Russia’s brazen move into Ukraine has triggered a reaction from supporters of America’s oil and natural gas industries. To diminish Vladimir Putin’s clout in Europe and pressure him on Ukraine, they want the Obama administration to fast track a host of U.S. energy industry priorities. By doing so, they say, the United States can increase fuel supplies to Ukraine and much of Europe, which depend heavily on Russian oil and natural gas.
The industries’ priorities include quickly approving more facilities to export liquefied natural gas, removing restrictions on domestic crude oil exports, and approving the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that would carry Canadian crude oil to the Gulf Coast.
Energy—and especially oil—has a long history of being at the forefront of foreign policy and territorial conflict. But in this case, many analysts question whether the energy industry’s wish list of policy actions would have a timely and meaningful impact on Russia, Europe or the situation in Ukraine.
The most curious item on the list is the Keystone XL pipeline.
TransCanada’s long-delayed oil pipeline would carry heavy oil from Alberta’s tar sands south to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. Part of the pipeline is already in service, but the portion that runs from the U.S.-Canada border through Nebraska can’t be built without a federal permit indicating that the project is in the national interest.
How does such a pipeline have any bearing on a dispute involving Russia and the Ukraine?
So far, the pipeline’s supporters have cited two main reasons: It would send a “signal” to Russia that would convince Putin to stop using energy as leverage, and it would cause U.S. refiners to stop buying Venezuelan heavy crude, which would inflict economic pain on a Russian ally.
Here’s a quick look at those arguments.
Approving the Keystone XL pipeline sends a warning signal to Russia and Putin.
This contention is the most widely cited reason for linking the pipeline to Russia’s move into Ukraine.
James L. Jones, a retired U.S. Marine Corps general and former national security adviser to President Obama, told a senate committee in March that the Keystone is “a litmus test of whether America is serious about national, regional and global energy security…and the international bullies who wish to use energy scarcity as a weapon against us all are watching intently.” Then he added: “If we want to make Putin’s day and strengthen his hand, we should reject the Keystone.” Jones is now affiliated with a pro-Keystone, oil and gas advocacy initiative by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
A columnist for Forbes went so far as to suggest that the pipeline’s opponents are inadvertent “proponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s grandiose vision of reunifying the former Soviet Union.” The author, Carrie Sheffield, said the Keystone XL protesters were helping keep the global price of oil higher, and helping Putin in the process.
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., told CNN that approving the pipeline is one of several steps the United States should take in response to Russia’s aggression.
"It’s a signal," Ryan said of the Keystone. "The signal is that America is open for energy business. America is going to be helping our allies with energy resources so that they can be less dependent on Russian energy resources."
The problem with this theory is that the world—including Putin—already knows that the United States is open for energy business. The United States is the world’s largest producer of natural gas and is on the verge of taking the top spot in oil production. U.S. oil and gas imports have fallen dramatically as a result, freeing those shipments to go elsewhere, including Europe.
Even if the pipeline were approved, it would be a couple years before it could start carrying oil. And even then the 830,000 barrels per day it could carry would be a small ripple in a world that consumes 92 million barrels per day. Another flaw in this theory: current law prohibits European countries from processing oil sands crude and accepting its byproducts.
The biggest fallacy of all is the suggestion that the United States can wield its energy resources as foreign policy weapons.
Putin and many other nations can do it because the energy companies are owned or controlled by the government. That is not the case in the United States.
Neither the president nor Congress can tell the owners of U.S. liquefied natural gas plants where to ship their LNG. Companies can’t be forced to deliver their product to Europe or Ukraine instead of to Asia, where they can make substantially more money, based on current pricing.
The federal government can’t tell Gulf Coast refiners to buy oil from “friendly” nations or to only sell gasoline and diesel to certain countries to further U.S. political interests. Lawmakers can’t block companies from continuing to export propane, gasoline, diesel, or natural gas when U.S. stockpiles are low and local prices are soaring.
In short, the only energy supplies at the U.S. government’s disposal are the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the Northeast’s heating oil reserve, and whatever it has purchased through the military or other federal agencies.
On April 12, 2014 Sen. Sanders spoke to a packed crowd at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.
As posted on Skeptical Science.
Because exponential growth of CO2 concentration causes only linear raise in temperature, people sometimes think that subsequent emissions will result in ever slower temperature increases. Well, the most persistent myths are based on technically true statements - that’s true also in this case.
It is true, that for each doubling of CO2 concentration, temperature increases by a constant value. However, at the current level of CO2 content in the atmosphere a good approximate relation is that for each 500 GtC (1833 bn tons of CO2) we can expect equilibrium temperature increase by approximately 1°C. Moreover, because of the continuing exponential growth of CO2 emissions the temperature increase will also accelerate.
When we talk about the temperature increase in response to the growth of greenhouse gases concentration in the atmosphere, we mean the total increase in average temperature which will continue until the Earth’s total energy budget reaches equilibrium. Both numerical simulations using climate models, as well as paleoclimatic research and direct measurements show that in response to doubling of the atmospheric CO2concentration, (which is equivalent to a radiative forcing of 4W/m2), the Earth’s surface will most probably warm up by about 3°C.
