Oil Related News

Title: Amazing Ship Can Carry 100,000 Ton Oil Rigs
June 15, 2012
Smart Planet

Abstract: Short of moving mountains, there´s hardly anything the Blue Marlin can´t do.

Equipped with a 17,160 HP engine and a lifting capacity of over 76,000 metric tons, the the world´s largest semi-submersible ship has transported some of the most massive structures known to man. For instance, the 738-feet long vessel was the U.S. Navy´s obvious choice when they needed a way to deliver the destroyer USS Cole back to the United States after the warship was severely damaged by an Al-Qaeda suicide bomber attack in Yemen. And a year later, the carrier pulled off its most impressive feat by hauling the 60,000-ton Thunder Horse PQD (AKA the world´s largest semi-submersible oil rig) nearly 16,000 miles from a dock in South Korea to Corpus Christi, Texas.

But even such notable accomplishments may soon be dwarfed when the Vanguard, a new addition to dockwise´s transport fleet, arrives later this year. While the heavy lift vessel boasts an unheard of loading capacity of 117,000 metric tons, it´ll also sport an innovative bowless design that will allow the ship to support wider, longer and overall larger structures.

The Vangaurd is the industry´s solution for a world in which oil rigs are not only rapidly increasing in size, but are also being moved into deeper and remote waters. “We investigated whether our ships were able to transport such cargoes. Our conclusion was that they had insufficient capacity and inadequate deck-area. The bow and the accommodations are usually in the way, explained project engineer Michel Seij. “The bowless design of the Dockwise Vanguard is the logical consequence of this.”

Also, “the design allows for large amounts of water to flow along the entire deck of the vessel without there being any chance of water entering the confines of the Dockwise Vanguard,” he added.

From an engineering perspective, this meant the crew’s accommodation would have to be built on the extreme starboard side of the vessel together with the lifeboats structure. The $240 million Vanguard will be 275 meters long and 70 meters wide with the ability to support cargo that stretches as much as 170 meters beyond those dimensions.The ship is being built at a Yard in Korea and is expected to enter service by the end of the year (Smart Planet, 2012).

California Gas Stations Shut As Oil Refiners Ration Supplies
October 4, 2012

Abstract: Gasoline station owners in the Los Angeles area including Costco Wholesale Corp. (COST) are beginning to shut pumps as the state’s oil refiners started rationing supplies and spot prices surged to a record.

Valero Energy Corp. (VLO) stopped selling gasoline on the spot, or wholesale, market in Southern California and is allocating deliveries to customers. Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) is also rationing fuel to U.S. West Coast terminal customers. Costco’s outlet in Simi Valley, 40 miles (64 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles, ran out of regular gasoline yesterday and was selling premium fuel at the price of regular.

The gasoline shortage “feels like a hurricane to me, but it’s the West Coast,” Jeff Cole, Costco’s vice president of gasoline, said by telephone yesterday. “We’re obviously extremely disheartened that we are unable to do this, and we’re pulling fuel from all corners of California to fix this.”

Spot gasoline in Los Angeles has surged $1 a gallon this week to a record $1.45 a gallon premium versus gasoline futures traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange, data compiled by Bloomberg show. That’s the highest level for the fuel since at least November 2007, when Bloomberg began publishing prices there. On an outright basis, the fuel has jumped to $4.3929 a gallon.

Prices Jump
Gasoline at the pump gained 8.3 cents to $4.315 a gallon in California yesterday, according to AAA.com, 53.1 cents more than the national average of $3.784. In Los Angeles the price was $4.347. Gasoline futures for November delivery on the Nymex rose 14.34 cents to settle at $2.9429 a gallon, after falling yesterday to a 10-week low. Retail price movements tend to lag behind those of futures.

“Product supply in California has tightened, especially in Southern California, due to refinery outages,” Bill Day, a Valero spokesman at the company’s headquarters in San Antonio, said by e-mail.

Exxon’s Torrance refinery is restoring operations after losing power Oct. 1. Phillips 66 (PSX) is scheduled to perform work on gasoline-making units at its two California refineries this month, two people with knowledge of the schedules said. A Chevron Corp. (CVX) pipeline that delivers crude to Northern California refineries was also shut last month due to elevated levels of chloride in the oil.

San Francisco
Spot California-blend gasoline, or Carbob, in San Francisco surged 30 cents to $1.40 a gallon over futures, also the highest level since at least 2007, at 4:03 p.m. New York time.

