Energy - July 1
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Oil posts fourth biggest daily gain on record
David Sheppard, Reuters
Oil surged on Friday in heavy trading to the fourth biggest daily gain on record, as a deal by European leaders to shore up euro zone banks triggered frantic short-covering by funds that had been riding crude's price collapse over the last quarter.
Despite the sharp gains, both international benchmark Brent and U.S. oil futures posted their biggest quarterly declines since the fourth quarter of 2008 due to weak demand, ample supply and economic worries.
(29 June 2012)
Oil Surges Most in More Than a Year on European Agreement
Mark Shenk, Bloomberg
Oil rose the most in more than three years on optimism that Europe’s debt crisis may be contained after leaders agreed to ease repayment rules for emergency loans to Spanish banks and relax conditions on help for Italy.
Futures gained 9.4 percent, trimming the biggest quarterly decline since the final three months of 2008, as leaders of the 17 euro countries dropped requirements that taxpayers get preferred creditor status on aid to Spain’s banks. Prices also advanced because a European Union ban on the purchase, transport, financing and insurance of Iran’s oil starts in July.
(29 June 2012)
We Could Stop Importing Oil From the Middle East Today If We Wanted To
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones
Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal passed along some good news: within a few years, America will be able to substantially reduce its dependence on Middle East oil.
The shift, a result of technological advances that are unlocking new sources of oil in shale-rock formations, oil sands and deep beneath the ocean floor, carries profound consequences for the U.S. economy and energy security. A good portion of this surprising bounty comes from the widespread use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a technique perfected during the last decade in U.S. fields previously deemed not worth tampering with.
By 2020, nearly half of the crude oil America consumes will be produced at home, while 82% will come from this side of the Atlantic, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The change achieves a long-sought goal of U.S. policy-making: to draw more oil from nearby, stable sources and less from a volatile region half a world away.
The article mainly emphasizes the benefits of new shale oil fields that have been opened up by hydraulic fracturing. But I think this is a misreading. Fracking is important, but it's not really the key to America's petroleum future.
... Here are three things you should know from the recent release of the EIA's Annual Energy Outlook 2012.
1: We could stop importing oil from the Middle East today if we wanted to.
The chart on the right shows U.S oil consumption. Take a look at the past few years: oil consumption has dropped nearly 2 million barrels per day since 2007. Over the same period, U.S. imports of oil have dropped 2.1 million barrels per day.
So how much oil do we import from the Persian Gulf? Answer: in 2007 we imported 2.1 million barrels per day, about 10% of our total consumption. The fact is that we've never heavily relied on Persian Gulf oil, and if we had chosen to, we could have cut Middle East imports to zero based solely on our drop in consumption over the past few years. Far from trying to wean ourselves off Middle East oil, we've made a conscious decision to keep buying it.
#2: EIA only projects a small amount of new production from shale oil. ...
#3: The main source of lower oil imports comes from better fuel economy and other efficiency measures, not from fracking.
There are two charts below. Take a look at the one on the left. In the 25 years between 1980 and 2005, U.S. oil consumption increased by more than 5 million barrels per day. Now take a look at the projection for the 25 years from 2010 to 2035. EIA forecasts an increase of only about 1 million barrels per day.
That's a difference of more than 4 million barrels per day — and it's by far the biggest contributor to our projected reduction in imports. The chart on the right shows the real explanation for declining imports: it's because we're using energy a lot more efficiently, and per capita energy use is therefore forecast to be on a steady downslope. Fracking may be sexy these days, but as always, it's drab old energy efficiency that has the biggest potential to lead the way toward energy independence. It may be boring, but if we paid even more attention to it, it would reduce energy imports far more than fracking ever will.
(29 June 2012)
A Skeptic Looks at Alternative Energy
Vaclav Smil, IEEE Spectrum
It takes several lifetimes to put a new energy system into place, and wishful thinking can’t speed things along
In June 2004 the editor of an energy journal called to ask me to comment on a just-announced plan to build the world’s largest photovoltaic electric generating plant. Where would it be, I asked—Arizona? Spain? North Africa? No, it was to be spread among three locations in rural Bavaria, southeast of Nuremberg.
I said there must be some mistake. I grew up not far from that place, just across the border with the Czech Republic, and I will never forget those seemingly endless days of summer spent inside while it rained incessantly. Bavaria is like Seattle in the United States or Sichuan province in China. You don’t want to put a solar plant in Bavaria, but that is exactly where the Germans put it. The plant, with a peak output of 10 megawatts, went into operation in June 2005.
It happened for the best reason there is in politics: money. Welcome to the world of new renewable energies, where the subsidies rule—and consumers pay.
Without these subsidies, renewable energy plants other than hydroelectric and geothermal ones can’t yet compete with conventional generators. There are several reasons, starting with relatively low capacity factors—the most electricity a plant can actually produce divided by what it would produce if it could be run full time.
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