A roundup of the latest news, views and ideas from the main stream press and the blogosphere. Click on the headline link to see the full article.

Click on the headline link to see the full article.

Exxon, BP Evacuate Iraq Workers as Oil Drilling Continues

Nayla Razzouk, Bradley Olson and Kadhim Ajrash, Bloomberg
Exxon Mobil Corp. and BP Plc began removing employees from Iraq, OPEC’s second-largest oil producer, after Islamist militants seized cities north of Baghdad and attempted to capture a refinery…

The companies all said they’re continuing to pump oil and there are few signs Iraq’s production has been curbed after Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant fighters took northern cities including Mosul. Police near the Baiji refinery, the nation’s largest, said government forces are now in control after a battle with ISIL. Crude shipments from the south, where most production is located, may accelerate next month and Kurds are defending the Kirkuk oilfield in the north…

BP’s Dudley said the violence was “terrible” and would have “far-reaching, wide-ranging implications” for the region, although it isn’t likely to spread all the way to the country’s southern oil fields…

Iraq, oil markets, and the U.S. economy

James Hamilton, Econbrowser
Although the consequences for Iraqi oil production of what has happened so far appear to be minimal, all this comes at a time when the earlier and still ongoing conflicts in Libya and Syria have already disrupted nearly 2 mb/d in world oil production. If Iraq’s recent 3 mb/d was also taken out, we would be talking about a significant disruption in world oil supplies, and likely an oil price in excess of $150 a barrel.

How vulnerable would the U.S. economy be to another oil price spike? One of the mechanisms by which earlier oil shocks contributed to economic downturns was a sudden change in the composition of spending, as consumers for example stopped buying the less fuel-efficient vehicles that were historically central for North American car company profits. Sales of light trucks and SUVs manufactured in North America fell to the same numbers as cars during the Great Recession, but have since climbed back up to their pre-recession levels…

Oil Industry in Iraq Faces Setback to Revival

Clifford Krauss, New York Times
…Still, Iraq plays an important role for market stability. With current production of 3.3 million barrels of oil a day, Iraq is the second-largest producer in the OPEC cartel, and it has the potential to become a far larger player on the world stage. Current predictions by the International Energy Agency show Iraqi production growing to 4.4 million barrels a day in 2015 and to nearly 6 million barrels a day by 2020.

That kind of growth will require large amounts of foreign investment to resuscitate Iraqi oil fields that were poorly maintained for decades under the Saddam Hussein regime. The Western oil giants ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Occidental Petroleum and Chevron have plowed significant resources in the southern Iraqi fields and the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. They also have the skilled talent and expertise that Iraq needs and cannot always get from Chinese and other non-Western oil companies investing in the area.

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story “All the oil companies are on alert,” said Daniel Yergin, the oil historian. “They are going to worry about the security of their people and installations. Obviously, no one is going to do anything new. Confidence about the growth of Iraqi oil output becoming a key element of stability in the world oil market is now in question.”…

Looking past the death of Peak Oil

Editorial, Financial Times
…Yet while the strong form of the Peakists’ argument can be consigned to the dustbin of history, they were not entirely wrong. Producing oil has become harder, for reasons of both geology and politics; a crude price stuck above $100 per barrel is evidence enough of that. It may become harder still over the next 15 years…

Pétrole : hormis les non-conventionnels américains, la production mondiale a baissé en 2013 [Oil: except U.S. unconventional, world production fell in 2013

Matthew Auzanneau, Le Monde Oil Man Blog]
[Via google translate]:
Outside the new extreme and "non-conventional" North America (oil shale in the United States and Canadian oil sands) oils, the rest of the world extractions recorded in 2013 a decline of 1.5%, while suffice to explain or sanctions against Iran, nor the Libyan crisis. Everywhere except in Saudi Arabia, the valves remained fully open. Brazil sees its crude oil production to decline for the third consecutive year, despite the development of its fields offshore ultra-deep . Angola threatens to join a long list of major producers confronted with the limits of their oil reserves.

