Because government is so completely involved in our lives. A good example is the UK.
Winter weather has killed a million Brits since the 1980s and will kill a million more by 2050, experts have warned. Age support groups and doctors blame poor housing, high energy bills and pensioner poverty. Many killed by the cold are elderly but the ill, vulnerable and very young also die. A total of 973,000 people died due to winter weather from 1982/83 to 2011/12, Office of National Statistics data for England and Wales shows. ONS data shows another million Brits will be killed by winters by 2050, based on the average of 27,400 cold weather deaths per winter in the last five years.
The government, of course, is responsible for more of the problems listed than high energy bills but I wanted to highlight that and then turn to the irony part of this:
Migrating birds have halted Britain’s embryonic shale gas expansion in its tracks. The company backed by Lord Browne, the former BP boss, admitted yesterday that it must delay resuming fracking near Blackpool until next year because of rules protecting thousands of birds wintering in the surrounding picturesque Fylde peninsula.
Nice to know who or what has the priority over freezing Brits, no?
While we dither and delay about fracking and permits and put a critical bit of energy infrastructure on hold (Keystone XL pipeline), China is aggressively pursuing energy assets … even in the US. The WSJ carries the story (subscription):
China continued its push into the U.S. oil patch, with a state-owned energy company striking a deal to help develop several shale fields in Ohio, Michigan and elsewhere.
China Petrochemical Corp.’s $2.5 billion deal with Devon Energy Corp., announced Tuesday morning, marks the third billion-dollar-plus joint venture that foreign energy firms have signed with U.S. explorers in as many weeks.
Known as Sinopec, China Petrochemical is making its first foray into the U.S. by buying a one-third stake in Devon’s acreage in five emerging fields—four shale plays and one limestone field.
Seems it will be up to the Chinese government to fund jobs in those areas while ours erects barriers in other areas.
While we continue to suffer from high unemployment, there are jobs all over the Midwest and the Gulf coast that could be created (and, yes, saved) by aggressive investment in oil and gas development. Most of that investment would be private. But it would require the government to get out of the way. And that is something this very ideological administration can’t seem to make itself do.
Instead we have the usual war against “Big Oil” going on (ideological fights usually are against some “Big” enemy) to the point that an industry which could be pulling us out of this recession and helping drop unemployment numbers is mostly reduced to sitting on the sidelines while ideologues argue, vent and frustrate any effort to do so.
Of course the point is someone somewhere is going to try to develop and take those energy assets. China is going to make a relatively small investment to see what it can take out of here. And if we don’t want what the Keystone XL pipeline would bring – besides a whole bunch of jobs I mean – China is prepared to take that as well.
Maybe its just me but for some reason I just find the worlds “myopic” and “stupid” poor descriptors for the policy this administration is following concerning oil and gas exploitation. They’re just too mild.
We have an economy hurting for jobs. We have a nation that needs cheap energy. We have an industry ready, willing and able to provide both. And we have roadblock after roadblock placed in front of them by government.
This, in my not so humble opinion, should be one of the major talking points for the GOP. We need energy. We need jobs. What we don’t need is an administration that places its ideology over the best interests of the nation and its people.
This map should give you a good feeling as you survey it:
All the red you see in the US is a good thing. This graphically shows the results of a survey conducted by the US Energy Information Administration in which it assessed world shale gas resources. The legend is a little hard to read so, for those with eyes like mine:
- Red colored areas represent the location of assessed shale gas basins for which estimates of the ‘risked’ gas-in-place and technically recoverable resources were provided.
- Yellow colored area represents the location of shale gas basins that were reviewed, but for which estimates were not provided, mainly due to the lack of data necessary to conduct the assessment.
- White colored countries are those for which at least one shale gas basin was considered for this report.
- Gray colored countries are those for which no shale gas basins were considered for this report.
And here’s a chart that give you some of the numbers. Pay particular attention to the numbers in the left hand column:
The chart doesn’t show all of the 32 countries, but I wanted you to see the amount of shale gas that is technically recoverable and the amount we import (10%). With the development of these gas fields we can up our domestic production and consumption (an alternative to oil in many cases) as well as become a net exporter.
Says the report:
The development of shale gas plays has become a “game changer” for the U.S. natural gas market. The proliferation of activity into new shale plays has increased shale gas production in the United States from 0.39 trillion cubic feet in 2000 to 4.87 trillion cubic feet in 2010, or 23 percent of U.S. dry gas production. Shale gas reserves have increased to about 60.6 trillion cubic feet by year-end 2009, when they comprised about 21 percent of overall U.S. natural gas reserves, now at the highest level since 1971.
In fact, this assessment provides good news for much of the world:
To put this shale gas resource estimate in some perspective, world proven reserves of natural gas as of January 1, 2010 are about 6,609 trillion cubic feet, and world technically recoverable gas resources are roughly 16,000 trillion cubic feet, largely excluding shale gas. Thus, adding the identified shale gas resources to other gas resources increases total world technically recoverable gas resources by over 40 percent to 22,600 trillion cubic feet.
Of course the catch is “technically recoverable” – i.e. is it worth bringing to market even if we have the technology to do so? That depends on a number of things, to include the cost governments place on those attempting to bring it to market, and the hurdles governments may place in their way if they attempt to do so – such as the hydrofracking controversy.
It is estimated that 80% of the new oil and natural gas wells in the US will require hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking). What hydraulic fracturing does is create tiny fissures in the rock so the oil and gas can flow through the wellbore to the surface. Hydrofracking has been used in over 1 million – yes, that’s right – 1 million wells in the last 60 years (here’s an animation of the process if you’re interested). The fracturing takes place hundreds, if not thousands of feet below the aquifer.
But, as with all things, the process which as been in use for over 60 years and with a million wells is now “controversial” with unsubstantiated claims that hydrofracking in these shale sites will cause contamination of the ground water.
Yet no evidence of that is apparent in the history of the process or an investigation conducted by the EPA in 2004:
U.S. government studies have found no evidence of drinking water contamination from hydraulic fracturing. In 2004, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted a study to assess the contamination potential of underground drinking water sources (UDWS) from the injection of hydraulic fracturing fluid into coalbed methane (CBM) wells. EPA found "the injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids into CBM wells poses little or no threat to USDWs and does not justify additional study at this time." EPA also reviewed incidents of drinking water well contamination believed to be associated with hydraulic fracturing operations. It found "no confirmed cases linked to fracturing fluid injection of CBM wells or subsequent underground movement of fracturing fluid."
In 1998, the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) and a team of state agency representatives conducted a survey of state oil and natural gas agencies to establish an accurate assessment of the number of active CBM wells associated with hydraulic fracturing. Based on the survey of 25 oil and natural gas producing states, the GWPC concluded, "there was no evidence to support claims that public health is at risk as a result of the hydraulic fracturing of coalbeds used for the production of methane gas."
So, the map points to a bonanza of natural gas that is technically recoverable, would cover our own domestic needs easily (and may see some oil dependent means of transportation and energy production look toward to switching to cleaner burning natural gas) and even have us exporting the product versus importing it.
If … key word … if the hydrofracking Chicken Little’s aren’t allowed to have their way and delay or stop such exploitation.
Look, no one wants ground water contamination – no one. But a system that has been in use for over 60 years an a million wells with no evidence it has contributed to ground water contamination has enough time and data points to help assure us of process reliability in this case. Here’s something we can do now to help alleviate our energy deficit and cut dependence on imports.
Will we take advantage of this opportunity?
That remains to be seen.