Hope for our energy future, but first we need Change

September 10, 2011

Via Walter Russell Mead, news of a big oil strike off the coast of French Guiana:

A consortium of energy companies Friday reported a large oil discovery off the coast of French Guiana, opening up a potentially massive frontier of petroleum development along the northern coast of South America.

The discovery, made by Tullow Oil PLC, Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Total SA, could buoy hopes about the extent of the world’s untapped crude-oil reserves. Most of the barrels still underground are believed to be in the hands of a few countries that restrict access or are trapped in hard-to-exploit regions like the Arctic.

It’s estimated that 3.5 billion barrel of oil lie untapped at the site, though how much can be recovered remains to be seen. Nonetheless, this is a big find, comparable to estimates to the Bakken formation in the US. And its location makes it a double-boon for America, as Mead explains:

America’s geopolitical good luck seems to be continuing in the 21st century.  With very large deposits in Canada, the Gulf, Mexico, Venezuela and offshore Brazil, the US looks to have the most stable and secure oil supplies of any major world power.  Throw in new reserves here and the vast natural gas resources we keep finding, and the US energy picture seems to be getting brighter all the time.

And let’s not forget that estimates of oil and gas reserves within the US are growing, perhaps as high as 145 billion barrels of oil (Source in PDF):

U.S. proved reserves of oil total 19.1 billion barrels, reserves of natural gas total 244.7 trillion cubic feet, and natural gas liquids reserves of 9.3 billion barrels. Undiscovered technically recoverable oil in the United States is 145.5 billion barrels, and undiscovered technically recoverable natural gas is 1,162.7 trillion cubic feet. The demonstrated reserve base for coal is 488 billion short tons, of which 261 billion short tons are considered technically recoverable. …

Proved reserves are those amounts of oil, natural gas, or coal that have been discovered and defined, typically by drilling wells or other exploratory measures, and which can be economically recovered. In the United States, proved reserves are typically measured by private companies, who report their findings to the Securities and Exchange Commission because they are considered capital assets. In addition to the volumes of proved reserves are deposits of oil and gas that have not yet been discovered, which are called undiscovered resources. The term has a specific meaning: undiscovered resources are amounts of oil and gas estimated to exist in unexplored areas. If they are considered to be recoverable using existing production technologies, they are referred to as undiscovered technically recoverable resources (UTRR). In-place resources are intended to represent all of the oil, natural gas, or coal contained in a formation or basin without regard to technical or economic recoverability.

If those UTRR estimates become “proved reserves,” then we vault into the top-ten oil producers in the world — and bear in mind that those estimates could be too low, as well as too high.

Which brings us to fly in the ointment, that which makes Mead’s brightening picture something to look for several years down the road, not right now: we have to get rid of the Obama administration and all the anti-exploration and anti-drilling ideologues it’s put in positions of power. We could have all the oil in the world, and it would do us no good because of the Obama’s administration’s hostility toward responsible exploration and exploitation, both on- and offshore.

Let’s face it, the situation won’t improve until a new administration is in power that is not a slave to the Green Statist, eco-Socialist agenda and that will put an end to the administration’s insane permitorium. One that stops trying to strongarm the nation into “green technology” that isn’t yet economically viable and is a breeding ground for corruption.

Which, of course, means we need a new president. Someone with a commitment to free markets, limited government, and responsible energy development.

Gee, I wonder who comes to mind?

RELATED: Taking the brakes off exploration and development would do wonders for our jobs situation, too.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

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Israel as a major oil exporter?

June 15, 2011

This could be a potential game-changer both in the Mideast and globally:

Look Out, Saudis? Israel Is Sitting On Huge Oil Shale Deposits

The World Energy Council has determined that about 30 miles southwest of Jerusalem, in the Shfela Basin, there are oil shale deposits with the potential to yield 250 billion barrels of oil. This represents the world’s third-largest quantity of oil shale behind the US and China. Oilprice.com notes that both those countries would consume almost all their own production, so Israel could conceivably become the world’s largest exporter of shale oil.

(…)

Saudi Arabia’s proven oil reserves are 260 billion barrels, so we would appear to be in the running as an energy giant — particularly in view of the enormous natural gas finds at the Tamar and Leviathan fields. But there’s quite a distance yet to travel. For one thing, extracting oil from shale isn’t the same as drilling it out of the ground. It’s more difficult and more expensive.

