Free Markets, Free People

Energy

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Economic growth and national security? Or taxes?

The Financial Times [subscription] is reporting that the US is poised to become the world’s largest producer of liquid petroleum (oil and natural gas liquids):

US production of oil and related liquids such as ethane and propane was neck-and-neck with Saudi Arabia in June and again in August at about 11.5m barrels a day, according to the International Energy Agency, the watchdog backed by rich countries.

With US production continuing to boom, its output is set to exceed Saudi Arabia’s this month or next for the first time since 1991. [...]

Rising oil and gas production has caused the US trade deficit in energy to shrink, and prompted a wave of investment in petrochemicals and other related industries. [...] It is also having an impact on global security. Imports are expected to provide just 21 per cent of US liquid fuel consumption next year, down from 60 per cent in 2005.

The reason?  Fracking.  As Walter Russell Mead points out:

With productivity continuing to rise, the United States has a chance to become the single biggest producer of crude oil sometime in the near future. If you had said that a decade ago, you would’ve been laughed at and called a fool. What a difference fracking makes.

Indeed.  The “peak oil” pundits were sure we were on the precipice of running out of oil.  Now, it seems, the sky is indeed the limit.  Which is why it makes little sense, given the state of climate science, that our President is busily engaged via the UN and other domestic agencies, in throttling back one of the most economically viable growth engines the American economy has at the moment (and for the foreseeable future).

Instead of working on a policy to limit future use of hydrocarbons, this White House should be pushing a policy that helps us safely and sustainably exploit these assets for all.  Additionally, while petroleum is indeed a global commodity, this level of production would go a long way toward the promise of energy independence in time of crisis.  It helps remove oil as a weapon of choice by various less than friendly states and allies of convenience.

Two winners for the US: economic growth and national security.

Instead we get an attempt to establish an new tax based on specious science.

Sort of par for the course, no pun intended.

~McQ

The most important reason the left’s “War on Coal” is wrong

Energy Matters takes a look at the progress of the green energy renewables that were supposed to be saving the day and justifying the “war on coal”:

“So while we can expect that hydro will continue to provide most of the energy generated by renewables for some time to come it isn’t likely to contribute to decarbonizing global energy generation any more than it already has. If decarbonization is to be achieved by expanding renewables the expansion will have to come in wind, solar and biomass. So let’s take hydro out and see how far growth in wind, solar and biomass has carried us along the decarbonization path so far…Clearly they still have a long way to go.”

Ya think?!

~McQ

Europe discovers its gas problem

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has declared the G8 to be dead, thanks to Russia’s take over of the Crimea:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared the Group of Eight leading nations defunct given the current crisis in Ukraine, in a clear message to Russia that the world’s seven other major industrialized countries consider its actions in Ukraine unacceptable. “As long as there is no political environment for such an important political format as the G-8, the G-8 doesn’t exist anymore, not the summit nor the format,” said Ms. Merkel, in Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag. “Russia is widely isolated in all international organizations,” the chancellor said.

Ah, yes, the old “isolated in all international organizations” gambit.  And what have all the “international organizations” done in reaction to Russia’s Crimean takeover?  About what they did when Russia pushed into Georgia.  A whole lot of nothing. It is one thing to have international organizations that have teeth and are willing to do something in reaction to such a blatant act.  But when they mostly issue statements condeming the action and void the Netflix accounts of certain Russian officals, being isolated from those organizations isn’t such a big deal.  All it does is make further diplomatic efforts more difficult, not that it is clear that Russia is open to diplomatic overtures.

Another thing that is happening is Europe is discovering it has managed to put itself in an energy situation that isn’t at all to its advantage.  30% of Europe’s natural gas flows through Russian pipelines (Germany gets 40% of its natural gas supplies from Russia).

So the scramble is purportedly on to change that situation.

European leaders will seek ways to cut their multi-billion-dollar dependence on Russian gas at talks in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, while stopping short of severing energy ties with Moscow for now. EU officials said the current Ukraine crisis had convinced many in Europe that Russia was no longer reliable and the political will to end its supply dominance had never been greater. “Everyone recognises a major change of pace is needed on the part of the European Union,” one EU official said on condition of anonymity. As alternatives to imported gas, the Brussels talks will debate the European Union’s “indigenous supplies”, which include renewable energy and shale gas.

Now, one would think that such a situation would call for drastic and speedy action.  Anyone want to bet how long they dither and, should they decide to exploit their “indigenous supplies”, how onerous the rules and regulations will be?

