In the Pipeline: 9/19/11

Why change a good headline — There Will be Oil Wall Street Journal (9/17/11) reports:  Since the beginning of the 21st century, a fear has come to pervade the prospects for oil, fueling anxieties about the stability of global energy supplies. It has been stoked by rising prices and growing demand, especially as the people of China and other emerging economies have taken to the road… Its advocates argue that the world is fast approaching (or has already reached) a point of maximum oil output. They warn that “an unprecedented crisis is just over the horizon.” The result, it is said, will be “chaos,” to say nothing of “war, starvation, economic recession, possibly even the extinction of homo sapiens.”…Its advocates argue that the world is fast approaching (or has already reached) a point of maximum oil output. They warn that “an unprecedented crisis is just over the horizon.” The result, it is said, will be “chaos,” to say nothing of “war, starvation, economic recession, possibly even the extinction of homo sapiens.”… The date of the predicted peak has moved over the years. It was once supposed to arrive by Thanksgiving 2005. Then the “unbridgeable supply demand gap” was expected “after 2007.” Then it was to arrive in 2011. Now “there is a significant risk of a peak before 2020.”…But there is another way to visualize the future availability of oil: as a “plateau.”…In this view, the world has decades of further growth in production before flattening out into a plateau—perhaps sometime around midcentury—at which time a more gradual decline will begin. And that decline may well come not from a scarcity of resources but from greater efficiency, which will slacken global demand…Those sounding the alarm over oil argue that about half the world’s oil resources already have been produced and that the point of decline is nearing. “It’s quite a simple theory and one that any beer-drinker understands,” said the geologist Colin Campbell, one of the leaders of the movement. “The glass starts full and ends empty, and the faster you drink it, the quicker it’s gone.”

Pay to play — Solyndra is the latest example of Chicago style politics on the national stage Chicago Tribune (9/17/11) reports: The Solyndra scandal cost at least a half-billion public dollars. It is plaguing President Barack Obama. And it’s being billed as a Washington story…But back in Obama’s political hometown, those of us familiar with the Chicago Way can see something else in Solyndra — something that the Washington crowd calls “optics.” In fact, it’s not just a Washington saga — it has all the elements of a Chicago City Hall story, except with more zeros… The FBI is investigating what happened with Solyndra, a solar panel company that got a $535 million government-backed loan with the help of the Obama White House over the objections of federal budget analysts…Obama and Vice President Joe Biden got a nice photo op. They got to make speeches about being “green.” But then Solyndra went bankrupt. Americans lost jobs. Taxpayers got stuck with the bill. And members of Congress are now in high dudgeon and making speeches…Federal investigators want to know what role political fundraising played in the guarantee of the questionable loan. Washington bureaucrats warned the deal was lousy. And White House spokesmen flail desperately, like weakened victims in a cheesy vampire movie…So forget optics. What about smell? It smells bad, and it’s going to smell worse…Or, did you really believe it when the White House mouthpieces — who are also Chicago City Hall mouthpieces — promised they were bringing a new kind of politics to Washington?

Need a job? The North Dakota experiment shows that with energy production comes good paying jobs American Enterprise Institute (9/16/11) reports:  There’s no shortage of bad economics news these days. In August there were no new jobs created, retail sales were flat, consumer confidence plunged to recession-era lows, and it was reported this week that the nation’s poverty rate last year rose to the highest level since 1993. Yet, amid all of the national “gloom and doom” there is an amazing story of a booming economy in North Dakota, America’s most successful state by every economic measure. Here are some recent facts about North Dakota’s economy, which is flourishing as a direct result of the booming oil and gas production in the state’s oil-rich Bakken formation:…1. North Dakota set a new record in July for the most oil ever produced in a single month—more than 13 million total barrels at the rate of 423,600 barrels per day—an increase of almost 14 percent above the previous record in June, and a gain of almost 32 percent from July of last year (see chart below). In just a little more than two years (since June 2009), oil production in North Dakota has doubled to its current level. At the current rate of ongoing record-setting production increases, North Dakota will likely surpass California (540,000 barrels per day) and Alaska (550,000 barrels) by next year to become the number two oil-producing state in the country, behind only Texas (1.4 million barrels)….2. While the national economy struggles to add jobs in the current “jobless recovery,” jobs in North Dakota are increasing at a record-setting pace, and not just oil-related jobs. The overall state employment level reached an all-time high in July and is 10 percent above the pre-recession level in 2007. In contrast, U.S. payroll employment is still 5 percent below the December 2007 level. Oil-related employment in North Dakota has more than doubled in just two years, from 6,600 jobs in July 2009 to 15,800 jobs in July of this year.

