Archive for April, 2010

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More on the impact of shale gas on Gazprom

April 30, 2010

Analysis from the Institute for the Study of Conflict, Ideology and Policy, via the Natural Gas For Europe blog:

During the past decade, Gazprom emerged as a titan among multinational energy majors by seizing a commanding share of the international gas trade concentrated mainly between Russia and Europe, an export strategy that the company has sought to expand through its recent efforts to gain a foothold in dynamic markets farther afield. Among other prospective customers, Gazprom targeted US markets for Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipments and, in 2006, the company announced its intention to supply ten percent of US gas needs by 2010.  That ambition failed to materialize. Instead, in 2009, the US overtook Russia to become the world’s leading gas producer, thanks to new drilling technologies that have transformed US natural gas production in the past five years, raising the country’s proven reserves by around 40 percent.  . . . The shift in US production has been quite literally tectonic, as new methods of extraction access natural gas deposits trapped in dense beds of shale rock miles underground. Hydraulic fracturing technology, which uses an emulsion of water, sand and chemicals to crack shale rock, marks an advance in gas production that is being hailed as “the biggest energy innovation of the decade,” by Daniel Yergin, chairman of the Cambridge consulting group, who marvels at the fact that the industry missed the eureka moment of the new technology: “there was no grand opening ceremony for it. It just snuck up.” (5)

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Shale Gas putting the squeeze on Gazprom

April 30, 2010

The relatively sudden abundance of natural gas, due to the ability to produce it from shale deposits, has led to (a) the emergence of the United States as the world’s top gas producer and (b) a glut on the gas market with a consequent retrenchment of prices.  These facts, combined with others, have led to a very difficult for Russian energy giant Gazprom, whose twin drives for a Eurasian gas monopoly and leading role in an international gas cartel have collapsed.  The European Energy Review summarizes Gazprom’s current situation:  For a few years, Gazprom officials claimed it would become the world’s most valuable company with a market capitalization of $1 trillion. In May 2008, Gazprom’s market capitalization exceeded $350 billion, and in June 2008, Gazprom Chairman Alexei Miller predicted that the oil price would soon reach $250 per barrel. Since the gas price is tied to the oil price Gazprom’s sales and value would rise accordingly. But since then almost everything has gone wrong for Gazprom and its current market capitalization has stabilized around $140 billion.

The failure of the gas cartel to materialize was fully exposed at the most recent Gas Exporting Countries Forum in Algeria earlier this month.  A full report from EER here.  Read it all – the gas glut has re-shuffled the geopolitical deck.

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CNAS examines the gap between science and national security policy

April 29, 2010

The Center for a New American Security has released a report examining the lack of fruitful communication between climate scientists and national security policymakers.  “Lost in Translation:  Closing the Gap Between Climate Science and National Security Policy” makes a handful of recommendations:

• The president should form an interagency working group on climate change and national security with all relevant interagency partners.
• The Department of Defense should establish a Permanent Advisory Group on Climate Change and National Security under the Defense Science Board.
• The Department of State should appoint climate science advisors to serve within the regional bureaus and on the policy and planning staffs.
• The academic and scientific communities should create incentives for climate scientists to research how climate change could affect national security.

This is rather tepid stuff, in my humble opinion.   The DoD is well aware of the potential implications of climate change, thank you very much.  Take a look, for example, at the US Air Force Bibliography on Climate Change under the Energy Research and Information link list on the right side of this page.  Just a few months ago, the Naval Post Graduate School hosted a conference that featured a number of papers relating to climate change.  This is not an unfamiliar topic in the national security field.

Another bunch of commissions and another layer of advisors is not what is needed.  That reads more like a jobs programs for Ph.D.s.

We need to take a bold policy statement:  Commit to making the US military independent of foreign* sources of energy by the end of the decade (I qualify “foreign” to mean non-North American in this context – we need Canada and Mexico to make this work).  While it will take longer to wean the nation as a whole, we can certainly do it for the military – the world’s single largest consumer of petroleum products.  Of course, overseas deployments will need to utilize local sources, but that can be accounted for on a barrel-by-barrel basis with North American purchases as offsets.  This goal will require the acceptance of coal- and gas-to-liquid fuels with carbon capture and sequestration technology, as well as biofuels and other renewables, but it can be done.  If we have the will and the leadership to make the political deals and concessions necessary to get there.

