Posted August 7, 2014
Increased domestic energy production means Americans are buying less foreign oil and gas, and selling more of it overseas. That has tamped down the trade deficit in recent years, helping along an economy that continues to recover from the Great Recession.
Some say the deficit could be slashed further if the US were to ease energy export restrictions put in place to protect US consumers from global energy shocks. But such a move would have impacts that go beyond the country’s balance of trade. Critics of oil and gas exports say they will raise energy prices at home, and increase the environmental impacts of extracting and burning fossil fuels.
Either way, a renaissance in oil and gas production is already changing the way officials, analysts, and economists look at the future of the US economy.
Posted July 31, 2014
Houston Chronicle (Editorial): Fracking is more effective than bullets when it comes to containing Russian President Vladimir Putin's Soviet-era ambitions.
Empowered by oil funds and a gas pipeline yoke on Europe, Putin has resuscitated a Cold War ethos of nationalism and expansionism. Yet after the invasion of Crimea and Russian militias seizing sections of eastern Ukraine, it seemed as if Europe's red line was located somewhere a few miles east of the Brandenburg Gate. It took the attack on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 to finally shock Europe back to reality, where Russia stands as a legitimate threat to a peaceful continent.
These aggressive moves have gained Russia few friends, but as Tsar Alexander III once said, Russia's only allies are its army and its navy. For the 21st century, pipelines should be added to that list. And that is where the United States must focus containment efforts.
Our allies are far too reliant on Russian pipelines to truly oppose Putin's aggression - there's a reason why the new technology sanctions against Russia don't apply to natural gas.
Posted July 30, 2014
The quest to encourage better behavior from Russia continues. President Obama and the European Union this week announced new sanctions to protest Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, measures that focus on Russia’s energy, arms and finance sectors. The president:
“Today … the United States is imposing new sanctions in key sectors of the Russian economy: energy, arms, and finance. We’re blocking the exports of specific goods and technologies to the Russian energy sector. We’re expanding our sanctions to more Russian banks and defense companies. And we’re formally suspending credit that encourages exports to Russia and financing for economic development projects in Russia. At the same time, the European Union is joining us in imposing major sanctions on Russia – its most significant and wide-ranging sanctions to date.”
Meanwhile, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Europe needs to stand up to Russia, which will be easier to do if Europe diversifies its energy supplies:
“They need to understand they must stand up to [Russian President] Vladimir Putin. The reluctance has to do with European dependence on energy from Russia.”
Laudable sentiments and goals, but America can do more than impose targeted and inherently limited sanctions. The U.S. can do more than talk. America can do more to provide effective help for her friends and to diminish the influence of adversaries. Through energy, American energy.
Posted July 24, 2014
The New York Times (Steven Rattner): As a young reporter covering energy for The New York Times, I saw firsthand the distortions and inefficiencies caused by the web of regulations that followed the Arab oil embargo of 1973-74, and the resulting surge in gasoline prices.
So I shared in the frisson of excitement last month when the Commerce Department cleared two Texas companies to export an ultralight, processed form of oil called condensate. It seemed like a step toward relaxing the ban on the export of crude oil, the biggest stricture remaining from the ’70s energy crisis.
But then the Obama administration quickly insisted that the Commerce Department, in narrowing the definition of crude oil so that condensate could be exported, was not about to lift the ban more widely. “There has been no change to our policy on crude oil exports,” a White House spokesman said.
That’s unfortunate, because America’s renewed hydrocarbon boom could be even more robust if we eased outdated restrictions on shipping both crude oil and liquefied natural gas overseas.
Posted July 22, 2014
AEI Carpe Diem Blog:
The chart above helps to illustrate the significance of America’s shale oil and gas boom by showing the combined domestic output of US oil and gas (in quadrillion BTUs, EIA data here). After production of conventional oil and gas peaked around 1970 at almost 45 quadrillion BTUs, there was a gradual, steady decline that continued until about 2005, when combined production had dropped to a 43-year low of 31.85 quadrillion BTUs, the lowest level since 1962. If that trend had continued, the US would now be producing only about 30 quadrillion BTUs of oil and gas (or less), which would have put us back to the production level of the late 1950s.
