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White House, GOP Battle for Supremacy on Tar Sands Pipeline

Andrew Restuccia, The Hill
With President Obama’s decision on the Keystone XL pipeline looming, the White House and Republicans will spend the next several weeks trying to win the messaging war over the controversial project.

The stakes are high for both sides. Obama risks backlash from key union supporters if he rejects the project, but faces the ire of environmental groups if he approves it.

… Both sides are mobilizing to win the messaging war. White House and Obama administration officials have said they will have little choice but to reject the pipeline under the 60-day timeline that was outlined in the payroll tax package that passed in December.

By arguing that the GOP-backed measure will force the administration to reject Keystone on a technicality, the White House can avoid having to weigh in on the substantive issues raised by the pipeline — including whether it will boost the economy or harm the environment.
(2 January 2012)

Talking to peak oil journalist and novelist Kurt Cobb
The Smoking POET
Kurt Cobb is an author and columnist who writes frequently on energy and the environment. His novel Prelude is a romantic thriller and cautionary tale that offers a startling reinterpretation of contemporary events and a window onto our energy future. He is a columnist for the Paris-based science news site Scitizen. His work has been featured on Energy Bulletin, The Oil Drum, 321energy, Common Dreams, Le Monde Diplomatique, EV World, and many other sites. He writes a widely followed blog on energy and the environment called Resource Insights. He is a founding member of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas—USA and serves on its board. He also serves on the board of the Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions. He is a graduate of Stanford University and lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

… Zinta for The Smoking Poet: Welcome to our pages, Kurt. Yours is a message that goes beyond an interesting storyline in your first novel, Prelude: A Novel About Secrets, Treachery and the Arrival of Peak Oil. Interesting, yes, but it’s also frightening long after you turn the last page. How much is the premise of this novel—running short on oil supplies—based in reality? Could you give our readers a brief synopsis of your novel?

Kurt Cobb: I might use the hackneyed phrase “ripped from the headlines” if only there were any headlines in major news outlets about peak oil. The issue has been covered a bit here and there. But given the gravity of the topic, one would expect a huge amount of discussion. Oil is, after all, the lifeblood of modern civilization. And, while it is not running out—that’s a typical straw man argument used to discredit those who write and speak on this issue—world production has not grown in the past six years despite record prices.

Some major players within the industry are warning that we will run up against limits in oil production within this decade and then see a decline. Just the failure of production to grow has been traumatic already with prices regularly floating above $100 a barrel for the second time since 2008. So dependent are we on oil in all facets of our life that a near-term decline in production would inflict untold damage on the world economy and our society.

As for the story of Prelude, it revolves around a female energy analyst who is a rising star at a prominent Washington, D.C. energy consulting firm. She meets a former oil trader who tries to persuade her that peak oil production is near. She dismisses his concern as alarmist until she uncovers evidence that convinces her he is right. That evidence makes her a target for those who desperately want to keep an unknowing world in the dark. She soon finds herself locked in a game of cat and mouse that places her career and ultimately her life on the line.
(? January 2012)

Hunt for Gas Hits Fragile Soil, and South Africans Fear Risks

Ian Urbina, New York Times
KAROO, South Africa — When a drought dried up their wells last year, hundreds of farmers and their families flocked to local fairgrounds here to pray for rain, and a call went out on the regional radio station imploring South Africans to donate bottled water

Covering much of the roughly 800 miles between Johannesburg and Cape Town, this arid expanse — its name means “thirsty land” — sees less rain in some parts than the Mojave Desert.

Even so, Shell and several other large energy companies hope to drill thousands of natural gas wells in the region, using a new drilling technology that can require a million gallons of water or more for each well. Companies will also have to find a way to dispose of all the toxic wastewater or sludge that each well produces, since the closest landfill or industrial-waste facility that can handle the waste is hundreds of miles away.
(30 December 2011)

In conversation with peak oil pioneer Dr. Colin J Campbell
Local Campus, West Cork, Ireland
In conversation with Dr. Colin J Campbell, Ballydehob, West Cork, Ireland. by LocalCampus
Founder – The Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas (ASPO)
(? January 2012)
Suggested by Post Carbon Institute, who writes, “No thumbnail, but nice video interview of PCI advisor and legend Colin Campbell.”

I’m always impressed with Colin’s calm, matter-of-fact approach. -BA

Oil and the Glory: End-of-year edition

Steve LeVine, The Oil and the Glory, Foreign Policy

… Year of the pipeline: Time magazine’s Person of the Year is the protester, and that is probably valid, but we think that the editors missed an important also-ran — the pipeline. Few care to stop and notice the elegance in unsung lengths of steel cylinders stirring fierce passions such as nationalism, greed and tear-inducing anger. We are talking the 24- and 36-inch steel cylinders that carry oil and gas across continents, under bodies of water and over mountains to the 7 billion people of the Earth. Who for instance considered nominating the Keystone Pipeline as political instrument of the year for how it threatened to shut down the whole of the U.S. government, and may yet in the coming couple of months? Then there is Nabucco, a proposed natural gas line that has much of Europe, Russia along with the U.S. tied up in sanctimonious knots over who will exercise geopolitical and economic leverage in Europe. This week Russia notched up the temperature by securing crucial support from Turkey for its repost to Nabucco, a pipeline that it calls South Stream. That battle also will carry over into the new year. And who can forget the proposed trans-Afghanistan gas pipeline, known by the acronym TAPI? A powerful and high-kicking chorus is backing TAPI, led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and CIA director David Petraeus, who embraced the line when he was running the ground game as a general in Afghanistan. Observers, including this blog, have cast doubt on TAPI’s feasibility given Afghanistan’s chaos. Yet we celebrate it as a worthy addition to this improbable pantheon — inanimate objects that somehow transmogrify into organic, breathing beings capable of arousing high-stakes emotion in humans.

… Let freedom ring! For years, a leading mantra in energy has been Peak Oil, a theory that the world has either already reached, or will soon, the highest daily volume of oil production that it possibly can, and will imminently experience a long drop in output, along with an ugly war for the remaining supplies. In recent months, a competing theory has begun to take hold — that the western hemisphere is actually on the brink of oil abundance; the U.S. specifically, it is said by some of our most prominent oil experts and writers, is on the way to independence from foreign oil.

In concrete numbers, these sources suggest that the U.S. will produce a sustained 19 million barrels of oil a day, more than double its current output, or in another scenario, supplement U.S. domestic supplies with a bit of Canadian oil sands (as a comparison, petroleum king Saudi Arabia can produce 12 million barrels a day, or 63 percent of the volume forecast for the U.S.). The trouble is that the numbers do not add up — there is no credible scenario in which, when accounting for the natural decline of existing fields, that North America produces an additional 10 million barrels of oil a day to add up to the total of 19. So what is going on with this bad call? My own inkling is that we are witnessing a natural inclination to get carried away with new trends. In this case, more oil is coming out of the ground in North Dakota and Texas; Alberta’s oil sands do seem poised to produce a lot more oil. Elsewhere in the western hemisphere, Brazil also is on the way to a big uptick in production. Combine these field developments with exuberent new projections published by industry-affiliated experts and think tanks, fed by lobbying interests, and at once the only worry is how fast can we drill. O&G’s call: The United States, alone or with Canada, will never produce a sustained volume of 19 million barrels of oil a day.
(30 December 2011)
Steve LeVine is a long-time EB contributor. -BA