When leaders of the European Union’s member states meet today and tomorrow (20-21 March) in Brussels, they hope to reach consensus on the EU’s long-term climate goals. But agreement appears unlikely because of deep divisions between east and west. Ahead of the summit, ministers from 13 member states signed a declaration supporting a European Commission proposal for an EU commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2030 – up from a 20% target set for 2020. This ‘green growth group’ includes France, Germany, Italy and the UK. But Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia are wary of the target and the timeline, and are resisting any such commitment.

The latter group will most likely be all for moving ahead as speedily as possible to exploit “indigenous supplies”.  They’ll meet some pretty stiff headwinds, apparently, from the Western EU nations. You can almost see this train wreck coming.

Meanwhile in the pursuit of “green energy”, Europe is apparently ready to toss in the towel:

Governments across Europe, regretting the over-generous deals doled out to the renewable energy sector, have begun reneging on them. To slow ruinous power bills hikes, governments are unilaterally rewriting contracts and clawing back unseemly profits.

You have to laugh.  “Unseemly profits”?  They’re subsidies, sir.  Not profit.

It’ll be interesting to see if the EU has the will to sort this all out in the next couple of days.  If one is a betting person, you’d have to guess that the odds for success are long, given the EU’s recent history.

~McQ

Sometimes you just have to shake your head and laugh ruefully

Mostly because you get tired of saying “I told you so”.  Focus – Germany:

With Greenpeace successfully forcing the shutdown of nuclear power, and keeping out fracking for gas, what’s left? A boom in coal. In fact, over the next two years Germany will build 10 new power plants for hard coal.  Europe is in a coal frenzy, building power plants and opening up new mines, practically every month. It might sound odd that a boom in German coal is the result of Greenpeace’s political success.

Yes, this is the sort of thing that happens when governments try to set priorities in a market for political reasons and it blows up in their face:

Europe’s appetite for cheaper electricity is reviving mines that produce the dirtiest Across the continent’s mining belt, from Germany to Poland and the Czech Republic, utilities are expanding open-pit mines that produce lignite. The projects go against the grain of European Union rules limiting emissions and pushing cleaner energy. Alarmed at power prices about double U.S. levels, policy makers are allowing the expansion of coal mines that were scaled back in the past two decades. Lignite demand worldwide is forecast to rise as much as 5.4 percent by 2020, according to the International Energy Agency.

And the preferred energy sources just don’t deliver:

Germany’s wind and solar power production came to an almost complete standstill in early December. More than 23,000 wind turbines stood still. One million photovoltaic systems stopped work nearly completely. For a whole week coal, nuclear and gas power plants had to generate an estimated 95 percent of Germany’s electricity supply.

But if you ask them, these same folks will tell you how much smarter they are than you, how their priorities make more sense than yours and why they should be able to use force to make you live with their choices.

The irony is simply hilarious:

Coal remains the biggest source of fuel for generating electricity in the U.S. and coal exports are growing fast. Demand is being stoked by the rise of power-hungry middle classes in emerging economies, led by China and India. By the end of this decade, coal is expected to surpass oil as the world’s dominant fuel source, according to a recent study by consultant Wood Mackenzie.

And that brings us to the paradox created by government:

Germany’s energy transition has also been a transition to coal: Despite multi-billion subsidies for renewable energy sources, power generation from brown coal (lignite) has climbed to its highest level in Germany since 1990. It is especially coal-fired power plants that are replacing the eight nuclear power plants that were shut down, while less CO2-intensive, but more expensive gas-fired power plants are currently barely competitive. Energy expert Patrick Graichen speaks of Germany’s “energy transition paradox”: the development of solar and wind farms, yet rising carbon dioxide-emissions.

Brilliant!

Oh … and we told you so.

~McQ

Having a problem picking which bit of nonsense to write about

So, instead, I’ll just pitch a lot of it out here.  Call it “clearing the browser tabs” if you will.

ObamaCare is a giant redistribution scheme.  I know most readers here have known or figured that out long before now.  But it appears the media is suddenly discovering it as well.

Oh, and this … this is just funny (in a sad sort of way) because it lays out all the other promises that were made by Obama to ease the passage of their redistribution scheme:

President Obama has said a lot of things about health care reform, not just that if you liked your health insurance plan, you could keep it. In a prime-time news conference in July 2009, his rationales for a new law stacked up like planes on an airport runway during a holiday weekend: It would provide “security and stability” for families; it would “keep government out of health care decisions”; it would prevent insurers from “dropping your coverage.” He said the program “would not add to our deficit,” that it would “slow the growth of health care costs in the long run,” that it would be “paid for” but not “on the backs of middle-class families.” Most important, he said, “I want to cover everybody.”

