BLOG » Posts in 'Energy Policy' category

Turmoil in the Mideast Makes the Arctic Look Balmy for New Oil Drilling

While the world’s attention has been focused on tumult in Egypt during the past three weeks – with particular concern focused on the future of oil transportation and oil prices as the Mideast continues to be rocked – some quieter though equally important revolutions have been going on in the Arctic that could have a powerful impact on fossil fuel extraction.


While the Saudi oil reserves account for one-fifth of the world’s supply and 1.8 million barrels of oil move through the Suez Canal every day, there’s an equal amount of untapped oil in the far north, in a place less wracked by civil wars, military coups and feisty autocrats. At least for now.

Roughly 13 percent of the planet’s undiscovered oil and 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas is trapped below the icy waters of the Arctic. Both publicly and behind-the-scenes there are intense, ongoing political fights going on over who will get to drill for and profit from it all.

The Arctic is politically defined by the five nations that border it (Russia, Norway, the U.S., Canada and Denmark [via Greenland]) and geographically defined by everything north of 66.56 north latitude. While temperatures of 140 degrees F impact oil drilling in the Mideast it is cold waters, big winds and lots of ice and icebergs that stymie drilling in the north. The influence of climate change is of course the biggest environmental influencer in recent years, as there is less and less ice covering the seas, thus the boundaries of the battlegrounds keep shifting.

But the game is definitely on.

(For the rest of my dispatch go to

Toxic Fish, Sick Humans, Dirty Money: Gulf Spill Impacts Without End

A trio of events happening simultaneously this week along the Gulf coast is stirring debate:

1. The team responsible for paying out damages to Gulf spill victims is about to start writing checks to those who’ve proved they deserve it;

2. NOAA has given its blessing to reopening a 4,200-square-mile area of the Gulf of Mexico to fishing, near where the BP well exploded;

3. and chemical researchers are still trying to draw attention to what they regard as fact, that the Gulf seafood bears toxic levels that are still too high for human consumption.

Like most things in Louisiana, the three are inextricably related: In order to write checks, Ken Feinberg – charged with doling out $20 billion of BP’s cash — needs to be able, as best he can, to ascertain the long-term impacts of the spill on the region. The researcher he hired has issued a report that suggests the impacts of the spill will be less severe than anticipated, on both fish and man. Yet there is a fervent crowd of scientists and environmentalists working in the region who contend the testing being done by the government is insufficient and that the seafood is still tainted. Amid that confusion the federal government (via NOAA) feels a need open closed fishing grounds in order to get fishermen back to work and stimulate the local economies.

(For the rest of my dispatch go to

5 Proofs That Overfishing Is Not ‘Over’

Last week I wrote about the just-retired NOAA scientist who announced that overfishing was “over” in the U.S.

To Dr. Steve Murawski’s credit, he was referencing new statistics that show that several new tough-love laws dictating how many fish can be taken from the sea and from where have actually worked in U.S. waters. At least in the short-term.

Yet global overfishing remains one of the biggest problems facing our one ocean.

There are new statistics every week to support why we should all be concerned about potentially taking the last fish from the sea:

(For the rest of my dispatch go to

BP’s Oil Spill Legacy: 5 Stories That Still Matter

I’ve watched up-close since last April as residents of the Gulf have moved from shock to anger to resignation, convinced that once the BP well was capped the news media would move on and the mess would remain.

While there is still lots of good reporting coming out of the Gulf addressing a variety of important issues – Is the seafood safe? Where did all those dispersants go? What’s the next fishing/hurricane/summer season going to bring? – it’s important not to forget that oil and dispersants still linger, that more than 6,000 workers are still out there every day trying to make a difference and the economy of the Gulf is still way out of whack.

(For the rest of my dispatch go to

Russians Drilling to 14-Million Year Old Lake; Is Oil Next?

Every time I see “drilling” and “Antarctica” in the same sentence it makes me nervous.

It’s been happening frequently this week as Russian scientists prepare to cap a twenty-year effort to explore two-and-a-half-miles below the surface of Antarctica’s ice, by reaching what they’ve dubbed Lake Vostok. The oldest subglacial lake beneath the continent’s ice – 14 million years old – the lake may yield access to life forms never glimpsed. One study suggests the conditions in the lake are most similar to moons of Jupiter and Saturn, suggesting links to extraterrestrial life.

Right now the drill bit sits lodged in ice 328 feet above the lake; once it reaches within 65 to 100 feet, the mechanical drill bit will be replaced by a thermal lance equipped with a camera. Drilling that deep is slow going and it is possible they might not get through to the lake this austral summer and be forced to wait another year.

There are about thirty active scientific bases on Antarctica and virtually all have at some time or another had drilling operations. Usually the goal is ice cores, to help study the planet’s atmospheric history – what’s hidden in Antarctica’s two-mile thick layer of ice tells us a lot about how the planet has evolved from ice age to ice age.

(For the rest of my dispatch go to