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Big Oil’s Big Lies About Alternative Energy

Antonia Juhasz, Rolling Stone Magazine
Since the Gulf oil disaster in 2010, BP has spent hundreds of millions of ad dollars to cleanse its image as a dirty-energy giant. In the company’s latest TV ad, wind turbines whirl in the sun as a voiceover touts the number of American jobs created by BP and promises, "We’re working to fuel America for generations to come." There’s just one problem: BP’s commitment to wind energy is virtually nonexistent.

In April, BP announced that it is selling off its entire $3.1 billion U.S. wind energy business – including 16 farms spread across nine states – as "part of a continuing effort to become a more focused oil and gas company," according to a company spokesperson. Indeed, though it famously rebranded itself "Beyond Petroleum" in 2000, BP also exited the solar energy business back in 2011. Today, its alternative energy investments are limited to biofuels and a lone wind farm in the Netherlands.

And BP is far from alone…
(25 June 2013)

Peak Oil and the New Carbon Boom

Timothy Mitchell, Dissent Magazine
This essay is adapted from the afterword to the paperback edition of Timothy Mitchell’s Carbon Democracy, out next month from Verso Books.

In the past year, the United States appears to have entered a new age of energy abundance. The extraction of gas and oil from shale formations has led to the most rapid increase in new energy supplies in the country’s history.1 Political leaders and the news media present this sudden reversing of a thirty-five-year decline in the U.S. production of fossil fuels as a sign of the recovery of the country’s national independence.2 After the breakdown of financial institutions in 2008—which erased trillions of dollars in wealth as stock markets, pension funds and property values crashed, and led to the loss of 7 million U.S. jobs in the recession that followed—the energy boom also seemed to promise a return of real wealth. The fragile paper economy of financial speculation and consumer credit would give way to a “potential re-industrialization of the US,” built on the solid foundation of expanding material resources.3

To others the bonanza threatened not a newfound independence but a deepening dependency. The new shale gas and oil would reinforce a long-term reliance on fossil fuels, which were becoming increasingly costly to produce…
(25 June 2013)
This article picks up on Post Carbon Insititute’s shalebubble work.

Did Global Oil Consumption Slow in 2012?

Robert Rapier, Energy Trends Insider
I hate the phrase “Innocent until proven guilty.” When serial killer Ted Bundy killed his first victim, he wasn’t innocent just because a court had yet to convict him. The correct phrasing — which practically nobody uses — is “Presumed innocent until proven guilty.” Yet nearly everyone says that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Most people know what is meant when someone says this, but there is the potential for confusion.

Language is important. The way we write and say things is important. I can’t count the number of times I have seen a news headline that would lead most people to conclude something entirely different than what the data actually suggested.

Take the recent release of the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2013. There are a number of key takeaways from the report, and I will be delving deeper into the data in upcoming articles. Some of the important points were:

1. Consumption growth of all forms of fossil energy grew by 1.8% year-over-year, below the 10-year average of 2.6%
2. The US recorded the largest oil and natural gas production increases in the world, and the largest oil production gain in US history
3. Coal remained the fastest-growing fossil fuel, with China consuming half of the world’s coal for the first time
4. China and India alone accounted for nearly 90% of the net increase in global energy consumption
5. Global nuclear power output had the largest decline ever
I have seen the first point above misreported as “Global Fossil Fuel Energy Consumption Slows.” I have seen others write about the reduced demand for oil. That’s about as accurate as “Innocent until proven guilty.”…

(18 June 2013)
Link to BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2013

Elephant in the room: How OPEC sets oil prices and limits carbon emissions

Alfred Cavallo, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists
Despite a North American oil boom, non-OPEC crude oil production is not increasing, because new production roughly balances existing oil field decline. This situation allows OPEC, which has spare production capacity, to control the total global oil supply and therefore oil pricing. OPEC has raised crude oil prices by a factor of about four since 2002, reducing world demand. Thus, world crude oil production has been flat since 2005, and a major source of carbon emissions has been capped. This production plateau has been maintained in spite of significantly increased demand from China, India, and other developing countries. But governments in both developed and developing countries could reduce emissions more efficiently and fairly by putting in place, for example, a zero-net-revenue surcharge regime for fossil fuels, with all collected funds returned directly to consumers…
(July/August 2013)
Link to the full report

Offshore oil rig at sunset image via arbyreed/flickr