Tag Archives: oil

Illegal waste dumping turns Roman catacomb into a lake of acrid oil

Italian police have discovered an illegal garbage dump hidden in the remains of Rome’s ancient catacomb network. Authorities sealed off the area and are now investigating possible environmental pollution from the underground lake of acrid oil.

A fresco in the restored Catacombs of Priscilla, Rome. Part of a separate labyrinth of Roman tombs has been damaged by illegal dumping. Image via theguardian

A fresco in the restored Catacombs of Priscilla, Rome. Part of a separate labyrinth of Roman tombs has been damaged by illegal dumping.
Image via theguardian

The ancient Romans started using underground caverns and tunnels to inter their dead since the second century BC. Lately, their descendants have restarted using this space for a much less noble task: as a trash dump.

The site lies on the Appian Way, a beautifully preserved example of the way the Romans laid stones over beds of gravel to built their roads. Over the years the catacombs have been filled with trash and food waste, forming a puddle of acrid oil, Italian media reported. Officials confirmed that police officers seized the area on Monday, until the level of oil infiltration in the soil can be determined.

Italy is home to some of Europe’s largest landfill sites and has been fined millions of euros by the European court of justice for failing to clean up its illegal dumping grounds.

The waste management business has also provided fertile ground for organized crime in the country’s poorer south, most notoriously in the “Land of Fires” north of Naples, where large amounts of trash has been dumped and burned, poisoning the environment, The Guardian reports.

Royal Bank of Scotland: Oil may reach $16 a barrel in 2016

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has warned clients to brace for a “cataclysmic year” with a global deflation crisis, claiming that many major stocks will fall and oil may reach $16.

Image via Pixabay.

Oil prices have been tumbling in the past months, with the barrel crashing below $30 for the first time since 2003, marking a spectacular 72% plunge from June 2014 peak of almost $108.

“The fundamental situation for oil markets is much worse than previously thought,” Barclays commodities analysts wrote in a client note.

The RBS has been even more stark with their warnings. In fact, the drop in oil price isn’t even the most worrying thing after them – they expect almost everything to drop.

“Sell everything except high quality bonds. This is about return of capital, not return on capital. In a crowded hall, exit doors are small,” they said in a client note.

China is spooking everyone at the moment. Their stock closed at lowest level since September, and if their economy is slowing down, then they will also likely need less oil to fuel the country.

“Just in the past week, strong fears of a hard landing in China have reemerged with a vengeance,” Michael Wittner, global head of oil research at Societe Generale, wrote in a research report.

The drop in oil price has been fueled by a gut, caused in great part by the American shale oil boom. U.S. oil production has not been hit nearly as hard as most people anticipated, being one of the few countries that are dealing with the oil price crisis with some success. Iran has also started pumping out massive quantities of oil recently, contributing to the lowering of prices. However, just how low the oil price will go is a deep mystery at the moment.

 

Illustration by Mark Weber/Tribune Content Agency

Oil producers in Canada are closing their taps – probably among the first of many

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the slumping price of oil – the lowest in six years – and what this entails for the industry: half a trillion in debt collectively owed by 168 companies, more than $200 billion in shelved exploration and research projects, and hundreds of thousands of jobs sacked. You’d think that producers, pressured by these tough times, would cut production. The laughing matter is that, in fact, the whole ordeal is caused by producers (*cough Saudis) who have flooded the market with oil. In the short run, everybody is bound to lose money. On the long run.. well, we might be in for some dramatic shifts no sooner than two or three years from now. There will definitely be some sore losers.

Illustration by Mark Weber/Tribune Content Agency

Illustration by Mark Weber/Tribune Content Agency

Nia Williams reports for Reuters that we’re finally seeing sign of this madness coming a bit down. In Canada, heavy oil producers like Gear Energy Ltd,  Canadian Natural Resources Ltd and Baytex Energy Corp have all idled hundreds of otherwise top performing wells. In total, some 8,000 barrels per day (bpd) of local heavy conventional oil production has been idled. And no wonder when you consider some of these wells “cost of up to $28 a barrel to operate. It costs another $7 in royalty and transportation fees to get the crude, among the densest in the world, to regional rail hubs – where it was fetching barely US$20 a barrel during last month’s lows,” Williams wrote. Yes, that’s a mere drop in the tar ocean that is the global oil market which amounts to 95 million barrels each day. Make no mistake though – you’ll be hearing of more news like this if oil prices stay at this level.

You shouldn’t feel too bad for the producers, either. Everybody is tightening their pockets until oil inevitably rebounds. It’s who has enough capital to spare that will survive.

“Heavy oils are some of the most flexible capital and can easily be dialled back up or ramped back up again if we choose,” CNRL chief executive Steve Laut told analysts last month.

“For us it’s honestly a matter of flicking a switch,” says Ingram Gillmore, chief executive of Gear Energy, which produces 5,500 bpd in the region. “I can bring production back into an improved pricing environment in a matter of days.”

Wood Mackenzie, an energy analyst, made an analysis this year in which he model what would happened if the market stayed at  $40 a barrel ($/bbl).

“The cash operating cost for oil fields becomes very important as prices producers can achieve for the oil they produce nears the marginal point. It can be a more immediate brake on production, although when and how that might be reached is never easy to predict.

“The point at which producing oil fields become cash negative is key in assessing how far the oil price could fall. Once the oil price reaches these levels, producers have a sometimes complex decision to continue producing, losing money on every barrel produced, or to halt production, which will reduce supply.”

• At $50 a barrel Brent, only 190,000 b/d of oil production is cash negative, representing 0.2% of global supply. Seventeen countries supply oil that is cash negative at $50, with the main contributors being the United Kingdom and the United States.

• At $45, 400,000 b/d is cash negative, or 0.4% of global supply. Half of this production is from conventional onshore production in the US.

• At $40, 1.5 million b/d is cash negative, or 1.6% of global supply.  At this point, the biggest contribution is from several oil sands projects in Canada.  Tight oil production only starts to become cash negative as the Brent oil price falls into the high $30’s.

I was mentioning some winners and losers once this ‘oil war’ – since that’s what it looks like – is all over. What are the sides you might ask? Well, for one forget about OPEC. The oil cartel is basically castrated. To me, and other analysts, it all seems like a bad gamble Saudi Arabia made in an attempt to choke the booming shale industry in the US. What they may have not considered in this ploy, however, is how resilient oil producers in the US are and how cheap it is to maintain a shale drilling operation. Drilling costs are down to half those reported last year. One Saudi expert was quoted by Telegraph as saying, “the policy hasn’t worked and it will never work,” he said.

