Daily Archives: November 14, 2011

TransCanada Will Reroute Keystone XL Pipeline Away From Nebraska’s Sandhills And Ogallala Aquifier

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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Canadian pipeline developer TransCanada will shift the route of its planned oil pipeline out of the environmentally sensitive Sandhills area of Nebraska, two company officials announced Monday night.

Speaking at a news conference at the Nebraska Capitol, the officials said TransCanada would agree to the new route, a move the company previously claimed wasn’t possible, as part of an effort to push through the proposed $7 billion project. They expressed confidence the project would ultimately be approved.

Alex Pourbaix, TransCanada’s president for energy and oil pipelines, said rerouting the Keystone XL line would likely require 30 to 40 additional miles of pipe and an additional pumping station. The exact route has not yet been determined, but Pourbaix said Nebraska will play a key role in deciding it.

The announcement follows the federal government’s decision last week to delay a decision on a federal permit for the project until it studies new potential routes that avoid the Sandhills area and the Ogallala aquifer as the proposed pipeline carries crude oil from Canada to Texas Gulf Coast refineries.

Debate over the pipeline has drawn international attention focused largely on Nebraska, because the pipeline would cross the Sandhills — an expanse of grass-strewn, loose-soil hills — and part of the Ogallala aquifer, which supplies water to Nebraska and parts of seven other states.

Company officials had claimed that moving the route was impossible because of a U.S. State Department study which found the Sandhills route would leave the smallest environmental footprint.

Pourbaix said he was confident a new route would also avoid the parts of the aquifer that sit closes to the surface, which was a major concern cited by environmentalists and the region’s landowners. He said moving it out of the Sandhills region would likely ease many of the concerns posed by landowners.

“We do remain confident that we could have built a safe pipeline through the original route that was approved by the State Department” in an environmental impact statement released earlier this year, Pourbaix said. “At the same time, it has always been a priority of TransCanada to listen to our stakeholders.”

He added: “We’re confident that collaborating with the state of Nebraska will make this process much easier.”

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said any new route would require a supplemental environmental impact statement that likely would take more than a year to complete.

“Based on the total mileage of potential alternative routes that would need to be reviewed, we anticipate the evaluation could conclude as early as first quarter of 2013,” Toner said in a written statement.

Delaying the decision on the pipeline went over badly in Canada, where it was seen as a signal that the country must diversify its oil exports away from the United States and toward Asia.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he made it clear in a weekend meeting with President Barack Obama that the nation will step up its efforts to sell oil to Asia since the decision was delayed, and would keep pushing the U.S. to approve the project.

“This highlights why Canada must increase its efforts to ensure it can supply its energy outside the U.S. and into Asia in particular,” Harper said.

Harper said he emphasized the pipeline would mean economic growth on both sides of the border.

Business and labor groups who support the project say the environmental criticism is overblown, and based more on opposition to oil than the project itself. They say the project will create construction jobs, although the exact number is disputed.

Environmentalists and some Nebraska landowners fear the pipeline would disrupt the region’s loose soil for decades, harm wildlife, and contaminate the aquifer.

The speaker of Nebraska’s legislature, Mike Flood, said the state will conduct an environmental assessment of its own at state expense to determine a route that avoids the Sandhills area and other ecologically sensitive areas. The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality will oversee the process, with collaboration from the U.S. State Department.

Noah Greenwald, a spokesman for the Center of Biological Diversity, said his group remains opposed to the pipeline and still believes it poses an environmental threat. The center is one of three environmental groups that have sued the U.S. State Department, seeking a judge’s order to block the project.

“Even with the reroute, we still feel like we can push forward,” he said. “We’re going to keep up the public pressure on the administration as this moves forward.”

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman had called a special legislative session to seek a legal and constitutional solution to the pipeline debate. But the session’s stated goal — to enact oil pipeline legislation — has lacked a clear consensus about what, if anything, state officials ought to do.

Nebraska State Sen. Ken Haar of Malcolm, an outspoken pipeline critic, was pleased with Monday’s announcement.

“It’s good for the people of Nebraska. It’s good for TransCanada,” he said.

