Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Nova Scotia's Ecology Action Center releases report damning fracking as costly

The Nova Scotia provincial government is doing a review of fracking, and the Ecology Action Center just released a report for that review describing severe and costly impacts from fracking. “Fracking is such a new technology, with horizontal drilling and slickwater mixtures being developed only in the past decade. We are just starting to see some of the impacts in other areas and it is not looking good” stated Jennifer West, Geoscience Coordinator. “This report is the first comprehensive look at the potential impacts of fracking on Nova Scotia and makes a strong case that fracking will not promote economic development as promised or help us meet our energy and greenhouse gas targets.”

“This report explains how the energy industry has exaggerated their claims of the size of the resource. Resources of shale have recently been downgraded by 85% in the US and by 80% in Poland,” stated Energy Coordinator Catherine Abreu. “New estimates suggest there might only be 6 years of gas in the US at our current rates of consumption. And we want to use this technology here to get at the very last oil and gas resources in Nova Scotia? It’s not the way forward, it’s the way backward” she added.

The reports summary has this to say:
  • Energy produced from shale is not a silver bullet for energy or jobs. There is growing evidence that any economic benefits of fracking are greatly outweighed by the costs of environmental degradation, which is often borne by municipalities and communities. The energy produced by shale gas through fracking is expensive, adds to global warming, does not correlate with jobs, and will not create energy independence. 
  • Fracking contaminates our drinking water. Fracking uses large volumes of surface water, and is known to be associated with chemical and methane leaks that can impact drinking water resources. Since there is a widespread lack of baseline information about the quality and quantity of groundwater in Nova Scotia, it is unwise to commit to an industry that directly impacts our drinking water resources. 
  • Fracking traffic damages rural roads. The large numbers of trucks for the large numbers of wells have a wide variety of impacts to local areas. Most significantly, industrial traffic associated with fracking would reduce public health and safety, tourism and property value, and increase municipal costs for road maintenance and repairs. 
  • Fracking fragments landscapes. Because large numbers of wells are required to make fracking economical, industrial road systems are necessary. This process fragments the landscape and cuts off natural wildlife habitats which stresses vulnerable species, decreases biodiversity, and negatively impacts the forest products industry through forest loss. Fragmentation of the land caused by fracking would decrease wildlife and forest health, and restrict recreational hunting and fishing opportunities, as well as cultural practices in natural spaces. 
  • Fracking isn’t good for farming. Where fracking occurs near farmland, large amounts of ozone and methane hamper plant productivity, and decrease livestock health. Water crises further impact farmers, forcing competition for water between agriculture and energy production and other users, in addition to water for residential use. Fracking would decrease the viability of food-related farming employment and the ability of farmers to produce food in these areas.

The report is linked from the bottom of the press release.  It's well worth reading.

VP Biden brings fracking experts to Ukraine in aid package meant for freedom from Russia

Shale deposits in the region surrounding Ukraine
On Monday, Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Ukraine to jumpstart plans frack that country.  The aid package offered to Ukraine is $50 million split over several forms of assistance to restructure Ukraine's government.  Some of which is, of course, development of shale gas resources, or in other words fracking.

Readers of this blog will not be surprised, because I've covered this issue before.  The US Government has decided that European Energy Security is a "national interest", a phrase typically referring to interests over which we're ready to go to War.  Energy Security in this case means no dependence on Russia for natural gas supplies.  US Government plans have been underway for years to develop, for Europe, a full array of alternatives to Russian natural gas.  Fracking the shale deposits in Europe is one of those alternatives.

Natural gas pipelines through Ukraine
Ukraine, because it possesses the pipelines through which Russian gas is sold to Europe, can play a critical role in freeing Europe from dependence on Russia.  It's not specifically because of the pipelines, but because Ukraine also has significant shale deposits.  Those deposits, if fracked, could supply a significant quantity of natural gas outside Russia's control.  Oh, and it's quite convenient that Ukraine has pipeline connections to the rest of Europe.