Low-P, a gasoline station in Calabasas, California, 30 miles west of Los Angeles, stopped selling unleaded gasoline Oct. 2 and ran out of high-octane and medium-octane fuel yesterday, John Ravi, the station’s owner, said by phone yesterday. Ravi said he posted an “Out of Gasoline” sign on each pump and took down the prices outside his shop.

“I can get gas, but it’s going to cost me $4.90 a gallon, and I can’t sell it here for $5,” Ravi said. “If you come here right now, I’ve got some diesel left. That’s all. My market is open, but no gas.”

“We’re going to start shutting pumps Friday,” Sam Krikorian, owner of Quality Auto Repair inNorth Hollywood, said by phone yesterday. “Gas is costing me almost $4.75 a gallon with taxes. There’s no sense in staying open. The profit margins are so low it’s not worth it.”

’Squeeze is On’
“The squeeze is on, and people are doing desperate things,” Bob van der Valk, an independent petroleum industry analyst in Terry, Montana, said by e-mail yesterday. “The mom- and-pop gas stations are having to close down from either not being able to obtain gasoline from their regular distributor or cannot afford the break-even price of almost $5 per gallon.”

Costco is working on a plan to alert its members as gasoline runs out at the company’s stores “so customers don’t have to guess where to go,” Cole said. The company will sell whatever premium gasoline it has stored for regular gasoline prices wherever supplies run out, he said.

“Costco is a membership warehouse club with a relationship based on trust,” he said. “We’re not delivering what the members asked us to deliver, and that’s not acceptable to us. So we’re doing whatever we can to fix it.”

Short-Term Problem
Van der Valk called the price surge a “a short-term problem.” Wholesale costs should start falling as Exxon’s refinery returns to normal operations and other plants finish maintenance.

The California Independent Oil Marketers Association, a Sacramento-based group that represents wholesale and retail fuel marketers, asked the state yesterday to expedite a waiver that would allow refiners to produce and sell winter-grade fuel, Jay McKeeman, a spokesman for the association, said by telephone yesterday.

“Everybody is concerned about what might happen,” he said. “The real question is: How long is this going to last and what can the state do?”

California’s summer-blend fuel requirements are in effect in Southern California until Oct. 31. The Reid Vapor Pressure, or RVP, limits are lifted in other areas of the state as early as Sept. 30.

The state Air Resources Board and Energy Commission are evaluating fuel supplies and haven’t decided on the waiver, Dave Clegern, a spokesman for the air board in Sacramento, said by e- mail.

‘Losing Money’
The independent gas station owners are typically the first to run out of fuel and shut their pumps when spot prices surge because they often lack long-term contracts to buy from fuel suppliers at set prices, McKeeman said.

Jim Li said yesterday that he may stop selling gasoline at his independent station, Best Auto Care, in San Francisco. He’s charging $4.59 a gallon for the fuel, “and I’m still losing money,” he said.

Wholesale prices are “going up so quick that there’s not even any margin to make any money at all,” he said by telephone.

California-grade, or CARB, diesel in Los Angeles climbed 0.5 cent to 16.5 cents a gallon above heating oil futures on the Nymex. The fuel in San Francisco was unchanged at a premium of 17 cents a gallon versus futures.

Jet fuel in Los Angeles increased 0.37 cent to a premium of 11.25 cents a gallon against futures, the highest since Sept. 19 (Bloomberg, 2012).

Title: Greek-Managed Tanker With Crew Of 24 Missing In Pirate Waters Off West Africa
Date: October 8, 2012
Fox News

Abstract: A Greek ship management company says it has lost contact with one of its tankers off the coast of western Africa, where several vessels have been attacked by pirates.

Grace Management S.A. says the Bahamas-flagged Orfeas was carrying 32,000 metric tons (35,000 tons) of gasoline to Abidjan in the Ivory Coast. The ship has a crew of two Greeks and 22 Filipinos.

The managers said Monday they lost contact with the vessel on Saturday. The Orfeas had anchored off Abidjan, sailed south without orders or explanation and may be heading for Lagos, Nigeria.

Pirates are active off West Africa and have drastically increased attacks recently. Usually, they release the vessels and crews after stealing the cargo — without going through the process of demanding ransom (Fox News, 2012).

Title: Texas Landowners Take A Rare Stand Against Oil In Opposing TransCanada Project
October 17, 2012
Fox News

Oil has long lived in harmony with farmland and cattle across the Texas landscape, a symbiosis nurtured by generations and built on an unspoken honor code that allowed agriculture to thrive while oil was extracted.

Proud Texans have long welcomed the industry because of the cash it brings to sustain agriculture, but also see its presence as part of their patriotic duty to help wean the United States off "foreign" oil. So the answer to companies that wanted to build pipelines has usually been simple: Yes.