The Saudi’s existential crisis aside, it will be extremely interesting to follow what the industry will look like two to three years from now. This isn’t the last oil bust, but it’s definitely a big shaker. How many can the industry take before tanking for good? Now that’s a headline for 2030 onward. Maybe you’ll remember.

The coal industry is tanking, while execs are getting a raise

coal-execs

Right now the coal business is arguably living through its most dire days ever. Nearly 300 mines have closed in the past five years, 200 coal-powered plants have been scheduled for closure, and coal corporations are basically ruined. For instance, Peabody Energy, the world’s biggest coal company, sold stocks below $1 when it used to be $72 in 2011. And it could get worse. Alpha Natural Resources, the second biggest coal company in the US, filed for bankruptcy along with other smaller firms. Basically, investors wouldn’t touch coal nowadays not even with a ten-foot pole. Winter is coming, but apparently, coal companies execs aren’t all that stressed. While their employees have had their pays cut and thousands fired, managers and CEO have actually substantially increased their salaries. When the ship sinks, might as well grab what you can, I guess.

The Institute for Policy Studies systematically analyzed the incomes of top execs working at the top 10 coal companies in the country. Execs had their pay increased an average of 8 percent between 2010 and 2014, despite these have been the worst years in their history maybe. Combined, these 10 companies lost 58% of their value.

According to the report’s authors, this unjustified raise is accounted to the fact that stock-based compensation isn’t cutting it out anymore. Prior to 2010, execs were very happy to receive both cash and stock. Now, they just want cash seeing how stocks are becoming worthless overnight. Even so, the lucky ones at least, collectively cashed out over $100 million in stock options in this period, according to the report.  “We’re seeing this move to insulate them from the implosion of the coal sector by handing out more cash,” said Sarah Anderson, the report’s author.

fossil-fuel

As for oil bosses, they aren’t too far behind and oil is at its lowest in six years. Some key findings from the report:

  • Beating the S&P 500 average: CEOs of these 30 largest fossil fuel companies averaged $14.7 million in total 2014 compensation, over 9 percent more than the S&P 500 CEO average. 
  • Five years, $6 billion: These firms’ management teams have taken home $6 billion over the past five years. That would be enough to weatherize 3.3 million homes or double the $3 billion U.S. pledge to the Green Climate Fund, a new institution to help vulnerable nations address climate change.
  • Short-termism: Most CEO compensation comes in the form of options and stock grants, a pay stream that encourages a fixation on pumping up share prices. Executives at distressed coal companies Peabody and Alpha Natural Resources cashed in stock options worth $47 million and $33 million, respectively, in the four years before their industry began to implode.
  • Buybacks: In 2014, 23 of the top 30 fossil fuel companies spent a combined $38.5 billion on share repurchases. That was six times global corporate spending on research into renewable energy that year.  Buybacks artificially inflate share prices, which, in turn, inflates executives’ stock-based pay. 
  • Pay for non-performance: The top 10 publicly held U.S. coal companies have also been increasing their cash-based executive pay as their share prices have been plummeting. When paychecks grow even as businesses sink, executives have little incentive to shift to a new energy future.
  • Bonus incentives: All 13 oil producers on our list of 30 major U.S. fossil-fuel corporations reward executives for expanding carbon reserves.
  • Retirement security: Top fossil fuel executives have accumulated company-provided retirement assets worth a combined $1.2 billion at the same time their indifference to environmental degradation has been putting the futures of ordinary people at risk.

“You might think that the leaders of coal companies would be made to pay the price for these failures. But in the perverse world of American corporate compensation, they are, in fact, getting a raise,” wrote Tim McDonnell in an article for MotherJones.

rex

 

I’m not feeling sorry for the fossil companies, don’t get me wrong. The point the report makes, which I’d like to reiterate, is that this whole ship is sinking. Secondly, fossil executives care little about their employees or company for that matter. They don’t have a mission. They don’t want to change the world. They just want to stay fat.

oil-prices-falling

Oil industry at its lowest in six years: over $500 billion in collective debt

In just a couple of weeks the price of oil, and commodity in general, have plunged. This Friday, oil was trading on the international market for $47 a barrel, while the American benchmark is currently sitting at $41.5. The low pricing – the lowest in six years –  is driving a lot of companies bankrupt, while large companies like Exxon and Shell have been forced to cut down on their losses firing employees and shutting down exploration and exploitation projects.

oil-prices-falling

According to Bloomberg, oil and gas company bonds with yields of 10 percent or more have tripled over the past years. Collectively, 168 firms in North America, Europe and Asia hold half a trillion in debt. If the price of oil stays at current levels, driven by oil rigs in Saudi Arabia and the fall of the Chinese market, it might cripple the industry. Some small fish are destined to fall already, which might actually be a good thing for the major players once oil rebounds.

“Clearly, those companies with debt to pay will have one eye firmly on oil prices,” said Christopher Haines, a senior oil and gas analyst at BMI in London. “With revenues collapsing and debt soon to mature, a growing number of companies may find themselves unable to meet repayment schedules.”

Oil at $90 or $100 a barrel – pretty much the norm over the past decade – seems like a distant reality at this point, though. So far this year, 100,000 people employed by oil and gas have lost their jobs.

“The look and shape of the oil industry would likely change over the next five to 10 years as companies emerge from this,” said Kimberley Wood, a partner for oil mergers and acquisitions at Norton Rose Fulbright LLP in London. “If oil prices stay at these levels, the number of bankruptcies and distress deals will undoubtedly increase.”

USO-ETF4

According to Norton Rose Fulbright, oil companies owe $550 billion in issued bonds which need to be repaid over the next five years. U.S. drillers account for 20 percent of the debt due in 2015, Chinese companies rank second with 12 percent and U.K. producers represent 9 percent. The market might rebound in the meantime, but presently things aren’t looking good. The profit margin for the 108-member MSCI World Energy Sector Index, which includes Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp., is the lowest since at least 1995.

Why the price of oil dropped so low

The factors that account for the price of oil can be complicated. An over simplified explanation would be that the supply has significantly increased, while demand has dropped. In the last six years (remember $100 barrel?) US domestic production has nearly doubled. Elsewhere,  Saudi, Nigerian and Algerian oil is being pumped in greater quantities than ever. They’re also competing with Asian markets and forced to lower prices. Canadian and Iraqi oil production and exports are rising year after year. On the demand size, developed countries seem to use less oil as cars have become more fuel efficient. China, the world’s biggest oil importer, is going through some tough times at the moment. Its currency devaluation has also brought down the price of oil.

