Natural Gas: Flaming Out?

Seen from above, natural gas being flared at night bears a remarkable resemblance to the ill-fated Hindenburg. (Photo by Phudpucker.com)

Seen from above, natural gas being flared at night bears a remarkable resemblance to the ill-fated Hindenburg. (Photo by Phudpucker.com)

A little known crisis is approaching in the world of natural gas, one that threatens the most successful part of the largely imaginary New American Bonanza (NAB) in oil and gas brought on by hydraulic fracking. The gas frackers did manage to increase domestic supplies, so much so that two things happened: every electric generator that could switch from coal to gas, did so; while the glut drove the price down so far that the gas producers started losing money. Their output, which had grown by seven percent in 2011 and five percent in 2012, managed to inch up one percentage point last year. Now the entire industry has an iceberg just off the starboard bow. Continue reading

Don’t Like Global Warming? How About Global Rioting?

You thought the unrest in Ukraine was all about Russia? Or the West? Try food. (Photo by Yaruslov Kharandiuk/Flickr)

You thought the unrest in Ukraine was all about Russia? Or the West? Try food. (Photo by Yaruslov Kharandiuk/Flickr)

The boiling point of a country is 210; not degrees on a thermometer, but points on a scale of food prices devised by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Reach that mark, and your population, on the brink of starving, will be in the streets kicking ass and taking heads. Pundits natter on about masses yearning to be free, loving democracy, spurning Islam, suddenly intolerant of dictators they were fine with for decades. In reality, the flame that lit the Arab Spring and the Syrian Civil War and the Crisis in Ukraine was a food price index of 210; and the same torch is spreading the flames around the world. The outbreak, according to Dr. Nafeez Ahmed (a security expert and writer for the Guardian of London), is a tsunami of civil unrest  “on a scale that has never been seen before in human history. This month alone [February] has seen riots kick-off in Venezuela, Bosnia, Ukraine, Iceland, and Thailand.” Continue reading

US Officials Blow Up Oil-Boom Myth

Go ahead and drill some more. The oil, says the IEA, is simply not there.

Go ahead and drill some more. The oil, says the IEA, is simply not there.

The story broke last night. 9 pm. By now every mass media website should have it as the lede and every cable channel should be wall-to-wall with it. Why? Because it is a mortal blow to the five-year myth that America is in the midst of an oil-and-gas revolution that will return us to world supremacy, make us an exporter again, and bring us closer to energy independence.

Of course, some of us knew that these were all lies, all the time. But gullible people, especially gullible investors (who were the targets of the hype) bought the bogus claims. Chief among these — the biggest, most persuasive lie — was that the Monterey Shale in central California held a vast treasure in oil reserves, Continue reading

Too Big to Pay: WV Coal Industry Flouts Law, Miners Die

Modern coal miners go to work knowing that their employers have afforded them the best equipment (note flaming lamps, otherwise known as methane detectors), the safest materials (note shattered beam) and all the medical care they can get from their fellow miners. (Photo by Janet Lindemuth/Flickr)

Modern coal miners go to work knowing that their employers have afforded them the best equipment (note flaming lamps, otherwise known as methane detectors), the safest materials (note shattered beam) and all the medical care they can get from their fellow miners. The photo is circa 1914. Close enough. (Photo by Janet Lindemuth/Flickr)

You have to hand it to West Virginia. [Irony alert] Some states might well lie down for an industry as big as Big Coal, might refuse to regulate them in order to keep that lush stream of money coming (no, silly, not the trickle of severance taxes to the state, the fire-hose of campaign contributions to the candidates).  And that might have been the case in West Virginia prior to 2010, the year 29 men died in an explosion in a mine that was being operated, the subsequent investigation found, in a “profoundly reckless manner.” Well, West Virginia had had enough, and to make sure such sacrifice to unmitigated greed would never happen again, it [end-of-irony alert] did absolutely nothing.

