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April 2019

Greenland Melting Even Faster Than Thought, While Exxon Discovers More Oil Off Guyana

In the latest round-up of climate-related news:

From Deutsche Welle: “German forest fire risk spikes amid high temperatures, drought.

Excerpts:  

Sun and warmth might seem like the perfect weather for Easter. But experts warn that Germany is far too dry, almost everywhere in the country.

Normally, the lucrative cash crop known as rapeseed, or canola, blooms throughout the German state of Thuringia at the end of May. But this year, you would look in vain for the yellow blossoms that are usually turned into one of the western world's main sources of cooking oil.

According to Andre Rathgeber of the Farmers' Association of Thuringia, the prognosis for rapeseed is so bad, most farmers have decided to clear the land for other crops.

This is because the land is far too dry, especially in the key area about 60 cm (23 inches) below the surface, said German Weather Service (DWD) meteorologist Corina Schube.

The risk is especially dire for the country's many pine forests, where extremely thirsty trees drain the soil much more quickly than other types of timber. Unusually massive storms in recent years have added to the problem, as now dead wood and leaves litter the forest floor in much greater amounts — making perfect kindling.

From CNN:  Greenland is melting even faster than experts thought, study finds.

Excerpts:

Climate change is eliminating giant chunks of ice from Greenland at such a speed that the melt has already made a significant contribution to sea level rise, according to a new study. With global warming, the island will lose much more, threatening coastal cities around the world.

Forty percent to 50% of the planet's population is in cities that are vulnerable to sea rise, and the study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is bad news for places like New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Mumbai.

Researchers reconstructed the mass balance of the Greenland Ice Sheet by comparing estimates of the amount of ice that has been discharged into the ocean with the accumulation of snowfall in the drainage basins in the country's interior for the past 46 years. The researchers found that the rate of ice loss has increased sixfold since then -- even faster than scientists thought.

From the Washington Post:  "Vietnam just observed its highest temperature ever recorded: 110 degrees, in April.

Excerpts:

Vietnam broke its national high temperature record Saturday, the latest in a mounting list of records to fall as the world continues to warm.

The scorcher set the mercury thermometer soaring to 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.4 Celsius) in the community of Huong Khe, a rural district in Ha Tinh province. It’s situated in Vietnam’s northern central coast region, about 150 miles south of the capital, Hanoi. Its average temperature is in the 80s at this time of year.

A temperature of 110 degrees is enough to soften your crayons, liquefy chocolate and raise the temperature inside a parked car past 140 degrees.

The record was first reported by Etienne Kapikian, a forecaster with Meteo France, France’s meteorological agency.

Sweltering heat covered the entire Indochina peninsula over the weekend. Danang hit 100 degrees. Hue topped 105.

What makes the heat even more striking is that it’s only April. Most places in Vietnam see their hottest temperatures in June or July.

From the New Scientist:  The UK has already had more wildfires in 2019 than any year on record.

Excerpts:

The UK has been hit by nearly a hundred large wildfires in 2019, making it the worst year on record already.

The hot spell in February and the recent Easter heatwave have contributed to a total of 96 major wildfires of 25 hectares or larger, eclipsing the previous high of 79 across the whole of 2018.

Researchers told New Scientist that the figures, collated by the European Forest Fire Information System, were evidence that climate change had already heightened the risk of wildfires in the UK.

More than 100 firefighters battled wildfires over the Easter weekend across Illkley Moor and Marsden Moor in West Yorkshire. Another fire broke out on moorland near Marsden on Tuesday afternoon, requiring ten fire engines to attend.

There were also wildfires in Cornwall, Dorset, Derbyshire, Northern Ireland, the Peak District, Rotherham, Wiltshire and Wales, according to the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC).

Scotland was affected by fires across the Highlands, including a large one that posed a “serious risk” to the Moray windfarm.

The spate of blazes follows a series of major wildfires during the hot, dry weather of 2018, including the Saddleworth Moor fire near Manchester, which burned for five days and made pollution levels spike.

From the Boston Globe:  Climate change has increased world economic inequality, study says.

Excerpts:

A new study from Stanford University says global warming has increased the wealth gap between the world’s countries by enriching cooler, wealthier countries and dragging down growth in hotter, poorer countries.

The study found that “most of the poorest countries on Earth are considerably poorer than they would have been without global warming,” climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh, lead author of the study, said in a statement from Stanford.

The study, which looked at the period from 1961 to 2010, was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It was co-authored by Marshall Burke, a Stanford assistant professor of Earth system science.

From the Washington Post:  It’s been exceptionally warm in Greenland lately and ice is melting a month early.

Excerpts:

You might have heard about the exceptional heat this year in the northern hemisphere and around the world. March was just declared the second warmest on record globally.

Records have been shattered in Alaska. Scotland hit 70 degrees in February. Winter warmth has torched the U.K., Netherlands and Sweden as well — coming on the heels of Europe’s warmest year on record. But they’re not alone.

Greenland is baking, too. In fact, its summer melt season has already begun — more than a month ahead of schedule.

Marco Tedesco is a professor in atmospheric sciences at the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. He monitors behavior of the cryospherethe part of earth’s water system that is frozen. He says melting of this extent shouldn’t begin until May. “The first melt event was detected on April 7,” he wrote in email.

