The window of opportunity to keep the average global temperature from breaking through the ceiling of 2°C — or preferably 1.5°C — as set out in the UN’s Paris Agreement is closing fast. But for parts of the Kalahari, a vast semi-desert in southern Africa, the battle to stabilise the regional temperature is already lost. Botswana is expected to reach an average warming of 2°C in less than five years. At a time when the science warns that countries need to keep their fossil fuels in the ground, conservationists here have expressed alarm at the news that oil and gas prospecting licenses have been issued for large parts of Botswana and Namibia, including in the ecologically and water-sensitive Okavango Delta and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Leonie Joubert reports
Though increasingly framed as a key way to slow climate change, for most commercial Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) operations, selling the carbon they capture to produce more fossil fuels through Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) production is the only way they can ensure profits for investors. According to a count by the Global CCS Institute, of the 28 currently operable CCS complexes worldwide, 22 rely on EOR as their back end “storage” system. CCS advocates hope that under the right public policy regimes, this profit-making motive will help scale up CCS operations while driving costs down. Getting the public onboard means selling CCS as a way to prevent climate change, but who pays when they fail? L. Michael Buchsbaum reviews one of 2020’s biggest CCS disasters as the fourth part of the on-going Seduction series.
As many nations develop net-zero carbon plans both to honor the Paris Climate Agreement and address the climate crisis, many are leaning heavily upon unproven and misunderstood Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) technologies. Despite billions of dollars spent in research and development, it’s unclear how much environmental progress is actually achieved by CCS. Not only is there little accurate data around how much carbon has really been buried, but there’s reason to believe CCS will actually increase overall greenhouse gas emissions. In the third part of his “Seduced by CCS” series, L. Michael Buchsbaum reviews CCS’ math and how utilizing it to produce more oil only makes things worse.
The major shale oil and shale gas deposit Vaca Muerta (in English also: Dead Cow) covers a 30,000 square kilometers area located in three Argentinian provinces Neuquén, Mendoza and Rio Negro. According to the US Energy Information Administration, Vaca Muerta has a total of recoverable gas resources of 308 tcf (8.7 billion m3) and a recoverable oil and condensate of 16 billion barrels (2.5 billion liters), making it the world’s second-largest shale gas and oil deposit. A project of great political-economic interest, but also counterparted by the social and environmental impact inherent to the extraction of non-conventional gas and oil by fracking. And even further than that: while the world is turning to decarbonisation, successive Argentine governments have been persisting on succeeding their fossil energy models. Maximiliano Proaño Ugalde reports
In addition to other profound impacts, the corona virus has offered global energy markets an unprecedented natural experiment. Collapsing demand for conventional energy fuels and inelastic supply responses have depressed oil prices that are now being incorporated into forward energy planning. This adverse investment accelerator effect is now expected to bring forward the so-called “peak oil” milestone, significantly shortening the profitable lifecycle of known oil reserves. Thus a global health crisis has given us only a foretaste of what we can expect over a longer time horizon, as climate risk continues a slower but more inexorable ascent. Simply put, the rising social cost of carbon will exert the same effect on conventional energy demand, compounded by the emergence of ever more affordable renewable substitutes. Furthermore, the international push for a ‘green recovery‘ in the aftermath of the pandemic is perceived to hasten the end of the oil era. Oyuna Baldakova and David Roland-Holst report
Mexico’s government has had a bad corona run. The pandemic hit the country when the economy was already shrinking. But instead of profiting from the resulting drop in electricity demand of 9 percent in order to speed up the expansion of renewables and the much needed modernization of his country’s energy sector, President Lopez Obrador – widely referred to as AMLO – is instead sticking to the country’s outdated and failing CO2-heavy energy system. Rebecca Bertram takes a look.
Despite the recent historic agreement between OPEC, Russian, American and other global oil producers to slash supply by the 1st of May with the hopes of bolstering prices, the United States will still suffer an “unprecedented” economic blow according to the International Energy Agency. With high production costs and deeply in debt, many U.S. producers, especially those extracting from shale fields, are bleeding cash as they try desperately to cut costs. Output is expected to shrink by more than two million barrels per day. Analysts predict waves of bankruptcies, along with thousands of job losses and steep drops in tax revenues for oil-dependent states as the fallout from a monster oil bust ripples throughout America’s already staggering economy. L. Michael Buchsbaum reviews the worsening situation.
Over the last two centuries, energy trade has become increasingly global. Where wood was found and used locally, coal was mined and transported nationally, and oil emerged as a global commodity. Natural gas is also moving from regional markets to the global shipping of LNG. The same holds for energy demand, which is growing and shifting Southward, away from traditional OECD markets, to China, India, South-East Asia and Africa, as the International Energy Agency (IEA) confirms in its findings. Renewable energy harbors a number of characteristics that could potentially end this trend of increasingly global energy trade. Just Voskuyl and Daniel Scholten take a critical look at the bigger picture.
Overshadowed by the pandemic, an oil production and price war waged between the Saudi Arabian-led OPEC, Russia, the U.S. and other nations has landed a body blow upon the already weakened global economy. With billions worldwide now sheltering in place, oil usage has dropped by over 30%. But production hasn’t. The massive oversupply has crashed market prices lower than at any point in almost 20 years. To stop the bleeding, OPEC and other producers as well as the G20 have seemingly come to an historic deal that will slash global production across the boards. But the damage to the underlying fossil-fuel based economy means that Corona’s economic wreckage will ripple out just as we start to emerge into a brave new social-distance demanding world. L. Michael Buchsbaum examines the origins and implications of the Corona oil crash.
Although Trump keeps pushing lumps of coal and tankers full of freedom gas down the world’s collective throats, his industry-friendly administration hasn’t prevented America’s coal industry from dying or its fracking companies from losing piles of money. Nor has he stopped wind from gaining even more traction. After setting growth records last year, another breakthrough is forecast for 2020 as investors pour resources into new waters: offshore wind energy. But fearing its tremendous potential energy capacity, Trump’s minions are ramping up efforts to hold it back. As election fever grips the nation, L. Michael Buchsbaum looks at the state of offshore wind in Part 3 of his series on America’s energy transition.