By Tom Whipple
With global warming driving down the demand for natural gas as a home heating fuel and natural gas drillers producing record amounts, an oversupply situation has developed quickly. Stocks of natural gas are rising. As a result, natural gas prices have fallen way below profitability and drillers are scrambling to cut back production.
The natural gas surplus that is in our underground storage facilities may be full before fall, forcing producers to slow production until a market for the gas can be found. There are only so many things we can do with an excess of natural gas—you can export it; burn it in power plants; turn it into other products in petrochemical plants; increase its use in vehicles; and burn it to heat buildings.
Given the pace at which temperatures are rising, less, not more, home consumption seems likely so only one of these uses can be accomplished quickly—burning it in electricity generating plants. As the price of natural gas becomes cheaper, power companies are already increasing its share of the fuels used for power generation and are closing older coal-fired plants. Wherever prices are favorable we will likely see more of this in the immediate future.
The other major ways to increase natural gas consumption will require considerable investment and take many years to implement. U.S. natural gas is so cheap by world standards that some see large profits in exporting natural gas to energy-deficit regions such as Japan, Korea, Europe and even the Caribbean islands. To do this on a large scale will require investments in liquefaction plants that will turn natural gas in liquid which can be transported economically. A backlash to this idea is already arising from those who believe we should be using the energy at home and not be shipping it at rock bottom prices to other countries.
Building more petrochemical plants to convert the natural gas surplus into plastics and other materials seems to be under serious consideration. In recent years this business has been shifting to the Middle East to take advantage of the cheap natural gas prices, but now that U.S. prices have fallen so low, the large investments required seem more attractive.
We now get to transportation fuels which is a very interesting case. Natural gas used in transportation comes in two very different forms—compressed and liquefied. The compressed version is rather simple to distribute and use. Compress natural gas directly from the distribution pipe into a suitably equipped vehicle and away you go. The big drawback to compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles is that it requires a lot of storage space on a truck or car to go any distance. Nothing, as yet, can touch a good tankful of diesel for energy density—the vehicle range you can squeeze out of the tank.
A partial solution to this problem is to use liquefied natural gas (LNG) rather than compressed natural gas as a fuel. A tank of LNG will give you 2.4 times the range of a similar sized tank of compressed gas thereby making it practical for cross country vehicles. While a CNG truck might only go 100 miles, an LNG one could go 240 miles between fill ups. LNG, however, has its own problems. To make it you have to lower the temperature to -260oF and then keep it that way until it goes into the vehicle's engine.
When LNG is made for shipping between countries on massive ships, it is cooled in liquefaction plants that usually cost $2-3 billion and are spread over hundreds or thousands of acres. Not particularly practical for a truck stop. Once you get the gas down to -260oF you have to keep it in special cryogenic tanks and be able to handle the problem that a small amount is constantly boiling off in a gaseous state. It can be moved in special tanker trucks, but not by pipeline.
With CNG not containing enough energy to move large trucks and LNG expensive and hard to make and handle, there has been very little movement towards natural gas propelled trucks until recently. However, this is changing rapidly. With diesel fuel now pushing $4.50 a gallon in many parts of the country and showing every sign of moving to $5 later this year, the circa $2 a gallon cheaper LNG is irresistible for long-haul truck operators who are burning some 20,000-40,000 gallons per truck each year.
Nearly all the major truck manufactures are now selling trucks that run on LNG so that the payback time for the additional cost of an LNG engine is now said to be less than a year. The second problem of widespread adoption of LNG trucks is getting LNG to truck stops across the country. A major program to make this happen is underway. Starting with using LNG at the ports of Los Angles and Long Beach where LNG has been widely adopted as a way to reducing pollution, LNG stations have been established along the route from Southern California to Las Vegas. Plans are underway to install another 250 LNG stations along America's trucking routes in the next few years. If the price spread between diesel and LNG holds up or increases, it seems likely that the use of LNG for large trucks will become widespread by the end of the decade.
Much of this change will come from the development of small-scale LNG plants that can produce 10,000-30,000 gallons per day and only cost in the range of $2-3 million making them affordable for deployment along the nation's trucking routes.
While all this sounds nice—replacing at least some of the 35 billion gallons of diesel burned on the nation's highways each year with a domestic source of energy while making some reductions in air pollution and possibly greenhouse gases—natural gas remains a finite source of energy. Production is already dropping in the well-hyped shale gas fields around Ft. Worth and in Louisiana. While there is still much gas-bearing shale left to drill and frack, it is not going to continue much longer when shale gas costs $6 or so to produce and sells for $2.
The gas glut story still has a way to play out.
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The Washington Redskins will retire their controversial name and logo, the National Football League (NFL) team announced Monday.
By Alyssa Murdoch, Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle and Sapna Sharma
Summer has finally arrived in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska, liberating hundreds of thousands of northern stream fish from their wintering habitats.