...

In business-as-usual news:

From Reuters:  Exxon Mobil makes new oil discovery offshore Guyana.

Excerpts:

Exxon Mobil Corp said on Thursday the U.S. oil major along with its partners have made an oil discovery offshore Guyana, which adds to the previously estimated 5.5 billion barrels of oil-equivalent.

The discovery was in the Turbot area of Stabroek Block, which is expected to become a major development hub, Exxon said.

This is the thirteenth discovery on the block, which is part of one of the biggest oil discoveries in the world in the last decade.

From Oilprice.com:  Kuwait Could Add 400,000 Bpd Heavy Oil Output By January 2020.

Excerpts:

Kuwait will start this year the first phase of a heavy oil field production, aiming to boost heavy crude output to 430,000 bpd from 60,000 bpd by January, the official Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reports.

Heavy crude oil production from the first phase of an oil field in northern Kuwait, known as “Al-Ritqa” is forecast to hit 11,000 bpd in August this year, KUNA quoted Kuwait Oil Company (KOC) as saying.

The Al-Ritqa oil field project is aimed at boosting heavy crude oil production to 430,000 bpd from 60,000 bpd via multiple production phases by January, Fatama Al-Kanderi, who is responsible for project planning at KOC, said at a recent panel discussion organized by the Kuwaiti oil ministry.

Increasing heavy crude output in northern Kuwait is one of the pillars of the Kuwaiti 2040 oil production strategy, KUNA quoted Al-Kanderi as saying at the panel.

Nearly two years ago, Kuwait announced plans to increase its crude oil production capacity to 4.75 million bpd by 2040, compared to a current capacity of 3.15 million bpd.

From Oilprice.com:  China’s Newest Oil Hotspot Is In America’s Backyard.

Excerpts:

Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua  said on Tuesday that an affiliate of Chinese oil major CNPC, Great Wall Drilling, was drilling for oil off Cuba’s coast as part of a joint venture with state-owned oil firm Cuba Petroleum Company (CUPET).  

"Our deposits extend out to sea, so increasingly, wells are longer and to reach them we need cutting-edge technology that we have accessed through the Great Wall Company," Julio Jimenez, CUPET's director of drilling, told Xinhua.

The site of the drilling operation is reportedly near the coastal town of Boca de Camarioca, about 75 miles east of Havana, and is a 1,475-meter-deep well extending some 4,692 meters out to sea. Workers hope to reach 6,950 meters where geological studies show a hydrocarbon deposit is located. Great Wall management claims that several new wells have been drilled more effectively using Chinese drilling technology.

"We have increased the efficiency of drilling, lowered the cost of building the wells, and drilled several highly productive wells, in addition, we have supported the finding of new deposits," said Meng Fanji, Great Wall’s deputy manager.

From S&P Global Platts:  Record 2018 US natural gas demand largely driven by power demand: FERC.

Excerpts:

US natural gas and power markets experienced higher average prices in 2018, while gas markets had record high demand and supply, and power generation capacity additions were led by gas-fired and wind-powered resources, federal regulators said Thursday.

"In 2018, natural gas demand reached a record high, driven primarily by increased demand for natural gas-fired generation and LNG export growth," according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's 2018 State of the Markets Report that was presented at the commission's monthly agenda meeting in Washington.

Record-high gas demand was coupled with record-high production, with the largest growth from the Marcellus Shale and the Permian Basin. But demand growth outpaced production growth, which resulted in consistently lower-than-average storage levels that "at times were the lowest in more than a decade," the report said.

From Inside Climate News:  Canada’s Tar Sands Province Elects a Combative New Leader Promising Oil & Pipeline Revival.

Excerpts:

The home province of Canada's tar sands elected a combative, conservative leader this week who came out swinging on the side of the country's struggling oil industry. Jason Kenney promised to cancel Alberta's carbon tax, lift a cap on greenhouse gas emissions from the tar sands and create a "war room" to combat the oil industry's opponents.

In his acceptance speech, Kenney told the crowd: "As long as there is growing global demand for oil and gas, the question is who will provide it.”

From Oilprice.com:  U.S. Greenlights Two Major LNG Export Projects.

Excerpts:

The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved on Thursday two liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects that will add to the growing U.S. export capacity of the super-chilled fuel.

FERC approved the project for the Driftwood LNG export terminal and associated pipeline on the west bank of the Calcasieu River, south of Lake Charles, Louisiana, proposed by Tellurian, and the Port Arthur LNG facility in Texas planned by Sempra Energy.   

“We look forward to beginning construction and delivering first LNG in 2023,” Tellurian’s President and CEO Meg Gentle said today, commenting on the Driftwood LNG approval.

Tellurian’s timeline for the Driftwood LNG project includes final investment decision this year, the start of construction this year, and start of operations in 2023.  

Another 10 proposed LNG export projects are pending FERC approval at the time being, the commission said today.


Climate Change Targets Slipping Out Of Reach, As U.S. Energy Consumption Hits All-Time High

In climate-related news from the past few days:

From Reuters: “Climate change targets are slipping out of reach.