Because Ukraine is situation between Russia and the rest of Europe, because of the frackable shale deposits, and because of the pipelines, Ukraine is caught between a geopolitical power game between Russia, the EU, and the United States.  It's not just Ukraine, but every country that has frackable shale deposits.  Romania is one such country.

With that in mind let's see what the White House said about VP Biden's trip to Ukraine.  I've pasted the press release below.  It's full of nice phrases, but let's focus in on a few things.
  • U.S. technical experts will join with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and others in May to help Ukraine develop a public-private investment initiative to increase conventional gas production from existing fields to boost domestic energy supply. A technical team will also engage the government on measures that will help the Ukrainian government ensure swift and environmentally sustainable implementation of contracts signed in 2013 for shale gas development. 
  • Department of Energy and USAID specialists will travel to Ukraine next month to provide advice on how to maximize energy efficiency, which could deliver potentially huge cost savings to Ukraine and rationalize energy consumption.
An office within USAID, the Unconventional Gas Technical Engagement Program, is charged with exporting Fracking technology to countries all around the world.  UGTEP is part of USAID, which in turn is part of the US State Department, is part of USAID's support of opening energy markets around the world to open competition.  UGTEP's purpose is explicitly about exploiting shale deposits around the world, and to do so requires fracking.

In other words, this is the United States making Fracking Ukraine so high a priority that it's a key measure in the aid package offered during Ukraine's crisis.

The phrase "Disaster Capitalism" comes to mind, referring to the pattern where some corporations focus on exploiting Disasters to further business interests.

As I've reported earlier, during 2013 two Western oil companies (Royal Dutch Shell, and Chevron) signed deals with Ukraine's government to begin exploratory fracking in Ukraine.  The deal with Chevron was signed in November 2013, just a couple weeks before Putin forced Ukraine into an about face that then caused the EuroMaidan protests, that then caused Yanukovych's ouster, and the current situation where Russia is engaging in a slow motion invasion of Ukraine by infiltrating special forces operatives whose job is inspiring local uprisings.

I know of no way to prove this assertion - but it would appear Russian Pres. Putin saw these events unfolding, and decided he couldn't let that stand. Putin's over-arching goal is to recreate the Soviet Union, and he's recently been using the phrase "Novorossiya" which means "New Russia".  On the one hand it refers to the area that's now southern Ukraine, stretching all the way to Odessa, that Russia once held.  On the other hand, the phrase refers to reconquering the areas that were formerly part of the Soviet Bloc during the Cold War years.

With that in mind, it appeared during 2013 that the European Union was ready to bring Ukraine into the European sphere of influence.  A plan that would undermine Putin's plans for a New Russia.  And it would also upset Russia's role as the dominant supplier of natural gas to Europe.  Why?  Because of the concrete steps Ukraine was taking to develop domestic natural gas resources which Ukraine could itself use for their needs, and to sell to other European countries.