In conclusion, while oil will ultimately recover this might not happen very soon. The US and other countries seem keen on pumping more to keep up with the competition amidst fears of losing market share. OPEC, the oil cartel of oil producers, can’t seem to come to a consensus either.

It would be naive, however, to think oil is destined for a final bust. Historically, oil is all about booms and busts. But right now, the industry is heading for a big bust.

Usmilitary1-537x357

Military energy report downplays oil in favor of renewable energy

Usmilitary1-537x357

In its “Energy Security and Sustainability Strategy” (ES2 Strategy) report, the US army outlines the steps it should take to increase resilience and adapt to an ever changing world. Energy makes the go world round, and for an army it’s literally a matter of life and death. Not surprisingly, the authors note given the current climate of affairs the “army will prioritize solutions that reduce multiple resources. The Army can use energy more efficiently by purchasing energy efficient products, modernizing buildings and utility systems, purchasing energy efficient vehicles, and using more renewable/alternative energy sources.” Basically, being dependent on a finite resource (oil) is a security vulnerability, which isn’t something new. Military strategists have been aware of this for a long time – maybe the most during WWII when many lives were claimed in battles over oil rigs in North Africa and the Middle East, and oil refineries were being bombed on the clock. What’s changed today is the feasibility of renewable energy sources. Drawing the line, in those situations were oil is a liability (and we can only expect these to become ever numerous in the future), it’ll be scrapped in favor of renewable energy systems, both for generating and storing energy.

Trust the force

The authors of the ES2 look to the future; a future where the US army integrates all its systems in a mutually reinforcing and holistic approach. They write:

Our people are our strength… Our education and training will incorporate evolving knowledge, doctrine, and policy to guide Soldiers, Civilians, and Leaders to incorporate sustainability into planning and decision making. Organizational resilience and sustainability concepts will be integrated into Soldier and Civilian education programs at every level, from basic training to senior service colleges, as well as programs that focus on the holistic health and well-being of our people.”

The focus seems to be on managing critical resources and water. To achieve this, one part of the strategy is to diversify resources and disconnect them from another so a blow to one link doesn’t crumble the whole chain.  Portable power (besides diesel generators; think micro-grid systems) seems like a huge concern in the Army’s energy mix. Previously, the Army announced it intends on powering all its military bases with net zero emissions. It is also experimenting with hydrogen powered tanks or solar-powered tents.

Then, there’s the sensitive matter of budget. Luckily (for them), the US heavily funnels money to the military, but the budget isn’t an endless pot of gold. Last year, the Department of Defense (DoD) spent $4 billion on energy expenses. In 2014, the Army reported its investing $7 billion to fulfill its congressionally mandated energy goal of generating one gigawatt, 25 percent of its energy requirements, from renewable sources by 2025 while improving installation energy security and sustainability.

US military renewable energy

Image: US Army

 

Now, don’t get this wrong way. The Army is and will continue to be heavily dependent on oil, but the report’s emphasis on efficiency makes it clear than it wants to reduce oil usage and vulnerabilities to a minimum. Essentially, it looks like a sort of divestment away from oil. When the US Army or one of the world’s largest banks (HSBC) advises caution when depending on oil for military operations and financial investments, respectively, you know petrol is heading in one direction only: down.

Leave it to the goons

Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp. Image: Huff Post

Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp. Image: Huff Post

Meanwhile, it’s business as usual at Exxon – one of the world’s largest oil company. Amid historically low oil prices, the company netted  $32.4 billion last year in net earnings. During a meeting last week, ExxonMobil and Chevron rejected a number of shareholder proposals that would address climate change, be it by setting goal for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions or investing in renewable energy. Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson didn’t even mention the word climate change (is he also banned by Gov. Rick Scott?) during his speech and, moreover, ridiculed the thought of investing in renewables.  ”We choose not to lose money on purpose,” Tillerson said, to loud applause.

Tillerson was quite critical of the global warming situation: the models aren’t good enough to predict global warming’s effects; the world isn’t going to be able to meet emissions targets; technology will enable us to engineer our way out of whatever crisis may or may not occur as a result of climate change. Note that he somewhat recognizes climate change is real, despite never mentioning “climate change” in a sentence. Very clever. So, if there will be great turmoil because of emissions (with Exxon as a huge contributor), what’s Tillerson back-up plan?

“Mankind has this enormous capacity to deal with adversity,” Tillerson said, acknowledging, “I know that is an unsatisfactory answer to a lot of people.”

 Hilarious! He certainly hasn’t read Climate Shock by Wagnet and Weizman. Here’s an excerpt from my review:
“Humanity’s greatest challenges have always been solved by our prodigious son: technology. In the 1800s, the manure crisis threatened urban sanitation with a disaster. The Times of London estimated in 1894 that the situation was so dire that in 50 years every street in the city would be buried 9ft deep in horse droppings. The solution was the advent of the internal combustion engine, which eventually brought automobiles to replace horse buggies. Today, it’s not 9ft of manure that’s a threat, but 9ft of water. In the face of a much dire crisis, should we also this time wait for technology to save us?”
The only solution if climate change finds us on our knees is geoengineering, and trust me no one in their right minds would use it unless it’s absolute necessary. It’s that bad.
But, all signs seems to point to an energy paradigm shift away from oil. How long until oil stops being economically feasible? Nevermind climate change, it’s all about the dolla’ dolla’ bills. Tillerson might laugh now, but inside he knows his company is in for a beating in the coming two decades.

Obama bans drilling in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, citing risk to salmon fishery

In what is not only a laudable initiative but also an interesting precedent, president Obama has declared a large swath of southwest Alaska’s coast off-limits to oil and gas drilling. He stated that the environmental risks are the main reason why he is taking this measure – the oil exploitation could endanger fisheries which are vital for the area.

“It is a beautiful natural wonder and it is something that is too precious to just put out to the highest bidder,” Obama said, announcing the drilling ban. He also called the 250-mile-long stretch of coastline “one of America’s greatest natural resources.”

Bristol Bay is located in South-Western Alaska. The is 400 km (250 mi) long and 290 km, (180 mi) wide at its mouth; it is home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery as well as strong runs of chum salmon, silver salmon and king salmon, each occurring seasonally. Kings are usually the first to run up the river followed by reds and chums. The major industries associated with the area are sport fishing and tourism, but recently area has also experienced significant interest in oil and mineral development. The Obama ban puts a stop to oil exploration there.

