The Atlantic on the future of human oil consumption Responding to a critical take on his long Atlantic essay about oil consumption, Charles C. Mann defends his argument that the transition to renewable energy remains fraught, and will likely accompanied continued use of fossil fuels. The main question, he argues, is "whether intermittent renewables can provide reliable energy to everyone all the time, which is the task of modern utilities." He continues: "The continued presence of large amounts of relatively affordable petroleum — the subject of my article — is of obvious import. If natural gas, either from shale or methane hydrate, is a ready alternative, the transition to renewables will be even more difficult. [The] Pollyannaish refusal to see the real obstacles ahead will only make them more difficult to surmount."
Associated Press on the new supply (and demand) of global oil Jonathan Fahey reports on a "five-year outlook" published by the Paris-based International Energy Agency on the future of oil markets. "The report paints a picture of a world with plenty of oil to meet modestly growing demand," Fahey writes. "Where the oil is coming from, and where it is going, is changing dramatically, according to the IEA, an energy security and research organization based in Paris that serves 28 oil-importing countries, including the U.S. The report does not address oil prices directly, but analysts do not expect the changing oil market dynamics to lead to sharply lower oil or gasoline prices. The abundance of oil does, however, greatly reduce the risk of sustained price surges that curtail economic growth."
National Journal on the Republican boycott of the Obama's EPA nominee "Republicans’ decision to boycott a planned committee vote of President Obama’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency made them look like 'sore losers,'" reports Amy Harder, quoting Bush-era EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman, who said last week, "They looked like sore losers when they walked out the way they did. ... I do give them credit for having a broader strategy than just that. They are trying to paint a portrait, but I don’t see walking out like that as a successful way of doing it." Harder adds, "With increased scrutiny on the administration’s stated commitment to transparency in light of the IRS, AP phone records, and Benghazi investigations, EPA’s alleged lack of transparency could fit well into this broader narrative."
Smart Planet on the United Kingdom's fracking envy Chris Nelder bats down the "absurd hyperbole" surrounding the discussion of shale gas reserves in the United Kingdom. "For the past two weeks I’ve been in the UK, where the talk about shale gas has been all the rage since the ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) was lifted by the government in December. The ban was imposed in 2011, after the fracking of Britain’s first shale gas well was blamed for two small earthquakes and gas contamination of groundwater. More than 500 articles have been published about UK shale gas this year, according to my quick Google search. So it must be a really big deal, right? Actually, no. ... So far, only two exploratory wells have been drilled ... The first well, in Preese Hall, Weeton, was fracked. The second, in Grange Hill, Singleton, was drilled but not fracked. ... The UK has a serious case of fracking envy."
National Geographic on the recent destruction of Mayan ruins Elizabeth Snodgrass reports on a construction project in Belize that entailed the destruction of a 60-foot-tall Mayan pyramid. "A construction company in Belize has been scooping stone out of the major pyramid at the site of Nohmul (meaning Big Mound), one of only 15 ancient Maya sites important enough to be noted on the National Geographic World Atlas," she writes. "The National Institute of Culture and History of Belize had earlier noted that 'the site continues to be destroyed by road construction crews who bulldoze the mounds for gravel.' But now it appears that nearly the entire main pyramid, once standing over 60 feet tall, has been destroyed by road building crews, said John Morris, associate director of research at Belize's Institute of Archaeology. ... All of Belize's ancient Maya sites are protected by law. The Institute of Archaeology plans to investigate the destruction and take those responsible to court."