In the Pipeline: 4/25/11

In the natural gas debate, check your emotional baggage at the door — we’ve been fracking for over 60 years and the only byproduct is cheap energy New York Times (4/23/11) reports: Texans pride themselves on being the heart of the nation’s oil and gas business. But even here, public concern about natural gas drilling is growing… On Wednesday, several dozen protesters marched through downtown Fort Worth, waving signs and chanting anti-drilling slogans that reflected concern over air and water pollution…The anxiety centers on a recently expanded drilling method called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which is now used in more than half of new gas wells drilled in Texas. This practice — which involves blasting water, sand and chemicals far underground to break up rock and extract gas — is common in the Barnett Shale, a major shale-gas field around Fort Worth…“It’s our health that’s at stake,” said Dana Schultes, who lives in south Fort Worth and worries about the impact of the drilling on her young daughter…The protest, organized by the group Rising Tide North Texas, is the latest sign of a backlash against drilling in Texas. Yard signs saying “Get the Frack Out of Here” and “Protect Our Kids/No Drilling” have appeared in some yards in Southlake, a Dallas suburb. A few communities have declared a temporary moratorium on drilling permits, and Dallas set up a task force last week to examine drilling regulations within its city limits.

Obama says there’s “no silver” bullet for high gas prices and he’s right, all you need to do is open up federal lands for energy exploration. To calm Obama’s fear, he can read IER’s report The Hill (4/23/11) reports:  President Obama said Saturday there are no easy answers for lowering gas prices, which are hovering around $4 a gallon, and criticized politicians who push plans to immediately reduce the price of gas…”You see people trying to grab headlines or score a few points,” Obama said in his weekly address. “The truth is, there’s no silver bullet that can bring down gas prices right away.”…According to AAA’s tracking, the national average price for a gallon of regular gas is $3.86, which is 4 cents per gallon more than a week ago and nearly $1 more than a year ago… The president laid out his own plan for controlling prices, focusing on ending price gouging but calling for an end to the $4 billion in federal subsidies for oil and gas firms…He said there are some steps the U.S. can take to improve the situation such as ramping up domestic oil production and ending subsidies for oil and gas firms.

An enviros heart just skipped a beat: New report argues that more wind and solar energy means more coal and nuclear because renewables are unstable E&E News (4/25/11) reports: The growth of U.S. wind power has begun to create operating challenges for nuclear and coal plants that must be ramped up and down as wind speeds vary, panelists at a Massachusetts Institute of Technology energy conference reported last week…The MIT Energy Initiative symposium on integrating large-scale wind and solar power attracted executives of utility and transmission companies, senior government officials and academic researchers, whose comments were off the record. Some papers prepared for the conference were made public by their authors, and they define a growing challenge of matching the current U.S. mix of power plants with new requirements to respond quickly to changes in wind and solar resources…”The power system needs more flexibility to handle the short-term effects of increasing levels of wind,” said Ignacio Pérez-Arriaga, a professor at Spain’s Comillas University and a visiting professor at MIT…He and other speakers predicted the expansion of renewable power will continue as a clear option for reducing power plant carbon emissions. Nearly half of global electricity supply will have to come from renewable sources if world carbon dioxide emissions are to be cut to half of current levels by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency, he noted.

Step one: make energy prices necessarily skyrocket. Step two: demonize energy companies for the price increases The Hill (4/23/11) reports: The White House has joined congressional Democrats in targeting oil companies with criticism for nearly $4 per gallon gas…President Obama lashed out at oil companies — and the tax breaks they get from the government — for a second consecutive day on Thursday and again in Saturday’s address…“Four billion dollars of your money are going to these companies at a time when they’re making record profits and you’re paying near record prices at the pump,” the president said at a Nevada town hall. “It has to stop.”…Obama also announced a Justice Department task force that will probe whether speculators and traders are to blame for the high prices. A spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Friday criticized the effort as an attempt to deflect attention from White House and Democratic opposition to increased drilling in the United States…Going after oil companies is smart politics for Obama, according to polls and Democratic strategists.

IER’s American Energy Act is written up Clean Energy Report (4/20/11) reports: The Institute for Energy Research (IER) — a Washington, DC-based think tank that advocates a hands-off government approach to energy policy — is circulating model legislation that offers a litany of proposals to streamline and accelerate permitting for oil, gas, and renewable energy projects by scaling back numerous EPA and other federal agency authorities…While many of the provisions in the bill appear unlikely to fly on Capitol Hill or at White House, the package could provide fodder for GOP lawmakers seeking to blame government regulations for stalled domestic energy projects and high energy prices…The model legislation — the American Energy Act of 2011 — creates a fast track for projects defined as “priority energy projects” — defined as any project that boosts the U.S. supply of domestic energy. The fast track provisions call for making the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) the lead agency for projects that cross agency jurisdictions, according to a summary.

Let’s compete with China: Beijing wants to emulate the U.S. success with fracking because they need cheap energy MSNBC (4/25/11) reports: China has spent tens of billions of dollars buying into energy resources from Africa to Latin America to slake the unquenched thirst for fuel from its growing industry and burgeoning cities…But China may have more energy riches under its own soil than policy makers in the world’s second-largest economy ever dared imagine…Just over a year ago, Beijing awakened to a technology revolution that has unlocked massive reserves of gas trapped within shale rock formations in the United States…Once deemed too costly to extract, shale gas has turned around U.S. dependence on foreign gas imports. Just a few years ago, the United States was building scores of expensive facilities to import liquefied natural gas (LNG), looking at booming long-term demand forecasts and wondering which countries would supply the huge volume of imports it needed…Instead, the United States is turning import facilities into export terminals, because its shale gas reserves are estimated to be big enough to meet domestic demand for 30 years. This is an American dream that China wants to emulate…”America’s shale gas production alone has exceeded that of total Chinese gas output. That gives us a lot of confidence,” said Zhang Dawei, deputy director of the Strategic Research Center for Oil and Gas in the Ministry of Land and Resources(MLR).


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