The decision means that federal water will remain permanently off limits for oil and gas exploration. While the decision was expected, it was still hailed by workers in the area and environmentalists.

“This action ensures Bristol Bay will remain America’s fish basket for generations to come, unspoiled by additional industrial activity and safeguarded for the benefit of Alaskans and all Americans,” said Michael Conathan, director of ocean policy for the ­Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank.

However, mineral exploration in the area is still debatable. The EPA is considering whether to preemptively ban mineral extraction in the region, and this decision gives a strong indication of what the EPA will decide.

 

Abandoned wells can be ‘super-emitters’ of greenhouse gas

Princeton University researchers have uncovered a previously unknown and potentially substantial source of methane emissions: abandoned oil and gas wells. After analyzing wells from Pennsylvania, they found that a worrying amount of them leaked significant quantities of the greenhouse gas.

Alana Miller (left), a Princeton senior majoring in civil and environmental engineering, and Mary Kang, then a doctoral researcher in civil and environmental engineering at Princeton, conduct research that found abandoned oil and gas wells emit methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. (Photo courtesy of Robert Jackson, Stanford University)

A previous Stanford study estimated about 3 million abandoned wells in the United States alone, so if these wells are indeed leaking big quantities of methane, then there’s serious reason to worry about this. For this study Princeton researchers chose very diverse wells,from fields in Pennsylvania but these measurements need to also be taken in other states with a long history of oil and gas development such as California and Texas.

“The research indicates that this is a source of methane that should not be ignored,” said Michael Celia, the Theodore Shelton Pitney Professor of Environmental Studies and professor of civil and environmental engineering at Princeton. “We need to determine how significant it is on a wider basis.”

Pound for pound, methane (CH4) is 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, but it is emitted in much lower quantities; still, it’s considered to be the second most important contributor to the greenhouse effect. Methane is produced naturally through decomposition but also by humans, most notably through the oil and gas industry. While oil and gas companies have worked to reduce emissions for their newer wells, very little attention has been paid to older wells and in most parts of the world (US included), they have been virtually ignored. Many wells that date back to the 19th century and early 20th century are abandoned and not recorded anywhere officially.

Mary Kang, a former doctoral candidate in civil and environmental engineering at Princeton was studying carbon sequestration through burial. She found that quite often, the carbon manages to escape underground storage, and this led her to wonder if something similar is happening with old wells. But she first ran into a big problem.

“I was looking for data, but it didn’t exist,” said Kang, now a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford.

In a new paper, Mary worked with colleagues to get new data and fill in the gaps. Initially, she focused on 19 wells in Pennsylvania. While all the wells had some level of methane emission, about 15 percent emitted much more than the others – over a thousand times more. Denise Mauzerall, a Princeton professor and a member of the research team said it was critical to understand what makes these wells different from the others.

A well pipe emerges from the ground in the Allegheny National Forest in northwestern Pennsylvania. Researchers covered pipes from 19 wells with instruments to measuring gases emitted by the well. (Photo courtesy of Mary Kang, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering)

This makes a lot of sense, because unfortunately, putting a plug on every single abandoned well is not realilstic. But putting a plug on these high emitters is much more doable.

“The fact that most of the methane is coming out of a small number of wells should make it easier to address if we can identify the high-emitting wells,” said Mauzerall, who has a joint appointment as a professor of civil and environmental engineering and as a professor of public and international affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School.

Judging by their sample size, they extrapolated the results to see how much of the total human-emitted greenhouse gases come from abandoned wells. The result was shocking: 10%. Of course, the sample size is very small and the results are still preliminary, but the figure is shocking – it’s as big as current oil and gas production; and unlike active oil and gas wells, which will emit for 10-15-20 years, abandoned wells will emit for centuries to come.

“This may be a significant source,” Mauzerall said. “There is no single silver bullet but if it turns out that we can cap or capture the methane coming off these really big emitters, that would make a substantial difference.”

Journal Reference: Mary Kanga, Cynthia M. Kannoa, Matthew C. Reida, Xin Zhangb, Denise L. Mauzeralla, Michael A. Celiaa, Yuheng Chenc and Tullis C. Onstottc. Direct measurements of methane emissions from abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania.

 

The Evrona Nature Reserve crisscrossed by a black river of hydrocarbon oil, as seen in this aerial taken by the Israel's Environmental Protection Ministry.

Massive oil spill floods nature reserve in Israel – possibly the country’s worst environment disaster

More than 80 people were hospitalized after inhaling noxious fumes after a pipeline failure caused some 600,000 gallons of oil to spill into a nature reserve in the desert near Eilat, a southern Israel city. The city with a population of about 50,000 people was not directly affected, however local fauna and flora was severely damaged, according to Guy Samet, the director of the southern region for the Environmental Protection Ministry. It might take years for the spill to be cleaned, and much longer for the local vegetation and wildlife to recover.

One of Israel’s direst ecological situation

The Evrona Nature Reserve crisscrossed by a black river of hydrocarbon oil, as seen in this aerial taken by the Israel's Environmental Protection Ministry.

The Evrona Nature Reserve crisscrossed by a black river of hydrocarbon oil, as seen in this aerial taken by the Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry.

“This is one of the State of Israel’s most serious pollution events,” Samet told Israel Radio. “We are still having trouble gauging the full extent of the contamination.”

The spill was caused by a breach in the 153-mile long Trans-Israel pipeline, a major oil conduit between the Mediterranean and Red seas that runs from Eilat to Ashkelon. It’s not clear year what caused the spill. The only information we have yet comes from officials at the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company who claim the breach was likely due to a “maintenance failure” at a new section of the pipeline.

[ALSO READ] BP fined $17.6 billion following 2010’s “reckless” oil spill

oil-spill

The spill was caused by a breach in the Trans-Israel pipeline on December 4, 2014. (photo credit: Courtesy Eilat Fire Department).

Israel’s Environment Ministry will task its “Green Police” with forming a special team to investigate the matter and determine the cause of the spill. It’s still far too early to count the damage, but considering a huge 4.3 mile river of oil was released out into the open things must not look pretty. The hydrocarbon river is currently making its way toward the Jordanian river, like a menacing lava flow following a volcanic eruption. In Jordan, already some 80 people have been hospitalized after reporting breathing difficulties due to hydrogen sulfide in the air. Three Israelis were also hospitalized after inhaling the toxic fumes, according to Think Progress.

