The Next Energy Revolution – By David G. Victor and Kassia Yanosek July/August 2017 Issue

The Promise and Peril of High-Tech Innovation

The technology revolution has transformed one industry after another, from retail to manufacturing to transportation. Its most far-reaching effects, however, may be playing out in the unlikeliest of places: the traditional industries of oil, gas, and electricity.

Over the past decade, innovation has upended the energy industry. First came the shale revolution. Starting around 2005, companies began to unlock massive new supplies of natural gas, and then oil, from shale basins, thanks to two new technologies: horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (or fracking). Engineers worked out how to drill shafts vertically and then turn their drills sideways to travel along a shale seam; they then blasted the shale with high-pressure water, sand, and chemicals to pry open the rock and allow the hydrocarbons to flow. These technologies have helped drive oil prices down from an all-time high of $145 per barrel in July 2008 to less than a third of that today, and supply has become much more responsive to market conditions, undercutting the ability of OPEC, a group of the world’s major oil-exporting nations, to influence global oil prices.

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Energy Companies Face Crude Reality: Better to Leave It in the Ground – By  Sarah Kent,  Bradley Olson and  Georgi Kantchev Feb. 17, 2017 5:30 a.m. ET

High costs, low prices and tough new environmental rules forcing companies to cancel plans to produce oil

Today, only about 20% of future oil sands projects in northern Alberta are capable of being profitable.

Today, only about 20% of future oil sands projects in northern Alberta are capable of being profitable. Photo: Ben Nelms/Bloomberg News

A new era of low crude prices and stricter regulations on climate change is pushing energy companies and resource-rich governments to confront the possibility that some fossil-fuel resources are likely to be left in the ground.

In a signal that the threat is growing more serious, Exxon Mobil Corp. is expected in the coming week to disclose that as much as 3.6 billion barrels of oil that it planned to produce in Canada in the next few decades is no longer profitable to extract.

The acknowledgment by Exxon, after the company spent about $20 billion to put the oil sands at the center of its growth plans, highlights how dramatically expectations have changed about the future prospects of the region.

Once considered a safe bet, Canada’s vast deposits are emerging as among the first and most visible reserves at risk of being stranded by a combination of high costs, low prices and tough new environmental rules.

“For a lot of reasons the oil sands look like a prime candidate for eventual abandonment,” said Jim Krane, an energy fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute. “One problem is that costs are persistently higher. The high carbon content only makes it worse.”

During most of the past decade, Exxon and other giant oil companies spent billions of dollars in Canada as part of a global quest for new sources of supply, as analysts cautioned about “peak oil,” or the risk of running out of the resource. Prices surged to $140 a barrel.

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The Price of Solar Is Declining to Unprecedented Lows – By Robert Fares on August 27, 2016

Despite already low costs, the installed price of solar fell by 5 to 12 percent in 2015


Credit: Flickr user Marufish via Creative Commons

The installed price of solar energy has declined significantly in recent years as policy and market forces have driven more and more solar installations.

Now, the latest data show that the continued decrease in solar prices is unlikely to slow down anytime soon, with total installed prices dropping by 5 percent for rooftop residential systems, and 12 percent for larger utility-scale solar farms. With solar already achieving record-low prices, the cost decline observed in 2015 indicates that the coming years will likely see utility-scale solar become cost competitive with conventional forms of electricity generation.

A full analysis of the ongoing decline in solar prices can be found in two separate Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Reports: Tracking the Sun IX focuses on installed pricing trends in the distributed rooftop solar market while Utility-Scale Solar 2015 focuses on large-scale solar farms that sell bulk power to the grid.

Put together, the reports show that all categories of solar have seen significantly declining costs since 2010. Furthermore, larger solar installations consistently beat out their smaller counterparts when it comes to the installed cost per rated Watt of solar generating capacity (or $/WDC).

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Hillary Clinton’s climate army – By ANDREW RESTUCCIA 08/11/16 05:27 PM EDT

Like President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton is prepared to rely on her executive powers to make progress on climate change. | Getty

Like President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton is prepared to rely on her executive powers to make progress on climate change. | Getty

Her swarm of formal and informal energy and environmental advisers dwarfs Donald Trump’s handful of outside experts.

Hillary Clinton has assembled a virtual army of formal and informal advisers on energy, the environment and climate change — and the names on the list indicate she fully aims to continue President Barack Obama’s push to green the economy and take on global warming.

