Drumbeat: January 14, 2013

The Great Oil Swindle

Delving deeper into the available data shows that we are already in the throes of a global energy transition in which the age of cheap oil is well and truly over. For most serious analysts, far from signifying a world running out of oil, "peak oil" refers simply to the point when, due to a combination of below-ground geological constraints and above-ground economic factors, oil becomes increasingly and irreversibly more difficult and expensive to produce.

That point is now. U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data confirms that despite the United States producing a "total oil supply" of 10 million barrels per day (up by 2.1 mbd since January 2005), world crude oil production remains on the largely flat, undulating plateau it has been on since it stopped rising that very year at around 74 million barrels per day (mbd). According to John Hofmeister, former president of Shell Oil, "flat production for the most part" over the last decade has dovetailed with annual decline rates for existing fields of about "4 to 5 million bpd." Combined with "constant growing demand" from China and emerging markets, he argues, this will underpin higher oil prices for the foreseeable future.

America, the Saudi Arabia of tomorrow

The days when Mideast oil-producing dictatorships and their friends at OPEC could so easily wave their power over a trembling, oil-thirsty West are on their way to becoming a relic of the past.

America still needs imported oil. But growing production and shrinking consumption have created a most promising trend. According to the International Energy Agency, the United States will become the world's leading oil producer in just a few years. Imagine that. The United States will produce more oil than Saudi Arabia by about 2020 and become a net oil exporter by 2030.

California could be next oil boom state

California is sitting on a massive amount of shale oil and could become the next oil boom state. But only if the industry can get the stuff out of the ground without upsetting the state's powerful environmental lobby.

Saudi Arabia Says Oil Production Cut Not Designed to Boost Price

Saudi Arabia denied what it said were suggestions that it cut oil production in December to push crude prices higher and accused unidentified media of misinterpreting the kingdom’s response to weaker demand.

The world’s biggest crude exporter is “strongly committed to a stable oil market” and is “optimistic that economic uncertainties will pass and growth will resume in 2013,” Ibrahim Al-Muhanna, an adviser to Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi, said today in a statement e-mailed to energy journalists.

IEA Head Doesn't See Further Decline in Crude Production

The head of the International Energy Agency Maria Van der Hoeven said Monday she doesn't see a further decline in global crude production in 2013, after top oil exporter Saudi Arabia made its deepest cut in almost three years.

WTI Oil Trades Near Four-Month High on Seaway Pipeline Expansion

Oil traded near a four-month high in New York, narrowing its discount to Brent crude to the least since September, after the expansion of a pipeline that may reduce a glut in the U.S. Midwest.

Gas prices rise 6 cents; first time since October

The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in the United States rose in the last three weeks for the first time since early October, as U.S. refineries passed on the cost of higher crude oil prices, according to a widely followed survey released on Sunday.

Gasoline prices averaged $3.3247 per gallon on Jan. 6, up 6.68 cents from Dec. 21, said Trilby Lundberg, editor of the Lundberg Survey.

Consumers cautiously optimistic over lower gas prices

Nationally, the outlook for gas prices in 2013 is bright barring any unforeseen circumstances like major storms, wars or production and distribution interruptions, according to AAA President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Darbelnet.

Gas prices should be lower this year due to increased domestic oil production and lower demand, said Darbelnet, who added that the strength of the U.S. economy will have the largest influence on prices this year.

Jordan inflation accelerates to 4.8 percent in 2012

Economists expect inflation to rise above 6 per cent this year as the lifting of subsidies on gasoline and anticipated rises in electricity costs put upward pressure on prices.

China consumed 5.5% more electricity in 2012: NEA

Huaihua, Hunan (Platts)- China consumed a total of 4,959.1 billion kWh of electricity in the whole of 2012, up 5.5% year-on-year, according to figures released Monday by the National Energy Administration (NEA).

Full pipelines to cut into oil producers' profits

CALGARY, Alberta - Canada's independent oil producers may face months of depressed earnings and weak share prices as they jockey for space on the country's over-full oil pipelines.

The independents, companies that focus on producing oil and gas and have no refining or marketing operations, are being squeezed by a shortage of export capacity as rising heavy oil production from the Alberta oil sands strains pipeline capacity, trapping oil in Canada and pushing down prices.

Shale Gas Will Fuel a U.S. Manufacturing Boom

Chemical producers abandoned the U.S. in droves. Cheap natural gas is luring them back.

Transocean Says Icahn Acquired 1.6% of Shares, Seeks More

Transocean Ltd., the world’s largest offshore rig contractor, said billionaire investor Carl Icahn and his affiliates have acquired a 1.56 percent stake in the company and are seeking to expand that to more than 3 percent.

Arepo explosion: NNPC begins repairs of pipeline

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on Monday in Abuja condemned the renewed attack on its facilities at Arepo in Ogun.

The News Agency of Nigeria recalls that the System 2B pipeline at Arepo was again vandalised on Saturday barely a month after it was fixed.

This led to an explosion that reportedly killed a number of people.

Oil Industry Beats Buffett in Railroad Investments Surge

North American energy companies are starting to invest more in railroad terminals than the railroads themselves.

A group of oil and gas pipeline operators led by Plains All American Pipeline LP announced plans just in the past three months to spend about $1 billion on rail depot projects to help move more crude from inland fields to refineries on the coasts. Warren Buffett’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe LLC, the largest U.S. railroad, spent $400 million on terminals in 2012.

Libya investment hopes hit by attacks on diplomats

A weekend attack on an Italian diplomat in Libya caused no casualties but dealt a body blow to the government's efforts to woo foreign investors to rebuild the war-ravaged North African country.

Gazprom's EU Partners Anxious for Price Cuts

Russian energy giant Gazprom is spending billions to expand its already massive footprint in Europe. But it will have to tread carefully at a time when global natural gas supplies are surging and prices are falling, giving European utilities and businesses more leverage in negotiating supply contracts.

Glance: A look at the facts and figures behind Russian energy giant Gazprom

MOSCOW – Russian energy giant Gazprom is spending billions to expand its already massive footprint in Europe. Born out of the Soviet gas ministry in the rush of Russian privatizations, Gazprom is effectively the country's gas industry, accounting for about 80 percent of the country's natural gas output.

Here are some other facts about Gazprom:

Saudi king names new governor for restive oil region

(Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah appointed Prince Saud bin Nayef as governor of the oil-producing Eastern Province, the Royal Court said in a statement carried by state news agency SPA on Monday.

The Eastern Province is home to the country's Shi'ite Muslim minority which has held protests over the past two years calling for more rights and the release of jailed relatives.

Oil tankers stuck at Iraqi-Jordanian border

Three-hundred tankers carrying crude oil are on Iraq’s border with Jordan waiting for Baghdad’s permission to enter the Kingdom.

Energised relations between Turkey and the UAE

A growing economy, a stable investment climate and plenty of opportunities to make money in the energy sector. What is true for the UAE is increasingly true for Turkey.

As the similarities grow, investment opportunities in the country on the Bosphorus that connects the European and Asian continents arise, enabling Abu Dhabi to play an increasing role in the energy sector abroad.

Turkey and hydrocarbons in Iraq

Turkey's energy policy on hydrocarbons, crucial for the fueling of a growing Turkish economy, was given a facelift a few years back with the expectation of Iraq coming back to the oil and possibly gas market. Therefore, Turkey hedged its bets according to good neighborly ties with the Baghdad government and played a key role in bringing about political stability in the country by convincing Sunnis to engage in the political process.

The Shift Of King Coal

The coal industry still dominates in Appalachia, and that's bad news for the Democratic party.

Was one ship enough to tow Shell oil drilling rig in Gulf of Alaska?

Shell's assessment of the forecast as favorable was seriously flawed, says Cliff Mass, a University of Washington professor of atmospheric sciences whose specialty is weather forecasting.

The North Pacific and Gulf of Alaska are among the stormiest places on Earth, he said. Forecasts more than four or five days out quickly become unreliable. And even the short-term forecast on Dec. 21 pointed to rough weather coming, Mass said.

Energy Industry Awaits U.S. Ruling on Prairie Chicken

In a few months, a grouse known as the lesser prairie chicken will emerge from its West Texas winter hideaway. Males will do a loud and elaborate mating dance, delighting females — and bird-watchers.

But there will be less dancing now, because the chickens’ numbers have declined. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service, acting under the Endangered Species Act, will decide by the end of September whether to put the birds on its list of threatened species. Such a move could have serious repercussions for wind farms, as well as oil and gas drilling, conceivably halting activity in some areas. Those industries are fighting to keep it off the list.

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee brings a diesel to American SUVs

For more than a decade, automakers have vowed to bring a phalanx of new diesel-powered vehicles to these shores, and for a decade those promises have gone unfulfilled due to a mix of hurdles. Today, Jeep showed off its long-expected diesel expansion with the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, offering 30 mpg on the highway in a sport utility vehicle that can tow 7,400 lbs.

IEA Sees Shift in Awareness of Renewables in Gulf

Large oil producers in the Gulf are undergoing a shift in awareness to accept renewables as part of the future energy mix, Maria van der Hoeven, Executive Director at the International Energy Agency said Monday on the sidelines of a conference in Abu Dhabi.

Many of the Gulf countries have made ambitious plans for increasing the share that renewables play in their energy mix in recent months.

Abu Dhabi's Taqa acquires stake in Indian hydroelectric firm

As a gathering of about 30,000 people in Abu Dhabi brings the future of the energy sector into sharp focus this week, UAE companies are exploring opportunities further afield.

Yesterday, the Abu Dhabi National Energy Company, known as Taqa, said it had bought a minority stake in an Indian hydroelectric provider.

Saudi sovereign wealth fund buys stake in utility firm

The Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund Sanabil and the nation's pension agency acquired 19 per cent of ACWA Power International, a company that invests in power and water projects in the kingdom and regionally.

Greater investment in new energy sought

Energy and finance sector leaders have highlighted the growing opportunities for sovereign wealth funds, development banks and pension funds to invest in the new energy industry, especially in developing economies.

Greece Sees Gold Boom, but at a Price

IERISSOS, Greece — In the forest near here, bulldozers have already begun flattening hundreds of acres for an open pit gold mine and a processing plant, which Canada’s Eldorado Gold Corporation hopes to open within two years. Eldorado has reopened other mining operations around here, too, digging for gold, copper, zinc and lead from nearby hills.

For some residents, all this activity, which promises perhaps 1,500 jobs by 2015, is a blessing that could pump some life into the dismal economy of the surrounding villages in this rural northeast region of Greece.

But for hundreds of others, who have mounted repeated protests, the new mining operation is nothing more than a symbol of Greece’s willingness these days to accept any development, no matter the environmental cost. Only 10 years ago, they like to point out, Greece’s highest court ruled that the amount of environmental damage that mining would do here was not worth the economic gain.

Beijing's hazardous pollution sparks Chinese media anger

Chinese media have reacted strongly to dangerous levels of pollution recorded in many northern cities in recent days.

In the capital, Beijing, at the weekend, air pollution soared past levels considered hazardous by the World Health Organization.

The official People's Daily said the smog was a "suffocating siege" which had to be urgently addressed.

After Years of Discord, California and Nevada Agree on Tahoe Development

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Deep in the Sierra Nevada, 39 trillion gallons of crystalline water straddles the border between California and Nevada.

That water, Lake Tahoe, can be as smooth as glass, but the politics of land-use planning along the lake’s 72-mile shoreline are some of the most contentious and muddled in the country.

As Texas Bakes in a Long Drought, Water Becomes a Focus for Legislators

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and other Republicans proposed tapping an emergency fund that is fed by taxes on oil production to finance the building of new reservoirs and other projects identified in the state’s 50-year water plan, an unusual move in a state where fiscal conservatives usually push to streamline government and limit spending.

The Generator Is the Machine of the Moment

“If you are in the flood zone and you are marketing a new high-end property, it will need to stand up to the test of another superstorm,” said Stephen G. Kliegerman, the executive director of development marketing for Halstead Property. “I think buyers would happily pay to be relatively reassured they wouldn’t be terribly inconvenienced in case of a natural disaster.”