FACT SHEET: U.S. Crisis Support Package for Ukraine

President Obama and Vice President Biden have made U.S. support for Ukraine an urgent priority as the Ukrainian government works to establish security and stability, pursue democratic elections and constitutional reform, revive its economy, and ensure government institutions are transparent and accountable to the Ukrainian people.  Ukraine embarks on this reform path in the face of severe challenges to its sovereignty and territorial integrity, which we are working to address together with Ukraine and our partners in the international community.  The United States is committed to ensuring that Ukrainians alone are able to determine their country’s future without intimidation or coercion from outside forces.  To support Ukraine, we are today announcing a new package of assistance totaling $50 million to help Ukraine pursue political and economic reform and strengthen the partnership between the United States and Ukraine.  
Elections and Constitutional Reform:  Constitutional reform and free and fair elections are keys to Ukraine’s democratic development.  Assistance in this area is a down payment on the country’s democratic development.  We stand ready to provide further assistance to the new government after elections.
  • The United States is contributing an $11.4 million package to support the integrity of the May 25 elections.   These funds are being used to advance democratic processes – not to support a particular candidate or electoral outcome.  These efforts include voter education programs, transparent election administration, effective oversight of the election process, election security and a redress of infractions, and a diverse, balanced and policy-focused media environment.
  • The United States is contributing support and monitors to the OSCE’s election observation mission and other monitoring groups.  U.S. funded programs will provide at least 250 long-term observers and over 1,700 short-term observers.
  • We are also sending additional experts to provide advice on issues such as constitutional checks and balances, local governance, public participation, and the establishment of an independent, transparent judicial system.
Economic Assistance:  The United States has already signed a $1 billion loan guarantee to help Ukraine meet its financial obligations and protect vulnerable citizens from the impact of economic adjustments.  We have also supported Ukraine’s work with the IMF to secure a loan program worth $14-$18 billion.   As these U.S., IMF, and European funds begin to flow, we will have technical experts from the U.S. Treasury Department on the ground to help the Ukrainian government allocate them effectively to stabilize the economy and ensure all the regions benefit.  Currently, there are three banking advisors in Kyiv and we will be deploying public debt management and macroeconomic advisors in the coming week.  We are also committed to providing additional technical assistance in the areas of budget and tax administration.
Energy Security:  Over the coming weeks, expert teams from several U.S. government agencies will travel to the region to help Ukraine meet immediate and longer term energy needs. 
  • Today, a U.S. interagency expert team arrived in Kyiv to help Ukraine secure reverse flows of natural gas from its European neighbors.  The team will continue on to Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia in the coming days to work on the details of these arrangements.  Reverse flows of natural gas will provide Ukraine with additional immediate sources of energy.
  • U.S. technical experts will join with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and others in May to help Ukraine develop a public-private investment initiative to increase conventional gas production from existing fields to boost domestic energy supply.  A technical team will also engage the government on measures that will help the Ukrainian government ensure swift and environmentally sustainable implementation of contracts signed in 2013 for shale gas development. 
  • Department of Energy and USAID specialists will travel to Ukraine next month to provide advice on how to maximize energy efficiency, which could deliver potentially huge cost savings to Ukraine and rationalize energy consumption.
Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption:  The United States is committed to helping Ukraine break the cycle of corruption that acts as a tax on business, an impediment to economic growth, and a drain on public trust in government.  Technical advisors from the Departments of State and Justice have already been advising the government on anti-corruption measures.  Today we are expanding this assistance program with additional commitments.
  • Attorney General Holder will co-host an international conference in London April 29-30 to help identify, trace, and recover proceeds of corruption stolen by the former regime.  This is part of an ongoing effort, including work by an FBI investigative team on the ground in Kyiv to help the government of Ukraine recover assets stolen from the Ukrainian people.
  • The United States will provide advice and assistance to help modernize Ukraine’s government procurement in accordance with international standards, including the creation of a vetted anti-corruption unit.   We will offer technical assistance to that vetted unit to help build a sustainable anti-corruption regime within Ukraine, as we have done with substantial results in other parts of the world.
  • Specialized teams of prosecutors and investigators will help the Ukrainian government with other forms of technical assistance to put in place the proper legal and regulatory framework to fight corruption.  The teams will also serve as a resource to ensure follow-through and effective implementation.
People-to-People Ties:  To further strengthen ties between the people of Ukraine and the United States, we are announcing our intent to establish a new bilateral visa regime that will extend the standard validity of visas for businesspeople and tourists from 5 years to 10 years on a negotiated reciprocal basis.
Security Assistance:  In addition to the $50 million package, today we are announcing the provision of $8 million of non-lethal military assistance to allow the Ukrainian armed forces and State Border Guard Service to fulfill their core security missions.  The additional supplies include:
  • Explosive Ordnance Disposal equipment and handheld radios for Ukraine’s Armed Forces.
  • Engineering equipment, communications equipment, vehicles, and non-lethal individual tactical gear for Ukraine’s Border Guard Service.
This is in addition to the $3 million of Meals Ready to Eat and nearly $7 million of health and welfare assistance the United States is already providing to Ukraine.  The United States will continue to actively review requests for additional support as Ukraine’s government further modernizes its armed forces and deals with evolving threats.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tesla Motors building new manufacturing site in Lathrop, CA, for manufacturing expansion at low wages