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What America Does Best

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We’re once again hearing the broken record of declinism.

(National Review)  We are in a fresh round of declinism — understandably, after borrowing nearly $5 trillion in less than three years and having very little to show for it. Pundit strives with op-ed writer to find the latest angle on America’s descent: We are broke; we are poorly educated; we are uncompetitive; we have gone soft; our political institutions are broken; and on and on. The Obama administration does its part, with sloganeering like “reset,” “lead from behind,” “post-American world,” and America as exceptional only to the degree that all nations feel exceptional.

This is not new. In the late 1930s, the New Germany and its autobahns were supposed to show Depression-plagued America how national will could unite a people to do great things. After all, they had Triumph of the Will Nuremberg rallies; we still had Hoovervilles. They flew sleek Me-109s; we flew lumbering cloth-covered Brewster Buffaloes. We, the victors of a world war, were determined never to repeat it; they, the losers, were eager to try it again.

In the 1950s, Sputnik and the vast spread of Communism through the postcolonial world were supposed proof of the efficiency and social justice of Communism and the rot of capitalism — the inevitable denouement of the 20th century. Sputnik soared, even as our ex-Nazi scientists could not seem to make our rockets work. They had Uncle Ho and Che; we had Diem and the Shah. Their guys wore peasant garb and long hair; ours, sunglasses and gold braid.

By the 1970s and 1980s, Japan Inc. was the next new paradigm of the post-American world. Even American “experts” lectured us on the need to adopt Japanese-like partnerships between corporations and government. They made Accords and Camrys; we made Pintos and Gremlins. We played golf at Pebble Beach; they owned it.

As Japan faded, the next great hope followed in the 1990s when the EU captivated the American Left. The Europeans’ loud moral declarations, their pacifism, cradle-to-grave entitlements, trains à grande vitesse — all of that was what a backward America should strive for. They crafted the Kyoto Agreement; we drove gas-guzzling Tahoes and Yukons. Their strong Euros bought in New York what our weak dollars could not in Paris.

Where are all those supposedly post-American systems now? Fascism was crushed; Communism imploded; Japan is aging and shrinking; the European Union is cracking apart. But, of course, there is China, which, we are told, is the next new replacement for America — a country with enormous demographic problems, a reputation for crude diplomacy and an outlaw approach to international commercial agreements, censored media and a complete lack of transparency, vast inequality, environmental catastrophes, and no stable political system to transition a rural peasantry into a postindustrial affluent citizenry. No matter — our jet-setting elites still whine that they have shiny new airports; we have grungy LAX and JFK. They have sleek bullet trains; we, creaking Amtrak.

In this era of American debt, rancor, pessimism, and declinism, we should reflect on what the United States still does far better than anyone else — and why that is.

Recently, the British magazine Times Higher Education rated the world’s top 400 universities. Seven of the top ten — Cal Tech, Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, MIT, Chicago, Berkeley — are American. Even a nearly insolvent California hosts four of the top 13 — more than any nation except the U.S. itself. While American K–12 education cannot turn out students who achieve top rankings in math, science, and language, our university system still remains by far the best in the world, training a global elite in the American way of engineering, math, science, business, and medicine. In fact, the world’s diplomatic corps is beginning to look like an American college reunion. This week, the Greeks appointed a new prime minister, Lucas Papademos, a former Harvard professor. And the newly appointed Libyan prime minister, Abdurrahim el-Keib, is a former electrical-engineering professor from the University of Alabama.

American petroleum engineers over the last decade have discovered radical new methods of recovering previously unknown or unreachable reserves of oil and gas. Contrary to all conventional wisdom, America’s natural-gas and petroleum reserves just keep growing. Suddenly, we have enough known natural gas to supply 100 percent of our domestic needs for the next 90 years — a huge window of opportunity in which to transition to competitive renewable energy. That is on top of trillions of dollars’ worth of new oil finds offshore and in Alaska, the Dakotas, and the West, which will create millions of new jobs and help pay down the deficit — if we have the will to extract such energy resources. The real story is not the pathetic machinations surrounding Solyndra, a statist, corrupt model that will never produce competitive power, but a quiet revolution in North Dakota, which is emerging as the new Texas. Within 15 years, North America could reinvent itself as completely independent from Middle Eastern gas and oil. Indeed, from Calgary to Argentina and Brazil, new petroleum and natural-gas finds may soon make the Western Hemisphere the world’s new Persian Gulf. That fact will change the entire global geostrategic and financial landscape in ways that are scarcely imaginable.

We are worried that China may soon deploy one aircraft carrier. Yet the United States now has eleven enormous carrier groups, each one more powerful than all the other aircraft carriers in the world combined. In areas as diverse as drone and space technology, counterinsurgency, battlefield experience, air power, armor, and ship design, the American military is the best-armed, best-trained, and most lethal armed force around — and will be so for decades hence. The American soldier remains the most innovative, disciplined, and adaptive in the world — and surely after Iraq and Afghanistan the most veteran.

We forget sometimes that there are a host of small, vulnerable nations that apparently still assume that the United States, alone, can and will come to their aid. Without America, it is hard to see how Israel can survive, or that Kurdistan would ever have become autonomous, or that bankrupt and vulnerable Greece will have independence of action in a tough neighborhood, or that Taiwan will continue as we have known it. No one is talking about the defense of Europe as it implodes — apparently on the supposition that NATO is de facto American and will continue to protect the continent from outside threats and discourage historical tensions from within. The truth is that in the decades ahead, weak and vulnerable states will look to the U.S. military as never before.

A billion adolescents worldwide are growing up with Apple iPhones, iPods, and iPads; with Facebook accounts, Amazon online ordering, Google searches, and Walmart discount purchasing. These are not Russian, French, Chinese, or Japanese companies, but American inventions that uniquely appeal to the human desire for economy, ease of use, wide choice, informality, and transparency. No other country could have invented them — or the next generation to come. The idea of a Chinese-invented Google is a paradox, a Russian Facebook a joke, a Japanese-inspired Walmart impossible.

Race, tribe, and religion tear many countries apart, notably in the Middle East and the Balkans. Yet at the other extreme, racially uniform nations like Japan and China seem clumsy when dealing with even tiny minorities, since they define their citizens not just by national allegiance, language, and locale, but by the way they look. America alone –albeit often in rancorous and messy fashion — has no particular national ethnic or racial profile. Even in postmodern Europe, the idea of a Barack Obama as president of France, or a Condoleezza Rice as foreign minister of Germany, is the stuff of fantasy. We will see no prime minister of China or Russia who does not look like the majority of Chinese and Russians — much less a Colin Powell. Most of the world will continue to have some sort of practical or romantic claim on America because of the fact that anyone can be not just an American, but a very successful American.

In one of the most amazing transformations in the history of civilization, a tiny East Coast community of predominantly white European Christian settlers developed a system whose natural logic of reform, self-critique, and reinvention over two centuries became the present melting pot of whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, agnostics, and atheists. As the world is becoming more interconnected through globalization and high tech, it is following the model of a meritocratic America, which remains light years ahead of most nations in defining its citizens by their values and allegiance, not how they worship or the color of their skin.

To walk down University Avenue in Palo Alto is to see the world’s engineering talent united by a shared desire for career advancement and upward mobility, and the spirit of inquiry — on the assumption that the American “system” will reward talent and forget about most else. A European might inquire about these immigrants’ accent or background, a Chinese about their racial ancestry, an Indian about their class, a Middle Easterner about their religion. An American will inquire to what degree they can solve a problem, do business, and make a profit.

Statism the world over is crumbling. The Communist Soviet Empire is a distant memory. The redistributionist European Union is neither democratic nor economically sustainable. It will disappear soon, wrecked by the idea that utopians could unite vastly different nations from on high without constitutional democracy. China succeeds to the degree that its Communist rulers abandons their Maoist legacy. Massive redistributive bureaucracies have impoverished much of Africa and the Middle East. America alone values individual freedom and limited government under the rule of law.