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US Geothermal grows 26% in 2009

April 27, 2010

The Geothermal Energy Association has announced that it grew by 26% in 2009, with 188 projects underway in 15 states.

H/T to FuturePundit, by way of Instapundit.

In the comments section at FuturePundit, commenter Larry D. points to an Energy Information Agency page that puts the cost of geothermal fairly close to coal and nuclear, superior to wind (and much superior to offshore wind) and vastly superior to solar.  When you consider CCS (which we should), it is superior to coal and roughly equivalent to natural gas (and also equivalent to hydro and biomass).

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“Diamond Trees” for large scale carbon sequestration

April 26, 2010

a proposal from Robert Freitas:

In this scenario, molecular manufacturing techniques including diamondoid mechanosynthesis (DMS) [25] and diamondoid nanofactories [21] would be used to build macroscale “diamond trees” or “tropostats”  incorporating atomically-precise diamondoid nanomachinery that can filter pollutant molecules out of the troposphere – the lowest portion of Earth’s air containing ~75% of the atmosphere’s mass and ~99% of its water vapor and aerosols. Tropostats break out the oxygen contained within the pollutant molecules and return that gas to the atmosphere as a beneficial effluent, then excrete the residuum as solid bricks of almost pure diamond (or other form of densely compacted carbon) entrained with trace quantities of other pollutant atoms. These bricks could be employed as bulk building materials, or as recyclable material for the manufacture of useful high-value consumer or industrial products, or they could be harmlessly buried in landfill or at sea. In all such cases, the mostly carbon atoms comprising the bricks would be permanently sequestered from natural biogeochemical action (e.g., the carbon cycle) because diamond is extremely strong and chemically inert, and can only be chemically broken down by extreme natural processes occurring at the elevated pressures and temperatures found beyond 10-100 km deep in Earth’s mantle.
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The global warming “debate” on NRO

April 22, 2010

Jim Manzi is one of the contributors to the often stimulating group blog The Corner at National Review Online.   Like myself, he is what I term an AGW moderate – we believe in AGW, but are skeptical to varying degrees about the claims of the Catastrophists.  He and I have corresponded on a couple of occasions about this shared position, most recently regarding Paul Krugman’s climate economics column, to which I responded here and Manzi did in much greater detail here, here and here (read them all, they are very good).  In a post yesterday ostensibly about the alleged “epistemic closure” of conservative thought, Manzi took Mark Levin to task for a chapter on Global Warming in his recent book Liberty and Tyranny. Manzi’ description of Levin’s take is the all-to-common conservative default position on AGW:  head-in-the-sand know-nothingism (I cannot vouch for Manzi’s take, as I have read neither Levin’s book nor even the chapter in question).  Manzi takes this position apart, and Levin with it, in much more detail than my hyphenated description, and it is a good read.

Fellow NRO writer Andy McCarthy leaped to the defense of Levin with this post attacking Manzi, and Levin himself posted a scathing response here.  These responses were probably not unexpected by Manzi – and were, perhaps, consciously invited by the use of his colorful language.  But I wanted to put my support for Manzi and his position on the record.  It is hard to be a moderate – eventually, you will get attacked by both sides – so we need to stick together.  Disabusing the right of their climate fantasies is an important goal of this blog (as is attacking the left’s catastrophist fantasy, BTW).  We cannot meet the challenge of a secure energy future unless we deal honestly with the reality of climate change.  Energy and climate are intimately tied, and we need to find solutions to crises on both fronts.

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Carbon Capture and Sequestration

April 22, 2010

Again, this is a very hectic week and blogging will be light, but I just wanted to give my Earth Day thought:  The key to a clean and abundant energy future will be the continued development – and deployment – of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology.

Unless there is some completely unforeseeable technological breakthrough, fossil fuels are going to remain the dominant energy source in the world for most of this century.   It is nothing short of fantasy to pretend otherwise.  Fossil fuels are simply too abundant, so incredibly efficient at storing energy, relatively easy to transport to places of need, and easy to convert from potential to actual energy.  Carbon is King.  So, given those facts combined with the equal necessity of reducing carbon emissions, the only real solution in the near and middle terms is in making our fossil fuels as clean as possible.   And, if CCS works well, then we unlock the potential of coal-to-liquid (CTL) fuels, which helps solve the Peak Oil conundrum at the same time we clean the environment.

CCS has the potential of being a magic bullet.

Happy Earth Day.  There will be at least one substantial post tomorrow, and that will be it for the week.