With storage tanks full, refineries turn away crude
Published: Monday, April 30, 2012
When the 940-foot Alaska Explorer tanker maneuvered into the oil terminal in Valdez, Alaska, on April 11, it already had 12 million gallons of crude oil sloshing in its tanks.
The ship returned with nearly a quarter of the cargo it had carried away from Valdez two weeks earlier because a Washington state refinery’s storage tanks were too full to accept it, said Anil Mathur, CEO of the ship’s owner, Alaska Tanker Co.
“Not the normal course of business,” said John Kotula, who manages Alaska’s environmental office in Valdez.
The incident underscores a new reality: For the past two years, U.S. crude oil stocks have been at historic highs as Americans use decreasing amounts of gasoline. Gulf Coast refineries have a particularly large glut, in part because of a pipeline bottleneck.
U.S. fuel conservation, however, cannot overcome rising demand from emerging Asian economies, so oil prices on the global market remain high, said Richard Newell, former head of the federal Energy Information Administration, who now teaches at Duke University (Eric Nalder, Columbus Dispatch, April 29). — AS
Voters favor CO2 regs, believe global warming should be priority — survey
Published: Friday, April 27, 2012
A new survey released yesterday has found that 3 out of 4 voters favor regulating carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas pollutant. Also, 72 percent of those surveyed believe global warming should be a priority for the Obama administration and Congress.
The survey, conducted by Yale University and George Mason University, also found that 61 percent would vote for a candidate who raised taxes on fossil fuels while cutting income tax. The maneuver would not add to federal revenues but would change their source, a move advocated by former Vice President Al Gore and former Republican Rep. Bob Inglis (S.C.). Twenty percent said they would be less likely to vote for someone who favored such a swap.
The nationally representative survey had 1,008 adult participants, with a margin error of plus or minus 3 percent. It came the day after Rolling Stone published an interview with President Obama in which he suggested that climate change would be an issue in this election cycle.
“I suspect that over the next six months, this [climate change] is going to be a debate that will become part of the campaign, and I will be very clear in voicing my belief that we’re going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way,” the president said in the interview (Deborah Zabarenko, Reuters, April 26). — JE
There it is ticking away.
Results as of today 33 million miles on all electric, 55 million miles all together, gas and electric. That is a pretty high EV ratio. Our Volt owners are staying on the plug.
Way to go. Oh, and they saved 1.8 million gallons of fuel.
I am a Marine (’68-’71) and EVJerry Asher, our co-pilot on the FunRun, is an Army lifer, Sgt Major. National security is very important to us military types. Here is an article from Bob Lutz, car guy, former GM, and others, who also care.
By Bob Lutz; Frederick W. Smith, the chairman, president, and CEO of FedEx; and former U.S. Marines commandants General P.X. Kelley and General James Conway
Having had the honor of serving as United States Marines, we take seriously the threats that our young service men and women face while defending our country and our liberty. When these threats exist because the United States is the protector of the worldâ€™s global oil supply lines, it is a clear illustration of how our nationâ€™s over-reliance on a single, globally-priced fuel impacts our national and economic security.
To liberate the United States from the immense costs of this role and the destructive effects of oil price volatility, the nation requires an oil security policy that, over the long term, decouples our transportation sector from the global oil market. The costs â€” in both blood and treasure to the United States â€” are too high not to act.
Economically, Americans are suffering as a result of high and volatile oil prices. Income tax cuts under President Bush â€” totaling $1,900 for the average American family between 2001 and 2008 â€” were more than offset by a $2,000 increase in spending on gasoline during the period. The same occurred in 2011, as the $108 billion payroll tax cut under President Obama was essentially wiped out because spending on gasoline increased by more than $104 billion. Americans received tax cuts to stimulate the economy, but the money was put into one pocket and then taken from another to pay for higher gas prices. Any wonder why our economic recovery has been so sluggish?
From a national security perspective, the U.S. military is forced to protect the worldâ€™s vital oil infrastructure. The single greatest chokepoint is the Strait of Hormuz, through which 17 million barrels of oil per day passed in 2011 â€” 20 percent of global supplies. Protection of the sea lanes of commerce has become an American burden and will remain so, costing the United States Treasury an estimated $80 billion per year while taxing our military, which is already engaged on multiple fronts.
