Deepwater Horizon Five Years Later: Lessons Learned

Five years ago, following a blowout and explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 workers, the nation was spellbound by the 87-day visual of oil flowing freely into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico from the Macondo well. The 3.1 million barrels of spewed oil has been called “the world’s largest accidental marine spill” and “the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.”

Looking back, CNN reports: “There were dire predictions of what would follow. Environmentalists and others braced for an environmental collapse on a massive scale.”

In preparation for the spill’s five-year anniversary, BP issued an extensive report called Environmental Recovery and Restoration­—which concludes, according to Bloomberg Business, that the spill “didn’t do lasting damage to the ecosystem.” It isn’t surprising to hear BP burnishing its tarnished image; but after BP has spent $28 billion on clean-up and claims, others seem to agree with them.

While marshes were oiled, businesses struggled, beaches were closed, and the restoration continues, it hasn’t been the ecological cliff that anti-petroleum groups predicted.

Despite the 13 miles of coast that suffered from “heavy oiling,” Science Magazine reports: “Nature has bounced back in surprising ways.” It states: “Brown pelicans were a poster child of the oil spill’s horrors, for instance, but there’s no sign the population as a whole has fallen. Shrimp numbers in the bay actually rose the year after the spill.” And, the state’s bayside sparrows, which had less productive nests in oiled areas, haven’t suffered “a drop in overall numbers.” Common minnows suffered a variety of abnormalities for “up to a year after the spill. Scientists have found no evidence, however,” that they “have caused fish numbers to drop in Louisiana’s estuaries.” Even the ants are starting to “come back and stay.”

In the popular vacation town of Grand Isle, whose beaches remained closed for three years, Jean Landry, a local program manager for The Nature Conservancy, says: “This summer feels more positive than any in the last five years. You see people coming back to their summer homes rather than renting them out to cleanup workers.”

The water is clean, and, “according to the Food and Drug Administration tests on edible seafood, shows no excess of hydrocarbons in the region’s food supply.” It is important to realize, according to the National Research Council estimates that “every year, the equivalent of 560,000 to 1.4 million barrels of oil—perhaps a quarter of the amount that BP spilled—seeps naturally from the floor of the Gulf.”

“The overall message is upbeat,” according to Ed Overton, an LSU chemist who has spent years tracking chemical changes in the Deepwater oil that washed ashore. As quoted in Science, Overton says: “I think the big story is, it’s remarkable how Mother Nature can cure herself. It’s really hard to find permanent impacts.”

While the permanent impacts are “hard to find,” no one ever wants to experience anything like it again. The accident, according to the Journal of Petroleum Technology, “spawned new technology, improved safety practices, and better operations awareness.”

The post-Deepwater Horizon world will continue to need oil and natural gas. Globally, and in the Gulf, drilling is continuing. While the industry will keep making changes and improvements based on the lessons learned at Macondo, we do not live in a risk-free world. We can manage and mitigate the potential hazards.

Technology and safety standards are important. But, perhaps, the best lesson learned is one that could be applied to all claims about environmental collapse at the hands of mankind: Mother Nature is remarkably resilient. Within a short period of time, she can cure herself.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Climate Campaign Hasn’t Worked, But The Fearmongers Keep Trying

Global warming has been the most extensive public relations campaign in history. The 25 years of political and cultural pressure includes most governmental agencies, the public school system, the universities, celebrities, think tanks, and well-funded environmental groups. Yet, despite all the fear-mongering, over the 25-year-long campaign, there’s been no significant change in the public’s concern level over global warming.

Based on new polling data from Gallup, the number of those who “worry greatly” about global warming has actually dropped.

Americans aren’t that stupid after all. We can smell a rat.

It isn’t that we don’t believe the climate changes; it does, has, and always will. But “there is a difference in believing climate change is real and believing that climate change is calamitous.”

In his post at TheFederalist.com, David Harsanyi continues: “As the shrieking gets louder, Americans become more positive about the quality of their environment and less concerned about the threats.”

25 years of intense political and cultural pressure hasn’t won over the public. But they haven’t stopped trying. With the huge investment of time and money, the fear-mongers keep trying—believing, somehow, they’ll get different results.

On March 6, “a documentary that looks at pundits-for-hire,” Merchants of Doubt, was released. It aimed to smear the reputations of some of the most noted voices on the realist side of the climate change debate. But nobody much wanted to see it. In its opening weekend, BoxOfficeMojo.com reports Merchants of Doubt took in $20,300.

A week later, former Vice President Al Gore, as reported in the Chicago Tribune, called on attendees at the SXSW festival in Austin, TX, to “punish climate change deniers”—which is the tactic being used now.

We’ve seen it in the widely publicized case of Dr. Willie Soon, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who “claims that the variations in the sun’s energy can largely explain recent Global warming.” The New York Times accused him of being tied to funding from “corporate interests.”

Similar attacks, though less well known, have been made on many others who’ve dared to speak up.