Excerpts:

For all the commentary around a transition to a clean energy system, the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is still continuing to rise rapidly and shows no sign of slowing down.

Climate change targets are slipping out of reach as the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere continues to march higher, leaving policymakers confronting uncomfortable choices.

If the concentration continues to rise, policymakers will have to plan for a world with significantly higher temperatures, or rely on untested strategies to remove CO2 from the air later in the century.

Countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have committed themselves to limit the increase in global average temperatures above pre-industrial levels.

Under the UNFCCC Paris Agreement, concluded in 2015, signatories are committed to holding the global average temperature increase well below 2 degrees Celsius and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Science advisers on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have estimated the limits imply an atmospheric CO2 concentration of no more than 450 parts per million (for 2 degrees) or 430 ppm (for 1.5 degrees).

On current trends, these limits will be reached sometime between the late 2020s and the late 2030s, which leaves less than 10 or 20 years to make profound changes to the energy system and the global economy.

But energy systems are notorious for changing slowly, because they are embodied in long-lived capital investments such as domestic appliances, industrial machinery, power plants, pipelines and transmission systems.

Given the projected life of current equipment and the slow pace of replacement, it is becoming increasingly hard to envisage a scenario in which atmospheric CO2 can be held below 430-450 ppm in the next two decades.

From Yale Environment 360:  Melting Permafrost Releasing High Levels of Nitrous Oxide, A Potent Greenhouse Gas.

Excerpts:

Thawing permafrost in the Arctic may be releasing 12 times as much nitrous oxide as previously thought, according to a new study published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. Nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide, can remain in the atmosphere for up to 114 years, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The research, led by scientists at Harvard University, involved measuring greenhouse gas levels over 120 square miles of melting permafrost in the North Slope of Alaska. The data, collected using a small plane, showed that the nitrous oxide emitted over the course of just one month of sampling in 2013 was equal to what was thought to be the region’s yearly emissions. The findings back up similar results from other recent studies that used core samples from Arctic peat to measure rising nitrous oxide emissions.

Nitrous oxide emissions have been rising globally in recent decades thanks to the expansion of industry and intense fertilizer use. But scientists had long thought that emissions of the gas from melting permafrost were “negligible,” as the EPA described it in a 2010 report.

“Much smaller increases in nitrous oxide would entail the same kind of climate change that a large plume of CO2 would cause,” Jordan Wilkerson, an atmospheric chemistry graduate student at Harvard and lead author of the new study, said in a statement.

Wilkerson and his colleagues warned that their results provide just a snapshot of what is happening in the Arctic, given that the region contains 5.6 million square miles of permafrost. They said follow up studies are needed to more thoroughly examine the potent emissions.

“We don’t know how much more [nitrous oxide] is going to increase,” Wilkerson said, “and we didn’t know it was significant at all until this study came out.”

From Inside Climate News:  2018's Hemispheric Heat Wave Wasn't Possible Without Climate Change, Scientists Say.

Excerpts:

Subhead:  Heat waves are covering wider areas, and people are suffering the consequences. With 2°C of warming, most summers will look like 2018, scientists say.

A study presented this week at a scientific conference in Vienna now shows that last summer's extreme heat was an "unprecedented" hemispheric event that would not have happened without heat-trapping greenhouse gas pollution, the researchers said, and that it lasted longer and was more widespread across the Northern Hemisphere than previously realized.

All summers will be like last year if the world warms 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, said the study's lead author Martha Vogel, an extreme-temperature researcher with ETH Zürich Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science. Even with 1.5 degrees Celsius warming, 25 percent of the Northern Hemisphere will experience a summer as hot as the summer of 2018 two out of every three years, she said.

Research has shown that increasing global temperatures are causing more frequent, prolonged heat waves. But this study maps the spreading geographical extent of extreme heat events and shows last summer's heat as a hemispheric event.

From the AP:  California races to deter disaster as towns face fire risk.

Excerpts:

Impoverished towns in the shadow of Mount Shasta. Rustic Gold Rush cities in the Sierra Nevada foothills. High-dollar resort communities on the shores of Lake Tahoe. Ritzy Los Angeles County suburbs.

They all could be the next Paradise.

A McClatchy analysis reveals more than 350,000 Californians live in towns and cities that exist almost entirely within “very high fire hazard severity zones” — Cal Fire’s designation for places highly vulnerable to devastating wildfires. These designations have proven eerily predictive about some of the state’s most destructive wildfires in recent years, including the Camp Fire, the worst in state history.

Nearly all of Paradise is colored in bright red on Cal Fire’s map — practically the entire town was at severe risk before the Camp Fire raged through last November, burning the majority of homes in its path and killing 85 people.

Malibu, where the Woolsey Fire burned more than 400 homes last year, also falls within very high hazard zones. As does the small Lake County town of Cobb, much of which was destroyed by the Valley Fire in 2015.

“There’s a lot of Paradises out there,” said Max Moritz, a fire specialist at UC Santa Barbara.

From CBC:  Arctic is warmest it's been in 10,000 years, study suggests.

Excerpts:

New research suggests Canada's Arctic is the warmest it has been in 10,000 years — and the temperatures are still climbing.