Tesla Motors is apparently setting up a small manufacturing facility, in California, that has little or nothing to do with the Gigafactory.  The latter facility is meant to double the worlds production of lithium-ion batteries, requiring over 10 million square feet, a rail line, and space for a big solar panel array.  Instead, the new facility will be in Lathrop CA, and have 431,000 square feet of space, that could expand by another 125,000 square feet.

The news was reported today by the Manteca Bulletin, the local newspaper for Lathrop.  The facility was originally owned by Mopar, Chryslers parts division, and was originally built in 2001 when Daimler owned Chrysler.  Their purpose for the building was parts warehousing and distribution.  However, plans never went to fruition because Chrysler and Daimler parted ways.

Tesla has already arranged for permits and begun renovations.

Going by jobs listing on Tesla's website, this facility will house a bunch of CNC machines.  The jobs include CNC operators, CNC supervisors, training, and robotic machine operators.  Clearly this facility will be a small scale manufacturing center for Tesla. 

The company has plenty of space going unused at the former-NUMMI plant in Fremont.  Well, I assume that's the case, I haven't been inside to see for myself.  However, when that factory was owned by Toyota/GM, it had a 450,000 car/year production capacity.  Tesla is manufacturing a fraction of that amount, today.  It's a fair assumption, then, that the factory has lots of empty space in it.

Tesla is continuing to ramp up production because they're expanding Tesla Model S sales in Europe and China, while maintaining a sales rate in the U.S. of 20,000+ cars per year.  That means Tesla Model S production must go above 40,000 cars per year, plus the Tesla Model X is due to begin small scale production at the end of this year and ramp up to full production during 2015.

Hence, Tesla must ramp up parts production and therefore must install new CNC machines somewhere, and hire operators for those machines.  The question would be - where?  And what does the choice of Lathrop tell us?

Basically - that Tesla wants to expand manufacturing to areas where wages can be lower.  Lathrop is in the Central Valley, where high unemployment will mean lower wages.  It's less than an hours drive from Lathrop to Fremont, making it quite possible to build parts in Lathrop for assembly in Fremont.

The facility is at 18260 Harlan Road, Lathrop, CA.  I stumbled across the brochure from the real estate broker listing the attributes of the facility.

A pretty normal commercial building, set among other commercial buildings.  It's right next to the intersection of I-5 and Hwy-120, and Hwy-99 is close by.  The optional expansion area is the grassy spot to the rear of the building.

Plenty of power, etc.  The large flat roof should make for a big solar panel array by Solar City, don't you think?

This is the vicinity.  Another possible advantage are those rail lines, because the Fremont facility is also next to rail lines.  Is there an option of shipping parts from Lathrop to Fremont using rail?

Here's the jobs list.


Monday, April 21, 2014

What the Frack meeting leaves me wondering Where's the Rage against Fracking?

Where is the rage in America over fracking?  In some countries anti-fracking protests have gained widespread attention, and there are even protest encampments lasting for months at a time.  Is anything like that happening in the U.S.?  If the Sierra Club-sponsored meeting I attended this evening is any sign, Americans are asleep.  Maybe we're too addled by NCAA basketball tournaments or celebrities in the hospital with heart conditions?