Norway PM Joins Forces With Central Bank to Support Oil Industry

Saleha Mohsin, Bloomberg
Prime Minister Erna Solberg pledged to protect Norway’s oil industry from political interference as the central bank warned it may cut interest rates to save western Europe’s biggest crude producer as investments slump…

The comments come amid signs that firms are reluctant to pour more cash into their operations. A survey last week showed oil companies plan to cut investments by as much as 21 percent in 2015 from a record this year, as high exploration and development costs, as well as political interference, make projects less profitable.

Ukraine crisis: Russia halts gas supplies to Kiev

Staff, BBC
Ukraine says Russia has cut off all gas supplies, in a major escalation of a dispute between the two nations.

"Gas supplies to Ukraine have been reduced to zero," Ukrainian Energy Minister Yuri Prodan said…

World’s energy systems vulnerable to climate impacts, report warns

Fiona Harvey, The Guardian
Rising sea levels, extremes of weather and an increase in the frequency of droughts and floods will all play havoc with the world’s energy systems as climate change takes hold, a new report has found… Many large plants are particularly at risk from droughts, because they need water to cool their facilities, and floods, because they lack protection from sudden storms. Electricity distribution networks are also likely to be affected… The World Energy Council (WEC), which compiled the study along with Cambridge University and the European Climate Foundation, urged generators to examine their vulnerability to climate change, saying that with suitable adaptations – such as protecting power plants from water shortages and building resilience into power networks – the worst of the problems could be avoided.

Big trouble in the Antarctic has been brewing for a long time

David Spratt, Climate Code Red
…As far back as 1968, John Mercer had predicted that the collapse of ice shelves along the Antarctic Peninsula could herald the loss of the ice sheet in West Antarctica, and 10 years later contended that: "a major disaster a rapid deglaciation of West Antarctica ­ may be in progress … within about 50 years."

Such science was excluded from "mainstream" reports such as those of the IPCC, which systematically and embarrassing underestimated likely sea-level rises, with the most recent, 2013 report being no exception…

Climate change will ‘cost world far more than estimated’

Tom Bawden, The Independent
Lord Stern, the world’s most authoritative climate economist, has issued a stark warning that the financial damage caused by global warming will be considerably greater than current models predict.

This makes it more important than ever to take urgent and drastic action to curb climate change by reducing carbon emissions, he argues.

Lord Stern, who wrote a hugely influential review on the financial implications of climate change in 2006, says the economic models that have been used to calculate the fiscal fallout from climate change are woefully inadequate and severely underestimate the scale of the threat…

Indians mobilise to save ancient forests

Shuriah Niazi, Al Jazeera
Tribal people living in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh are in the vanguard of last ditch efforts to save the famous Mahan forests from being wiped out.

They say that construction of a power plant under a joint venture between two private companies – Essar and Hindalco – would lead to the destruction of the oldest and the largest salwood forests in Asia.

Campaigners are now resisting the plans in Singrauli district – India’s energy capital, supplying 10 percent of the country’s coal – and asserting rights to the forests that provide sustenance to more than 60 villages…

Indian officals order Coca-Cola plant to close for using too much water

AFP Staff via The Guardian
Authorities in northern India have ordered the closure of a Coca-Cola bottling plant at the centre of protests that it is extracting too much groundwater, an official said Wednesday.

An anti-pollution official said the Mehdiganj plant in Varanasi in the state of Uttar Pradesh had breached the conditions of its operating licence, prompting the order closure earler this month…

Why the potential for a trillion-dollar ‘carbon bubble’ grows bigger every day

Chris Nelder, Smart Planet
The primary scenario examined thus far that might strand fossil fuel assets is one in which oil prices fall as a result of climate regulations; they would have to fall quite substantially (below a roughly $80/bbl production cost). Secondarily, slower growth, particularly in China, and the transition to renewables would also curb demand over the longer term.

