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  • Fracking: The Gift Keeps Giving

    November 24, 2015 11:18 AM

    “U.S. proved crude oil reserves hit levels not seen since 1972, surpassing 39 billion barrels in 2014, according to newly released federal data,” Michael Bastasch reports in The Daily Caller. He continues:

    America’s proved crude oil reserves have grown for the past six consecutive years, according to the Energy Information Administration, and are now at levels not seen in 42 years. Crude reserves jumped 3.4 billion barrels from 2013 to 2014—a 9 percent increase.

    Similarly, U.S. proved reserves of natural gas are higher than at any time in the past 50 years.

    Proved reserves are those that can be extracted with current technologies under current prices. Recent increases in proved reserves are due to improvements in hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling, which allow drillers to find and extract oil and gas trapped in shale and other “tight” formations.

    The U.S. fracking boom combined with Canadian production from oil sands put downward pressure on global oil prices, “contributing to the price collapse in 2014 from more than $100 in the summer to about $50 a barrel today,” Bastasch observes.

  • The FAQ on COP-21

    November 19, 2015 10:58 AM

    What is COP-21?

    The 21st session of the Conference of Parties (COP-21) in Paris is a United Nations meeting to adopt a plan requiring greenhouse gas emission reductions by some countries which, according to the Durban Platform, must be “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force” to which all participating countries would abide (although with “common but differentiated responsibilities”).  Therefore, inherently, the result of COP-21 will be a treaty.

    It will replace the Kyoto Protocol.  Kyoto had one five-year compliance period; Paris promises a new and updated emission reduction promise, or INDC, every 5 years.  Each new promise is to be “progressive beyond previous commitments” (Paris, Art. 3).

  • Judge Allows Deposition of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

    November 13, 2015 5:20 PM

    Clean Air Act §321(a) requires the EPA to monitor job losses due to the agency’s environmental regulations. In March 2014, Murray Energy, an Ohio-based coal company, commenced a civil action in federal court alleging that the agency has failed to perform its §321(a) responsibilities with regard to monitoring the employment impact of the agency’s war on coal. Murray Energy’s unprecedented lawsuit survived EPA’s early legal maneuvering, and on May 29th, 2015, West Virginia federal district court judge John Preston Bailey allowed Murray to proceed with discovery against EPA, including depositions, with the purpose of discerning how EPA is accounting for the coal sector job losses that are attributable to the agency’s suite of anti-energy regulations.

    EPA appealed Judge Bailey’s order, but the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals denied EPA’s request without explanation on July 9th. After conducting initial discovery, Murray Energy on October 7th notified EPA that it intended to depose EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, and the company scheduled a tentative deposition date of November 24th.

    EPA requested that Judge Bailey block the scheduled deposition, but yesterday, he denied the agency’s motion. EPA has appealed the matter to the Fourth Circuit, which will decide on the matter before the deposition is set to occur on November 24th.

  • Senate Likely To Vote on Resolutions To Block EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Rules for Power Plants Next Week

    November 13, 2015 5:19 PM

    The Senate is tentatively scheduled to take up the two resolutions of disapproval of the EPA’s greenhouse gas rules for new and existing power plants on Tuesday, 17th November, and vote on them on Wednesday the 18th. 

    Senate Joint Resolution 23, sponsored by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and 47 co-sponsors, blocks the NSPS for new power plants.  Senate Joint Resolution 24, sponsored by Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and 48 co-sponsors, blocks the ESPS for existing power plants.

    The House Energy and Commerce Committee is likely to mark up and pass their versions of the CRA resolutions on Wednesday as well.  The subcommittee mark-up resulted in straight party-line votes on H. J. Res. 71 and H. J. Res. 72. Because of the week-long Thanksgiving recess, the full House may not vote on the resolutions until the first week of December, which is also the first week of COP-21, the UN climate conference in Paris that is supposed to conclude negotiations on a new climate treaty.

    Although President Barack Obama is almost certain to veto both resolutions, the votes will provide support for including appropriations riders in the Omnibus Appropriations Bill to block the EPA rules and will also undermine the credibility of the Obama Administration at COP-21. 

  • China Burns 17% More Coal Than Reported

    November 7, 2015 7:21 AM

    China has been burning up to 17% more coal per year than previously reported, according to new data released by the Chinese government.  New York’s Times announced this news in a top-left, front-page story on 4th November. According to reporter Chris Buckley, “The sharp upward revision in official figures means that China has released much more carbon dioxide — almost a billion more tons a year according to initial calculations — than previously estimated.  The increase alone is greater than the whole German economy emits annually from fossil fuels.”

    This is important news in at least three respects.  First, it means that global greenhouse gas emissions have been much larger during a period when the global mean temperature has not gone up as predicted.  This suggests that the climate could be even less sensitive to carbon dioxide levels than recent research has found.  The alarmists are going to have to move quickly to explain this possibility away.

  • O Says No to Keystone XL

    November 6, 2015 5:09 PM

    President Barack Obama on 6th November determined that the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline is not in the national interest and therefore denied the cross-border permit necessary for the pipeline to be built.  The President’s shameful decision concludes the administration’s shameful six year delay in making a decision.

    My view for a long time has been that the Obama Administration’s strategy was to delay the decision until TransCanada Corporation gave up.  That strategy came up against TransCanada’s request on 2nd November to suspend the State Department’s consideration of its application until 2017—that is, until President Obama has left office and a new President could approve the permit.

    One day later, White House press secretary Josh Earnest responded to TransCanada’s request by saying, “Our expectation at this point … is that the President will make a decision by the end of his administration on the Keystone pipeline.”  Instead of by the end of next year, the President made a decision by the end of this week.  My guess is that he did so now because COP-21 begins in Paris at the end of the month and he hopes to build support from environmental pressure groups for what is almost certainly going to be a modest and uninspiring climate treaty.