Winning the Future — China invests billions in Canadian oil sands while bureaucrats squabble and anti energy activist get arrested Houston Chronicle (9/19/11) reports: As U.S. companies look toward oil riches in northern Canada, they’re encountering increasing competition – as well as some much-needed cash infusions – from the Far East…U.S. and Canadian companies have dominated Alberta’s oil sands for decades. Now, though, Chinese firms are rushing to snap up Canadian oil sands resources and invest in ongoing projects – to the tune of $15 billion in the past 18 months in Alberta alone…They are motivated by a desire to jump into one of the world’s lowest-risk oil investments and to quench the exploding energy demands of Asian markets – even though getting the product from Canada to Asia is just a pipe dream now…The foreign funding can help pay for what research firm IHS CERA estimates will be $100 billion in spending on oil sands projects over the next decade…And for a growing number of U.S. oil companies, many based in Houston, the infusion of Chinese cash in Canadian projects is welcome funding for some capital-intensive oil sands projects…”Many of the actual oil companies – no matter where they are from – are very interested in partnering,” said Jackie Forrest, the Calgary, Alberta-based head of oil sands research for IHS CERA. “That can help raise capital and, in some cases, also bring expertise and knowledge to the partnership.”…Most of the recent deals have been by Chinese companies buying shares in existing projects. For instance, Sinopec spent $4.65 billion last year buying ConocoPhillips’ 9 percent stake in Syncrude Canada Ltd., the world’s biggest oil sands producer. And earlier this summer, state-owned CNOOC spent $2.1 billion acquiring the bankrupt OPTI Canada, whose main asset was a 35 percent working interest in Nexen’s Long Lake oil sands project in Alberta.

This Houstonian is sad he doesn’t have a job with Solyndra and wants to know if Obama can bring the ‘green energy future’ to Texas Houston Chronicle (9/19/11) reports: With a Valero refinery in the background, environmental activists gathered in Hartmann Park in east Houston Sunday to protest the Keystone XL pipeline, which they say will lead to more pollution in smog-filled Houston….”The rest of the country gets to have a green energy future, but not this community,” Leslie Fields, the Sierra Club’s national environmental justice director, told a group of about 30 protesters who earlier marched the streets of the Manchester community. “This community is going to become a sacrifice zone. Why is that?”…The proposed 1,700-mile pipeline would carry oil from Alberta’s controversial tar sands to refineries in Houston and Port Arthur…Environmental concern…Like protesters around the nation, the Houston group is concerned that tar sands oil emits more greenhouse gases than conventional crude oil. They also worry it would endanger groundwater in states along the route…Bryan Parras, a founder of Houston-based Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, noted that it’s often poorer, minority communities who end up living near refineries and are most impacted by pollution produced by an industry that drives Houston’s economy. Residents of the area have high rates of asthma and cancer, he said…”This is going to lead to more health problems,” he said, noting that many of those who live in the area can’t afford to move, much less afford health insurance. “No matter how many jobs you create, it’s not worth the health problems children growing up here will have to deal with.”…Shawn Howard, a spokesman for TransCanada, which is building the Keystone project, however, says the claim that tar sands oil will mean higher emissions is exaggerated…”If people really want to focus on reducing emissions, 80 to 90 percent of emissions come from burning fossil fuel products such as using gasoline in our cars,” he said, adding that the pipeline is being built to meet market demand. “Refiners on the Gulf Coast approached us. That’s why we’re building this.”…Backers of the pipeline say it will lower reliance on oil from the volatile Middle East and create jobs, as well as provide energy security.

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