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Shale shocked: USGS links ‘remarkable increase’ in earthquakes to fracking

Photo by Martin Luff.

Cross-posted from Climate Progress.

A U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) team has found that a sharp jump in earthquakes in America’s heartland appears to be linked to oil and natural gas drilling operations.

As hydraulic fracturing has exploded onto the scene, it has increasingly been connected to earthquakes. Some quakes may be caused by the original fracking -- that is, by injecting a fluid mixture into the earth to release natural gas (or oil). More appear to be caused by reinjecting the resulting brine deep underground.

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Subsidies 101: A guide to corporate handouts, and why we shouldn’t stand for them

Fossil fuel corporations don't need more cash.

Cross-posted from TomDispatch.

Along with “five-dollar-a-gallon-gas,” the energy watchword for the next few months is: “subsidies.” Last week, for instance, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) proposed ending some of the billions of dollars in handouts enjoyed by the fossil-fuel industry with a “Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act.”  It was, in truth, nothing to write home about -- a curiously skimpy bill that only targeted oil companies, and just the five richest of them at that. Left out were coal and natural gas, and you won’t be surprised to learn that even then it didn’t pass.

Still, President Obama is now calling for an end to oil subsidies at every stop on his early presidential-campaign-plus-fundraising blitz -- even at those stops where he’s also promising to “drill everywhere.” And later this month Sen. Bernie Sanders (Ind-Vt.) will introduce a much more comprehensive bill that tackles all fossil fuels and their purveyors (and has no chance whatsoever of passing this Congress).

Whether or not the bill passes, those subsidies are worth focusing on. After all, we’re talking at least $10 billion in freebies and, depending on what you count, possibly as much as $40 billion annually in freebie cash for an energy industry already making historic profits. If attacking them is a convenient way for the White House to deflect public anger over rising gas prices, it is also a perfect fit for the new worldview the Occupy movement has been teaching Americans. (Not to mention, if you think about it, the Tea Party focus on deficits.) So count on one thing: We’ll be hearing a lot more about them this year.

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Obama ad ties Mitt Romney to Big Oil’s gas-price attacks

Cross-posted from ThinkProgress Green.

The Obama campaign is acting as if it is already in a general-election fight, against a Big Oil-Mitt Romney ticket. In a new ad, President Obama attacks “Big Oil” and Mitt Romney, pushing back against oil-industry campaign ads that accuse Obama of raising gas prices. The front group American Energy Alliance, secretly funded by Koch Industries and other oil giants, is running a $3.6 million ad campaign that criticizes Obama policies that don’t favor the oil-industry agenda. Oil companies have been profiting from American suffering at the gas pump, but they believe they would do even better under a Romney presidency, the new Obama ad argues:

Under President Obama, domestic oil production’s at an eight-year high. So why is Big Oil attacking him? Because he’s fighting to end their tax breaks. He’s raising mileage standards, and doubling renewable energy. In all these fights, Mitt Romney stood with Big Oil, for their tax breaks, attacking higher mileage standards and renewables. So when you see this ad, remember who paid for it and what they want.

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If fossil fuel subsidies were distributed to every person, we’d each get $58/year

Globally, every year fossil fuels get six times as much money in subsidies than renewable energy. Given a world population of around 7 billion, that means every man woman and child on the planet is spending an average of $58 a year to prop this industry up, but only around $9 to support renewables.

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George Bush’s hometown is running out of water, thanks to climate change

Here's a theme we're going to see a lot in the 21st century:

Payback is a bitch.

The president who nixed America's commitment to the carbon-reducing Kyoto protocol, whose administration censored reports on climate science, and whose State Department thanked Exxon executives for their "active involvement" in helping to determine climate change policy, is watching the town in which he grew up squirm in the grip of Texas' epic, climate change-enhanced drought.

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Etch A Sketchy: Romney used to favor high gas prices

Image by Donkey Hotey, using photo by Matthew Reichbach.

Cross-posted from Climate Progress.

These days, Mitt Romney falsely accuses Obama of wanting “to see gasoline prices go up.” But back in 2006, it was Romney who championed high gasoline prices. He opposed a reduction in the state gas tax by arguing, "I’m not sure there will be the right time for us to encourage the use of more gasoline.”

