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

Nearly 4% of the world’s oil supply is offline due to conflict

Brad Plumer, Vox
The world’s oil prices have stayed high since 2010 — bouncing around $100 per barrel— for two basic reasons. Oil demand keeps rising, and production is struggling to keep up.

But why is production struggling to keep up? One big factor has been geopolitical conflict. Wars, unrest, and sabotage have increasingly plagued oil producers like Iraq, Libya, and Syria since 2011. The US and EU sanctions on Iran’s oil industry have also removed a lot of oil from global markets…

Report: The Changing Face of World Oil Markets

James Hamilton, Department of Economics, University of California, San Diego
This year the oil industry celebrated its 155th birthday, continuing a rich history of booms, busts and dramatic technological changes. Many old hands in the oil patch may view recent developments as a continuation of the same old story, wondering if the high prices of the last decade will prove to be another transient cycle with which technological advances will again eventually catch up. But there have been some dramatic changes over the last decade that could mark a major turning point in the history of the world’s use of this key energy source. In this article I review five of the ways in which the world of energy may have changed forever. …

How Fracking Is Blowing Up Balance Sheets of Oil and Gas Companies

Wolf Richter, Wolf Street
Fracking has caused an uproar in local communities and split some in two. It has brought environmentalists to a boil. It allegedly caused tap water to go up in flames. A documentary was made in its honor. It caused earthquakes in Oklahoma and other places. It caused Wall Street to froth at the mouth. And now it is causing the balance sheets of oil and gas companies to blow up.

It always starts with a toxic mix. Now even the Energy Department’s EIA has checked into it and after crunching some numbers found:

Based on data compiled from quarterly reports, for the year ending March 31, 2014, cash from operations for 127 major oil and natural gas companies totaled $568 billion, and major uses of cash totaled $677 billion, a difference of almost $110 billion….

Hamilton has it right on oil

Steven Kopits, Platts Blog
In a recent article, Professor James Hamilton of the University of California argues that sluggish supply growth, coupled with sustained emerging market demand, will tend to keep oil prices elevated. He writes, “the world of energy may have changed forever…hundred dollar oil is here to stay.”

This prompted a rebuttal from John Kemp, Senior Market Analyst for Commodities and Energy at Reuters. In Forecasts for Higher Oil Prices Misjudge the Shale Boom, Kemp highlights perceived weaknesses in Hamilton’s argument, stating:

“The problem with Hamilton’s analysis is that it largely ignores the impact of the shale revolution on the economics of oil production and understates the tremendous variability in real oil prices in response to changes in technology.

So while Hamilton concludes that $100 oil is here to stay, in real terms, the outlook is far less certain. In fact, a betting man, looking at the price history, might conclude prices are currently abnormally high and due for a fall.”

Kemp seems to be arguing that shale oil is a game-changer which will materially change the supply outlook and catalyze a fall in oil prices.

To test this assertion, it is worth asking if shale production has actually led to the predicted fall in oil prices…

Shell and Nigeria have failed on oil pollution clean-up, Amnesty says

AP via The Guardian
Three years on from UN study saying it will take 30 years to clean up Ogoniland oil spills, little has changed…

Shale Drilling Outpaces Research on Its Impact: Study

eremy Hainsworth, Bloomberg
Scientific understanding of the effects of hydraulic fracturing and other methods of extracting natural gas from shale rock has not kept pace with the rapid expansion of the industry in North America, leaving researchers with a limited grasp of what drilling could be doing to wildlife and plants, said a study published July 31…

What The Oil Headlines Miss: Interview with Michael Levi

James Stafford, Oilprice.com
While we fixate on sexy headlines about Chinese military threats in the South China Sea, for instance, or Washington ‘lifting the ban’ on crude oil exports, we miss the bigger stories—and we miss the reality. China’s relentless resource quest has the greatest impact on trading prices, which may not make for headline news, but is a very important reality, while the stories about the U.S. lifting the crude oil ban were just wrong.

Michael Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment and Director of the Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies, navigates us through today’s oil headlines, extracting reality from sensation, and discusses his new book, “By All Means Necessary,” co-authored with Elizabeth C. Economy, which takes us through China’s resource quest and how it will change the world…

Methane Leak Rate Proves Key to Climate Change Goals

Climate Central
If President Obama’s Clean Power Plan is going to work, lots of things will have to fall into place. Perhaps the most important is the reduction in greenhouse gases that is expected from increased use of natural gas to generate electricity…

The generally accepted climate benefit of natural gas is that it emits about half as much CO2 as coal per kilowatt-hour generated. But this measure of climate impact applies only to combustion, it does not include methane leaks, which can dramatically alter the equation. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that forces about 80 times more global warming than carbon dioxide in its first 20 years in the atmosphere. Methane’s warming power declines to roughly 30 times CO2 after about 100 years.