Enter TransCanada.

As the company pursues construction of a controversial 1,179-mile-long cross-country pipeline meant to bring Canadian tar sands oil to South Texas refineries, it's finding opposition in the unlikeliest of places: oil-friendly Texas, a state that has more pipelines snaking through the ground than any other.

In the minds of some landowners approached by TransCanada for land, the company has broken an unspoken code.

Nearly half the steel TransCanada is using is not American-made and the company won't promise to use local workers exclusively; it can't guarantee the oil will remain in the United States. It has snatched land. Possibly most egregious: They've behaved like arrogant foreigners, unworthy of operating in Texas.

To fight back, insulted Texas landowners are filing dozens of lawsuits, threatening to further delay a project that has already encountered many obstacles. Others are allowing activists to go on their land to stage protests. Several have been arrested.

"We've fought wars for it. We stood our ground at the Alamo for it. There's a lot of reasons that Texans are very proud of their land and proud when you own land that you are the master of that land and you control that land," said Julia Trigg Crawford, who is fighting the condemnation of a parcel of her family's 650-acre Red'Arc Farm in Sumner, about 115 miles northeast of Dallas.

Oil and agriculture have lived in peace in part because a one-time payment from a pipeline company or monthly royalties from a production rig can help finance a ranch or farm that struggle today to turn a profit from agriculture. The oil giants also respected landowners' fierce Texas independence, even sometimes drilling in a different yard or rerouting a pipeline to ensure easy access to the minerals below.

TransCanada is different. For one, it has sought and received court permission to condemn land when property owners didn't agree to an easement.

"This is a foreign company," Crawford said. "Most people believe that as this product gets to the Houston area and is refined, it's probably then going to be shipped outside the United States. So if this product is not going to wind up as gasoline or diesel fuel in your vehicles or mine then what kind of energy independence is that creating for us?"

Activists have handcuffed themselves to machinery. A group has moved into a grove of trees on a TransCanada easement. A 78-year-old great-grandmother, Eleanor Fairchild, whose late husband worked in the oil industry, spent a night in jail after trespassing -- along with actress Daryl Hannah of "Splash" fame -- on land condemned on her 425-acre farm. On Monday, eight others were arrested for their protest activities.

TransCanada's pipeline, some landowners say, is more worrisome than those built by other companies because of the tar sands oil the company wants to transport. They point to an 800,000-gallon spill of mostly tar sands oil in Michigan's Kalamazoo River in 2010. It took Enbridge, the company that owns that pipeline, 17 hours to detect the rupture, and the cleanup is still incomplete.

With a pipeline, landowners give up control of the land for a one-time check, risking a spill that could contaminate their land or water for years. It's a risk many are willing to take in exchange for cash -- to a point.

Some say the risk of a spill now is too high to cooperate. Others want guarantees TransCanada will take full responsibility for a spill.

Many just want respect.

Most pipeline projects in Texas have been completed with an average of 4 percent to 10 percent of condemned land. TransCanada, however, has condemned more than 100 of the 800 or so tracts -- or about 12.5 percent -- of the land it needed to complete a 485-mile portion of the pipeline that runs through Texas.

Many of the lawsuits in Texas are about TransCanada's "common carrier" status. This allows companies building projects benefiting the public to condemn private property. The Texas Supreme Court recently ruled if a landowner challenges a condemnation, the company must prove its project is for the public good.

Crawford, whose family has denied other pipelines access to their land, argues that since TransCanada's pipeline will have only one access point -- or a place where oil can get into the pipe -- at a hub in Cushing, Okla., it does not qualify for the status, which requires the pipeline be accessible in Texas.

"This is not about the money," said Crawford, who notes that TransCanada's final offer of $20,000 amounts to about $1 a year over 60 years, less time than her family has been on the land. "This is about the right of a landowner to control what happens on their land."

David Dodson, a TransCanada spokesman in Houston, said the company has agreements with 60,000 landowners in North America, hundreds of them in Texas. Many have been reached easily, he said. The problems in Texas, he believes, may just be a sign of the times.

"These days, anyone who attempts to build a linear infrastructure project, Texas, wherever it is, it doesn't matter, is facing increased opposition," Dodson said.

David Holland's 3,850-acre rice farm and ranch in southeast Jefferson County is littered with nearly 50 pipelines. In the five years since he was first approached by TransCanada, he said he has signed contracts with two other companies. He insists he would do the same for TransCanada -- if they offered him fair value for his 10.5 acres.