A Good News Story?<p>On the surface, the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/fwb.13569" target="_blank">results from our study</a> appear to provide a "good news" story. Warming temperatures were linked to higher numbers of fish, more species overall and, therefore, potentially more fishing opportunities for northerners.</p><p>Initially, we were surprised to learn that warming was increasing the distribution of cold-adapted fish. We reasoned that modest amounts of warming could lead to benefits such as increased food and winter habitat availability without reaching stressful levels for many species.</p>
Photo of Arctic grayling (left) and Dolly Varden trout (right). Alyssa Murdoch / Lilian Tran / Nunavik Research Centre and Tracey Loewen / Fisheries and Oceans Canada<p>Yet, not all fish species fared equally well. Ecologically unique northern species — those that have evolved in colder, more nutrient-poor environments, such as Arctic grayling and Dolly Varden trout — were showing declines with warming.</p>
Fish Strandings and Buried Eggs<p>Recent news headlines run the gamut for Pacific salmon — from their increased escapades <a href="https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/more-pacific-salmon-showing-up-in-western-arctic-waters/" target="_blank">into the Arctic</a> to <a href="https://www.juneauempire.com/news/warm-waters-across-alaska-cause-salmon-die-offs/" target="_blank">massive pre-spawning die-offs</a> in central Alaska. Similarly, results from our study revealed different outcomes for fish depending on local climatic conditions, including Pacific salmon.</p><p>We found that warmer spring and fall temperatures may be helping juvenile salmon by providing a longer and more plentiful growing season, and by supporting early egg development in northern regions that were previously too cold for survival.</p><p>In contrast, salmon declined in regions that were experiencing wetter fall conditions, pointing to an increased risk of flooding and sedimentation that could bury or dislodge incubating eggs.</p>
Headwaters of the Wind River within the largely intact Peel River watershed in northern Canada. Don Reid / Wildlife Conservation Society Canada / Author provided<p>Interestingly, we found that certain climatic combinations, such as warmer summer water temperatures with decreased summer rainfall, were important in determining where Pacific salmon could survive. Summer warming in drier watersheds led to declines, suggesting that lowered streamflows may have increased the risk of fish becoming stranded in subpar habitats that were too warm and crowded.</p>
The Fate of Northern Fisheries<p>The promise of a warmer and more accessible Arctic has attracted mounting interest in new economic opportunities, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2019.103637" target="_blank">including fisheries</a>. As warming rates at higher latitudes are already <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank">two to three times global levels</a>, it seems probable that northern biodiversity will experience dramatic shifts in the coming decades.</p><p>Despite the many unknowns surrounding the future of Pacific salmon, many fisheries are currently <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/03632415.2017.1374251" target="_blank">thriving following warmer and more productive northern oceans</a>, and some <a href="https://doi.org/10.14430/arctic68876" target="_blank">Arctic Indigenous communities are developing new salmon fisheries</a>.</p><p>As warming continues, the commercial salmon fishing industry is poised to expand northwards, but its success will largely depend on extenuating factors such as <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060023067" target="_blank">changes to marine habitat and food sources</a> and <a href="https://www.yukon-news.com/news/promising-chinook-salmon-run-failed-to-materialize-in-the-yukon-river-panel-hears/" target="_blank">how many fish are caught during the freshwater stages of their journey</a>.</p><p>Even with the potential for increased northern biodiversity, it is important to recognize that some northern communities may be unable to adapt or may <a href="https://thenarwhal.ca/searching-for-the-yukon-rivers-missing-chinook/" target="_blank">lose individual species that are associated with important cultural values</a>.</p>
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By Joni Sweet
If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, don't hit decline — it might be a contact tracer calling to let you know that someone you've been near has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Interviews With Contact Tracers<p>Contact tracing is a public health strategy that involves identifying everyone who may have been in contact with a person who has the coronavirus. Contact tracers collect information and provide guidance to help contain the transmission of disease.</p><p>It's been used during outbreaks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), Ebola, measles, and now the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.</p><p>It starts when the local department of health gets a report of a confirmed case of the coronavirus in its community and gives that person a call. The contact tracer usually provides information on how to isolate and when to get treatment, then tries to figure out who else the person may have exposed.</p><p>"We ask who they've been in contact with in the 48 hours prior to symptom onset, or 2 days before the date of their positive test if they don't have symptoms," said <a href="https://case.edu/medicine/healthintegration/people/heidi-gullett" target="_blank">Dr. Heidi Gullett</a>, associate director of the Center for Community Health Integration at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and medical director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health in Ohio.</p>
“You’ve Been Exposed”<p>After the case interview, contact tracers will get to work calling the folks who may have been exposed to the coronavirus by the person who tested positive.</p><p>"We give them recommendations about quarantining or isolating, getting tested, and what to do if they become sick. If they're not already sick, we still want them to self-quarantine so that they don't spread the disease to anyone else if they were to become sick," said Labus.</p><p>Generally, the contact tracer won't ask for additional contacts unless they happen to call someone who is sick or has a confirmed case of the virus. They will help ensure the contact has the resources they need to isolate themselves, if necessary. The contact tracer may continue to stay in touch with that person over the next 14 days.</p><p>"We follow the percentage of people that were contacts, then converted into being actual cases of the virus. It's an important marker to help us understand what kind of transmission happens in our community and how to control the virus," said Gullett.</p>
Why You Should Participate (and What Happens If You Don’t)<p>A <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30457-6/fulltext" target="_blank">Lancet study</a> from June 16, which looked at data from more than 40,000 people, found that COVID-19 transmission could be reduced by 64 percent through isolating those who have the coronavirus, quarantining their household, and contacting the people they may have exposed.</p><p>The combination strategy was significantly more effective than mass random testing or just isolating the sick person and members of their household.</p><p>However, contact tracing is only as effective as people's willingness to participate, and a small number of people who've contracted the coronavirus or were potentially exposed are reluctant to talk.</p><p>"Contact tracers have all been hung up on, cussed at, yelled at," said Gullet.</p><p>The hesitation to talk to contact tracers often stems from concerns over privacy — a serious issue in healthcare.</p>
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NASA scientists say that warmer than average surface sea temperatures in the North Atlantic raise the concern for a more active hurricane season, as well as for wildfires in the Amazon thousands of miles away, according to Newsweek.
By Andrea Germanos
Oxfam International warned Thursday that up to 12,000 people could die each day by the end of the year as a result of hunger linked to the coronavirus pandemic—a daily death toll surpassing the daily mortality rate from Covid-19 itself.
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By Jun N. Aguirre
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