EPANot very.

Are fewer than one of every 10 Environmental Protection Agency employees essential to its work?

Only federal employees classified as “essential” can work during a government shutdown. At EPA, that means just 6.6 percent of its workforce, according to Reuters.

Of the agency’s 16,205 employees, a mere 1,069 will work through the shutdown. That means that taxpayers employ 15,136 people at the EPA who are “non-essential.”

This shut down may, or not, make us look a little silly among the world’s nations.  And, indeed, this is all shenanigans.  But there is good news to this:

Because of the shutdown, the EPA will not be able to work on the rules requested by President Obama in his climate plan, but Dina Kruger, a consultant and former climate change director at the EPA, said the agency would be able to complete the rules on time. It might just have to “work a little harder” once the shutdown ends.

The shutdown will also delay the comment period for the EPA’s New Source Performance Standards – the proposal that would make it nearly impossible to open a new coal plant – which started on September 20, 2013.

Good news to be sure.

 

peak oil

Peak oil.  A fascinating concept.  Motley used to scare children into thinking that the planet will die and we’ll freeze due to lack of usable fuels.

Or starve because the economy will tank as oil prices continue to rise and all goods and services become too expensive for the common man to afford.

Technically it means, at least I think it means, the moment when new discovers of oil are fewer than the increasing demand for oil.  We begin to see supply diminish and demand increase.

However, there is a small catch.  The oil that is counted as “discovered” is only that oil that is economically feasible to obtain.  Oil on the moon?  No good, too expensive.  Oil 25 miles deep?  Same thing.

However, technology is catching up and pushing the concept of peak oil further and further into the future:

Rising U.S. shale oil production will help meet most of the world’s new oil demand in the next five years, even if the global economy picks up steam, leaving little room for OPEC to lift output without risking lower prices, the West’s energy agency said.

The prediction by the International Energy Agency (IEA) came in its closely watched semi-annual report, which analyses mid-term global oil supply and demand trends.

“North America has set off a supply shock that is sending ripples throughout the world,” IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said on Tuesday.

It might take a new President to obtain access to all the oil though.

 

Global Warming Polar Bear

I’ve always felt two things:

  1. We’ll move on past oil and into another form of energy
  2. None of the alternative forms of energy pushed by the mainstream are viable

This is cool:

Lawrence Livermore’s National Ignition Facility announced Tuesday a successful test of its ultrapowerful laser system, which melds 192 laser beams into a single incredible burst of energy. On Aug. 13, the facility was activated for 14 billionths of a second and aimed at a tiny capsule of fuel. The result: approximately 350 trillion watts of power — hundreds of times more than the entire United States consumes at any given instant.

Last year’s test yielded unexpected results, however. In this test, NIF dialed down the laser beam’s power and tweaked it, for tremendous results.

We lowered the energy a tiny bit — about 5 percent — but more important, we changed the shape of the energy pulse. We moved energy from the back of the pulse to the front. We got three times the energy out,” Moses told FoxNews.com.

“Our goal is to get fusion burn — more energy out than we put in.”

Because the laser is on for the merest fraction of a second, it costs little to operate — between $5 and $20 per blast. Still, the cost of the facility has raised temperatures in Washington. The gigantic laser lab was built in California for $3.5 billion in 2008, and ran up approximately $1.5 billion more in operating costs over the past five years.

Uuuhh, WAY cooler than windmills..  And those that tilt at them.

25. March 2013 · 2 comments · Categories: Energy · Tags: , ,

Ethanol

I’m in the market for a lawn mower.

I’m reading the various reviews online and I’m struck y how many negative reviews there are for many of the mowers out there.  I suspect that there is the phenomenon of the negative reaction; people trend to rate only when they wanna complain.  But still, there are a whole lot of mowers out there that won’t start.

It turns out that ethanol contributes to the failure of these small engines.  In order to keep the engine safe, you have to purchase Stay Bil.  This is an additive that helps negate the impact of ethanol in the engine.  While it is relatively inexpensive, $6 for enough to treat 20 gallons, it’s still a pain in the arse to have to account for.

And wait until we get to E15.

 

I was thinking about energy subsidies this weekend.  I know  I know, geeky shit to be sure, however – I WAS stuck watching a dance conference with my daughter in Baltimore, so slack please!

