North America Energy Alliance, Round 2

Guest blog by S. A. Shelley: At OWOE we try to be objective in our analysis and evaluations of energy matters. But we can’t always be emotionless, or in my case, I can’t always refrain from smacking my forehead when politicians do questionable things: I’ve been near comatose for the last few weeks on account of the politicians.

In 2017, we looked at and forecast possible outcomes for US energy independence, including oil and gas production (see OWOE: Can the US Become Energy Self-sufficient?). We looked at four possible outcomes, as in the following figure, based upon high / low consumption versus high / low production.

Fig. 1 – US Oil Production Outcome Matrix (2017)

At the time I voodoo guessed that it was more likely that the U.S. would be moving into a high consumption and low production case, resulting in big oil deficits. I think we’re in danger of moving into that condition sooner than later.

According to a US EIA estimate at the beginning of this year, US oil production will fall this year before rebounding next year to  a maximum of 12 million barrels per day. Subsequent reports suggest that the EIA prediction was pretty good. Furthermore, there are now industry wide concerns of all big oil companies underinvesting in new production (see Market Insights, Natural Gas Intel). Thus, it is very likely that the US won’t achieve the 17 million bbls / day production required in the high production case indicated in Figure 1, and could in fact start seeing production fall to the low case of just 7 million bbls / day in a few years. In contrast, the US is already approaching demand of over 20 million bbls day, which is the 2017 high consumption limit. These two factors put the US in the in the high consumption and low production quadrant, which is not good.

Under production (supply), coupled with somewhat steady demand, results in rising oil prices. It takes years for US E&P firms to find and bring on stream new production. So instead of waiting for or encouraging US businesses to find new oil resources, the US President asks OPEC to increase supply. That one really hurt my head. It was an especially egregious policy initiative in light of the fact that the current US administration has stopped most new oil projects in Alaska, Texas, Louisiana (see ABC News and CNBC) and of course, pipelines.*

Up north, in Canada, there are billions and billions of barrels of oil that can supply the American market. It would just take a bit of pipeline expansion. But no, instead of supporting a near trading partner with historically similar democratic values, the US president would rather send more US dollars to hostile states: Make no mistake, most OPEC states are not US allies or friends.

But there may be hope for America. Both big Canadian railroad companies are in a takeover war for Kansas City Southern. This is not a railroad battle, this is a battle to transport oil in the near future. As oil pipelines are being stopped, rail is becoming a major means of transporting oil.

The problem for America is that it will need a lot oil during the green transition, and America is no longer in a position to supply all its needs domestically. Oil by rail is a temporary solution at best. It really is time to think about a North American Energy Alliance (see OWOE: Time for a New Energy Policy) and forget those way-off hostile lands. Make the deal with the neo-communists up north, because then we can keep a close eye on them for much lower cost and less blood. Building an energy alliance of some form with friendly states will be necessary to keep America from running out of oil, because green technology cannot replace oil fast enough to keep the woke progressives happy. It still is, unfortunately, a trade-off between keeping energy and the economy going, or collapsing society and the economy until green technology catches up to the energy demands of a modern society. As written previously, green is better, but overnight green is impossible (see OWOE: Wishful Thinking vs Reality). 

Vive l’Alberta Libre!

*  Really, shut down Line 5. People are focused on the “perceived dangers” of a not yet built pipeline, Keystone XL, while ignoring the real danger of an existing pipeline, Line 5 in Michigan.

The Cobra Effect

Guest blog by S. A. Shelley: Most readers have probably heard of the Law of Unintended Consequences, the more good that one intends then the more harm results (see also the Cobra Effect). Politicians have an intrinsic ability to apply this without fail. Then to make everything worse, there is Pournelle’s Law of Iron Bureaucracy, ensuring that even the slightest of good intentions are inevitably smashed by the insufferable protocols of bureaucracy. Such is the realm of politicians. But in the information age, the woke minority and sometimes business tycoons also suffer from these laws. Business tycoons can correct for such things, otherwise they go bust. Woke progs will often ignore reason and facts, those remnants of patriarchal suppression, in order to validate horrific outcomes. Eventually, though, the smoldering landscape or the increasing number of coal plants being built in Asia should overwhelm Woke feelings.  Unfortunately, politicians and governments are with us for as long as their privilege and pensions last and they rarely admit mistakes let alone mitigate or fix them.