The study was recently published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

Researchers studied permafrost samples in the Yukon near the Dempster Highway and determined that temperatures in the Arctic today are almost 2 C warmer than at any time in the past 10,000 years.

The temperatures recorded today are even higher than the previous highs believed to have occurred during the early Holocene period, about 9,900 and 6,400 years ago, when Earth's axis was tilted more strongly toward the sun, the report states.

Duane Froese, a professor at the University of Alberta and a co-author of the study, suggests that time period may actually be much longer.

"I would guess we're getting back over 100,000 years since we've seen temperatures at least this warm," he said.

From the New York Times:  Central American Farmers Head to the U.S., Fleeing Climate Change.

Excerpts:

The farmer stood in his patch of forlorn coffee plants, their leaves sick and wilted, the next harvest in doubt.

Last year, two of his brothers and a sister, desperate to find a better way to survive, abandoned their small coffee farms in this mountainous part of Honduras and migrated north, eventually sneaking into the United States.

Then in February, the farmer’s 16-year-old son also headed north, ignoring the family’s pleas to stay.

The challenges of agricultural life in Honduras have always been mighty, from poverty and a neglectful government to the swings of international commodity prices.

But farmers, agricultural scientists and industry officials say a new threat has been ruining harvests, upending lives and adding to the surge of families migrating to the United States: climate change.

And their worries are increasingly shared by climate scientists as well.

Gradually rising temperatures, more extreme weather events and increasingly unpredictable patterns — like rain not falling when it should, or pouring when it shouldn’t — have disrupted growing cycles and promoted the relentless spread of pests.

From the Guardian:  Europe at risk from spread of tropical insect-borne diseases.

Excerpts:

Insect-borne diseases such as dengue fever, leishmaniasis and encephalitis are on the rise and are now threatening to spread into many areas of Europe, scientists have warned.

Outbreaks of these illnesses are increasing because of climate change and the expansion of international travel and trade, the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases was told in Amsterdam on Saturday.

Even previously unaffected areas in higher latitudes and altitudes, including some parts of northern Europe, are at risk of outbreaks unless action is taken to improve surveillance and data sharing, the researchers said.

From Reuters:  Record-early Alaska river thaw follows high winter temperatures.

Excerpts:

Key Alaska rivers that are usually frozen at this time of year are now free-flowing, with record-early thaws following record-high winter and spring temperatures.

In the interior Alaska city of Nenana, ice on the Tanana River gave way just after midnight on Sunday. It was by far the earliest breakup in the 102-year history of the Nenana Ice Classic, an iconic Alaska betting pool in which participants predict when thaw will sink a wooden tripod placed on the ice.

The previous earliest breakup of the Tanana, a tributary of the Yukon River, was April 20, a mark reached in 1998 and 1940.

Another record-early thaw happened on Friday on the Kuskokwim River at the southwestern city of Bethel. The previous earliest ice-breakup date for the Kuskokwim Ice Classic was also April 20, in 2016. The Friday ice breakup was the earliest for that part of the Kuskokwim in 92 years of records kept by the National Weather Service.

At both rivers, records show that breakup has been happening, on average, about a week earlier since the 1960s, not counting this year’s record thaws.

This year’s breakups followed an extraordinarily warm Alaska winter with near-record-low ice in the Bering Sea and a record-hot March statewide.

...

Meanwhile, in business-as-usual news:

From Oilprice.com:  U.S. Energy Consumption Hits All-Time Record.

Excerpts:

Energy consumption in the United States reached an all-time high last year, data from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory showed.

According to the laboratory, the United States consumed 101.2 quadrillion British thermal units of energy, or quads, last year, up on the previous record of 101 quads, reached in 2007. Yet the 2018 figure also represents the highest annual increase since 2010, at 3.6 percent.

The figures reflect a similar surge in energy demand globally. In its latest Global Energy  & CO2 Report, the International Energy Agency said last year saw a 2.3-percent jump on the year, which was twice as high as the average demand increase rate for the last decade. This increase was the result of a growing global economy, the authority said, as well as greater heating and cooling needs in some parts of the world.

From Reuters:  U.S. shale output forecast to hit record 8.46 million bpd in May: EIA.

Excerpts:

U.S. crude oil output from seven major shale formations is expected to rise by about 80,000 barrels per day (bpd) in May to a record 8.46 million bpd, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its monthly drilling productivity report on Monday.

The largest change is forecast in the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico, where output is expected to climb by 42,000 bpd to a fresh peak of about 4.14 million bpd in May.

In North Dakota’s Bakken region, shale production is estimated to rise by about 11,000 bpd to about 1.39 million bpd, easing from a record 1.41 million bpd hit in January. In the Eagle Ford region, output is expected to edge higher by 7,000 bpd to about 1.43 million bpd, which would be the highest monthly output since January 2016.

From Reuters:  Exxon Mobil wins three exploration blocks offshore Argentina.

Excerpts:

U.S. oil major Exxon Mobil Corp said on Tuesday its unit and an affiliate of Qatar Petroleum had won three exploration blocks offshore Argentina.

The three blocks will add about 2.6 million net acres to Exxon’s existing holdings in Argentina, the company said. The blocks are located in the Malvinas basin, about 200 miles (320 kms) offshore Tierra del Fuego.

