Energy Tomorrow Blog
Posted May 11, 2015
Vice President Joe Biden underscored the administration’s call for infrastructure spending during a Bloomberg Government event that focused on the country’s deteriorating delivery and transportation systems.
Highlights include: The Washington politics of infrastructure spending is challenging. “The idea that there is a debate on the Hill on the need to invest in infrastructure is mind blowing,” Biden said. The world’s energy epicenter is North America, and the U.S. needs major investments in energy infrastructure. “We will face a national security dilemma” if we don’t enhance our energy infrastructure, he said. Companies need to have certainty that they can get their products to market efficiently.
Let’s pause a moment and consider these valid points on infrastructure from the vantage point of this administration’s crowning infrastructure decision (or non-decision): the Keystone XL pipeline.
In the Keystone XL, the administration has had the opportunity – for more than six years – to green light $5.4 billion in private infrastructure spending that would create jobs, boost the economy and transport oil from Canada and the U.S. Bakken region – reliably and safely – to our Gulf Coast refineries, enhancing America’s energy security. All with the simple stroke of the president’s pen.
Posted May 6, 2015
BloombergBusiness: The U.S. will become one of the world’s largest oil exporters if domestic production continues to surge and policy makers lift a four-decade ban that keeps most crude from leaving the country, a government-sponsored study shows.
America would be capable of sending as much as 2.4 million barrels a day overseas in 2025 if federal policy makers were to eliminate restrictions on most crude exports, an analysis by Turner, Mason & Co. for the Energy Information Administration shows. That would make the U.S. the fourth-largest oil exporter, behind Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United Arab Emirates, based on 2013 EIA data. The report assumes domestic output rises by 7.2 million barrels a day from 2013.
The analysis is part of a series of studies the U.S. government is performing following a 71 percent surge in domestic oil production over the last four years. Drillers including Harold Hamm of Continental Resources Inc. and John Hess of Hess Corp. have been calling on the government to lift the ban on crude exports as they pump more light oil out of shale formations from North Dakota to Texas.
Posted April 27, 2015
Wall Street Journal op-ed (John Hess): While one can debate the reasons for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ decision in November to continue flooding the oil markets, the fact is that this is squeezing many U.S. shale oil producers out of business. Oil prices have dropped by 50% in the past six months, and crude oil inventories in the U.S. have grown from 350 million barrels last year to more than 480 million barrels today.
Part of the reason inventory has ballooned is that crude produced in the U.S. is literally trapped here, because American firms are not allowed to sell it overseas. An antiquated rule bans crude oil exports from the lower 48 American states, even though producers could earn $5-$14 more per barrel by selling on the world market. At this moment the U.S. government is considering lifting sanctions on Iranian crude oil exports. Why not lift the self-imposed “sanctions” on U.S. crude exports that have been in place for the past four decades?
The export ban is a relic of a previous era, put in place around the time of the 1973 Arab oil embargo against the U.S., when Washington thought very differently about ensuring America’s energy needs. Other measures related to the 1973 embargo, such as price controls and rationing, were eliminated decades ago, as policy makers realized that they impeded, rather than aided, American energy security. But the ban on crude oil exports persists.
There is no defensible justification for the continued ban on the export of U.S. crude oil.
Posted April 21, 2015
The theme of this year’s CERAWeek mega-conference in Houston is “Turning Point: Energy’s New World.” It is a new world, with the United States producing more energy from oil and natural gas – the lead fuels of the U.S. and the world’s economies – than any other country. Just a decade ago few could have imagined the possibilities.
Posted April 6, 2015
MarketWatch: U.S. oil production is on track to reach an annual all-time high by September of this year, according to Rystad Energy.
If production does indeed top out, then supply levels may soon hit a peak as well. That, in turn, could lead to shrinking supplies.
The oil-and-gas consulting-services firm estimates an average 2015 output of 9.65 million barrels a day will be reached in five months — topping the previous peak annual reading of 9.64 million barrels a day in 1970.
Coincidentally, the nation’s crude inventories stand at a record 471.4 million barrels, based on data from U.S. Energy Information Administration, also going back to the 1970s.
Posted March 10, 2015
A postscript to our post explaining that the crude oil the Keystone XL pipeline would deliver is comparable to other heavy crudes already being refined in the U.S.: Oil sands crude would replace other heavy oils – most significantly, crude currently imported from Venezuela.