Firefighters and environmental groups scrambled to the scene in an attempt to seal the puncture in the pipeline and prevent further contamination. Image: Getty

Firefighters and environmental groups scrambled to the scene in an attempt to seal the puncture in the pipeline and prevent further contamination. Credit: Getty Images

“We’re talking about thousands of gallons of crude oil, which will endanger local wildlife and the surrounding nature reserve,” he said, adding that rehabilitation could take “years.”

The Evrona Nature Reserve was hit the hardest by the spill. It’s one of the most important reserves in the Arava desert home to indigenous flora and fauna, including rare acacia trees and over 280 deer, said Doron Nissim, director of the Nature and Parks Authority’s Eilat chapter.

“From what we currently know, there is extensive pollution. Tomorrow we will perform an analysis of the damage and then we’ll have a clearer picture,” he said.

Even if the spill was gone tomorrow, Israel is far from short of environmental problems. The biggest challenge the country faces is its growing water shortage. Since the mid-1970s, demand for water has at times outstripped supply, a situation that seems to mirror that of California today. Israel is a semi-arid country where no rain falls for at least six months a year. According to a report submitted to the Israeli Water Commission in December 2000, Israel’s main water sources are expected to continue to decline, endangering drinking water quality, and raising the specter that it will soon not be possible to supply sufficient drinking water.

peak_oi

High level of arsenic contamination found in groundwater near fracking sites

peak_oi

Photo: Peak Oil

Researchers at University of Texas at Arlington conducted tests on more than 100 water wells in Texas and found 30% of these contained ‘alarming’ amounts of arsenic, enough to be considered carcinogenic and seriously threatening human health. These contaminated wells were found in the vicinity of known fracking sites and prior to drilling these were found to be free of arsenic or at least far from the concentrations we’re seeing now. There is an ongoing debate whether or not fracking can contaminate potable water sources and this latest research suggests that indeed this can happen, albeit the evidence is indirect. The findings appeared in the journal Environmental Science and Technology [cite]10.1021/es4011724[/cite].

Drinking water arsenic poisoning linked to fracking

Hydraulic fracturing or fracking is a now a popular drilling method which involves injecting a liquid mixture of sand, water and other chemicals (some of which are carcinogenic, while others are classified – we know very little about their toxicity other than what drilling companies tell us: that they’re totally safe) at very high pressure with the aim of cracking or ‘fracturing’ the rock deposits miles under the surface to make it easier to extract natural gas or oil.

[ALSO SEE] Pro-fracking newspaper ad banned

The team comprised of 11 biochemists found twenty-nine groundwater wells within 1.8 miles of active natural gas drilling whose water contained unusually high levels of heavy metals, including arsenic which past a certain concentration can be extremely dangerous. Indeed, the water from the wells contained arsenic well past the the limit considered safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

[RELATED] Frack now, ask questions later: bio impact of fracking still largely unknown

University of Texas researchers compared their results with previous water tests conducted before the fracking boom which started some 10 years ago and concluded that ‘alarming’ amounts of arsenic and other heavy metals have leached in the groundwater.

“This is indirect evidence that drilling does affect the water,” researcher Zacariah Hildenbrand said.

The researchers are careful not to suggest that drilling companies use arsenic into their fracking liquid mix or there’s a direct injection of the heavy metal in water wells. One theory of how the water might have become contaminated is that fracking-induced vibrations shook the rusty water pipes. Rust can contain arsenic, the researchers said.

This hypothesis, however, sounds implausible to industry leaders.

“If they’re talking about drills shaking [rust] free, that’s a little farfetched,” said Alex Mills, president of Texas Alliance of Energy Producers. “I’ve never heard or even came close to hearing that hydraulic fracturing is so vicious, so earth-shattering to shake loose rust from water wells.”

This statement is ludicrous by itself. Someone should tell Mr. Mills that hydraulic fracturing can indeed induce massive vibrations. Heck, it’s been linked (not yet strictly proven) with hundreds of man-made earthquakes already, most notably in places like Oklahoma where prior to the massive introduction of fracking has rarely seen earthquakes, historically.

 

Why Australia’s biggest oil discovery in 30 years doesn’t matter

Apache claims to have found the biggest oil field in 30 years. Image credit: Apache.

I was reading this morning how excited some journalists were in reporting “the biggest oil discovery in decades”, and I got a little curios: how big is it? According to US oil company Apache, the field could have potentially up to 300 million barrels of oil in place – Australia gets a lot of oil, stock prices for Apache surge, nobody in Australia cares about global warming anymore, so everybody wins, right? But when you start to dissect things and put them into perspective, you see that things aren’t quite as good as Australia and Apache are making them seem.

Volleyballs and ping pong balls – Peak Oil is upon us

First of all, these are claims from Apache following prospection. It’s an estimate, and generally, these estimates tend to be optimistic. It could be the other way around and the field could be even richer, but that’s highly unlikely. If anything, history has taught us that oil companies tend to overestimate initial findings. Second of all, you never ever take all the oil out – it’s simply not possible. A pretty good extraction rate is 50%, while 60% is about as good as it gets. So let’s assume that you do have 300 million barrels of oil – optimistically, you’ll take out some 180 million. The average global daily consumption is 90 million barrels, and the annual Australian consumption is over 1 million barrels, so if somehow, magically extract all the oil tomorrow, you can power the entire world for 2 days, or Australia for almost half a year. That’s really good, that’s a huge figure and all the companies working on it will make billions in profit – but in the global picture, it doesn’t matter that much.

If you want to get a good sense of scale, here’s a good analogy: think of the world as a giant beach, and oil fields as volley balls and ping pong balls. Volley balls are bigger and much easier to spot, so you find those first. But after you do find them, you’ve got to focus on the ping pong balls – much harder to find, much harder to extract, and much smaller; this is exactly the case with oil fields at the moment. There are over 40,000 oil fields in the world right now, but 1,500 of them have 94% of all the oil! That means that under 4% of all the oil fields have 94% of all the oil in the world! Hey, and it all makes sense when you look at the biggest oil fields – the Ghawar Field in Saudi Arabia and the Burgan Field in Kuwait have over 70 billion barrels of recoverable oil! In total, they each have well over 150 billion barrels, so they’re about 500 times larger than the Australian find. As a matter of fact, an oil field is only considered a “volleyball” if it has over 1 billion barrels, so even by the most optimistic estimates, it’s not even close – so why are people so excited about this find?

“You are here”. Image source.

