July 2, 2010

CubaLibre: Obama Ban on Offshore Energy Exploration Forgets One Important Thing:The Cubans Don’t Observe It; Clear the Way for Drilling 45 Miles from Key West.WallStreet Journal (7/2) reports, "Florida has long fought to prevent oildrilling anywhere near its white sandy beaches. But as the state continues todeal with oil from the Gulf of Mexico spill washing up on its shores, it facesa new threat: deepwater drilling in nearby Cuban waters. Maria Ritter, aspokeswoman for Spanish oil company Repsol YPF SA, said it plans to drill offCuba, about 60 miles south of Key West, Fla., early next year. If successful,this would likely kick off a spate of exploration. Only one deepwater well hasbeen drilled in Cuban waters, by Repsol in 2004. The effort found oil but notenough to justify commercial development. Since then, the U.S. GeologicalSurvey has said there could be a substantial amount of untapped oil off theCuban coast, whetting the appetite of several global oil companies that havesigned exploration leases. Drilling off Florida in U.S. waters has been bannedby federal moratorium for decades. It’s not clear what U.S. or Floridaofficials could do to stop oil exploration in Cuba. The U.S. controls coastalwaters up to 200 miles from its shores, but under a 1977 treaty it agreed todivide the Straits of Florida equally with Cuba. That means Repsol can drill adeepwater well about the same distance from Key West, Fla., as the DeepwaterHorizon was from the Louisiana coast.

DuckLame: Bingaman Shoots Down Greens’ Idea of Ramming Through Controversial CarbonLegislation in Lame-Duck Session – "Senate Will Have to Act Before August" IfAt All. WallStreet Journal (7/1) reports, "A hot idea circulating in Washington is thatcongressional Democrats might try to pass climate-change legislation in thelame-duck session after the November elections. The idea has gained currency asthe Senate’s calendar has grown crowded. But a leading Senate Democrat said theapproach won’t work. If an energy bill is to reach President Barack Obama’sdesk this year, the Senate will have to pass a substantial bill before theAugust recess, said Sen. Jeff Bingaman. Bingaman, chairman of the Energy andNatural Resources Committee, warned his colleagues against assuming they canpass a bill before the election with popular items – such as incentives forwind and solar power and electric cars – and then add more controversialprovisions, such as a cap on carbon emissions, in a conference committee withthe House after the election.  Thatapproach, he said, has failed in the past.  "Any plan that contemplates ‘let’s just get somethingthrough the Senate and … people come back in a lame duck and all of us agree onsomething,’ I think that’s not likely," the New Mexico Democrat said. "If we’regoing to get legislation to the president for signature in this Congress, Ithink the Senate’s going to have to act before the August recess."

Facedwith Order from Federal Judge to Reverse Course on Moratorium, WH Press Sec.Says New "Partial Ban" Plan Is In the Offing – Directly Violating Court’sOrder. E&E News (7/2, subs.req’d) reports, "The White House yesterday said it will issue a revisedsix-month moratorium on new deepwater drilling in the next few days. "Ithink that will come from the Department of Interior, I would expect in thenext few days," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters.The Obama administration has been crafting a revised proposal since a federaljudge struck down its original drilling ban. President Obama in late May haltedapproval of new deepwater drilling permits and suspended drilling at 33exploratory wells while an independent panel conducts a six-month study ofoffshore drilling safety. But U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman ordered theObama administration on June 22 to lift the moratorium, saying the governmenthad not provided adequate reasoning for it and that it would have a permanentand harmful effect on the economy of the Gulf region. Although theadministration requested a stay, Feldman two days later reaffirmed his orderand gave the administration 30 days to comply.

