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How BC’s Fossil Fuel Fights Link to a String of Wins in the US

How BC’s Fossil Fuel Fights Link to a String of Wins in the US

A thin green line with global impact. Latest in a series on creating a zero-carbon bioregion.

On a brisk December morning in 2012, Montana ranchers in cowboy hats walked alongside members of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe in traditional regalia through the streets of Seattle in search of a good breakfast. After eating, they headed to Seattle’s convention centre to square off against multinational companies aiming to move coal on trains through the Pacific Northwest to be loaded on ships bound for Asia.

Their partnership went the distance. Three years after that hearing, the proposed Washington coal terminal was dead. Those trains bearing Montana and Wyoming coal never rolled.

Opponents’ victory in that case was emblematic of how environmentalists, Indigenous Peoples, ranchers, politicians, doctors, fishermen and even windsurfers worked for a decade to fend off more than 20 proposals to ship fossil fuels across the Pacific Ocean, from near Prince Rupert, British Columbia clear south to San Luis Obispo, Calif.

While readers of The Tyee will be aware of ongoing resistance in B.C. against extracting and transporting fossil fuels, this is the story of how such efforts have for years crossed borders to connect with activism up and down the West Coast. The range of projects fought, from shipping coal and oil by train to pumping gas and oil through pipes, is a reminder of how sprawling and persistent the fossil fuel industry’s global export agenda is. And it demonstrates the power of grassroots organizing.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Hydrogen-Based Economy: Is it Enough to Paint Something Blue to Make it Green?

The Hydrogen-Based Economy: Is it Enough to Paint Something Blue to Make it Green?

A hopeful image for a hopeful article by Bertrand Piccard. “Blue Hydrogen” seems to be popular, nowadays. But is it enough to paint something blue to make it green? It turns out that “green” hydrogen, assuming it exists, is too expensive for what we need to do now in order to move away from fossil fuels and stabilize Earth’s climate.

Hydrogen has come a long way since the time when it was discovered by Henry Cavendish as a component of the water molecule in the 1700s and then given its name of “creator of water” by Henry Lavoisier in 1783. It was later discovered that hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe and the main component of stars.

Using hydrogen as a fuel is an old idea. It was, again, Cavendish who discovered that it can burn. The idea that hydrogen could be cycled as an energy storage medium is probably as old as the “fuel cell,” developed by William Grove in the early 1800s. In the 1950s and 1960s, the dream of “energy too cheap to meter” associated with nuclear technologies made it possible to think of hydrogen as an energy vector able to carry energy to the points of use, even vehicles, from a limited number of large nuclear plants. The first explicit mention of the concept of “hydrogen economy” was made by John Bockris in 1970. The nuclear promise never materialized, but the concept of the hydrogen economy was later linked to renewable energy.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Electricity Has Been in a Slump for 14 Years, But All Heck Has Broken Loose in How it’s Generated

Electricity Has Been in a Slump for 14 Years, But All Heck Has Broken Loose in How it’s Generated

Electricity generating capacity additions & retirements in 2021, and the long-term change in the power mix.

In 2021, developers and power plant owners plan to bring 39.7 gigawatts (GW) of new electricity generating capacity on line, and retire 9.1 GW in generating capacity, for a net increase in capacity of 30.6 GW, according to the EIA today. 70% of the capacity additions will be from wind and solar, 16% will be from natural gas, and 3% will be from a nuclear reactor. These are utility-scale power generators and exclude rooftop solar. Of the retirements, 86% will be coal and nuclear.

Electricity generation in the US has been a no-growth business since 2006, as efficiencies in electrical equipment (LED lights, appliances, air conditioning, etc.) and further offshoring of manufacturing have kept consumption roughly stable despite growth in the economy and population. But where all heck has broken loose is in how this power is being generated (data via the EIA).

Coal-fired power generation has collapsed by over 60% in 12 years, from around 169 GW hours per month on average in 2008 to 65 GW hours per month on average over the past 12 months, according to data from the EIA. It went from “King Coal” by a wide margin in 2008 (black line in the chart below) to #3, after surging natural gas-fired power generation (green line) blew by it in 2015 as the US has become the largest NG producer in world. And toward the end of 2020, coal fell even below nuclear power (brown line).

In a few years, wind and solar combined (red line) will blow by coal as well. With wind and solar, the big enticement for power generators is that the “fuel” is free and that there won’t be any “fuel” price increases in the future, no matter what inflation will do:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

wolfstreet, wolf richter, electricity generation, fossil fuels, renewable power, electricity

Cascadia Was Poised to Lead on Climate. Can It Still?