Until now, Holland said, he and other landowners had given pipeline companies a roughly 20 percent discount because it was cheaper than fighting Big Oil. TransCanada offered him more than $400,000 for his land. But that, he said, was about $200 less for every 16.5 feet than he had previously received. After Holland declined, the court allowed TransCanada to take the land for $13 for every 16.5 feet-- totaling slightly more than $20,000.

"Every landowner in the state is furious at them," he said.

Some landowners have reached agreements without a problem. Henry Duncan, whose 200-acre farm is across the road from the Crawford's, wouldn't say how much TransCanada paid, but feels he was fairly compensated for his 7 acres. He does wish they would use American-made steel for the pipe and hire local workers. He, too, feels they bullied landowners, but is realistic.

Pipeline money helps keep his 100 head of cattle roaming the pastures. It could help him and his wife as they age.

"To be quite honest, I'd like to see another one come through because they pay good," Duncan said (Fox News, 2012).

Title: U.S. Set To Overtake Saudi Arabia As World's Biggest Oil Producer Following Boom In Output
October 24, 2012
Daily Mail

A US oil boom is set to push America past Saudi Arabia to become the world’s top producer.

Driven by high prices and new drilling methods, the US production of crude oil is on track for the biggest single-year gain for more than 60 years.

Analysts claimed yesterday that, if the growth in domestic drilling continues, America will soon overtake Russia and Saudi Arabia – and possibly become ‘the new Middle East’ in another decade. The boom has surprised even the experts.

‘Five years ago, if I or anyone had predicted today’s production growth, people would have thought we were crazy,’ said Jim Burkhard, head of oil markets research at US energy consulting firm IHS CERA.

Production is expected to rise by 7 per cent to hit an average of 10.9million barrels a day this year. Energy Department officials say it will average 11.4million next year, just below the current Saudi output of 11.6million.

This will be the fourth straight year of crude increases and the biggest single-year gain since 1951.

And Citibank forecasts it could reach 13million to 15million barrels per day by 2020.

But it has not led to cheaper petrol. Prices are expected to stay relatively high for the next few years because of growing demand in developing nations and political instability in the Middle East and North Africa.

The last year the US was the world's largest producer was 2002, after the Saudis drastically cut production because of low oil prices in the aftermath of 9/11.

Since then, the Saudis and the Russians have been the world leaders.

Americans currently use around 18.7 million barrels per day - but thanks to the growth in domestic production and the improving fuel efficiency of the nation's cars and trucks, imports could fall by half by the end of the decade.

The increase in production has not translated to cheaper gasoline at the pump, and prices are expected to stay relatively high for the next few years because of growing demand for oil in developing nations and political instability in the Middle East and North Africa.

Still, producing more oil domestically, and importing less, gives the economy a significant boost.

Increased drilling is driving economic growth in states such as North Dakota, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Montana and Texas, all of which have unemployment rates far below the national average.

'It's the most important change to the economy since the advent of personal computers pushed up productivity in the 1990s' -Philip Verleger, Peterson Institute of International Economics

Businesses that serve the oil industry, such as steel companies that supply drilling pipe and railroads that transport oil, are not the only ones benefiting from the boom in production.

Homebuilders, auto dealers and retailers in energy-producing states are also getting a lift.

The oil and gas drilling boom, which already supports 1.7 million jobs, is expected to lead to the creation of 1.3 million jobs across the U.S. economy by the end of the decade.

'It's the most important change to the economy since the advent of personal computers pushed up productivity in the 1990s,' says economist Philip Verleger, a visiting fellow at the Peterson Institute of International Economics.

The major factor driving domestic production higher is a new found ability to squeeze oil out of rock once thought too difficult and expensive to tap.

Engineers have learned how to drill horizontally into long, thin seams of shale and other rock that holds oil, instead of searching for rare underground pools of hydrocarbons that have accumulated over millions of years. 

To free the oil and gas from the rock, drillers crack it open by pumping water, sand and chemicals into the ground at high pressure, in a process known as hydraulic fracturing, or 'fracking.'

The US oil boom has also been influenced by a long period of high oil prices and the recovery of production in the Gulf of Mexico following the 2010 BP well disaster and oil spill.

The most prolific of the new shale formations are in North Dakota and Texas. Activity is also rising in Oklahoma, Colorado, Ohio and other states.

Production from shale formations is expected to grow from 1.6 million barrels per day this year to 4.2 million barrels per day by 2020.

That means these new formations will yield more oil by 2020 than major oil suppliers such as Iran and Canada produce today.