The thing is, there’s one aspect in which the volleyball analogy doesn’t do justice to reality – it only gives a sense of relative scale. The truth is, even ping pong balls have huge economic value. Again, we’re talking about billions of dollars in profit, and that’s not even all of it. Pretty soon we will reach (if we haven’t already) peak oil. Peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production is expected to enter terminal decline. Every oil field has its own peak oil, and of course, you can discuss the same concept at the global scale, so finding new reserves is harder and harder – and will become even more so in the near future.

Tony Abbott’s Australia – an environmental disaster

Australia’s PM will definitely be thrilled about the find. Image via Huffington Post.

I couldn’t possibly discuss Australian energy without mentioning the anti-scientific and anti-environmental measures taken by prime minister Tony Abbott. Usually, I tend to avoid discussing politics, because it’s a complicated subject, one in which I’m not very knowledgeable and in which it’s often hard to reach a consensus. But you see, Tony Abbott has antagonized himself to such a degree that I want to talk about him. As a European, the first time I really paid attention to him was in 2011, when he demonized climate action as “socialism”; that’s right, he even went as far as describing carbon price as “socialism masquerading as environmentalism“, something which he proceeded to repeat several times at various meetings. But in 2012, he really made things happen: he pushed forth an initiative to remove the carbon tax, making Australia not just the only country to ever abolish a carbon tax, but the only developed country without a carbon tax! He subsequently removed funding from environmental research, renewable energy, and science all around. Basically, he believes that science funding is not a necessity, but rather an unneeded whim, or even an obstacle. Because the truth is, the science disapproves with him – and like any other self-respecting tyrant, he is trying to remove any opposition.

But as the old saying goes, if you want to find out how things really are, you should follow the money; and a new article in the Guardian reports that Tony Abbott’s push to ditch renewables could hand coal and gas industry $10bn, basically scrapping Australia’s renewable sector, even though Australia could, realistically go 100% renewable in 10 years and wind power is already cheaper than fossil fuels there.

“We have to accept that in the changed circumstances of today, the renewable energy target is causing pretty significant price pressure in the system and we ought to be an affordable energy superpower … cheap energy ought to be one of our comparative advantages,” the prime minister said last year.

However, studies have clearly shown, as the Guardian explains, that “reducing the Renewable Energy Target would not cause power bills to fall and may make them rise in the longer term”. Shifting 10 billions from one eco-friendly, sustainable and growing industry to a declining, polluting industry with ever growing prices does indeed seem like a bad idea.

Other things that mister Abbott has done in his anti-progress crusade is speak against gay marriage and gay relationships in general, try to close the borders to immigrants as much as possible and prevent the creation of any new Natural Parks, saying that he believes  ‘[wood] loggers are the ultimate conservationists‘. Seriously, it’s like he’s trying to become a cartoonishly evil character. But hey, don’t take it from me – here he is getting owned by a bunch of smart highschool students.

lego

‘Everything is NOT awesome’: Greenpeace viral video slashes Shell-Lego partnership

lego

Photo: YouTube

Greenpeace premiered a video yesterday that campaign’s against Shell’s plans of drilling in the Arctic, but primarily targets a proxy company, Lego. The ad wants to move the Danish toy company to cancel its deal with Shell that will put Lego toys in hundreds of gas stations. In the video, an oil-stricken Arctic depicted in a set comprised of 120kg of Lego is shown as it slowly becomes engulfed by a sea of black tar. The only concrete message comes at the very end when a text block warns: “Shell is polluting our kids’ imagination”, in response to Lego’s official company mission – serving creativity and inspiration to children.

The ad went completely viral, hitting more than 1,3 m views already on YouTube, and garnering over 300,000 signatures for the Greenpeace petition to Lego.

It’s only been a day, but if we’re to heed credence to Lego’s most recent statement at the matter, it seems like the ad didn’t quite struck a chord with them.

“We are determined to leave a positive impact on society and the planet that children will inherit. Our unique contribution is through inspiring and developing children by delivering creative play experiences all over the world.

A co-promotion contract like the one with Shell is one of many ways we are able to bring LEGO® bricks into the hands of more children.

We welcome and are inspired by all relevant input we receive from fans, children, parents, NGOs and other stakeholders. They have high expectations to the way we operate. So do we.”

If anything, however, the video has made a lot of environmentalist Lego fans really mad, if we’re to judge from social media comments. Greenpeace’s reputation isn’t at its best either, to be fair. Only a week ago, the Guardian and Der Spiegel revealed that the world’s most famous environmental group squandered £3m on currency markets and that one of its top executives commuted to work by plane.

Wastewater pumping from oil drilling and fracking caused Oklahoma seismicity to surge

This year, Oklahoma already had over 230 earthquakes with a magnitude of over 3. In 2008, the average number was 1! It seems quite unlikely for such a dramatic change to happen naturally, especially without other geological indicators. Many geologists and seismologists suspected that this was connected with the recent oil explorations in the area, but they were unable to prove it – until now.

Earlier this year, we were reporting a study which concluded that two earthquakes with a magnitude of over 5 were caused by humans, as a result of oil exploration. Now, a new research published in Science showed that the plethora of smaller Oklahoma earthquakes also had a similar origin: wastewater injection.

Wastewater is toxic water left over from oil drilling and fracking processes, commonly injected into impermeable layers of rocks, to avoid it leaking into the freshwater, polluting them. It can be linked with hydraulic fracking, but it is also a byproduct of conventional oil exploration. It is also what’s causing these earthquakes in all likelihood.

“It really is unprecedented to have this many earthquakes over a broad region like this,” says study co-author Geoffrey Abers of Cornell University. “Most big sequences of earthquakes that we see are either a main shock and a lot of aftershocks or it might be right at the middle of a volcano in a volcanic system or geothermal system. So you might see little swarms but nothing really this distributed and this persistent.

Conducting studies such as this one is a hard task not only because of the difficulty of the problem, but because this kind of data isn’t often available. Abers and his colleagues dug up data on the rates and volumes of liquids involved in some of the wastewater injection sites in Oklahoma. They then developed a model, inputting the flow of the water and the properties of the rocks in which it was injected. After developing this model, what they found was that even a small number of fracking and extraction sites (smaller than the actual number) can cause significant earthquakes throughout the state – even long distances away, researchers explain.

“The important thing is that we are seeing earthquakes that are much more widely distributed, much farther from wells and in a lot of different directions,” Abers observes “Some of these earthquakes are as much as 20 miles away from what seems to be the primary wells that are increasing the pressure.”