Exxon’s existing Argentina holdings include 315,000 net acres spread over seven blocks in the onshore Neuquén Basin of the Vaca Muerta unconventional oilfield and a business support center in Buenos Aires.

ExxonMobil will have a 70 percent stake, while Qatar Petroleum’s affiliate will hold the rest.

The Argentine government issued a statement on Tuesday saying it received offers for the exploration of three offshore oil and gas basins from 13 companies for a total of $995 million. The country’s energy secretariat was expected to confirm which companies were awarded which areas next month.

From Oilprice.com: “Red Hot Permian Set To Jolt U.S. Shale Output To New Record.

Excerpts:

Crude oil production from the seven key shale regions in the United States is expected to increase by 80,000 bpd from April to hit a record 8.46 million bpd in May, with the Permian accounting for half of the monthly growth, the EIA said in its latest Drilling Productivity Report.

Crude oil production from the seven major shale producing regions is set to increase from 8.38 million bpd this month to 8.46 million bpd next month. The fastest-growing region, the Permian, is expected to see its crude oil production jump by 42,000 bpd from April to hit a record high of 4.136 million bpd in May, according to the EIA estimates—a figure that would place the US hotspot as OPEC’s third-largest producer behind only Saudi Arabia (9.79 bpd) and Iraq (4.52 bpd).

From Oilprice.com:  U.S. Doubles Oil Exports In 2018.

Excerpts:

The United States nearly doubled its oil exports in 2018, the Energy Information Administration reporting on Monday, from 1.2 million barrels per day in 2017.

The 2.0 million barrels of oil per day exported in 2018 was in line with increased oil production, which averaged 10.9 million barrels per day last year, and was made possible by changes to the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) which allowed it to load VLCCs.

The changes to LOOP and to the sheer volume of exports were not the only changes for the US crude oil industry. The destination of this oil shifted in 2018 as well, and even shifted within the year as the trade row between China and the United States took hold.

Overall, Canada remained the largest buyer of US oil in 2018, at 19% of all oil exports, according to EIA data. During the first half of 2018, the largest buyer of US crude oil was China, averaging 376,000 barrels per day. Due to the trade row, however, US oil exports to China fell to an average of just 83,000 barrels per day in the second half, after seeing zero exports to China in the months of August, September, and October.

From the Indy Star:  Out-of-state coal interests are funding a battle to keep Indiana coal plants from closing.

Excerpts:

Across the nation, coal-fired power plants are rapidly being retired — a cost-conscious, clean-energy trend that has spurred some of the world's largest coal interests to fund an aggressive effort to keep them running, including here in Indiana.

The Energy Policy Network is leading that effort. The nonprofit bills itself as a national advocacy organization working "to develop energy and environmental policies that balance environmental values, business needs and consumer interests.”

Presentations made by the nonprofit's executive director, however, make its mission clear: keep companies purchasing Wyoming coal. The organization does so by intervening in utility proceedings on the state level, where they employ coal lobbyists to argue against the closure of coal plants. 

Now, EPN has set its eyes on Indiana as its next "battleground." It plans to spend $175,000 to fight NIPSCO's applications to purchase wind power to replace its coal-powered electricity, according to an email obtained by a public records request and provided to IndyStar.

From Reuters:  U.S. EPA chief defends big energy projects, says climate not top priority.

Excerpts:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will unveil a proposal to speed state-level permitting decisions for energy infrastructure projects soon, the agency’s chief told Reuters on Thursday, blasting states that have blocked coal terminals and gas pipelines on environmental grounds.

President Donald Trump is seeking to boost domestic fossil fuels production over the objections of Democrats and environmentalists concerned about pollution and climate change. On Wednesday he issued a pair of executive orders targeting the power of states to delay energy projects.

“We started working on it in advance, so we hope to have something out soon,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in an interview. He was unable to provide a precise timeline.

Wheeler said he believes climate change is a problem, but that it had been overblown by former President Barack Obama’s administration - at the expense of other bigger issues like water quality.

“Yes, climate is an issue and we are working to address it, but I think water is a bigger issue,” he said.

Wheeler dismissed the findings of a report released earlier this week by EPA scientists in the journal Nature Climate Change that detailed the scale and urgency of climate change.

He said while he encouraged EPA scientists to carry out and publish research, he stressed the recent paper “did not reflect EPA policy.”

From Reuters:  Under Trump, U.S. drilling permits on federal lands soar.

Excerpts:

The United States approved nearly 40 percent more oil and gas drilling permits on public lands in 2018 than it did the previous year thanks to an automated online system introduced in the waning days of the Obama administration, helping reduce a big backlog of applications.

President Donald Trump has made it a priority to speed permitting and reduce regulation as a way to boost production of oil, gas and coal from public lands - an agenda that has pleased the energy and mining industries but outraged environmentalists concerned about pollution and climate change.

The Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management approved 3,991 drilling permits in fiscal 2018, up from 2,887 in 2017, the agency said, an increase of 38 percent. The average time to process an application to drill with BLM was cut nearly in half to 63 days from 120 days in 2017.


Arctic Pushed Toward 'Unprecedented State,' While Oil And Gas Discoveries Rise

In climate-related news:

From Inside Climate News:  Global Warming Is Pushing Arctic Toward ‘Unprecedented State,’ Research Shows.