At 150 Charles Street, Mr. Witkoff plans to forestall a blackout by installing two natural-gas-powered generators on the roof to run the fire-alarm system, the emergency egress lighting, the elevators, and electrical and mechanical support equipment. Each apartment will be equipped with at least one electrical outlet connected to the generators. The developer is also ordering five-foot-tall floodgates that can be assembled and installed to encircle the building in a matter of hours. The gates, which fit together like toy Lincoln Logs, are to be stored in the basement.

Standing mute in the face of climate catastrophe

It’s amazing how much more interest was paid to the ridiculous Mayan apocalypse prediction than to last year’s ominously growing body of evidence suggesting our planet is teetering on the knife-edge of a mass extinction event as the result of global warming.

Australians do not have to be lectured about global warming.

Report: Virginia must lead in fighting sea level rise

Virginia needs to get serious about rising sea levels and frequent flooding and take the lead in combatting the problems that threaten the allure of living and doing business on the coast, according to a report distributed this week to state lawmakers.

Seattle calculates how climate change will redraw its shores

Parts of Interbay, Georgetown, South Park, West Seattle, Harbor Island and Golden Gardens will be under water as the local shoreline creeps higher due to global climate change, Seattle Public Utilities predicts.

A recent map is just one of many such reckonings in the works as city agencies calculate the local effects of global climate change and how to respond and adapt to protect people and infrastructure.

Rising seas may put $300b of property at risk: scientists

Climate scientists are urging Australian authorities - and residents - to prepare for rising sea levels that could put about $300 billion worth of commercial property, infrastructure and homes at risk.

Australia's coastal wetlands 'need room to move'

(Phys.org)—As sea levels climb, Australia's coastal wetlands will be increasingly trapped between urban development on land and the rising ocean, imperilling the survival of their unique plants, birds and fish, leading ecologists warned today.

Researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) say Australia's planners and coastal communities need to think up to 100 years ahead to ensure the survival of mangroves, salt marshes, sedge lands and melaleuca swamps and their wildlife.

UN climate chief praises nations for passing domestic CO2 law

LONDON (Reuters Point Carbon) – Individual nations need to continue to pass domestic legislation to cut emissions of gases blamed for warming the planet if a global climate deal is to emerge in 2015, the U.N.’s climate chief Christiana Figueres said Monday.

Emissions limits could cut climate damage by two-thirds - study

LONDON (Reuters) - The world could avoid much of the damaging effects of climate change this century if greenhouse gas emissions are curbed more sharply, research showed on Sunday.

The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, is the first comprehensive assessment of the benefits of cutting emissions to keep the global temperature rise to within 2 degrees Celsius by 2100, a level which scientists say would avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Just a reminder of how well fission waste has been managed over the years:

Imagine a lake so polluted and contaminated that spending just an hour on its shores would result in certain death, and the only way seen fit to deal with it is to fill the entire water body with concrete blocks to keep the toxic soil underneath from moving onshore. That lake is Lake Karachay in Russia’s Chelyabinsk Oblast, and it is considered by many to be the most polluted place on the planet.

Britain would never get in that state...would it??


If you want to have another sleepless night: read this. It is about Sellafield and all the others. They believe to have finished the cleanup by the year 2120! And they are already behind scedule now.


Nope, they'd more likely dump the waste at sea :|

France is not much better. Le Havre dumps low radioactive waste in the Atlantic and off the coast of the Netherlands radioactive plumes have been measured drifting by through the Channel now and then.

I watched a couple of videos on the Dounreay cleanup. I wonder how different a nuclear plant would be if it was designed from the start to be easily dismantled.

You want to avoid cutting and breaking stuff, because that makes dust and takes time.

- All equipment and pipework made of small modules joined together.

- Nothing permanently fixed. It can all be unbolted and carried out the door.

- Walls sealed with urethane plus an absorbent wallpaper over. Roll the paper up with contamination and carry it out the door.

- Buildings made like lego blocks which can be unclipped without having to bash them.

Problem is, more joints means more chance of leakage. That's engineering. Having to choose the lesser of a hundred evils.

Think about any of the stuff we use around us every day.. those things which don't have to have design time, specialized extra fittings and attachment areas etc.. can be made much more cheaply. If you want to have anything that is really thought through and developed for it's conceivable 'end of life' or continuation in mind, the costs go up radically.. while often it's also worth the price (from my perspective)

While Nuclear projects do have to design for interchangability and decommissioning and so on, it seems clear from the situations we've already experienced that there has been all manner of 'cost savings' purchased in the shortsightedness of the site designs and the systems assumptions, considering the material stresses and overall conditions that a NPP will very likely have to endure in its lifetime. (Look at the poor redundancies in the cooling systems and operability under power-loss..)

Already their financial viability as a business model is under challenge.. take away some of these shortcuts and the economics are a sure death-blow to the process.

As WE are all living presently at the beneficence of the mightiness of Fossil Fuels, Nuclear Power persists under the ongoing good graces of its access to public monies and centralized governments that have a schoolboy crush on the concept of 'power as an end in itself'. We have some more good 'learning moments' heading our way to sweep away the persistent denial.

As WE are all living presently at the beneficence of the mightiness of Fossil Fuels, Nuclear Power persists under the ongoing good graces of its access to public monies and centralized governments that have a schoolboy crush on the concept of 'power as an end in itself'. We have some more good 'learning moments' heading our way to sweep away the persistent denial.

Fear not my friends, because for a mere Two Billion or so, The One and Only, Visionary Glen Beck, brings us... Ta Daaaah! INDEPENDENCE!
Powered by the wind?! He wants to teach crafts, good journalism and how to grow food... though he admits he's afraid of cows!


UN BEEE LEEE VA BULL! Couldn't stop laughing, the tears are still streaming down my face!

I can't afford to hurt myself more than the first paragraph or so, but that was sufficient, of course.

Thanks, and Thanks a lot!

Disneyland was originally intended to be a place where people would find happiness, inspiration, courage and hope. Over time, Walt Disney’s original vision has been lost. While hundreds of thousands still flock to the town, it’s become commercialized and the big dreams and the heart have been compromised.

I still keep a treasured original copy of the Disney Booklet "Our Friend the Atom" near my other Fairy Tale memorabilia.. for just the same reasons.. or just the opposite reasons depending on how you're reading this.

EDIT: Oh.. OK, I read a little more.. but I think someone beat him to the punchbowl on his big musical number..

.. this summer’s The Man in the Moon show.

Martin Short reminisces about his hero 'Dale 0'day', who played the Warped Fence in this classic forgotten alternative to Wizard of Oz, "The Man in the Moon" (Martin Short goes to Hollywood HBO, 1989) A Very funny Special from my yute!

"Powered by the wind?!

Actually, if you let the video run a bit, there's an audio amendment from Beck:

"...the designer put the windmills in there just to piss me off. There's no wind in any of this.

...and where does he propose to do this?

...and where does he propose to do this?

Somewhere out on the prairies of USBeckIstan...

it seems clear from the situations we've already experienced that there has been all manner of 'cost savings' purchased in the shortsightedness of the site designs and the systems assumptions, considering the material stresses and overall conditions that a NPP will very likely have to endure in its lifetime.

When you can't touch anything inside a NPP without filling in three forms and ask permission from NRC, of course you get less innovation.

Already their financial viability as a business model is under challenge.. take away some of these shortcuts and the economics are a sure death-blow to the process.

Quite funny, since regulation has all but killed it already, to enormous detriment to the environment and humans alike. I think the NRC should be joined with regulatory bodies for fossil fuels and the new body be specifically ordered to make the same cost/benefit cutoff in all regulatory work. Then either nuclear would get free hands or fossils would be regulated out of existence at once.

Nuclear Power persists under the ongoing good graces of its access to public monies and centralized governments that have a schoolboy crush on the concept of 'power as an end in itself'.

On the contrary, nuclear power is a fat cow that is milked by governments and consumers alike. All the while it is demonized by greens and praised by environmentalists.

" Nothing permanently fixed. It can all be unbolted and carried out the door"

That one at least is unworkable. All those joints are leak points, as well as stress risers. Not to mention the flanges you need for 2200 PSI and up are pretty impressive.

Welding into one big monolith and hard to take apart is virtue, not a vice, at least in this case.

Until that monolith starts crumbling and tipping over onto you.

Not at that price: Why long-term forecasts for cheap oil and natural gas are baseless by Kurt Cobb

ExxonMobil's CEO said last year, "We are losing our shirts" selling natural gas at such low prices. Forecasts for much lower oil prices would also represent losses on new wells for most oil producers...

The bulk of new U.S. supplies are coming from so-called shale gas deposits. Looking at the actual data, petroleum consultants Art Berman and Lynn Pittinger found that industry claims of profitability of shale gas production at $4 per thousand cubic feet were based on excluding important costs such as land acquisition. Once all the costs are figured in, Berman and Pittinger found that costs for gas wells drilled in the Fayetteville Shale, the Haynesville Shale, and the Barnett Shale were $8.31, $8.68 and $8.75, respectively. If land acquisition is excluded and only drilling, completion and other variable costs are included, the cost falls to $5.06, $5.63, and $6.80, respectively. Even these lower costs are still far above what some forecasts say will be the long-term U.S. price of natural gas. But, natural gas drillers will not drill wells indefinitely that lose money.

I don't understand this at all. How can drillers and frackers keep drilling and fracking for natural gas if they are selling their gas at a loss??? Why did then not stop losing money six months ago... a year ago?

Ron P.

How can drillers and frackers keep drilling and fracking for natural gas if they are selling their gas at a loss???

Such has been well explained by the people in the oil patch here on TOD. Selling at a loss means less loss than walking away and still having to pay for contracts and costs already agreed to.

Well perhaps, but prices have been low since early 2009. Are new contracts continue to be let at these low prices when it should be obvious that they will lose money? If not then prices should go up because folks can see that no new fracking will be done as soon as those contracts expire.

Anyway this guy agrees with you:

Frackers struggle while financiers make millions. Sounds familiar.

The drillers punched so many holes and extracted so much gas through hydraulic fracturing that they have driven the price of natural gas to near-record lows. And because of the intricate financial deals and leasing arrangements that many of them struck during the boom, they were unable to pull their foot off the accelerator fast enough to avoid a crash in the price of natural gas, which is down more than 60 percent since the summer of 2008.

Those deals were made almost five years ago? In 2008 they tied their money up betting that they would be able to sell their gas at a profit five years in the future? Really, contracts are written that last five years? Perhaps but the CEO of Exxon-Mobil said last June:

"We are all losing our shirts today." Mr. Tillerson said in a talk before the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. "We're making no money. It's all in the red."

So someone tell me, just how long will natural gas fracking continue? How long do those contracts run, another five years perhaps?

Ron P.

For some (maybe not so) strange reason I am beginning to get a really bad feeling about 2013. Maybe it's the news about the down-tick in ND and SA oil production or maybe I'm just a chronically depressed individual.

Alan from the islands

"...I am beginning to get a really bad feeling about 2013."

I don't think it's just you. There was an interesting comment buried in a tiny unrelated article in the newspaper a number of days ago I just remembered. I couldn't believe it wasn't on the front page. It was an executive from GM that said something to the effect of "Germany may be slipping into recession." This was a guy that I suspect had some big-dollar production volume decisions to make and it sounded like he had some serious concern about over producing.

So what happens when Germany can no longer bankroll the rest of Europe?

""...I am beginning to get a really bad feeling about 2013."

I don't think it's just you. "

It's not just you, or him. Things are sliding sideways. Beijing can't breathe. German economy tanking. Energy companies losing money even though energy costs are too high for the general economy. Bernanke's money injections are having a rapidly diminishing effect.

The only good economic news is that CA has managed to temporarily balance a budget thanks to bone-crushing new taxes, and that the gun stores and manufacturers are sold out.

TPTB may manage to keep the wheels on for another year, but I don't think they will also get through 2014.

Balanced, maybe. Seems like when people get taxed, they sometimes leave ala France.

"TPTB may manage to keep the wheels on for another year, but I don't think they will also get through 2014."

