Category Archives: Environment

Obama Administration Muzzling Its Climate Scientists

Yves here. The fact that Team Obama is gagging its climate scientists should come as no surprise. First, the Administration is obsesses with secrecy and image-management, as its extremely aggressive posture on classifying records and prosecuting leakers attests. Second, Administration climate policy is founded on a Big Lie. As Gaius Publius has written at length, its greenhouse gas measures exclude methane, the most potent greenhouse gas. That omission favors fracking, which fails the “clean green” test when you factor in methane releases. And that’s before you factor in contamination of water supplies.

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New Study Says US Fracking Boom Will Fade Quickly After 2020

A new study by a team at the University of Texas, published in Nature News, throws cold water on bullish US natural gas production forecasts by the US agency, the Energy Information Administration. Its analysis suggests that the fracking boom will be a relatively short-lived phenomenon, which raises doubts about the attractiveness of investing in shale plays and in liquified natural gas transport facilities, particularly for export.

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“I Hate That Oil’s Dropping”: Why Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant Wants High Oil Prices for Fracking

Yves here. We posted yesterday on how, despite falling oil prices having a ricochet effect across the entire energy complex, so far shale oil well shutdowns didn’t appear to be proceeding at the expected pace. John Dizard of the Financial Times attributed continuing cash-flow-negative exploration and development to continued access to super-cheap funding. He also noted that even when fracking operators were cut off from their money pipeline, a new wave of speculators was likely to sweep in and try bottom-fishing among distressed companies. That meant that normal market discipline would be circumvented, meaning production levels could remain at uneconomically high levels, keeping prices low.

A second danger for the aspiring fracking-industrial complex is that prevailing production forecasts show the US having production well in excess of its domestic consumption levels in a few years. Production of needed export infrastructure would need to ramp up rapidly for so much shale output to be moved overseas. But not only are there “will the transport systems be in place” doubts, there’s also a reason to question whether this investment will pay off. On current trajectories, fracking output peaks in 2020 and falls gradually over the next decade, and declines more rapidly after that. 12 to 15 years of decent utilization is very short for specialized facilities.

Third, some readers, presented with the scenario above, said, basically, “No problem, production will focus on the lowest-cost areas like Marcellus.” As the article below points out, there are parts of the country that have gotten a nice boost from the energy boomlet and will suffer if they aren’t in the most competitive areas cost-wise. And their lenders are also at risk.

Finally, current cost forecasts don’t allow for the possibility of production delays or additions expenditures due to local protests and/or higher environmental standards put in place. Before you pooh-pooh the idea that anything might stand in the way of energy barons, consider the industry they are damaging: real estate, which is another powerful and politically connected industry. If fracking water contamination or fracking-induced earthquakes start affecting higher population density areas (suburbs, cities), we may have a Godzilla versus Mothra battle between competing elites in our future.

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Michael Mann Interview: Very Little “Burnable Carbon” In Our “Budget”; Emissions Ramp-down Must Start Now

One of my hats is as a climate interpreter to the interested lay person. I have something of a science background and can read the papers “in the original.” Another hat is as an occasional interviewer for Virtually Speaking. This month the two hats merged on the same head, and I got to interview the “Hockey Stick graph” climate scientist, Dr. Michael Mann.

For this interview I focused on the basics:

Can humans burn more carbon, create more emissions, and still stay below the IPCC’s “safe” +2°C warming target?

Is the IPCC’s +2°C warming target truly “safe” at all?

We’re already experiencing warming of about +1°C above the pre-industrial level. Even if we stop now, how much more is “in the pipeline,” guaranteed and unavoidable?

How do we defeat the Big Money ogre that stands in our way?

And my personal favorite:

Will the answer to global warming come from the “free market”?

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How Oil and Gas Leases for Fracking Rip Off Homeowners

Yves here. This post by Steven Horn about that shows the typical terms of an oil and gas rights lease for American Energy Partners buries the lead, in that Steve needs to give the context of how the lease came to be public before he turns to explaining how the lease rips off the party who signs it. Among other things, it requires the homeowner to have any mortgage made subordinate to the royalty agreement, something no lender will agree to. If the homeowner can’t get the subordination (a given), no royalties will be paid! As you’ll see, there are other “heads I win, tails you lose” terms in these agreement.

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Life Inside America’s Oil Boom

Yves here. Be warned, this isn’t standard Naked Capitalism fare. It’s a bit of “road trip meets oil boom subculture.” But while there has been a lot of reporting on what is happening in communities where fracking is underway, there has been comparatively little on-the-ground-coverage of what is arguably the bigger story, the development of the Bakken oil field.

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The Biocultural Origins of Human Capital Formation and Economic Growth

The substitution from child quantity to quality has been credited for mankind’s escape from the Malthusian trap and the advent of sustained economic growth. This column argues that biocultural preferences for quality faced positive selection pressure in the pre-growth era, presenting evidence from the founding population of Quebec. Individuals with moderate levels of fecundity had fewer children than those with high fecundity, but produced more descendants in the long run because their children enjoyed higher reproductive success.

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Oil Is Back! A Global Warming President Presides Over a Drill-Baby-Drill America

Yves here. It should come as no surprise that Obama’s rhetoric on climate change is sorely out of whack with his policies. Indeed, as Michael Klare reports, there’s been enough of a economic rebound in the US to lead to more driving, and hence more oil usage. And rather than regard that as a problem, the Administration has shifted from talking up clean energy to pushing more domestic oil production.

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Don Quijones: Judge Turns Monsanto’s Mexican GMO Dream Into Legal Nightmare

Yves here. The success of seed companies in extracting rents from farmers, particularly in countries where subsistence farming is widespread, is yet another example of how corporations like Monsanto abuse intellectual property laws and monopoly/oligopoly power. For the most part, governments have by their inaction backed this scheme. And that’s before you get to the fact that GMO crops, as a former NIH biomedical researcher stressed to me, is a massive experiment being conducted on the public at large without consent or controls.

Don Quijones reports on a ruling in Mexico that has, at least for the moment, thrown a spanner in the seed companies’ plans by barring field trials of GMO crops due to environmental risks.

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