Image via Nature. Credits: Travis Heying/Wichita Eagle/MCT/Getty

This research seems to be in accord with what other researchers found on the topic. Seismologist Austin Holland of the Oklahoma Geological Survey, who was not involved in the study, says that while there are many factors at play here, he also has found connections between the oil explorations and the surge of earthquakes in Oklahoma.

“We certainly do have a contribution from oil and gas, but the question is how much, how extensive is this and how is this occurring,” he says. “This study will certainly help improve our understanding in the scientific discussion of what is occurring in Oklahoma.”

Worryingly enough, the number of wastewater injection sites continues to increase; they have doubled from 2004 to 2008, when the last official count was done. Also, this isn’t an issue restricted strictly to Oklahoma – Texas has also had a significant increase in seismicity, a phenomenon associated with the same technique. While the scale in Texas isn’t close to that in Oklahoma, it’s still enough to raise an alarm flag. Holland also asks the big important question:

“Just how important is it to produce oil and gas in Oklahoma, and are we willing to deal with the issues of these disposal wells in order to produce the oil and gas that we are accustomed to producing?” he asks.

An aerial view of the Yasuni National Park, in Ecuador's northeastern jungle. Photograph: Dolores Ochoa/AP

Ecuador plans to move ahead controversial drilling efforts in the Amazon

An aerial view of the Yasuni National Park, in Ecuador's northeastern jungle. Photograph: Dolores Ochoa/AP

An aerial view of the Yasuni National Park, in Ecuador’s northeastern jungle. Photograph: Dolores Ochoa/AP

Yasuni National Park to be one of the world’s richest biological hotspots, home to one of the densest biodiversity in the world. The region has been under threat, however, from oil drilling efforts for many years now, and a recent announcement from behalf of the Ecuador government further tightens the knot on the Amazon basin.  President Rafael Correa said that as the nearly three-years long international appeal of raising $3.6 billion in exchange for foregoing drilling has been unsuccessful, the government ‘needs’ to move on with the project.

Some 10,000 square kilometers of land amount to Ecuador’s side of Yasuni National Park, a protected area where a great number of unique species live exclusively, some of which are endangered. The Ecudoarian side is also home to some of the few groups of indigenous tribal groups left in the world who are in voluntary isolation : the Waorani indigenous people and two nomadic Waorani clans. It’s also home to oil, a lot of oil –  three contiguous blocks known collectively as the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) oil field.

The Yasuni drilling in Ecuador has been a matter of great debate and controversy for many years. A while back, Correa launched what is called the Yasuni-ITT Initiative, a 13-year plan under which the government would forgo drilling in the park in exchange for donations equaling one-half of the value of the oil, a sum that analysts put at $3.6 billion. The initiative failed miserably, as a mere $13 million in donations have been collected. Correa blamed “the great hypocrisy” of nations who emit most of the world’s greenhouse gases.

“The world has failed us,” Correa said. “It was not charity that we sought from the international community, but co-responsibility in the face of climate change.”

Drilling oil in the middle of the Amazon

 

Of course, environmental groups were quick to oppose oil efforts in the region. According to recent polls, some 90% of Ecuadorians oppose drilling, however this number might dwindle has pro-drilling campaigns are prepped, meant to inform the general public on the benefits the project will have for the country’s economy and social well-being. This kind of advertisement will be joined by claims that the environmental impact of IIT Yasuni drilling will be minor.

Correa claims  that oil development would have an impact on less than 1% of the park and that the government would take steps to protect the environment. Local environmental specialists however are highly skeptical of this figure and question the means through which it was obtained.

“We know from experience that a road leads to loss or degradation of a swath of 5 to 8 kilometers wide,” says ecologist Kelly Swing, founder of the Tiputini Biodiversity Station, a field research center in the park. So “the 1% figure across the entire Yasuni Biosphere Reserve would amount to 20,000 hectares,” Swing says. “With over 100,000 species living in each hectare, we’re talking about a huge number of species and individuals.”

How ‘eco’ is Ecuador?

Just 50 kilometers north of Yasuni, a half-century of oil development has left little nature intact,  says  Kevin Koenig, Ecuador program coordinator at Amazon Watch in Quito. And other oil fields are being developed to the east and south, in effect surrounding Yasuni’s uncontacted tribes in the so-called intangible zone. One of the more troubling portions of Ecuador’s drilling plan is the inclusion of a 60-kilometer pipeline network to move the oil. Furthermore, there’s always the case of oil spills. With so much crude oil going about, were a spill to occur it could spell nothing short of disaster for Yasuni. “With this kind of heavy crude, it’s not a question of if there is going to be a spill,” he says. “Rather, when there is going to be a spill.”

Oil is Ecuador’s chief source of foreign earnings. The country produces 538,000 barrels of crude a day, delivering nearly half its production to the United States.

via Science Mag

Researchers find contamination in Canadian oilsands operation, but aren’t allowed to talk about it

Researchers from Environment Canada (EC) and the University of Alberta have published a study in which they showed contaminants accumulated in the snow near oilsands operations, despite what oil companies are claiming. They also discovered contaminants in precipitation from testing in the region.

University of Alberta scientist David Schindler holds a whitefish with a tumour, collected from the Athabasca watershed.

 

Perhaps even more disturbing is that fact that researchers were discouraged to talk about their results, according to an internal federal document. This was first obvious at a November 2011 conference in Boston, where the results were first published.

“EC’s research conducted during winter 2010-11 confirms results already published by the University of Alberta that show contaminants in snow in the oilsands area,” said a background document about Environment Canada’s latest findings. “If scientists are approached for interviews at the conference, the EC communications policy will be followed by referring the journalist to the media relations … phone number. An appropriate spokesperson will then be identified depending on journalist questions.”

The original study, led by University of Alberta scientists Erin Kelly and David Schindler, analyzed winter snow, and found a direct correlation between contamination and oilsands operations proximity: the highest concentrations were found right next to the field, with levels dropping further away. However, according to the leaked document, which was also in the hands of Environment Minister Peter Kent, instead of the real results, a scripted list of answers was “suggested”, one which claimed that no link was established between levels of contaminants found and any effect on fish.

The document also said that Environment Canada scientist Derek Muir, who was slated to attend the conference in Boston, and another senior department official, Dan Wicklum, would be allowed to answer questions from reporters “if approved by media relations.” The situation is still pretty murky, but the fact that Wicklum took a leave of absence from his senior government position last January to accept a new job as chief executive of a new oil and gas company seems pretty suggestive.

