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OWOE - Blog
Natural Gas is God’s Gift to Humanity
June 11, 2024

Guest blog by S. A. Shelley: OK, another inciteful blog but that's the OWOE writing team's style, gleefully stoking controversy.

The term "fossil fuels" is one of the greatest marketing triumphs that the environmentalists ever adopted. "Fossil" suggests old and outdated, coming from some pre-historic, ancient, way-back, long-ago-dead biologic entities. The uses for fossil fuels also reflect "old" technologies, cooking, training and steam shipping (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1 Using Fossil Fuels from Ancient (left) to Modern Times (right)

Coal is definitely a fossil fuel and you can’t dig in a coal bed without digging up fossils of plants and animals. Oil maybe, but the abiotic origins of oil are just as likely as the biologic synthesis theories. However natural gas (methane) is very unlikely a fossil fuel. In our solar system, we have big planets and moons with significant amounts of methane comprising their atmospheres. Methane is quite common in our solar system and probably the universe. It is quite possible that impact events in the Hadrean or Archean eras could have deposited methane onto the earth.   

Why then is methane labelled a fossil fuel?  For one, methane results from certain biochemical processes. Secondly, methane arises during the decay of organic matter and coal beds often have pockets of methane associated with them. Thus, if coal is fossil fuel, then so too must be the associated methane. Grade school reasoning at its best. Yet a lot of methane also arises naturally in the coldness of space. Finally, in terms of energy transition and climate change arguments it helps if methane is lumped together with those other dirty fuels. Remember however, that compared to coal, burning methane to generate power releases 40% less CO2 emissions than coal per MWh generated. Blend about 10% hydrogen into the natural gas mix, something that can be done using existing gas pipelines and infrastructure and you’ll achieve another 5% reduction in carbon emissions per MWh generated. Doable, right?

But that's the problem with a lot of politicians and ideologues on both sides of any argument. The goal now is to label something or someone as abhorrent and then run with it. Oppose my ideology, then you are a (pick one): Marxist, Fascist, idiot or patriarchal knuckle dragger. With the intense rhetoric tossed about it becomes nearly impossible then to reason for sensible steps that will move civilization towards a low carbon future. It is, by most politicians, more important to manufacture total consent and quash any dissent than it is to implement truly progressive solutions.

Natural gas is a part of the problem of carbon emissions, but it is also a very important step towards the solution of reducing carbon emissions. Kudos to the Philippines for choosing to build out gas infrastructure including LNG (  Energy Tracker  ;  AP News  ) instead of turning to the much more abundant coal from nearby Australia. Natural gas is the perfect two-sided coin to stoke outbursts from both sides of the energy and environment battle: But this is my position and I’ll stand by it even if I have to slap every Federal Liberal cabinet minister in Ottawa : Stop increasing coal exports (Canada’s coal exports up again in 2023 as government’s promised ban elusive | Globalnews.ca ) and start increasing natural gas exports to displace coal everywhere possible. Then shut down Line 5.

Vive l'Alberta Libre!

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There Are Some Good Government Entities
June 2, 2024

Guest blog by S. A. Shelley: The U.S. Federal Government is a huge organization that is staffed by some very bright people. There are also nearly 1,000 advisory committees in Washington, comprising leaders from industry, science and the arts. For the most part, the advisory committees concern themselves with publicly available information and have public meetings, but there are a few which require security clearance and concern themselves with confidential matters of state. These advisory committees are a valuable resource upon which the Federal Government can call to review policies and assist with formulating strategies.

Full disclosure, I was honoured to have been appointed to and serve on the 7th Charter of the Department of Commerce Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Committee (REEEAC). The charter for REEEAC 7 ended last week and its several important recommendations were warmly received by the U.S. government (you may contact OWOE for a full copy of the article). Follow this link to see the publicly available recommendations.

Two big concerns that are addressed by these recommendations are how to accelerate America's energy transition while also reducing America's reliance upon importing critical materials and components from places like China. It is no secret that, globally, China is the vampire squid with its economic tentacles in everything. Traditional products? They've got components from China. Renewable energy technology? China dominates in all critical areas (see OilPrice.com and Reuters). If one buys medicines from India, a pharmaceutical production powerhouse, base compounds come from China. The propellant charges used in European artillery shells that Europe supplies to Ukraine come from China (see also the aside).  How on earth did the West, lands of independent judiciaries, democracy, and a free press, hang themselves to be dependent upon authoritarian states?

This dependency situation might seem hopeless, but it's not. Awareness of the issue has been rising in the EU, in America, and in America's Asian friends, and definitive steps are now being undertaken across several domains to do something. Furthermore, I am very optimistic in general about the West’s ability to innovate and trade its way out of this energy bind. Given enough time, we'll lead the world in the next generation of clean energy technology. But the question now is, how much time do we have?

Vive l'Alberta libre

ASIDE:  On a recent trip overseas that coincided with a port call by a US carrier battle group, I had the opportunity to share a few beverages with a couple of the carrier's crew. The conversation was revealing, and I am now of the opinion that China does not need to continue with its massive shipbuilding programme to ensure a victory against the US navy in a future war: China just needs to wait 10 years until the bulk of the US battle fleet is in port waiting for critical maintenance.

ASIDE 2: Readers have complained to the OWOE editor that I bash Canada too often. Well, take at look at the following photo (Fig 1). This is a senior care home in Calgary that was built using municipal government funds and management. The care home has working gates, but no fence.