Excerpts:

Global warming is transforming the Arctic, and the changes have rippled so widely that the entire biophysical system is shifting toward an "unprecedented state," an international team of researchers concludes in a new analysis of nearly 50 years of temperature readings and changes across the ecosystems.

Arctic forests are turning into bogs as permafrost melts beneath their roots. The icy surface that reflects the sun's radiation back into space is darkening and sea ice cover is declining. 

Warmth and moisture trapped by greenhouse gases are pumping up the water cycle, swelling rivers that carry more sediment and nutrients to the sea, which can change ocean chemistry and affect the coastal marine food chain. And those are just a few of the changes. 

The researchers describe how warming in the Arctic, which is heating up 2.4 times faster than the Northern Hemisphere average, is triggering a cascade of changes in everything from when plants flower to where fish and other animal populations can be found.

Together, the changes documented in the study suggest the effects on the region are more profound than previously understood.

From the AP:  Global warming is shrinking glaciers faster than thought.

Excerpts:

Earth’s glaciers are melting much faster than scientists thought. A new study shows they are losing 369 billion tons of snow and ice each year, more than half of that in North America.

The most comprehensive measurement of glaciers worldwide found that thousands of inland masses of snow compressed into ice are shrinking 18 percent faster than an international panel of scientists calculated in 2013.

The world’s glaciers are shrinking five times faster now than they were in the 1960s. Their melt is accelerating due to global warming, and adding more water to already rising seas, the study found.

“Over 30 years suddenly almost all regions started losing mass at the same time,” said lead author Michael Zemp, director of the World Glacier Monitoring Service at the University of Zurich. “That’s clearly climate change if you look at the global picture.”

From Bloomberg:  “New Satellite Photos Show Climate Change Is Sweeping Europe.

Excerpts:

Subhead:  Swedish forest fires, retreating glaciers and arid cropland attest to a new reality.

Climate change is picking up pace in Europe, thrusting farmers and power generators onto the front lines of a battle with nature that threatens to upend the lives of the half billion people who occupy the world’s biggest trading bloc.

Last year was the third hottest on record and underlines “the clear warming trend” experienced in the last four decades, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service, which operates a network of satellites for the European Union that collects weather, soil, air and water data.

Copernicus lenses captured dozens of images illustrating how climate change is unfolding on Europe’s landscape. The images were made available to coincide with a gathering of 15,000 scientists in Vienna at an annual meeting of the European Geosciences Union, which assesses the issue each year.

From the Guardian:  “Two-thirds of glacier ice in the Alps 'will melt by 2100’.”

Excerpts:

Subhead:  If emissions continue to rise at current rate, ice will have all but disappeared from Europe’s Alpine valleys by end of century.

Two-thirds of the ice in the glaciers of the Alps is doomed to melt by the end of the century as climate change forces up temperatures, a study has found.

Half of the ice in the mountain chain’s 4,000 glaciers will be gone by 2050 due to global warming already baked in by past emissions, the research shows. After that, even if carbon emissions have plummeted to zero, two-thirds of the ice will still have melted by 2100.

If emissions continue to rise at the current rate, the ice tongues will have all but disappeared from Alpine valleys by the end of the century. The researchers said the loss of the glaciers would have a big impact on water availability for farming and hydroelectricity, especially during droughts, and affect nature and tourism.

“Glaciers in the European Alps and their recent evolution are some of the clearest indicators of the ongoing changes in climate,” said Daniel Farinotti, a glaciologist at ETH Zurich in Switzerland and one of the research team.

From CNBC:  Climate change will crush real estate values for investors who don’t prepare, new report says.

Excerpts:

For any investor, measuring opportunity against risk is critical. And for real estate investors in particular, risk is rising exponentially in the age of climate change.

To that end, big real estate firms are pouring significant resources into calculating climate risk and its likely effect on property portfolios — everything from increasingly extreme weather to a rise in sea levels.

“This process will be painful for investors who are caught off guard, but those who are prepared have the potential to outperform,” a new report from the Urban Land Institute said.

Damage to U.S. real estate from extreme storms hit a record high in 2017. Natural disasters, including floods, mudslides and wildfires, cost more than $300 billion in damage, the bulk of it to residential and commercial real estate.

From Bloomberg:  Investors Should Worry If Climate Goals Are Missed, Report Warns.

Excerpts:

Investors be warned: If the planet heats up by more than two degrees, it’s going to get a lot harder to make money.

That’s the conclusion of investment advisory firm Mercer LLC, which modeled the financial fallout from two, three and four degrees Celsius of global warming through 2100 in a report released Monday.

The report marks one of the first attempts to model sector-specific investment risks from climate change over decades. If warming is limited to no more than two degrees, coal and other fossil fuels lose the most in value, because countries have shifted toward cleaner energy. If temperatures rise further, sectors with the biggest losses will include industrials and agriculture.

“Asset owners should consider climate change at every stage of the investment process, from investment beliefs, policy and process to portfolio construction decisions,” said Deb Clarke, global head of investment research for Mercer, which is owned by Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc.

...

In business-related news:

From Oilprice.com:  Oil & Gas Discoveries On The Rise As Oil Majors Dive In.