Anyway, during the election season, Obama was attacked for his green energy subsidies.  That, in his attempt to pick winners and losers, he mostly picked losers.  All of which, of course, was to highlight the waste of money that is green energy subsidies.

It occurred to me, that depending on the type of subsidy, it’s okay that we encourage alternative energy research and advancement.

To be sure, I don’t like the government actually spending money or guaranteeing loans, to one company or technology over another.  However, when it comes to reducing the tax burden so that we advance investment, I don’t see any reason why we should pick oil and gas over solar and wind.

With that said, this is an interesting graph:

From the article:

The folks at the Institute for Energy Research used the Energy Department data to calculate a subsidy per unit of electricity produced. Per megawatt hour, natural gas, oil and coal received 64 cents, hydropower 82 cents, nuclear $3.14, wind $56.29 and solar a whopping $775.64.

So for every tax dollar that goes to coal, oil and natural gas, wind gets $88 and solar $1,212. After all the hype and dollars, in 2010 wind and solar combined for 2.3% of electric generation—2.3% for wind and 0% and a rounding error for solar. Renewables contributed 10.3% overall, though 6.2% is hydro. Some “investment.”

Zooming out for all energy, the Congressional Research Service did its own analysis of tax incentives last year. It found that in 2009 fossil fuels accounted for 78% of U.S. energy production but received only 12.6% of tax incentives. Renewables accounted for 11% of energy production but received 77% of the tax subsidies—and that understates the figure because it leaves out direct spending.

Which brings me to my initial thought:

By the way, these subsidy comparisons don’t consider that the coal, oil, and natural gas industries paid more than $10 billion of taxes in 2009. Wind and solar are net drains on the Treasury.

All of this suggests a radical idea. Why not eliminate all federal energy subsidies? This would get the government out of the business of picking winners and losers—mostly losers.

Mr. Obama’s plan to eliminate oil and gas subsidies would lower the budget deficit by less than $3 billion a year, but creating a true level playing field in energy, and allowing markets to determine which energy sources are used, would save $37 billion. That’s an energy plan that makes sense.

I like that idea best.  Less government.

BP has been issued a bill for the oil spill in the Gulf back in 2010:

NEW ORLEANS — BP said Thursday that it will pay $4.5 billion in a settlement with the U.S. government over the disastrous 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and plead guilty to criminal charges related to the deaths of 11 workers and lying to Congress.

The day of reckoning comes more than two years after the nation’s worst offshore oil spill. The figure includes nearly $1.3 billion in criminal fines — the biggest criminal penalty in U.S. history — along with payments to certain government entities.

The settlement, which is subject to approval by a federal judge, includes payments of nearly $2.4 billion to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, $350 million to the National Academy of Sciences and about $500 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC accused BP of misleading investors by lowballing the amount of crude spewing from the ruptured well.

Now, I’m all for BP having to pay for the cleanup to all agencies that were harmed by the spill.  I think that allowing companies to poison rivers that does nothing to harm the company is a moral hazard that creates problems for everyone.*

And I don’t mind that government sets the amounts of those fines.  What I DO object to is the nature in which these fines are arrived at; politics, deal making and more than likely cronyism.

If we want to protect ourselves from oil spills we have to acknowledge two things:

  1. We can not prevent a spill from ever happening again.  The only thing that we can hope for is to increase the mean time between failure and decrease the meant time to repair.
  2. What we really object to is the damage done by the spill, not that there was a spill per se.  Therefore, if we can quantify the dollar cost to restore the damage, we should be alright with the transfer of that cost.

If we’re able to do this, and codify it so that the rules are clear and understandable, the oil companies will understand this and include it in their business models.  In fact, I suspect that the fines will be significantly high that those companies will have to take out insurance policies to protect them in the event of a spill.  And this is a good thing.

See, if the oil company requires insurance they’ll have to get it from another company that sells insurance.  These insurance companies, being rational, will not issue said policy UNLESS the oil company can demonstrate adequate safety processes.   In short, the insurance will drive increased safety and prevention.  And it will do it in a mostly free market way.  Today prevention agencies are government run and filled with execs from oil companies that are named based on politics.  These agencies aren’t adequate in writing and enforcing the rules.  But if insurance companies are in charge of that, we can be MORE sure that the whole thing is more modern and appropriate.

So, hell yeah BP should pay.  But the fine should have been known and predictable up front.  If it was, I claim that the next oil spill will occur further in the future than it otherwise would and be restored much quicker and wit less overall damage to the environment.