Only Lewis seems to have recognized another scenario; one in which continued high prices — even continually rising prices — might also strand fossil fuel assets. I believe investors should give this scenario equal weight…

The Turning Point: New Hope for the Climate

Al Gore, Rolling Stone
In the struggle to solve the climate crisis, a powerful, largely unnoticed shift is taking place. The forward journey for human civilization will be difficult and dangerous, but it is now clear that we will ultimately prevail. The only question is how quickly we can accelerate and complete the transition to a low-carbon civilization. There will be many times in the decades ahead when we will have to take care to guard against despair, lest it become another form of denial, paralyzing action. It is true that we have waited too long to avoid some serious damage to the planetary ecosystem – some of it, unfortunately, irreversible. Yet the truly catastrophic damages that have the potential for ending civilization as we know it can still – almost certainly – be avoided. Moreover, the pace of the changes already set in motion can still be moderated significantly…

No matter what the large carbon polluters and their ideological allies say or do, in markets there is a huge difference between "more expensive than" and "cheaper than." Not unlike the difference between 32 degrees and 33 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s not just a difference of a degree, it’s the difference between a market that’s frozen up and one that’s liquid. As a result, all over the world, the executives of companies selling electricity generated from the burning of carbon-based fuels (primarily from coal) are openly discussing their growing fears of a "utility death spiral."…

Empty lots now can be designated agricultural zones [Update: legislative process still pending]

Tara Duggan, Inside Scoop SF
Today San Francisco officials showed how serious they are about urban agriculture by announcing a new Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone Ordinance that would allow land owners to take advantage of a property tax break when they allow a parcel of land to be used for agriculture and educational purposes.

San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, Assemblymember Phil Ting announced the ordinance in a press conference this morning at the 18th and Rhode Island Permaculture Garden, which will probably be the first piece of land to take advantage of the tax break. Converted into a garden from an empty 5,000 square foot lot in 2008, the garden is full of vegetables and fruit trees. Produce gets donated to local food banks and neighbors, and the garden hosts camps for kids and workshops…

French parliamentarians launch ‘circular economy club’

Staff, Euractiv
More and more French lawmakers are signing up to a parliamentary ‘circular economy club’ but the role of the cross-party initiative is causing considerable debate. EurActiv.fr reports.

On 20 August this year, humanity’s use of renewable natural resources had “overshot” the amount the planet could produce in one year, environmental NGOs warned.

A month and a half later, François Michel Lambert, the president of the French Institute for a Circular Economy (IEC) and member of the Green Party is launching, together with his colleague Chantal Jouanno from the centre-right Union of Democrats and Independents, “the club of parliamentarians for a circular economy” in an attempt to help the group’s ideas gain strength in parliament…

What’s Up With That: Building Bigger Roads Actually Makes Traffic Worse

Adam Mann, Wired
As a kid, I used to ask my parents why they couldn’t just build more lanes on the freeway. Maybe transform them all into double-decker highways with cars zooming on the upper and lower levels. Except, as it turns out, that wouldn’t work. Because if there’s anything that traffic engineers have discovered in the last few decades it’s that you can’t build your way out of congestion. It’s the roads themselves that cause traffic.

The concept is called induced demand, which is economist-speak for when increasing the supply of something (like roads) makes people want that thing even more. Though some traffic engineers made note of this phenomenon at least as early as the 1960s, it is only in recent years that social scientists have collected enough data to show how this happens pretty much every time we build new roads. These findings imply that the ways we traditionally go about trying to mitigate jams are essentially fruitless, and that we’d all be spending a lot less time in traffic if we could just be a little more rational…

Tesla hands over the keys to its electric car technology

AP via The Guardian
Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, promised on Thursday to give away the company’s entire patent portfolio, as long as they promised not to engage courtroom battles over intellectual property.

“If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal,” Musk wrote in a blog on the company’s website…

Rocking the walking: Millennials drive new urban spaces

Greg Toppo, USA Today
Urban hipsters, you may not know it yet, but you’re living in a WalkUP. Your apartment building may have an elevator, but chances are good that if you’re a Millennial in a major U.S. city, you live in a "regionally significant Walkable Urban Place," a neighborhood where the premium is on walking rather than driving.

Link to report

News clippings image via shutterstock. Reproduced at Resilience.org with permission.