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Northern exposure: Arctic melts, revealing new sources of oil and gas
Drake Bennett, Boston Globe
As the Arctic melts, vast deposits of oil and gas may be opened up for exploration. Will an Arctic without ice only prolong our dependence on fossil fuels?
...The presence of abundant stores of oil and gas near the North Pole is hardly a secret. The United States Geological Survey estimates that a quarter of the world's remaining oil and gas reserves are in the Arctic. The problem has always been getting to them, and getting their contents out of the ground. Drilling operations in the far north have to deal with subzero temperatures, marauding ice floes, violent seas, and the logistical difficulties that come with transporting oil and gas from remote, often offshore locations. The $10 billion cost overrun at the mammoth oil and gas project being built along the coast of Sakhalin, an island off Siberia, give some taste of what working in the Arctic entails.
But the Arctic is changing, and faster than many climatologists expected. Indeed, parts of the Arctic and Antarctic are warming faster than anyplace else on Earth. Whole swaths of the Arctic Ocean that used to be solid ice year-round are now open water in the summer, freeing up formerly inaccessible potential drilling sites and new routes for tankers.
...Once found, though, the difficulty of getting the oil and gas out of the ground and to market -- in what are still quite inhospitable conditions -- remains considerable. Richard Nehring, head of the oil and gas consultancy NRG Associates, believes there's no question about the potential of the Arctic, but to be economically feasible to drill, "it has to be high quality oil in good reservoirs." The USGS's assessment of the Arctic's considerable reserves, he goes on, "tells us nothing about those sorts of isstues."
Nonetheless, Amy Myers Jaffe, an energy expert at Rice University's Baker Institute, points out that Arctic oil and gas deposit finds don't have to rival those of the Middle East to bring down global prices -- and make certain non-carbon-emitting fuels less competitive. Jaffe points to how the development in the 1980s of oil projects in Alaska and the North Sea, neither of them anywhere near the size of Saudi Arabia's reserves, helped ensure low gas prices for years.
And history has shown that scarcity is a powerful spur in the oil industry. Despite the technological hurdles to be cleared and the political disputes to be untangled, if current trends continue, we may come to see the warming Arctic as an energy opportunity sooner rather than later. High oil prices, whatever the reason for them, says Nehring, "always seems to create a certain amount of ingenuity on the part of engineers."
(18 Feb 2007)
Runaway feedback loop: Burning oil --> global warming --> melting Arctic --> new sources of oil --> cheaper prices --> burning oil --> global warming... -BA
Political Heat: Questions for NASA's Drew Shindell
Deborah Solomon, NY Times
Q: As a physicist and climatologist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, you recently testified before Congress about ways in which the Bush administration has tried to prevent you from releasing information on global warming. Can you give us an example?
Drew Shindell: Sure. Press releases about global warming were watered down to the point where you wondered, Why would this capture anyone’s interest? Once when I issued a report predicting rapid warming in Antarctica, the press release ended up highlighting, in effect, that Antarctica has a climate.
Q: If your department is that politicized, how does that affect research?
Drew Shindell: Well, five years from now, we will know less about our home planet that we know now. The future does not have money set aside to maintain even the current level of observations. There were proposals for lots of climate-monitoring instruments, most of which have been canceled.
(18 Feb 2007)
UNICEF: U.S., British children worst off in industrialized world
Associated Press via Boston Herald
BERLIN - The United States and Britain ranked at the bottom of a U.N. survey released Wednesday evaluating the well-being of children in wealthy countries.
The Netherlands topped the report issued by UNICEF, followed by other European countries with strong social welfare systems - Sweden, Denmark and Finland.
Among the report’s overall findings was that wealth alone did not guarantee a child’s well-being, with some poorer countries scoring ahead of richer ones. The U.S. and Britain finished 20th and 21st overall, respectively, behind Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary.
(14 Feb 2007)
Yet another sign that high levels of consumption and energy use do not translate into human well-being.
Related from Agence France-Presse: "Britain Stung at Being Worst Place for Children" -BA
Court overturns sentence in SUV fire
Bill Bishop, The Register-Guard
The Oregon Court of Appeals on Wednesday overturned the 22-year sentence given to environmental activist Jeffrey Michael Luers for burning three SUVs at the former Romania truck lot and for trying to set fire to the Tyree Oil Co. in Eugene.
The court upheld all 10 of Luers' felony convictions from his 2001 trial, but ruled that he was improperly sentenced to back-to-back prison terms in each of the crimes.
Luers, 28, is considered a "political prisoner" among some activists who contend his 22-year, eight-month sentence is disproportionately harsh, considering that no one was injured in either crime and damage to the SUVs was estimated at less than $50,000.
(15 Feb 2007)
The 22-year sentence seems incredible.
Related from Globe & Mail: Jailed 'eco-terrorist' a hit with ecology students -BA