The point is made in the U.S. State Department’s most recent (of five) environmental reviews of Keystone XL:
Gulf Coast refiners’ traditional sources of heavy crudes, particularly Mexico and Venezuela, are declining and are expected to continue to decline. This results in an outlook where the refiners have significant incentive to obtain heavy crude from the oil sands. Both the EIA’s 2013 AEO (Annual Energy Outlook) and the Hart Heavy Oil Outlook (Hart 2012b) indicate that this demand for heavy crude in the Gulf Coast refineries is likely to persist throughout their outlook periods (2040 and 2035 respectively).
Posted March 9, 2015
Apparently not content with the four Pinocchios he recently earned from the Washington Post for statements on the Keystone XL pipeline, President Obama last week put in a bid for five with remarks aimed at the project’s environmental impact.
At an appearance in South Carolina, the president termed “extraordinarily dirty” the methods used to develop Canadian oil sands:
“The reason that a lot of environmentalists are concerned about it is the way that you get the oil out in Canada is an extraordinarily dirty way of extracting oil, and obviously there are always risks in piping a lot of oil through Nebraska farmland and other parts of the country.”
First, after more than six years of review by his administration, the president really should take the time to read the U.S. State Department’s environmental review of Keystone XL – the latest of five that all have cleared the pipeline on environmental grounds. As well, energy consulting firm IHS found that Keystone XL and the oil sands it would deliver would have “no material impact” on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
Posted February 27, 2015
President Obama, in an interview with a North Dakota television station, explaining why he continues to delay the Keystone XL pipeline:
“Part of the reason North Dakota has done so well is because we've very much been promoting domestic U.S. energy use. I've already said I'm happy to look at increasing pipeline production for U.S. oil. But Keystone is for Canadian oil. Sending it down to the Gulf. It bypasses the U.S., it estimated to create 250, maybe, 300 permanent jobs. We should be focusing on American infrastructure for American jobs for American producers, and that's something we very much support.”
In the span of just six sentences, the president contradicts expert analysis of Keystone XL’s jobs and market impacts at least four times – about once for each breath.
Posted February 12, 2015
In a democratic republic like ours, the legislative branch is the voice of the people. Throughout the long – too long – debate over the Keystone XL pipeline, the White House has used politics to stymie a conclusion on the matter. But no more.
House approval of a Senate bill advancing the pipeline will require President Obama to finally decide. Bipartisan majorities in both houses of the Congress of the United States have spoken. The American people, through their elected representatives, have spoken. The president should listen.
Unfortunately, the White House has signaled that he won’t, that he will veto the Keystone XL bill. It would make a mockery of post-Election 2014 assurances from the president that he would work with Congress to accomplish substantive things for the American people. Substantive things like: 42,100 jobs that the U.S. State Department says would be supported by the pipeline’s construction, $2 billion in workers’ pockets and $3.4 billion added to U.S. GDP, according to State’s report, and 830,000 barrels of oil from Canada and the U.S. Bakken region – North American oil that would strengthen U.S. energy security
All of the above and more clearly make the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in the national interest.
Posted February 6, 2015
EPA’s 13th-hour ambush of the Keystone XL pipeline and the project’s environmental reviews by the U.S. State Department looks like more of the political gamesmanship the Obama administration has used to keep the pipeline on hold for more than six years. But perhaps EPA overplayed its hand.
As we pointed out, EPA’s letter urging officials to “revisit” the State Department’s Keystone XL conclusions is awkwardly and perhaps suspiciously late. State has done five separate environmental reviews, with the last one completed more than a year ago. This week, while other involved federal agencies weighed in on the pipeline’s merits from a national-interest standpoint, EPA lobbied to revisit established science.
Second, the agency’s assertion that the current global price of oil affects the State Department’s environmental conclusion – that Keystone XL would have no significant impact – is oddly at odds with the agency’s position that the current global price of oil has no effect on EPA’s own policymaking decisions.
Third, EPA did some manipulating of what State said about Keystone XL’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions – its letter citing only the largest numbers in State’s range of possible effects. A reasonable conclusion is that there’s a whiff of politics, for strategic effect, in EPA’s doings.