This evening the Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club held what should have been an important public education meeting about Fracking.  They brought Michael Thornton, a senior organizer in the California Sierra Club, for an educational lecture on hydraulic fracturing and especially the risks to California.  Every Californian should be alarmed by Fracking because of the tendency to induce earthquakes.

California Gov. Jerry Brown is someone you'd expect to be against Fracking.  During his first go-around as California Governor, 30+ years ago, he pushed for and enacted many environmental measures.  His current tenure as Governor has seen many more environmental gains, and he likes to paint himself as a Climate Leader.  Thornton had worked as News Director of a Radio Station during Browns previous tenure, and said the Governor is not the same man today as he was back in the day.

Gov. Brown is a big supporter of Fracking.  But, as Thornton put it, "Climate Leaders Don't Frack."

Thornton gave us a great overview of hydraulic fracturing, acid fracturing, and its negative environmental effects.  The focus was on California, the fracking already occurring here, and the plans for expanding fracking in California.  The meeting hoped to inspire the audience to take action.  The primary suggestion was raising pressure on State Sen. Jerry Hill to switch his vote on SB1132.  That bill that would extend the study requirements enacted last year in SB4.

California is moving forward with approving fracking operations despite various unfulfilled requirements, such as an environmental impact report.  EIR's absolutely required before major undertakings.  Isn't cracking the bedrock a major undertaking?

The target of frackers in California is the Monterey Shale.  That large formation is thought to contain 15 billion barrels of oil reserves.  That's a large resource that would add significantly to America's oil reserves.  But, it requires fracking.  Because of California's highly convoluted underground geology, it will require acid fracking.  This technique MELTS the rock, not just breaking it with fractures, in order to release the fossil fuels.

Thornton talked at length about toxic chemicals released during and after fracking operations.  Fracking uses a highly toxic mixture of chemicals whose constituents are not disclosed to either the public or the government, because of trade secret.  It's known that fracking releases dozens of highly toxic chemicals and carcinogens - Crystalline Silica, Methanol, Hydrochloric Acid, Hydroflouric Acid, Ethyl Glycol, and others.

Another effect he discussed is the boom towns that spring up in areas where fracking is occurring.  There is plenty of work building, operating and maintaining the drilling equipment, as long as the fossil fuels last.  Most of the workers are young men, who move in from outside the area.  They bring along problems like drinking, drugs, prostitution, higher frequency of emergency room visits.  Low quality housing is built, but at a high rental fee, driving up the cost of living.

Very little of the money sticks with the local economy.  The companies are very efficient at siphoning all the value back to corporate headquarters.

Then as soon as the fossil fuels run out, the companies pull out.  What's left behind is a pile of problems. The now-empty housing won't find tenants.  The wells might get capped, and it's known some or all will be leaking toxic stuff into the ground.

California saw this story before - the Gold Rush Era.  While the Gold lasted, there was lots of money floating around.  When the Gold ran out, the boom ended, the miners skedaddled, leaving behind a huge toxic problem that's still being cleaned up today.  Gold mining uses cyanide and mercury, and causes great environmental harm.

Why did I ask "where's the rage" and whether Americans are asleep?  This meeting, with all this great information, was very sparsely attended.  Maybe 15 people were in the audience, half of whom had helped organize the event.

Where's the rage?  Where's the American equivalent to the anti-fracking protests I've been covering in Romania?

The Loma Prieta chapter of the Sierra Club has put together an information page with lots of resources.  That site also links to http://www.frackfreecali.org/ which has even more information.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Is California in the running for Tesla's Gigafactory after all? States competing w/ government subsidies

Supposedly California is out of the running for the Tesla Gigafactory, but according to a Sacramento Bee article the state is working to get Tesla Motors to change their mind.  Most of the article is spent on government subsidies trying to paint Elon Musk as being a Billionaire solely because of government subsidies.  Oh, and therefore, Musk's Tesla Motors somehow owes it to California to build the Gigafactory in California, because the state has done so much to help Tesla as a company and Musk personally.

