Climate & Energy

Five bucks a gallon?

Goldman says oil ‘likely’ to hit $150-$200 by 2010

Goldman Sachs' Arjun N. Murti said this in a May 5 report: The possibility of $150-$200 per barrel seems increasingly likely over the next 6-24 months, though predicting the ultimate peak in oil prices as well as the remaining duration of the upcycle remains a major uncertainty. That would mean gasoline prices of $5 to $6 a gallon. Unless, of course, we permanently suspend the gasoline tax, in which case gasoline prices would only be $5 to $6 a gallon. Why should we listen to Murti? Well, back in 2005, when prices averaged under $60 a barrel, he was one of the few Wall Street analysts who predicted oil could soon hit $105 a barrel -- or higher if we don't take the right actions quickly:

Straight as a circle

Big Oil’s crooked talk on profits

Has the oil industry borrowed the (laughable) tagline of presidential candidate John McCain? As Fox Business reported last Friday: The American Petroleum Institute took out a full-page ad in USA Today, and other major media were tapped this week to provide "straight talk on earnings." The earnings that need "straight talk": ExxonMobil's $11 billion quarterly profit, and Chevron's $5.2 billion quarterly profit. (Note to Big Oil: When Fox doesn't give your spin favorable coverage, you've definitely become the Britney Spears of industries.)

Big Oil will shell out for groundwater cleanup

Some of the nation’s largest oil companies will over the next 30 years have to pay to clean up groundwater befouled with gasoline additive MTBE. In settling a suit brought by 153 public water providers in 17 states, a dozen companies — including BP, Shell, ConocoPhillips, and Chevron — will also have to pay a total $423 million cash. If approved, the settlement will be “a step in the direction of making the parties responsible for the contamination pay for it rather than the folks who drink the water and pay the rates,” says an attorney for the plaintiffs. Well, …

Coal moratorium now!

Preventing dirty coal plants is the most urgent climate policy

A livable climate can (probably) survive the burning of almost all of the world's conventional oil and gas -- but not if we also burn even half the coal (see here [PDF] and figure below). So the top priority for any climate policy must be to stop the building of traditional coal plants -- which is why that has become the top priority of NASA's James Hansen (see here). The next priority is to replace existing coal plants with carbon-free power, which could include coal with carbon capture and storage (CCS), as fast as possible. And that means a related priority is to encourage the introduction of CCS as quickly as possible, to see if that is a viable large-scale solution. A climate policy that does not start by achieving at least the first goal, a moratorium on coal without CCS, must be labeled a failure. By that measure, the cap-and-trade system currently being employed by the Europeans looks to be a failure, as we'll see.

How to get people to pay attention to peak oil

I can’t decide if this is horribly crass or effing genius, or both:

Senators both GOP and Dem introduce destined-to-fail legislation

Senate Democrats are trying once again to yank $17 billion in tax breaks away from oil companies that are enjoying booming profits. The Consumer-First Energy Act, introduced in the Senate on Wednesday, would also put a 25 percent tax on oil companies that don’t invest in renewable energy. Bill cosponsor Harry Reid (D-Nev.) sums up, “Big Oil is making money hand over fist while doing little to invest in alternative fuels, yet Bush Republicans want to keep handing them huge tax breaks.” For their part, Senate Republicans have introduced the American Energy Production Act, which would boost oil production in …

Mille grazie!

Should we take Italian nuclear waste?

So an industry CEO tells E&E News that nuclear is the only non-carbon baseload power (not!) and that therefore nuclear is our only future and since the United States does such a great job of dealing with low-level radioactive waste, we should become the world's repository. That would be the logic of one Steve Creamer, CEO of EnergySolutions, "a full-service nuclear fuel cycle company" (in contrast to all of those "partial-service nuclear fuel cycle companies," sometimes called electric utilities). Why shouldn't we take the world's low-level radioactive waste? asks Creamer. Other countries take our recycled computers [!], so it's the perfect division of global labor:

To preserve and protect

Valuing environmental services saves lives

As this new BBC article points out, it appears that the loss of mangroves around cities in Myanmar made the impact of the cyclone much worse, resulting in higher casualties and greater destruction. Scientific evidence compiled after the 2004 Asian tsunami showed that areas with more intact coastal ecosystems suffered less destruction, showing the upside of investing in the preservation of coastal swamps and forests, especially in disaster-prone areas. These developments highlight the urgent need to continue to demonstrate and make clear to policymakers the tremendous value these coastal environmental services provide. Of course, coastal ecosystems are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the full range of environmental services that forests (both tropical and temperate), wetlands, coral reefs, and prairies provide. Identifying these values and estimating their magnitude is the first step in making sure that they are not ignored when development decisions are made, or when assessing the value of restoring systems that have been degraded. This is one area where the combination of economics and ecological science can demonstrate why conservation not only pays but saves lives.

Corny weather

FT: Midwest rains threaten U.S. corn crop

Remember in February, when a fertilizer magnate raised the specter of widespread famine if any of the globe’s big farming regions hit a rough patch this year? Here’s what he said: If you had any major upset where you didn’t have a crop in a major growing agricultural region this year, I believe you’d see famine. … We keep going to the cupboard without replacing and so there is enormous pressure on agriculture to have a record crop every year. We need to have a record crop in 2008 just to stay even with this very low-inventory situation. Essentially, he’s …

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