Even Senator Edward Markey and Congressman Raul Grijalva recently joined the crusade. They sent a letter to institutions that employ or support climate change researchers whose work strays from the crisis narrative. The lawmakers warn of potential “conflicts of interest” in cases where evidence or computer modeling emphasizing human causes of climate change are questioned—but no such warning is offered for its supporters.

Somehow, only those who may receive some funding from “fossil fuel companies” are suspect. The anti-fossil fuel movement has been vocal in its funding for those who support its agenda—most notably billionaire Tom Steyer, who promised to fund candidates who oppose the Keystone pipeline and supports lobbying efforts for renewable energy.

In a Desmog post titled “Climate Deniers Double Down on Doubt in the Defense of Willie Soon,” the author states that Soon’s supporters “circled the wagons.”

In a Scientific American story about the Merchants of Doubt, Andrew Hoffman, a professor at the University of Michigan who studies the behavior of climate skeptics, says that “tit-for-tats between mainstream and contrarian researchers tend to raise the profile of skeptical scientists.”

Because of the failure of the manmade climate-crisis campaign to capture the hearts and minds of the average American—who, after all, isn’t that stupid—we can expect the Gore-ordered attacks to continue.

Like the mythical Hydra, when one “skeptic” is cut down, supporters “double down”—two more grow to take its place. The attacks draw attention to the fact that there is another side to the “debate.”

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Obama Administration Kicks The Oil-And-Gas Industry While It Is Down

Photo credit: commerce.gov

For the past six years, the oil and gas industry has served as a savior to the Obama presidency by providing the near-lone bright spot in economic growth. Increased U.S. oil-and-gas production has created millions of well-paying jobs and given us a new energy security.

So now that the economic powerhouse faces hard times, how does the Administration show its appreciation for the oil-and-gas industry that has been a boon to the economy?

By introducing a series of regulations—at least nine in total, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ)—that will put the brakes on the US energy boom through higher operating costs and fewer incentives to drill on public lands.

WSJ states: “Mr. Obama and his environmental backers say new regulations are needed to address the impacts of the surge in oil and gas drilling.”

U.S. oil production, according to the Financial Times, “caught Saudi Arabia by surprise.” The kingdom sees that US shale and Canadian oil-sand development “encroached on OPEC’s market share” and has responded with a challenge to high-cost sources of production by upping its output—adding to the global oil glut and, therefore, dropping prices.

Most oil-market watchers expect temporary low-priced oil, with prediction of an increase in the second half of 2015, and some saying 2016. However, Ibrahim al-Assaf, Saudi Arabia’s finance minister, recently said: “We have the ability to endure low oil prices over the medium term of up to five years, even if it means delving into fiscal reserves to cover a large deficit.”

Many oil companies are already re-evaluating exploration, reining in costs, and cutting jobs and/or wages. “In the low price circumstance like today,” Jean-Marie Guillermou, the Asian head of the French oil giant Total, explained, “you do the strict minimum required.”

In December, the WSJ reported: “Some North American companies have said they plan to cut their capital spending next year and dial back on exploring for new oil.” It quotes Tim Dove, President and COO for Pioneer Natural Resources Co.: “We are seeking cost reductions from all our suppliers.”

Last month, Enbridge Energy Partners said: “it has laid off some workers in the Houston area”—which the Houston Chronicle on December 12 called “the latest in a string of energy companies to announce cutbacks.”

I have previously warned the industry that while they have remained relatively unscathed by harsh regulations—such as those placed on electricity generation—their time would come. Now, it has arrived. The WSJ concurs: “In its first six years, the administration released very few regulations directly affecting the oil-and-gas industry and instead rolled out several significant rules aimed at cutting air pollution from the coal and electric-utility sectors.”

According to the WSJ: “Some of the rules have been in the works for months or even years.” But that doesn’t mean the administration should introduce them now when the industry is already down—after all, the administration delayed Obamacare mandates due to the negative impact on jobs and the economy.

Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper gets it. Under pressure from the environmental lobby to increase regulations on the oil-and-gas industry, he, during a question session on the floor of the House of Commons in December, said: “Under the current circumstances of the oil and gas sector, it would be crazy—it would be crazy economic policy—to do unilateral penalties on that sector.”

Introducing the new rules now kick the industry while it is down and shows that President Obama either doesn’t get it, or he cares more about burnishing his environmental legacy than he does about American jobs and economic growth.

(A version of this content was originally published at Breitbart.com)

Photo credit: commerce.gov

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

Here’s What President Obama Could Learn From Governor Perry

Photo credit: Peter Stevens (Flickr)

Texas Governor Rick Perry embarked on campaign-style efforts in many states including California, Illinois, Connecticut, and New York. He’s hosted business meetings, appeared on TV and radio shows, and launched ad campaigns touting low-tax Texas.

Learning from Perry, President Obama could air ads and meet with leaders in Germany encouraging them to buy American coal. Ours is cleaner burning than theirs; we have plenty of it; the price has dropped; they can get it from a friendly supplier; and, most importantly, Germany needs it.

