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America: Awash in sunlight and oil

America is like this pelican, except likely to survive.

The Wall Street Journal isn't the most environmentally friendly news outlet. (For example.) (And, also: It frequently chops down thousands of trees, turns them into pulp, crushes soybeans into ink, and combines all of this into a product that is dumped directly into landfills. Can you imagine?)

You should not, therefore, be surprised to read its triumphant proclamation of the imminent end of foreign oil.

America will halve its reliance on Middle East oil by the end of this decade and could end it completely by 2035 due to declining demand and the rapid growth of new petroleum sources in the Western Hemisphere, energy analysts now anticipate.

Hooray! First paragraph! Oh, also:

By 2035, oil shipments from the Middle East to North America "could almost be nonexistent," the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries recently predicted, partly because more efficient car engines and a growing supply of renewable fuel will help curb demand.

Bottom of the third paragraph. If they could have whispered it, they probably would have.

A reduced reliance on importing oil is indeed good. But primarily if it's because we're reducing oil use. That's not a runner-up.

Read more: Oil, Solar Power


Hope you enjoyed those two years without drilling on Alaska’s North Slope

A joke from me, created at Arctic Ready.

In 2010, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar visited Alaska's North Slope, a region that has long been eyed by Shell as an area for development. As he prepared to leave the state, he spoke to reporters.

We know that it would be very difficult to mount the kind of oil spill response that has been mounted in the Gulf of Mexico. And so because those questions are very much part of what we have been dealing with, it also seemed necessary for us to say, until we have answers to some of those central questions, we're not going to allow the drilling of the exploration wells.

Apparently he got all the answers he needed. As Businessweek reports:

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says the federal government will announce its five-year offshore lease plan later this week and it will include targeted areas off Alaska's northern coast.

Salazar says the Arctic lease sales will be in areas with high petroleum potential, but low conflict with environmental resources.


Good news about fossil fuels! Related: Bad news about fossil fuels!

How you will feel at the end and beginning of this post, respectively. (Photo by loresjoberg.)

Presenting: New data about fossil fuel consumption from the Worldwatch Institute, in decreasing order of how good the news is.

  • Oil consumption in the European Union dropped by 2.8 percent in 2011!
  • Oil consumption in the United States dropped by 1.8 percent in 2011!
  • Oil consumption increased by .7 percent globally last year -- less than the 3.3 percent increase in 2010.
  • But a lot more than the 1.3 percent decline in 2009.


Will the Senate make you inhale mercury? We find out today

The EPA doesn't want you inhaling this.

Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), a first-of-its-kind baseline regulating the emission of mercury (and, as you might have guessed, other airborne toxics) from coal- and oil-fueled power plants. Today, the Senate, led by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), will vote on blocking the regulation from ever taking effect. Thanks, Senate!

Obviously, everyone you know will be talking about this. Americans are obsessed with the intricacies of governmental regulation and the procedures by which they are overturned. So to ensure that you're the life of any party, we've put together this overview.

What is the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard?

The rule itself is straightforward. By reducing -- not eliminating -- mercury, sulfur dioxides, and particulate matter emissions, the EPA estimates that between 4,000 and 11,000 premature deaths can be prevented each year. That includes 4,700 heart attacks avoided, and 130,000 asthma attacks. The total economic benefits from this improved health are measured at between $37 billion and $90 billion annually.

The rule was originally proposed by the Bush EPA, but an appeals court determined that its scope was insufficiently broad. Last March, the EPA proposed a revised rule; last winter, they issued a final standard.

Read more: Coal, Oil, Politics


Oh, great: OPEC considers cutting production to boost oil prices

The Washington Post reports:

With the global economy at a tipping point, a deeply divided Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries meeting in Vienna wrangled over whether to cut production and prop up crude oil prices.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter and the cartel member with the greatest latitude for tightening or opening its taps, arrived vowing to maintain its output and hold the line on quotas for the group. Other OPEC members, led by Iran and Venezuela, have wanted to trim output quotas to boost the price of oil.

Analysts said they expect no change in the end. ...


Big mystery: U.S. oil production hits 14-year high, gas prices not at 14-year low

Great news, America! The amount of crude oil produced within our borders is at the highest levels we've seen since 1998.

This is mostly because of the drilling booms in North Dakota and Texas.

This is basically the scenario that fossil fuel companies argue for. Let's drill more, they say, and then gas prices will go down. It makes intuitive sense, right? The more oil to make gas with, the more gas; the more gas, the lower the price. Good old supply and demand.

But -- and I don't want to freak you out or imply that fossil fuel companies are being disingenuous -- gas prices are not at the lowest point since 1998. In fact, they may be starting to go back up.


Romney energy advisor on oil subsidies: Four more years!

In an appearance before the Senate Finance Committee tomorrow, the CEO of Continental Resources will argue for preserving the billions of dollars in tax subsidies the federal government provides to oil companies each year. Given that Continental Resources bills itself as "America's Oil Champion" (after, we assume, a difficult championship battle), the CEO's stance probably comes as no surprise. In fact, it's hard to figure out why the Senate's even bothering to hear from him, when a large blinking sign reading MORE MONEY PLS would be functionally equivalent.

But the CEO of Continental Resources, one Harold Hamm, isn't just another energy executive. He's also chair of Mitt Romney's energy advisory team. The Hill got a copy of his planned testimony, in which Hamm declares that "[t]he tax provisions that let us keep our own money to reinvest in drilling are crucial to keep this energy revival going." More directly, Hamm implies that ending the subsidies would "slow down, if not stop, America’s march to energy independence."

Read more: Oil, Politics


Estimates of Michigan’s Enbridge spill were way (way) too low

Oil-coated birds from Michigan.

In 2010, a rupture in an Enbridge Energy pipeline dumped hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil sands crude into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River.

When the spill was first reported, Enbridge estimated that 819,000 gallons of oil had escaped. Later, it revised the estimate upward to more than 843,000 gallons.

Those were both low.

Read more: Oil


A report from inside the Shell ‘oil spill’ party prank

It took Grist a hot second to figure out that this too-ironic-to-be-true video of a Shell party gone wrong was a prank. The concept, though, is brilliant -- an "oil derrick" on a cake started "spilling" liquid all over the assembled guests. Pulling it off wasn’t easy, or cheap. Salon has dishy details from a volunteer, who reveals even more layers of clever strategy:

  • The woman sprayed in the face by the supposed booze (it’s soda) was Dorli Rainey, who was sprayed in the face with pepper spray at Occupy Seattle.
  • The guy who presses the button on the soda-fountain-gone-wrong is supposed to be the engineer of the Kulluk, a drilling rig set to go to the Arctic this summer. In fact, it’s Paul Horiuchi, an actor who was once on Northern Exposure (ha!) and who is pretty old (76). The Kulluk is also old -- 29, which is at least 76 in drilling rig years. That was the joke: The rig and its “engineer” are both past their prime.
Read more: Oil


Pennsylvania gives Shell a sweet, crude deal

Shell Oil wants to build an ethane processing plant in Western Pennsylvania. But: Can a massive fossil fuels conglomerate possibly turn a profit on something as risky as a natural gas derivative?

Under the deal, taxpayers would foot the bill for hazardous materials clean up at the western Pennsylvania site, a cost that could easily soar into the tens of millions, according to a report by CapitolWire news service.

[Pennsylvania Gov. Tom] Corbett officials told legislative staff that on top of the $1.65 billion in tax credits over 25 years starting in 2017, and other sweeteners that come with a tax-free Keystone Opportunity Zone, the state would be picking up the bill to clean up the waste from a zinc smelter site.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Oil