KnowHow Folks Like to Claim that PA’s Portion of the Marcellus Has Hundreds ofTrillions of Cubic Feet of Natural Gas? They’re Wrong – There’s Even More. Reuters(7/1) reports, "Is there even more natural gas than thought encased in the rockbelow Pennsylvania? The state that is already estimated to have enough gas inits Marcellus Shale formation to meet total U.S. needs for a decade or more mayhave additional reserves trapped in geological strata above and below theMarcellus, some energy companies believe. Test wells sunk in recent months haveyielded promising quantities of gas that may indicate major new reserves of afuel that would reduce carbon emissions, cut U.S. petroleum imports, andgenerate thousands of jobs. One of the fields, the Utica Shale, has alreadygenerated interest in the Canadian province of Quebec where a number of horizontaltest wells have been drilled, and that optimism is spreading to Pennsylvania,birthplace of the world’s oil industry in the mid-19th century. Range ResourcesCorp. (RRC.N: Quote), a Texas-based gas driller that is active in thesouthwestern Pennsylvania portion of the Marcellus, said it has successfullytested two wells, in the Upper Devonian Shale above the Marcellus, and theUtica, below it. It plans to release more details in the coming months."The results are very promising," Range spokesman Matt Pitzarellawrote in an email. "Even though it’s still very early, the prospects arevery good, indicating that either of these formations could be stand-alone gasfields."

FederalLIHEAP Program – a Band-Aid Approach to High Energy Prices Embraced by LawmakersUninterested in Examining the Root Cause – Is Exposed as a Scam. AssociatedPress (7/1) reports, "A federal program designed to help impoverished familiesheat and cool their homes wasted more than $100 million paying the electricbills of thousands of applicants who were dead, in prison or living inmillion-dollar mansions, according to a government investigation. The U.S.Department of Health and Human Services spent $5 billion through the Low-IncomeHome Energy Assistance Program in 2009, doling out money to states with littleoversight of the program. Some states don’t verify applicants’ identifies orincome. For example, the program helped pay the electric bill of a woman wholives in a $2 million home in a wealthy Chicago suburb and drives a Mercedes,according to the yet-to-be released report obtained by The Associated Press.GAO studied the program after a 2007 investigation by Pennsylvania’s stateauditor found 429 applicants received more than $162,000 using the SocialSecurity numbers of dead people. "LIHEAP is supposed to be for poorpeople, not for cheats who pose as something or someone they’re not and gettheir paperwork rubber-stamped by gullible government officials," saidU.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, the ranking GOP member of the House Energy andCommerce Committee, which requested the investigation.

IEASays Worldwide "Revolution" of Renewable and Alternative Energy Just Over the Horizon- All That’s Needed to Initiate It? 500% (!) Higher Taxpayer Subsidies. E&E News (7/1,subs. req’d) reports, "The International Energy Agency says an energytechnology revolution is under way, but the next decade is critical insustaining that transition. The Paris-based energy watchdog says in a newreport out today that governments should intervene at "an unprecedentedlevel" over the next decade to scale up new clean technologies and avoidlocking in inefficient, high-emissions technologies. "For several years,the IEA has been calling for an energy revolution to tackle climate change andenhance energy security and economic development," Nobuo Tanaka, executivedirector of the International Energy Agency, said this morning in Washington,D.C. "For the first time, we see early indications that such a revolutionis under way." To achieve a 50 percent reduction in carbon dioxideemissions by 2050, government research and development funding in low-carbontechnologies — like wind, solar, nuclear, and carbon capture and sequestration– will need to be two to five times higher than current levels, the reportsays.

SocialistParadise: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Decides the Best Way to SettleDispute over Payment with Offshore Contractor is to Steal the Rigs.   Bloomberg(7/1) reports, "Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez decreed the seizure of 11Helmerich & Payne Inc. oil rigs after the company idled its equipmentbecause of a payment dispute, according to a resolution published in theOfficial Gazette. Petroleos de Venezuela SA President and Oil Minister Rafael Ramireztraveled to Anaco, Anzoategui state, today to take control of the rigs and allgear associated with their operation. Some 600 rig workers, whom Ramirezexhorted to look after the equipment when the planned seizure was firstannounced last month, become PDVSA employees. "We’re here to comply with ourrevolutionary laws and to safeguard our national interests," Ramirez told acrowd of workers today in a speech broadcast on state television. "Myrecognition goes out to workers who watched over the rigs and didn’t allow thecompany to take them out of the country." Helmerich, which has operated inVenezuela for more than 50 years supplying oil field services, said that itidled the rigs after failing to receive more than $40 million of past duepayments. Ramirez called the company "intransigent" in negotiations for newfees following a plunge in oil prices and said PDVSA won’t allow privatecompanies to slow production.

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