Civil Defense Perspectives March 2012, Vol. 28 No. 3 [Published April 2012]
Muslim countries can be an existential threat to Israel and pose a terrorist threat throughout the world—because of petrodollars. But the Middle East could “go back to being an obscure backwater,” as predicted by Lawrence Solomon (Financial Post 3/21/12), if the rest of the world develops its own oil.
All told, Solomon writes, “some 38 countries in every continent in the world have 4.8 trillion barrels of shale oil, making oil a ubiquitous commodity that gives every region of the world the wherewithal to be energy self-sufficient.” Israel has some 250 billion barrels in one basin near Jerusalem, an amount comparable to Saudi Arabia’s reserves, he writes.
The concept of “Peak Oil”—the idea that the world is running out of “fossil fuel”—was the first rationale for global energy rationing, to be followed by the threat of a new ice age and then by global warming. And it still lurks, like the Undead. It is the foundation for the UK’s energy policy, which assumed that natural gas was insecure, limited, and therefore expensive enough to make every other generation technology competitive, writes Nick Grealy (No Hot Air 9/22/11, cited by CCNet 9/22/11).
Estimates of the potential of shale gas are not just game-changing, he says, but jaw-dropping, at least to the £2,000 per day energy consultants who consistently denied it while they were “living in a bubble of self-reinforcement.”
Oil and Gas Resources
When the Obama Administration says that the U.S. has only 20 billion barrels of oil in “proven” reserves, that is the amount recoverable from known reservoirs under existing economic and operating conditions. It excludes areas that the U.S. federal government has declared off limits, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR), federal waters off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, about 45% of the Gulf of Mexico, and federal lands in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. According to the Institute for Energy Research, the U.S. has more than 1.4 trillion barrels recoverable with existing technology; Saudi Arabia has 260 billion (Washington Times 3/19/12).
The Bakken Shale (being tapped in North Dakota) was estimated to have only 150 million “technically recoverable barrels of oil” in 1995. By April 2008, the estimate had increased to 4 billion, and in 2010 to 8 billion. As technology advances, recoverable oil there could eventually exceed 500 billion barrels (WSJ 3/11/12, cited by TWTW 3/17/12, www.sepp.org).
China is thought to have 30 trillion cubic meters of recoverable shale gas, the largest repository of shale gas in the world (WSJ 3/16/12, TWTW 3/17/12).
Blackpool in northwest England has some 5.6 trillion cubic meters of natural gas in shale rock, more than in Iraq’s whole reserves, enough to supply the whole of the UK’s gas needs for 5 decades, according Cuadrilla Resources Ltd. (CCNet 1/11/12).
An Existential Threat to Green Dogma
Shale gas could bring about Britain’s “second energy revolution” and end the nation’s economic woes. If unchecked, however, the UK’s “dash for gas” would “endanger our carbon dioxide goals,” said then-energy and climate change secretary Chris Huhne. It has reduced the cost of natural gas to less than $3 per thousand cubic feet (or million BTU) from a peak of $8 a few years ago—and makes windmills seem unaffordable. Recovery depends on the use of hydraulic fracking, and environmental activists are calling on the UK to follow the lead of France in imposing a moratorium on fracking (WSJ 9/23/11).
The European Commission is studying whether current EU environmental laws apply to shale gas production (Fox Business News 9/22/11, cited by CCNet 9/23/11).
The Sierra Club and other environmental pressure groups are redoubling efforts to “stop fracking in its tracks.” Fortunately, writes Paul Driessen, much of U.S. shale gas is on private land, where it can’t be easily locked up by federal diktat (CFACT 3/29/12, http://tinyurl.com/7kmczrg). Also, in the U.S. private landowners can profit from developing this resource.
What Is “Fracking”?
Horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing has been used by petroleum engineers since the 1950s to extract both petroleum and natural gas. After a well is drilled, a wire with explosive charges is dropped into it to create fissures in the rock. Water, chemicals, and sand are pumped in under pressure to open channels and keep them open, so gas can flow out when the fluid is pumped out (http://tinyurl.com/6oytaum).
Environmentalists describe fracking as “reckless,” “dangerous,” and “poisonous,” and demand that shale gas development be stopped for further study of potential water pollution and seismic effects. Moratoria are in effect in Maryland, New York, and other states.
In fact, drilling and fracking have been carefully regulated by states for decades, Driessen writes (op. cit.). There has never been a confirmed case of water pollution due to fracking. Rare instances of methane entering ground water are not from fracking but from failure of well integrity and can occur with water wells. Almost all the chemicals used today are also used in foods or cosmetics. The reported “earthquakes” have been barely detectable tremors near fracking sites.
According to Mike Stephenson, head of energy science at the British Geological Survey, the risk of earthquakes is low, and there are scientific tools to detect problems. Earthquakes stronger than 3.3 on the Richter scale, which typically cause no property damage, are unlikely, and most would be much weaker. The seismicity of coal mining is remarkably similar (Kari Lundgren, Bloomberg 1/10/12. CCNet 1/11/12).
Built on a Fault
The environmentalist agenda threatens earth-shaking consequences to Western civilization: war for oil, subservience to a hostile Russian regime threatening to cut off the gas supply, societal upheaval from economic chaos. Apocalyptic scares—climate change, massive earthquakes, radiation peril—have led to suicidal policy. The agenda itself, however, built on fantasy, bad science, even outright lies, could be brought down by reality. The prospect of affordable energy is fracturing the green foundation.