This comes on the heels of major natural gas finds off Israel’s northern coast.

It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of these two finds for Israel, which could easily meet its own energy needs, and for the America and the West, which would love to have a major friendly supplier of oil and gas that’s both outside of OPEC (1) and not Russia. Granted, development is years off and shale oil is more expensive to extract than drilled oil, but author Judith Levy points out that an Israeli start-up company has developed a way to extract the oil for only $35-$40 per barrel, an eminently economical cost.

(In fact, it would be really keen if we could share in that technology, given the huge shale-oil reserves we possess. Good thing we have an administration that’s worked day and night to stay friends with Israel.   )

Levy provides a map that also shows major shale oil deposits under Jordan, whose generally pro-Western government has been dependent on aid from both America and Saudi Arabia. This would be a potential boon for them, too, giving them their own source of revenue and jobs, and making them less dependent on Saudi Arabian money and gas from an Egypt that’s trending toward Islamism.

Like the massive finds of shale oil in the US, these discoveries carry the possibility of a major realignment of economic power in the world. But, unlike the US until at least 2013, we can be sure the Israelis will exploit them.

via Baseball Crank

Footnotes:

(1) Come on. Does anyone really think the Arab-dominated OPEC will let al Yahud join? Or that Israel would want to?

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The future of US nuclear power after Japan

March 18, 2011

Reason Magazine has a good article online looking at the the implications for the just-reviving nuclear power industry in the wake of the Sendai earthquake and tidal wave. After reviewing the damage at the Fukushima plants (they actually withstood the temblor surprisingly well, but the tidal wave that killed power to the cooling systems was the back-breaker) and the situations of nuclear plants in the seismically active American West (including California’s San Onofre), Ron Bailey examines newer technology that would make for safer reactors, even in the event of a huge natural disaster:

One hopeful possibility is that the Japanese crisis will spark the development and deployment of new and even safer nuclear power plants. Already, the Westinghouse division of Toshiba has developed and sold its passively safe AP1000 pressurized water reactor. The reactor is designed with safety systems that would cool down the reactor after an accident without the need for human intervention and operate using natural forces like gravity instead of relying on diesel generators and electric pumps. Until the recent events in Japan, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was expected to give final approval to the design by this fall despite opposition by some anti-nuclear groups.

One innovative approach to using nuclear energy to produce electricity safely is to develop thorium reactors. Thorium is a naturally occurring radioactive element, which, unlike certain isotopes of uranium, cannot sustain a nuclear chain reaction. However, thorium can be doped with enough uranium or plutonium to sustain such a reaction. Liquid fluoride thorium reactors (LFTR) have a lot to recommend them with regard to safety. Fueled by a molten mixture of thorium and uranium dissolved in fluoride salts of lithium and beryllium at atmospheric pressure, LFTRs cannot melt down (strictly speaking the fuel is already melted).

Because LFTRs operate at atmospheric pressure, they are less likely than conventional pressurized reactors to spew radioactive elements if an accident occurs. In addition, an increase in operating temperature slows down the nuclear chain reaction, inherently stabilizing the reactor. And LFTRs are designed with a salt plug at the bottom that melts if reactor temperatures somehow do rise too high, draining reactor fluid into a containment vessel where it essentially freezes.

While recent research shows that the United States has far greater reserves of coal, oil, and gas than previously thought, nuclear is still the cleanest economical alternative energy source around and has to be a crucial part of any coherent* national energy strategy. Rather than react in panic (as we did after Three mile Island) and again cripple the development of nuclear power, we must recognize that there is no risk-free magic solution and should instead draw the appropriate technological, engineering, and disaster-planning lessons from Japan’s trauma, apply them to our own situation, and keep on a rational path toward energy self-sufficiency.

Our future prosperity and national security depend on it.

*While I give Obama props for sticking by nuclear power, his energy policy is anything but coherent or rational.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Palin. Nightstick. Boom.