Did Elon Musk become a billionaire because of government subsidies?  Nope.  That was bestowed upon him when he sold Paypal to eBay.  Paypal's success did not come at the hands of government subsidies, but instead by running a very solidly designed and useful business.  A business that is a model of usefulness, and which eBay has managed to nurture as an operation that's extremely useful for all kinds of business, not just as a payments processing operation for eBay.

Microsoft could learn a thing or two about being the steward of a broadly useful company, while incorporating that company's service into their own.  i'm thinking of Skype and how Microsoft is beginning to ruin Skype by essentially forcing Skype users to sign up for Microsoft accounts.  But this is a digression so let's get back to Tesla and the Gigafactory.

The SacBee article has a useful list of trivia about subsidies Tesla has received from California in particular.  A third of Tesla's sales in 2013 were in California, meaning a big pile of the California ZEV rebates went to Tesla Model S owners.  And there's the matter of factory upgrades at Tesla's plant in Fremont, sales tax breaks on manufacturing equipment purchases, and more.  That's a big pile of subsidies.

Supposedly, according to the SacBee columnist, this somehow entitles California to expect the Gigafactory will be built here rather than Arizona/Nevada/New Mexico/Texas.

Therefore, Sen. Diane Feinstein talked with Elon Musk, and Gov. Brown's GO-Biz team is also talking with the company.  Reading between the lines, Tesla may be playing the states off against each other to see which will offer the most lucrative deal.  If true, this is typical Business As Usual, because business owners routinely horse trade factory locations for government subsidy packages.

Initially, Tesla Motors said that California wasn't in the running because the cost of doing business here is too high.  That may be, it's certainly very expensive to live in the SF Bay Area.  But cost of living is cheaper in the Central Valley, and as the SacBee article points out there's a high unemployment rate there.  The Drought is going to hit California's agriculture sector hard this year, I'd imagine.

Tesla Motors is under the gun to get this Gigafactory under construction as soon as possible.  The gigafactory is required for for mass volume manufacturing of the "Model E" (or whatever they end up naming the 3rd generation car), because of the sheer volume of batteries that'll be required.  The factory doesn't exist yet, and has to be built and functioning in less than two years, to meet deadlines required to get that car into production by 2017.  Tesla's timeline was they want to select the location essentially NOW, and start construction in a couple months.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Our work choice either harms or helps our world, either dooming us or leading us out of climate catastrophe

How can anyone whose job creates lots of problems in the world live with themselves?  The problems created by some jobs are obvious.  For example gasoline station attendants are enablers to all the ills that come from burning gasoline.  The job of an "insect/pest control" workers is spraying poison in buildings, sometimes where children play.  Doing these jobs directly worsens the environment.   In some jobs, the negative side effects aren't so obvious, such as software engineering (my career).  What if everyone chose work that solves that solves the problems society faces, rather than continue working on tasks that create more problems for society?

Wait, you're saying, software engineering is clean work, why is it a problem?  The biggest risk for typical software engineers (and writers) is obesity from sitting too much.  But what is the effect of that work?  A lot depends on the end goal of the software written by a development team.  The ends don't always justify the means.  There's an endemic problem in software engineering:  Lack of connection to the customer.  There is a huge gulf of separation between the coder (software engineer), the customer, and the side effects of that work.

This separation between the person and their effect on the world is endemic all across modern society.  It's like thinking water comes from the faucet (rather than rivers), or water/gasoline/etc are inexhaustible, or there's no environmental side effect to turning on a light bulb, or that corn and peas comes in plastic bags in the frozen food section of the grocery store.  When we chow down on a burger at In-and-Out Burgers, do we think about the suffering of the cow from which that meat came?  When driving, do we think of the oil spills, ruined landscapes, and toxic chemicals, that go into creating the simple pleasure of driving a car at 80 miles/hr on a modern highway?  It's not just that "we" are asleep about the side effects of our lives, it's that the powers-that-be purposely construct our environment to erase awareness of the side effects.

