An oil rig south of Pyote, Texas, December 11, 2013.
Crude oil is now trading at roughly $13 a barrel less than it did a year ago. That’s in spite of the seizure of Iraqi and Syrian oil facilities by ISIS and a U.S.-led bombing campaign against those facilities.
“The beginning of the bombing campaign in Syria and Iraq recently was met with a big yawn by the energy markets and really had no upward effect at all on crude oil prices,” says economist Karr Ingham, creator of the Texas Petro Index on behalf of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers.
According to the latest index, the state’s crude oil production approached 96 million barrels in August, up more than 23 percent from August of last year. Ingham suspects the rise in U.S. production is helping to hold down prices and stabilize energy markets. “Don’t you wonder if we are not seeing the benefits of expanded crude oil production in North America playing out before our very eyes?” he says. “I wonder if that’s not exactly what we’re seeing. I certainly hope that’s the case. This may in part be what energy independence looks like.”
The conference, called “No Land No Water,” focused on what Lopez believes are inefficient and unsustainable landowning trends in Texas’ flourishing economy.
“In the past 15 years, we’ve seen a little over a million acres of working lands converted to other uses,” he says.
Land conversion can mean more than a loss of grazing space and pretty views. Lopez worries it will further impede water recharge by replacing soft, absorptive ground cover with impenetrable material, like road cement.
This photo taken 16 November, 2006 shows a warning sign for boats sitting on the bottom of the empty Green Hill Lake outside the small rural town of Ararat, some 170 kms west of Melbourne.
Nowadays, when there’s a killer heat wave or serious drought somewhere, people wonder: Is this climate change at work? It’s a question scientists have struggled with for years. And now there’s a new field of research that’s providing some answers. It’s called “attribution science” — a set of principles that allow scientists to determine when it’s a change in climate that’s altering weather events … and when it isn’t.
The principles start with the premise that, as almost all climate scientists expect, there will be more “extreme” weather events if the planet warms up much more: heat waves, droughts, huge storms.
But then, there have always been periodic bouts of extreme weather on Earth, long before climate change. How do you tell the difference between normal variation in weather — including these rare extremes — and what climate change is doing?
That sort of discernment is difficult, so scientists have had a rule, a kind of mantra: You can’t attribute any single weather event to climate change. It could just be weird weather.
New rules proposed by the Obama administration seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants
As greenhouse gases reach their highest concentrations in human history, the Obama administration has pledged to take action on climate change, unveiling a Clean Power Plan this summer to go after a prime target of those emissions: coal power plants. And true to form, that plan is running into opposition from lawmakers and regulators in Texas.
At a hearing of the Texas House Committee on Environmental Regulation Monday, both regulators and lawmakers expressed concern in the feasibility of complying with energy regulations proposed in EPA’s plan.
“One of our main concerns is that they don’t reflect the reality of electric markets, which operate at the literal speed of light” said Brian Lloyd, Executive Director of the Public Utility Commission of Texas. “[The plan] requires very long-life, hugely expensive capital expenses.”
Lloyd said the Public Utility Commission would need to collect an additional billion dollars from ratepayers in order to achieve energy efficiency standards proposed by the EPA. Energy efficiency is one of several initiatives, including renewable energy generation and switching from coal to natural gas power generation shifting, that the agency calls for in its plan.
A recent drop in carbon emissions in the U.S. could only be temporary, a new report warns.
Texas will need to make big cuts in carbon emissions over the next 15 years under a mandate from the Environmental Protection Agency. You can expect to hear complaints about the EPA rule at a two-day meeting of the House Environmental Regulations Committee starting Monday.
The federal agency and state leaders have been at odds for years and many conservatives worry that limiting carbon emission to fight climate change will hurt the economy.
But there are some in Texas who see an upside. Click the player to learn more.
The oil and gas rich Eagle Ford Shale formation straddles both sides of the Texas Mexico border.
