Obama Approves Drilling in the Alaskan Coast

Environmentalists aren’t too pleased but petroleum companies are: President Obama and his administration will permit Shell to begin drilling this summer off the Alaskan coast, in the Arctic Ocean.

Earlier this year, Obama permitted offshore drilling in an area of the Atlantic Coast. But throughout his presidency, Obama has continued to introduce restrictive measures on carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions. Now he’s trying to appease both sides by allowing Shell to set up shop in the Arctic Ocean — specifically in the Chukchi Sea — but with some limitations. The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will be highly attentive to preserving the Arctic ecosystem and Alaska Native ethnic practices; Shell will be held to strict safety guidelines.

Environmentalists are more nervous than ever, dreading that drilling in the Arctic Ocean will lead to another oil spill, worse than the Gulf of Mexico spill in 2010, where millions of cylinders of oil poured into the Gulf and killed 11 workers. Yet, Shell was drilling into an area of the Gulf of Mexico that was almost 5,000 feet deep — the Chukchi Sea is only 140 feet deep, which will present fewer difficulties.

Experts from both sides contend that drilling in the Chukchi Sea is very risky: the area is isolated, without access to roads, cities, or ports for many, many miles. These circumstances don’t exactly lend themselves to speedy cleanup and relief if another oil spill were to occur. In order for the Interior Department to authorize the drilling, Shell had to apply for all the necessary state and federal drilling permits. Previously, Shell was given approval to drill in the Arctic Ocean during the summer of 2012. Shell hadn’t crossed all its T’s and dotted all its I’s though: the company suffered from many safety and operational issues, and even had an oil rig run ashore.

The Interior Department has strived to rectify US drilling regulations, particularly by only approving drilling during the summer and in shallow water. With this plan moving forward, it’s certain that Obama is trying to balance the scales and maintain harmony between environmentalists, and energy and petroleum companies. It is our hope that Shell covers all its bases and we don’t have another BP oil disaster on our hands.

(From New York Times)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan June 12, 2015

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EPA Makes Plans to Curb Plane Emissions

The Obama Administration has initiated talks on restricting the aerospace industry’s greenhouse gas emissions, stating that it might take some time before exact regulations take effect.

According to the EPA, like the automobile industry and power plants, airplanes also negatively impact human health; thus, restrictions are necessary. Creating the regulations will take some time — nothing will be enacted while Obama is in office, and will be the next president’s responsibility.

The EPA is waiting for the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which is tasked with creating international aviation regulations, to develop worldwide carbon emission rules. The deadline is February 2016; ICAO members are obligated to enact international regulations approved by the agency. The EPA is collaborating with multiple international agencies, like the ICAO, to create aerospace regulations.

Environmentalists would like the EPA to issue their rules before February 2016 because they worry that the ICAO — an agency that works with both the EPA and airline industry — will be biased and present lenient restrictions. Environmental groups want the US to lead the way.

Per the Flying Clean campaign, flights in and out of the US constitute almost one-third of the world’s airplane emissions; airline emissions will likely double by the end of 2020 if nothing is done soon.

Of course, Republicans have their issues with Obama cutting airplane emissions, specifying that airfare prices will skyrocket and hurt domestic air travel. Airline companies agree, explaining that they have already done so much to curb emissions, including using fuel alternatives, enhancing aerodynamics, and using lighter inflight materials. As reported by the International Air Transport Association, decreasing an airplane’s weight by 5.5 pounds is equivalent to a one-ton cut in yearly carbon emissions.

But the aviation industry continues to grow: more and more people are flying each year. Although air flights only comprise 2 percent of worldwide emissions, it’s projected that by 2020, international flights can reach 70 percent above 2005 numbers, regardless of whether fuel efficiency is advanced by an annual 2 percent.

To combat this, in the past, the EU tried to enact the Emissions Trading System, which was subsequently banned by the US, China, and other countries. With the support of both Democrats and Republicans, Obama even passed the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011, which banned American airlines from partaking in the EU’s system.

Airlines have pledged to limit their emissions by 2 percent every year until 2020, when emission growth will cap. The ultimate goal is for the aerospace industry’s emissions to be at half 2005′s numbers by 2050.

At this point, using newly-made airplanes that have better fuel economies are our best bet. Boeing has introduced its new 787 Dreamliner and Airbus has introduced the A350, both of which are more fuel efficient but not in wide use just yet.