Fig. 1 - Senior Care Facility - gates but no fences

That's the state of Canada. (Note: readers who defend Canada may be suffering from zombie memories.)

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Interesting Energy Stories You May Have Missed
April 1, 2024

Guest blog by Manny Topiques Here are some interesting and somewhat offbeat energy stories that haven't gotten much media attention over the past year.

Is coal the new future for clean energy? In an amazing new discovery just announced by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), the Perseverance Rover discovered an outcropping of high quality space coal not far from the spacecraft's 2021 landing site. Using its rotary percussive coring drill, the rover was able to penetrate approximate 6 meters below the planet's surface to confirm that this outcropping was the surface exposure of a large deposit of anthracite space coal. Further exploration on future missions will be required to determine if this deposit is native to Mars or the remains of a meteor that impacted the surface in the distant past.

If native, it creates an incredible opportunity to solve the problem of global warming. Dr. Paullie Yanna of NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Energy Center explained: "I believe that the entire subsurface of Mars consists of coal or coal-type substances. The ancient oceans which covered almost the entire surface of the planet would have been ideal grounds for decomposition of Martian biologics as the planet lost its atmosphere. The oceans would have slowly transitioned into swamps and then finally the deserts that cover Mars today, leaving huge deposits of space coal." When asked what was being done with this new information, Dr. Yanna excitedly explained how she is working with a digital coal company in West Virginia and a high-tech startup in California. The coal company was developing a coal burning process that would work without requiring oxygen in the atmosphere. The greatest part was that with no atmosphere all the particulate pollution, noxious gasses, and carbon dioxide could be discharged directly with no pollution control equipment. The California start-up is working on implementation of NASA's power beaming concept to beam energy directly from outer space to earth. Unlimited energy with no concern over pollutants - the holy grail of politicians, environmentalists, and the coal industry.

Scientists Discover How to Make Energy from Air In Australia, scientists have discovered an enzyme (called Huc) from a bacterium that converts atmospheric hydrogen into energy. The discovery was somewhat unanticipated, but now researchers are examining other biological organisms and associated enzymes that could also provide additional energy utility. It may not be green, but slimy, wiggly and fungy is still good for the earth. Atmospheric energy sources could then be coupled with metal-air batteries to produce a truly robust and clean energy grid.

Earth's Axis is Tilting As was reported last year by OWOE Staff, wind turbines are accelerating the earth's rotational speed. Since then, it has been discovered that the human activity of pumping ground water form aquifers is shifting the earth's axis. OWOE staff aren't sure if this is a problem requiring a solution, but just in case, OWOE has been awarded a research grant to train hordes of blah blah bunnies to run in certain directions in order to both correct the axis shift and the earth's rotational speed. OWOE staff have the bunny speeds properly calibrated but still need to work on the directionality.

Reducing Global Warming by Cooling the Sun Numerous academics have proposed that it could be possible to cool the earth by spraying aerosols and fine particulate matter into the upper atmosphere in order to reflect more sunlight away from the earth (see sciencealert.com and scientificamerican.com). Alternatively, some scientists have proposed deploying a large, space based parasol to shade the earth. However, Dr. Shirley Yurnutz, lead researcher at the Society for Protecting the Earth through Cooling, Transformation, Reduction and Engineering (SPECTRE) and her team have proposed that a lower cost and more effective means to cooling the earth would be to re-engineer the sun. Dr. Yurnutz's team proposes to bombard the sun with iron atoms to reduce the heat output at the source. Her team has calculated that cooling the sun could be very effective for a long duration with only a few rocket launches. Other researchers at MIT, Caltech and similar, when contacted for comment, were too busy trying to book inter-stellar space on future X-Space launches.

Dippity Doo, Vintage Bar Novelty Could be another Clean Energy Source The evaporation effect that powers the classic drinking birds has now been coupled to a triboelectric nanogenerator to produce a 100 V potential operating for 50 hours continuously. This is small, but researchers believe that the technology is scalable and could be used to complement future solar and wind-based grids to provide power when the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing. Larger scale prototypes have already been installed in some municipalities (see Dunking Bird Statues in front of Calgary Central Public Library) and results have been promising.

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Ossification
March 19, 2024

Guest blog by S. A. Shelley: Change is inevitable unless you're well established. There is a reason why empires are lost to history, governments are overthrown, businesses collapse, and academia becomes irrelevant. The established organizations or systems could not change fast enough to respond to imminent threats, emerging technologies or changes in consumer habits.  When faced with such challenges established systems, especially governments, harden themselves. In extreme cases you end up with kingdoms such as North Korea. But in most cases, you end up with economically declining and socially irrelevant states like Canada. It is a problem of ossification of thought, of edicts being churned out ever more frequently with worse effects. It applies to everything from healthcare and education to defense and energy policy.

With regards to energy policy, a great example of ossification is the California government's unyielding desire to have massive floating offshore wind farms to power the state. California has numerous times proclaimed a goal of 5 GW installed by 2030. If you read the press releases of every government person in California from municipal to state level, it is all golden sunshine, and beach walks to clean energy. But this is fanciful group thinking influenced very much by a very small group of wind energy business interests.