A few years ago, when I still worked full time in software engineering, examining my consciousness unearthed the conclusion that I couldn't do that work any longer.   I wanted to pursue work that feeds a responsible lifestyle, where I don't feel I'm compromising, and is a real contribution to improving the world.   At that time I was just beginning to connect the dots between my work, and the potential to improve our world or harm it.  In early 2009 Sun Microsystems jettisoned me and thousands others because of the financial crisis thew the company into deep crisis.  That gave me the opportunity to explore the blogging and online journalism work that I've pursued since then.

My software engineering work made me party to some important points in Internet History.  Including the creation of the MIME protocol that gifted us with multimedia e-mail, the creation of the online streaming video industry in 1997, the rise of Java as a top programming language, the open source Java platform (OpenJDK), and the rise of Node.js.   My profiles on LinkedIn and oDesk will give you an idea of that history.

What was it about software engineering that I couldn't do any longer?  It wasn't the immediate environment of the job.  As I said the workplace for software engineers is very clean and the immediate output of our work is just bits in a computer.  The environmental cost of running those computers is a big question mark.  Is the electricity consumption and consequent environmental cost worth the benefit these machines supposedly give us?  But there are bigger environmental worries that threaten our whole society.  Ones which threaten the very survival of our society.

These huge problems in the world are what I talk about on this blog - climate change, environmental degradation, financial stresses on modern society, depletion of natural resources, and more.  Some of us are highly alarmed about the effects of these issues, and rightly worry that modern society will simply collapse due to these problems.  For example, it looks like climate change spiraling out of control as well as environmental degradation is causing a huge die-off of animals in the oceans, erasing hundreds of millions of years of evolutionary development, and threatening world food supplies with mass starvation.

I couldn't sit by watching that happen without lifting a finger to help create solutions.  That led to several years covering the electric vehicle field, writing news articles, and along the way learning the ropes of being a Journalist.  This work led to writing news articles on PlugInCars.com.  Then I started work for Recargo, the owner of PlugInCars.com, as a Software Engineer  redesigning the PlugInCars website.  After several years writing news articles, I'm back working in software engineering, but with a purpose fitting my goal of creating positive change in the world.  I'm contributing to the electric vehicle industry by making PlugInCars even more attractive and useful a resource on electric vehicles.  This should help spawn more interest in these cars, and help push modern society to driving clean cars.

I am writing this today not to create the illusion that I'm anyone special.  But it's to explore thoughts about how ones job - ones work in the world - can help solve problems, or create more problems.

Business As Usual - that is, the conduct of Business as it is Commonly Practiced - is what created the problems we face in this world.

Solving those problems means switching from Business As Usual to a more responsible work/business/government/religion structure.  But before we can even begin developing the solutions, "we" collectively have to become aware of the problem.  Are we addicted to Business As Usual?  Maybe we should take the first step preached by Alcoholics Anonymous, recognize that we're addicted?  After that we can begin taking the second step, recognize the effects of our addiction and begin to address the problems our addiction causes.

Those of us with regular jobs, we do what the boss says.  There's a dictatorial element where the boss has the power to essentially force workers to do their task, no matter what the side effect of that task is.  The people whose job is destroying mountains for "mountain top removal," to get at the coal under the mountain, are forced to do that work - under the threat of being fired.  Yet the work causes extreme harm to the mountains where this is practiced.

Why do I say "dictatorial"?  The boss has leverage over their workers, by threatening their workers livelihood through firings or layoffs.  Worker dare not question the work their doing, because they could lose their jobs.  Workers dare not talk with the Press, they might expose company secrets, even if those secrets are the toxic whatever perpetrated by the company.