Security and stability for families.  Ha!  Millions with cancelled insurance.  Keep government out of health care decisions – you know, like keeping your doctor if you want to.  Prevent insurers from dropping your coverage?  In fact it demands insurers drop your coverage if it isn’t coverage of which ObamaCare approves, thus the millions with cancelled insurance.  “Would not add to deficit?”  Well, that’s if the redistribution works properly and you don’t count all the cost of the government bureaucracy added to make it work (unless those 19,000 IRS agents are working for free).   Slow the growth of health care costs in the long run?  Not with the size of the Medicaid expansion and the subsidies they plan.  “Paid for” but “not on the backs of the middle class”.  It’s going to be paid for on the backs of the young – who are mostly middle class, if they can maintain that.

What a freakin’ joke.

Meanwhile the apologists for ObamaCare have found Kentucky and are touting it as proof ObamaCare is loved and wanted.  Why?   Because over 56,000 have signed up.  Irony no?  Kentucky – a state the folks in the North East like to point to as Hillbilly heaven actually has a working website.    But, of course, if you actually look at the numbers, they don’t at all support the premise that ObamaCare is working at all (certainly not as it’s advocates said it must work to succeed):

“Places such as Breathitt County, in the Appalachian foothills of eastern Kentucky, are driving the state’s relatively high enrollment figures, which are helping to drive national enrollment figures as the federal health exchange has floundered. In a state where 15 percent of the population, about 640,000 people, are uninsured, 56,422 have signed up for new health-care coverage, with 45,622 of them enrolled in Medicaid and the rest in private health plans, according to figures released by the governor’s office Friday,” the Post wrote. “If the health-care law is having a troubled rollout across the country, Kentucky — and Breathitt County in particular — shows what can happen in a place where things are working as the law’s supporters envisioned.”

So first, not even 10% have enrolled, and of those that have enrolled, only 20% are “billpayers”, i.e. people who will actually pay for their own health care insurance and subsidize the other 80% of those who are on Medicaid.  In other words, out of 640,000 eligible, 56,422 have enrolled, and of those 56,000, 45,622 are going to be Medicaid recipients.

And liberals call this “success”.   Seems it would have been a lot easier just to expand Medicaid, because that’s primarily what’s happening here.  Other than the Medicaid bunch, less than 1% of those 640,000 have sought out insurance on a system the Democrats point to as working well.

Then there is this story about the green movement’s rank hypocrisy when it comes to environmentally friendly nuclear power.  What arguments do they use against nuclear power (an power source that actually works as advertised)?  The very same arguments they have used to argue for wind, solar, etc, of course:

Having demanded policies to make energy more expensive, whether cap and trade or carbon taxes, greens now complain that nuclear energy is too expensive. Having spent decades advocating heavy subsidies for renewable energy, greens claim that we should turn away from nuclear energy because it requires subsidies. And having spent the last decade describing global warming as the greatest market failure in human history, greens tell us that, in fact, we should trust the market to decide what kind of energy system we should have.

Why, or more importantly, how anyone of any intelligence takes them seriously any more is beyond me. But this is so typical of that movement.

As for the “Iran deal”, Victor Davis Hanson gives you a peek behind the curtain:

The Iranian agreement comes not in isolation, unfortunately. The Syrian debacle instructed the Iranians that the Obama administration was more interested in announcing a peaceful breakthrough than actually achieving it. The timing is convenient for both sides: The Obama administration needed an offset abroad to the Obamacare disaster, and the Iranians want a breathing space to rebuild their finances and ensure that Assad can salvage the Iranian-Hezbollah-Assad axis. The agreement is a de facto acknowledgement that containing, not ending, Iran’s nuclear program is now U.S. policy. . . .

Aside from the details of this new Sword of Damocles pact, one wonders about the following: In the case of violations, will it be easier for Iran to return to weaponization or for the U.S. to reassemble allies to reestablish the sanctions? Will Israel now be more or less likely to consider preemption? Will the Sunni states feel some relief or more likely pursue avenues to achieve nuclear deterrence? Will allies like Japan or South Korea feel that the U.S. has reasserted its old global clout, or further worry that their patron might engage in secret talks with, say, China rather than reemphasize their security under the traditional U.S. umbrella?

The president’s dismal polls are only a multiplier of that general perception abroad that foreign policy is an auxiliary to fundamental transformation at home, useful not so much to create international stability per se, as to enhance Obama influence in pursuing his domestic agenda. Collate reset, lead from behind, “redlines,” “game-changers,” ”deadlines,” the Arab Spring confusion, the skedaddle from Iraq, Benghazi, the Eastern European missile pullback, and the atmosphere is comparable to the 1979–80 Carter landscape, in which after three years of observation, the opportunists at last decided to act while the acting was good, from Afghanistan to Central America to Tehran.