Cascadia Was Poised to Lead on Climate. Can It Still?

BC, Washington and Oregon all aimed to slash emissions. After epic battles, they failed. First in a series on creating a zero-carbon bioregion.

With dozens of people killed by wildfires in the western U.S., millions of acres scorched and choking smoke spreading far into British Columbia, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee lit up the news wires in September. “These are not just wildfires,” Inslee asserted at a press conference from Olympia, “these are climate fires.”

Two days later on George Stephanopoulos’ Sunday-morning ABC News talk show, the recent presidential candidate recounted a poignant visit to a town nearly wiped out by the fires. “The only moisture in Eastern Washington was the tears of people who have lost their homes,” said Inslee. “And now we have a blowtorch over our states in the West, which is climate change.”

Just days after his return to the national stage, however, the question in a Seattle courtroom was whether the state he’d run since 2013 should be sanctioned for helping to fuel and light that torch. On Thursday, Sept. 17, an attorney representing Inslee and the entire apparatus of Washington state government stood to tell three masked judges behind a plexiglass shield that courts could not hold the state legally responsible for its part in the climate crisis: The part where it expanded highways. The part where it licensed power plants and factories to emit many tons of greenhouse gases. Where it set building standards that would keep residents’ stoves and furnaces and water heaters polluting the atmosphere for decades to come.

 

Peak Oil? Drivers—and Voters—Could Delay It for Years

Peak Oil? Drivers—and Voters—Could Delay It for Years

Investors and politicians have made their views clear about oil’s uncertain future. Consumers, not so much.

Drivers traverse the 405 freeway at night in California. The fate of the oil industry depends as much, or more, on consumers as it does on politicians and policymakers.

PHOTO: PATRICK T. FALLON/BLOOMBERG NEWS

You might be filling up your tank a lot longer than BP thinks.

Ambitious green policies—from politicians and even the newly climate-conscious oil companies—suggest the world is moving at warp speed away from fossil fuels. But the transition might not be easy on consumers’ wallets, which is precisely why it could take a while.

The idea of “peak oil,” historically a reference to a fear that oil supply was running out, now means something entirely different. British energy giant BP suggested that oil demand might have already reached its apex in 2019 if one were to imagine a world that doubles down on policies that restrict carbon emissions.

Others are more conservative. Under its “stated policies scenario,” the International Energy Agency estimates that oil demand will peak around 2030 and plateau. That scenario takes into account announced policy measures and its own judgment of how attainable they seem. As the IEA acknowledges, though, some of the declared policies are far-reaching targets. Chris Midgley, head of analytics at S&P Global Platts, says his group projects the world is unlikely to reach peak demand until the late 2030s, noting that demand for petrochemicals in particular seems resilient.

Transportation plays a key role in the timing of that peak; it accounts for the largest share of petroleum consumption globally. For electricity to crowd out oil as a transportation fuel, governments must either provide taxpayer subsidies that make electric vehicles more affordable or place a cost on not switching over, such as even higher taxes at the pump.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Update on the WTF Collapse of Gasoline & Jet Fuel Consumption: The Holiday Period

Update on the WTF Collapse of Gasoline & Jet Fuel Consumption: The Holiday Period

Long-term structural issues have long dogged these fuels. Then came the Pandemic.

During the holiday shopping and travel period in December and early January, ten months into the Pandemic, gasoline consumption in the US was down about 12% from a year ago, jet fuel consumption was down 38% from a year ago, but distillate consumption – diesel, heating oil, fuel oil – was about flat with a year ago. Consumption of all three combined, under the impact of long-term structural issues and then the Pandemic, were down to levels first seen in the mid-1990s.

As of the latest four-week period through January 1, gasoline consumption fell to 7.89 million barrels per day (mb/d), according to EIA data. This was below where it had been over the same period at the end of 1994 (8.04 mb/d). The chart also shows the long-term structural demand issues, where in the 12 years before the Pandemic, gasoline consumption, after a big drop during the Great Recession and then a recovery, had gone nowhere. This dynamic then got whacked by the changes in driving patterns during the Pandemic:

The EIA tracks consumption of fuel in terms of product supplied by refineries, blenders, etc., and not by retail sales at gas stations.

In March, demand for gasoline had collapsed as millions of people lost their jobs, and therefore didn’t commute, and as others switched to work-from-home and therefore didn’t commute either. In the four-week period ended April 24, average gasoline consumption plunged by 44% year-over-year, to 5.3 million mb/d, by far the lowest in the EIA’s data going back to 1991.

Consumption in the latest four-week period through January 1 was still down 12% from a year ago. Since July, consumption has been down between 8% and 13% year-over-year:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Spanish Energy Markets Roiled Amid Chilling Temps

Spanish Energy Markets Roiled Amid Chilling Temps

A cold snap across Spain is expected to last through mid-January has resulted in natural gas prices more than doubling in the last week, according to Bloomberg.

LNG prices trading at Spain’s Punto Virtual de Balance (PVB) gas trading hub hit a record 51.55 euros ($63.13) a megawatt-hour this week, or $18.54 per million British thermal units as the nation grapples with dangerously cold weather and snowfall in Madrid.

Spain has one of the largest LNG terminals in Europe. “Surging prices, coupled with a lack of available LNG vessels for longer journeys between Europe and Asia, will probably limit cargo exports from the nation’s ports and further tighten the supply of the fuel,” Bloomberg noted.

Frigid weather in China has resulted in surging LNG prices as well. This week Beijing meteorological station recorded one of the coldest temperatures in decades this past week, sending power demand through the roof. LNG imports in China last month were at record highs as demand to heat homes has surged.

A possible theory behind the wicked cold weather could be the sudden stratospheric warming splitting the polar vortex into two, allowing Arctic temperatures to pour into Europe and Asia.

“A strong sudden stratospheric warming event (SSWE) over the Pole has temperatures spiking in the Arctic, plummeting in portions Europe and Asia.

The remnants of the Polar Vortex (PV) has also aided in unusual heavy snow in the forecast across portions of Spain in…forecast models spitting out over 12″ + of snow in the short term. While these areas of the world feel more “wintry”, it has allowed especially the northern half of the US to run much above normal in temperatures, losing our tap to cold air. Signs will need to be watched getting later into January, however, for the increased potential for cooler or colder outbreaks of air across the eastern/southern US if we can move the remnants of the PV more towards the US,” said Kirk Hinz, meteorologist with BAM Weather

The Real Crisis For Oil Is Yet To Come

The Real Crisis For Oil Is Yet To Come

Italian energy major, Eni, described 2020 as a “year of war”, regarding the energy crisis experienced in the face of a global pandemic. But it may be too soon to see the issues faced last year as a thing of the past.  Eni is committing to lower the price of oil at which the company breaks even going into 2021, as a means of tackling the uncertainty of the oil economy in the coming months. Francesco Gattei, CFO at Eni, stated that “Volatility is growing every year.”, highlighting the need to be prepared for the energy demand of the future.

In 2020, global fuel demand decreased by 30% on average. While demand appears to be steadily increasing as Covid-19 restrictions are relaxed, the worry is that this need may not increase to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon.

Oil giants BP Plc and Total SE published forecasts which hypothesized that oil demand was at its peak in 2019, and is therefore now in decline. This comes as the production of oil and liquid fuels at the global level peaked at 94.25 million bpd in 2020, down from 100.61 million bpd in 2019. According to the Energy Information Administration, this figure is expected to increase to just 97.42 million bpd in 2021.

2020 therefore proved the perfect time for environmentalists to campaign for a shift towards renewables; as oil demand and prices plummeted in April last year. As dozens of countries agreed to Paris Agreement objectives in December, with such promises as net-zero emissions over the next 30 years, many governments and investors have also put pressure on energy companies to develop renewable strategies.

The decrease in oil demand over the last year has already forced refineries in Asia and North America to close or curb output, particularly along the U.S. Gulf Coast as companies worry demand losses might never return.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Is Covid-19 providing cover for Jay Hanson’s Society of Sloth?

Is Covid-19 providing cover for Jay Hanson’s Society of Sloth?

Gail Tverberg made a comment today that rings true and motivated me to write about something I’ve been mulling for a while…

https://ourfiniteworld.com/2020/12/23/2020-the-year-things-started-going-badly-wrong/comment-page-24/#comment-274042

I think the reaction to COVID-19 is part of how a self-organizing system works. People were looking for a reason to cut back/shut down. The illness provided this.

I do not believe in most conspiracy theories, but I do believe that crises are frequently used to implement plans that would be impossible without a crisis. The responses to Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, 9/11, and the 2008 GFC are good modern examples.