As we have noted in a prior blog (see OWOE: California Does Not Need Big, Very Expensive Floating Offshore Wind Farms), California doesn't need big offshore wind farms to become a clean and green energy state: California politicians want it but California doesn't need it. Governments always want: They want your taxes so that they can make equitable distributions. They want you to only use approved language. On and on. And in California, the government wants you to pay dearly to develop an industry that California doesn't need and for which California is ill suited to develop. Yes there are a lot of good offshore wind resources in California, but no there is not enough industrial infrastructure available and probably not enough state funding subsidies to support California's big wind dreams (see CalMatters: 'A massive enterprise': California offshore wind farms are on fast track).

Amounts between $20 to $30 billion dollars are bantered about (see NREL: What Will It Take To Unlock U.S. Floating Offshore Wind Energy? and RechargeNews: US West Coast needs $30bn for ports and supply chain to unlock 55GW of floating wind: study) to build-out some California ports just to support the deployment of the wind platforms. This cost does not include one single floating wind unit and is just the cost to "prepare" for the first floating wind unit. Remembering how frequently government projects overrun costs, to be safe, I would estimate that such infrastructure build-out costs to be at least double, between $40 to $60 billion.

Is there a better way to spend $20 billion in California on green energy? Of course, but it’s not politically in vogue. The average cost of a 5kW solar residential installation in California is about $15,000. Let's add another $10,000 for the residential battery system to help address the issues surrounding grid capacity management caused by solar power (see OWOE: What is the duck curve?). Doing some arithmetic, that means that by purchasing about 800,000 residential solar installations for $20 billion the state of California could supply about 4 GW of rated capacity for the same amount that the state and federal governments are willing to spend to just get California’s infrastructure to prepare for offshore wind farms. As an added bonus, solar panel efficiency is improving, and battery storage is getting cheaper, while offshore wind turbines are only getting larger and more problematic to install and operate. So why would anyone want to go offshore when onshore solar power is a cheaper and bigger choice?

California is blessed with abundant solar power potential, and there are still many, many ways that this power potential has yet to be developed, at less cost and with less environmental disruption than going offshore with huge wind farms. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) projects that California is on track to install another 19 GW rated solar power in the next five years. Again, this can be achieved without the expensive infrastructure build-outs required to get just 5 GW rated floating offshore wind power by 2030.

Consequently, once a politician's or the political class mind is set, ossified, then a lot of consultant dollars will be spent to convince the populace of the infallibility of the politicians, the state board, the consultants or whatever (see postscript, below). There are better, more equitably distributed and green alternatives to offshore wind in California, it's just that the politicians can no longer see nor comprehend those solutions.

This happens across a lot of jurisdictions. California does not have the industry nor the infrastructure space to support offshore wind farms, but the politicians want it. Conversely, Texas has the industry and the infrastructure space for offshore wind farms, but the politicians don’t want it.

The populace needs cheap and reliable energy and green energy can be a big supply for that. But the way that politicians are going about forcing green energy on people is most often the wrong way and we’ll all suffer for it. Unfortunately, once ossification sets in, it becomes very difficult to change the mindset.

Vive l'Alberta Libre

Vive la libre pensee!

Postscript: A great example of ossification and politicians trying to influence voters is in Calgary, Canada. There, the last two municipal governments have decided on a new transit line, the Green Line. The politicians picked the most expensive option available and hired one of the most inept and corrupt major engineering firms to manage the project. Subsequently, many citizens of Calgary began questioning the Green Line decision. The mayor and city council have started fighting back ("How dare you …question our magnificence?") by instigating a massive public information campaign comprising of such statements as "90% of Calgarians agree that the Green Line is needed and will benefit the city!". Or, and this is one of my personal favourites, "The Green Line Board and Executive Committee is comprised of highly experienced and knowledgeable people." So too was Long Term Capital Management before it almost crashed the economy in 1998. These pronouncements by Calgary city staff are meant to nudge group harmony (see also the Fraser Institute: The dangers of nudging—the use of state coercion to affect behaviour). But what the Calgary city politicians omit is that 85% of Calgarians question why the city chose the most expensive option and hired the most corrupt firm. In Calgary, the city council can't even install picnic benches properly in a park.

Calgary picnic benches

Why then should people believe that the city council can wisely decide and effectively manage an uber expensive multi-year infrastructure project?

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T’Was the Night before Separation
December 6, 2023

T’was the night before separation when all through the Land
The Liberals were dancing, excessive tax revenues in hand.
While the stockings of residents, homeless or not
Were filled with inflation and expenses that came from dumb Liberal thought.


The homeless were nestled where they put their heads
While visions of affordable housing danced in their heads.
And Granny in Cape Breton, her home heated not,
Cursed feebly at Ottawa for the heat pump they brought.



While out across Rideau there arose such a clatter
As the PM and his cabinet partied over the matters.
Said Justin “Carbon taxes have filled our coffers,”
Replied his mistress, “Let’s spend it saving the otters.”

Freeland hushed all as she quietly said,
“Our coffers are overflowing, not from EVs,
Nor digital, nor Carbon, nor Fintech,
But thank the Saudis and Russkies for the price of
Western Canada Select.”


The group then doth protested
With Guilbeault proclaiming while hugging a tree,
“Damn the West and freeze the banks.
We must bring them to their knees!”

He continued, “Justin, please hop on a plane,
Go look and report why oil revenue is giving such support.
Make one trip then two, then maybe four
But go fly about, look into it more.”


