Fracking, etc: “An Investment in Death and Destruction”

Graphic by the Dallas Observer

Graphic by the Dallas Observer

The news from Planet Oil continues to be relentlessly upbeat. The United States has surpassed Saudi Arabia in oil production (except it hasn’t, unless you use a very specialized definition of petroleum liquids), now produces more oil than it imports (which means that it still has to import nearly half; during the oil shocks of the 1970s and 80s, we were only importing about a third) and is, in the words of USA Today, “tiptoeing toward energy independence” (which is a very long way to go on tiptoes).

The news from Planet Earth, on the other hand, continues to describe an unfolding catastrophe whose end state is not “Number One,” nor “energy independence.” Continue reading

Cable News: A Plug for Personal Energy Independence

The Next Big Thing in electricity is already pretty old -- it’s been around for two or three styles of IPhone. But the mighty USB cable may be about to electrify the world. In a good way. (Photo by Teo/Flickr)

The Next Big Thing in electricity is already pretty old — it’s been around for two or three styles of IPhone. But the mighty USB cable may be about to electrify the world. In a good way. (Photo by Teo/Flickr)

In the long debate between industrial, grid-based electricity and distributed, home-grown electricity…wait, you didn’t know there was a debate? Not surprising, since one side has all the TV commercials, all the cash-and-carry political power, all the hyper-funded “think tanks” and the endowed university departments. The other side has engaging stories to tell around campfires. Nevertheless, there are two sides to the debate, and the turtle in this race is showing some life recently. Continue reading

Oil Figures Don’t Lie, but Oil Liars Go Figure

Coming soon to a yard near yours? A fracking well looms over a residence in the Eagle Ford shale region of Texas. (Photo by Earthworks Action/Flickr)

Coming soon to a yard near yours? A fracking well looms over a residence in the Eagle Ford shale region of Texas. (Photo by Earthworks Action/Flickr)

The headlines are coming with dizzying speed. On October 11, “US Soon to Overtake Russia as World’s Largest Oil Producer.” And then days later, “US Surges Past Saudis to Become World’s Top Oil Supplier.” Wait, how can Russia and Saudi Arabia both be the world’s largest oil producer in the same week? Okay, never mind, they run neck and neck. So this is really great news for American oil burners, no reason at all now they should change their planet-warming ways. If the headlines were true. Which they weren’t. Continue reading

A New American Error in Oil and Gas: 3 Charts

US_crude_oil_production_1900_2035

In this, the mother of all oil charts, we can see that things were fine until 1970. It’s been downhill ever since, and will be from here on in.


Apparently there are still a few Americans who believe the hogwash being put out by the oil and gas industry to the effect that America is awash with gas and oil, is headed for energy security, and will soon be the world’s number one oil and gas producer. The people still clinging to this fantasy seem to include President Obama and the Wall Street Journal. We have refuted the case here more than once, using arithmetic and logic, but perhaps those languages are a bit arcane these days. Let’s try charts. I have three to show you. Continue reading

Energy Department Says: Brace for Impact

A new DOE report says everything in the energy sector, from power lines to refineries, is under attack from global climate change. (Photo by MNSC/Flickr

A new DOE report says everything in the energy sector, from power lines to refineries, is under attack from global climate change. (Photo by MNSC/Flickr

If you want a good scare this weekend, forget about seeing Pacific Rim: curl up with the latest report from the US Department of Energy.  It is truly terrifying. All the more so because it comes from a government department long regarded as a cheerleader for Big Oil, Big Coal and Big Power. Now, however, this report on the vulnerabilities of the entire US energy sector to climate change  puts them all — and us —  on notice: the energy infrastructure of the United States and the world is now under relentless attack for which it is not prepared; the attacks not only are going to continue, but are going to increase in frequency and severity, for the foreseeable future. The enemy is climate change. Continue reading

The Arab Winter Stalks Egypt. Who’s Next?

A fuel shortage in June clogs the streets of Cairo with gas lines. Egypt's oil production has peaked, and now so has the patience of its people.

