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Gas prices could drop 50 cents by November. Unrelated: Production is up.

Malser / Flickr

A million times we've said it. One million. On average, one out of every three posts on Grist (maybe an exaggeration) includes this line: There is no link between increased domestic oil production and gas prices. None. Doesn't work that way. The Department of Energy provides this detailed explanation of why that is [PDF].

All of that said: Domestic oil production is up and gas prices are going down. I'm sure this won't be misinterpreted.

First, gas prices. Here's what they've done nationally over the past four months.

USA Today predicts that the decline will continue:

As inventories rise and demand wanes, gasoline prices could plunge up to 50 cents a gallon from October's $3.86 peak average over the next few weeks, providing a lift for the economy and possibly becoming a factor in next month's presidential election.

Gasoline, now averaging $3.67 a gallon, is expected to fall to $3.35 or lower by late November. In some regions, prices have already sunk below $3. …

The drop could provide a boost to consumer spending and influence next month's presidential race, where gas prices have been a hot-button issue for much of the campaign. Several battleground states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, are enjoying big price drops.


Frackers struggle while financiers make millions. Sounds familiar.

The natural gas industry may be eviscerating King Coal, but it's still having a rough time.

Over the weekend, The New York Times looked at the increasingly small profit margins for natural gas extractors (read: frackers).

[W]hile the gas rush has benefited most Americans [Ed. -- Um, the argument being cheaper energy costs], it’s been a money loser so far for many of the gas exploration companies and their tens of thousands of investors.

The drillers punched so many holes and extracted so much gas through hydraulic fracturing that they have driven the price of natural gas to near-record lows. And because of the intricate financial deals and leasing arrangements that many of them struck during the boom, they were unable to pull their foot off the accelerator fast enough to avoid a crash in the price of natural gas, which is down more than 60 percent since the summer of 2008.

Although the bankers made a lot of money from the deal making and a handful of energy companies made fortunes by exiting at the market’s peak, most of the industry has been bloodied -- forced to sell assets, take huge write-offs and shift as many drill rigs as possible from gas exploration to oil, whose price has held up much better.
Click to embiggen.


Jonathan Franzen defends Obama presidency on green grounds

Both presidential candidates may be loathe to utter the words "climate change" on the campaign trail, but best-selling author Jonathan Franzen (of the recent eco-minded books Freedom and Farther Away) still thinks you should go with Obama, despite the indisputable: "There’s no whitewashing the fact that his presidency hasn’t been a green one."

Greg Martin

So says Franzen, at 90 Days, 90 Reasons:

Our opportunity to elect a genuinely green President was in 2000—an opportunity torpedoed (this really bears repeating) by the Green Party candidate. Voters who care strongly about the environment have already let the perfect be the enemy of the good, with calamitous results. If you’re one of those voters, please ask yourself: Can we afford to do it again?


Could public urination be good for the environment?

"Pee planters," fruit fences, and LED hopscotch might sound like a normal weekend in San Francisco, but the Urban Prototyping Festival isn't exactly aiming for normal.

Click to embiggen.
Urban Prototyping

Part art-installation festival, part pop-up urban-planning think tank, this unique green fest convened for one day this weekend in S.F. to take on city problems with a heavy dose of whimsy.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:


The Navy will convert seawater to fuel — with the help of a little atomic fission

As we've noted several times already, the Navy is at the forefront of developing greener ways to do its thing. ("Its thing" is mostly "bombing stuff.") Its recent push into biofuels research caused some waves among fossil fuel-friendly members of Congress over the summer.

U.S. Navy
A fighter takes flight over a giant pool of fuel-to-be.

And now, the Navy is working to figure out how to power its planes with seawater. This is not a joke. Oh -- and nor is it green.

The BBC explains:

The US Navy has a problem. Its ships often stay at sea for months on end far away from home. To keep its fleet of ships, boats and aircraft running, a fleet of 15 oil tankers roams the globe acting like floating gas stations. According to the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) nearly 600 million gallons (2,700 million litres) of fuel were delivered to Navy vessels in 2011. …

One of the most interesting lines it is pursuing is a plan to generate jet fuel from a source that is abundance wherever the fleet is: seawater.

Jet fuel, along with all other common fuels, is a hydrocarbon. As the name suggests, these are chains of hydrogen and carbon atoms. In theory if you can combine those two elements in the correct way you can produce a fuel. It turns out that seawater is a good source of both ingredients – it contains hydrogen in the H20, and a lot of dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2). It also has the advantage of occurring in abundance - and for the Navy - close to the action.