I still see events pointing towards 2015 as when another big set of events will occur, but there are so many things waiting to pounce that a big shift could happen any time.

One thing that has been little mentioned is the removal of the covert stimulus - the 2% payroll tax "holiday" which was left to expire with little fanfare. I think that is going to have a pretty noticeable effect in the US with a lag time of probably a few months as people catch on that their paycheck has mysteriously shrunk.

Then there's the specter of Germany not being able to keep the rest of the countries of the Euro funded. This may have a partially stabilizing effect on the US Dollar. The shenanigans of this debt ceiling debacle, Trillion $ Coin, a retarded government willing to destroy it's own country to save the ultra-rich a few percent on taxes, and tremendous debt-to-GDP should have people running from the US Dollar...but where do they run to? The Euro would have been been the most obvious, but with all that's going on there - who is the prettiest horse at the glue factory? Loonie as the world's new reserve currency?

Obvious traps waiting to spring with non-probable but also non-trivial chances:
War with Iran - consequences would be amazing

Civil war within Iraq - things are still a bit screwy there and if a civil war broke out, particularly with the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan, it would likely take a chunk of oil off the markets quickly.

Debt ceiling brinkmanship shuts down US government. A loss in confidence compounds the problem, investor confidence is shaken. Probably have interest rate increases.

The "Sequestration" is allowed to occur. Not just the immediate removal of spending from the system, but a loss in confidence because of the means in which it occurs. I give this a relatively high chance of occurring. One of the big bogeymen in the sequester was the disappearance of the Bush Tax Cuts - but that's been taken care of - so what's left? A lot of cuts that probably need to be made anyway and probably the only politically feasible way of reducing military spending. They can go back and "fix" things that they need to...theoretically anyway.

Canadian housing bust. There's a bubble in Canadian housing just like there was a bubble in US housing. It's a miracle it hasn't burst already - could this be the year? As Canada is the US's largest trading partner this would likely drag the US down with it. Of course it could be the US's stumbles in this next year which helps to prick the Canadian housing bubble which could cause a vicious downward reinforcing cycle.

What are some other potential pitfalls lurking which meet the criteria of non-probable but also non-trivial which could have wide-spread consequences?

Another possible 'trap' I would consider is the likelihood of a federal VAT (value added tax), really a consumption tax:

Sorry, middle class. The VAT may be inevitable.

...Fourth, if America fails to enact historic, structural reforms in spending, an entirely new source of revenue will be needed. And it's likely to be enacted in haste and near-panic, as the only option to forestalling a crisis. "The gap between revenues and outlays will be simply too large," says J.D. Foster, an economist at the conservative Heritage Foundation and a former budget official under President George W. Bush. "Three points of GDP need to be closed to make budgets sustainable. Either government spending gets back near where it used to be, or we'll need an completely new type of tax."

The new levy will need to be big, so big that the most probable choice is a European-style value-added tax or VAT. That looming revenue machine is the phantom in the room, the tax that's still invisible to most Americans, but that threatens precisely the group that's supposed to emerge from all the deal-making as the Great Unthreatened, our middle class.

If a VAT excludes necessities such as food and healthcare, I'm all for it. At some point consumption of just 'stuff' must be curtailed, and will be, either voluntarily or by reality. I avoid buying things we don't really need anyway, and enjoy re-tasking other people's castoffs. Perhaps a VAT would force people to be more considerate about their consumption, buying things that matter and last. My appologies to those of you making your living from planned obsolescence.

The obvious and sensible new revenue source is a carbon tax.
Ireland has had very good results with their carbon tax implementation.

But a carbon tax makes too much environmental and fiscal sense to have any chance to make it through the dysfunctional US political system.

Instead the we have the Republicans so "concerned" about the deficit that they are ready to shut down the US government, or to default on already legislated debt besmirching the full faith and credit of the United States for the first time in history.

But somehow this horrific crisis that justifies historic default is still not serious enough that people earning more than $250,000 a year and less than $400,000 could possibly have their income taxes increase by one penny.

Due to the 14th Amendment, the US probably can't default. If we reach the debt ceiling, the US must and will continue to pay its debts. One of two things will happen instead:

1. The federal government reduces its spending to its revenues, pays its debts first, and uses the remainder to spend on everything else. Consider this an immediate balanced budget with debt repayment as first priority.

2. The Federal Reserve prints money and credits it to the US, which can then use the money to spend normally. This is similar in effect to the Trillion Dollar Coin idea, though not the identical plan.

The simple fact is that there is no existing mechanism for the US government to pick and choose between the thousands of debts, contractual obligations, and legally obligated payments (SS, Medicare, Medicaid,etc.). And there is no realistic prospect of building such a system in a few weeks (plus the Republicans want to cut spending, not add a new and very expensive IT task, so no work to prepare for debt ceiling refusal is going on).
Here is an article that explains the practical impossibility of restructuring the Federal financial system in the short term. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/01/14/if-we-hit-the...

For some Republicans, the answer is simple: The United States should keep funding the crucial stuff and let the rest of the government shut down. “We should pass a bill out of the House,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), “saying there will be certain priorities attached to certain things, namely payment of debt services and payment of our military.”
This option is known as “prioritization.” It’s the idea that the government can selectively pay some of its bills so that the nation doesn’t default on its debt payments — the doomsday scenario. It may sound appealing. But there’s also good reason to think prioritization might be unworkable.
Consider how the U.S. government actually pays its bills. Each and every day, computers at the Treasury Department receive around two million invoices from various agencies. The Department of Labor might say, for example, that it owes a contractor $3 million to fix up a building in Denver. The Treasury computers make sure the figures are correct and then authorize the payment. This is all done automatically, dozens of times per second.
Now say Congress fails to lift the debt ceiling by late February. Treasury will be confronted with around $450 billion in obligations in the next month, and it will only be bringing in enough revenue to cover about $277 billion. Who gets paid and who gets stiffed?
For many economists, there’s a clear priority: The United States absolutely must not miss a payment to bondholders. The global financial markets are structured around the notion that U.S. Treasuries are the safest asset in the world. If that assumption were ever called into question, havoc would ensue. It “would be like the financial market equivalent of that Hieronymus Bosch painting of hell,” says Michael Feroli, chief economist at JP Morgan.
In theory, Treasury might be able to prioritize bond payments above all else, says Steve Bell of the Bipartisan Policy Center. The computer system that handles U.S. sovereign debt, Fedwire, is separate from the system overseeing payments to government agencies and other vendors. Yet it’s unclear whether Treasury has the legal authority to prioritize in this way — the agency has never dealt with this situation before. “Anyone who says they know for sure whether this is legal is not telling the truth,” says Bell.

Some commentators have suggested the government could keep sending out Social Security checks while halting payments to, say, defense contractors. But, says Bell, it would be difficult to reconfigure Treasury’s computers to do this in short order. The agency’s inspector general agrees: “Because Congress has never provided guidance to the contrary, Treasury’s systems are designed to make each payment in the order it comes due.”
The end result could be far more chaotic than past government shutdowns. Essentially, 40 percent of the checks the government sends out could not be honored, and there would be no way to predict in advance who gets paid and who doesn’t. The sudden drop-off in spending could also deal a sharp blow to the U.S. economy, analysts say.
That leaves two remaining options if we hit the debt ceiling. First, Treasury could try to buy time by merely delaying payments — agency officials deemed this the least-bad approach back in 2011. If Treasury was facing $10 billion in obligations on Monday, but only $7 billion in revenue came in, the agency could wait until it had the full $10 billion on hand before paying Monday’s bills in full. The problem is that during the delay, Tuesday’s bills are piling up. Then Wednesday’s. This tactic would quickly become unsustainable.
Alternatively, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget could try to stem the rush of invoices coming out of government agencies. Technically, the OMB has wide latitude to tell federal agencies that they can’t spend the funds allotted them until later in the year — a power known as “apportionment.” The hitch, says Barry Anderson, a former OMB official, is that this process can take weeks to have a meaningful impact. And OMB can only slow the rate of agency spending; it can’t stop it altogether.
The Obama administration, for its part, has consistently maintained that it can not prioritize payments. In 2011, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner told Congress that prioritization was “a radical and deeply irresponsible departure from the commitments by presidents of both parties, throughout American history, to honor all of the commitments our nation has made.”
Ever since the United States officially hit its $16.5 trillion borrowing limit on Dec. 31, the Treasury Department has been taking a slew of “extraordinary measures”—such as tapping its exchange-rate funds—to make sure the government has the money to meet all of its obligations. But, according to a recent report from the Bipartisan Policy Center, these measures will only last until Feb. 15 or so. After that point, the risk of missing a payment becomes real.

“There are only two options to deal with the debt limit,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney on Saturday. “Congress can pay its bills, or they can fail to act and put the nation into default.”

And the biggest irony is that refusing to raise the debt ceiling will almost certainly cause interest rates on US debt to spike upward, resulting in an immediate but long-last increase in the US deficit as debt service costs explode(refer to the Department of Unintended Consequences).

Some more irony...

Let’s assume, for a moment, that the Treasury Department actually can choose which bills to pay and which to ignore. That assumption is legally, technically and politically questionable, as Brad Plumer explained. Note that the one time we actually did default on our debt, it was the momentary result of a computer glitch, and the markets freaked out. The idea that we’ll simply rewire all our payment software over the next month so we can pick and choose which payments to make and we won’t see even the slightest problem requires a faith in government IT departments that I find surprising coming from the Republican Party. But ignore all that. Would the markets really be so calm in the face of the United States government doing something it has never done before and purposefully breaching the debt ceiling? The investors I asked pretty much laughed in my face.
Mark Spindel, chief investment officer for Potomac River Capital, didn’t mince words. Over e-mail, I asked him whether we could breach the debt ceiling but keep paying off bondholders without causing markets to flip out. “Ezra,” he wrote back. “This is insane.
“If Congress (and to a lesser extent the President) continue to appear as dysfunctional as they do, then the markets will be bothered.”
That said, they may not be bothered in precisely the way we expect. One scenario Spindel laid out — and that other investors mentioned to me — is that the interest rate on government debt might actually fall. “I could easily see Treasuries rallying (especially on the wacky scenario you propose). The government is broken, people would up their savings rate, equities would get killed, and we’d enter some kind of awful mini recession.”

Thomas Gallagher, a principal at the Scowcroft Group, also focused on the effect on the economy. “Running the government on a cash basis would have a bigger impact that the cliff,” he wrote in an e-mail. “The cliff was almost 5% of GDP, and keeping the debt ceiling where it is would produce a drag of about 7%.” That is to say, the economic damage of breaching the debt ceiling, even if all went well, is about 40 percent more than going over the fiscal cliff, and that’s before you factor in the reaction from the financial markets.
Lee Sachs, a Wall Street veteran, was assistant Treasury secretary for financial markets from 1999 to 2001 and a counsel to Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner from 2009 to 2010. As such, he’s a guy who has actually had to deal with the financial markets when Washington began terrorizing them. His e-mail response to my question could best be described as bemused. “As long as we are through the looking glass…” he began.
“The analogy I would use is if you were considering lending money to or buying the bonds of a company that was paying interest on outstanding debt, but wasn’t paying its employees or suppliers in an effort to save cash, would you make the loan or buy the bond without some sort of substantial yield premium?” He asked. That’s a particularly important point when it comes to government debt as we have to “roll over” hundreds of billions of dollars in debt over the course of each month. The idea that the market will treat those auctions as normal is optimistic, to say the least.
Michael Tanner, a Cato Institute scholar who favors holding the debt ceiling hostage, addressed this concern in an article for the National Review. “Theoretically, there could be a problem if no one is willing to buy the new securities,” he writes. “More likely is the possibility that Treasury might have to offer higher interest rates on this rolled-over debt, a not insubstantial concern: A one-percentage-point increase in interest rates could cost taxpayers more than $100 billion per year.” This is, he says, an acceptable price to pay for forcing the Obama administration to cut spending. Of course, if things don’t go quite as Tanner hopes and Republicans fold without securing big spending cuts, this is one way a debt-ceiling crisis could lead to much larger deficits.
“Markets are hard to predict,” says Sachs. “But even if there’s ‘only’ a 65% probability the markets go haywire, its a risk we cannot afford to take. You don’t play Russian roulette even though you believe the odds are in your favor.”
I want to stress that all of these responses are considering a best-case scenario in which we manage to reorganize our payments with no legal uncertainty and no technical glitches. And even then, what we’re talking about is economic damage on a scale much larger than what we were considering in the fiscal cliff paired with much more fear on the part of the markets and much more potential for things to go awry in catastrophic fashion. The consequences, too, will be more lasting: Now that we’ve purposefully breached the debt ceiling once, the markets will have to consider the possibility that we could begin doing it regularly.
This, then, is the Republican dilemma: What if they convince themselves that breaching the debt ceiling won’t be that bad, and then it is bad — far worse, even in an optimistic scenario, than the fiscal cliff, which they also weren’t willing to risk — and they take all the blame? The likeliest answer is they’ll quickly fold, and in addition to having discredited debt-ceiling brinksmanship as a viable political tool, they’ll have discredited themselves, as well.