Thanks to Obama’s policies, we are prematurely shutting down our coal-fueled electricity generation—with the idea that we can replace it with wind and solar. Germany is prematurely shutting down its nuclear-powered fleet. It has already tried to go with wind and solar, but that is not working out so well. Since 2011, in an effort to wean the country off of nuclear and fossil fuels, the energy revolution, or Energiewende, was launched; greenhouse gas emissions have gone up; and the average price of electricity for companies has jumped 60%—now more than double those in the U.S. As nuclear plants are closed, they are being replaced with coal.

On August 27, Jochen Homann, President of the Federal Network Agency (Germany’s energy regulator) told an industry conference: “Those who call for an end to coal power generation don’t have much interest in a reliable energy policy.” Reuters reports: “Germany will continue to need coal-fired power plants.”

Instead of a Perry-esque campaign to encourage countries like Germany to buy American coal—rather than coal from a country like Colombia that has lower labor costs, lax environmental policies, and, therefore, a less expensive product—Obama, once again, has gone around Congress with his plan to seek a “non-binding international accord” at next year’s United Nations climate summit in Paris—which will encourage global reductions in coal usage.

It is bad enough that American policies hurt American workers, but why not encourage countries that are going to buy coal anyway, to buy from the U.S.?

Worse, the U.S. is importing Colombian coal and killing American jobs when we have the largest coal reserves in the world.

An August 13 WSJ story on surging coal imports from Colombia cites as one of the reasons—other than labor costs and a global coal glut—that Colombian coal is cheaper for utilities in the U.S. Southeast than coal from Appalachia: “It’s much more cost effective to move coal by ship… than by train.” It goes on to explain: “The problem with shipping U.S. coal by rail is supply. U.S. demand for rail transport to ship crude oil, grain and other products has soared, limiting the number of rail cars available to ship coal to power plants.”

The coal industry isn’t asking for import caps or tariffs as others do when cheap imports are harming producers and workers. But, it could benefit from some simple sound energy policy, for example: approve the Keystone pipeline—which would free up rail space, make shipping coal within the U.S. more competitive, create jobs, and boost America’s energy security. Politicians could also call for a removal of the stifling regulations on our own coal industry.

Despite California Governor Jerry Brown’s mockery, Perry’s efforts worked. In April, Toyota shocked California officials by announcing it was pulling up stakes in California and moving 3000 jobs to Texas.

Our chief executive has the power of the bully pulpit. He should learn from Perry’s efforts and promote America. A campaign-style push in countries like Germany might just work—and save American jobs and reduce the trade deficit in the process.

 

Photo credit: Peter Stevens (Flickr)

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

Can The U.S. Fill The Gap Of Potential Oil Losses From Iraq?

Post-war Iraq has grown into a major force in the global oil market. Reaching a 30-year high, its production and exports have climbed steadily since 2011—making Iraq the second largest producer in OPEC, and the seventh globally.

Iraq has filled in the production gaps caused by violence in Libya and sanctions in Iran. Crude oil prices have been stable. The Wall Street Journal states: “crude volatility recently had ground down to multi-year lows.”

But that was before rapid gains by extremist insurgents in northern Iraq put all that progress in jeopardy, raised gasoline prices, and sent “shudders through financial markets.” A barrel of oil is now trading at its highest level since September.

The sectarian fighting in Iraq had already caused a 4 percent increase in world oil prices—which is expected to translate to a 5 to 10 cent a gallon bump in the price of regular unleaded gasoline.

Most of Iraq’s oil fields are in the south and are, so far, believed to not be at “immediate risk.” Yet, the New York Times (NYT) reports: “The collapse of Iraq would bring an international oil crisis. …It would mean crude oil would go up to $150 a barrel.” “But,” NYT continues, “oil prices have been rising modestly compared with what would be expected from a major crisis in the Middle East.” Why? According to the NYT, “growing oil production in the United States and Canada has helped cut American oil imports, helping to keep global supplies hardy.” The report states: “World oil supplies are relatively robust at the moment, which explains why oil price increases have not been significant. Global supplies are up a million barrels a day from a year ago, mostly because of North American production.”

If Iraq’s production continues to be threatened, as it looks like it will, John Kingston (global news director for industry tracker Platts Energy) asks the obvious question: “who is going to fill the gap?”

The obvious answer should be the United States—after all, North American production is credited with keeping prices relatively stable compared with what would normally be “expected from a major crisis in the Middle East.”

Unfortunately, President Obama failed to protect America’s economic security. He could have helped cut America’s dependence on Middle Eastern oil—about 300,000 barrels of Iraqi oil are used in the U.S. each day. Instead, he has presided over a decline in production on federal lands.

While U.S. production has helped blunt the short-term impact of the Iraq conflict, a recent report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) makes the decline in production on federal lands clear.  According to the CRS report, under the Obama administration, oil production on federal lands has fallen 6 percent–while oil production on state and private lands increased by 61 percent.

By not developing available resources, and not approving the Keystone pipeline, Obama has made America more vulnerable to oil market instability. Had Keystone been approved, as originally expected more than five years ago, it could now be bringing additional resources to market and helping stabilize global supplies—filling the gap created by unrest in Iraq, Libya, Russia, Nigeria, etc.

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This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom