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On A Carbon Tax on Me: How to Cut Emissions, Save Money, Invest for the Future and Help End Energy Poverty

Thanks for the tip,  I just ordered it.

November 23, 2014    View Comment    

On Eight Pitfalls in Evaluating Green Energy Solutions

"History shows that world emissions tend to rise more, in the period with CO2 taxes!"

Gail, do you have any references on this?

November 22, 2014    View Comment    

On Senate Rejects Bid to Force Approval of Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline

"If they want jobs, they have them now in the form of people working on the railroads that currently move the crude around."

Interesting point.  If one follows that logic, then why not move the oil by covered wagons or wheelbarrows?  Think of all the jobs that would create!  Better yet, how about bucket brigades?  

Then we could get really serious about creating jobs by banning all farm machinery.  Granted, there would be mass starvation, but we'd have full employment!

November 21, 2014    View Comment    

On Why Hydraulic Fracturing is Not Necessarily Contaminating Water or Using More Water Per Unit of Oil Production

Actually, the odds of not experiencing leakage through casing are extremely high.  That's because, contrary to your assertion, casing is not the only thing keeping the gas out of the aquifer.  The gas is produced through tubing within the casing, not through the open casing itself.  If a leak in the tubing were to occur, then this would be indicated immediately by a drop in flow pressure and production.

Once the well has stopped producing at commercial rates, and the gas pressure in the producing reservoir has depleted, the well is abandoned.  The tubing is pulled and the casing is filled with cement, according to a program that must be approved and supervised by the governing authorities, typically the state division of oil and gas.  

If you know of a single case of leakage through casing either during production or after abandonment, please provide a reference to it.

The only real risk of leakage is not through the casing, but from a breakdown of the cement layer between the outside of the casing and the rock wall.  That's why the operators are required to demonstrate by a cement bond log or water shutoff test that the producing interval has been isolated from the aquifer.  While a breakdown of this isolation is possible, it is extremely rare.  

In any event, the risk of such leakage has nothing to do with fracking.  To the extent that the risk exists at all, it occurs in all forms of oil and gas production.

November 21, 2014    View Comment    

On Cellulosic Ethanol

"studies on the life-cycle emissions of CO2from using corn ethanol showed that CO2 emissions could range between 0.7 and 1.3 times that of petroleum-based gasoline"

Ripudaman, could you provide a reference for this?  I'm not trying to be confrontational, I just want to know if these studies consider the impact of the release of nitrous oxide into the atmosphere related to the use of nitrogen fertilzers.

November 14, 2014    View Comment    

On Oil Price Slide: No Good Way Out

Actually, there is currently about 36 million barrels of spare capacity in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.  If the oil price were to drop below a target floor price, say, $70 a barrel, then the the U.S. could buy something like 500,000 barrels a day to support the price and put it in this storage.  In addition, it should start expanding the storage capacity immediately.

I should mention that I am being a bit sloppy here in my terminology, in confusing the Strategic Petroleum Reserve with a proposed Tactical Petroleum Reserve.   While they could share the same physical facility, their purposes would be quite different.  The purpose of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is to provide emergency supplies during supply disruptions, such as occurred as a consequence of Desert Storm, Hurricane Katrina, and political upheavel associated with the Arab Spring.  The Tactical Petroleum Reserve would serve to provide a price floor in order to avoid reductions of capital investment in global energy development during periods of low price (such as occurred in the 1990's).

What this really constitutes is a single reserve to constrain oil price within a target range.  For right now, I would suggest that this range would be between $70 and $90 a barrel.  






November 9, 2014    View Comment    

On Oil Price Slide: No Good Way Out

The U.S. government has been doing the opposite of providing a floor price for the last forty years.  The Strategic Petroleum Reserve serves to provide a emergency supply during supply disruptions.  It was never intended to establisth a floor price during periods of unsustainably low price.  In fact, according to the reference that you cited, the GAO proposed just a few weeks ago to reduce the SPR.  This is the exact opposite of what we should be doing.  

It is the failure of oil importing nations, particularly the U.S., to establish a floor price over the last forty years that has resulted in global overdependance on energy from the Persian Gulf and Russia, with very negative economic, strategic, and political consequences.

November 9, 2014    View Comment    

On Oil Price Slide: No Good Way Out

As I mentioned in a comment elsewhere, if the U.S. leadership had any sense - it doesn't - it would create a price floor by purchasing oil and placing it in a tactical petroleum reserve.  This would discourage excessive consumption, encourage the continuation of capital investments necessary to sustain production outside of OPEC and Russia, and provide a cushion in the evet of a supply disruption.

November 7, 2014    View Comment    

On Methane Leaks Wipe Out Any Climate Benefit Of Fracking, Satellite Observations Confirm

Considering your points:

1)  The producing interval of the Bakken Shale occurs at a depth of 4,500 - 7,500 feet, and is about 22 feet thick.  There's no way that the fracking a thin interval at that depth that would produce cracks that would extend that far up.  As to the flammable borehole water, please clarify what areas your thinking of.  If you're thinking of the iconic burning tap water from the movie "Gasland," you need to be aware that the gas that burned was analyzed and determined biogenic gas, similar to the gas produced by manure or rotting vegetable matter, and has nothing to do with commercial production of thermogenic gas from deep geologic reservoirs, let alone with fracking.  This was determined by the authorities in Colorado two years before the movie was made, if I recall correctly.  In fact, there are many places where it's difficult to drill a water well without encountering gas, either from biogenic process, or from natural leakage from deeper geologic reservoirs.

2)  Unlike coal mines, abandoned oil and gas wells are filled with cement and sealed when they are abandoned, as required by law and supervised by state agencies.

3)  If it is true that the reported methane anomaly is related to local water and energy consumption, please explain why a similar anomaly has not been noted over the Haynesville Shale area.

October 30, 2014    View Comment    

On Is Renewable Energy Less Effective Than Energy Efficiency at Reducing CO2 Emissions?


Thanks for a brilliant post.  Your logic is impeccable, and the information is presented very well.  

The problem I see, though, is that I can't see how our current political culture would promote EE over RE on a large scale.  The political advantage of RE is that it involves giving money away to voters and interest groups - be it to ADM or Monsanto for corn ethanol, Solyndra for solar, or affluent car buyers for Tesla.  Promoting EE, however, would almost have to take the form of taxing excessive consumption, thus taking money away from voters and interest groups.  I'm afraid that the consumption taxes would be necessary as, the simple reality is that the only thing that has effectively discouraged excessive energy consumption is high prices.  

I can't imagine the current political culture having the fortitude to stop giving money away and raising consumption taxes.  Any thoughts?

October 29, 2014    View Comment    

On Methane Leaks Wipe Out Any Climate Benefit Of Fracking, Satellite Observations Confirm

The USGS EUR per well of 1.2 bcf did not grossly understate the actual EUR per well of 6.4 bcf simply because of technological improvements over the last 13 years, although that certainly is a significant factor.  Rather, the USGS EUR was based on speculation made at a time when there was no reliable production history, and the estimate is of no more import today than was the estimate by Columbus of the diameter of the Earth when he landed in Hispanola and thought that he was in India.  We do not now assert that the diameter of the Earth has doubled since the time of Columbus.  Rather, we simply say that Columbus was wrong.  Simiarly, the USGS estimate was speculation, was not based on real production data, and has been proved to be dead wrong.  Get over it.

As to the origins of the anomalous increase in methane levels in the Bakken and Eagle Ford areas, Mike Ferguson made some very good points in his comment on this post, and I will reiterate them here briefly.  Firstly, the margin of error in the measurements is extremely large, and the actual magnitude of the anomaly may very well be much lower than the 9% - 10% reported in the post.  The post by Mr. Romm made no mention of the high degree of uncertainty, as is typical of his writing.

Much more significantly, as Mr. Ferguson points out, the study focused on oil plays, not gas plays.  As the referenced study states, the enhancement patterns in the Haynesville shale gas play are "less clear."  That's an evasive way of saying that there is no demonstrable methane anomaly associated with shale gas production from the Haynesville.

The authors of the study suggest that the presence of the methane anomaly over oil plays and not gas plays is due to producers in the oil plays being less diligent about controlling leakage.  I strongly doubt this, as this would be a very dangerous practice, and no ground measurements have demonstrated such leakages in oil plays, as far as I know.

Rather, I strongly suspect that the cause of the methane anomaly over the oil plays studied, whatever its magnitude, is the common practice of flaring in oil plays.  Flaring is common in relatively remote oil plays, as the cost of installing the infrastructure to transport and market the gas exceeds the market value of the gas.  Flaring certainly releases significant amounts of methane into the atmosphere, as combustion is never 100% efficient.

This could be easily remedied by phasing in a ban on flaring, requiring the producers to either to reinject the gas, or to develop the infrastructure to transport it to market.  Many countries have banned flaring, and I have been bemused for years to see that it is still allowed in the U.S.

That is what is so unfortunate about the (typically) misleading presentation of the topic by Mr. Romm.  The discussion could have been used to identify and highlight means by which to enhance environmental practice while optimizing production operations while continuing to establish energy security both nationally and globally.  Instead, and not surprisingly, Mr. Romm chose to produce a highly sensational and misleading post.

October 28, 2014    View Comment    

On Energy Quote of the Day: 'This Would Have Been Simply Impossible Without the Establishment of the Renewable Fuel Standard'

".this new plant is a big win for the cellulosic ethanol portion of the equation"

I will take claims like this seriously when the ethanol industry reports both the eroei and production cost for the cellulosic ethanol produced at this plant.  These two values are conspicuously absent from all the hype about cellulosic ethanol.


October 27, 2014    View Comment