No one has any idea how much methane is leaking from our sprawling and growing natural gas system. This is a major problem, because without a precise understanding of the leak rate natural gas could actually make climate change worse, but we would never know…

Fracking – US companies and regulators must disclose environmental data

Kimberly Terrell, Morgan Tingley & Sara Souther, The Ecologist
The rise of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has ushered in an era of intense drilling that has been called the great shale gas rush. Fracking allows oil and natural gas to be extracted from horizontal wells, thousands of metres below the Earth’s surface. We tried to piece together the environmental impact of the great shale gas rush, and quickly discovered how little is actually known about the effects this booming industry is having on plants and wildlife. To help shed light on this area where there is little research, we convened a team of eight scientists with diverse expertise in plants, birds, amphibians, mammals, wildlife disease, hydrology, and public policy. Our study, published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, examined 12 ways in which shale development can harm ecosystems. Using an objective ranking system, we identified the highest-priority threats for future research…

Link to report [paywall]

Two Colorado Democrats Reach A Deal On Fracking

Katie Valentine, Think Progress
Two Colorado Democrats announced a deal Monday over fracking in the state, an agreement that means Rep. Jared Polis will withdraw his support of two ballot initiatives that would curb fracking in the state, while Governor John Hickenlooper will attempt to get a state oil and gas agency to abandon a lawsuit against a city in Colorado that banned fracking.

One of the ballot measures would have required drilling rigs to be located 2,000 feet or more from homes, and the other would have inserted an “environmental bill of rights” into Colorado’s constitution. Polis previously supported the measures, spending millions of dollars to help keep them afloat. The lawsuit that Hickenlooper will seek to discard involves the Colorado Oil & Gas Association suing Fort Collins and Lafayette over their fracking bans, and attempts to block the bans completely.

Instead of the two ballot initiatives, a new task force will be created that will aim to figure out how to best avoid conflicts between oil and gas drillers and existing homes and schools. It comes after months of Democrats trying to work out a compromise on the issue…

Robert Rubin: Costs of ignoring climate change are catastrophic

Alex Kirby, RTCC
Robert Rubin, the co-chairman of the influential, non-partisan Council on Foreign Relations, says the price of inaction could be the US economy itself.

Writing in the Washington Post, Rubin, a former US Treasury Secretary, argues: “When it comes to the economy, much of the debate about climate change – and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that are fuelling it – is framed as a trade-off between environmental protection and economic prosperity, “But from an economic perspective, that’s precisely the wrong way to look at it. The real question should be: ‘What is the cost of inaction?’”…

World’s top PR companies rule out working with climate deniers

Ignasi Jorro, 02B
Some of the world’s top PR companies have for the first time publicly ruled out working with climate change deniers, marking a fundamental shift in the multi-billion dollar industry that has grown up around the issue of global warming.

Public relations firms have played a critical role over the years in framing the debate on climate change and its solutions – as well as the extensive disinformation campaigns launched to block those initiatives…

The PR firms were responding to surveys conducted independently by the Guardian and the Climate Investigations Centre, a Washington-based group that conducts research on climate disinformation campaigns. This could have a knock-on effect on the advertising and lobbying campaigns targeting Barack Obama’s regulations limiting carbon emissions from power plants, and the international negotiations for a climate change treaty, now entering a critical phase….

GOP: Green movement backed by ‘Billionaire’s Club’

Timothy Cama, The Hill
The environmentalist movement is a front for an exclusive club of shady, wealthy billionaires who get funding from foreign entities, Senate Republicans charged Wednesday in a 92-page report.

The report details the activities of the “Billionaire’s Club,” which it said meets regularly to coordinate donations and control of far-left environmental groups that want to restrict the use of fossil fuels. The donors use “legally suspect” means of controlling the groups that is unique to the left, the report said…

Link to report

Poll: Are Voters Warming to a Carbon Tax?

Anna Fahey, Sightline Daily
The pollsters themselves seemed surprised by new findings that majorities of Americans would support a carbon tax. They start their report saying that “conventional wisdom holds that a carbon tax is a political non-starter.” But they end with the note that “there may be more support for a carbon tax than is commonly believed.”

Indeed, what they found may indicate a narrow political opening…

“Land grabs” and Responsible Agricultural Investment in Africa

Timothy A. Wise, Triple Crisis
Can land grabs by foreign investors in developing countries feed the hungry? So says the press release for a recent, and unfortunate, economic study. It comes just as civil society and government delegates gather in Rome this week to negotiate guidelines for “responsible agricultural investment” (RAI), and as President Obama welcomes African leaders to Washington for a summit on economic development in the region.

At stake in both capitals is whether the recent surge in large-scale acquisition of land in Africa and other developing regions needs to be better regulated to ensure that agricultural investment contributes to food security rather than eroding it by displacing small-scale farmers…

Timothy A. Wise is Policy Research Director at the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University, where he is currently researching African food and agriculture policies as part of a project on a Rights-Based Approach to the Global Food Crisis.

How will China deal with growing anger over pollution?

