Tag Archives: oil

Bobby Jindal and the two-faces of the modern Republican Party

Today on NPR I was listening to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal talking about how the Federal Government hadn’t done enough to protect Louisiana’s coastline.  Since this seems to be a continuing trend of Republicans and conservatives, I thought I would do my homework about what Bobby Jindal’s stance was about drilling, oil, energy, and the Feds.

To make sure that I heard things correctly, I pulled up several other sources to verify that I heard this staunch anti-big-government Republican say that the Feds had not responded quickly or adequately enough.  From Reuters: “The U.S. Coast Guard and BP failed to take decisions quickly enough and delayed supplying necessary clean-up equipment even as oil washes onto the state’s fragile marshland, said Governor Bobby Jindal.”

In his 2009 GOP response to Obama’s speech: “… we need urgent action to keep energy prices down” including “increase[d] drilling for oil and gas here at home.”  He also believes that “Democratic leaders in Washington – they place their hope in federal government.  We [the Republicans] place our hope in you, the American people. …. We oppose the National Democratic view that says the way to strengthen our country is to increase dependence on government.”

Digging even a little bit farther back, shows that he was a sponsor of the “Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act (HR 4761)” which was a bill to eliminate the moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling.  That’s correct, Governor  (then-Representative) Jindal supported offshore drilling.  The same type of offshore drilling that is now polluting Louisiana coastlines.

Now he is crying out for the US Army Corps of Engineers to build a series of sand berms across the coastline to protect it from oil and hurricanes.  Note: That is the US Army, not the Louisiana National Guard.  (Yes, that is a cheap shot, because the Army Corps of Engineers has jurisdiction, not the Louisiana National Guard… but it helps prove the point.)

Other prominent Louisiana politicians also have their hands in dirty oil money, primarily Republicans, with one Democratic standout: Representative Charlie Melancon.

For once I wish that the same people who beg for federal assistance would put their money where their mouth is: If you don’t want government assistance, then stop asking for it when things go wrong.  Research done by the Tax Foundation also supports this.  For every $1.00 of tax money sent to the feds, Louisiana received $1.45 back.  

So, I would like to put out a proposal to the Republican party: Why don’t you make full disclosure over just how much federal money you have turned down, how many ear-marked bills you culled for your own district, and put the money where your mouth is.  You ask for offshore drilling and little regulation, and you’ve gotten it.  I just wonder how many people affected by the spill were there chanting “Drill, Baby, Drill” during the last presidential election…

Nuclear revival in the US?

Yesterday, the NY Times had an article about US funding for 2 new nuclear plants in Georgia (the state, not the country).  I am cautiously optimistic about this project, while at the same time dreading it.  I have long been a supporter of nuclear energy, since the science behind radiation is much more well understood than the interactions related to climate change.  However, I believe that supporters need to be clear in what nuclear energy is, and is not.

In so much as it is used to replace or prevent construction of coal burning (or probably natural gas as well) power plants, this is a good idea.  However, nuclear energy is not emissions free.  Concrete is associated with large quantities of CO2 emissions, and uranium mining has its own environmental drawbacks based on how it is performed.  More importantly, there is no federal repository for nuclear waste.  Instead it is collecting at the individual nuclear power plant sites across the US.

Regarding overall CO2 emissions, I am a fan of nuclear because it can provide low emissions baseload power.  That is, they can run essentially 24/7.  They are highly reliable as well, and are not intermittent (nor do they have the associated problems with intermittent).  Perhaps one day, in a few decades, other alternatives might be cost effective and reliable, such as storage, but until then, we need something that can reduce baseload emissions in a (fairly) clean manner.  And, I believe, that nuclear power is the best way forward…. for now.

Bin Laden, Climate Change, and Extremism

A new Bin Laden tape strikes out against the US… on its environmental platform?

He comes out against industrialized countries for not halting climate change, and then goes into the usual blame game.  This time however, his intent was “to inflict harm on the US economy” by encouraging nations to switch away from the greenback to other currencies.

While undoubtedly true, it is also hard to deny that those “other currencies” also come from the largest polluter (China), and one of the top exporters of GHG emitting fuels in the world (Russia), so it’s not really an accurate portrayal of the world.  Not to mention the hypocrisy of Bin Laden (with the size of the Bin Laden family construction business) coming out against climate change, when I am fairly certain most of the ardent followers of Bin Laden probably don’t believe in climate change (not that I know this for certain, religious-types tend towards lack of trust in science).

However, the more important part of the announcement is the shift towards environmental topics.  I believe it indicates that Bin Laden’s core ideology is losing strength, support, and relevance due to his isolation in Afghanistan/Pakistan.  This is an attempt to expand his reach and scope, despite the fact that a great deal of existing environmental damage is due to overpopulation and poor management of existing resources.