* I do NOT object to the poisoning of rivers that DOES harm the polluter.  In this case “rivers” is the name I’m giving to the general environment.

30. August 2012 · 1 comment · Categories: Energy · Tags: ,

Indeed:

The Jubilee Field in Ghana is estimated to contain 1.8 billion barrels of crude. Tullow Oil discovered the field in 2007 and is now working to develop its potential. In 2011 it produced 66,000 barrels a day.

The Chicontepec Basin in Mexico is estimated to contain 10 billion barrels of crude.

The Kashagan Field in Kazakhstan is estimated to contain 11 billion barrels of crude.

The unnamed fields in the southwest of Iraq are estimated to contain 45-100 billion barrels of crude oil.

The Santos and Campos Basins in Brazil are estimated to contain 123 billion barrels of crude.

The Orinoco Belt in Venezuela is estimated to contain 513 billion barrels of oil.

The science behind energy has always been progressing.  hat started out as campfires has turned into nuclear reactions and laser shots.  We’ve gone from wood to whole oil.  Whale oil to kerosene.  Kerosene to coal and gas.  Mix in some windmills and solar panels, we’ve come a long way.

Each new advancement seems to come to as the matrix of inputs, and outputs, change.  We have oil today because we were running out of whales yesterday a delicious fact of life to present to your favorite neighborhood environmentalist].  We’ve gone from totally dependent on fossil fuels to nuclear options.  And today we’re taking advantage of natural gas through fracking procedures.

We change and adapt for several reasons.  Sometimes it’s because we develop technology.  We gave up on whales because the technology of oil extraction produced more value through oil than did hunting whales.  We’re able to tap into reserves of oil previously unreachable through new technologies and due to a changing demand for oil; the price of oil now makes new drilling economically sound.  And sometimes we have impacts to the environment that cause us to change.  As we throw soot into the air from our coal plants we discover that those effects are undesirable.  So we try to clean the exhaust.  That cleaning adds costs and those costs drive new technology.

And all of that, if done correctly, is a good thing.  It’s when the dogma surrounding the “Ought” get’s in the way when things go off track.

We forget to track the value.

Is burning the coal and sending the pollution into the air worth the benefit?  Is mining the coal and hurting/killing the miners worth the benefit?  Is the risk of a meltdown in a reactor worth the energy.  is it worth the cleaner energy that coal provides?  The comparisons can go on and on.

folks aren’t being honest if they don’t acknowledge that there are downsides to today’s energy.  And others aren’t being honest if they don’t acknowledge the benefits we enjoy due to that energy.  If reducing coal emissions meant a slow down in medical research, would that be worth it?  if we reduced the deep sea drilling and added to the cost of crude oil, would the economic impacts of higher cost of energy be worth it?

No one should deny that drilling, deep sea or shallow land, doesn’t impact the environment.  However, there shouldn’t be any doubt to the benefits that drilling provides either.

All this brings me to fracking.  This form of energy extraction isn’t any different than the ones we’ve already discussed.  There are puts and there are takes.  The rub comes in the value.  And this is where I think today’s ‘Green Energy” folks are getting it wrong.

I get that wind and solar are easier on mother Earth.  But they don’t have the economic ability to make themselves viable.  The benefit ain’t worth the downside; dramatically more expensive power.  And those same “Green Energy” folk’s hatred of fracking follows the same blindness to the value proposition that they exhibit in solar and wind.

Fracking gives us access to substantially cheaper gas than we’ve had in the past.  AND we have massive amounts of it.  Are there downsides?  Sure.  But they may not be as bad as they say:

PITTSBURGH — In the debate over natural gas drilling, the companies are often the ones accused of twisting the facts. But scientists say opponents sometimes mislead the public, too.

Critics of fracking often raise alarms about groundwater pollution, air pollution, and cancer risks, and there are still many uncertainties. But some of the claims have little — or nothing— to back them.

Examples?

…reports that breast cancer rates rose in a region with heavy gas drilling are false, researchers told The Associated Press.

Fears that natural radioactivity in drilling waste could contaminate drinking water aren’t being confirmed by monitoring, either.

And concerns about air pollution from the industry often don’t acknowledge that natural gas is a far cleaner burning fuel than coal.

Ironically, the same groups that accuse the right of ignoring the science of global warming*, are the same folks who might be ignoring science themselves.

