 9:08 am
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From AOL News: Fabrice Coffrini, AFP / Getty Images

I think this is pretty awesome.  A plane that is covered in solar panels and 100% solar powered just flew for 26 hours in a test run before landing.  Tackling the aviation industry’s pollution has always been a big challenge.  Another for the industry is addressing the fact that as oil prices rise, it will make air travel more expensive thus lowing demand.  When oil was well over $100 a barrel in 2008, the industry took a real hard hit.  They can’t make it in a world of constrained carbon emissions and peak oil if they don’t make advances like this.  Excerpts below…

“A solar-powered plane successfully completed a crucial round-the-clock test flight today in the skies over Switzerland, with its inventors hailing it as a milestone for aviation using only the clean and renewable energy of the sun.

The carbon fiber Solar Impulse prototype, with the 262-foot wingspan of an Airbus A340 and the weight of a midsize car, landed after 26 hours in the air at 9 a.m. local time, completing the world’s first night flight with a solar plane.”

“The aircraft flew across Switzerland for over a day to allow its 12,000 solar panels to soak up as much energy as possible, charging the batteries enough to keep the plane aloft through the dark of night.

“Everything went very well, it’s really unbelievable,” an elated pilot, Andre Borschberg, said shortly after exiting the bathtub-sized cockpit. “We demonstrated it is feasible to fly day and night, which means this technology can be used to save energy and to produce energy, and that’s exactly what we wanted to show.”

May 5, 2010

Oil Volcano Could get Much Worse

Filed under: energy,environment — Matt Dernoga @ 6:57 pm
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Here’s Ed Markey on MSNBC talking about what he learned from this committee hearing yesterday with those responsible for the oil disaster.

Support Homestar Legislation

Filed under: energy,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 3:19 pm
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I just got an e-mail from Green For All about energy efficiency legislation called Homestar which will be voted on tomorrow.  Below is the e-mail, and if you want even more background on Homestar, check out this fantastic info sheet by Efficiency First.

—————————————————————————————————————————

Urgent: Home Star vote!

Tell your Representative to Pass Home Star!

Tomorrow the House of Representatives will vote on the Home Star bill (H.R. 5019).  We urgently need your help to get it passed!

If you haven’t heard about Home Star yet, listen up.  The fast-acting program will create new jobs in energy-efficiency, cut pollution, and lower energy bills.

Please call your Representative now and tell them to pass Home Star.

(Our simple call tool makes it easy).

Home Star will create an estimated 168,000 jobs, save Americans $9.5 billion on energy bills over ten years, and reduce pollution and global warming. It will do all this by providing rebates to homeowners to make their homes more energy efficient.

Please act now!  Tell your Representative to pass Home Star!

Our communities desperately need jobs, and Home Star will help create them.  It is a critical step towards building the kind of clean energy economy we need to lift people out of poverty, spur on sustainable growth, and end our reliance on dirty fossil fuels.

Thank you for taking action.

Jessy Tolkan
Political Director
Green For All

May 4, 2010

My Op-Ed on the Offshore Drilling Disaster

I have a column out today about the offshore drilling disaster, and the need for America to get off of dangerous and dirty fossil fuels.

Oil spill: The drilling disaster was always doomed

By Matt Dernoga

I really do feel for President Obama. The president recently split with the base of his party and announced the approval of offshore drilling in areas all along the east coast. A few days later, in North Carolina, the president stated, “I don’t agree with the notion that we shouldn’t do anything. It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills. They are technologically very advanced.” As I write this, an oil slick the size of Jamaica is hitting the Louisiana coast and threatening several states all the way east to Florida.

It started on April 20 with an oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 workers. Not long thereafter, the oil company responsible, BP, realized that safety precautions had failed, and oil was gushing out of the well 5,000 feet below the surface of the water. Since then, estimates of how much oil has been leaving the well have climbed exponentially, and it’s now estimated to be 210,000 gallons a day. Because we rushed to drill this deep so soon, we lack the technology to access and shut off the well in a timely manner. No one knows when we will be able to shut off the well, but it could take as long as three months. This could eclipse the famously catastrophic Exxon-Valdez spill from 21 years ago by the time it’s over.

While this is politically damaging for Obama, pro-drilling Democrats and hopefully every Republican who has uttered the words “drill, baby, drill” with Sarah Palin since 2008, the real blame lies with our morally bankrupt energy system. That oil rig and others like it were in the water long before Obama’s new offshore drilling announcement because of a failure by our government to enact the policies necessary to transition us away from a dangerous dependence on dirty fossil fuels. That, and too many people were suckered by the oil companies into believing we had the technology to do this safely and without consequence.

This incident doesn’t stand alone when it comes to fossil fuels. Earlier this month, 29 coal miners died in the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia because coal company Massey Energy scoffed at the notion of safety regulations. Leaks of radioactive water have recently been found in power plants in Illinois and Vermont. In February, five workers were killed in Connecticut when the natural gas plant at which they were working had an accidental explosion. Despite conventional wisdom these operations are safe, accidents happen with our fossil fuel infrastructure all the time. And every once in awhile, we get a big one.

Is it worth the risk? Not if you’re a fisherman in the Gulf of Mexico, which supplies 59 percent of the country’s oysters and about 73 percent of our shrimp catch. Not if you’re one of the rescue workers tending to the area’s 5 million migratory birds, 445 species of fish, 45 species of mammals and 32 species of amphibians. Not if you’re burying a member of your family because he or she got killed feeding our dirty energy addiction.

We can’t get off fossil fuels overnight, but we sure as hell should do it faster than we are now. That should be the lesson everyone takes away from this one.

Matt Dernoga is a senior government and politics major. He can be reached at dernoga at umdbk dot com.

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