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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“GOP oil titan: Keystone’s irrelevant” – Politico, 14 November 2014

Though the Keystone XL pipeline has been a hot-button issue with environmentalists, it seems that it has become an irrelevant discussion. The pipeline was introduced in 2005, and still no decision has been made about its construction. In October, the House approved a bill that would authorize the pipeline; however, a few days later, the bill failed to pass through the Senate. If it had passed, the bill would have gone directly to President Obama, though it’s likely he would have vetoed it.

But all that might change when the new Republican-majority Congress reconvenes in January. In fact, it has become the mission of Republican Senator Mitch McConnell (KY) to have the bill pass. It’s probable that the bill will pass both Congress legislatures, but the bill will need 67 votes in favor in order to quash a presidential veto.

Regardless of the pipeline’s importance, proponents firmly contend that the $8 billion pipeline will allow for a flood of new jobs and bolster North American energy independence; but opponents believe that it will increase fossil fuels and further incite the effects of climate change.

It seems like the oil industry has moved on from Keystone; oil companies are employing other pipelines to carry their oil. Furthermore, the US now has an abundance of oil, which has reduced prices. Bringing more oil in from Canada doesn’t seem like the best plan.

What some suggest — like Harold Hamm, the CEO of Oklahoma’s Continental Resources — is that the US should end its crude oil export ban, which would make the oil market fairer for US oil companies. Congress imposed the ban in the 1970s due to the worry that we were becoming too reliant on foreign oil. Now that US oil prices have dropped, Saudi Arabia is attempting to undercut our prices so that it can recover what it has lost in the market. Further, a lift on the ban could help Ukraine and European countries that are under the thumb of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Conversely, if the ban is lifted, we could see gas prices soar; lawmakers would become our scapegoat.

(From Politico)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

November 29, 2014

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“The Real Climate ‘Deniers’ Are the Greens” – Wall Street Journal, 2 February 2014

Europe’s strategies to use more green energy have mostly failed, causing some countries to accumulate enormous debt. Germany and Spain, for example, have both decided to reduce their renewable energy subsidies—for Germany, renewable energy subsidies have been estimated at costing $32 billion per year for consumers.

According to the Center for European Policy Studies, European steelmakers pay two times as much for electricity and four times as much for natural gas than US steelmakers; electricity costs for homeowners in Denmark have also skyrocketed, costing over three times the average rate in the US.

While the term “climate denier” has been applied to those who don’t believe in the effects of climate change, the term should now be used for environmentalists who incessantly promote renewable energy and its positive outcomes, like job growth.

‘Climate deniers’ refuse to believe in the high costs that renewable energy subsidies have cost Europe; they refuse to believe in the advantages of the US’s natural gas boom; and they refuse to believe in the difficulties of lowering global carbon dioxide emission levels.

Natural gas has had a large positive environmental impact in the US: in 2013, we saw a 41% increase in US natural gas production from 2005. This boom in natural gas reduces the US’s need for coal, thus curbing emission levels. According to the EPA, coal power plants expend twice the amount of emissions than natural gas power plants. Moreover, the US’s emission levels are diminishing at a faster rate than the EU’s: from 2005-2012, the US’s carbon dioxide emissions dropped by 10.9%, while the EU’s emissions only fell by 9.9%.

Instead of turning to natural gas to decrease debts, coal-use and emission levels, countries are using more and more coal. Global coal consumption has risen by almost 55% during the last ten years, as both populations and demand grow; global carbon dioxide emissions have also risen by 32% over that ten year span. Germany is likely to turn to coal as the country continues to shut down its nuclear power plants. China too will gravitate towards coal, its carbon dioxide emission levels having increased by almost 3.6 billion tons since 2005.

What we can gather from this information is that the US knows how to successfully implement carbon policy, what Obama has introduced as the Climate Action Plan. The US has been able to simultaneously cut emissions while fostering a natural gas boom.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

February 23, 2014

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