President Obama, however, had had enough. He ordered a sweeping review of mine safety regulations and a crackdown on those who regularly flouted them. Continue reading

States Moving to Penalize Home Solar Installations

Freeloaders live here. According to ALEC, they must be punished. (Photo by John Hritz/Flickr)

Freeloaders live here. According to ALEC, they must be punished. (Photo by John Hritz/Flickr)

Oklahoma’s legislature has now followed Arizona’s  in authorizing a penalty to be charged people who install small solar arrays or wind turbines and connect them to the grid. This is happening as a result of a campaign by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an industry-financed group (backed heavily by the Koch Brothers, among others) that writes and distributes “model” legislation for state governments. This is the equivalent of the crew of the Titanic systematically smashing holes in lifeboats to make sure everybody does their best to save the ship. It is utterly wrong-headed, but its unintended consequences could be quite good. Continue reading

Study: Lights Going Out All Over the World

New York City, August 2003. (Photo by Zombiehunters.org (!)

New York City, August 2003. (Photo by Zombiehunters.org (!)

In August of 2003, an overheated electric transmission line touched a tree somewhere in Quebec and 50 million people in the Northeast including New York City lost power for days. The same year, a tree falling on a power line in Switzerland triggered a cascade of events that shut off the power in Italy. The whole country. In Brazil in 2009 (60 million people affected), in India in 2012 (600 million people), and around the world, the hits keep on coming, bigger and faster. A new international study looks at the evidence and concludes that it’s going to get worse. Much worse. Continue reading

Forbes Guru: “Shale Oil Boosters are Charlatans.”

shell game

A representative of Big Oil (right) explains the future of fracking to America’s top energy investors (left). (Photo by Michel Lagarde/Google Images)

A noted opinionator for Forbes Magazine, James Gruber, has had an epiphany about the renaissance of the oil bidness in America, and suddenly sounds like a contributor to The Daily Impact. Gruber runs an investment newsletter, Asia Confidential, and has been a fund manager and stock analyst in Asia for 13 years. He’s at least a Deputy Assistant Master of the Universe, and sings in that choir. Or he did. Now that he has concluded, and written in Forbes, that “the era of cheap energy is over,” and “shale boosters are charlatans,” he may be booted off the island. Continue reading

Energy Conference: World “Sleepwalking” into Crisis.

A Russian oil rig in the North Sea. New oil wells are deeper, more expensive, more complicated -- and play out faster -- than ever.

A Russian oil rig in the North Sea. New oil wells are deeper, more expensive, more complicated — and play out faster — than ever.

A teleconference of world energy, financial, political and military officials organized out of Washington and London last month agreed that a full-blown global energy crisis could erupt as early as 2016. The conference was convened by Daniel Davis, a whistleblower colonel in the United States Army “acting in a private capacity,” and Jeremy Leggett, a contrarian British oil geologist. The conference took place in December, and was brought to light by Britain’s Guardian newspaper last week.   Continue reading

Brazil: From Happy Days to Apocalypse Pretty Soon

A Petrobras deep water drilling rig off Brazil. After you get five miles down, you still might not hit oil.

A Petrobras deep water drilling rig off Brazil. After you get five miles down, you still might not hit oil.

Here’s what they were saying about Brazil six years ago: it was entering a new oil bonanza, it was going to be bigger than Saudi Arabia, it was going to enjoy energy independence, all the graphs of oil production were going straight up, through the roof, to the moon, Alice. It’s oil reserves were 50 billion…no, 100 billion…wait, 240 billion barrels. (How do you sing “Happy Days are Here Again” in Portuguese?)

Sound familiar? Sound like what the same folks are saying about the United States today? Funny how they’re not singing about feliz dias in Brazil any more. How did things work out for them down there? Continue reading

Top UK Scientists: Peak Oil is Here

Oil times are changing, and not in a good way.

Oil times are changing, and not in a good way. (Photo by AZRainman/Flickr)

Britain’s leading oil scientists — including the man who for years prepared BP’s in-house estimate of future world oil supplies — have concluded that peak oil is here. In a special issue of the journal of the Royal Society, they argue that the era of cheap oil is over, and that an era of rising prices, recessions, famines and resource conflicts is beginning. In this global context, they dismiss the so-called shale oil “revolution” in the United States as insignificant and short-lived. The story, whose implications for our immediate future cannot be overstated, was reported by London’s Guardian newspaper and virtually nowhere else in the general media. Continue reading