Ironically, Mitt Romney is in damage control mode after one of his top campaign spokesmen compared the candidate’s stance on issues to an Etch A Sketch yesterday.

“I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign,” said campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom on CNN yesterday morning. “Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.”

The comments illustrate what conservative Republicans fear and what the Democratic opposition is celebrating: The candidate’s stances have changed so dramatically, it’s nearly impossible to know who the real Romney is.

The latest Etch A Sketch moment for the campaign relates to gas prices. In 2006, saying he didn’t think high gas prices would go away, Romney pushed for alternatives to petroleum fuels. When Romney came into office, his administration even proposed quintupling a fee on wholesale fuel deliveries in order to fund environmental clean up.

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Obama likes Keystone XL now

Well, that was nice while it lasted. But despite the fact that domestic oil production doesn't do a dicky bird to bring down gas prices, President Obama is now paying election-year lip service to the idea of, and I quote, "drilling all over the place." And even more depressingly, he's now saying that the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, which he'd previously opposed, should be "a priority."

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Media produces, laments public ignorance on gas prices

[See update at bottom.]

Painful source: Why can't the media get gas prices right?

Media coverage of gas prices has made me want to smash my head on my desk. So it was with some amusement that I read the first paragraph of Politico's piece on how dumb voters are:

Voters are appalled at President Barack Obama's handling of gas prices, even though virtually every policy expert in both parties says there’s little a president can do to affect the day-to-day price of fuel in a global market.

Ha ha stupid voters! Where do they get such bad information?

As Politico says, the U.S. president has virtually no control over gas prices. Time's Bryan Walsh lays it out clearly here (in an entirely factual piece that is nonetheless labeled "viewpoint"). Gas prices are tightly linked to oil prices, which are set by forces over which the U.S. has little control.

This is something that energy experts and analysts are more or less unanimous on. The Initiative on Global Markets gathered a panel of economic experts, from across the professional and ideological spectrum, and asked them to react to this thesis: "Changes in U.S. gasoline prices over the past 10 years have predominantly been due to market factors rather than U.S. federal economic or energy policies." Some 92 percent agreed. Eight percent were "uncertain." Not a single one disagreed.

So, just to be clear: Anyone who says the president is responsible for gas prices is either lying or woefully ignorant. This category includes all of the Republican candidates for president, virtually every GOP elected official, many conservative Democrats, legions of conservative and centrist pundits, and occasionally Obama himself.

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Obama debuts new energy theme: Past vs. future

Photo by Nick Knupffer.

The Obama administration has learned from history, it seems. They're not going to sit passively by as their opponents demagogue gas prices. This week they've gone on the offensive, with the president giving a series of interviews and speeches, including a major address today at Prince George's Community College in Largo, Md.

Most of the details from today's speech were familiar from previous speeches. Obama argued that his administration has substantially increased oil and gas drilling, but that drilling will never be enough to reduce gas prices or make America independent of imported energy. Thus, America needs to invent and build new technologies to produce clean energy and use less energy.

That's all been said before (though obviously nothing's wrong with repeating it). There was, however, a new theme in the speech, tying all these points together. I don't know if it's entirely new, but I've never heard it emphasized as much. And since it's a theme I've been pushing for years (clearly Obama is reading my blog), I was quite gratified to see it.

It's simply this: the past vs. the future. In his prepared remarks, he said a state of constant vulnerability to events overseas is ...

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Meet the worst Senate amendment that ever lived

It’s ba-aack -- the Keystone XL pipeline, that is. The Senate is set to vote tomorrow on an amendment created by Big Oil wearing a Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) mask. The amendment would revive everyone’s favorite pipeline -- and, while it was at it, greenlight all the other oil-hungry environmental ruination that Republicans go in for.

The Senate defeated Keystone yet again last week, but Sen. Roberts included the pipeline in amendment #1826 of the Senate transportation bill (S. 1813). And that’s not the only Big Oil party favor he stuck in this grab bag of evil:

It would mandate drilling off of every coast in our nation and in the Arctic Refuge, allow oil shale development on millions of acres in America’s west, and allow the already-rejected Keystone XL pipeline to go forward.