From 1986 to 2008, crude production in the US fell every year but one - dropping by 44 percent over that period. The United States imported nearly 60 percent of the oil it burned in 2006.

By the end of this year, US crude output will be at its highest level since 1998 and oil imports will be lower than at any time since 1992, at 41 percent of consumption.

Whether the US supplants Saudi Arabia as the world's biggest producer will depend on the price of oil and Saudi production in the years ahead (Daily Mail, 2012).

Title: 'Assassination' Of ExxonMobil Executive Not Related To Job
October 26, 2012

A family friend of the British oil executive gunned down in front of his wife in Belgium has said today they believe his killing was a professional hit.

Nicholas Mockford, 60, an executive for ExxonMobil, was gunned down on October 14 as he left an Italian restaurant in a suburb of Brussels.

The family member, who asked not to be named, told The Telegraph they thought he had been killed in a professional hit.

The relation said: "We are all confused about what has happened. Nick was a genuinely lovely, clean-cut, mild-mannered, family man."

He added: "He was shot so calmly and so quickly, it smacks horribly of a professional hit, but we can't fathom why. He isn't the type to cave in to blackmail and it just doesn't compute."

The comments came as the Belgian police continued to investigate the killing, which only came to light today because of a news blackout reportedly imposed by authorities in Belgium.

Today a spokeswoman for ExxonMobil expressed sympathy for the bereaved family and stated there was no indication that the murder was related to Mr Mockford's job as an executive at the oil giant.

"We were shocked by the tragic death of Nick Mockford, one of our employees a fortnight ago in Brussels. Mr Mockford was a department manager at our office close to Brussels, but we have no indication that the incident was work-related", they said.

"Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues and we are supporting them as best we can at this very difficult time."

Witnesses say they saw Mr Mockford and his wife walk across the street to their Lexus car before shots were fired.

They had just left the Da Marcello restaurant in Rue de Beyseghem at around 10pm on Oct 14.

Mr Mockford's Belgian wife of fifteen years was left beaten, covered in blood and cradling her dying husband in her arms.

One officer today admitted that the killing was a "very strange" case and had been passed on to federal investigators.

Reports suggest two men were spotted running away from the scene, one holding a motorcycle helmet.

One witness told the Belgian Dutch-language TV channel VTM:  "I heard a noise, 'tack tack'. , I thought that was bizarre and went outside to look…There was a woman lying on the floor on the pavement on the other side of the road. She was crying 'help, help'. There was also a man lying on the street, next to a car. "

The Daily Telegraph said police in Belgium were considering all possible motives for the shooting, including a carjacking, although Mr Mockford's car was not stolen.

The Belgian prosecutor's office said last night that there was a "judicial instruction" from Martine Quintin, the investigating judge, that meant they could give no "explanation" and no detail about the killing, which a spokesman said was "usual in such a serious murder investigation", the Telegraph reported.

However Chief Inspector Wim Van Leifferenge said the killing had been reported by media in the country since it happened.

Mr Van Leifferenge said no-one had been arrested and those responsible were still on the run.

Mr Mockford is understood to have worked for ExxonMobil since the 1970s and was head of marketing for interim technologies for ExxonMobil Chemicals, Europe, promoting new types of greener fuel.

Brought up in Leicestershire, he had moved abroad from Chichester some years ago, living in Belgium and Singapore.

He was married to his Belgian wife for 15 years and has three grown-up children living in Britain from his first marriage, the Telegraph said (Independent, 2012).

Title: Residents In Eastern Chinese City Clash With Police In Protest Over Chemical Factory Expansion
October 27, 2012
Fox News

Thousands of people in an eastern Chinese city clashed with police while protesting the proposed expansion of a petrochemical factory that they say would spew pollution and damage public health, townspeople said Saturday.

Pollution has become a major source of unrest in China, as members of the rising middle class become more outspoken against environmentally risky projects in their backyards.

The Zhenhai district government in Zhejiang province's Ningbo city said in a statement Saturday that "a few" people disrupted public order by staging sit-ins, unfurling banners, distributing fliers and obstructing roads. It said the proposed project was under review.

Zhenhai police said protesters threw rocks and bricks at officers Friday and that police dispersed illegal gatherings to restore the flow of traffic.

Residents, however, said the protests involved thousands of people and turned violent after authorities used tear gas to dispel the crowds and arrested participants.

"It started with a peaceful petition but turned into a citywide riot," said a local resident who gave only his family name, Ren, because he had come under police watch. He said he was called in by police over his frequent online postings about the project, which would produce chemicals such as ethylene and paraxylene.

Ren said the protest intensified Friday when young residents returned home for the weekend. He said 4,000 to 5,000 people blocked major road entrances to the district and that the public grew angry when police arrested three college students and used tear gas on the crowds.

Thousands of protesters stormed a local police station, where they demanded the release of the students and a dialogue with district officials. Ren said the protesters also went to a traffic police compound, where they overturned police vehicles and private cars.

He said riot police moved in and formed a shield to guard the traffic police compound and that protesters threw rocks and water bottles at the riot police.

Later Friday night, police began beating protesters and passers-by with batons, Ren said.

On Saturday, protesters gathered in a large public square in Ningbo and shouted slogans against the project, Ren said. Many were arrested, he said.

Photos posted online showed demonstrators clashing with police and holding up signs demanding that the project be halted.

Searches for phrases including Zhenhai and Zhenhai chemical plant were blocked Saturday on the microblogging site Sina Weibo.

The state-run Ningbo Daily newspaper echoed the district government's statement in an online editorial Saturday, reminding the public that the expansion project remains under evaluation and saying there are ample opportunities — including public hearings — for the public to voice opinions. It also condemned any illegal behavior.

Residents of several Chinese cities have taken to the streets this year to protest projects, including a coal-fired power plant in southern China, a waste-water pipeline in eastern China, and a copper plant in west-central China.

Such protests reflect increasing tensions between a government which wants to push economic growth while maintaining social stability and a public worried about health consequences (Fox News, 2012).

Title: Keystone Pipeline Pushed To Forefront
November 7, 2012
Washington Times

With a second term now in hand, President Obama no longer can delay a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline and must either side with environmentalists within his party or greenlight a major step toward North American energy independence.

The pipeline decision could be an early sign for the direction of Mr. Obama’s green agenda for the next four years, after a campaign in which he sparred with Republican opponent Mitt Romney over the pipeline and on issues such as subsidies for alternative energy companies, the future of the coal industry, and drilling policy on federal lands and along the nation’s coasts.

Green-energy and environmental groups said Wednesday that they were buoyed by the president’s re-election and that they think it will kick off another chapter for clean energy in America. Mr. Obama’s previous attempt to tackle carbon emissions, the ill-fated and unpopular “cap-and-trade bill,” died in the Democrat-dominated Congress during Mr. Obama’s first two years in office, but many of the president’s supporters see his re-election as an opportunity to resurrect it.

“The public stands with us from clean energy to addressing climate change. This election and our polling indicate a mandate from the American people on the environment and public health. Now is the time to act,” said Heather Taylor-Miesele, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund.

“The environment won, and polluting industries lost. There is no clearer way to state it,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund. “The biggest winners last night are the generations yet to come as Americans overwhelmingly chose to leave them a cleaner, better world in which to live.”

Supporters and opponents of the $7 billion Keystone project wasted little time in putting pressure on the president after Tuesday’s vote. Within hours of the Democrat’s win, each side again made its case to Mr. Obama, who late last year put off a decision about the pipeline.

“Americans have made their decision. Right off the bat, the president can approve the Keystone pipeline and put thousands of Americans to work immediately,” said Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute.

The institute and other groups have criticized the Obama administration for its handling of the project, which would bring Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries through a massive pipeline stretching through the U.S. heartland down to the Texas coast.

Throughout the presidential campaign, Mr. Romney cited the issue as an example of the president’s unwillingness to take advantage of North American energy resources as a way to free the nation from the grip of Middle Eastern oil.

But Mr. Obama, sensitive to the environmental movement that helps form the base of the Democratic Party, deferred a decision when it appeared that the State Department was about to approve the project. Criticism from environmentalists will grow louder now that they think Mr. Obama can stop the pipeline without sustaining political damage.

In fact, they say he now has a mandate to take more drastic steps to reduce the use of fossil fuels, promote “green” energy alternatives and cut carbon emissions through taxes and regulations.

Within minutes of Mr. Obama’s victory, a coalition of environmental groups announced a major demonstration at the White House on Nov. 18 to urge the president to reject the pipeline as part of a larger strategy to address climate change.

“Now that the election is over, a decision by the president is imminent. Keystone XL is still a crazy idea, a giant straw into the second-biggest pool of carbon,” reads the coalition’s announcement, signed by the Sierra Club and nearly a dozen other groups. “Barack Obama is now even more the man who holds the fate of the tar sands expansion in his hands. We simply need to let the president know we haven’t forgotten, and that our conviction hasn’t cooled.”