This is quite a dreadful and shameful situation, and one which should never happen in any country – let alone in developed countries such as Canada. There really isn’t a lot of information related to this cover-up, and the one that can be found is often contradictory, so I won’t go any further. I was outraged by this situation, and as soon as I found something else on this matter I’ll be sure to write it down.

Main Source 

Oil Company will build the longest vessel ever

Well despite what you may think, the oil industry is doing better than ever. With a length of 468 meters, this giant will be exploiting the Prelude gas field, about 500 km away from Australia, relying on a Floating Liquefied Natural Gas (FLNG) plant. However, the vessel will be too far away from land to be connected to a pipeline, so Shell wants to use a liquid natural gas plant right on the ship.

“In simple terms, the facility can be compared to an island with a liquid natural gas plant on it,” says Shell’s Neil Gilmour.

Still, the second largest ship is only 10 meters shorter, but it will weigh so much more, and displace 600,000 tonnes of water. Mark Lambert of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects in London says the job will be quite a challenge, but he has faith in the project.

“It’s feasible,” he says, “but they will have to be very careful about how it flexes along its length if fatigue cracking is to be avoided.”

Picture from NewScientist

Ecuador will receive 3.6 billion $ not to drill for oil in a historic pact

The race for oil drilling is tougher than ever, and the effects are quite often extremely damaging for the environment (I’m sure pretty much everybody knows about the BP oil spill already). However, the UN has come up with an initiative, the first of its kind, that promises to protect at least a handful of special environments. Such is the case with the Yasuni National Park, in Ecuador.

The Park is one of the most biologically diverse parts of the Amazon rainforest, and the Ecuadorian government signed not to destroy this pristine landscape at least for a decade, in the exchange of 3.6 billion dollars. The deal finalized, and U.N. Development Program associate administrator Rebeca Grynspan issued this statement:

We are witnessing the inauguration of new instruments of cooperation, which will act as a basis for supporting other national and international efforts directed toward the search for economies that are in harmony with society, nature and the planet.

With the sum being quite significant for Ecuador, they would probably made twice as much (or even more) from exploiting the oil located beneath the Yasuni Park – but at a huge cost. Currently, the U.N. are trying to work out similar arrangements with countries who plan on drilling in such areas.

Hell’s gate

hell-gate-1

If a gate to hell existed, I bet this is how it would look like. Locals from the town of Darvaz in Uzbekistan were really inspired when they named it this way.

hell-gate-2

When looking at the pictures, you’d be tempted to think this is some sort of a volcano or magma-related process, but it’s not. Geologists are actually responsible (they almost always are) for this huge burning hole that’s been lasting for 35 years already (and won’t be stopping in the near future).

hell-gate-3

So, 35 years ago, they were digging and searching for gas. Then suddenly, they found an underground cavern so wide and deep that caused all their camping and equipment to fall underground.

hell-gate-4

I can’t imagine this happening this exact way (I mean, where were they when the equipment fell?) but that’s how the story goes, and exaggerations are actually welcome.

hell-gate-5

Anyway, nobody wanted to go down there because it was filled with poisonous gas, so in order to prevent the gas from getting out, they just decided to… burn it. Gotta hand it to geologists, they always find the best solutions – it’s what I would have done too.

Pictures source

World’s first genome transplant – a step forward towards creating synthetic life forms

Once the first transplant was conducted the entire history stated to change and since then science has broken a lot of barriers. Now scientists are preparing to create synthetic life forms (don’t think about badass creatures half robots half reptiles, it’s all about bacteria) in order to stop our dependence on fuels (so in a way, it’s even cooler than cyborgs).

An important step has just been made as scientists managed to transplant the genome from one species of bacteria to another species, which developed the same characters with the first one. In a nutshell, they managed to turn one species into another. The entire genetic code from Mycoplasma mycoides was extracted and then transferred to Mycoplasma capricolum, which turned into the first species and behaved like it.

The leader of the research team is Craig Venter, the same scientist who raced to sequence the human genome; now his new purpose being to create “green” microbes in order to produce Earth-friendly fuels for the future.

By practically transforming one species into another, the idea of creating synthetic forms of life seems no longer just a distant dream, but something very likely to happen in the following years. In order to create artificial life the researchers will have to design a new genetic code on the computer and then transplant it into another organism so as to create a new species.

The newly created organisms will produce environmentally-friendly fuels as natural waste products, these fuels breaking our dependence oil oil or coal. Both the fact that they destroy the atmosphere and create massive pollution and the fact that we are running out of traditional sources of energy make everyone pray that the researchers succeed in their attempt. Dr. Venter is quite optimistic: he claims that we will be using the new fuels within a decade.

The new scientific achievement is another sign that synthetic biology is becoming increasingly important. Researchers have already developed the tools to recreate the flu virus which killed millions all around the world in 1918 and they are planning to modify human cells and understand exactly how life works.

All these have clearly raised many questions related to the ethics involved in these experiments. Many fear the risk of terrorists or simply not-very-well-intentioned scientists creating devastating biological weapons. There is also the risk of these organisms escaping the lab and damaging the environment, which is not prepared for them.

However, most people agree with the research as most great discoveries involve a certain degree of risk and the success of this particular discovery could change the world.

 

The price of oil without water

oasis desert

The environmental challenges we have to overcome (fast) cover virtually every field in human activity. Focuses such as finding green fuels, renewable and sustainable sources of energy and other related findings attract more people, more ideas, and visible steps are made towards the right direction. Probably the only concern is how fast and how effective these methods will prove to be. Hopefully, due to all the brilliant minds involved, the response will probably be positive(maybe I’m being to optimistic, but is there any other way to be??).Still, it concerns me to see how little attention is being paid to water. Maybe it’s not right to call it a water crisis, but the thing is water scarcity is showing up even in some unexpected place. Despite the fact that oil is the elixir behind industry, water is the elixir behind life; and life is behind industry, so a scarcity in water is without a doubt a bigger threat than oil. This leads to the simple yet pretty much ignored observation that if water runs out, oil will be pretty hard to drink.

What should worry pretty much everybody is the fact that water scarcity threatens farm productivity, limits growth, increases business expenses, and drains local treasuries. Also, why people ar

e>e ignoring the dangers of building cities and other related things in deserts is quite hard to understand, at least for me. It’s the desert, it was never meant to have cities; and we definitely can’t support them against the desert when our planet has so many things to be worried about.

“I truly believe we are moving into an era of water scarcity throughout the United States” said Peter Gleick, science adviser to Circle of Blue and president of the Pacific Institute, a think tank specializing in water issues based in Oakland, California. “That by itself is going to force us to adopt more efficient management techniques.”