This tweet, from @LOLGOP, pretty much says it: “The GOP is rebranding itself from a party that accidentally blows up the world economy to one that purposely blows up the world economy.”

I can't be the only who is thinking that this sounds devaluating denarii...History may not repeat, but it sure does rhyme.

I'm well-aware of the difficulties. I didn't say #1 would work well, just that it wouldn't be a default.

It would certainly be defacto default to those who don't get paid, and make future borrowing to service existing debt problematic and more expensive. We've created the mother of all monkey traps for ourselves, and it's one of many. There's simply no way to extract ourselves from these things without a lot of pain for a lot of people.

btw: Thanks for the post, tv. Great stuff.

But a carbon tax makes too much environmental and fiscal sense

And this tax will be used to meet what National goal?

How about a 100% tax on sweat-shop produced goods? That would not only raise revenues equal to the price of all the crap manufactured in China (hello Apple I mean you), it just might create an incentive to create some tax-paying jobs here in the US.

I know, I know, it would breach our globalization treaties that are making all the CEOS rich and their ex-employees destitute. I keep forgetting how much good globalization has done for the really important people.

A tax on goods is a tax on consumers. Making ordinary Americans poorer (and sweatshop workers alike) is not the way to create jobs.

But a carbon tax makes too much environmental and fiscal sense

And this tax will be used to meet what National goal?

Let me guess. The environmental and fiscal goals?

Well considering all that happy-talk about how the USA was going to become the world's biggest oil producer a few months back, it sure has been interesting to watch the price of WTI tick up to the current $94/barrel. Hey . . . wasn't the price of oil supposed to go down with all that hype? The reverse happened and no one seems to want to talk about that.

Speculators, speculawyer, speculators! You got to get with the MSM spin! They make a story about huge production increases and if prices remain high then they blame [insert scapegoat] for why prices are high.

Edit to my post above. Long term contracts may explain why Exxon-Mobil is losing money but it does not explain how small drillers can possibly continue to lose money. They are all leveraged, they are just like a building contractor who has a building loan and pays it off when he collects from the home buyer.

Contracts don't have to be fulfilled if the driller goes bankrupt.

Small time drillers must make money or not pay their lenders. Banks will not lend money for continued drilling if it is obvious the driller would lose money.

Ron P.

More like a building contractor who has a building loan and pays it off by skimming off part of a new loan he gets for the next project. Obviously an unsustainable financial bubble. Made possible by time delays, and motivated by the profit motives of certain individuals on both the financial and energy companies who gain from fees / bonuses / stock manipulations that have nothing to do with actual profits from the energy product sales minus the true costs.

Maybe this is why T Boone Pickens wants a lot of things to use NG? You need short term demand to go up sharply so that in very short order demand balances with supply raising price to a sustainable level. You want to wean lots of non users onto NG in order to pay for the recent investment into NG.

As long as supply (or potential supply?) is greater than current demand price will not be high enough to support the continued infrastructure investments. Without new users or more usage by current users the high cost of extraction may not be recoverable from an ROI perspective.

I see no difference in this scenario and an oil usage scenario where the population is installing efficiency as fast as possible to reduce personal costs. In aggragate this reduces demand. Potentially causing there to be an over supply (or potential oversupply?) forcing price down. This could happen even as we are on the plateau.

The scenario of dropping price is good for each individual consumer but terrible for any investor in oil or natural gas when I look at it from the perspective of how over extraction can monkey with the supply/demand/price balance.

So someone tell me, just how long will natural gas fracking continue?

Till investors demand their money back or new money stops coming in. It's quite clear that Fed's cheap money policy is distorting many sectors including the NG market, as long as one can take out 10-15 year loans at 2% and then gamble with it who cares about returns, in any case the taxpayer loses his/her shirt not the investor.

Luckily for Exxon they still make like 15 billion a quarter from selling oil. Whew!

So someone tell me, just how long will natural gas fracking continue?

Companies have been fracking natural gas wells for 50 years, so I don't think they are going to stop anytime soon. It is a good way to increase production and recovery rates for many types of wells, not just shale gas ones.

The real question is, "how long will drilling wells with dubious economics in very tight gas formations continue?" Not very long, if natural gas prices don't go up - Just until reality sets in and the investors and lenders realize the producers are losing money. It might take a few bankruptcies to convince them.

eric/Ron - Also let's not confuse drilling economics and production economics: a well can still generate a nice positive cash flow while never recovering 100% of the total investment. I know you guys know this but I didn't want others to be confused.

Cash flow -- precisely. And important not to confuse how a loan made to you or me works versus a loan to a large company. In many cases, the question that the lender asks is not, "Can you repay the principal out of income?" but rather, "Can you make the interest payments out of income?" Everyone understands that the loan will simply be rolled over (or paid off with money borrowed from another lender) when it comes due. Smart lenders include trigger provisions, eg, the note is due if the debt-to-revenue ratio goes above a certain value. And position themselves in terms of seniority -- in the case of a bankruptcy, senior debt holders get almost all their money back, it's the people down at the bottom of the seniority list who lose everything.

And yes, this kind of arrangement can go on for a long time. The AT&T telephone monopoly did it for 50 years -- debt level increased constantly, but revenues grew as fast or faster than the total interest payments. As an industry, cable television did it for at least 30 years. The tight gas companies may also be able to run for a long time, so long as they have a cash flow that meets current operational costs plus debt service. And to be honest, with interest rates where they are, and with the Federal Reserve promising rates will stay low for some years, the debt service costs aren't all that big right now.

McCain, I realize all that. That is why I specifically stated: "Long term contracts may explain why Exxon-Mobil is losing money but it does not explain how small drillers can possibly continue to lose money." I was specifically excluding your average the size of AT&T or Exxon-Mobil. So your dialog does not address anything I was talking about.

From this link that I posted yesterday:

“The fracking has really slowed down,” Helms said. “It certainly is a trend that concerns me.”

In addition to weather effects, operators were cutting costs in November and through the end of the year as rapidly escalating costs consumed annual budgets faster than companies anticipated, Helms said.

So if the cost of operation is having such an effect on oil companies in the Bakken, why is such a thing not happening in the shale gas industry. Are all the companies fracking for gas the size of AT&T? (I know, they are not an oil company but it was their size that allows them to roll over loans for many years and they can lose money on small projects without it making much of a dent in their bottom line.

But from the article on the Bakken oil drillers, it is obvious they must watch their bottom line or they will bust their budget. Obviously they are not Exxon-Mobile. Why is this not the case for the shale gas bunch. Are they all giant companies.

Ron P.

Plenty of the shale gas drilling is being done by companies big enough to play the "just service the debt forever" game, if the can get cash flow going. You don't have to be an Exxon-Mobile in order to do it, or even a Chesapeake Energy. A good rule of thumb for identifying such companies is how hard they push some version of EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) in their financial reports. They don't want you to look at their balance sheet -- they want you to look at the "wonderful" positive cash flow from operations. There's a reason the US GAAP doesn't include such measures.

So it seems like a good question to ask - as the "sweet spots" start becoming fewer and fewer...how many junk wells and dry holes will it take before the economics catch up to them and expose the sham?

What about natural gas liquids, the price of gasoline is still relatively high. Do these facking operations recover more then just gas?

If they are losing money at the current pricing then eventually the weakest players will fail, and the price for gas will rise.

I understand why producers would continue to produce from existing wells. I think Ron's question is why would anyone continue to drill new natural gas wells under these price conditions? I don't have a clear answer to that unless it is the long term contracts Ron mentioned or the Stock markets need for reserve replacement that you frequently mention.


As I understand it, there is often quite a bit of NG along with liquids. Thus, a well drilled for oil will vent off gas; this used to be flared off. If there is a market that will pay more than cost of delivery for the gas, it makes sense to continue to send it to market, even though the market is and will remain depressed from excess product.

I don't know how production folks look at wells when they have frac'd wells that are not covering losses, yet would otherwise waste the gas that is flared off. I guess it would be a wash overall. It is no wonder the number of starts in gas fields is low.


This does not address Ron's issue. I believe he is saying that people have started new drilling even in the face of prices that cannot cover the costs of the drilling, production, etc. If there is new drilling being done in the last few years or even now, does that not imply that people are doing new drilling knowing they won't cover their costs? Or, are they drilling anyway hoping that prices will go up?

Very confusing. At least to me.

How can drillers and frackers keep drilling and fracking for natural gas if they are selling their gas at a loss?

Easy. As pointed out above, often then must drill in order to lose less money than if they don't drill.

But also remember that much of finance runs on psychology and not real facts. As long as the news is filled with stories about the great 'fracking revolution', investors will keep shoveling money at them assuming they are gonna get rich. It often takes time for real rational reflection to occur. Remember back in 2000 when people were thinking that Fed Exing dog food was a good idea? Humans can be quite irrational. And those people with lots of money to invest are not exempt. They often have lots of money not due to brains but instead due favorable tax laws and inheritance. And even those with brains make mistakes, especially when investing outside of their area of expertise.

Ron - That's the problem with non quantitative (and non supported) statements like "Losing our shirts". They seem to say much but offer no details. I think the other confusion is what the oily shale drillers are getting for their associated NG. If you're making the profit on the investment from the oil production then what you're getting from the NG sales is still a "profit" whether it's selling for $5/mcf or $.05/mcf. OTOH if the bulk of the cash flow from a shale well is from the NG production it's obviously a different story.

So the specific question would be why are the dry gas shale wells being drilled if they aren't selling at a high enough price to generate a profit? In general you wouldn't expect that to happen. But there are situations that can push a company in that direction. As you know the shareholders of most of the shale playing companies will only realize a ROR on their stock purchase if the share price goes up. A good bit of that value is based not only on proved producing reserves but also the "proved" undeveloped acreage (PUD's). But companies can carry PUD's on the books only so long and they have to be drilled or they lose them. Additionally Wall Street expects to see increased book value and not just static reserve replacement. I've seen more than a few companies drill projects with little expectation of profitability in order to keep the smoke and mirrors working. I can't offer how widespread this may be happening but it does happen. You know better than me what happens when you don't have the "sizzle" to sell and are left with only the not so appetizing meat.

Also let's not forget self-serving managers that will mislead the board about profitability in order to keep their paychecks. Again, it might not be widespread but I've seen it happen first hand a number of times. Had my contract terminated twice for not playing ball. And then there's the ever present hope that the next few wells will be better than the last few drilled. Your basic double down because you need to make up for your loses ASAP.

Maybe just be the combination of all those separate factors as well as a certain amount of variation in which wells are actually profitable. About 6 months ago one of my bank engineers told me they were loaning a Marcellus player $100 million. The operator had hit a really juicy sweet spot in an area of the play where more than a few sour spots had been drilled. This is one of those banks that squeezes the nickle so hard the buffalo poops...they don't take risks. Even back in early '09 when Devon paid $40 million to drop 14 of the 18 rigs they had running in the dry gas play in east Texas they still kept drilling with the other rigs. And still are the last I heard.

This is one of those banks that squeezes the nickle so hard the buffalo poops...they don't take risks.

