Monday, January 28, 2008

Tar Sands - a Black Hole of greenhouse gases,

not in the sense of "nothing escapes it" but in the sense of colour and pollution.
In size and scope nothing on earth matches the Alberta Tarsands for greenhouse gas potential. IT covers a vast area of countryside and with global warming alone would begin to emit more methane, swamp gas. Warm the tundra and it leaks gas.

But we are Hell bent on extracting bitumen and refining it into gasoline. The threat to Middle East supplies has caused oil prices to top $100 a barrel this month for the first time in history. That value now makes extraction of expensive deposits like tar sands and oil shales, as are found in Colorado, viable investments. The US is looking to Canada to replace its dependency on certain OPEC sources to ensure that Americans can still drive their SUVs to the shopping mall, but more importantly that they will still have jet fuel to maintain their world air supremacy - which single force enables the US to be the world's greatest power.

Whatever the motivation, the oilsands will be developed and the gas emissions during extraction, and in burning the subsequent refined product will absolutely dwarf any and all actions of Canadian citizens aimed at reducing our carbon emissions.

We are going to become one of the world's greatest polluters by virtue of being one of the world's largest energy producers - and our neighbour to the south isn't about to let us turn off the tap.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

New Year Insights

Things that will affect us in 2008, too many to list but too important to ignore. The negatives are imposing but the positives are more pleasant. The US election is full of anomalies and a lot of heavy politicking. I will try to make sense of some of that later. Right now there is what's actually happening on the ground. Things like:

* Washington State Gov. Christine Gregoire's plan to reduce her state's emissions 50% below 1990 levels by 2050, and the 200% increase in green jobs it will bring to the state.
* The doubling of geothermal energy capacity once projects currently developing come online.
* Clean energy investment rising 33% in 2007 to $117 billion.
* The more than $20 billion in new construction planned for the North American liquid natural gas (LNG) sector.
* Goldman Sachs "strongly recommending" fund managers to overweight energy in the face of a looming recession.

Canada sells a lot of natural gas (NG) to the US from our Alberta and BC NG fields. Our NG utility in BC called Terasen was formerly BC Gas but was privatized and sold to Kinder-MOrgan who then sold it to the Carlyle Group (15% OWNED BY BUSH) and is now owned by Fortis. Most important is the major gas pipeline from Northern BC to Sumas on the border. It is owned by the American company and is held separately from the utility who services and installs local pipelines to consumers. There is also a similar pipeline from NE Alberta to Chicago which was built under NAFTA to give the US access to Canadian NG.

This could be trouble if they decide to impose tariffs on the flow, or to restrict Canadian consumers access by allocating flow to US cities first. If Canadians tried to fight this, there would be legal battles under NAFTA and the WTO would adjudicate. Canada would lose.

Worst case is the White HOuse would send in troops to "safeguard American interests."
Canada would lose. We would be like Afghanistan and Iraq -occupied countries fighting a resistance war against American troops placed there by a White HOuse trying to secure energy reserves for the American people. At the same time they would be safeguarding the assets of their Multi-Nationals and the Bush family's own fortunes, and those of their friends.

Which brings me to the most important point. I've been saying for months now that the US cannot afford to leave Iraq - Afghanistan - and thereby allow the Chinese and Russians to move in on the oil fields.
President Bush recently toured the middle-east and mooted plans for permanent military bases there. The Harper government has just tabled legislation to establish Canadian troops in the middle-east on a permanent mission, saying, "we cannot abandon the Afghani peoples"
Meanwhile security in Kandahar has not improved, the drug lords continue to run the place, poppies continue to be grown. The drug sales fund the Taliban / Al Quaeda in their resistance. The arms manufacturers get richer.

One effect of continued fighting in the middle-east is to push oil and other energy prices higher. $100 a barrel for oil two weeks ago - first time in history is a windfall for Big OIl, who are now buying back their shares with all the free cash thye have because they will own outright all the reserves in the ground on the leases
they control by 2023/4 Imagine, if oil is worth $300 barrel by 2024 and you own all of it, you don't need to drill for and find new reserves. If you own only a share of it, then you must find new reserves to increase profits, but if there aren't any new reserves? So Chevron , BP, Shell, Royal Dutch Oil and others, are buying back their shares spending Billions of dollars - instead of spending it on exploration. Why look for something you already know isn't there?

The era of cheap energy is over.