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Energy and politics - 29 April


How close is peak oil?

Giles Parkinson, The Climate Spectator
It seems politicians everywhere are suddenly waking up to the implications of peak oil. When will it arrive? Has it already passed? What does it mean for prices? And what do those prices mean for economic growth, and geopolitical risk? Most are finding that whatever action they are thinking of taking now, they should have been doing decades ago.

This week, US President Barack Obama has been pressuring Congressional leaders to remove $US40 billion of subsidies to the oil industry as he begins to rebuild the foundations of his clean energy policy that aims to rid the country of its dependence on foreign oil.

This has been a stated goal of every US President since Nixon, yet – as Ted Turner and T. Boone Pickens pointed out last week – the power and the influence of Big Oil has meant nothing has happened. Now, surprisingly, Obama appears to be gaining some sort of support from the Republicans.

Actually, it shouldn't surprise at all. As Pickens said last week, peak oil may have already passed. “Oil’s a finite resource and it’s running out,” he told a National Press Club luncheon in Washington. “In the fourth quarter of this year, demand is projected to be 90 million barrels a day and I don’t think the world can produce 90 million. If they can’t, the only way you can kill demand is with price.” He expects that price to soar to $US400 a barrel within a decade.
(2x April 2011)



Russia halts petrol exports

Staff, RTE News
...Russia has decided to halt petrol exports and switch the flow to the home market to fight shortages and a price rise that is coinciding with rising voter discontent.

The sudden announcement from the world's biggest oil producer came after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered his government to tackle an issue that has been gaining increasing attention ahead of upcoming elections.

Deputy Energy Ministry Sergei Kudryashov's comments suggested the ban would apply only for the month of May and then be followed by higher petrol export duties aimed at keeping most future sales within Russia.

A spokesman for the country's biggest oil producer Rosneft later confirmed that the decision only applied to the upcoming month.
The unexpected decision came after two dozen Russian regions reported shortages that were causing prices at the pump to jump by as much as 30% since the weekend....



EIA budget cuts to curb some energy data gathering

David Bird, Market Watch
A 14% cut in the final 2011 fiscal year budget from the year earlier will force the Energy Information Administration to cut back some energy data and analysis, EIA Administrator Richard Newell said Thursday.

Widely followed weekly reports on oil and natural gas inventories aren't affected.

The budget provides $95.4 million for the EIA, the independent, analytical and statistical wing of the Department of Energy, a drop of $15.2 million from the fiscal year 2010 level.

"The lower FY 2011 funding level will require significant cuts in EIA's data, analysis, and forecasting activities," Newell said. "EIA had already taken a number of decisive steps in recent years to streamline operations and enhance overall efficiency, and we will continue to do so in order to minimize the impact of these cuts at a time when both policymaker and public interest in energy issues is high."

EIA said the budget cut means it will "cancel the planned increase in resources to be applied to petroleum data quality issues."...

(28 April 2011)
From EB contributor Rick Munroe:
I received this (below) from Lisa Wright at Roscoe Bartlett's office yesterday (Roscoe heads the Peak Oil Caucus in Congress). It's not helpful to have EIA's budget cut, especially at such a critical moment in history.


University Vows to Lock Out Students Opposed to ExxonMobil

Asher Miller, Post Carton Institute
There's a storm brewing on the small campus of Worcester Polytechnic Institute over the kind of vision for the future to be imparted to graduating students at this year's commencement. Offering one vision is Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil—the largest private oil company in the world and a major funder of climate deniers. Offering the other is Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow-in-Residence at Post Carbon Institute. The two visions couldn't be further apart, nor the stakes higher.

According to students at WPI, ExxonMobil has given at least $1.3 million to the school. The decision to invite Tillerson was taken without consulting the community and kept a secret for over two years. The administration has also opposed efforts to find out the exact nature of the decision making process that led to the invitation.

Given ExxonMobil’s track record, the decision to invite Tillerson didn’t sit well with a number of students and faculty. WPI Students for a Just and Stable Future (SJSF) took up the cause, protesting Tillerson’s invitation, but to no avail. So students took matters into their own hands.

Last week, SJSF invited Richard Heinberg to deliver an alternate commencement address on campus and at the same time as Tillerson.

Richard Heinberg’s work is a powerful symbol of our wishes for WPI: a university which, in line with its budding green image, chooses to honor someone with leadership and vision, rather than a baron of the past, a force of the status quo.

The protest organizers have made every effort to negotiate with the administration and ensure that the graduation ceremony is not unduly disrupted. Last week, the WPI administration approved their plans begrudgingly. But everything changed yesterday. The President’s office informed SJSF that any students who leave the ceremony to listen to Richard Heinberg will not be allowed to return to receive their diplomas. SJSF believes the administration does not have the legal authority and has contacted the ACLU and other legal help to fight this tactic.

We at PCI are offering our support to the students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, not because we're eager for a confrontation with the likes of ExxonMobil but because these students are showing the kind of leadership, courage, and thoughtfulness the challenges we face demand. We're also calling on friends, partners and peers to join us in protesting WPI’s appointment of ExxonMobil’s CEO as an "aspirational speaker" and allow students to freely choose their speaker (and future), without reprisal.

To voice your support, please visit WPI SJSF's "ExxonMobil Doesn't Speak for Me" facebook page. For those in the Worcester area, Richard Heinberg's commencement speech will be open to the public.

(28 April 2011)

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