Never heard that one before. Spit coffee on my keyboard. Can't file a claim for it, so I'll have to send you the bill :)

Something we like to call Sunk Cost - they already made the over investment, the projects were started, the wells were drilled, the labor forces trained the hope that others will pull out first and thus leaving more marketshare, the hope that the prices will come back quickly, etc.

So many factors as to why businesses do what they do. Sometimes it comes down to ego and not looking bad in front of investors and employees. This is when many proud men fall.

I think most of us agree that the price of NG must go up, at least a bit past what it was when conventional drilling was the norm, because fracking is a more costly process.

I estimate it will take about two more years for the momentum to slow to equilibrium - balance in price vs. production activity.

As many here have said, fracking is not going to save the world, not by a long-shot. It sure does keep the masses placated for a bit longer.

I don't understand this at all. How can drillers and frackers keep drilling and fracking for natural gas if they are selling their gas at a loss??? Why did then not stop losing money six months ago... a year ago?

NG rig counts have been around 420 for a few months which you would have to go back to 1999 to see a lower rig count. They did stop drilling to a great extent, however, they drilled too much before they realized they were locked into long-term losses.

Seeking Alpha -U.S. Natural Gas: 3-to-6 Month Forecast

In attempting to forecast the price of natural gas it's the uncompleted well count, not the drilling rig count, that has some significance. So many wells have been drilled in the last couple years but left uncompleted that the natural gas rig count, which has fallen all the way down to 431 recently, has little meaning. (Source)

The inventory of uncompleted wells in the United States has grown so high that the natural gas rig count could probably drop to zero for a while and it still wouldn't scare United States Natural Gas (UNG) higher.

Windfarm operators aim to slash over J$1b from oil bill

Up to last year, the PCJ held the exclusive right to exploit and develop renewable resources in Jamaica.

In October 2012, the Government of Jamaica rescinded the PCJ's exclusivity, which in effect liberalised the renewable energy sector.

Baby steps in the right direction but, maybe too little, too late, depending on what happens. I've got this gut feeling that, what is going to happen at some point is, an electricvity crisis is going to emerge at which point the flood gates are going to be opened to encourage renewables to ramp up as fast as possible. The crisis I suspect will arise from either fuel avaiability or fuel affordability issues but, until then we will just muddle along. Pretty much what "Peak Oil Theory" predicts will happen everywhere, just that it will happen in some places before others. AFAICT it's already happening in places like Pakistan and India.

On the DB of December 22, Ulenspiegel directed us to the web site http://www.renewablesinternational.net/ and I have been visiting it regularly since then. From the articles at that site, I get a sense that the German transition is not going un-noticed in Europe and may precipitate other countries to follow suit, for example, France supports domestic PV and French government concerned about German energy transition. I see these stories as indications that at least in some places, attempts are being made to forestall a crisis. Unfortunately for the US, it seems that entrenched fossil fuel interests have too firm a grip on the power structures (government) and the media for anything much to get done. Unfortunately for Jamaica, we seem to be following the lead of the US and not Germany.

Alan from the islands

Alan, it will be interesting to check back in 5 years and see how Jamaica and the US have progressed.

Best hopes for the islands.

Hanford to become "temporary" repository for nuclear waste

Great. So they decided that Yucca Mountain was no good based on its geology. So they'll store all the commercial waste at Hanford. Ignoring the fact that Oregon and Washington experience large megathrust earthquakes every 300 years or so (the last of which happened 312 years ago this month). Although Hanford is well inland, it will still get severely shaken by these events - probably more so than any expected shaking at Yucca Mountain. Not to mention that there is much more water at Hanford than Yucca Mountain, and that there are large dams upstream. "Temporary" probably means permanent.

There is a repository in Utah now with a 20 year lease as temporary until they resolve and finish Yucca Mountain. This is why we need fast reactors, to use up the waste, make power and not transport it across the country for decades.

As far as licensing and construction goes "fast reactors" sounds like an oxymoron.

A better solution would be to shut down all of the operating nuclear plants so that we stop generating waste period. Instead, it will be business as usual and in 2040 they will be saying that a solution for long term waste disposal is just around the corner. That is, if we have any economy left to spend on it.

Shutting down 20% of our power production does not seem like a good idea to me, does it seem like a good idea to anyone else?

We can store the waste then reprocess and use it in fast reactors in Nevada, it just makes more sense to build the fast reactors on the power plant sites where there is security, where you can transmit power, then you don't have to transport the spent fuel rods.

Shutting down 20% of our power production

Where is this idea coming from?

"A better solution would be to shut down all of the operating nuclear plants..." - eric blair

And this quote is from where? When was it said?

Or is this an example of just making stuff up?

Casey Burns

A better solution would be to shut down all of the operating nuclear plants so that we stop generating waste period.

Not getting something like a quote correct shows the flawed nature which is Man.

Fission power, when it fails, has very bad consequences with many of the demonstrated failures coming from the base nature of Man.

I asked where this 20% idea is coming from and that has not been answered, other than to either make up a quote or make a Human error and mis-attribute a quote. The data I have says fission power is only 13% of worldwide energy consumption, not 20%.

I showed where the quote came from, I was bringing it to your attention. You really need to lighten up, your depression is showing.

Once again - where did you come up with this 20% figure you used?

Eric --

Ease up. Please. It's commonly known that nuclear power supplies about 20% of U.S. electricity. See for example:


The little chart on the right shows total production by source. For 2011, I calculate nuclear was 19.2%, close enough for purposes of this discussion.

Now that you are aware of nuclear's substantial (if not always entirely welcome) contribution to our energy mix, does it affect your position that we should shut everything down?


Nuclear power provides almost 13% of the world's electricity

It's commonly known that nuclear power supplies about 20% of U.S. electricity.

This energy problem is a worldwide one - Which is why I try to provide that framing when I can.

Some of the pro-nuke crowd gives lip service to supporting nations like Iran, Libya, and The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia fission plants. If there is a change of government in KSA or an attack on Iran - will the lip service supporters slip away like they do when North Korea is brought into the mix or how they dissapearred after Fukushima?

Getting support for Iran and North Korea to have fission plants will be needed - how do the pro-nukers plan on getting these villified states up and generating - or is Fission power a "for the select few, the rest of you - pound sand" solution?

Now that you are aware of nuclear's substantial

13% shows how replaceable fission power can be, especially given how the failures of Fission power poisons the biosphere.

Even 20% is replaceable with things like Solar PV and conservation.

does it affect your position that we should shut everything down?

My position is Fission power is for mature, responsible beings and Man has shown Man can not handle the responsibility.

Fission is such a known bad plan in the US of A the industry keeps going back to Congress and demanding the Government provide cheap insurance.

I am pro-nuclear despite Cherbobyl, Fukushima, and now Chelyabinsk, which I didn't know about. But it's pointless mentioning nuclear on TOD because you just invite a host of emotional put-downs.

It comes down to, which is worse: CO2, radiation, or a substantial cut in energy consumption? At the moment, nuclear has the worst press. In a couple of years, who knows?

I can remember a time when Cape Town had two coal-fired municipal power stations, plus a shunting yard at the docks with coal-fired shunting engines, and how dirty and smelly it was. Now we have nice clean Koeberg PWR nuclear power station 30 km away, the most reliable of Eskom's power stations at 83% uptime. I know which I prefer. But if it blows big time, I might change my mind (if it hasn't been fried by radiation).

I won't speak to the ROW, but here in the US, going without nukes need only mean we stop wasting electricity on such things as clothes dryers, resistance heat, incandescent lighting, mega screen TVs (and their phantom usage cable/sat boxes) and many other truly wasteful practices. Just the outdoor lighting that operates during daylight could probably shut one or two of 'em down. Like the fish/water analogy, we are awash in waste in the US. No nukes would be no problem if we had a lick of sense.

Don't foret my pet peeve: Outdoor Xmas lights, especially the ones people leave on all year because they are too lazy to take them down.

Well . . . on the plus side, a lot of the xmas lighting now is LED which uses a lot less power and are generally safer than incandescents.

On the minus side . . . well, Jevons paradox may eat a lot of that up.

Exactly!! I used to live in a prefecture bordering Fukushima to the south, called Ibaraki. Well, it's pretty radioactive now. Check on maps if you want...the thing is that the radiation you get there goes into your body and stays there. Ick.

So I left, on March 18, 2011. And will not return.

Now in my new home far away (but still in Japan): no TV, only a tiny refrigerator, a laptop. A cellphone. I DON'T LIKE electricity!!!

I wear clothes 2 or 3 days before I wash them, or even longer.

No newspaper delivered because it would use electricity.

Hi pi,

Clothes? what's that? unless a bathing suit counts? These ridiculous 85F winter temps in S. Florida are making them quite unnecessary, at least for me >;-)

Just curious, how do you power your refrigerator, laptop and cellphone? Sounds to me like what you have is a really good candidate for a small scale solar PV system with battery backup. BTW, I LOVE electricity, it makes it possible to do so many things! What I dislike profoundly is wasting it unnecessarily and producing it in unsustainable or ecologically detrimental ways.

As for the pro nuclear power generation advocates, looks like there might be some real cheap real estate you can get in Ibaraki, now would be the perfect time to move there and show the world how safe nuclear is...

Now in my new home far away (but still in Japan): no TV, only a tiny refrigerator, a laptop. A cellphone. I DON'T LIKE electricity!!!

I find this so sad. It is not the electricity that is bad, it is the particular source that Japan chose that is questionable. The other sad thing is that. according to this wikipedia page only the US had more solar PV than Japan in 1992 but, between 1997 and 2005 when Germany took the lead, Japan had more solar PV than any other country in the world. In 2008 Spain surpassed Japan in terms of installed capacity until 2011 when Italy replaced Spain as the country with more installed capacity than Japan besides Germany. It remains to be seen whether Japan will retain the number three spot ahead of the US when the final figures for 2012 are posted.

In terms of generating electricity from other renewable sources, according to this wikipedia page wind power in Japan has been lagging behind the rest of the g8 (except for Russia which does not appear). I have no idea what the potential is for energy from waste or small hydro or geothermal but, it would appear that TPTB in Japan had decided to bet the farm on nuclear. It is that decision and not the electricity that turned out wrong.

Alan from the islands

here in the US, going without nukes need only mean we stop wasting electricity on such things as clothes dryers, resistance heat, incandescent lighting, mega screen TVs (and their phantom usage cable/sat boxes) and many other truly wasteful practices. Just the outdoor lighting that operates during daylight could probably shut one or two of 'em down. Like the fish/water analogy, we are awash in waste in the US. No nukes would be no problem if we had a lick of sense.

Or you could do that and keep the nukes and reduce the use of fossil fuels (!) instead.

It comes down to, which is worse: CO2, radiation, or a substantial cut in energy consumption? At the moment, nuclear has the worst press. In a couple of years, who knows?

That's the thing. Of course, doomers and alarmists here will talk about doom and sound alarmed, and nuclear is a nice target. But there is doom and there is real doom. CO2 might be real doom, while nuclear accidents are a minor nuisance in the grand scheme of things. Nuclear waste is very compact and easy to handle and frankly no worry at all once you buried it.

Germany's solar PV subsidies until 2011 are a worse catastrophe than the Fukushima nuclear accident, actually.

"Shutting down 20% of our power production does not seem like a good idea to me, does it seem like a good idea to anyone else?"

Seems like a great idea to me. But then I also think a huge carbon tax would be a good idea; kind of like putting a governor on your kid's go-cart so he won't kill himself.

For some reason the rest of your post reminded me of something Kunstler posted this morning:

...in particular the infantile disregard for the facts of life, the self-referential inanity of our culture, and the complete absence of authenticity in anything.

Either you read the article differently than I did, or not at all. It was an effective expose` of how utterly hopeless attempts to deal with the back end of nuclear power have been, and will continue to be. What we "can" do has little to do with what we WILL do in this era of complex copouts.

Appologies for being blunt. I'm getting grumpy about the whole coulda-shoulda-woulda multi-billion dollar debacle.

I don't read Kunstler, he is a depressed hack. I read Long Emergency, I was very disappointed.

