Keystone XL pipeline opponents constantly make climate change the centerpiece of their opposition to the project, calling the it, the "fuse to North America’s biggest carbon bomb." However, the International Energy Agency’s chief economist confirms they're off target. Toronto’s Globe and Mail reports:
As the United Nations climate summit continues in Warsaw this week, the IEA chief economist Fatih Birol played down the oil sands’ contribution to global warming, and said the long-term challenge is to access the energy-hungry markets of Asia while slowing the growth in emissions.
“The oil sands definitely makes a contribution to the increase in CO2 emissions,” he said. “But the difference in getting oil from oil sands when compared to conventional oil, it is such a small contribution that it will be definitely wrong to highlight this as a major source of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide.”
This conclusion is similar to the State Department’s that the pipeline would have minimal impact on the environment. Anti-energy activists who keep using this argument don’t have a leg to stand on. The President should approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
If you are reading Gregory Zuckerman’s The Frackers or are fascinated by hydraulic fracturing and the shale boom that’s the result of this technology, watch Down Deep, commissioned by WPX Energy. This 30-minute documentary explains how hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling are used and busts myths about its environmental impact.
After watching, you’ll better understand how responsible development of shale energy creates jobs and grows the economy, while limiting environmental effects.
This week, we learned about three impressive feats for American energy that are a result of the shale energy boom.
First, USA Today reports that in October, the United States produced more domestic oil than it imported for the first time since 1995.
Second, the Energy Information Administration reports that in the week ending November 8, the United States produced an average of almost 8 million barrels of oil a day, the most since January 1989. Mark Perry at the American Enterprise Institute writes, “Compared to a year ago, US oil production during the first week of November increased by almost 19%.”
Third, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana will hit the million-barrel per month production mark in December.
RT the good news: For the 1st time in nearly two decades, we're importing less oil than we're producing. pic.twitter.com/M30ewhgKqi
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) November 14, 2013
It shouldn’t. These achievements have occurred despite federal energy policies. Here’s a Congressional Research Service chart showing the production changes on federal and non-federal lands:
USA Today quotes, the American Petroleum Institute's Kyle Isakower: "Domestic oil and natural gas production is only on the rise, thanks to development on state and private lands. In areas controlled by the federal government, production has actually fallen on President Obama's watch."
Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have made it possible to extract oil from places once technologically off-limits and are doing the same for natural gas in the Marcellus and Utica Shales and elsewhere.
Let's build on this improving energy security by 1) not imposing new federal regulations on hydraulic fracturing—the states are doing a fine job balancing environmental protection and energy development; and 2) opening up more federal land to development.
— AEI (@AEI) November 14, 2013
As the State Department prepares to issue its final Environmental Impact Statement on Keystone XL, labor and union groups from across the country – groups that overwhelmingly supported President Obama in both presidential elections – are rallying to tell him to approve Keystone XL. Why? Because with a stubbornly high unemployment rate, the economy needs the high-paying jobs that Keystone will produce.
Oil Sands Fact Check, a broad coalition of organizations and interests, has released the first video in a two-part series, which puts the spotlight on the most recent pro-Keystone XL union events that took place in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Washington D.C.
How has shale energy altered the world energy landscape? In its latest World Oil Outlook, OPEC estimates that member countries “could lose almost 8 percent of its oil market share in the next five years as the shale energy boom and other competing sources boost rival supply,” according to a Reuters report.
This shake up has come from a group of plucky American entrepreneurs taking full advantage of the opportunities of American free enterprise. The Atlantic ran an excerpt from The Frackers, Gregory Zuckerman's new book about innovation and risk-taking that has resulted in greater American energy security.
The story begins in the late 1990s, when George Mitchell, the late head of Mitchell Energy, invested in hydraulic fracturing to develop shale rock formations that previous companies had little luck in tapping for natural gas. Besides stubborn determination, his company’s success came about almost by accident:
One day in 1997, while supervising a well in the Barnett [Shale] region, [Nicholas] Steinsberger noticed that the gel and chemicals that were part of their fracking fluid weren’t mixing properly. A contractor was pumping a substance that was more of a liquid than the thicker, Jell-O-like substance normally used to fracture the rock and open its pores so gas could flow.
The well’s results were surprisingly good, though. Steinsberger began to wonder if a watery mix might be able to fracture this tough, compressed rock.
A few weeks later, Steinsberger went to an industry outing at a Texas Rangers baseball game. Over barbecue and beer, he chatted with Mike Mayerhofer, a friend who worked for a rival called Union Pacific Resources. Mayerhofer told Steinsberger that his company was drilling in a different kind of rock using a fracking mix composed mainly of water. They had added a small amount of polymers to reduce the water’s surface friction and act as a lubricant so it moved faster.
Steinsberger was intrigued; Meyerhofer’s company wasn’t drilling in shale, which was extra-tough rock. But their concoction reminded Steinsberger of Mitchell’s earlier well that produced some gas relying on that faulty, extra-watery fracking fluid. Steinsberger returned to Mitchell’s headquarters determined to use more water on Mitchell’s shale wells. Because the fluid was mostly water that was slickened with some polymers, Steinsberger and his colleagues named the new method “slick water” fracturing.
A few months later, Steinsberger saw how well this new method was working:
One day in 1998, as Steinsberger examined results from a well called S.H. Griffin No. 3, he was taken aback. After ninety days, the Griffin was churning out natural gas at a remarkable pace. No Barnett well had ever produced even one million cubic feet of gas after ninety days; this one was doing much more.
Steinsberger tried to distract himself with other work, worried the results might tail off. When he checked back after another thirty days, though, the Griffin well was still at it, producing huge amounts of natural gas, like an ever-flowing river.
This is unbelievable, Steinsberger thought.
Finally, the Mitchell team had discovered the right fluid to fracture rock, the secret sauce for drilling in shale. The water-based liquid seemed to go out in every direction in the rock, creating complex mini-networks of cracks, enabling gas to flow to the surface.
“This was the ‘aha moment’ for us, it was our best well ever in the Barnett, and it was a slick-water frack,” Steinsberger says. “And it was my baby!”
Eventually hydraulic fracturing was combined with horizontal drilling and applied to oil production. As a result, we have the oil booms in North Dakota and Texas' Eagle Ford Shale. The shale boom had delivered job and economic growth in and otherwise sluggish economy.
The Washington Examiner’s Michael Barone calls this success story one of “private enterprise in action”:
Government studies provided some early support for fracking, but government energy experts lagged far behind these wildcatters in appreciating the potential for extracting gas and oil from shale.
In his review in The New Republic, Gary Sernovitz, notes that the success of those who brought about the shale energy boom is deeply rooted in America:
Every country has stubborn optimists, gamblers, scientists, and engineers—the essential parts of an oil executive—but few probably have so many of them, or a business culture that sees risk as part of the fun.
As Zuckerman writes in an excerpt quoted by the American Enterprise Institute’s Mark Perry:
For all of the criticism the country has fielded for losing its edge in innovation, surging American energy production is a reminder of the deep pools of ingenuity, risk taking, and entrepreneurship that remain in the country.
We’ll need continued innovation and risk-taking for continued success in developing America’s energy abundance.