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Quest for Dialogue Drove Shell Oil Tour

Brett Clanton, Houston Chronicle
[ John Hofmeister. president of Houston-based Shell Oil Co.] has spent the past year crisscrossing the nation, trying to engage regular Americans and opinion leaders in what he calls a dialogue on energy issues.

The goal was to create better understanding of the economic and political factors that have driven energy prices to record highs in recent years and, with any luck, to move beyond animosity directed toward the oil industry.

Last week, as he prepared for the last stop of his 50-city tour, which is Wednesday in Atlanta, Hofmeister reflected on the ambitious campaign and said it has had mixed results.

While academics, business groups and some government officials have grown more receptive to the industry’s point of view, most people have not budged, he said.

“We continue to be, as an industry, grossly unpopular,” said Hofmeister, sitting at a conference table in his 45th-floor office in downtown Houston. “The general public considers the high prices to be a function of greed and an expectation of excessive profits, when the reality is quite different.”

Domestically produced But there is another message, he said, that came through loud and clear during the tour, and that reaffirms a long-held Shell position: Americans want more domestically produced oil and natural gas, both for national security reasons and to keep up with rising demand.

… Last month, however, at a Shell employee gathering at the Hobby Center, it was not clear Shell could win over even a majority of its own employees to the same way of thinking on energy issues.

In a version of the 50-city tour presentation, Hofmeister had employees break into small groups to offer suggestions to broad questions like “What is your vision of the U.S. energy mix in the next 10 years?” or “What should Shell be doing to increase domestic oil supply?”

Some of the answers, written on hundreds of Post-it Notes, were revealing.

“Stop killing the planet!” read one.
“Encourage the use of public transportation,” said another.
“Biofuels, hybrid cars, solar energy,” said another.

Shell will compile all the suggestions into a report that it intends to share with policymakers and, possibly, with the presidential candidates, as part of a push for an energy policy that encourages more domestic exploration, Hofmeister said. Or the company may use it to defend itself the next time it is called to Capitol Hill to testify about high gas prices or other industry issues, he said.
(13 November 2007)
Also at Rigzone.

Oil sands forecast cut as costs increase 50%

Scott Haggett, Reuters
CALGARY-Rising costs will temper production growth of northern Alberta’s vast oil sands, the country’s national energy regulator forecast yesterday, as it detailed its expectations for Canadian energy production over the next two decades.

The National Energy Board expects production from the oil sands to rise to about 2.8 million barrels a day by 2015 from about one million barrels a day last year.
(16 November 2007)

Coal surges despite warming concerns: Demand expected to rise through 2030

Elaine Kurtenbach, Associated Press
…Coal is big, and getting bigger. As oil and natural gas prices soar, the world is relying ever more on the cheap, black-burning mainstay of the Industrial Revolution. Mining companies are racing into Africa. Workers are laying miles of new railroad track to haul coal from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana.

And nowhere is coal bigger than in China.

But the explosion of coal comes amid rising alarm over its dire consequences for workers and the environment. An average of 13 Chinese miners die every day in explosions, floods, fires and cave-ins. Toxic clouds of mercury and other chemicals from mining are poisoning the air and water far beyond China’s borders and polluting the food chain.

So far, attempts to clean up coal have largely not worked. Technology to reduce or cut out carbon dioxide emissions is expensive and years away from widespread commercial use.
(13 November 2007)