Excerpts:

Oil and gas exploration is off to a flying start in 2019, with majors taking a bigger bite of the conventional resources discovered in the first quarter, according to Rystad Energy.

Global discoveries of conventional resources in the first quarter reached a robust 3.2 billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe). Most of the gains were recorded in February, posting 2.2 billion barrels of discovered resources – the best monthly tally on record since August 2015.

“If the rest of 2019 continues at a similar pace, this year will be on track to exceed last year’s discovered resources by 30%,” says Taiyab Zain Shariff, Upstream Analyst at Rystad Energy.

From a global perspective, the push for substantial new discoveries shows no signs of slowing down, with another 35 high impact exploration wells expected to be drilled this year, both onshore and offshore. Three such highly prospective wells are already underway: the Shell-operated Peroba well, off Brazil, with pre-drill prospective resource estimates of 5.3 billion boe; Eni’s Kekra well in Pakistani waters, with pre-drill prospective resource estimates of 1.5 billion boe; and the Total-operated Etzil well off Mexico, with pre-drill prospective resource estimates of 2.7 billion boe.

“If these wells prove successful, 2019’s interim discovered resources will be the largest since the downturn in 2014,” Shariff remarked.

From the Washington Post:  “Trump to issue executive orders seeking to speed up oil and gas projects.

Excerpts:

President Trump is planning to issue a pair of executive orders on Wednesday to “help American energy companies avoid unnecessary red tape” by making it easier for firms to build oil and gas pipelines and harder for state agencies to intervene, according to the White House.

The executive action seeks to rein in states’ power by changing the implementation instructions, known as guidance, that are issued by federal agencies , according to a former Trump administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect his relationships.

The order would also alter Transportation Department rules to allow the shipment of liquefied natural gas by rail and tanker truck, he said. And it would seek to limit shareholder ballot initiatives designed to alter companies’ policies on environmental and social issues. Trump will ask the Labor Department to examine whether retirement funds that pursue those investment strategies are meeting their responsibility to maximize returns.

A second order, focused on cross-border energy projects, would clarify that the president is solely responsible for approving or denying pipelines and other infrastructure that cross international boundaries. The secretary of state has previously played that role.

From Rigzone:  EOR Push May Make the Permian Even Bigger.

Excerpts:

Standing at the center of the prolific Permian Basin, Scott Hodges explains how the future of the world’s largest oil field may very well depend on what he calls jokingly calls the "really smart guys.”

Hodges, a 57-year-old manager with Occidental Petroleum Corp., runs a cluster of installations at the Hobbs oil field, where dozens of wells don’t pump a single barrel of oil but instead do the opposite: push stuff -- lots of it -- into the ground.

Occidental runs the operation in southeast New Mexico as part of its so-called enhanced-oil-recovery program, injecting carbon dioxide and water underground to force out crude that might otherwise languish in the reservoir. EOR already works in conventional oil fields -- now the company is trying to make it work commercially in shale rock.

If Occidental and its rivals’ experiments with similar techniques are successful -- a big if, in the view of many others -- it could further transform the Permian, which is already the world’s largest oil patch. To do that, knowing how the oil, gas, CO2 and water work together thousands of feet below the Earth’s surface is crucial.

From Oilprice.com:  Energy Minister: Saudi Arabia Could Be Natural Gas Exporter In Five Years.

Excerpts:

Saudi Arabia could begin natural gas exports in five-six years as it has already begun talks with neighboring Gulf Arab states to build natural gas pipelines, S&P Global Platts quoted Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih as saying at the Gulf Intelligence energy forum in Riyadh on Monday.

The Saudis will soon launch feasibility studies for a pipeline out of the Kingdom to some of its allies in the Persian Gulf, according to the Saudi minister.  

Large volumes of natural gas have been found in the Red Sea, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) quoted al-Falih as saying last month.

In January this year, Saudi Aramco’s chief executive Amin Nasser told Reuters in an interview that the oil firm was looking to spend billions of U.S. dollars on natural gas acquisitions in the United States as part of Aramco’s strategy to bolster its gas business and become a global natural gas player. 

At the end of February, Nasser said that Saudi Arabia aims to export as much as 3 billion cubic feet of gas per day by 2030 as part of its goal to boost the international footprint of its natural gas business.

In November last year, Nasser said that Saudi Aramco, already a top global oil producer but not as strong in gas production, will boost efforts to grow its natural gas output, from both conventional and unconventional reserves.

Saudi Aramco’s gas development program is expected to attract as much as US$150 billion in investments over the next decade, Nasser said. Natural gas production is expected to jump to 23 billion standard cubic feet a day from the current 14 billion cubic feet a day, Aramco’s top executive said in Dubai a few months ago.


Earth's CO2 Highest In 3 Million Years, As Russia Seeks Arctic Oil

Here is today’s climate-related news:

From USA Today: “Earth's carbon dioxide levels highest in 3 million years, study says.

Excerpts:

Carbon dioxide – the gas scientists say is most responsible for global warming – has reached levels in our atmosphere not seen in 3 million years, scientists announced this week in a new study. 

At that time, sea levels were as much as 65 feet higher than they are now, Greenland was mostly green and Antarctica had trees.