“The debate is becoming very emotional. And basically not using science” on either side, said Avner Vengosh, a Duke University professor studying groundwater contamination who has been praised and criticized by both sides.

More on the science:

Opponents of fracking say breast cancer rates have spiked exactly where intensive drilling is taking place — and nowhere else in the state. The claim is used in a letter that was sent to New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo by environmental groups and by Josh Fox, the Oscar-nominated director of “Gasland,” a film that criticizes the industry. Fox, who lives in Brooklyn, has a new short film called “The Sky is Pink.”

But researchers haven’t seen a spike in breast cancer rates in the area, said Simon Craddock Lee, a professor of medical anthropology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

David Risser, an epidemiologist with the Texas Cancer Registry, said in an email that researchers checked state health data and found no evidence of an increase in the counties where the spike supposedly occurred.

And Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a major cancer advocacy group based in Dallas, said it sees no evidence of a spike, either.

“We don’t,” said Chandini Portteus, Komen’s vice president of research, adding that they sympathize with people’s fears and concerns, but “what we do know is a little bit, and what we don’t know is a lot” about breast cancer and the environment.

And back to the radioactive water:

Another instance where fears haven’t been confirmed by science is the concern that radioactivity in drilling fluids could threaten drinking water supplies.

Critics of fracking note the deep underground water that comes up along with gas has high levels of natural radioactivity. Since much of that water, called flowback, was once being discharged into municipal sewage treatment plants and then rivers in Pennsylvania, there was concern about public water supplies.

But in western Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority did extensive tests and didn’t find a problem in area rivers. State environmental officials said monitoring at public water supply intakes across the state showed non-detectable levels of radiation, and the two cases that showed anything were at background levels.

And finally the irony:

Critics of fracking also repeat claims of extreme air pollution threats, even as evidence mounts that the natural gas boom is in some ways contributing to cleaner air.

Marcellus air pollution “will cause a massive public health crisis,” claims a section of the Marcellus Shale Protest website.

Yet data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that the shale gas boom is helping to turn many large power plants away from coal, which emits far more pollution. And the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency passed new rules to force drillers to limit releases of methane from wells and pumping stations.

Some environmental groups now say that natural gas is having a positive effect on air quality.

Earlier this year, the group PennFuture said gas is a much cleaner burning fuel, and it called gas-fired power plants “orders of magnitude cleaner” than coal plants.

Does burning gas impact air quality and the environment around it?  Sure.  To a degree.  But is it worth it?  Is it worth burning gas in order to bring to our doorsteps life saving medications, educational advancements, new advancements in cancer research?  Also, sure.

We need to watch and make sure that we’re taking care to increase our value.  We don’t kill whales for whale oil just because there’s whale oil in the ocean.  And maybe one day, when we can more effectively split the atom, we’ll stop drilling for oil.  But until then, please, run through the value proposition.

*It’s important to point out that there is a difference in accepting man made warming and accepting catastrophic global climate change.  And much of the emotional back and forth in this debates comes from ignoring this fact.

 

We’ve all heard the complain from the left; Oil is going to kill us – we need to shift to alternative forms of energy.

And so we begin to experiment with things like wind, solar and geothermal.  And we find out that these things, at least right now, aren’t economically viable as a replacement to fossil fuels; oil, natural gas and coal.  In certain applications these technologies have value, but they will never be able to provide the energy to say, lift an airliner off the ground.

Undeterred, the movement has advanced an agenda that has Obama shutting down the coal industry all while subsidizing bankrupt solar companies.

It doesn’t work.

More »

The price of oil, and perhaps more accurately, gas, has been steadily rising during  the last several months.  All kinds of people have all kinds of reasons for this but one of the common themes has been the impact that oil speculators have on the market.  Many on the left are calling for legislation that would limit the ability of people to speculate on oil:

Experts have been clear: Wall Street speculators are artificially driving up the price at the pump and causing pain to millions of American consumers.

Now others have a different view of the impact that oil speculators play:

But economists and traders cautioned that pushing smaller investors out of markets would only hand greater influence to the largest hedge funds and Wall Street banks. Ultimately, there may not be enough traders left to do business with oil producers and consumers looking to hedge their needs.

“Reduced liquidity often means greater volatility,” said broker Jay Levine at Enerjay LLC in Maine.

So let’s compare.  Let’s take a look at an example of a commodity that prevents speculation and compare it to oil.

More »