There is not a good record, from Philip of Macedon to Hitler to Stalin in the 1940s to Carter and the Soviets in the 1970s to radical Islamists in the 1990s, of expecting authoritarians and thugs to listen to reason, cool their aggression, and appreciate democracies’ sober and judicious appeal to logic — once they sense in the West greater eagerness to announce new, rather than to enforce old, agreements.

Nothing of any substance gained, but certainly, with the easing of sanctions, relief for Iran and most likely problems ahead should the US want to see sanctions resumed or added to in the future.  Pitiful.

But Insty has the silver lining in all of this – “Obama, bringing together Democrats and Republicans, Saudis and Israelis in opposition to his policies. He’s a uniter, not a divider!”

Finally, reality continues to take it’s toll on Barack Obama:

Only four out of 10 Americans believe President Barack Obama can manage the federal government effectively, according to a new national poll.

And a CNN/ORC International survey released Monday morning also indicates that 53% of Americans now believe that Obama is not honest and trustworthy, the first time that a clear majority in CNN polling has felt that way.

Well deserved numbers as I see it.  He has lied and he’s proven he’s incompetent.  The only discouraging part of it all is somehow, 47% of those taking the poll somehow have convinced themselves that even in the face of overwhelming facts to the contrary, he’s honest and trustworthy.  I imagine a lot of them live in Maine.

~McQ

Damn the facts and costs, full speed ahead

We often talk about how poorly we’re served by our political class.  The examples are legion (just take a gander at the “Gang of 8’s” travesty of an immigration bill).  But most puzzling about what they do is when there are real world examples of why what they propose is doomed to costly failure, they go ahead anyway.  Hubris?  Arrogance?  Ideology? A giant dollop of all?

Take Obama’s latest – his late entry into the climate change nonsense just as everyone else has realized it’s a costly boondoggle and are pulling out.  For example:

In May, Europe’s heads of state and government at the EU Summit promoted shale gas and reduced energy prices. They would rather promote competition than stop global warming.

Obama just returned from Northern Ireland at the G8 meeting where he evidently didn’t ask why the United Kingdom removed climate change from the agenda.

European carbon markets had collapsed with the price of carbon hitting record lows, wrecking the European Union’s trading scheme for industrial CO2 emissions.

British Gas owner Centrica was buying up shale gas drilling rights in Lancashire for fracking operations. Green investors faced bankruptcy as Spain cut subsidies even further.

Large German companies such as Siemens and Bosch abandoned the solar industry, which had lost them billions, while investments in failed solar companies, including Q-Cells and SolarWorld, destroyed 21 billion euros of capital.

In response, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a June energy conference in Berlin to expect reduced government spending on energy like wind and solar power to keep Germany economically competitive. Europe’s clean energy economy had become a black hole eating euros.

Last week, Merkel’s government warned EU member states that German car makers would shut down production in their countries unless they support more affordable vehicle emissions rules.

At the same time, our oblivious president spoke at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, saying, “The United States will “do more,” before it’s “too late” to prevent “dangerous” global warming.

Yeah.  We’ll do “more”.  Meanwhile, everyone else has decided to do much less or … nothing.  And that “more” Obama is talking about?  Well, apparently it’s time to wreck another industry:

Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told me, “The centerpiece of President Obama’s climate plan is a declaration of all-out war on coal. The only affordable way to reduce emissions from existing coal-fired power plants – which now provide 40 percent of the nation’s electricity – is to close them down.”

Obama’s plan has political implications as well, Ebell said. “Coal dominates the heartland states that tend to vote Republican. Major industries are located there because coal produces cheap electricity. If electric rates go up to California levels in the heartland, where will American manufacturing go?”

Good question, no?  Answer: he doesn’t really care.  Seriously.  This is all about ideology.  Blinders on, facts ignored, examples discarded, it’s about legacy and “saving the world from itself” even if he has to do so autocratically.  Because, you know, that Constitution thingie just get’s in the way of good governance … or something.

~McQ

And the beat goes on …

And on and on and on:

“We now have an elephant in the room, and its name is peak oil.” –Kjell Aleklett, Professor in Global Energy Systems

Lord I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that in the last 30 years. And always in the face of something like this:

Nearly a third of the world’s technically recoverable natural gas and 10 percent of its oil can be found in shale formations, according to anew report by the Energy Information Administration.  Thanks to fracking and horizontal drilling, there’s a bounty of oil and gas available to countries around the world .