Companies free reign to stifle dissent is close to, if not identical to, dictatorial powers practiced by some governments.  Do we really we live in a Free Society, a Democracy?  If we cannot raise objections, or expose egregious stuff done by our employer, where is Freedom?  Or is it just old fashioned Serfdom with a pretty face on it?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Romania may have no choice but fracking, says Romanian oil industry think tank

Romania may not have any choice but to allow hydraulic fracturing (fracturare hidraulice), according to a report by the Romania Energy Center.  We've been studying Romania's situation over natural gas, and proposals to frack that country's shale deposits, as a way of learning about the overall story of fracking.

The papers I've read this evening were delivered by the ROEC to various conferences over the last two years.  The ROEC is an english language think tank focusing on oil, natural gas, and "energy" policy in Romania.  As an industry think tank we can expect their work to be biased towards the oil and gas industry.  However, some of what they're reporting does paint a dire picture for Romania's future unless some big change is made in that country's energy resources.

I'd rather see Romania embrace renewable energy resources, but the tried-and-true for over a hundred years of modern economic development has been fossil fuels.



Romania is way past its peak of oil production, and domestic oil and gas production is declining at a 10% per year rate.  It's expected the country will simply run out of oil and gas to produce, via conventional methods, in 10-15 years.

Consider that it takes a LOOOOONG time, many YEARS, to start producing in new oil or gas fields.  That means to avoid the looming problem, if their solution is more oil and gas then they'd better start drilling now.

If Romania doesn't come up with a seriously big solution for new energy resources, they'll become dependent on Russia.  That's the last thing Romania wants is to fall back under the dominance of Russia.  It's not just the Romanians that fear dependency on Russia, most of Europe does.  It's expected that if (when) Russia's natural gas is the primary supply to Europe, that Russia will be able to extract huge economic dividends, and that Russia is salivating over those prospects.

Romania has identified three new sources of domestic oil and gas production.
  • Enhanced recovery techniques in existing fields.
  • Unconventional resources (fracking), which we've been covering a lot in recent posts.  As we see in this slide, the ROEC can't predict the outcome.
  • Off-shore deep-water resources in the Black Sea.
Those slides came from ROEC's presentation in September 2013 at the Balkans Oil and Gas Conference in Athens.

It's also possible for Romania to secure an external source of natural gas and oil other than Russia.  The country has been working hard on this, and pinned a lot of hope on the "Southern Gas Corridor" project.  I'd written a fair amount about the Southern Gas Corridor project in an earlier post.  The gist is that there's plenty of natural gas deposits in Central Asia that aren't under Russia's control - today - because these various countries managed to escape from the U.S.S.R. when that country disintegrated.  The Southern Gas Corridor aims to build a natural gas pipeline from the Caucasus, through Turkey, and into Europe.  This would let Europe switch their dependency on Russian natural gas for Central Asian natural gas.
A strategy decision in the Summer of 2013 concerning the Southern Gas Corridor went in a direction that does not help Europe.  "Nabucco" is the version of that project which would have supplied large quantities of natural gas to Europe.  Instead a different plan was chosen, and because Romania had pinned their hopes on Nabucco the country is left scrambling for a replacement natural gas source.

Another possible resource is this new oil and gas discovery in the Mediterranean.   This is years away from being exploited.

Those slides came from ROEC's November 19, 2013 presentation at the Romania Oil And Gas Conference, 2013.

The picture painted by these two presentations from ROEC is that in a few years Romania is going to face a big economic problem.  Dwindling domestic oil and gas is going to force the country to increase imports, but that will put a drain on Romania's economy, which is already weak.

As for the prospects of shale gas (fracking) as the solution, ROEC had this to say:

NAMR is Romania's bureau of natural resources.
My vantage point is thousands of miles away, but having read dozens of Romanian news reports on this, this assessment seems apt.  However, I don't know that the public is being manipulated with misinformation.  The anti-fracking writings I see in Romania seem to be well informed of the risks.  The people involved are strongly convinced they do not want fracking to take hold in Romania.