Trudeau put down his bottled water,
And his plate loaded with beef.
“I will go fly often and make many a speech,
Proclaim carbon a problem, then plastics, then meat.”

“I’ll unify our natives then sneak off to surf,
But most importantly I will embarrass our allies and
Invite our enemies
To make Canada worse.”

From New York a Butts with privileged contract in hand,
Stood on his sandals as he pronounced,
“Canada doesn’t work for them, it works for us,
With lifelong contracts, appointments, pensions so much.”

“We will not get coal from Santa, for we have plenty in Vancouver Port
And we’ll steal power from Labrador and sell it full price to New York.
There is much work for us, we need not fear,
That the common folks will work one, two jobs or three.”

On Freeland, on Guilbeault, on Butts and Joli
On Justin and Chretien and the old Liberal guard
On guard against the west,
Who’s work ethic and values they fear.
Joyeux Noël à tous et vive l’Ouest libre!

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Big Oil Is the New Big Tobacco
October 25, 2023

OWOE has pointed out similarities between today's Big Oil and last millennium's Big Tobacco several times over the years. In September 2022 we published "Don’t Blame the Suppliers, Unless They Are Big Oil" where we shared articles documenting the efforts of the fossil fuel companies to engage in a public relations campaign to sow doubt in the science of climate change by following the playbook of the tobacco industry. And in August 2023 we published "Big Oil Stuns Again" where we addressed the greenwashing that the oil companies are currently engaged in and speculated that Big Oil's lack of civic responsibility might become legal liabilities in the future, similar to what happened with the tobacco industry. Recent events have made it even more clear that, yes, Big Oil is following in the footsteps of Big Tobacco and is likely to meet a similar fate.

Figure 1 – Worldwide Climate Litigation Against Oil Companies Early 2021 (source: The Rise of Climate Litigation)

There has been a significant and rapidly growing number of lawsuits around the world involving climate litigation against the oil companies (see Fig 1) with a growing focus on climate disclosures and greenwashing. However, this year in particular has seen a number of significant actions from states, countries, and the public, including a key ruling by the US Supreme Court:

  • In April the US Supreme Court denied a petition (see State of Rhode Island and Sierra Club) that would have moved a case filed in 2018 by the State of Rhode Island and four other related cases to federal court. The suits attempt to hold a number of fossil fuel companies liable for knowingly concealing the fact that use of their products leads to climate change and catastrophic consequences to people, economies, ecosystems, and infrastructure. Rhode Island is one of more than two dozen states, counties, and cities that have brought forth similar lawsuits. This was a very damaging result for the oil companies who expect to receive more favorable consideration from federal courts.
  • In August a judge in Montana ruled that that state is violating the rights of young people with its policies that prohibit consideration of climate change effects when it reviews coal mining, natural gas extraction and other fossil fuel projects. This was the first youth-led climate case to reach trial in the US and could influence similar cases nationwide.
  • In September the California Legislature passed a bill that would require major companies to publicly disclose their greenhouse gas emissions. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has been working on similar regulations at the national level but have gotten strong objections from industry. As the world’s fifth-largest economy, California often sets the trend for the nation with regard to environmental regulations and will likely accelerate the national effort. In early October California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the bill.
  • Also in September six young people from areas in Portugal ravaged by wildfires and heatwaves filed a lawsuit against 27 EU member states as well as Britain, Switzerland, Norway, Russia and Turkey alleging that their failure to act fast enough on climate change is a violation of their human rights. It is the largest climate case ever to be heard by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). A ruling is expected in the first half of 2024.
  • Also in September a lawsuit was filed on behalf of the people of California against ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and the American Petroleum Institute (API) claiming that, starting in the 1950s, they intentionally downplayed the risks posed by fossil fuels to the public, even though they understood that their products were likely to lead to significant global warming.

The current situation regarding Big Oil lawsuits appears to mirror the history of Big Tobacco lawsuits going back almost 70 years. The first wave of tobacco lawsuits in the 1950s attempted to link cigarette smoking to cancer, and the tobacco companies prevailed in all of them. In the 1980s a second wave accused the tobacco companies of knowing that cigarettes were addictive and caused cancer but did not warn the public. Most of those lawsuits, but not all, were won by Big Tobacco. Then in the 1990s plaintiffs began winning these lawsuits when cigarette company documents were leaked showing the companies were aware of the addictive nature of tobacco.

Another interesting parallel involves Big Oil's drive to increase the use of plastics and other petrochemicals, which currently account for as much as 12% of fossil fuel use. A 2020 documentary presented on NPR found evidence that Big Oil believed that plastic recycling could never be made economical yet spent tens of millions of dollars on advertising to sell the public on the idea that the majority of plastic could be, and would be, recycled. As a result, plastic production has been growing about 5% annually, yet under 10% of the plastic produced is recycled. Compare this to the University of Kansas study published also this past September that uncovered that the chemically addictive fatty, salty and sweet foods that make up 68% of the American food supply were developed and marketed by tobacco companies when they owned some of the largest food companies in the world including Nabisco and Kraft-General Foods.