Their cautious faith in Mr. Obama in regard to the pipeline is indicative of a larger issue: Environmentalists and others hope that the president will begin making tough decisions in his second term on delicate issues such as climate change.

He addressed the issue, which had been largely absent from the presidential campaign, during his victory speech in Chicago on Tuesday night.

“We want our children to live in an America that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet,” Mr. Obama said.

He also declared that freeing the nation from its reliance on foreign oil would be a top priority of his second term.

Political leaders on the world stage and in the U.S. appear eager to see Mr. Obama take action to address climate change.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon congratulated Mr. Obama on his victory and said he looks forward “to promoting sustainable development and tackling the challenges posed by climate change.” New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg sounded a similar note in the days before the vote, endorsing Mr. Obama as a president “to lead on climate change” (Washington Times, 2012).

Title: Interior Proposal Would Limit Commercial Oil Shale Development On Federal Lands
November 9, 2012
The Hill

The Interior Department on Friday issued a final plan to close 1.6 million acres of federal land in the West originally slated for oil shale development.

The proposed plan would fence off a majority of the initial blueprint laid out in the final days of the George W. Bush administration. It faces a 30-day protest period and a 60-day process to ensure it is consistent with local and state policies. After that, the department would render a decision for implementation.

The move is sure to rankle Republicans, who say President Obama’s grip on fossil fuel drilling in federal lands is too tight.

Interior’s Bureau of Land Management cited environmental concerns for the proposed changes. Among other things, it excised lands with “wilderness characteristics” and areas that conflicted with sage grouse habitats.

Under the plan, 677,000 acres in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming would be open for oil shale exploration. Another 130,000 acres in Utah would be set aside for tar sands production.

The administration and Democrats said that while the plan would curtail what was originally sought for oil shale development, it still opens up a significant amount of land that was previously unavailable for the energy production method. 

The administration noted the plan pushed forward Friday also included two research, development and demonstration (RD&D) leases for oil shale development.

"The proposed plan supports the Administration’s all-of-the-above approach to explore the full potential our nation’s domestic energy resources and to develop innovative technology and techniques that will lead to safe and responsible production of resources, including oil shale and tar sands, which industry recognizes are years from being commercially viable, but require RD&D today," Interior spokesman Blake Androff said.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) praised the plan, saying the administration exercised the right amount of caution on oil shale development, which has not yet been brought to commercial scale and brings concerns about the amount of water used in the practice.

"I am glad the Interior Department is taking measured steps to encourage research and development of our oil shale resources. With water being one of our most precious commodities in the West, I have concerns about the potential impacts of commercial oil shale development. Nonetheless, I look forward to seeing this technology explored further," Udall said in a Friday statement.

Oil shale development is not to be confused with drilling into shale formations for oil and natural gas. The practice, which involves separating hydrocarbons bound up in rocks, has not been widely executed since Exxon's failed Colorado venture in the 1980s.

Bobby McEnaney, senior lands analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council, praised Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for the proposed final plan.

“By significantly reducing the acreage of wilderness potentially available for leasing, Secretary Salazar is laying out a creative, thoughtful and more responsible approach in managing some of our most precious resources,” McEnaney said in a Friday statement.

Congressional Republicans are not likely to be as pleased.

GOP lawmakers, along with some Democrats, have pushed for more fossil fuel production in the West. Republicans have led the charge, saying Obama’s policies on fossil fuel drilling on federal lands are too restrictive.

While Obama notes domestic oil-and-gas production has increased during his administration, Republicans contend that it is activity on private and state land that is driving the boost. They point to this year’s dip in oil-and-gas production on federal land — though levels are still higher than they were during the Bush administration.

The Congressional Western Caucus released a report in August to deliver that message.

“This proposal will place further limitations on the exploration and development of our country’s natural resources and is yet another example of how this administration continues to stand in the way of North American energy independence," Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), the chairman of House Energy and Commerce's subcommittee on Energy and Power, said in a statement to The Hill.

Oil and gas lobby the American Petroleum Institute, an ally of congressional Republicans, slammed the decision.

Jack Gerard, the group's chief, said Thursday he would take a "wait-and-see" approach to Obama's second term to gauge whether he would live up to campaign rhetoric in which he praised the domestic oil-and-gas industry.

Reid Porter, the lobby's spokesman, said Friday's news was a disappointing sign from the administration.

“This is another step in the wrong direction that limits development and investment in one of the nation’s most energy-rich areas and goes against a prior government decision that would allow for research and development over a much wider geographical area. Just days after the election this decision by the administration sends negative signals to industry and capital markets at a time when we need to encourage growth and innovation in the U.S.," Porter said in a statement to The Hill (The Hill, 2012).