Posted July 17, 2014
AEI Carpe Diem Blog: Below are four charts and two maps that help tell the story of America’s Amazing Shale Oil Revolution:
Posted July 15, 2014
Reuters: By now everyone knows the shale revolution was made possible by the combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.
But although fracking has captured the popular imagination, and is often used as a synonym for the whole phenomenon, horizontal drilling was actually the more recent and important breakthrough.
Mastery of horizontal drilling around 1990, originally for oil rather than gas exploration, was the decisive innovation that lit the long fuse for the shale revolution that erupted 15 years later.
"Horizontal drilling is the real marvel of engineering and scientific innovation," David Blackmon wrote in Forbes magazine last year ("Horizontal drilling: a technological marvel ignored", January 2013).
"While impressive in its own right, the main innovations in fracking have been beefing up the generating horsepower to accommodate horizontal wells rather than vertical ones, and refining of the fluids used to conserve water and create better, longer lasting fractures in the target formation."
Posted June 30, 2014
Washington Post Editorial: Quietly but wisely, the Commerce Department has decided to allow the first exports of U.S. crude oil since Congress imposed a ban on such sales (except to Canada) in the 1970s. To be sure, the agency’s ruling amounts to redefining crude in a way that applies only to a form of ultralight oil that U.S. refineries are ill-equipped to process. The executive branch couldn’t do much more than that to expand crude exports without congressional permission. Still, Commerce’s move is a step in the right direction because resuming oil sales abroad could help the U.S. economy reap the full fruits of the shale revolution that has propelled this country back into the top ranks of global oil and gas production.
The origins of the ban lie in the long-gone political and economic issues of the Nixon era. Specifically, the United States banned oil exports in response to the declining domestic production and Middle East supply shocks of that time, which, together with the then-existing system of U.S. price controls, made it seem rational to keep U.S.-produced oil at home rather than let it flow to the highest bidder on the world market. The world has changed dramatically since then; with U.S. production booming, this country is in a position to move the world market. Yet some still defend the export ban on the grounds that it holds down the price of crude to U.S. refineries and, by extension, the price of gasoline at U.S. pumps.
A new report by IHS Global explains why that thinking is outmoded.
Posted June 11, 2014
Having read the U.S. National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) report, “Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Perspective on Exporting Liquefied Natural Gas from the United States,” published on May 29, 2014, we are puzzled by the skewed conclusions reached by the Washington Post:
“That U.S. exports of LNG to China could end up being worse from a greenhouse gas perspective than if China simply built a new power plant and burned its own coal supplies.”; and that “the benefits of cleaner, more efficient combustion of natural gas are largely offset by methane leakage in U.S. production and pipelines and by methane leaks and energy used in the process of liquefying and transporting the LNG.”
A correct reading of the report reaches a completely different conclusion. After accounting for all the methane leakage factors mentioned by the Post, the NETL study clearly demonstrates that life cycle GHG emissions from LNG exports from the U.S. are significantly less than emissions from coal generated electricity in China and in Europe.
Posted June 3, 2014
Reuters: Rising U.S. imports of crude oil from Canada's oil sands have not increased greenhouse gas emissions from the country's oil refineries because they have been offset by refining of cleaner domestic crudes, a report from a private sector think tank said on Monday.
The report, from industry consultants IHS CERA, comes as the Obama administration moves to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. power sector by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, under new rules aimed at reducing America's longstanding reliance on burning coal to generate electricity.
The oil sands sector has faced frequent criticism from environmentalists concerned about greenhouse gas emissions. U.S. imports of carbon-rich Canadian oil-sands crudes grew by 900,000 barrels per day to more than 2 million bpd between 2005 and 2012, according to the IHS CERA report.
It said they did not result in higher greenhouse-gas intensity from the energy sector, however, as other crudes imported from abroad were supplanted by so-called tight oil from domestic shale-oil deposits.