Archive for July, 2013


When production gallops ahead of infrastructure

July 31, 2013

Drilling intensity is one major key to success in bringing shale fields into play.  However, that very same intensity can lead to tremendous amounts of waste if and when production rushes ahead of the infrastructure to support it.  Such is the case in the Bakken shale region of North Dakota.  Drillers are producing much more gas each day than the existing infrastructure can move out of the region, so the excess gas is simply flared off.  For the last two years, as production has really come on line, Bakken companies have been flaring off around 30% – and as much as 36% in some months – of all the gas they produce (link opens a pdf file).  This amounts to an average of about $3.6 million a day or $100 million a month in potential profits being literally lit on fire, because adequate pipeline infrastructure does not exist to move it to market.

A large scale federal effort to rationalize the national pipeline infrastructure is a policy proposal that a critical mass of both Democrats and Republicans should be able to agree on.  Given the fact that it would also support the President’s Climate Action Plan, it should also be a bone he could throw to Republicans as he is apparently ready to kill Keystone XL.

flaring  bakken1




The new Egyptian boss: Worse than the old boss?

July 30, 2013

Robert Springborg, writing for the journal Foreign Affairs, digs into the background of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and finds a potentially toxic mix of Islamicism, militarism and populism.  Focusing mainly on a thesis that Sisi wrote while studying at the US Army War College, Springborg finds evidence that Sisi likely has low regard for Western-style democracy and perhaps little regard for any type of democracy at all.    Of particular interest is Sisi’s claim that Middle Eastern politics can only be understood in relation to El Kalafa – the caliphate; the high point of Islam during which it dominated the world from Gibraltar to India.  The re-establishment of the caliphate, writes Sisi, “is widely recognized as the goal for any new form of government” in the region.


Caliphate Map

An Islamicized Egyptian political system is bad enough; a thoroughly militarized one led by an engaging populist who sees the re-establishment of a wide and unified caliphate is the sort of thing that can only add more fuel to Western fears of Islamism.  Of course, I now need to point out that four of the ten largest standing militaries in the world are controlled by Islamist or near-Islamist regimes:  Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and now Egypt.  All four of them are much larger than the largest militaries in Europe.



BMW’s plug in hybrid i3

July 29, 2013

Pressed for time today so just a short post.  I like this first look at the BMW i3 plug in electric hybrid.  Distinctive, forward-looking styling I think is important in the PHEV and EV segments.  Also, commitment to reality – EVs and PHEVs are urban commuters and should be designed and marketed as such.  The Chevy Volt and the high end Teslas fail on both these measures – they are fooling themselves (in Chevy’s case) and deceptive (in Teslas’s) when they pretend to be the equivalent of gas powered, long-haul cruisers, and neither is a strikingly good-looking car (the Tesla shares the same basic profile as every other sedan on the market, while the Volt is just another plain-Jane-destined-to-age-rapidly Chevy).  Contrast that to this BMW, which markets itself as an urban commuter with an 80-100 mile range, and has edgy styling both inside and out.  I am a fan.


George P. Mitchell, Father of the Shale Revolution

July 26, 2013

George P. Mitchell, wildcatter and energy maverick, died today at the age of 94.  At great financial risk, his Mitchell Energy spent years and capital pioneering horizontal drilling techniques as a means of freeing up otherwise inaccessible gas and oil reservoirs.  When paired with hydraulic fracturing techniques, Mitchell Energy launched what we now know as the Shale Revolution, which has slayed the theory of Peak Oil and has put actual energy independence for America within reach for the first time in decades.

I believe that Mitchell is the most influential American of the last 25 years; it is inarguable that he is among the top 5.   It is a shame that he died without receiving the nation’s highest civilian honor – the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  President Obama’s Climate Change Policy pays lip service to renewable energy, but it is based primarily on the vast bounty of natural gas that Mitchell’s efforts have delivered to us,  I have created a petition on the White House website to encourage the President to issue this award; it needs 100,000 signatures by August 25 to garner an official response.  Please sign the petition here, and forward it to your friends and associates.


Chinese Navy reaches numerical parity with US

July 25, 2013

In 1997, the US Navy had 312 ships on its roster, to 101 for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).  Today, those number are 274 to 268.   While it is true that nearly 30% of the PLAN fleet is made up of older, outmoded vessels, it is also true that their fleet is concentrated in and around home waters, while the US Navy is divided among numerous global duty stations.   Both naval forces are supported by land-based forces – China from its mainland and the US from its network of bases in allied nations.  The US also enjoys the support of a wide array of allies both globally and locally in the Indo-Pacific.  Nonetheless, China is rapidly pursuing its goal of naval domination out to the Second Island Chain.  The PLAN may attain numerical superiority over US and allied nations before decade’s end; constrained by fiscal realities, the US will not be able to add ships, so it will have to rely on relatively cheap technological advancements such as unmanned vehicles, new generation long range missiles and other exotic fare to maintain hegemony over the Western Pacific.


China’s analysis of US coalitioning moves in the Indo-Pacific

July 24, 2013

A nominally independent Chinese think tank has issued a pair of reports on US and Japanese military capabilities and intentions.  I say “nominally” because it is unlikely that such reports would receive widespread dissemination without official government sanction (The People’s Daily has published both reports in both Chinese and English) .  The report on the US military is here.  From the perspective of this blog, the most interesting section is Chapter Five:  Alliances and Partnerships, which examines the US efforts to strengthen existing alliances and build new ones all through the Indo-Pacific region.  These attempts, which have increased in intensity since the “pivot to Asia” was announced in, are well known.  Still, the perception of these moves by China is interesting and rarely directly heard in the US.  China sees a very clear (and strong) US/Japanese alliance as the centerpiece of a growing network attempting to ring the maritime approaches to China.

The report on Japan is here.  Together, they are an interesting insight into Chinese thinking about ongoing developments in the region.


The 1000 Ship Naval Arms Race in the Indo-Pacific

July 23, 2013

In a recent interview with, Bob Nugent, Vice President, Advisory Services, AMI International talked about the naval arms market in the Asian-Pacific region.  AMI is an industry leader in providing information about the world’s navies, and Nugent stated that they expect over the next 20 years that the 16 nations in the region will build “well over 1000” new naval craft, spending about $200 billion.  This does not include the shipbuilding efforts of the US, which although not a geographical member of the region is nonetheless the preeminent naval power.  And it might not count new and non-traditional  platforms such as the Hydra, which I blogged about earlier today.  By the end of the decade, if not sooner (if not already), the stretch of waters from the Andaman Sea to the Sea of Japan will be the most militarized waters in the world.