Despite all the parallels, there is one big difference between Big Oil and Big Tobacco. At the height of use in 1965, approximately 50 million Americans over the age of 18 smoked tobacco products or approximately 1/3rd of the adult population. Thus, 2/3rds of the adults in the US did not smoke. As the health effects of smoking became known, public opinion within the non-smoking population and peer pressure on smokers helped drive the anti-smoking health campaign. In contrast, today, essentially 100% of the US population is addicted to fossil fuel. Even those of us who have embraced electric vehicles (EVs), your author included, are dependent on fossil fuel. Air travel, heating, cooking, plastics, consumer products, clothing…virtually every aspect of daily life is tied to fossil fuel products. So, yes, OWOE sees Big Oil as the new Big Tobacco, but the path toward breaking our addiction is much less clear.

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Big Oil Stuns Again
August 15, 2023

Bill Luyties, OWOE Technical Editor: There is no doubt that the world needs oil and will continue to need it for some time while the transition to renewable energy plays out. There is also little doubt that that burning of fossil fuels and associated carbon dioxide release into the atmosphere have contributed greatly to the current crisis that is global warming (see 97% of active climate scientists agree). Examples of the impact on the world's climate are all around us - from the record-breaking temperatures around the world, to the forest fires in Canada, California, Spain, Greece, and Hawaii, to the melting glaciers in the Arctic and Antarctic and rapidly rising sea levels. So, where does Big Oil fit into this ongoing transition? The last several years have seen Big Oil, which has been the source of much of the public misinformation about climate change, pushing the narrative that they will be part of the solution. How is that going?

Figure 1: Big Oil Greenwashing

In December 2022 the US House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Accountability issued a report (since deleted) documenting how Big Oil companies are "greenwashing" with claims that they embrace clean energy even though behind closed doors they dismiss the effort and plan to continue fossil fuel investments. And Figure 1 shows a comparison by DW (Deutsche Welle) from 2021 of Big Oil's public messaging containing green claims versus the percentage of capital expenditures within their total yearly budgets. Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell are relatively similar in their efforts to greenwash the public.

Let's look more closely at Shell Oil Company, a company that I spent 30 years working for at the start of my career. I can't deny that those were some of the best years of my career working on cutting-edge technology and projects to develop deepwater oil and gas reserves around the world. But the world has changed dramatically in the years since I left Shell as the impact of burning fossil fuels has become better understood, and the early fears of "climate alarmists" have become a sobering reality. For a while I believed that companies like Shell were making progress towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions and funding and developing green energy technology.

In 2021 Shell surprised activists and investors by committing to a number of steps in the short term to reduce its carbon footprint for the production of oil, and in the longer term to embrace green energy. Under the leadership of former CEO, Ben van Beurden, Shell announced its target "to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050, in step with society's progress in achieving the goal of the UN Paris Agreement on climate change". This included reducing emissions from operations and from the fuels and other energy products they sell to their customers as well as capturing and storing any remaining emissions or balancing them with offsets. It also included transforming the business by providing low-carbon energy such as charging for electric vehicles, hydrogen and electricity generated by solar and wind power. And then, Van Beurden was replaced at the beginning of 2023 by Wael Sawan, who had been the director of integrated gas, renewables and energy solutions. To much of the outside world, the choice signaled that Shell was not just moving forward but taking a leading role in the energy transition.

My was that wrong!

Within 6 months of taking office, Sawan announced a scaling back of its targets to reduce its carbon footprint, a shift back to focus on oil and gas production, a paring back of investments in renewables, and a reorganization to eliminate any global focus on renewables. This was driven by shareholder pressure to focus on oil and gas as the most profitable businesses. Shareholder income would be sharply increased, capital expenditure would be reduced, and money saved would be used to buy back stock shares.

Even before this abrupt change, Climate Action 100+, an investor-led initiative to ensure the world's largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters take necessary action on climate change, rated 171 companies that are key to driving the global net zero emissions transition. Based on publicly disclosed information as of May 2022, Shell was given a mixed review. However, one area in particular, Item 6.1, Capital Alignment - The company is working to decarbonize its capital expenditures - was scored as "No, does not meet any criteria". Essentially, the company talked a good game but was making no effort to align its capital spending to what it was telling the world.

Shell and the rest of the Big Oil fraternity have neither acknowledged their role in climate change nor taken any meaningful steps to play a part in the solution. Their almost single-minded focus is on continuing to produce oil and gas, which they believe will make the most money in the short term. It does not matter how that will impact the planet and its eight billion people and what that cost to society will be. And it shows absolutely no vision regarding how an energy company might survive and even thrive in a fossil-free world. One can't help but wonder about the parallels with the tobacco industry and whether Big Oil's lack of responsibility will become legal liabilities in the future.

Once again, Big Oil stuns with its lack of vision and hypocrisy.


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If the Oil Sands Were in Quebec, Canada Would Be Outproducing Saudi Arabia
July 28, 2023

Guest blog by S. A. Shelley: There are a lot of peculiarities about Canada that foreigners do not understand and residents shamefully ignore. For one, Canada is one of the biggest money laundering countries in the world.  Ask any person on the street about the dangers of corruption and he or she will point to places overseas, oblivious to the extensive graft in Canada. Graft and corruption exist at every government level and in every region of Canada. But the governments choose to overlook these things. Coupled with outright incompetence, Canada does not look good for common folks striving to make a better life.

With respect to ignoring corruption, a good example is in British Columbia (B.C.). There have been three investigations across two governments, culminating with the Cullen Commission in 2022 which concluded that money laundering in B.C. is a major problem at the casinos and adversely pushes housing prices past affordability for middle class residents.