Training for Propagandists
The University of East Anglia (UEA), heart of the Climategate, is offering a new postgraduate course aimed at bringing together “researchers in the environmental sciences, philosophy, history and literature to develop new ways of thinking about environmental change and social transitions.” The cost: £5,000 for UK students, and £11,000 for overseas students. UEA already runs a project in “eco poetry” designed to “stimulate and strengthen children’s environmental awareness.”
“The dividing line between creative writing and climate science—sometimes thin—has been triumphantly dissolved, writes Andrew Orlowski (Register 4/2/12, cited in CCNet 4/3/11).
- $6.8 million: fine paid by motor fuel suppliers for not using cellulosic biofuel that doesn’t exist (NYT 1/9/12).
- 80%: percentage of DOE loans for “green” energy that went to Obama backers (http://tinyurl.com/7urhqmv).
- $330 billion of $560 billion: portion of U.S. trade deficit for buying imported crude oil (TWTW 3/31/12, www.sepp.org).
- £1.2 million: amount paid to wind farm in UK to not produce electricity for 8.5 h, to avoid overloading the network during high winds; 10 times the value of the electricity that could have been produced (Sunday Telegraph 9/18/11).
- $17 billion: amount Chinese companies invested since 2010 in North American oil sands ventures (TWTW 3/17/12).
- > $2 billion: 2011 revenue of top environmentalist charities.
- $26.67 per gallon: amount U.S. Navy pays for biofuel, while jet fuel costs less than $4/gal (TWTW 12/31/11).
- > $1 trillion: cost of EPA regulations scheduled to take effect in the next few years, destroying hundreds of thousands of jobs (Texas Public Policy Foundation, February 2012).
- 8.7%: the percentage of name-plate capacity that is actually available in summer from wind turbines. During peak hour, available capacity may be as little as 1% (TWTW 2/11/12).
- 3 years: enough to build Trans-Alaska Pipeline; not enough for Obama to study Keystone proposal (TWTW 1/21/12).
Home Solar Schemes
Now being widely advertised, tempting deals for roof-top solar systems may be a way to subsidize Wall Street to buy Chinese solar panels, writes T. J. Rodgers (WSJ 12/8/11).
Installation is free—all you have to do is “sign a contract and write a check” (go.solarcity.com). The homeowner gives up the 30% federal tax credit and the depreciation, and agrees to buy power long-term from the limited liability company at just below market rates. After the 10-year payback, profits begin to roll in—to the LLC. As the end of the 20-year lifetime nears, a bank has likely locked in long-term profits and sold the LLC in a “solar-backed security.” Wall Street understands the time value of money; the federal government and consumer do not. By the way, one of the largest installers, SolarCity, uses the LLC strategy and buys its solar panels from the low-cost Chinese supplier, Yingli. Chinese manufacturers have been accused of “dumping” in the U.S.; a 4.73% tariff has been imposed, which is smaller than expected. SolarCity was denied a DOE loan guarantee.
Land Use Requirements
With 1960s’ productivity, it would have taken 8 billion acres to feed the world population in 1998, instead of 3.7 billion, states Indur Goklany. The saving of 4.3 billion acres is about the area of South America. Organic farming produces 29% less corn and 39% less wheat than conventional methods (WSJ 1/18/12).
A Real Stimulus
Against a background of four decades of decline, there has recently been a small increase in domestic production of petroleum (Energy Advocate, February 2012). More than 150,000 new oil and gas jobs have been added over the past 5 years. Some $145 billion will be spent drilling and completing new gas wells this year, up from $13 billion in 2000 (WSJ 2/2/12). Numerous sand mines are opening up to support the drilling. And manufacturing industries, including steelmakers, are returning to take advantage of lower energy costs.
Industries favored by the green lobby receive subsidies in the form of cash handouts. The “subsidy” received by the oil industry is a “tax subsidy,” that is tax deductions for the costs of doing business, most of which are also available to other industries. The effective tax rate (taxes as a share of net income) was 41% for oil and gas companies in 2010, compared with 26% for other manufacturers on the S&P Industrial index, and, before the 2009 Obama-Pelosi stimulus, -164% for wind and -249% for solar-thermal. That is, the more power these alternatives generate, the more the taxpayer pays (WSJ 3/14/12, TWTW 3/17/12).
The Gulf Washing Machine
The rapid cleansing of the Gulf after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill resulted from a fortuitous combination of ravenous bacteria, ocean currents, and local topography. Because the Gulf is bounded on three sides by land, currents don’t flow in one direction but slosh around as if trapped in a washing machine. The population of bacteria near the well grew, then was swept away by currents. But when the water circled back, still loaded with hungry bacteria, they mopped up another round of hydrocarbons, with the population increasing on every cycle (WSJ 1/10/12).
River on Fire—in 1783
Some believe that without the EPA, pollution would be so bad that rivers would catch fire. In fact, it has long been known that naturally occurring methane from river beds can be set aflame, and in 1783, Thomas Paine and George Washington decided to try an experiment. The results were published in 1819 (see http://sppiblog.org/news/6881):
“The muddy bottom of rivers contains great quantities of impure and often inflammable air (carbureted hydrogen gas), injurious to life; and which remains entangled in the mud till let loose from thence by some accident. This air is produced by the dissolution and decomposition of any combustible matter falling into the water and sinking into the mud….” The “research team” disturbed the mud with poles, then set the gas alight.