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Nuclear Power: Climate Solution or Hype

OWOE Staff:The energy world has been rocked by a number of crucial events during the past two months. In the transition to renewable energy and more particularly in the removal of fossil fuels form the energy mix, there are possibly three history-making game changers:

  1. The International Energy Agency (IEA) came out with its report on the state of the climate, and it was brutal toward fossil fuels. It laid out the reality of the current climate crisis and pointed to one clear action required to prevent catastrophic global warming: “The world has a choice – stop developing new oil, gas and coal fields today or face a dangerous rise in global temperatures.” It is important to point out that the report didn’t call for the immediate elimination of fossil fuels as energy sources. The IEA understands the need for some transition period to a fossil-free future. But the transition needs to be speedy, and the IEA feels that the best way to do this is to stop all new developments, live off the current reserves, and use that time to develop the technologies, change behavior and make the transition.
  2. President Joe Biden issued his sweeping climate goal to cut US emissions in half by 2030 ahead of convening an historic summit with 40 world leaders to demonstrate American leadership in the quest to elimination of fossil fuels by 2050.
  3. ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, and Chevron were rebuked by shareholders and the courts for not aligning their strategies with the threat of climate change. 
Continue reading Nuclear Power: Climate Solution or Hype

Bitcoins are Carbon Pigs

Guest blog by S. A. Shelley: For several years, Bitcoins and similar digital currencies have been the rage, heralded as a true medium of exchange and value that is independent of government manipulation, as is seen with all fiat currencies. However, Bitcoins in particular have also generated rage amongst environmentalists because the energy consumption and carbon emissions required to support Bitcoins approach the total annual consumption of states like New York or exceed the total energy consumption of nation states like the Netherlands or Argentina.

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Canada plans to invade the US (again)

Guest Blog by S. A. Shelley: Pipeline politics have come to dominate energy discussions domestically and internationally. Probably the most well-known of these are the Nordstream 2 Pipeline in the Baltic to bring Russian Gas to Germany and of course the Keystone XL Pipeline which would have brought more Canadian Heavy Oil to American Refineries. Believe it or not, pipelines can bring benefits. For Nordstream 2 it will bring Russia a new vassal state. Keystone XL, had billions in money set aside to utilize renewable power and hire unionized workers; It would have been the world’s first “net-zero” pipeline and probably the world’s first equity built pipeline. Unfortunately, for both pipelines the tactical thinking won out over the strategic benefit.

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The Simple Answer: Oil Demand is Declining and Natural Gas Demand is Increasing

Guest Blog by S. A. Shelley: Since 2016, OWOE staff have been watching energy markets change as new technologies and phenomenon entered society, or as old problems and business practices ossified. While 2020 was a wild year that laid bare the ineffectiveness of most major governments to handle crisis, it also exposed some of the fallacies upon which western societies are built: Namely the need for business executives to fly around the world for meetings, the need for hordes of people to commute to digital jobs, and of course the lack of economic robustness in most realms. For certain, the pandemic surge and economic drop of 2020 that cut travel, commuting and similar highly energy intense activities resulted in a major drop in oil demand (Reuters, US BLS), and a noticeable drop in CO2 emissions along with a corresponding improvement in overall air quality in many urban settings. But, and here’s the real issue, as the pandemic ends, energy demand is increasing again.

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New Digital Tech Solutions Equal More Old Energy Tech

Guest Blog by S. A. Shelley: The last decade has seen an explosion of new digital tech incessantly infiltrating all areas of our lives. There were cells phones before 2010 as well as websites and such, but with the advent of smart phones, 5G, the internet of things, everything is now wirelessly connected. New things such as crypto currency and EVs have also made significant inroads into society in the last 10 years. Many of these technologies are, of course, promoted as green and helping the world. Such is always the case when new technologies arise, and there are enough people to advocate for their favorite thing: Bud or Bud Light, Democrat or Republican, Trudeau fan or intelligent person.

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What’s up with the Texas power grid?

OWOE Staff: So what’s going on with the power grid in Texas? Last week the state was hit by a polar vortex winter storm (Uri) that brought snow and ice and record low temperatures. Such storms aren’t especially rare – it snows and ices in Houston about every ten years. But this time it created one of the biggest power outages in US history (Fig 1), and the Texas power grid came within minutes of failure. Then the real fun began. The Governor blamed the power failures on the wind turbines in West Texas freezing up, but had to retract the comment almost immediately when the grid operator, ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas), announced that the majority of the power outages were due to gas supply shortages and freezing of the conventional thermal power plants. A former Texas Governor claimed that Texans would rather endure power failures than have more regulation of the industry. Senator Ted Cruz, from Texas, who had a history of denouncing renewable energy as the cause for California’s power outages fled the cold to take his family to Cancun and immediately had to fly back due to public outrage. A photo of a helicopter deicing wind turbines in Texas went viral as an example of renewable power being dependent on fossil fuel and chemicals, until the photo was identified as actually being an extreme case of deicing an old-style turbine in Sweden from 2014. Texans who signed up for electricity plans that charge based on wholesale electricity prices are now facing bills in the thousands of dollars. Etc, etc.

Continue reading What’s up with the Texas power grid?