In terms of incompetence, right after the Pandemic, city councilors in Calgary gleefully and rapidly approved the most expensive light rail transit expansion possible and then, even more quickly, approved a subsidiary of SNC Lavalin to manage the expansion. The Calgary city councilors did not even consider the very bad experience and huge cost overruns that the City of Ottawa had when it selected an SNC Lavalin subsidiary for Ottawa's LRT expansion. In Canada the political class has long since given up doing what's best for Canadians and instead does what's best for the political party and their hired consultants / contractors / retirement firms. Canada is not strong and not free despite the lyrics in its anthem.

Fortunately, Canada is blessed with an abundance of natural resources and to date, the export of those resources has managed to sustain the national economy fairly well. Alberta is home to the world's 4th largest confirmed oil reserves. If we scoot a little bit east to Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan has over 40% of the productive farmland in Canada. Saskatchewan farmers contribute greatly to the world's supply of grains and pulses, and Saskatchewan is also the world's largest producer and exporter of specialty crops such as mustard seed, herbs and spices. In Canada, the renewable energy generated by solar and wind in Alberta and Saskatchewan dwarfs Ontario and Quebec (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1: Installed Renewable Power per Resident (sources: Canada Energy Regulator, Alberta.ca)

An "unfortunate" side effect of Global Warming is that Saskatchewan will be able to produce even more food crops in the future. Side by side then, in Western Canada, you have two global powerhouses of energy and food. What could be wrong with that?

The greatest evil, according to the Federal Liberals and about 70% of the electors in Ontario and about 85% of the electors in Quebec (the East), is Alberta; Saskatchewan is also frequently tainted with Alberta's guilt (the West). Why this enmity? Primarily because the princes of privilege in Ottawa, the Laurentian elites, do not have control over Alberta's vast energy resources and Saskatchewan's vast agriculture resources. Thus, they introduce legislation to cut fertilizer inputs for farmers and fumble about delaying the  building of pipelines to bring substantial Canadian energy resources to global markets. Planned incompetence can be a useful political tool.

While the world's oil economies (Norway, Iraq, Brazil…) strive to produce more oil and gas to supply global demand and earn foreign income for their respective coffers, in Canada the Federal Liberals proclaim the lack of a business case for Canada and try everything possible, short of sending in tanks, to shut down the oil and gas fields. "Zero gas emissions by 2035!"is impossible without collapsing the entire Canadian economy.  "We must cut carbon emissions!" is also impossible as long as Justin Trudeau jets around frivolously

When the previous, Conservative Harper government was in power there were caucus discussions about policies regarding domestic supply management. During such discussions the caucus Members of Parliament (MPs) from the western provinces were told that polling in their ridings indicated that the party stance on certain controversial issues that favored the East would only cost the western MPs a few points in their constituencies. (Sources withheld, somewhat.) Consequently, Canada lost its Wheat Board which supply managed the grains output in the West, but kept the Dairy boards which supply manage milk production in every province though most notably in Quebec and Ontario.

During the first tenure of the JustinTrudeau administration Liberal MPs from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia were told that there would be no way in hell that the Liberal party would approve the Energy East pipeline through Quebec. (Sources withheld again, somewhat.) The Energy East pipeline was meant to carry natural gas from Western Canada to the Atlantic provinces to displace coal from being burned in power plants in Nova Scotia and to start LNG exports to the world.

In both examples, central political party and elitist fancies outweighed the benefits of Canadians: Namely loosening of supply management to reduce consumer prices and displacing carbon intensive coal burning with much lower carbon emitting natural gas while also generating large foreign income.

The cases of outright East bias in Canada are way too numerous to list in this blog, but some unique and bitter examples follow.

  • When the Federal Conservatives sold Atomic Energy Canada Ltd (AECL) to SNC Lavalin for below market value in 2012, by gosh for sure, the Federal Liberals stood up in 2019 to defend SNC from 1 internal corruption charge while ignoring the over 100 foreign corruption charges and convictions.
  • When Montreal port workers went on strike in 2021, it took the Federal Liberal government only 1 day to legislate the workers back. When the Vancouver dockworkers went on strike this year, the Federal government thought for a week before appointing a mediator.
  • During the early days of the pandemic, when a Calgary medical research firm developed a vaccine and asked for federal funding support to rapidly scale vaccine manufacturing, the Federal Liberals instead threw money into Quebec for a facility that never opened and never manufactured one vaccine dose.
  • When the State of Michigan threatened to shut down the environmentally dangerous Line 5 pipeline, the Federal Liberals went on the diplomatic warpath with misinformation proclaiming the necessity of the pipeline to the American Midwest (see OWOE, Bloomberg ).
  • When various government agencies in Washington or corporations on Wall Street aspire to access Canada's vast mineral resources to facilitate and accelerate the clean energy transition, they delude themselves in thinking that any new mine in Canada can be approved quickly enough to matter.

Most recently there have been two significant pronouncements by the federal Liberal government in Canada pertaining to massive subsidies for EV battery plants. The first of these was the Stellantis deal of approximately $15 billion in outright grants to produce EV battery systems in Windsor, Ontario. This was soon joined by the announcement for $13 billion in outright grants to Volkswagen for another EV battery plant in  St. Thomas, Ontario. This amounts to each of Canada's 16 million workers subsidizing about a thousand jobs in the East by around $1750. Here's the funnier thing: Those EV battery plants are intended for production of lithium-ion batteries which are about to be outdated technology.