Perhaps the virus has provided (mostly subconscious) cover for:

  • citizens tired of commuting 2 hours a day to a stressful job so they could keep up with their neighbor’s latest unnecessary status symbol purchase
  • citizens who intuited they should reduce discretionary spending and pay down credit card debt, which interestingly declined in 2020, rather than increasing as it did during the 2008 GFC
  • leaders that sensed we should voluntarily throttle back, because we’d soon be forced by limits to growth
  • leaders that understood we needed to rapidly reduce CO2 emissions, and the only way to achieve this is by contracting the economy
  • leaders that needed an excuse to restrict freedoms to maintain civil order in preparation for a significant contraction of our energy/economic system
  • central banks that understood we had hit limits to growth and that needed an excuse for massive corporate bailouts to prevent a catastrophic economic collapse, and for MMT to keep citizens fed

Perhaps this helps to explain why our responses to the virus have not been intelligent or optimal:

  • effective means of containing the spread were ignored or procrastinated in the crucial early days

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Crude Oil Flow From Saudi Arabia To U.S. Falls To Zero

Crude Oil Flow From Saudi Arabia To U.S. Falls To Zero

For the first time in 35 years, no oil flowed from Saudi Arabia to the United States last week, according to EIA data, in a show that the United States—at least for now—isn’t as reliant on oil from the Middle East like it used to be.

In October, according to the EIA, the United States imported 8.544 million barrels. In June, that figure was more than 36 million, although that figure was a bit of an anomaly as Saudi Arabia threatened to flood the U.S. market with crude oil.

In much of the early 2000s, the United States imported more than 45 million barrels of Saudi crude oil on a monthly basis.

Source: EIA

On a weekly basis, that figure has now fallen to zero.

Source: EIA

And the U.S. imports of crude oil are not just falling from Saudi Arabia. Through October, the United States imported significantly less crude oil from the Persian Gulf region.

In the early 2000s, the United States was importing more than 3 million barrels of crude oil per day from the Persian Gulf region. In October 2020, the United States imported less than a half a million barrels per day—and that figure isn’t an anomaly, it’s a clear trend. The United States is relying less and less on foreign oil, and particularly less and less on oil from the Persian Gulf.

Source: EIA

The data comes just as Saudi Arabia announced a voluntary million-barrel-per-day cut to its oil production as the OPEC+ group sat down to the negotiating table to hatch a plan to react to the oil market and the lack of demand.

It also comes on the same day that Saudi Arabia announced a crude oil price increase for the United States for February by $0Mor.20 per barrel.

 

Britain’s National Grid forecasts tight electricity margins for Wednesday

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s National Grid, which is responsible for ensuring supply and demand are balanced in Britain’s energy systems, has issued a tight electricity margin notice for Wednesday afternoon and evening.

In a market message, National Grid said there is a reduced margin between the hours of 1600-1900 GMT on Wednesday, with a system shortfall of 584 megawatts.

“An electricity margin notice is used to send a signal to the electricity market. It highlights that, in the short-term, we would like a greater safety cushion (margin) between power demand and available supply,” National Grid said.

“It does not signal that blackouts are imminent or that there is not enough generation to meet current demand.”

A further update will be issued tomorrow.

Unplugged: Abandoned oil and gas wells leave the ocean floor spewing methane

Unplugged: Abandoned oil and gas wells leave the ocean floor spewing methane

The Gulf of Mexico is littered with tens of thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells, and toothless regulation leaves climate warming gas emissions unchecked.

Out on the deck of a research boat, Tara Yacovitch looked out to the water. In the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, the seascape is peppered with lights. And every light is part of an offshore oil or gas platform.

Offshore platforms can vary greatly in size—some are as big as multi-storied buildings, while others resemble small but very tall rooms. The boat carrying Yacovitch and her team also housed a variety of science equipment: methane isotope readers, spectrometers, and other tools to measure methane levels in the air around these sites.

Yacovitch, an instrument scientist at Aerodyne Research, is trying to understand the scope of what some scientists say is a massive environmental issue lurking below our seas. Wells are routinely drilled into the sea floor for oil and gas production, and abandoned when they stop being economically viable—sometimes this is after years of oil or gas extraction, sometimes it’s part way through drilling before the well is even finished. But not all of these wells are plugged and properly maintained before being left behind. The result: methane and other gases leaking in unknown quantities for years on end from tens of thousands of holes in the ocean floor.