Hence, we can expect a 3°C average temperature increase when the carbon dioxideconcentration changes from the pre-industrial level of 280 ppm to 560 ppm. Subsequent temperature increase by another 3°C will require growth of CO2 concentration from 560 to 1120 ppm.
Should we therefore draw a conclusion that the rate of temperature increase will steadily drop? Not necessarily, and definitely not if current emissions trends persist in the future. In order to understand key relationships let’s take a look at the connection between our cumulative emissions and the projected temperature increase published in the 5th IPCC report.
Figure 1: Increase of the mean Earth’s surface temperature as a function of the cumulative global CO2 emissions. Mean values calculated from multiple simulations using severalcarbon cycle models are shown until year 2100 for each RCP (color lines). Circles mark decadal means and for clarity selected decadal means were labeled with appropriate color matching text (e.g., 2050 indicates the decade 2040-2049). Black line denotes model results over the historical period (1860-2010). Shaded areas illustrate range of model results for various RCP scenarios. Black narrow line and grey shaded area show, respectively, the mean and the range of simulation results using many models CMIP5 assuming CO2 concentration growth of 1% per year. For a given value of cumulative CO2emissions, simulations assuming 1% yearly concentration growth show smaller temperature increase than simulations corresponding to RCP, which include other forcings besides CO2. Temperature change is relative to the base period 1861-1881. Decadal averages are connected by straight lines. Source: 5th IPCC report.
NASA’s AIM spacecraft is discovering unexpected “teleconnections” in Earth’s atmosphere that link weather and climate across vast distances.
As posted on NASA Climate
First spotted in 1885, silvery blue clouds sometimes hover in the night sky near the poles, appearing to give off their own glowing light. Known as noctilucent clouds, this phenomenon began to be sighted at lower and lower latitudes — between the 40th and 50th parallel — during the 20th century, causing scientists to wonder if the region these clouds inhabit had indeed changed — information that would tie in with understanding the weather and climate of all Earth.
One of the last great areas of exploration on Earth is the deep sea, where new species are discovered on nearly every adventure into its depths.
During a speech on Friday at the National Action Network, President Obama made his strongest and most extensive comments yet on the topic of voting rights. “The right to vote is threatened today in a way that it has not been since the Voting Rights Act became law nearly five decades ago,” Obama said. “Across the country, Republicans have led efforts to pass laws making it harder, not easier, for people to vote.”
The election of the first black president and the resurrection of voter suppression efforts was hardly a coincidence. New voting restrictions took effect in nineteen states from 2011–12. Nine states under GOP control have adopted measures to make it more difficult to vote since 2013. Since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in June 2013, half of the states (eight in total) previously covered under Section 5 have passed or implemented new voting restrictions.
These laws, from voter ID to cutting early voting to restricting voter registration, have been passed under the guise of stopping voter fraud, although there’s scant evidence that such fraud exists. Obama cited a comprehensive study by News21 that found only ten cases of in-person voter impersonation since 2000.
“The real voter fraud,” the president said, “is people who try to deny our rights by making bogus arguments about voter fraud.”
Obama’s speech highlighted how Democratic leaders are embracing the cause of voting rights. (Attorney General Eric Holder has made it a signature issue, with the DOJ filing lawsuits against new voting restrictions in Texas and North Carolina last year.)
A day before arriving in New York, Obama spoke about civil rights at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library’s commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act—where the subject of contemporary attacks on voting rights came up often. “Is this what Martin Luther King gave his life for?” asked Bill Clinton. “Is this what Lyndon Johnson employed his legendary skills for? Is this what America has become a great thriving democracy for? To restrict the franchise?”
Democratic presidential hopefuls like Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden have recently championed voting rights. The Democratic National Committee has launched a new Voter Expansion Projectand veterans of the Obama campaign started iVote to elect Democratic secretaries of state in Colorado, Iowa, Ohio and Nevada. Democrats hope that an appeal to voting rights will help mobilize key constituencies, like in 2012, when a backlash against GOP voter suppression efforts increased African-American turnout. “The single most important thing we can do to protect our right to vote is to vote,” Obama said on Friday.
It’s great that Democratic leaders are finally recognizing the severity of the attack on voting rights. But it’s sad that Republicans are almost unanimously supporting the restriction of voting rights rather than the expansion of the franchise.
Things weren’t always this way. In his new book about the Civil Rights Act, An Idea Whose Time Has Come, Todd Purdum tells the story of Bill McCulloch, a conservative Republican from Ohio who championed civil rights as the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee. The Politico excerpt from the book was titled “The Republican Who Saved Civil Rights.”
There would have been no Civil Rights Act of 1964 or Voting Rights Act of 1965 without the support of Republicans like McCulloch and Senate minority leader Everett Dirksen of Illinois. For decades after the 1960s, voting rights legislation had strong bipartisan support in Congress. Every reauthorization of the VRA—in 1970, 1975, 1982 and 2006—was signed by a Republican president and supported by an overwhelming number of Republicans in Congress.
Republicans like Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, an heir to McCulloch who as the former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee oversaw the 2006 reauthorization of the VRA and is co-sponsoring a new fix for the VRA, used to be the norm within the GOP. Now he’s the rare Republican who still believes the GOP should remain the party of Lincoln. Where is the Republican Voter Expansion Project?