Title: US Can Become World's Biggest Oil Producer In A Decade, Says IEA
November 12, 2012

The US can shed its longstanding dependence on Saudi Arabian oil within the next decade, redrawing the world's political systems and potentially leading to runaway global warming.

In a report released on Monday, the world's foremost energy watchdog, the International Energy Agency (IEA), said the US would benefit from so-called unconventional sources of oil and gas, including shale gas and shale oil, derived from fracking – blasting dense rocks apart to release the fossil fuels trapped within.

These sources could fuel the US's energy independence, and make the country the world's biggest oil producer by 2017. But, if pursued with vigour, they would also lead to huge increases in greenhouse gas emissions that would put hopes of curbing dangerous climate change beyond reach.

If this happens, more than 90% of oil and gas from the Middle East could be sold to Asia, and chiefly to rapidly developing countries such as China, within the same timeframe, the IEA predicted.

Fatih Birol, chief economist at the IEA and one of the world's foremost authorities on energy and emissions, said the outlook for action on climate change was bleak unless the US changed direction rapidly. "Climate change has been slipping down the agenda," he said. "It is not having a significant impact on energy investors."

Companies were excited by the prospect of shale gas, which has been subject to widespread development in the US in the past decade, and shale oil, which relies on newer technology but is set for its own boom, according to the IEA's analysis.

Birol said the outlook for cutting emissions was doubtful. "I don't see much reason to be hopeful that we will see reductions in carbon dioxide," he told the Guardian. "We have seen more carbon dioxide emitted this year."

He pointed out that subsidies to fossil fuels had increased while government assistance for renewable energy around the world had been cut or thrown into doubt. But he said that if countries outside the US wanted to make their industries more competitive, they should invest in energy efficiency and renewables. He also called for progress at the United Nations climate change talks in Doha at the end of this month.

Europe could remain shackled to fossil fuel imports if it fails to develop its natural resources in the form of renewable energy, the IEA found in its World Energy Outlook, the definitive annual examination of the world's energy sources.

Gas prices in the US are at present about a fifth of those in the EU, but that is unlikely to change in the short term because of the difficulty for the US in exporting gas. Instead, most of the US gas glut will be used domestically, which could drive down costs for industry and allow US manufacturers to undercut international competitors. Birol said the EU should exploit its potential for energy efficiency and renewable energy sources, in order to stay competitive.

The IEA said the result of new technology allowing the exploitation of new sources of fossil fuels would be a redrawing of the international energy map. In the past five decades the US has relied increasingly on the Middle East for its oil. But if it were self-sufficient in energy, as it could be by 2035, that would mark a huge shift in world politics. The relationships between the US and the Middle East have for decades been defined by America's thirst for oil for its automobile-driven economy.

George W Bush tried to redraw this relationship after September 11 2001 by encouraging the use of biofuels in the US, made from turning maize into car fuel. But this endeavour has run into serious problems, as this year's drought pushed up grain prices and focused attention on the question of how far food crops could be turned into fuel without raising prices and compromising food production.

Birol said the exploitation of "unconventional" fossil fuels represented the biggest redrawing of the energy map for decades. "This makes a huge difference," he said. But he said there was still hope of avoiding disastrous levels of climate change if companies pursued energy efficiency, which could yield immediate benefits in cutting energy bills.

Ed Matthew, director of the thinktank Transform UK, warned: "Energy independence will not increase national security in the US if it leads to runaway climate change. Ultimately the majority of fossil fuel reserves will need to be left in the ground. The US is a hotbed of technological innovation. It must use this creative muscle to develop a low-cost, clean energy revolution. It will only achieve this if the massive vested interests of the American oil industry are brought under democratic control."

Rolf Wuestenhagen, director of the institute for economy and the environment at the University of St Gallen in Switzerland, questioned whether the boom in shale gas in the US could continue in line with the predictions: "It seems surprising that IEA still expects half of the increase in global gas production by 2035 to come from unconventional gas. Is this wishful thinking?"

Niall Stuart, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, said that the report showed that renewable energy was still being disadvantaged by subsidies poured into fossil fuels, in the UK, Europe and around the world. He said: "This puts into context the level of financial support given to fossil fuel-based electricity generators such as coal and gas compared to renewable energy. We hope these figures will silence the vocal minority of naysayers who repeatedly claim renewable technologies such as wind power are too expensive."

The IEA also said that renewable energy had become an "indispensable part of the global energy mix" and could become the world's second biggest source of power generation by 2015 (Guardian, 2012).