A fuel shortage in June clogs the streets of Cairo with gas lines. Egypt’s oil production has peaked, and now so has the patience of its people.

Listen to the prattling of the punditocracy and you would think that millions of people are in the streets of Egypt fighting and dying over how religious their leaders are, or how much democracy they have. (Similarly, you would think that the most vital problem in America today is abortion, with lack of homosexual privileges a close second.) In the real world, where actions have consequences, people do not risk their lives unless their lives are already at risk. People who have bread do not riot. The longer we go without understanding why countries come apart, the closer comes the day when our country falls apart. And we will be so surprised! Continue reading

The American Natural-Gas “Revolution” is Over

Occupy Wall Street protesters take on fracking in 2011. Both revolutions have pretty much sputtered out. (Photo by Tony Fischer/Flickr)

Occupy Wall Street protesters take on fracking in 2011. Both revolutions have pretty much sputtered out. (Photo by Tony Fischer/Flickr)

Rational observers have told us from the beginning, on this and many other venues, that the so-called revolution of American energy based on fracking was bogus. If you chose instead to believe the fevered pitches of the corporate con men — we have a hundred years supply of gas, no two hundred, we’re moving “toward” energy independence, we’re going to surpass Saudi Arabia, all that crap — then consider the developments reported in the past ten days or so: Continue reading

Europe Proves Again: Industrial Is not Renewable

Solar farms like this one metastasized across Spain for ten years, proving yet again that is it’s industrial (and heavily subsidized), it’s not sustainable. (Photo by Michael Mees --  mcmees24/flickr)

Solar farms like this one metastasized across Spain for ten years, proving yet again that if it’s industrial (and heavily subsidized), it’s not sustainable. (Photo by Michael Mees — mcmees24/flickr)

Two of the favorite pipedreams of environmental industrialists and industrialist environmentalists — known here as oxymorons — are on display in Europe this week as what they really are: pipe bombs. The European Union’s embrace of the financial shell game called “Cap and Trade” — promoted as a way to reduce carbon pollution without anyone spending, or doing, anything but make more money — is being declared a bust. And Spain’s embrace of industrial renewable energy has blown up right in their loving arms. Continue reading

Energy Independence for Sale

Energy independence for sale, as soon as Cheniere finishes building these LNG holding tanks at Sabine Pass, Louisiana. (Photo by Roy Luck/Flickr)

Energy independence for sale, as soon as Cheniere finishes building these LNG holding tanks at Sabine Pass, Louisiana. (Photo by Roy Luck/Flickr)

The natural gas (from fracking) “boom” that has been touted as the key to America’s energy independence is being sold abroad as fast as deals can be cut. The British gas company Centrica announced this week it has contracted for nearly 90 billion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas (LNG) a year for 20 years from Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass, Louisiana, terminal, at which a gas liquefaction plant is now under construction. That’s enough gas to supply 1.8 million  UK homes, and according to Centrica’s CEO Sam Laidlaw will help “to secure the UK’s future energy security.” Continue reading

Chinese Solar Industry Proves Unsustainable

A rooftop solar installation like this one could power a house or a small business sustainably, relieving stress on the power grid, reducing the burning of fossil fuels and encouraging energy independence. Not interested, says America’s (formerly) largest solar panel manufacturer. (Photo courtesy Wayne Natrional Forest)

The Chinese companies that cornered the world market for solar panels are now, apparently, cornered. (Photo courtesy Wayne National Forest)

Yet another much-hyped energy “renaissance” — that of the global solar-power industry — is looking less like a rebirth and more like a zombie invasion. The Chinese company Suntech, until recently the largest manufacturer of photovoltaic panels in the world (it is still number two), on Friday defaulted on over half a billion dollars worth of debt. It is the first mainland-Chinese company in history to default, and it is also the best known Chinese company in the world. It is thought that China will find a way to keep the company alive — or at least looking as if its alive — but its fall is spreading terror through the solar “industry.” Continue reading