Tag Archives: U.S. Energy Information Administration

Obama’s two faces on climate change

By Roger Straw, Editor, The Benicia Independent

ObamaTwoSidesDear President Obama: I read two articles about you in this morning’s news.  What’s wrong here?  You are all worried about climate change as it relates to national security, but not as it relates to climate change itself??!  See below …

OBAMA: It’s real!


Climate change a threat to national security, Obama warns

Associated Press, SFGate (San Francisco Chronicle), 5/20/15

NEW LONDON, Conn. — President Obama has argued for action on climate change as a matter of health, environmental protection and international obligation. On Wednesday, he added national security.

Those who deny global warming are putting at risk the United States and the military sworn to defend it, he told cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Failure to act would be “dereliction of duty,” their commander in chief said.

He said climate change and rising sea levels jeopardize the readiness of U.S. forces and threaten to aggravate social tensions and political instability around the globe.

The president’s message to climate change skeptics was unequivocal: “Denying it or refusing to deal with it undermines our national security”

“Make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country,” Obama said on a crisp, sunny morning at Cadet Memorial Field. “We need to act and we need to act now.”

Seated before him were 218 white-uniformed graduates, pondering where military service will take them in life.

Obama drew a line from climate change to national security that had multiple strands:

• Increased risk of natural disasters resulting in humanitarian crises, with the potential to increase refugee flows and worsen conflicts over food and water.
• Aggravating conditions such as poverty, political instability and social tensions that can lead to terrorist activity and other violence.
• New threats to the U.S. economy from rising oceans that threaten thousands of miles of highways, roads, railways and energy facilities.
• New challenges for military bases and training areas from seas, drought and other conditions.

Preparing for and adapting to climate change won’t be enough, he said. “The only way the world is going to prevent the worst effects of climate change is to slow down the warming of the planet.”

He laid out his administration’s steps to reduce carbon greenhouse gas emissions, including strict limits on emissions from vehicles and power plants. The government expects those emission reductions to provide the U.S. contribution to a global climate treaty that world leaders are expected to finalize in December. Obama said it doesn’t take a scientist to know that climate change is happening.

The evidence is “indisputable,” he said.

OBAMA: Eh, well …


Eugene Robinson: Obama drills a hole in his climate policy

By Eugene Robinson, The Contra Costa Times, 05/19/2015

Here are two facts that cannot be reconciled: The planet has experienced the warmest January-March on record, and the Obama administration has authorized massive new oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean.

“Climate change can no longer be denied … and action can no longer be delayed,” President Barack Obama said in an Earth Day address in the Everglades. Indeed, Obama has been increasingly forceful in raising the alarm about heat-trapping carbon emissions. “If we don’t act,” he said in Florida, “there may not be an Everglades as we know it.”

Why, then, would the Obama administration give Royal Dutch Shell permission to move ahead with plans for Arctic offshore drilling? Put simply, if the problem is that we’re burning too much oil, why give the green light to a process that could produce another million barrels of the stuff per day, just ready to be set alight?

Please hold the pedantic lectures about how the global oil market works: Demand will be met, if not by oil pumped from beneath the Arctic Ocean then by oil pumped from somewhere else. By this logic, the administration’s decision is about energy policy — promoting U.S. self-sufficiency and creating jobs — rather than climate policy. The way to reduce carbon emissions, according to this view, is by cutting demand, not by restricting supply.

But we are told by scientists and world leaders, including Obama, that climate change is an urgent crisis. And on the global scale — the only measure that really matters — the demand-only approach isn’t working well enough.

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is an astounding 40 percent higher than it was at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, when large-scale burning of fossil fuels began. Fourteen of the 15 warmest years on record have occurred this century, with 2014 measured as the warmest of all. And the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced last month that January through March 2015 were the warmest first three months of the year ever recorded.

It’s not that demand-side efforts are entirely ineffectual against climate change; without them, emissions and temperatures would be rising even faster. But it is hard to argue that the current approach is doing enough.

If we are going to avert the kind of temperature rise that climate scientists say would be catastrophic, some of the oil, coal and natural gas buried in the ground will have to stay there.

“Drill, baby, drill” was a slogan Republicans used during the 2008 campaign, but it became a reality under Obama. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, domestic oil production zoomed from 5.4 million barrels a day in 2009 to 8.7 million barrels a day last year, a level not seen since the waning days of the Reagan administration.

Obama has opened vast new lands and offshore tracts to oil drilling. To be fair, he has also put some sensitive areas off-limits, including in the Arctic. But overall, under Obama, the United States has come to threaten the likes of Saudi Arabia and Russia for supremacy in fossil-fuel production.

This is part of what Obama calls his “all of the above” energy strategy, in which he fosters growth and innovation in renewable energy sectors, such as solar and wind, while also promoting U.S. self-sufficiency.

Anticipated rules from the Environmental Protection Agency limiting emissions at coal-fired power plants may go a long way toward reducing the nation’s carbon footprint. But given the urgency, why shouldn’t Obama also take such an approach to climate change? Why not attack the supply side of the equation by firmly deciding to keep drilling rigs out of the Arctic Ocean?

The environmental risk alone would justify saying no to Shell’s plans; a big spill would be a disaster. But even if Arctic oil can be exploited without mishap, we’re talking about billions of gallons of oil being added to a market that is currently glutted. It doesn’t matter whether that oil is eventually burned in New York or New Delhi, in Los Angeles or Lagos.

If we don’t take a stand in the Arctic, then where? And if not now, when?