  • Who's Playing Politics on the Keystone XL Pipeline?

    November 4, 2015 2:20 PM

    “The White House on Tuesday said President Obama had no intention of bowing to a request from the company behind the Keystone XL oil pipeline to delay a decision on the project, saying he wanted to take action before his tenure ends,” the New York Times reports. From the article:

    The State Department is reviewing a request made on Monday by the company, TransCanada, to pause its years-long evaluation of the proposed 1,179-mile pipeline, which has become part of a broader debate over Mr. Obama’s environmental agenda.

    Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said on Tuesday that “there’s reason to suspect that there may be politics at play” in TransCanada’s request. He strongly suggested that the review, which has been widely expected to result in a rejection of the pipeline as soon as this month, remained on track.

    “Given how long it’s taken, it seems unusual to me to suggest that somehow it should be paused yet again,” Mr. Earnest said about the evaluation at the State Department, which reviews proposed cross-border projects that require a presidential permit.

    The president wants an expeditious decision on KXL—whom does Earnest think he’s kidding? The State Department has been reviewing the project since September 2008—more than five times longer than the average review of cross-border infrastructure projects.

    TransCanada and its allies on and off the Hill have continually pushed for timely review and approval. During the administration’s seven-plus years of indecision, the State Department has conducted four major reviews—a Draft Environmental Impact Statement or EIS (April 2010), a Final EIS (August 2011), a Draft Supplemental EIS (March 2013), and a Final Supplemental EIS (Jan. 2014). The big-picture conclusion is always the same. Under the “No Action Alternative” (i.e. the project is not built and operated), Canadian crude still reaches Gulf Coast refineries, except it does so by other routes—rail, barge, smaller pipelines—that are less efficient, emit more carbon dioxide (CO2) per unit of oil delivered, and carry greater risk of oil spills, industrial accidents, and fatalities.

  • Congressional Resolutions To Block EPA’s Climate Rules and DC Circuit Decision on Stay of Power Plant Rule

    November 1, 2015 10:33 AM

    Congressional Resolutions To Block EPA’s Climate Rules Are Introduced and Set To Move Quickly

    Representative Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s energy subcommittee, introduced resolutions of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to block the Environmental Protection Agency from implementing its greenhouse gas rules for new and existing power plants on 26th October.  The subcommittee announced on Friday that it would mark up House Joint Resolutions 71 and 72 on Tuesday, 3rd November. Action by the full committee should quickly follow.  Votes on the House floor could then be held soon after the House returns on 16th November from its Veterans Day week-long recess.

    On the Senate side, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) along with 47 co-sponsors introduced Senate Joint Resolution 23 to block the new power plant rule on 27th October.  On the same day, Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and 48 co-sponsors introduced S. J. Res. 24 to block the rule for existing power plants.  CRA resolutions can go to the Senate floor without going through committee, so it is likely that the Senate will vote on the resolutions before the House does.  Under the CRA, resolutions of disapproval are not subject to cloture votes and thus only require a majority of those voting to pass.

    DC Circuit Won’t Decide on Stay of EPA’s Power Plant Rule until after Paris Climate Conference

  • Has Global Warming Increased U.S. Hurricane Damages?

    October 23, 2015 5:32 PM

    Estrada et al. (2015), a study published this week in Nature Geoscience, finds “an upward trend in [hurricane-inflicted U.S.] economic losses between 1900 and 2005 that cannot be explained” by changes in societal factors such as increases in wealth, population, and inflation. The researchers also find “an upward trend in both the number and intensity of hurricanes in the North Atlantic basin” that is “consistent with” the global rise in average surface air temperature. They estimate that, in 2005, $2 billion to $4 billion in annual losses “could be attributable to climate change.”

    University of Colorado prof. Roger Pielke, Jr. finds the study wrong on all counts.

    Pielke provides a graph of North Atlantic hurricane strength, using a metric called the Power Dissipation Index (PDI), from 1950 through 2014. The graph covers the entire basin, not just hurricanes making landfall. Although there is considerable inter-annual and decadal variability, there is no long-term trend in hurricane strength.

    More critically, Estrada et al. end their dataset in 2005, a big year for PDI and damages from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Thus, the researchers leave out of the dataset the record-breaking nine-year (2006-2014) “drought” of major (category 3, 4, 5) U.S. hurricane landfalls.

    In other graphs, Pielke shows that U.S. hurricane landfall frequency and intensity have both declined 20% from 1900 to the present.

  • Bonn Climate Negotiations Still Come Down To One Question: Where’s the Cash?

    October 23, 2015 5:31 PM

    The last officially scheduled negotiating session before COP-21 (the twenty-first Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) in Paris concluded on Friday, 23 October.  The main achievement of the eleventh part of the second session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhancing Action, as the week-long negotiations are officially called, was to expand the draft text of the Paris climate treaty from the 20 pages they began with on Monday to 63 pages by Friday.

    Although some slight progress can be seen here and there (for example, on mitigation and transparency issues), wide differences remain between the developing countries and the G-77, the group of 135 developing countries.  As always, the G-77 want to know where’s the cash. Or as the BBC’s headline put it, “Questions over cash dominate.”  The BBC’s story summarized the core of the disagreements in Bonn this week: “The G77 group are looking for increases on the $100b per annum from 2020 that was previously promised.  They have dismissed recent research from the OECD suggesting that richer countries had provided $62bn in 2014-15 as climate finance.  The poorer countries want money to come from new public sources and question the reliability of private finance.”


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