The team of nearly 100 informal advisers, who have spent the past year compiling recommendations on everything from chemical safety and Everglades restoration to nuclear power and climate finance, includes holdovers from the Obama administration such as former White House advisers Carol Browner and Heather Zichal.

Besides offering a rough picture of who might claim high-level jobs in her administration, the massive collection of Clinton advisers contrasts sharply with Trump’s campaign, which is relying on just a few outside experts such as Oklahoma oilman Harold Hamm to help chart his energy agenda.

Like Obama, Clinton is prepared to rely on her executive powers to make progress on climate change, rather than waiting on Congress to send her legislation. She also intends to make climate change a bigger focus in the general election, a campaign official who requested anonymity to talk about Clinton’s strategy told POLITICO, in an effort to draw a contrast with Trump, who has scoffed that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.

“I think the choice is pretty clear this year for voters on this issue more than on any other issue,” Clinton energy adviser Trevor Houser said during a POLITICO policy discussion in Philadelphia last month, underscoring the fact that the campaign sees climate as a general election wedge issue.

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Congressional Leaders Agree to Lift 40-Year Ban on Oil Exports – By AMY HARDER And LYNN COOK Dec. 16, 2015 12:16 a.m. ET

An electric pumping unit removed crude oil from a Fidelity Exploration & Production Co. well outside South Heart, N.D. on Feb. 10.

An electric pumping unit removed crude oil from a Fidelity Exploration & Production Co. well outside South Heart, N.D. on Feb. 10. Photo: Bloomberg News

WASHINGTON—In a move considered unthinkable even a few months ago, congressional leaders have agreed to lift the nation’s 40-year-old ban on oil exports, a historic action that reflects political and economic shifts driven by a boom in U.S. oil drilling.

The measure allowing oil exports is at the center of a deal that Republican leaders announced late Tuesday on spending and tax legislation. However, Democrats haven’t confirmed the agreement. Both the House and Senate still must pass it and President Barack Obama must sign it into law.

The deal would lift the ban, a priority for Republicans and the oil industry, and at the same time adopt environmental and renewable measures that Democrats sought. These include extending wind and solar tax credits; reauthorizing for three years a conservation fund; and excluding any measures that block major Obama administration environmental regulations, according to a GOP aide.

By design or not, the agreement hands the oil industry a long-sought victory within days of a major international climate deal that is aimed at sharply reducing emissions from oil and other fuels, a deal opposed by the industry and one that will arguably require its cooperation.

More than a dozen independent oil companies, including Continental Resources and ConocoPhillips, have been lobbying Congress to lift the ban on oil exports for nearly two years, arguing that unfettered oil exports would eliminate market distortions, stimulate the U.S. economy and boost national security.

A handful of Washington lawmakers representing oil-producing states, including Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.) and Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska), have been working to convince once-wary politicians to back oil exports and allay worries that they will be blamed if gasoline prices were to rise.

Some U.S. refineries oppose oil exports, saying their business would be hit if crude oil is shipped overseas to be refined and warning that higher costs might be passed along to consumers. The U.S. government doesn’t limit exports of refined petroleum products, and those exports have more than doubled since 2007.

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Bernie Sanders urges carbon tax and deeper emissions cuts in climate plan – Suzanne Goldenberg – Monday 7 December 2015 00.02 EST

Democratic presidential candidate to release bold plan as rivals vie to set out green credentials during crunch week for global talks at Paris summit

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders will unveil a sweeping new plan to fight climate change on Monday, calling for a carbon tax and an ambitious 40% cut in carbon emissions by 2030 to speed the transition to a greener economy.

The Democratic presidential candidate will use the crunch week of the climate change meeting in Paris to try to upstage rivals Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley, releasing a 16-page plan aimed at showcasing his green credentials.

The plan goes beyond Barack Obama’s climate pledges, which aim to match the European Union in ambition by calling for a 40% cut in carbon emissions by 2030 on 1990 levels, according to a copy of the plan seen by the Guardian. The 1990 starting point is a more demanding target than the current US baseline of 2005.

Sanders will also call for a carbon tax, big investments in energy-saving technologies and renewable power sources, and promise to create 10 million clean energy jobs.

The climate meeting in Paris has attracted an unusual level of attention compared with earlier meetings, as Democrats and Republicans gear up for the first votes in the presidential primaries just over a month away.


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