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The Downsides of Extreme Energy

Energy
The Downsides of Extreme Energy

The Price of Oil

By Andy Rowell

So it's official—fracking causes earthquakes.

A report published by the oil company Cuadrilla Nov. 2 as to whether its drilling operations caused two earthquakes in April and May, concluded that fracking was the “highly probable” cause of the small seismic events.

Cuadrilla suspended fracking operations in June, over fears of a link to the two minor earthquakes.

Early Nov. 2 the British environmental campaign group Frack Off entered the shale gas rig near Lancashire, England. They were protesting against Cuadrilla’s s plans to use fracking. The protest is planned to coincide with the report.

Colin Eastman, one of those who scaled Cuadrilla’s rig, said in a statement from the group, “Conventional fossil fuels have begun to run out and the system is moving towards more extreme forms of energy like fracking, tar sands and deep water drilling."

Eastman continued, “The move towards extreme energy is literally scraping the bottom of the barrel, sucking the last, most difficult-to-reach fossil fuels from the planet at a time when we should be rapidly reducing our consumption altogether and looking for sustainable alternatives.”

Eastman has a real point here. There is no doubt that fracking and the development of the tar sands is rapidly changing the energy landscape, no more so than in the U.S.

Ed Crookes printed a full page article—Pendulum Swings on American Oil Independence—Nov. 1 in the Financial Times.

“Over the past couple of years, there has been a great U-turn in U.S. oil supply,” Daniel Yergin of the research group IHS Cera and author of The Quest told the Financial Times. “Until recently, the question was whether oil imports would flatten out. Now we are seeing a major rebalancing of supplies.”

Such is the boom in fracking that Crookes argued many analysts expect the U.S. will leapfrog Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the world’s largest producer of liquid hydrocarbons in the coming decade. This will be achieved via fracking and also gains in horizontal drilling.

Crookes' article quoted some brazen production predictions. In 2010, America’s National Petroleum Council (NPC), an advisor to the U.S. government, noted that the U.S. and Canada produced almost 10 million barrels a day and consumed about 22.5m b/d.

The NPC now believes that “given the right opportunities and incentives—and the access to closed areas such as America’s East and West Coasts for which the oil industry is lobbying—by 2035, the two countries’ production could rise to 22m b/d."

There is no doubt that this new oil bonanza has the potential to change the energy landscape and be very seductive to Americans.

But at what price? It will also seriously pollute our water supplies and cause dangerous climate change, let alone cause small earthquakes.

Let’s not forget that the leading climate scientist Jim Hansen has called the tar sands the biggest climate bomb on the planet.

Are we really going to let that explode?

For more information, click here.
A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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