June 13, 2010

Perhaps giving in to exasperation, Sarah Palin unloaded on both President Obama and the (Social) Democrats on her Facebook page today in a post that links the need to expand domestic oil drilling to our national security:

Am I the only one who wonders what could possibly be the agenda of any politician who would thwart our drive toward energy independence? Continuing to lock up America’s domestic energy reserves, including the energy-rich Last Frontier of Alaska, only equips dangerous foreign regimes as they fund terrorist organizations to harm us and our allies. I’m going to keep speaking and writing about this in the simplest of terms until someone can provide a simple answer as to why liberal Democrats don’t understand that we have safe, warehoused onshore and shallow water reserves waiting for permission to be extracted. They either choose not to understand the geology, science, and technology behind an “all-of-the-above” approach to energy security, or they understand it, yet for whatever frightening reason choose to be lap dogs to Chavez and Ahmadinejad.

Ouch. That’s going to leave a mark.

The former governor goes on to cite a Newsmax article about a letter from Republican senators challenging the administration over Venezuela’s ties to terrorism and our reliance on oil supplied by Hugo Chavez, who hates the United States. (Paging Joe Kennedy…)

While I’m not comfortable about relying on Newsmax (they’re given to sensationalism and have had to retract stories in a few embarrassing cases), she’s right to draw the link between the intelligent exploitation of domestic resources and our national security. In the Persian Gulf, many of the wealthy in countries from which we buy our oil use the profits from our purchases to support al Qaeda and other jihadist groups at war with America and the West.

In the case of Venezuela, Chavez has made no secret of his growing alliance with Iran, while the Newsmax article Palin quotes talks of Iranian security forces sealing off a Venezuelan airport in advance of an apparently high-value delivery. While the subsequent discussion of the ease with which some sort of nuclear explosive could be smuggled north is sensationalistic, the overall point is well-taken:

  • Iran is headed by a millenarian fascist regime that sees as its duty to do what it can to create the chaos that will herald the return of the Mahdi and the final victory of Islam.
  • Iran has been at war with the United States since 1979, even if we haven’t realized it.
  • Iran’s cats-paw, the terrorist jihad organization Hizbullah, has a significant presence in the United States and could be used to launch attacks within America.
  • Venezuela is allied with Iran and itself is seeking nuclear technology (supposedly for peaceful purposes).
  • Our southern border is undeniably porous.

And our dependence on Venezuelan oil is thus an example of how our freedom to act against potential threats posed by the Iranian-Venezuelan axis is potentially limited by our failure to intelligently exploit our own resources, relying instead on others.

If Sarah Palin is exasperated, she has every right to be.

I am, too.


Sarah Palin on energy independence

October 16, 2009

The former Alaska governor writes in National Review: Drill

Given that we’re spending billions of stimulus dollars to rebuild our highways, it makes sense to think about what we’ll be driving on them. For years to come, most of what we drive will be powered, at least in part, by diesel fuel or gasoline. To fuel that driving, we need access to oil. The less use we make of our own reserves, the more we will have to import, which leads to a number of harmful consequences. That means we need to drill here and drill now.

We rely on petroleum for much more than just powering our vehicles: It is essential in everything from jet fuel to petrochemicals, plastics to fertilizers, pesticides to pharmaceuticals. Ac­cord­ing to the Energy Information Ad­min­is­tra­tion, our total domestic petroleum consumption last year was 19.5 million barrels per day (bpd). Motor gasoline and diesel fuel accounted for less than 13 million bpd of that. Meanwhile, we produced only 4.95 million bpd of domestic crude. In other words, even if we ran all our vehicles on something else (which won’t happen anytime soon), we would still have to depend on imported oil. And we’ll continue that dependence until we develop our own oil resources to their fullest extent.

Those who oppose domestic drilling are motivated primarily by environmental considerations, but many of the countries we’re forced to import from have few if any environmental-protection laws, and those that do exist often go unenforced. In effect, American environmentalists are preventing responsible development here at home while supporting irresponsible development overseas.

That last point is something a lot of people don’t understand: in order to make our selves feel morally pure by not drilling for our own oil and gas, we contribute to the severe environmental damage caused when other, less stringent countries drill for theirs to sell to us. It’s like saying you don’t drink, then sending the butler out to the liquor store.

Palin goes on to provide examples of how Alaska combined energy development with responsible stewardship of the environment, and at the end takes a playful shot at the Obama administration.

I hope to see much more of those in 2012.  Cowboy