This is not a new or rare occurrence in Canada for the governments too often throw good money after old technology. In 1832 Canada opened the Rideau Canal between Ottawa (Bytown) and Kingston to support internal trade and defence. in Canada of course the canal froze over half the year, so it was only effective for a few months out of the year. Concurrently around the rest of the world railroads, which can be used year-round, began popping up everywhere.

Canals before trains; lithium-ion before solid state; graft before prosperity.

EVERY Liberal government decision is made on the basis of vote gain / loss to maintain power and to fiscally benefit the East as much as possible. No decision in Canada is made to benefit the general population. That is why talk in Washington about the vast, critical to the energy transition, mineral deposits in Canada is futile as no mine in a Liberal governed Canada will be approved for at least 25 years, not until every vote is analyzed beforehand and not unless it fills the pockets of the princes of privilege. EVERY Federal government decision is made on how to best protect the parliamentary seats in Ontario and Quebec. If Ontario had the agricultural potential of Saskatchewan, Ottawa would not be pressuring farms to cut fertilizer use. And yes, if the Oil Sands were in Quebec, Canada would be out-producing Saudi Arabia.

Vive l'Alberta Libre

VIve le Saskatchewan Libre!

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Why Can’t Someone Calculate the True Price of Gasoline?
May 30, 2023

Blog by Bill Luyties (OWOE Founder and Editor): Over the past few weeks, I've had multiple articles pop up on my news feeds that proclaim that an EV can cost as much to drive per mile as an ICE vehicle. These all appear to be based on an Anderson Economic Group report titled: Real World Cost of Fueling EVs and ICE Vehicles (2nd Edition), dated April 2022 but apparently not issued until early 2023. One article headline actually shouts: Shocking study finds EVs cost more to fuel than gas cars in late 2022. While I generally feel that the Anderson study did a good job of trying to compare costs, the authors of these news articles ignore most of the study and focus on a single headline-grabbing finding that for mid-priced cars EVs cost about the same as ICE cars when charged at home, but cost more when using commercial chargers (see Figure 1). This may well be true today, but the Anderson study and these articles miss the real point - such a comparison is misleading and almost totally irrelevant for a number of key reasons.

Figure 1 - Cost of fueling EV and ICE vehicles (Anderson, 2022)

This study, and every other one like it ignores the full cost of burning a gallon of gas.

What is the true cost? The price one pays at the pump at the neighborhood Shell station is not the true cost of a gallon of gasoline. It is missing a number of key elements that are not visible to the consumer and yet cost the consumer eventually. Costs that are not included:

  • Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) which attempts to account for the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on society and the environment, including global average temperature, sea level rise, energy consumption, and agriculture. The EPA, in its September 2022 report: Report on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases, concluded that the median cost for year 2020 ranged between $110 and $370 per metric ton of carbon dioxide emitted for a variety of analytical models and input assumptions. We can convert this to a cost per gallon of gas using the fact that gasoline contains 5.5 lbs of carbon per gallon, which would produce 20 lbs of carbon dioxide per gallon when burned; then adding another 2.75 lbs per gallon for emissions associated with crude oil production, transportation and refining per a 2018 Stanford University report (10.3 grams of emissions for every megajoule of crude); which gives a total of 22.75 lbs carbon dioxide per gallon. Using the average mileage rating for a light duty vehicle of 25 mpg, the SCC values range from $4.50 to $15.1 per 100 miles driven.
  • Including this SCC cost would increase the numbers in Figure 1 for mid-priced ICE cars from $10.34 per 100 miles to between $14.84 and $25.44 per 100 miles, i.e., both greater than the "mostly commercial charging" value for EVs. Also, note that the SCC cost ranges from $1.13 to $3.78 per gallon, as compared to the average cost of regular gasoline across the US in 2021 used by Anderson as $3.32 per gallon.
  • It should be noted that the EPA report does not account for a number of social costs that would increase these numbers, including: impact from changes in precipitation, extreme weather events, impact on livestock and fisheries, impact on tourism, impact on biodiversity, displacement and migration, etc.
  • Tax breaks and other subsidies that the fossil fuel industry has enjoyed for decades and that are funded by taxpayers, estimated at $20 billion annually in the US, although some of this can be considered offset by current government subsidies for EV technology.
  • Cost of drilling related environmental disasters, such as the 2010 BP Horizon disaster that cost BP $65 billion to address. Oil companies attempt to recover as much of these expenses possible from consumers by raising gasoline prices. However, this is not necessarily possible due to the fact that oil is a commodity with price set predominantly by worldwide supply and demand. Much, if not all, of such costs will be borne by shareholders and insurance companies.
  • Cost of pipeline spills such as the Keystone Pipeline's 2022 major spill that cost $480 million to clean up. Similar to the above, much of these costs are likely to be paid for by shareholders and insurance companies.
  • Cost of natural disasters such as the current Alberta wildfires. A recent study claims to link about 37 percent of the total area burned in the Western U.S. and Southwest Canada since 1986 to the heat-trapping emissions released by the world’s 88 largest fossil fuel and cement producers.
  • Cost to plug all 130,000 abandoned oil and gas wells across the US, which has been estimated by the US Department of the Interior will cost between $3 and $19 billion. Some of this cost will be carried by the oil companies, but a significant portion may need taxpayer funding given that many of the responsible companies are no longer in business.