Shooting the messenger, eh? It may help your case more if you provide some facts regarding how much has been spent on schemes to deal with nuclear waste, and how much progress has been made. Oh wait! That won't help your argument at all,, sorry.

It doesn't matter how many times folk's here post the facts, someone always just disregards them. In calling the collective on that, Kunstler is spot on. It's no wonder he makes many people uncomfortable.

Discussions about what we "can" do have limited utility in a society that can't be honest about what we have been, and are still, doing.

No discussion of nuclear power and waste in the US is meaningful without considering the regional effects.

The US has three largely independent power grids: the Eastern, Western and Texas Interconnects. Nuclear has a considerably different role in each. For 2011 (last year for which the EIA has published complete-year corrected numbers), nuclear was about 23.3% of all generation in the Eastern; 9.8% of generation in the Western; and 9.1% in Texas. Shutting down the reactors in Texas and the West has a much smaller impact than it does in the East.

State-level impacts also vary enormously. For 2011, 52.0% of New Jersey's in-state generation was nuclear. If that were to be shut down, it is unclear whether or not there is sufficient generation and transmission capacity elsewhere to make up more than a small fraction of that. OTOH, shutting down reactors across the country would be almost totally a non-event in Colorado, as none of the power used there comes from nuclear sources.

The vast majority of commercial power reactors and nuclear waste in the US are east of a north-south line drawn at about Omaha. One of the arguments that western states made in the various Yucca Mountain proceedings was that it was unfair to force the western states to accept the perceived risks of transporting and storing non-western waste because they had derived no benefit from the generation of that waste. Designation of another waste site in the West will inevitably wind up in the SCOTUS, and the Roberts Court has recently shown more willingness than previous courts to accept limits on what the federal government can cram down the throats of the states.

The idea of taking the waste from the 90+ reactors east of Omaha and reprocessing it to fuel 50+ new reactors in Nevada has... issues. Things will have to be air cooled -- there's no water available in Nevada that's not already legally "owned" to use for cooling. The areas where that electricity is needed are thousands of miles away, on the other side of the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains. At least tens of thousands of miles of new transmission system will be needed; there are a very limited number of places where it is reasonable to build such systems that cross the Rockies; and the same "why do we have to suffer for no benefit" argument from the intervening states comes up.

Instead, it will be business as usual and in 2040 they will be saying that a solution for long term waste disposal is just around the corner.

There is a long-term waste plan, IMHO, it is just not official. The plan is to store the waste on site in pools and as it cools down, move it to dry casks (still on-site). We do that for 100 to 300 years or so. And eventually, we'll become desperate for fuel such that we then re-process that on-site 'waste' because at that point it won't be viewed as waste but as valuable fuel.

Good plan? I dunno. But that is the real plan as far as I can tell. Like so many other plans it depends on us improving the technology between now & then and/or becoming more desperate. I can see both happening but it is certainly not assured.

Except that the dry cask thing doesn't really seem to be happening either. Is it a plan if nobody even bothers to try to follow it?

Very true. They are dragging their feet on the dry casks and they need to be pushed into doing it. The NRC should push on this. The dry cask storage is a bit safer than the pools from what I understand.

I guess my main point is that we need to stop generating waste now. This can be most easily done by shutting down the reactors. Many operate far from peak efficiency and are shut down a bunch of the time (this was why Trojan was shut down and decommissioned) anyway so turning them all off might not be such a bad idea. They will be shut down for repairs (for example, San Onofre) increasingly so in the future as these go beyond their operating lives.

Fast Reactors - you mean Fast Breeder Reactors using liquid sodium as coolant? This doesn't sound like such a good idea to me. And the time to construct and bring these online would be longer than a conventional nuclear plant - unless, like in some countries, we ignore environmental and safety consequences. This is a poor solution for the waste problem. Worse than storing it at Hanford, frankly. Technologically that would be another way to kick this can down the road. And these reactors would generate their own wastes, adding to the problem.

Meanwhile the waste piles higher and deeper. There is no solution that DOE or Congress (two other piles of waste!) can come up with, other than kicking the can down the road.

Fast Breeder Reactors using liquid sodium as coolant? This doesn't sound like such a good idea to me.

Which is why they are not common - the design was tried and found lacking.

Limits to Growth are to all nonrenewable resources including uranium.
TOD itself has a number of articles examining "Peak Uranium", the fact
that uranium itself is a limited nonrenewable resource and will not last forever either. Indeed if it replaced current fossil fuels it might last 50 years or so. Here is a link to an indepth examination of Uranium supplies here on the TOD:


Why should we invest billions upon billions of dollars on an energy source which will run out in 50-100 years, which is toxic for centuries, which enables those nations possessing it to be a short step away from nuclear weapons which could annihilate the planet far faster than Climate Change?

We need to face reality "REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE"!

That is priority number one. The billions wasted on a 1 time crap shoot on nuclear power which we know will run out should instead be invested in sustainable policies which reduce energy and material use thus obviating the need for infinite energy.

Uranium is one resource that if had pre-existing Nukes, and weren't afraid to use um (thought the waste and accident issues were solved) we could extend quite a ways. The reason is there is so much energy per microgram, that we would be more than willing to spend ten to a hundred times the current price to obtain. So low grade ores could be solution mined. And we could even extract the stuff from seawater. I don't think we would run out any time soon. And thats even without reprocessing. Its not the size of the ultimate resource base -at a price commensurate with the energy value resource, its whether a large enough plurality can be convinced that it is a safe and wise thing to do.

Now, we could have some interesting resource availability transients. Developing the low grade ore extraction would take a decade or two. If things weren't planned out until an actual shortage occurs -then all bets are off!

store all the commercial waste at Hanford.


The site for US plutonium production was in Hanford, Washington, and, though not as toxic as Mayak, it is still considered the most toxic site in the Western Hemisphere. The Department of Energy is cleaning up the site, and expects the effort to last until 2047! The Hanford clean-up has cost billions of dollars and will cost many billions more, and it has been plagued by mistakes, cover-ups, cost over-runs, and fired contractors.

(most toxic site?)

I started my career at Hanford in 1977 working on the cleanup. It was a disaster in the making then and IMO it is still a disaster. When I left in 1979 they were just starting to talk about converting the hi rad waste stored in underground tanks to glass and they are still working on converting that waste to glass (to my knowledge there is no production of glass even today). The underground tanks were leaking then and I am sure that they are still leaking. I have no confidence that hi rad waste stored at Hanford and other sites will ever be safely stored.

Some of the waste at Hanford certainly poses a major challenge despite the large amount of money that has already been spent on trying to deal with the problem. I would point out though, that power reactors don't produce this type of waste. Building a long term repository for spent fuel bundles should be a far easier task. Dealing with the highly radioactive, liquid type wastes at Hanford is still very much a technical problem but the lack of a long term storage facility for spent fuel bundles from commercial power reactors seems to be primarily due to a lack of political will to actually build a storage facility.

I agree that spent fuel bundles 'should' be a much easier task to store in a temporary facility. A permanent facility is entirely another manner due to both technical and political will.

Hanford also had a project to evaluate a permanent basalt storage facility deep underground. I do know that it had a 'technical' requirement for a 10000 year life which always sounded dubious to me. I left before that project was completed so I have no insight as to why it was canceled.

With wind-surfers, it is common parlance to refer to very windy conditions as "Its nukin'!". The phrase always had a bit of gallows humor when used around Hood River, Oregon which is relatively close to the Hanford nuclear facilities.

"The underground tanks were leaking then and I am sure that they are still leaking."

My recollection when I was a young man in college in the Pac NW was that there was a lot of research going on about the detailed stratigraphy of the Columbia River Basalt that underlies the Hanford region. There was at least some radioactive waste leaking into the ground water, and they were trying to figure out where and how far it might travel in permeable zones sandwiched in between basalt flows.

A lot of academic geologists suddenly found a bonanza fof funding for an otherwise somewhat obscure niche field of study. The amount of data and understanding of basalt stratigraphy they gained was amazing. Mapping individual flows over hundreds of miles, etc. Haven't followed any of that work anymore, so I don't know if they came up with anyhting useful in terms of actually mitigating the radioactive groundwater pollution problem.

Use this as an excuse for a stimulus program for out-of-work oil patchers. Pay them to drill/frack these stratta and pump'em full of grout.

Relatively short drive from ND to Hanford. You must be assuming the Bakken is a flash in the pan and out of work roughnecks will be swarming the region shortly. I'd hold off a bit before making that bet myself.

"Ignoring the fact that Oregon and Washington experience large megathrust earthquakes every 300 years or so (the last of which happened 312 years ago this month)."

400 years or so, but otherwise correct. Yucca Mountain is much better suited to waste storage than the fractured, faulted and thoroughly soaked Columbia Basin basalts. Not the mention the lava tubes and similar structures that lead to the river.

The Columbia River Basalts are themselves quite porous, prone to weathering, and usually deeply fractured. The idea of tunneling underneath the ground in this stuff near a major river is probably what shut that idea down. Eventually it would have breached.

Not only that, the Yakima Fold Belt, which is part of a longer structure called the Olympic-Wallowa Lineament, passes close to Hanford. The basalts there are under significant tectonic stress.

On another note, dry casks would be much more preferable to spent fuel pools. But these are expensive. I found this for the Zion nuclear plant, while searching for the costs of dry cast storage:
"Installing dry-cask storage infrastructure at a plant with two reactors would cost between $20 million and $30 million, and annual costs for buying casks, loading them and running a dry-cask storage facility are $7 million to $10 million, according to Exelon."

I wonder how financially well suited the nuclear plant owners are (especially after the financial crash of 2008 and future creshes to come) and if the cost is why they are dragging their feet.

$10M per year, compare that that to interest payments on several billion dollars. Not much more than a rounding error. Now that rounding error probably goes to executive bonuses, but overall the economics wouldn't be all that strongly affected. Therefore I conclude its simple greed at work here.

The Columbia River Basalts are themselves quite porous, prone to weathering, and usually deeply fractured.

I don't think this is correct at all. I have seen the Columbia River Basalt and it is some of the hardest and least porous rock imaginable. It may be deeply fractured, because it is so hard and brittle, but it is definitely not porous or prone to weathering.

Ron P.

You got it right Ron. In the Columbia River Basalt, the rock itself is extreamly hard, dense, and tight. It is heavily fractured, the fractures having formed as each individual basalt flow cooled. The most porous zones are in between the flows. The tops of flows tend to be vesicular and brecciated. Also, often enough time elapsed between flows for soils to form, trees to grow, and even small lakes to form. These inter-flow zones are important aquifers. Some of these aquifers are known to have very limited recharge.

In spite of the fractures, the flows themselves can be quite impermeable. They can be tight enough to trap gas. Many years ago, there was a very small, very shallow gas field on the Rattlesnake Hills Anticline. Probably produced from one of those interflow zones. I believe it was first discovered while drilling a water well.

For general info see Columbia River Basalt Stratigraphy in the Pacific Northwest

For some info on groundwater geology in the Hanford area see Overview of Hanford Hydrogeology

"I have seen the Columbia River Basalt and it is some of the hardest and least porous rock imaginable."

Hard yes, but definitely porous. The local towns get their water from wells. My local water system gets water from wells. Irrigation wells in one area a recharged by pumping water down into the aquifer some miles away.

And also the lava flows that make up the basalt came in waves. Each flow ran over the top of the previous one, and so they built up. The boundary between each layer is another layer of extra porosity above and beyond the porosity of the actual flow. And the thicker flows that cooled to make those pretty columnar basalts people use for landscaping? Each of those columns is only loosely attached to its neighbors. So there is vertical porosity too.

The place is a sponge.

"Irrigation wells in one area a recharged by pumping water down into the aquifer some miles away. ...... The place is a sponge."

Some parts (generally between the flows) are a sponge. Some of the flows are not very permeable at all. If they have to pump water into the aquifer from miles away, that means the aquifer is not naturally recharging very well. It also typically means that the zone above the aquifer zone is pretty tight.