The Obama experiment of the last three years did not bring prosperity, and is likely soon to prompt a sharp reaction and a return to the American devotion to individualism and choice that made us the wealthiest nation in history. The American model is the antithesis of the socialism, Communism, theocracy, and statism that have impoverished so much of the world — and the 21st century has brought that fact home in a way few imagined.

Why does the United States continue to reinvent itself, generation after generation, to adapt to a radically changing world? Our ancestral Constitution checks the abuse of power and guarantees the freedom of the individual — all in transparent fashion. And our habits and customs that have evolved over two centuries are grounded in the human desire to be judged by what we do rather than what we look like, or under what circumstances we were born — a fact that explains our vibrant and sometime crass popular culture. The essence of our culture is constant self-critique and reexamination — a messy self-audit that so often fools both ourselves and our critics into thinking that our loud paranoia about decline, rather than our far quieter effort to arrest it, is the real story of America

In short, the 21st century will remain American.

Bio: NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author most recently of the just-released The End of Sparta, a novel about ancient freedom. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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Brace Yourselves

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Erik Swarts, Market Anthropology

“Tell me how this ends,” U.S. General David Petraeus asked memorably of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Political leaders and economists in the euro zone are searching frantically for answers to the same question as a bond market rout of European sovereign debt accelerates, putting the future of the single currency in jeopardy.

Until a few weeks ago, the most likely outcome appeared to be that the 17-nation currency area would muddle through. The euro zone would bail out a few highly indebted small peripheral states, patch up its rickety fiscal governance and avoid either a break-up or a major shift toward federal integration.

That was then. Now it seems that without a radical game-changing initiative within weeks, the crisis may no longer be controllable. – Tighter euro zone gains ground as debt crisis exit, Reuters

Here is an update of the SPX Meridian Market Theory chart that I have been following throughout the year. In my last update – I was opportunistic in the mindset that the charts may have been pointing towards an approaching long-term low. And while we found a low a few weeks later, I now find myself reinterpreting (in light of what I have found in the charts and the data from Europe and Asia) what the most recent rejection may mean towards the market going forward.

You may say I am becoming more concerned as the market has double and tripled dipped the same positive news out of Europe.

Near term, in either case – bull or bear, I find the market precariously placed at the top of the range and likely to fall back swiftly over the balance of the month.

Charts & More – The Money Game

Market Anthropology

US Shales: Whether its a Revolution of Evolution, Shale Gas Delivers

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Shale gas enhancing energy supply, security

Whether you call it revolution or evolution, one thing is clear: Shale natural gas is producing jobs and economic benefits across the nation.

This week, shale gas was the focus of a major conference in Houston involving industry representatives, government officials and academics who gathered to discuss the technologies and future of this increasingly important source of energy.

For most of the nation, the contributions of shale gas may seem like a revolution. Shale gas has created thousands of new jobs, meant millions of dollars in new government revenues and enhanced energy security for America.

Of course, those of us who work in and around the energy industry understand that shale gas has been more of an evolution than a revolution.

The technologies used to develop these natural gas supplies aren’t new. Our industry began directional drilling in the 1920s, leading to substantial use of horizontal drilling in recent decades. And we have used the process of hydraulic fracturing since the 1940s. In that time, the industry has safely drilled more than a million wells.

The transformative impact of shale gas is challenging us all to think in new ways.

Not long ago many worried about a natural gas supply shortage in the U.S. But as President Obama recently stated, a “century’s worth … [lies] in the shale beneath our feet.” A decade ago gas from shale accounted for less than 2 percent of U.S. natural gas production. Today it is nearly 30 percent and growing.

As our nation considers this potential, we are reminded of the importance of reliable, affordable energy to our economy – especially during challenging economic times. Affordable supplies of natural gas – driven by the increase in shale production – have helped reinvigorate the domestic petrochemical industry, which relies on gas as a feedstock to make plastics and the other building blocks of modern manufacturing. These supplies are strengthening America’s steel industry, which is building new mills and hiring workers to support shale gas drilling. And areas where production of shale oil or natural gas is occurring are experiencing economic growth, job creation, and increased tax revenue.