A group of investors wants to make tar-sands extraction greener

Here's a funny expression for you: "green tar sands." You will be forgiven if you assume that the only way tar sands could be green would be if you mixed in a healthy dose of food dye and/or were given tinted glasses from the lost-and-found at Studio 54.

A group of investors is a bit more optimistic. Not "clean coal"-never-gonna-happen optimistic, but actually, you know, optimistic. Their argument: tar-sand extraction -- boon to Alberta and bane of Keystone XL pipeline protestors -- could be greener.

From the Financial Times (registration required):

A group of 49 investors with more than $2tn under management is launching an initiative on Monday to put pressure on companies operating in the Canadian oil sands to improve their environmental performance.

The investors accept that the production from the oil sands of Alberta is going to rise, but want companies such as BP, ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell, Statoil and Total that are active there to curb their greenhouse gas emissions and water use.

They argue that environmental impacts could create a significant threat to future earnings, for example if production has to be curbed as a result of water shortages, or regulations on greenhouse gases make the oil sands uncompetitive.

This, but, you know, green.

So that's good, I guess? But there's a pretty big "oh, by the way" missing here.


Newspaper presidential endorsements ignore climate change

Romney and Obama at Denver debate
Rick Wilking / Reuters

Newspaper candidate endorsements are an anachronism, a relic of a time during which readers didn't have access to the internet, didn't have an entire world of research and rhetoric at their fingertips. The Knoxville News Sentinel admitted as much earlier this year, when it announced that it would no longer endorse a candidate for the presidency. After all, they "have no sources of information that every other citizen does not have as well." That doesn't stop most newspapers. Most papers still see endorsements as a responsibility -- and an opportunity to establish their own importance.

We decided to survey the endorsements that have been given to date (by newspapers with circulations of 100,000 or more) to assess the extent to which those endorsements address issues of concern to Grist readers; specifically, the environment and energy, and food. (In case you're curious, the endorsements, like the polling, show a generally even split.)

Guess what? They rarely, rarely did. The only time food came up in any editorial was as part of the phrase "food stamps," used in editorials bashing the president. "Climate" came up every so often -- but more regularly when used in conjunction with "business." "Climate change" was mentioned twice -- twice! -- in the 21 endorsements we looked at.

(The University of California at Santa Barbara provides an ongoing list of endorsements, a hugely valuable tool that we relied on. Many more papers have yet to weigh in.)


Deadly 2011 Spanish earthquake linked to groundwater drilling

A church damaged in the 2011 Lorca earthquake.
Earlier this month, a suburb of Dallas experienced something unusual. Earthquakes. Tiny, subtle earthquakes, but earthquakes nonetheless. It didn't take long for a geologist from the University of Texas to draw a correlation to wastewater wells drilled for nearby fracking. Nor has it taken long to draw similar correlations elsewhere.

It's not only injecting wastewater (well, water mixed with other chemicals, including known carcinogens) into the ground that can result in earthquakes. So can drawing too much water out.

From the Washington Post:

Farmers drilling ever deeper wells over decades to water their crops likely contributed to a deadly earthquake in southern Spain last year, a new study suggests. The findings may add to concerns about the effects of new energy extraction and waste disposal technologies.

Nine people died and nearly 300 were injured when an unusually shallow magnitude-5.1 quake hit the town of Lorca on May 11, 2011. It was the country’s worst quake in more than 50 years, causing millions of euros in damage to a region with an already fragile economy.

Using satellite images, scientists from Canada, Italy and Spain found the quake ruptured a fault running near a basin that had been weakened by 50 years of groundwater extraction in the area.


Good news for lovers of non-organic peanuts

There's some relief on the horizon for the peanut-panicked -- at least those with a taste for Peter Pan and Jif. (Shudder.)

This time last year, peanut prices had more than doubled following sustained hot weather, resulting in a nearly 40 percent bump in the price of a jar of conventional peanut butter. Now the U.S. is poised to harvest its biggest annual peanut crop to date: 6.1 billion pounds.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food


Big brands want us to shop our way green

If you're a fan of buying your way to a better environment, you may be a fan of Lucy Shea's piece at The Guardian today championing sustainable consumption and the companies that sell it.


I, on the other hand, find her logic itchier than a thrifted wool sweater.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living