Stephen Vines, AlJazeera
The world’s largest producer of carbon emissions finally appears to listen to growing protests over pollution levels…

Don’t Drink the Water … In Lake Erie

Gwen Pearson, Wired
It’s the stuff dystopian sci-fi is made of: A city on the edge of the largest fresh water reserve on the planet suddenly has no drinkable water. At 1:21 am Saturday morning, the City of Toledo put out an alert: don’t drink or bathe in water from the city water supply. About 500,000 residents of the region were affected. Including me.

Lake Erie has a long, troubled history. A common refrain in 1960 was “Lake Erie is Dead.” The lake and its tributaries have been polluted enough to catch on fire multiple times; the 1969 Cuyohoga fire is just the most famous one. Lake Erie is even mentioned in Dr. Seuss’ 1971 book The Lorax.

Lake Erie’s mess helped inspire the formation of the EPA in 1970, and the Clean Water Act of 1972. Things got better; Lake Erie became a hub for fishing and recreation, and is considered the “Walleye Capitol of the World.” To be able to consume fish from the lake at all, much less swim in the water, is a major achievement in just a few decades.

How did Lake Erie go from polluted, flaming disaster to environmental success story…and then back again to environmental disaster, in just 45 years? And why is it always Lake Erie that has issues? The answers to that question are not hard to find…

Canadians Can’t Drink Their Water After 1.3 Billion Gallons Of Mining Waste Flows Into Rivers

Katie Valentine , Climate Progress
Hundreds of people in British Columbia can’t use their water after more than a billion gallons of mining waste spilled into rivers and creeks in the province’s Cariboo region.

A breach in a tailings pond from the open-pit Mount Polley copper and gold mine sent five million cubic meters (1.3 billion gallons) of slurry gushing into Hazeltine Creek in B.C. That’s the equivalent of 2,000 Olympic swimming pools of waste, the CBC reports. Tailings ponds from mineral mines store a mix of water, chemicals and ground-up minerals left over from mining operations….

Additional videos at Global News.

Farming reforms offer hope for Iran’s water crisis

Michelle Moghtader, Reuters
…President Hassan Rouhani has identified water as a national security issue, but experts say some solutions offered by government officials may be too costly.

"Transferring water from the Caspian Sea to Lake Orumieh doesn’t really make sense," said Ali Nazaridoust of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

With government policies mired in bureaucracy, the U.N. has offered to help. In 2012, the world body launched a pilot programme to work with farmers near Lake Orumieh.

Farmers learned how to make compost, switched to organic-based fertilisers and attended weekly classes on water management which led to a 35 percent drop in consumption…

A globetrotting, water-saving tour of sewage gardens

Adrian Barnett, New Scientist
RAINFOREST destruction, melting glaciers, acid oceans, the fate of polar bears, whales and pandas. You can understand why we get worked up about them ecologically. But wastewater?

The problem is excrement. Psychologically, we seem to be deeply averse to the stuff and want to avoid contact whenever possible – we don’t even want to think about it, we just want it out of the way.

The solution, a universal pipe-based waste network, works well until domestic and industrial chemicals and other non-biological waste are mixed in. Treating the resulting toxic soup, as Mark Nelson explains in The Wastewater Gardener, is not only a major technological challenge, but also uses enormous amounts of one of the planet’s most limited resources: fresh water…

Europe’s forests ‘particularly vulnerable’ to rapid climate change
Climate News Network via The Guardian
An international team of researchers say in a report from the European Forest Institute that climate change is altering the environment, and it is long-lived ecosystems like forests that are particularly vulnerable to the comparatively rapid changes occurring in the climate system.

The report, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, shows that damage from wind, bark beetles, and wildfires has increased significantly in Europe’s forests in recent years. Windthrow − the wind’s effect in damaging or uprooting trees − is an increasing problem.

Why Germany Is Backing Away From a Trade Deal that Lets Corporations Sue the Government

Alexis Goldstein, Yes Magazine!
In a move that has many on the left cautiously celebrating, Reuters reported on July 28 that Germany might reject a new trade agreement between Canada and the European Union.

The deal is called the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA. It’s part of a new wave of large, aggressive trade deals that also includes the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the United States and the European Union, and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) between 12 countries of the Pacific Rim…

Reshaping Greek Agriculture & Tourism with Permaculture

Stavroula Dimitropoulos, Permaculture Magazine
Implementing permaculture on the tourist Greek island of Paros is difficult, but Elena Symeonidou is working hard to embed native plants, water saving systems and education into the locals and tourists lifestyles…

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: News & Advertising

John Oliver, Last Week Tonight, HBO

The line between editorial content and advertising in news media is blurrier and blurrier. That’s not bullshit. It’s repurposed bovine waste.

This was also the subject of BBC journalist Robert Peston’s Wheeler lecture earlier this year – Robert Peston’s speech warns of threat to journalism from native ads – full text.

Hamburg sets out to become a car-free city in 20 years
Ignasi Jorro, 02B
Hamburg City Council has announced plans to “make weekend short breaks redundant”. The German city plans to become car-free within 20 years…

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