Interflow zones, which consist of the top of one basalt flow, the bottom of the overlying flow, and any intervening sediment, if present, generally are permeable where the basalt is vesicular or brecciated. The permeable interflow zones within the Columbia River Basalt Group are an important source of water supply in the Pacific Northwest. The permeability of interflow zones varies because not all interflow zones are vesicular and brecciated. Between interflow zones, the dense flow interiors are relatively impermeable. Conceptually, then, the CRBG is a series of productive aquifers consisting of permeable interflow zones separated by less permeable flow interiors.

Although permeable interflow zones may yield large amounts of water initially, continued large withdrawals result in declines in water levels because of low storage properties and limited recharge of water reaching these productive zones. In order to understand and manage this important, but limited, groundwater resource, CRBG stratigraphy is used to identify interflow zones and map their lateral continuity. Once the interflow zones are mapped, the permeability and hydraulic connection of interflow zones can be determined and informed management options considered.

From http://or.water.usgs.gov/projs_dir/crbg/importance.html

Virtually all traps, or layered basalt like the Columbia River Basin is highly fractured and therefore porous. Water flows through the fractures. But the basalt itself, or the type of basalt fount in the Columbia River basin, is not porous.

See Alaska_geo's post above.

Ron P.

Keep in mind that the reason the the flows themselves can be barriers to water flow (fairly impermeable in the bulk sense) is that fractures must be open to provide a conduit for fluids. An outcrop of columnar jointed basalt looks like it would let a lot of water flow through it like a sieve. However in the subsurface, buried under many meters of similar dense basalt, those fractures are often squeezed tight together. Natural fractures aren't always good pathways for fluid flow.

That's why when they frac a well for oil or gas, they typically include "proppant" in the stuff they inject. The fract fluid, pumpled in under very high pressure fractures (breaks) the rock. When they stop pumping, pressure of the overlying rock tries to close those fractures. So they include proppant made of special sand or sometimes ceramic beads in the frac job. When they stop pumping the frac fluid flows back out, but the proppant stays behind and props the fractures open so the oil or gas can continue to flow out.

10 most expensive energy projects in the world


It looks like five of them are LNG projects in Australia each costing more than $30 billion. If this is what we want $300 billion spent on, then so be it.

36 billion is proposed in the US National budget has been put forth as loan guarantees for fission plant construction.

(it wasn't clear from the CNN reporting how much of that money is from the government VS private funding)

Those are loan guarantees not loans. The banks will not lend unless there is low risk and high profit. Some might say it is not worth doing, there are projects that need to get done but they may not be immensely profitable.

Fission plants are such a bad idea that not only do the plant operators need to be supported by the public purse, but the banks that touch 'em need the bailout also.

Whatever you want to believe. The Russians, Chinese and India are going all out on fast reactors and thorium. But I guess they don't know what they are doing.

The Russians .. don't know what they are doing.

Given: http://basementgeographer.blogspot.com/2012/10/lake-karachay-mayak-and-c... I'd agree with the idea that 'the Russians don't know what they are doing'. Or perhaps the leadership does and doesn't give a damn about the environment.

Snark aside:

The Russians, Chinese and India are going all out on fast reactors and thorium.

1) Define "all out"
2) Show exactly how the above claim is backed up with actual facts. The CNN link has Russians spending billions on a natural gas play - hardly within *MY* definition of "all out" on Fission.

Between 1962 and 1994 the UK had a total of two operational fast reactors connected to the National Grid. The Dounreay Fast Reactor (DFR) and the Prototype Fast Reactor (PFR). The first DFR was shut-down in 1977 with fuel rods and breeding rods jammed inside (some are still there yet). The second and larger PFR was shut down rather unexpectedly for good in 1994 (There are unconfirmed suggestions of a serious safety issue). If anyone wants to build one instructions here Description of the Prototype Fast Reactor at Dounreay

Good luck to them....

Oh and as you mentioned Thorium,, here they are breaking up the Thorium plant at Dounreay http://www.dounreay.com/news-room/dounreay-tv/breaking-up-the-thorium-plant

China, India and Russia are moving ahead while the U.K. is falling behind. A U.K. energy expert said that fast reactors would be good for the U.K. but budget constraints will not allow it.

What UK energy expert was that then?

In any case the UK actually is considering building with GE Hitachi a prototype PRISM Fast Breeder Reactor at the UK's Sellafield nuclear site. The sales pitch is it will "get rid" of the mountains of plutonium we have in the UK (including the fuel rods "bent like bananas" in reactors we shut down decades ago).

I can not find the article, it might have been a politician more than an energy person, but the point of his assertion was "the U.K. can not afford it"..it was not that they don't want to.

What is the use of a breeder if you want to get rid of your mountain of headache? Do they want to enjoy their headache as long a possible?

Fast breeders turn the U238 into Pu239 which is fissile. You use the Pu239 as fuel for the reactor, you use up the U238 and Pu239. The remaining fission products have a half life of 200 years, not 20,000 years.

Yes, but the point of breeding is to make use of the initial fuel as long as possible. Right? Or do I miss something?

Nuclear weapons. The point of breeders is to have large quantities of material that could be turned into bombs circulating around the "civilian" power industry so that the moment the military decides it wants enough bombs to blow up Jupiter and Saturn as well as Earth, the raw material is there for them to requisition.

The PRISM reactor is designed so it can be operated as a "breeder" or "burner". Normally a breeder reactor runs with Breeding Ratio >1. In the "burn" case however PRISM is run with a breed ratio of greater than 0.7 but less than 1, if I understand the sales pitch correctly. So less fissile material comes out than you started with (not that much less actually). You then reprocess the "spent" fuel on-site to get rid of the fission products "waste" and stick the rest back in again - fissioning more plutonium each time around. Rinse with fresh plutonium when needed and repeat.

Of course down the line, you could just install all the breeder blankets and start breeding more plutonium again with the same reactor.

CalGuy, it is interesting that #10 - Three Gorges Dam at $28 billion is the only renewable project on the list.

Yeah, I found that interesting too. I guess all those solar power tower projects in the California desert don't cost $20 billion.

Individual fields of PV (of CSP), seem to have a sweet spot in the 10-100MW range. At any decent cost/watt ($2 - $3) that comes in well below a billion. Solar is best utilized as a distributed resource -that way a single cloud won't shut it all off at the same time.

Funny - never thought of "Three Gorges Dam" and "renewable" together before...

Re : California could be next oil boom state

How valid is it from a geological/kind of resource point of view ?
I read a comment on peakoil.com from "dissident" saying this is kerogen and not tight oil/shale oil like in the Bakken.

Any info on that ?

Yves - The San Joaquin Basin has been another huge oil generating oven. I did my grad thesis on one of the turbidite fields out there. The Monterey Shale et al are full of REAL oil. OTOH that has been known for many decades. And I can't show an example but I'm sure sometime in the last 50 years someone tried to produce some from a vertical well or two. And probably without much luck. One of the big draw backs is if you have to purchase surface rights separately to develop your mineral interest. Some is high dollar ag land that can cost 10X+ per acre as the oil lease.

"And I can't show an example but I'm sure sometime in the last 50 years someone tried to produce some from a vertical well or two. And probably without much luck. "

I can't recall the details, but I vauge recollection that ARCO had some production from the Monterey Shale, back in the day.

A Golden Opportunity in the Golden State: A Monterey Shale Primer (PDF) An investor puff peice from Raymond James, but does have some historical info:

Though investor attention has turned toward the Monterey only recently, the play has a long, rich history, with first production as early as 1895 in the Santa Joaquin Basin. In 1905, the first fractured Monterey shale production began in the Santa Maria basin with vertical initial production (IP) rates ranging from 100 to 700 Bbls/d. In 1969 the first offshore Monterey reservoir was discovered by Arco/Mobil at South Ellwood field on the Santa Barbara County coast.

One of the quotes was that you can not drill California shale horizontally because it is not all level. I would assume all the faults have wrinkled the geology a bit.

CalGuy – Did you sense they were serious? If so those folks need to take Fractured Reservoirs 101. I don’t know many specifics about the MS so I’ll make some general statements about all fracture plays. First, the MS shale is thick and we’re not talking about 30 miles long horizontal wells. There would be no problem drilling 5,000’ hz bore holes. Also, a great many of the hz wells aren’t drilled exactly at 90 degrees. Often the end portion of the hole is higher than the beginning portion. Also some sections of the MS shale may not be a good target. The Eagle Ford Shale has a certain sweet spot in a vertical perspective. They tell me you want to stay in that section of the EFS that has more calcite cement. Which makes sense since that would tend to make that interval more brittle and thus more prone to fracturing than the more plastic interval of the shale.

But more important about the regional geology of the MS: a more active tectonic history could have produced areas with a great deal of natural fracture system. And those systems can be much more productive than manmade fractures. I would suspect anyone with an interest in poking around the MS would concentrate in areas of greater tectonic disturbance. There may also be areas where the MS may have more sand/silt in intervals and thus may have some similarity to the Bakken.

Again, just generalizations. But well known to any geologist that has studied fractured reservoirs.

I just don't buy that you couldn't do something akin to horizontal wells at some angle. Probably the requirement is that locally the layers are nearly in a plane (and of course you know the orientation of that plane). Now maybe if they aren't horizontal, you might be worried the oil would have migrated away up hill, but thats a different concern. Of course if its all folded up, that would be a problem.

They said California shale is not like other areas,
so the same techniques might not work.

Article: California could be next oil boom state

"As a result of the San Andres fault, California's geologic layers are folded like an accordion rather than simply stacked on top of each other like they are in other Shale states..."


eos/CalGuy - I'm not an exploration geologist at heart but I'll take a chance at putting my foot in my mouth re: the MS. First, to a large degree whether the shales are structurally flat or inclined will make little difference. Second, in most cases the oil is generated in the shale itself and given its lack of porosity the oil has little chance of migrating out of it. If I were looking to test a shale I would initially focus on the most broken up areas. Producing any shale requires fractures...more faulting/bending produces more fractures. The biggest oil play in Texas in the last 30 years was the Austin Chalk, a fractured "shale" made of carbonate material. We have a different term for carbonate shales but the reservoir dynamics are identical. The last boom focused on drilling/frac'ng horizontally. And the key to making good wells was finding areas where the AC was "bent" ("folded" in geologic terms) producing significant fractures in the rock. The more severe the folding the better then wells.

As far as the MS being different than other shales so the same techniques might not work: check out


It gives a variety of pros and cons but does point out OFFSHORE MS unfrac'd wells that initially produced at rates of 150 to 800 bopd.

I assume they will find a way to use the California shale. I was making others aware of what was published, not making a judgement nor advocating a position.

"As a result of the San Andres fault, California's geologic layers are folded like an accordion rather than simply stacked on top of each other like they are in other Shale states..."

Sounds like a typical media guy trying to talk about something he doesn't know anything about. Yes, California does tend to be more structurlly complex than say North Dakota. And some of those complex areas are adjacent to and result from the San Andreas. However, there are lots of places that are not next to the San Andreas, and lots of areas are not that intensly deformed.

In any case, "horizontal wells" are often not really all that horizontal. Even in conventional oil fields, we often drill "horizontal" wells that follow dip up or down, cross small faults and find the same zone on the other side of the fault, etc. This is sometimes called "geosteering". It isn't always easy, but if you have some idea of the general structure (from seismic or adjacent wells) and know what the log signatures are of zones (also from adjacent wells), it is quite possible to stay withing the zone you want, even if it is folded or faulted.

It's tight oil in shale formations, not kerogen. It seems to be generally regarded as the source rock for most of the conventional oil found in California. And while the Monterey shale is the largest areal extent of such rock in the lower US, there seem to be lots of complicated geology questions about producing oil from it directly.

That sounds about right. Its not just areal extent, it is quite thick as well. Most of California's conventional oil is postulated to have seeped out of the MS into an overlying trap. I don't understand the technical reasons that ordinary horizontal fracking isn't effective on it. They are still trying to crack the secret of economic extraction. Also that area is water constrained, so whatever production technique is proposed it can't be too water hungry.

This is what people do after a collapse. They chop down all the trees to stay warm.