Today, members of the state House Energy Resources Committee met in the Rio Grande Valley town of Edinburg to discuss how a partial privatization of Mexico’s oil and gas sector could impact the Texas economy.
Until this year, drilling in Mexico was run by Pemex, a state-owned company. A change in Mexican law has now partially opened the county to foreign business. That could be a big opportunity for Texas companies familiar with the oil and gas rich Eagle Ford shale that straddles the border. Some estimates have already said a shale boom in Mexico could grow the Texas economy by tens of billions of dollars. Others say it’s too early to tell.
“I have seen some of those estimates, and at this point all they are are numbers on a spreadsheet,” say Tom Tunstall, director of the Center for Community and Business Research at UT San Antonio.
He says infrastructure and border security concerns could complicate investment. Then there’s uncertainty around the continued roll of Pemex.
Texas Governor Rick Perry waiting to be introduced at Energy & Climate Policy Summit in Houston
Governor Rick Perry says the United States can keep Russia in check by increasing the production of oil and gas here at home.Perry spoke last night in Houston at a conference on energy and climate policy, sponsored by the conservative think tank the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
“The reliance on oil has made us more dependent than we should have been on sources that are hostile to this country, ” Perry said.
But now, oil and gas production here has surged with the boom in the drilling technique called fracking. Perry said domestic production could be expanded even more, which he said, would give the U.S. added leverage in dealing with Russia. Russia has its own vast supplies of natural gas it sells to Europe.
“Energy is a weapon in the hands of aggressors. So I say if energy is going to be used as a weapon, America should have the largest arsenal,” said Perry. Continue Reading →
Forecasters, however, are already seeing another sign of El Niño: fewer hurricanes than average in the Atlantic.
“I think we’ve only had five named storms so far [in the Atlantic], about 50 percent of normal,” says Victor Murphy, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “Whereas the Eastern Pacific Basin, I think they’re on the “P” storm Polo. I think they’re at about 150 percent of activity in the Pacific.”
The “O” storm, “Odile,” from the Pacific, dropped a sizable amount of rain on parts of Texas just last week.
Oil & gas facilites in LaSalle County, part of the Eagle Ford Shale.
Economists made a surprising discovery when they measured the economic impact of oil & gas drilling in Texas. For the past four years, Thomsas Tunstall and a team of economists at University of Texas-San Antonio have been measuring the economic impact of surging oil & gas drilling in the rock formation called the Eagle Ford in South Texas.
“Clearly the formation production has legs,” Tunstall told News 88.7.
And those legs are running faster than expected. Way faster.
The economists had predicted just last year that they expected the total economic impact to South Texas to be $89 billion in 2022. Instead, they now estimate that the impact has already reached almost that amount: $87 billion.
Divestment has become a popular topic on college campuses and some boardrooms.But it will likely have trouble taking hold in oil rich parts of the state.
“I think it is worth asking ourselves as a society how much longer we think we need to have an oil economy.” — Michael Webber, UT Energy Institute
This week in New York, the UN Climate Summit is underway, and the Rockefeller Foundation made news with the announcement that it will divest close to a billion dollars from fossil fuels. Here in Austin, University of Texas President Bill Powers gave his State of the University address. But in contrast to the news from New York, Powers thanked “heavens” for the oil wealth provided to UT by its land holdings, and celebrated the fracking revolution as “good news” for the University.
The disconnect between the two messages leads one to wonder about the role of the divestment campaign in oil-rich parts of the country. Could divestment in other parts of the country grow to the point where it disrupts Texas’ fossil fuel economy? By contrast, could divestment ever catch on here?
We called Michael Webber, Deputy Director of UT’s Energy Institute, to talk about all that and more.
It should be noted that the Institute receives funding from industry and from UT, which, as President Powers noted, is no stranger to the oil business. (StateImpact Texas has also been sponsored by the Energy Institute on special projects. These disclosures seem all the more important in a blog post about how deeply intertwined the fossil fuel industry is with many aspects of the life in the state.)
StateImpact Texas: Could divestment shake up the Texas economy?