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ODAC Newsletter Feb 3

Welcome to the ODAC Newsletter, a weekly roundup from the Oil Depletion Analysis Centre, the UK registered charity dedicated to raising awareness of peak oil.

High oil prices ensured that profits at the major oil companies rose again in 2011 — Shell's full year profits leapt 54% to $28.6 billion while Exxon's increased 35% to $41.1 billion. With this kind of money at stake it is no surprise it is almost impossible to get a sensible debate about our energy future. Yet despite the growing self-congratulation and bombast surrounding unconventional oil and gas the oil companies are struggling to maintain production levels, let alone increase them. Exxon's oil equivalent increased 1% year on year, while Shell returned to its almost uninterrupted decline of the last decade.

One takeaway from the annual statements is the growing focus of the majors on natural gas as crude oil becomes harder to replace. Rising gas production along with a warm winter in the US has led to near record low gas prices. The race is now on to develop shale gas in Europe and China, though initial forays by Exxon in Poland expected to be one of Europe's major producers, have not yet lived up to expectation. The industry's other priority is to open up a more global market for gas — for example moving surplus US production to Europe.

There are however several obstacles to these plans over and above whether the gas can be commercially produced: moving gas long distances means liquefying it requiring additional infrastructure and expense; there are as yet many unanswered questions regarding water safety and pollution which could yet slow down shale production or add costs; and though gas has lower emissions than coal - the jury is still out on whether this also applies to shale gas - increased use of unabated gas will blow emissions targets.

Another interesting aspect of oil company statements is the yawning disconnect between their views and those of the authorities on alternative transport fuels. On electric vehicles, BP & Exxon expect around 4% penetration by 2030, while the British government targets 60%. On biofuels, the EU will issue a report in the next few weeks about worries that they may increase rather than cut emissions, and yet biofuels were the only alternative mentioned Shell CEO Peter Voser's presentation to shareholders. Clearly the radical changes required to secure our energy future will not be delivered by the big incumbents.

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Exxon profit tops $41-billion, despite shaky production

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Shell plans production expansion as profits rise

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Insight: Oil Industry Sees No Threat From Electric Car

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World lacks enough food, fuel as population soars-UN

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Davos grapples with surging demand for fuel, food

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Will fossil-fuel giants be bailed out like the banks?

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Oil Near Six-Week Low Before Jobs Report; Brent Premium Widens

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North Sea oil leak halts 15pc of BP's UK production

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The shale gas reality check out of Europe

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Fracking does not need more regulation, report says

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Gazprom struggles to meet peak gas demand in Europe

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Japan emissions rising after atomic crisis: report

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Nuclear disaster prompts rise in renewable deals

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Mining and Minerals

Rare minerals dearth threatens global renewables industry

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Malaysian opposition says would scrap rare earths plant

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Government must step in from the sidelines of shale gas debate

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Ministers 'misled MPs over need for nuclear power stations'

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Grassroots green projects 'are way to low-carbon UK'

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Fuel poverty protesters occupy British Gas offices

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EU climate chief calls for 'much care' on biofuels

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EU Biofuels Targets to Cost Consumers $166 Billion, Study Says

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California fuels rule sparks controversy

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EU takes next step in making airlines pay for carbon

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