Eugene Robinson is a syndicated columnist.
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Wall Street Journal: Fewer Oil Trains Ply America’s Rails

Repost from The Wall Street Journal

Fewer Oil Trains Ply America’s Rails

Safety concerns, low crude prices depress train traffic

By Alison Sider, April 6, 2015 3:30 p.m. ET
In March, oil-train traffic was down 7% from a year earlier. The slowdown comes amid safety concerns. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News

The growth in oil-train shipments fueled by the U.S. energy boom has stalled in recent months, dampened by safety problems and low crude prices.

The number of train cars carrying crude and other petroleum products peaked last fall, according to data from the Association of American Railroads, and began edging down. In March, oil-train traffic was down 7% on a year-over-year basis.

Railroads have been a major beneficiary of the U.S. energy boom, as oil companies turned to trains to move crude to refineries from remote oil fields in North Dakota and other areas not served by pipelines. Rail shipments of oil have expanded from 20 million barrels in 2010 to just under 374 million barrels last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

About 1.38 million barrels a day of oil and fuels like gasoline rode the rails in March, versus an average of 1.5 million barrels a day in the same period a year ago, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of the railroad association’s data.

Oil-train traffic declined 1% in the fourth quarter of 2014 as crude-oil prices started to tumble toward $50 a barrel. More recently, data from the U.S. Energy Department show oil-train movements out of the prolific Bakken Shale in North Dakota have leveled off as drillers there have begun to pump less, though oil-train shipments from the Rocky Mountain region have risen.

WSJ_Shipped-By-US_Rail_2014-15The slowdown comes as federal safety experts call for stronger tank cars. On Monday the National Transportation Safety Board recommended an aggressive five-year schedule for phasing out or upgrading older railcars used to haul crude-oil. A string of oil train accidents in recent months have resulted in spills, intense fires and community evacuations. The NTSB said railcars in use today rupture too quickly and aren’t fire-resistant enough.

A few incidents have involved more modern tank cars—the CPC-1232 model. The NTSB also said the new railcar’s design isn’t sturdy enough. “We can’t wait a decade for safer rail cars,” said NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart Monday in a letter to federal transportation regulators.

Opponents of a fast phaseout have said that if tougher standards are introduced too quickly it will create a railcar shortage and make some oil train operations unprofitable.

Many refiners, including Philadelphia Energy Solutions, say they are still committed to shipping oil on trains. Chief Executive Phil Rinaldi in December said he likes that railroads don’t require long-term contractual agreements the way pipelines do. That allows his plant managers to buy crude only when it’s needed.

With pipelines, “you have to pay for that transit whether it makes sense or not,” Mr. Rinaldi said. “With rail, that’s not the case.”

Railroad operators have warned investors that their outlook for transporting crude is slightly weaker than it was last year, said David Vernon, a rail analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.

BNSF Railway Co., which is responsible for about 70% of U.S. oil-train traffic, operated as many as 10 trains a day last year, but is averaging nine a day now, a spokesman said.

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Federal data: Not many oil trains for Keystone XL to displace

Repost from McClatchyDC News

Federal data: Not many oil trains for Keystone XL to displace

By Curtis Tate, McClatchy Washington Bureau, April 2, 2015 
Congress Keystone
Miles of pipe ready to become part of the Keystone Pipeline are stacked in a field near Ripley, Okla, Feb. 1, 2012. SUE OGROCKI — AP

New data on crude oil shipments by rail released by the Department of Energy this week show that there are relatively few oil trains taking the path of the controversial proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

In its first monthly report on crude by rail, the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows that the bulk of oil shipments by rail are moving from North Dakota’s Bakken region to refineries in the mid-Atlantic and the Pacific Northwest.

Far less is moving from either Canada or the Midwest to the Gulf Coast, the location of 45 percent of U.S. refining capacity. Only about 5 percent of the crude oil moved by rail nationwide in January was bound for the Gulf Coast from either Canada or the Midwest.

A series of derailments has brought increased scrutiny to oil transportation by rail. Since the beginning of the year, four oil trains have derailed in the U.S. and Canada, leading to spills, fires and evacuations.

The White House Office of Management and Budget is reviewing new regulations intended to improve the safety of oil trains. They’re scheduled for publication next month.

Some supporters of the 1,700-mile Keystone project have claimed that it would reduce the need for rail shipments. The pipeline would have a projected capacity of 830,000 barrels a day, and would primarily move heavy crude oil from western Canada to the Gulf Coast.

The government’s new data confirms, however, that the primary flows of oil by rail are not to the Gulf Coast. Northeast refineries, concentrated in Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, have come to rely heavily on Bakken crude delivered by rail, and to a lesser extent, Canadian oil.

Oil trains have resulted in a 60 percent decline in oil imported to the East Coast from overseas countries, according to EIA.

Of the roughly 1 million barrels a day of oil that moved by rail in January, according to EIA, 914,000 barrels were from the Midwest petroleum-producing district that includes North Dakota, while another 130,000 barrels a day crossed the border from Canada.

In a report last month, the Energy Department projected that shipments of Canadian oil by rail could more than triple by 2016.

The mid-Atlantic region received 437,000 barrels a day from the Midwest district, and only 61,000 barrels from Canada. That’s roughly the equivalent of six or seven 100-car trains, each carrying about 3 million gallons.

Another 171,000 barrels a day from the Midwest, or about two to three 100-car trains, supplied West Coast refineries, mostly in Washington state.

The Gulf Coast region received only 107,000 barrels of oil a day from the Midwest and Canada combined. Another 107,000 barrels came from the Rocky Mountain petroleum-producing district, which includes the Niobrara region of Colorado and Wyoming.

Including oil that comes from west Texas or New Mexico, the equivalent of about three to four 100-car trains arrive at the Gulf Coast every day.

 

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