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California’s Fracking Bonanza May Fall Short of Promise

Alison Vekshin, Bloomberg
California and oil producers such as Occidental Petroleum Corp. (OXY) may not be able to realize their dream of hydraulic fracturing generating billions in revenue from the Monterey shale deposit traversing the state.

Earthquakes in the most-populous U.S. state have left the 1,750-square-mile formation disjointed and too unpredictable to make drilling economic, even with improving fracking technology, said Jason Marshall, the California Conservation Department’s chief deputy director. The agency regulates the industry.

“None of the companies that have tried it so far have had significant success, and it doesn’t appear to be widespread,” Marshall said by e-mail. “It may take an advancement in technology or methodology to unlock the oil production potential of the formation.”…
(10 April 2013)

How North Sea oil helped Margaret Thatcher

David J. Unger, Christian Science Monitor
Many people know that former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who passed away Monday, jump-started a flailing British economy and reshaped it into a more market-driven system. What’s far less known is the role that oil played in that turnaround.

When Mrs. Thatcher came to power in 1979, recent offshore discoveries in the North Sea were turning Britain into an energy powerhouse. The surge in oil revenues and her lassez-faire economics provided a mix of resources and policy that softened the oil-price shocks of the 1970s and pulled the country out of economic stagnation.

"North Sea oil rescued Britain from the repeated balance of payments crises of the past and provided a crutch for the public finances at a vital time," writes Jeremy Warner in The Daily Telegraph, "but it also set the stage for a peculiarly unbalanced form of economic growth that dogs the country to this day."…
(8 April 2013)

Will Fossil Fuels Be Able to Maintain Economic Growth? A Q&A with Charles Hall

Mason Inman, Scientific American
“Drill, baby, drill” has become a slogan of those who want to produce more oil and gas and who scoff at alternatives to petroleum. But rarely mentioned is the expense required to get that oil and gas—and still more rarely mentioned is the energy required to access those resources.

Charles Hall, an ecologist at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, has spent most of his long career trying to get fellow researchers and the public to take a serious look at the energy required to get the energy we use. He is given credit for creating a measure known as the energy return on investment, or EROI—the ratio of energy output over energy input. (With oil, for example, the energy output would be the crude oil produced, and the energy input would be all that required to find the oil reservoir, drill the well and pump the oil out of the ground.) EROI is a crucial metric, Hall argues, because it helps us see which energy sources are high quality and which are not.

Hall and his students did pioneering work in this area, including a 1984 paper on the cover of Science. For many years, however, interest in the topic languished. But recent soaring oil prices and increasing difficulty of accessing new supplies have helped create economic hardships, leading to resurgent interest in EROI. Scientific American asked Hall to explain the basis of the EROI and how it pertains to our economy.

[An edited transcript of the interview follows.]…
(21 March 2013)

Peak Oil as seen through the eyes of Arab oil producers

Fabius Maximus, Fabius Maximus
Summary: One of the world’s great energy experts reports on the view from a energy conference in Qatar. Oil is the fountain of their prosperity, and they well understand how brief the Age of Oil will be.

Reflections by Robert Hirsch on the Conference “Peak Oil: Challenges and Opportunities for the GCC Countries”, held at Doha, Qatar on 2-4 April 2013

I was fortunate to be among the few westerners invited to attend and speak at this first-of-its kind “peak oil” (PO) conference in a Middle East. The fact that a major Middle East oil exporter would hold such a conference on what has long been a verboten subject was quite remarkable and a dramatic change from decades of PO denial. The two and a half day meeting was well attended by people from the GCC as well as other regional countries…
(11 April 2013)

Peak Oil Flip-Flop

Bill Chameides, National Geographic
There’s a new twist in the “peak oil” debate. Is it good news for the climate?

Peak Oil Question Remains, Debate Continues
Ever since M. King Hubbert advanced the theory of peak oil in 1956, experts and non-experts alike have been debating about timing and relevance. (See here, here, here and here.) Hubbert’s argument seems like a no-brainer. Oil is a finite natural resource, so there must come a time when oil production peaks and begins to decline. The question is, when? And for a world economy that is largely fueled by oil, that “when” question is quite germane. If peak oil hits while oil demand is rising, it could spell worldwide economic disaster.

The world of oil punditry is replete with predictors of an imminent arrival of peak oil. (See here, here, here and here.) Folks bullish on oil, on the other hand, have long held that that time is way in the future, that there is plenty of oil in the ground and that whenever supply begins to be outstripped by demand, new technologies will be developed to get at what had been deemed to be economically unrecoverable…

But now two new reports — “Global Oil Demand Growth — The End is Nigh” by Seth Kleinman et al. of Citigroup and “The End of an Era: The Death of Peak Oil” [pdf] from Robin Wehbé et al. of the Boston Company — argue that something entirely different and rather unprecedented is underway. Both reports argue that we have entered a new era, one characterized not by the spectre of a supply peak, but by a demand peak that will assure that demand will not outstrip supply for quite some time to come…
(10 April 2013)

Offshore oil rig at sunset – arbyreed/flickr. Reproduced at with permission.