One must also keep in mind that the technology associated with EVs is evolving rapidly and will also change the overall picture in favor of EVs. Whereas ICE technology is well over 100 years old and at the stage where only incremental improvements are likely, EV technology is rapidly advancing. Over the next several years, the industry is likely to see significant changes that will continue to reduce cost and other perceived shortcomings of EVs:

  • Reductions in battery weight and cost.
  • Increase in battery capacity (vehicle range).
  • Reductions in charging times.
  • Increase in charging options, both home and away, which will address costs identified in the Anderson report as deadhead miles cost (purple bars).

Etc., etc…The magnitude of these unaccounted-for costs and evolving technology make any such ICE vs EV comparison ridiculous. If one were to ignore everything else, including only the SCC cost in the comparison, the headline for these articles would be more like: “Boring study shows that EVs cost less to drive than gas cars and are much better for the environment.” But such articles don’t get attention and online clicks.

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Interesting Energy Stories You May Have Missed
April 1, 2023

Guest blog by Yumusbe Joacquin: Here are some interesting and somewhat offbeat energy stories that haven't gotten much media attention over the past year.

Wind Turbines Causing Earth to Speed Up

In 2020 scientists noticed that the earth's rotation had begun to speed up. Historically, the earth has been slowing down, primarily due to the drag created by the gravitation effect of the moon. The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS) has been adding leap seconds every now and again to make up for the slower spin (which last happened on December 31, 2016). However, there were 28 days in 2020 where the earth actually spun faster than any time during the previous 60 years. And on July 26, 2022, the earth completed its quickest-ever spin with a rotation that was 1.50 milliseconds less than its nominal 24-hours.

One group of earth scientists at the Phox Institute for Truth in Science (PITS) believes that they have discovered the reason. The earth spins on its axis in the west-to-east direction. This generates a Coriolis effect which results in a predominant wind flow also in the west-to-east direction. When this wind flow interacts with wind turbines that are being installed around the world and spins their blades to produce electricity, there is a net horizontal force exerted on the turbine. This force is transmitted down the tower and pushes on the surface of the earth in the same direction as its natural spin, thus increasing its speed. The more turbines, the more force and the faster the spin (Fig 1).

Fig. 1: Force Diagram Explaining the Coupling of Wind Direction and Earth Spin Acceleration (Blah Blah Bunny not to scale)

Although 1.5 milliseconds doesn't seem to be a very large number, the earth's spin rate will continue to increase as the aggregate number of installed turbines increases. Once again, renewable energy is impacting the planet in unforeseen and possibly damaging ways. We could very well experience more rain in California, and more hot air in Washington , D.C.

High Population Numbers Are Contributing to Global Temperature Increase

Collaborative research undertaken at the School of International Contagions at Queen's University in Sweden (SIQ), and at the school of Assumptive Science and Studies (ASS) at Fordstan University in California, has found strong evidence suggesting that human population growth may actually be a root cause of global warming. The average human expends approximately 350kJ (100W) of energy per hour. The majority of this energy is used to power the biomechanical and biochemical systems that make us function. However, as we are imperfect machines, some of that energy is lost as waste heat to the environment. Experimental measurements suggest that as much as 10% of human energy is lost as waste heat, or about 35kJ per hour. It takes about 355 kJ of heat energy to bring 1 liter of freshwater to boil from room temperature. Thus, in one day, an average human could boil 3 liters of water and, over a year, close to 2,000 liters of water. Humans are remarkable heat pumps.

The SIQ ASS researchers then postulated that human population growth could be adding significantly to the warming of the planet (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2: Population Growth (Ourworldindata.org) and Global Temperature Change (NASA.gov) over Time

It became apparent that humanity was outputting tremendous amounts of waste heat energy to the environment which in turn was contributing to global temperature change. This relationship between population growth and temperature warming accelerated with population growth. But the researchers were also puzzled by the jumps in the rate of temperature change over the last 70 years. In another stroke of brilliance, Dr. Ivanna Bekuuler of SIQ, found that the jumps in temperature change rates correlated with global pandemics (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3: Population Growth and Accelerated Global Temperature Change Coinciding with Pandemics (cfr.org)

Dr. BeKuuler believes that during pandemics, when people become ill and febrile, they output more waste heat to the environment.  To mitigate the warming effect of humans, the SIQ ASS team recommends that: 1) people take vaccines to prevent illness with fevers, and 2) people chill and be cool as much as possible.

Other researchers and inventors are trying to find means to harness all this extra human waste energy though the deployment of wearable thermo-electric generator clothing. The survival of the human species could depend on these actions.

Update on Coal Slaw

Several years ago OWOE shared the information about a new, non-farmed food source called Coal Slaw (Fig. 4) that had been developed at the Massachusetts Technology Institute (MTI). Although the US military adopted the product very early to use in its MREs, commercial success has lagged. However, the principal investigator for the development, Dr. Feuer in der Hosen, in an exclusive interview with OWOE, explained that Coal Slaw has now successfully passed clinical testing and that folks who tried it claim that "once you get past the black color and distinctive odor, it's actually quite good". An added plus is that the FDA certified the product as "vegan". They are now looking for venture capital to start a consumer "re-education" process and begin commercial production.

Fig. 4: News Released Photo of Coal Based Synthetic Lettuce used in Coal Slaw
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