(From New York Times)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

June 16, 2015

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“California governor orders country’s most aggressive emission cut goals” – The Washington Post, 29 April 2015

California is currently undergoing an overly aggressive, record-breaking drought. In order to combat that drought, California Governor Jerry Brown (D) has not only put a cap on how much water residents can use, but is also placing a cap on emissions levels.

For California, the worsening effects of climate change have directly led to its water shortage. Greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants are the major culprit for the state’s remarkable drought. To combat the drought and any further climate change damage, Brown has issued a new executive order that has created new carbon emission goals for his state.

Brown’s aim is to curb emissions by 40 percent less than emissions levels in 1990, and to do so by 2030. Not even Arnold Schwarzenegger, who held the term before Brown, had such expectations for the state: Schwarzenegger’s aim was to cut emissions so that they were equal to 1990 levels, and to do so by 2020. Schwarzenegger then wanted to cut emissions an additional 20 percent by 2050. According to Brown, California is well on its way to fulfilling Schwarzenegger’s goal.

Brown is committing his last term in office to climate change. During his inaugural speech, he pledged that half of the state’s electricity will come from renewable energies over the course of 15 years. He also intends to halve petroleum use in vehicles on state roads.

The state is now required to integrate the effects of climate change into its infrastructure and financial planning. Moreover, state agencies are obligated to place caps on emissions for any supplies of emissions that they oversee.

In addition to the executive order, California has also signed an accord with Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia that aims at restricting carbon emissions in the regional area. Brown has signed similar agreements with countries like Mexico, China, Japan, Israel, and Peru. The Governor is hoping his work will make an impact at the upcoming UN climate change conference in Paris.

Previously, California tried to enact a program called “cap and trade,” where they required companies to pay for greenhouse gas emissions. However, the state’s Senators and Representatives — particularly the Democrats — fought back, alleging that the program would directly impact the poorest Californians. Hopefully Brown’s latest endeavor into mollifying the effects of climate change will pan out. California’s voice is very influential and proactive, particularly on a global scale.

(From The Washington Post)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

April 30, 2015

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“Making CO2 an Energy Asset” – Wall Street Journal, 16 July 2014

Though carbon dioxide has had a disastrous impact on our environment, the energy industry can actually use it for some good: inserting CO2 into oil fields actually boosts oil production.

Coal-burning power plants emit man-made CO2 into the air, and oil drillers typically find their CO2 underground caverns or industrial facilities. However, New York-based electricity manufacturer NRG Energy Inc. is aiming to do things a little differently. NRG’s new strategy is to trap CO2 emitted from one of its Houston coal-fired plants and siphon the CO2 to a nearby oil field. NRG and its Japanese partner JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration Corp. will be given half the extra output. The project is hoped to be finished by 2016.

NRG, JX Nippon, and the US Energy Department are spearheading the Petra Nova Carbon Capture Project, with the aim to simultaneously decrease pollution from coal-burning plants while increasing oil output.

Yet, it’s an expensive process, and many utilities’ participation in carbon capture has been unfavorable. Atlanta-based Southern Co. is wrapping up on a Mississippi power plant that will transform coal into combustible gas while also ridding the gas of pollutants, like CO2. It’s costing the company $5.5 billion, the priciest coal plant in the US.

Another method where the industry has tried, and failed, is ridding flue gases of carbon after the coal has been used. Part of the process is selling the CO2, but carbon has never sold for enough to rationalize the effort and money used to strip the carbon in the first place. Adapting a coal-fired power plant to new technology is more expensive than building a new gas-fired power plant.

NRG’s project will be different, because instead of selling carbon, the project aims to make a profit from selling the supplementary oil. The CO2 that NRG will funnel into the oil field is predicted to increase oil generation by 10,000 barrels per day — from its current 500 barrels to 15,000 barrels.

When additional CO2 is introduced in underground oil reservoirs, the gas forces the remaining crude to rise to the surface. Overall, the DOE expects that oil production will expand to 360,000 barrels per day in 2020, and 580,000 in 2030.

A majority of the CO2 used to pump oil out of reservoirs originates from underground caverns and other natural formations, and industrial projects. A bulk of our man-made CO2 comes from the power industry, which uses a lot of coal since it’s a cheap source of power. The power industry is also our largest unused CO2 supplier; there might be a bright future for NRG’s project after all.

(From Wall Street Journal)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

January 23, 2015

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