It is interesting to see Al Qaeda/Bin Laden adopt an environmental plank to their platform, however, ultimately the logic fails.  Shifting from the greenback to another currency will do little to nothing to affect or impact climate change.  Instead it merely promotes the misunderstanding and self-gratification, based on a slender kernel of truth, that extremists so largely operate under.

Copenhagen: trials and delays

The climate talks in Copenhagen have ground to a halt, for the usual litany of reasons that have derailed any real action since the Rio Conference (Earth Summit) in 1992. 

  • It’s too expensive.
  • It’s not our fault – it’s yours.
  • We don’t want to delay economic development.
  • It’s not really happening / God makes it happen / Denial

Those are four of what I consider to be the top reasons that states choose not to act in the face of overwhelming evidence for climate change.  As I have said before, I do not care the causes for climate change.  They are real and they are happening.  At the best case, the chemicals societies spew into the air, water, and land are causing health impacts.  At the worst, they are causing climate change that will devastate millions, if not billions of people. 

However, the skeptics in the US are joining skeptics across the globe in an interesting Christian-Muslim alliance (sorry, couldn’t resist throwing that out there) — Senator Inhofe (whose Senate homepage, as of 12/15 had a nice pictorial icon for a link to a Senate Minority report) and Mohammad Al-Sabban (Saudi Arabia’s lead climate negotiator) are on the same page.  Now, what has inspired this close alliance between these two parties?  A love of black gold – OIL.  Saudi Arabia, as many of you know, is the top exporter of oil.  According to Sourcewatch.com Senator Inhofe received a meager $662,506 from oil companies between 2000 – 2008.  Or, to put it in perspective, Senator Inhofe receives nearly twice as much per year on average from oil companies than the per capita GDP of the US (The CIA’s World Factbook puts US GDP/capita at $46,000).

Does the US, Europe, and other advanced economies bear the lion’s share for polluting the air with greenhouse gasses?  Yes.  Do we have a collective responsibility to help others deal with the impacts / help reduce the impacts of climate change? Yes.  Does the developing world need to sit by and do nothing? No.

Developing countries need to do as much to reduce their contributions of greenhouse gasses as possible.  This does include the need for clean technologies such as solar PV, and small wind and hydro to create clean electricity.  But the developing countries need to realize that a political solution will never be possible unless they too are willing to abide by some metric for containing their emissions and environmental damage.

To think that others will do what you will not is the height of folly.  It is why I believe the GOP arguments about climate change policy in the US being against national security is the height of stupidity.  Most measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the US revolve around moving away from fossil fuels and on to renewables.  A situation which will only reduce dependence on foreign oil, not increase it.  Additionally, it is possible to imagine a situation where the US would become a net exporter of renewable energy sources — making foreign countries dependent on us, not the other way around.  Why?  Because last time I checked, the Arabian Peninsula was a pretty sunny place.

Sarah Palin, Cap and Trade, and Environmental Taxation

Sarah Palin had an op-ed in the Washington Post today, “The ‘Cap And Tax’ Dead End“.  I do not believe that she is at all qualified to be making ANY statement on energy, despite her touting what Alaska is doing.  Her actions in Alaska are far different than her words, she is not an economist, and her knowledge on the impacts of climate change in the far north is woefully inadequate.

First, the areas she is correct about:

1) A Cap and Trade or Carbon Tax would cost jobs by making energy more expensive.  However, the detrimental impacts of environmental taxation have almost always been overstated, and the benefits understated. 

2) Energy prices will rise.  However, energy prices have been rising steadily for the last few years, due to slowing growth, expense in transportation, ongoing unrest or war in the Middle East.  By raising prices, consumption (to a certain minimum necessary level) will fall, reducing the cost impact.  Also, under a tax or auctioned trade system, the neediest families could receive credits for their energy bills, reducing the detrimental effects upon their income and quality of life. 

3) Alaska is building a big pipeline, and there is a lot of coal in the US.  However, despite what she says about tapping into just a small segment of ANWR, the way the proposed legislation has been written, hundreds of miles of pipelines could be used to connect very small blocks used for active drilling.

Now, on to the numerous areas where Gov. Palin’s op-ed piece is filled with fallacy, lies, and contractions.

1) A higher price on goods will decrease reliance on what she calls “outsource[ing] [energy production] to China, Russia and Saudi Arabia”, through decreasing, or slowing demand growth.  Assuming that energy consumption has any long-term price elasticity (basically, demand will decrease at a reasonable rate as price increases) then higher prices through cap and trade or an environmental tax will reduce overall energy reliance, including foreign production.

2) Gov. Palin claims that “particularly in Alaska, we understand the inherent link between energy and prosperity, energy and opportunity, and energy and security.”  Which is precisely why, in 2008, as Governor of Alaska, she signed into law (while the GOP in Washington managed to get federal legislation canned) an oil windfall profit taxfor energy companies in Alaska.  “Palin’s administration last week gained legislative approval for a special $1,200 payment to every Alaskan to help cope with gas prices, which are among the highest in the country.”(1)  Amazingly enough, even with this windfall tax, the pipeline project Gov. Palin has been developing is still occurring.