The TV show doomsday preppers had one guy's plan to shoot holes in all of the transformers on electrical poles, then stand under 'em with a tarp to harvest the mineral oil to run his tractor.

Yup - destroy the infrastructure to keep the machines going that extra hour.

"destroy the infrastructure to keep the machines going that extra hour."

- That's basically the (inter-)national plan, not just that of TV survivalists. "Defer" maintenance on anything possible. Give up on infinite future groundwater use for a bit of present natural gas. Etc.

"How many BTU's in a banker?" seems a valid question.

Infinite BTUs, of course. Simply "invest" the BTUs, and they will magically turn into more BTUs.

Which, BTW, is also the plan on how to afford the decommissioning of nuclear power plants in the US once they are finally shut down: mothball the plant, invest the (underfunded) decommissioning funds for SIXTY YEARS and by then the pile of money will have gotten magically bigger. I wish I was kidding.

In the spaceship, "Heart of Gold," Zaphod Beeblebrox takes Arthur Dent and company to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, where the tab is paid by investing 1 cent until the end of time, by which time there is enough money earned to pay for the trillion dollar bill for being there for the final event.

Douglas Adams was so far ahead of his time!

RIP, Doug. Enjoy the laughs.


Virginia is beginning the process towards allowing uranium mining.
Virginia: Energy Capital of East Coast?

Yair . . . The odd politician here in Australia is saying that the emissions from coal are irrelivant as the current bush-fires are producing more Co2 than all our power stations would put out in decades.

Any knowlegable folks on here able to offer some clarification?


Even if it's true, the bush will regrow and suck back all the CO2 emitted.

Try doing that with coal.

If it grows back? With climate change some formerly forested areas, won't be stable as a forest eco-system anymore. Maybe thats whats happening, we have forest where the current climate no longer supports forest (primarily because of loss to fires), so it will transition to open scrubland (or whatever). That transition will probably be via catastrophic wildfires.

My impression is that the number one requirement for trees is enough water. Even in dry areas you will find trees along the river banks.

So, yeah, if the climate is drier the forests will go, probably in a blaze of fires as you say.

In either case, it's a bogus argument if one is trying to veer away from climate change responsibilities. CO2 in the atmosphere is certainly not the responsibility of forest fires and other 'natural biospheric CO2 sourcings' (Human Fossil Fuel Burning excepted, I would insist), which in this case seem to be exaggerated and their regrowth antagonized by precisely the Climate Conditions that have formed them and perhaps precluded the resultant healing.

It's just a continuation of the other side throwing a bunch of 'Yeah, but..!' BS into the air as a desperate countermeasure to changing their assumptions and understanding of what's really going on.

(the "RGO", as my housemate Skip used to call it)


Yeah, and folks in my area "don't need to worry about mercury from coal since there's already naturally occurring mercury in our streams and rivers". Sure.

Makes reducing our contribution even more relevant.

This has been debunked at length, for example

The big worry for now is that despite carbon tax and a 20% renewable energy target that coal emissions are going to plateau for the foreseeable future. Even if trees suck up a small fraction of that CO2 they can't be relied upon with so many wildfires.

This is akin to reasoning that it is ok to gouge out someones eye, because his other eye is going blind anyway. Insane.

The relevant figure is that 6-17% of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions is caused by deforestation. If the bushfires are natural, they will regrow and no net co2 emissions occur. If the bushfires are caused by climate change, they are the consequence of the burning of the coal, and their emissions must be added to the direct emissions.

fossil carbon vs. biological reservoir .... The carbon that makes up the bush was atmospheric CO2 not so long ago, thus it is merely cycling. The carbon from coal, OTOH, has not been part of the atmospheric pool for tens of millions of years. When it burns, it is a net addition to the atmospheric pool.

Nissan slashes base price of Nissan Leaf EV by $6400 down to $28,800 with USA plant opening

In a roundtable interview today at the North American International Auto Show, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn announced a $6,400 price drop for the base-model 2013 Nissan Leaf. Last year's base model was $35,200, while the new base-level 2013 Leaf S starts at $28,800. Ghosn says the new prices make the Leaf the least expensive five-seater electric for sale in the US.

Well this should help pure EV sales. The Leaf had some good initial sales at $32K but sales slowed when the base price was raised to $35K. This price drop puts the car within reach of many people that may be interested in driving gasoline-free. After the Federal tax-credit, this brings it down to $21,300. In California, there is a $2500 incentive which brings the effective price down to less than $20K. And you get to drive in the carpool lane at least until 2015. And it costs very little to fuel (~$500/year).

If people want an EV, then can now get an affordable one. The limited range will stop a lot of buyers though.

NPR: Five Years Into Fracking Boom, One Pa. Town At A Turning Point

The natural gas fracking boom has sped up life in Towanda, Pa. There are positives and negatives to that fact — Towanda's unemployment rate stayed low throughout the recession, but its crime rate jumped, too. And now that natural gas prices have slowed down drilling, Towanda is wondering whether its boom is already turning into a bust.

NC governor-elect vows immediate action to begin drilling off Atlantic coast


Speaking this afternoon at the N.C. Bankers Association's 2013 Economic Forecast Forum, McCrory laid out his policy priorities around economic development for the state. Offshore drilling for natural gas and oil was among the top items on his to-do list.

"Our state has fallen behind in implementing energy policy," said McCrory, a former employee of Duke Energy who has been a vocal champion of both offshore and onshore drilling for fossil fuels. His campaign manager was Russell Peck, who previously served as director of external affairs for America's Natural Gas Alliance, an industry lobby group.

McCrory vowed to take "immediate action" to form a coalition with South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia and start negotiating with the federal government to begin drilling offshore first for natural gas, and then possibly for oil.

Some politicians are very eager to drill . . . but are the oil companies? Is there even any oil there? I see there were 7 dry holes drilled off Georgia. Perhaps they should do some seismic first?

spec - They began shooting seismic off the east coast many decades ago. Identifying a potential structural trap isn't enough to make a company drill. There has to at least be some minimal evidence of oil generation and migration to readily producible reservoirs. There are liteally many hundreds of thousands of large structural traps in US basins that don't have a single bbl of oil trapped in them. I don't know very much about the east coast but I think the biggest negative in early drilling efforts was not finding a lot of evidence for significant oil generation.

" There has to at least be some minimal evidence of oil generation and migration to readily producible reservoirs."

And from your previous discussions on the topic, you really do mean minimal. A good promoter can run with nearly nothing, but it can't be completely nothing.

Note the onshore US production bordering the Gulf of Mexico, from Southern Texas to the Florida Panhandle, versus the onshore US production bordering the Atlantic, from Southern Florida to Northern Maine. However, as we go farther north, there is some offshore Canadian production, e.g., the Hibernia Field.

Here is a conventional gas production map:


They will always do seismic before they drill to find likely targets. However, they have to drill some wells to find out what is really down there. They won't have to drill many wells to find out if they are wasting their time. I think that's probably what happened with the 7 dry holes off Georgia. They drilled a few wells and decided they were wasting their time.

It could be worthwhile drilling a few wells off NC to see if it was better than off Georgia. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for them to find anything, though. The USGS, usually overoptimistic, rates the resource potential at "fair to poor". No identified source rocks, no identified structures, no hydrocarbon shows.

The Gulf of Mexico offshore, by comparison, has over 200 known natural oil seeps in the sea bottom.

Could somebody please remind me why Shell is concentrating it's efforts in the harsh and risky Arctic rather than the more hospitable waters of the east coast?

Last year the Group Managing Director of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ), wrote a letter to one of the local dailies titled "Forge ahead with oil exploration". As I had to point out in my comment, Shell is spending significant amounts of money exploring the Arctic and that, if Shell or anybody else thought there were good prospects in the balmy waters of the Caribbean they sure wouldn't be doing that.

Alan from the islands

I'm certainly no expert but I suspect because there was the very large North slope discovery so they hope to find another up there. Plus the fact that Alaska is probably pretty friendly to oil development helps.

"we" (advanced western civilization) need 3 earths to support our culture of waste. many times i have spoken of getting needed juice from mars or asteroids or titan, a moon of saturn. "we" need to build fleets of gigantic space ships to go to these places and get the juice. it's not like going to alpha centuria which is 4 light years away. we dont need exotic engines such as "warp drive". we have tried and true technology and near term advanced drives to do it. we have to do it, hollywood has shown the way. umm, "we" have never cared about life on earth when it came to profit. i dont think it should matter about it on other worlds.

the latest evidence for resource extraction:
"Chunks of hydrocarbon ice may float atop the lakes and seas of Saturn's huge moon Titan, a new study reveals.

The presence of such ice floes in the ethane and methane seas on Titan would make the moon an even more exciting target for astrobiologists, researchers said.....

Titan — Saturn's largest moon, with a diameter of 3,200 miles — is the only body in our solar system apart from Earth known to host stable bodies of liquid on its surface. While Earth's weather cycle is based on water, Titan's involves hydrocarbons, with liquid ethane and methane falling as rain and pooling in large lakes and seas".

We have pumped about 500Gt carbon in the atmosphere since the industrial revolution. Another 500Gt are practically inevitable. The tar sands contain another 1000Gt as do various other deposits of carbon. Life on this planet will be near impossible if we burn it all, let alone import 1000s of Gt carbon from other planets and moons. It's idiotic to even think about this, it's shear madness.

private enterprise wont fund it unless the Gove backs the project

Last think I heard was Gov. was broke after bailing out the Banks

any way if we're going to BURN the stuff its better off not being on earth - more CO2 ? no way!

If we intend to make things from it - do we need to fill up our landfill with more plastic frog fridge magnets ?

Seriously the time to do this was the 80's , St Ronnie the Wrong and Maggie the Mad took over and killed the futurist dream

all about returns now , short term (un)Free market thinking

You need a thinking along the generational lines to get the resources of the Solar System - highly improbable in todays climate


Just when you thought you'd heard it all...

Man who helped Sandy Hook kids is harassed by conspiracy theorists

The man who took in a bunch of kids who fled the Sandy Hook massacre after their teacher was killed is now being harassed by a growing group of people who think Sandy Hook never happened. It was a government plot, meant to "move political opinion on gun control."

Ye gods. I hope they are not harassing the parents of the victims. But they probably are. They are convinced that the parents are faking their grief, and the children are not dead.

"The man who took in a bunch of kids who fled the Sandy Hook massacre after their teacher was killed is now being harassed by a growing group of people who think Sandy Hook never happened. It was a government plot, meant to "move political opinion on gun control."

Unfortunately not a very huge surprise given that we live in a culture that gives all sorts of wacky conspiracy theories traction through continuous MSM exposure.


Why People Believe Conspiracy Theories
Why people who believe in one conspiracy are prone to believe others
By Michael Shermer


Dead and Alive: Beliefs in Contradictory Conspiracy Theories Abstract:
Conspiracy theories can form a monological belief system: a self-sustaining world view comprised of a network of mutually supportive beliefs. The present research shows that even endorsement of mutually incompatible conspiracy theories are positively correlated. In Study 1(n = 137), the more participants believed that Princess Diana faked her own death, the more they believed that she was murdered. In Study 2 (n = 102), the more participants believed that OsamaBin Laden was already dead when U.S. special forces raided his compound in Pakistan, the more they believed he is still alive. Hierarchical regression models showed that mutually incompatible conspiracy theories are positively associated because both are associated with the view that the authorities are engaged in a cover-up (Study 2). The monological nature of conspiracy belief appears to be driven not by conspiracy theories directly supporting one another, but by broader beliefs supporting conspiracy theories in general.

Emphasis mine.

And 'Peak Oil' and 'Climate Science' are both major conspiracies which go to the highest levels in corporations and the government and have been designed to make more money for oil companies, speculators and those filthy rich climate scientists who live off those fat research grants!

Not to mention the flip side of the coin where we can find the CEOs of big corporations, political authoritarian ideologues, and the paranoid proponents of every increasing paramilitary security measures to defend the homeland against the homegrown terrorists and conspirators who are hell bent on taking away their god given rights to fleece the citizens and accumulate all the wealth in the hands of a small minority.

Try arguing against any of these conspiracy theories with a true believer... Good luck!