The harms for the ocean and its inhabitants, and the atmosphere above, are largely unknown. But we do know that methane is about 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, measured over a 20-year period, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Solar now ‘cheapest electricity in history’: How much will it matter?

Solar now ‘cheapest electricity in history’: How much will it matter?

The International Energy Agency (IEA), the Paris-based consortium of 30 countries, has told us in its flagship World Energy Outlook 2020 that solar-produced electricity is now the “cheapest electricity in history.”  That seems like very good news, that is, until the actual expected impact of that fact is examined more closely.

For those who are concerned about climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electric generation, it is certainly good news—but not quite good enough to make a dent in fossil fuel emissions.

Setting aside any concerns about critical materials needed to make the solar revolution reach completion, it may surprise many readers of the “cheapest electricity in history” headline that growth in solar energy will likely NOT lead to a reduction of fossil fuel burning anytime soon. In fact, the IEA’s main forecast has natural gas consumption growing by 30 percent through 2040 while oil consumption levels off but does not decline. Coal use does continue to decline as a share of total energy.

With solar energy and other renewables expected to grow so much by 2040, how can this be so? The answer is that what the IEA calls non-hydro renewables (solar, wind, geothermal, biomass) will provide 80 percent of the INCREASE in expected global electricity demand. That means that the fossil fuel electricity infrastructure will continue to grow and that existing plants will remain in place rather than be supplanted by renewables.

Of course, for the part of the economy that runs on liquid fuels including transportation and many industrial processes requiring high heat, more renewable electricity doesn’t make much of a dent in fossil fuel use. Even where transportation is being electrified, the growth in internal combustion engine vehicles continues to dwarf those running on electricity…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

EU can shut off power supplies if UK tries to seize control of fish stocks, small print of deal reveals

EU can shut off power supplies if UK tries to seize control of fish stocks, small print of deal reveals

Cables under Channel meet 8 per cent of demand – raising threat of higher prices and possible blackouts.

The EU has secured the ability to shut off gas and electricity supplies if the UK tries to seize control of disputed fish stocks in future, experts are warning.

The sanction – which would hike prices and possibly trigger blackouts – makes a mockery of the prime minister’s claim to have “taken control” of British waters in his trade agreement, they say.

The little-noticed clause in the vast 1,255-page text allows Brussels to kick the UK out of its electricity and gas markets in June 2026, unless a fresh deal is agreed.

The date set is – deliberately – the same as for the review of fishing rights, when Mr Johnson has insisted the UK will finally grab a large share of stocks, having failed to do that in his agreement.

The Institute for Government said Brussels had been determined to secure a connection “between energy and fish” in the negotiations that finally concluded on Christmas Eve.

“It seems that, in the weeds of the deal, they’ve succeeded,” Maddy Thimont Jack, the IfG’s associate director, told The Independent:

“By including annual negotiations on energy from 2026, it would be very easy to leverage access to the EU’s energy market in the annual talks on fish – also starting in 2026.

“This is just another reason why the UK will likely struggle to take back control of any more of its waters in the years to come.”

Losing power supplies could have a significant impact on the UK, which brings in about 8 per cent of its demand through huge power cables under the Channel.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

The Most Outrageous 2020 Oil Predictions

The Most Outrageous 2020 Oil Predictions

As we approach the close of 2020, we’re reminded of one statistical certainty when it comes to oil price predictions. If you set anything other than a range, you will be proven wrong. And even for the forecasters and predictors that do set a range, the likelihood that the actual price will fall within the chosen range is about as sure as a range of prices selected by throwing a dart at a number on the wall. That has never stopped oil price forecasters from giving it a go.

We’ve rounded up some of our favorite oil price predictions from this year. And while you’re thinking that this might not be a fair exercise given the black swan event such as the coronavirus pandemic, we will remind you that the predictions made even in the middle of the pandemic were quite suspect.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has the unfortunate position on our list of going first. Its January prediction for 2020 oil prices for both WTI and Brent would later prove to be high–not unsurprisingly given the events that were about to unfold. While there were reports that an outbreak was brewing as early as the first few days of January 2020, it wouldn’t be until January 13 that the first Covid-19 case was known to have escaped China’s borders. But when the EIA published its STEO on January 14, cratering oil demand due to the future pandemic wasn’t even on its radar. What was on its radar? Tensions between the United States and Iran, and the corresponding fear that there would be some oil supply disruption in the Middle East.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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