American Elephants

The President’s Energy Policy Leaves a Lot of Energy Out. by The Elephant's Child

In Obama’s big Energy Speech, at the truck plant in North Carolina, he reiterated his usual excuse that “America has just two percent of the world’s oil, but we use twenty percent of the world’s oil.” President Obama’s  two percent is that teeny little red pyramid on the top. That represents our “proven” reserves. It is dwarfed by the mass of oil that we have in real reserves. Sometimes a visualization helps to explain things.  (click to enlarge)

Plentiful Energy? Not On Obama’s Watch! by The Elephant's Child

President Obama’s hopes that his energy revolution will create something new and wonderful for the 21st Century. (It’s always the 21st Century). The problem is that most of the technologies aren’t new at all.  Windmills are centuries old, the sun has always been a diffuse source. Electric cars have been promising miracles since around the turn of the last century (1900) if only, and as soon as… The engineers say that they have exhausted the periodic tables and known physics. Wind is too intermittent, solar energy is too diffuse (and the sun goes down at night).

But the U.S. is in the midst of an energy revolution. A gusher of natural gas from shale formations has the potential to transform energy production, and supply the country with energy for centuries. About ten years ago, Texas oil engineers hit upon the idea of combining two established technologies to release the natural gas trapped in shale formations. Horizontal drilling— in which wells turn sideways after reaching a certain depth — and a 50 year-old technique called hydraulic fracking — in which water, sand and chemicals are injected into a well at high pressure, to loosen the shale and release gas and increasingly — oil.

The Bakken formation, along the Montana North Dakota border, is thought to contain four billion barrels of oil — the biggest proven estimate outside of Alaska. The drilling boom is responsible for  North Dakota’s unemployment rate of only 3.2% — the lowest in the country. Keep that in mind when the Obama administration remains bewildered about how to create jobs.

Well, we can’t have plentiful oil and gas making the President’s release of 60 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve look unimportant. Environmental organizations have challenged everything about fracking claiming that oil shale production techniques were unproven, dangerous, water supply, royalties too low, etc. etc. etc. Earthjustice filed two big lawsuits on behalf of 13 environmental groups to block, well, everything.

Ken Salazar said the administration was taking a “fresh look” at the rules. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the appointment of a seven-member panel to come up with new fracking rules and safety standards. This duo has demonstrated their cooperation with the environmental lobby in the Gulf, in spite of a contempt of court order by U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman.  The new panel will feature such energy enthusiasts as former Al Gore aide Kathleen McGinty and Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund.

I did mention that the fracking technique had been around — safely— for around 60 years. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 prevents the EPA from explicitly regulating fracking wells under the Safe Water Drinking Act.  Both the EPA and the Ground Water Protection Council have published studies determining that no documented evidence of fracking-sourced groundwater pollution has been found. But the EPA is now looking at possible contamination. The real threat of fracking is to the Obama administration’s promotion of clean energy renewables. Access to abundant, inexpensive energy instead of expensive, job-killing renewable energy, would just be too helpful for the economy.  Can’t have that!

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