For instance, in North Dakota, unconventional oil and gas production in the Bakken Shale has provided enormous economic benefits, with close to $5 billion in direct economic activity in 2009. In Texas, a study of the Barnett Shale formation near Fort Worth estimates it is now responsible for $11 billion in annual economic output and more than 100,000 jobs for the North Texas region. And in Pennsylvania, state labor statistics show 214,000 Marcellus Shale-related jobs at the beginning of 2011. Penn State researchers meanwhile calculate that Marcellus drilling could add nearly $10 billion in value to the Pennsylvania economy this year.

We also must not forget that hydraulic fracturing helps our nation reach our shared goals for responsible environmental stewardship. Natural gas produces about 50 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than coal when used to produce electricity for consumers and businesses, and significantly reduces other emissions such as mercury, sulfur and nitrogen oxide. It also uses a small fraction of the water used in coal, nuclear and solar power generation processes to produce a barrel of oil equivalent energy.

To ensure economic and environmental benefits continue, the people of the natural gas industry understand that we must remain firm in our commitment to properly manage the risks involved in drilling operations. That means meeting the highest standards of well design and well integrity. It means training our personnel and contractors to ensure adherence to established operating procedures. It means safely and efficiently handling the water and additives used to fracture wells. And it means working with state regulators to ensure protection of water and air quality.

The United States’ shale gas resources are an extraordinary energy endowment for our country, and our industry knows how to produce these resources safely and responsibly. We must keep these facts in mind as the public and policymakers discuss energy policies – and what increased access and technology mean for the energy industry.

With a commitment to operations integrity, wise development of our shale gas can provide new supplies of affordable, reliable energy in a safe, secure and environmentally responsible manner. And the rise of this resource comes at a time when our country – and the world – clearly needs the economic and environmental benefits that natural gas stands ready to deliver.

Mark W. Albers is a senior vice president at Exxon Mobil Corporation.

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Here’s Why You Need To Watch The Burgeoning Relationship Between China And Greenland

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by Adam Taylor

Greenland‘s Premier has spoken warmly of embracing Chinese investment in an interview with Chinese news agency Xinhau.

“I think that China together with other nations is taking a huge interest in the Arctic area in general and specifically in Greenland, and we have seen quite a number of visitors from China over the last couple of years,” Prime Minister Kuupik Kleist said this week. “We don’t really have that much co-operation for the time being, but I know that Chinese companies are showing an interest in Greenland.”

“Greenland is also showing an interest in China: my minister for minerals (and industry) and labor is going to China today on an official visit. I would see a future co-operation as a very positive one and we welcome the Chinese interest,” he continued.

There’s a few reasons why this is interesting:

  1. We are already seeing a huge grab for land in the Arctic. The reason? It’s believed that there might be a huge amount of untapped natural oil and gas reserves under the surface.
  2. The key players so far have been Russia and Canada — both countries that actually border the Arctic region. Russia’s push has been particularly notable, with talks of even building an “Arctic city” to house scientists and workers in the region.
  3. Greenland gained self-rule from Denmark in 2009. Since then the country (population 56,534) has been trying to work out a new, more independent economic system. However, Denmark still controls Greenland’s foreign policy.
  4. It is thought that 10 percent of the world’s unproven oil reserves and 30 percent of its gas reserves might exist under the rapidly shrinking Greenland ice sheet.
  5. The Danish Ambassador to the United States Peter Taksoe-Jensen recently gave a talk at Dartmouth that showed Denmark would allow Greenland a lot of leway in making decisions (Foreign Affairs has a good summary of that here).
  6. China, unlike other key world powers in the debate, has no real claim to land in the Arctic circle. However, it has already performed a number of probes into the Arctic area, which are speculated to be because of interest in a new shipping route once ice melts in the area.
  7. A Chinese tycoon has already announced somewhat mysterious plans for a “hotel and golf course” on an island off the coast of Iceland. This island, of course, also has a unique strategic position.

We hadn’t really considered Russia a true player in the great Arctic land grab before — but maybe that needs reconsidering.

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