To be clear, we would prefer it if the private market were able to solve this intolerable situation. However, some government action is needed to mitigate the risks of oil dependence, because there is no free market for oil. More than 90 percent of global oil reserves are held by national oil companies that are either partially or fully controlled by governments. The bulk of these reserves are controlled by countries that comprise what is nothing more than a manipulative cartel â€” OPEC. And the vast majority of OPEC countries, along with their oil infrastructure, are located in unstable regions of the world.
The United States should aggressively expand domestic oil production to strengthen the economy and improve our balance of trade. We transferred $326 billion to other countries to import oil in 2011. But even as our country produces more oil domestically and imports less from foreign sources, gasoline prices are rising to near-historic levels. Circumstances outside of the control of the United States, such as geopolitical tensions in the Middle East and rising demand from China and India, put upward pressure on oil prices throughout the world.
The benefits of domestic production are substantial, yet additional initiatives will be needed to protect the nation from increasingly common oil price spikes. Rising domestic production will not shield Americans from oil price volatility. The only way to fundamentally solve this problem is to break oilâ€™s stranglehold on the transportation sector, which accounts for 70 percent of the total oil consumed by the United States and relies on oil for 94 percent of its fuel.
Of all the forms of alternative energy under development for the transportation sector in the U.S., using natural gas for heavy-duty trucks and the electrification of light-duty vehicles hold the most promise.
Regarding electrification, the beauty of plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf is that they are powered by electricity, which can be generated from many sources: nuclear, coal, natural gas, and renewables. Best yet, these are all domestic energy sources, meaning OPEC wonâ€™t be able to corner the market. And the retail price of electricity is far less volatile that the price of oil.
Unfortunately, the recent battles over environmental policy have defined electric vehicles as a climate change project driven by hostility to conventional energy production. In fact, displacing oil through alternatives offers the most significant and pressing means to protect Americaâ€™s private-sector growth engine and global leadership. The environmental advantages of transitioning the transportation sector away from oil should not prevent skeptics of the environmental movement from embracing such a goal. The enormous costs of oil dependence, combined with the absence of a viable free-market remedy, support a policy that leverages diverse, affordable, stable, and domestic energy. Electrification of transportation at scale would accomplish exactly this objective.
Events outside the control of the United States are making oil prices increasingly volatile, damaging household budgets and eroding consumer and business confidence. Itâ€™s time to act to protect our national interests and get serious about a real oil security strategy.
Smith, Kelley and Conway are members of Securing Americaâ€™s Future Energyâ€™s (SAFE) Energy Security Leadership Council.
U.S. experiences driest weather since 2007
Published: Monday, April 16, 2012
More than 60 percent of the continental United States is experiencing abnormally dry conditions or drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. This is the driest the country has been since September 2007.
In New England, which typically doesn’t experience drought, many streams are at record low levels, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Wildfires and brush fires have been widespread throughout the East Coast, and in Florida, a water shortage warning has been issued from Orlando to Key West.
“Georgia is one area we’ll really have to watch,” said meteorologist David Miskus of the Climate Prediction Center in Camp Springs, Md. More than 63 percent of the state is experiencing the two most severe categories of drought — the highest percentage in the country (Doyle Rice, USA Today, April 13).
The American solar industry more than doubled in megawatts last year, from 887 megawatts installed in 2010 to 1,855 megawatts installed in 2011. This growth represents enough solar energy to power over 350,000 homes! 2011 also marks the first time the U.S. solar market has topped one gigawatt (1,000 MW) in a single year.
The American Wind Energy Association released its 2011 annual report today, showing a 17 percent growth in new installations. More than 6,800 megawatts of wind were installed last year, bringing total wind capacity to nearly 47,000 MW or about 3 percent of total U.S. electricity generation, according to the report.
The industry projects similar growth this year, but 2013 remains a huge question mark as developers and turbine manufacturers face the possible expiration of the production tax credit (PTC) that lowers the cost of wind development by providing a 2.2-cent tax credit for every kilowatt-hour generated.
With apologies to our tornado victim friends in Dallas.
A new picture is emerging in the U.S. power sector. In 2007, electricity generation from coal peaked, dropping by close to 4 percent annually between 2007 and 2011. Over the same time period, nuclear generation fell slightly, while natural gas-fired electricity grew by some 3 percent annually and hydropower by 7 percent. Meanwhile, wind-generated electricity grew by a whopping 36 percent each year. Multiple factors underlie this nascent shift in U.S. electricity production, including the global recession, increasing energy efficiency, and more economically recoverable domestic natural gas. But ultimately it is the increasing attractiveness of wind as an energy source that will drive it into prominence.