3) The environmental consequences of climate change, natural resource extraction, and the benefits of reduced pollutant emissions are not touched upon.  Regardless of whether or not you believe in climate change, there are well known costs paid in the forms of health bills and deaths due to asthma, damage from acid rain, and damage to the environment from energy extraction and transportation.

In many cases, the polluter pays principle is not applied.  Instead we, as Americans and as inhabitants of Earth, end up paying the bill.  Shortened lifespans, chronic health problems, property damage from environmental devastation, and reliance on foreign, non-democratic regimes for oil, are the price we have so far generally been willing to pay for cheap oil and gas.  Energy which is more expensive in Europe, yet their economies still run. 

It also fascinates me, that Alaska, which will see the greatest disruptions from climate change (regardless of naturally occurring or done by man), has such a spokesperson who does not see the link between warmer temperatures and the threat to the very infrastructure which provides so much wealth to Alaska.  As temperatures increase, the permafrost is in danger of melting – causing potentially catastrophic damage to the pipeline networks and infrastructure connecting remote oil and gas fields with their markets in southern Alaska and the US.

I will close with some advice to Gov. Palin, since her stated goal is “let me make clear what is foremost on my mind and where my focus will be: I am deeply concerned about President Obama’s cap-and-trade energy plan, and I believe it is an enormous threat to our economy. It would undermine our recovery over the short term and would inflict permanent damage.”

Study and focus on the issue from all angles.  Read articles and sources you might not presently believe in, and read them for their scientific merit.  Focus on the long-term, and not the short term.  What does America need to do, rather than want to do?  What does science and logic tell us?  Assess the threat posed by climate change, by reliance on a finite natural resource, and focus your energies on that. 

Once you have done that, and only then, come back and tell us what your focus is, based on reasoned fact, presenting both sides of the argument, and then let your conclusions rest on those merits, rather than fear-mongering about theoretical damages to the economy, which have not been proven out in other developed economies who have placed environmental taxes on harmful actions.

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Iraq, Oil and Gas Auctions, and Oil Revenues

Iraq recently held its oil and gas auctions. Despite persistent belief to the contrary, and despite the fact that the energy companies threatened to not participate, or asked for higher revenues, guess what happened? They bid in, an accepted the government rates in many cases.

A few areas are still too hot for the companies to enter. Too many attacks, too risky, too expensive. But the calmer areas still received bids, even if it was only a single bidder.

My advice to the Iraqi’s? Hold out.

Norway did it in the 1960s. They wanted vastly higher prices than most analysts and companies considered realistic, in an area that was considered too environmentally hostile to drill.

Guess where the Norwegians are today – one of the richest countries (both per capita and in gross wealth) in the world, with plenty of oil still left, with areas farther north considered for exploration. By wise management and ensuring that Iraqi objectives are met for what they want to do with their oil revenues, Iraq could truly transform the country into something amazing. However, if typical petro- politics and economics are allowed to prevail, they will lose out big compared to what they could have.

Iraq owns precious resources that are in high demand. As such they can extract a high price, but wise management is needed to balance the economy between oil revenues and economic transformation.

Greenland, self-rule, and climate change

Greenland’s November referendum has taken effect today, bringing Greenlanders closer to complete self-rule.

This will give the local government greater say and authority in most domestic activities. What is interesting, as the article linked highlights, is that as the climate changes, the mostly inaccessible mineral resources will increasingly become available for exploitation. This phenomenon is not unique to Greenland, but is impacting the entire Arctic region.

A Russian sub planted a small metal Russian flag on the Lomonosov Ridge, claiming that it is part of Russia’s continental shelf. However, other countries claim the ridge for themselves. Why would anyone care about the land lying underneath the Arctic Pole? Because claiming the land would apportion out almost the entire currently unclaimed regions, granting untold access to petroleum and natural gas reserves – to the tune of the US Geological Survey’s recently completed assessment of 90 billion barrel of oil and 1669 trillion cubic feet of gas. (USGS PDF)

Because of these vast energy reserves and increasing access, tensions are slowing heating up amongst the Arctic nations.  Canada is increasing its icebreaker fleet, and words are flying over access rights to the newly opened Northwestern Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  The old dream of not having to pass Southern America or through the Panama Canal might finally becoming true.  But to the detriment of the environment. Reuters article

In 1989, the Exxon Valdez ran around in Prince Albert Sound, causing billions of dollars in environmental damage.  Now imagine an oil tanker traversing the even more remote wilderness of the Canadian islands, shifting channels, and a sea still fairly ice-covered with unknown icebergs.  Oil may soon pass through these areas, largely if not entirely untouched by humanity’s direct presence.  It only takes one accident to destroy it all.

I wish Greenland the best of luck and congratulations in implementing increased self-rule.  However, as they expand their economic access into Greenland’s territory, I hope the above points are considered so they can manage their resources wisely while also protecting the environment.