This report, which has a much larger scope than previous reports, bumped up the estimated global amount of technically recoverable shale gas by 9.3 percent. In its regional breakdown North America looks like a big winner. Of the 41 countries surveyed, Mexico had the seventh and Canada the ninth largest reserves of shale oil, while the US was second only to Russia. Meanwhile, the US, Canada, and Mexico were in fourth, fifth and sixth place, respectively in the EIA’s ranking of the largest technically recoverable shale gas reserves.

Of course part of the reason the peak oil crowd continues to issue it’s predictions is it seems tied into, well, another bit of a scam:

Are you optimistic about the future? Do you think that politicians will, at some point, address the problem of peak oil?

I’ve been working in this field for many years now, and it’s sad to see how little has been done. The measures that have been taken have been implemented largely because of climate change. Energy challenges such as peak oil are closely linked with climate-related issues, so victories within the field of climate change tend to be victories for peak oil as well. The good news is that we have started to tread the right path. Ultimately, we have to act. Whichever way you look at it, we won’t be able to use as much energy in the future as we do today.

I’m sorry, but that’s just nonsense.  A) there’s no reason, at least at this point, that we can’t use as much energy in the future as we do today, and B) perhaps that energy will come from a different source but not necessarily.  Unless, of course, these sorts of people have their way. More importantly though, politicians need to be kept strictly out of this business.

As we note often, this isn’t about energy or climate-related issues – it’s about control.

Make the warnings scary and dire enough and we’ll pitch control over to them.  See “war on terrorism” as a case study.

Meanwhile, in the back forty, a certain cow is still mooing the same old song:

Former Vice President Al Gore lamented today that scientists “will not let us link record-breaking” tornadoes in Oklahoma and elsewhere to climate change because of inadequate record keeping on the twisters.

“But when you put more energy into a system, it gets more energetic,” Gore said at an environmental event in Washington hosted by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse.

Yeah, darn those scientists anyway. Oh, wait, I thought all his stuff was from scientists.  No?

As to that familiar tune?

“It is well-past time that we put a price on carbon and not just accept the price that it extracts from us,” he said.

He noted that some officials won’t pay for tornado shelters in public schools. But “if we’re having arguments about how to pay to recover” from storms, he said, that’s one more reason to fix the climate change that is leading to stronger storms.

Even if the “price” can’t be supported by science.

Got it.

~McQ

Private oil sector pushes US past Saudi Arabia in output

Funny … despite all the impediments the Obama administration has put on oil production on public land, the private sector – the market – has pushed us into a position we’ve never been in before in terms of output of oil and gas.   We’ve passed the Saudi’s in output:

In spite of the Obama Administration’s hostility to carbon-rich energy, private actors with private capital deployed on private (and state) land have launched a game-changing revolution in domestic oil and natural gas production.

A scarcely reported milestone conveys the magnitude of this turnaround in the global energy landscape.

The U.S. passed Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest petroleum producer in November 2012, according to recently released data of the federal Energy Information Administration.

Now, imagine where we’d be if we didn’t have an obstructive administration bent on punishing those producers in that market via high taxation and regulation.  Or slow-walking permits for drilling on public land.  Or any of a myriad of other things this administration does to try to prevent oil and gas production.  Well, other than taking credit for the rise in production when they had nothing to do with it.

Had they gotten out of the way, had they helped us take advantage of these new finds, Saudi Arabia would have been in our rear view mirror a long time ago and my guess is, gas wouldn’t cost what it does today.

~McQ

Irony today usually has it’s root in government actions

Because government is so completely involved in our lives.  A good example is the UK.

First, here’s a bit of a stunning statistic:

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?

~McQ

Obama claims credit for something he hasn’t done

I’m sure that doesn’t surprise anyone particularly.  A) it’s Obama and B) he’s a politician who has yet to quit campaigning (mostly because he hasn’t a clue how to govern).

What am I talking about?  His attempt to claim responsibility for the fact that fossil fuel production is up under his watch and he’s somehow responsible for that.

Yes, it is, but that has absolutely nothing to do with him or his policies.   The Congressional Research Service has apparently made that official now:

The Congressional Research Service has released a report finding that, as was already generally known, U.S. oil and gas production has increased substantially over the past four years, but on private lands only, while it’s actually declined on federal land.

Or said another way, where Obama had control and the opportunity to do what he is claiming, he declined that opportunity and in fact impeded further exploration and production with his policies.  Where he had no real control, production boomed.  Federal lands – nada.  Private lands – bunches and bunches.

What has he sacrificed with his anti-fossil fuel polices?  Revenue and jobs.

Again, you have to wonder anymore what it takes to be fired.

~McQ

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