“It seems we’re now pushing our home planet beyond any climatic conditions experienced during the entire current geological period, the Quaternary,” said study lead author Matteo Willeit of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. “A period that started almost 3 million years ago and saw human civilization beginning only 11,000 years ago. So, the modern climate change we see is big, really big; even by standards of Earth history.”

From the BBC:  Climate change: Warning from 'Antarctica's last forests’.

Excerpts:

Scramble across exposed rocks in the middle of Antarctica and it's possible to find the mummified twigs of shrubs that grew on the continent some three to five million years ago.

This plant material isn't much to look at, but scientists say it should serve as a warning to the world about where climate change could take us if carbon emissions go unchecked.

The time period is an epoch geologists call the Pliocene, 2.6-5.3 million years ago.

It was marked by temperatures that were significantly warmer than today, perhaps by 2-3 degrees globally. These were conditions that permitted plant growth even in the middle of the White Continent.

Higher, too, were sea-levels. It's uncertain by how much, but possibly in the region of 10-20m above the modern ocean surface.

What's really significant, though, is that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was very similar to what it is today - at around 400 CO2 molecules for every million molecules of air. Indeed, the Pliocene was the last time in Earth history that the air carried this same concentration of the greenhouse gas.

And it tells you where we're heading if we don't get serious about addressing the climate problem, cautions Prof Martin Siegert from the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London.

The Guardian's take on that news:  Last time CO2 levels were this high, there were trees at the South Pole.

Excerpts:

Subhead:  "Pliocene beech fossils in Antarctica when CO2 was at similar level to today point to planet’s future.."

Trees growing near the South Pole, sea levels 20 metres higher than now, and global temperatures 3C-4C warmer. That is the world scientists are uncovering as they look back in time to when the planet last had as much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as it does today.

Using sedimentary records and plant fossils, researchers have found that temperatures near the South Pole were about 20C higher than now in the Pliocene epoch, from 5.3m to 2.6m years ago.

Many scientists use sophisticated computer models to predict the impacts of human-caused climate change, but looking back in time for real-world examples can give new insights.

The Pliocene was a “proper analogy” and offered important lessons about the road ahead, said Martin Siegert, a geophysicist and climate-change scientist at Imperial College London. “The headline news is the temperatures are 3-4C higher and sea levels are 15-20 metres higher than they are today. The indication is that there is no Greenland ice sheet any more, no West Antarctic ice sheet and big chunks of East Antarctic [ice sheet] taken,” he said.

From Minnesota Public Radio:  Study: Great Lakes hit hardest by climate change in U.S.

Excerpts (intro to audio):

The warming climate has already affected your favorite great lake.

A new study finds climate change in the Great Lakes region is happening faster than the rest of the U.S.

Lucinda Johnson, a study co-author and associate director at the Natural Resources Research Institute at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, joined Climate Cast to discuss.

...

Meanwhile, in the world of business:

From Oilprice.com:  Russia Seeks New Arctic Oil Frontier.

Excerpts:

Rosneft, Russia’s state-controlled oil company and the largest oil producer in the country, plans to develop an Arctic cluster of oil fields over the next five years.

These plans by Rosneft—led by a close ally of Vladimir Putin’s, Igor Sechin—fit the Russian President’s ambition to develop Arctic oil and gas resources and adjacent regions, as well as the so-called Northern Sea Route—a shipping lane through Russian Arctic waters stretching from Europe to the Far East.

Russia’s Arctic oil development has stalled in recent years due to the western sanctions that have had international majors, including ExxonMobil, pull out of some exploration projects in Russia.

Now Rosneft is pledging increased efforts to fulfill Putin’s Arctic development ambitions, aiming to have first oil produced in the so-called Arctic cluster of fields by 2024 and to boost cargo traffic on the Northern Sea Route.

For Rosneft, the Northern Sea Route, if connected to inland oil fields in Russia’s north, could provide another export avenue for its oil, especially to the markets in Asia.

From RigZone:  Key Buyers Push US Oil Exports to Record Highs.”

Constantly evolving hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies have opened up more U.S. petroleum resources than ever imagined. Crude production has boomed 140 percent over the past decade to 12.1 million barrels per day (bpd). During the course of 2018, for instance, output rose nearly 25 percent, even more impressive since domestic prices (WTI) had fallen 23 percent to $46 per barrel by the end of December. This flood of supply is just one of a number of key factors that have allowed U.S. oil exports to rapidly grow.

The U.S. oil business was gifted its historic lift at the end of 2015, when a law change allowed crude sales to go beyond neighbor Canada. In addition, U.S. shale oil is a lighter, sweeter grade, and the country’s refining system is mostly configured to process heavier, sour kinds that have historically been imported from Mexico, Canada, and Venezuela. In other words, combined with very high but flat domestic demand, the U.S. has had a surplus of oil to ship abroad.

From OilPrice.com:  Tanzania To Begin Talks With Majors On $30B Deepwater LNG Project.

Excerpts:

Tanzania’s government will start this month talks with major international firms to define the commercial terms for a deepwater liquefied natural gas (LNG) project off the coast of the east African country expected to be worth US$30 billion.

Negotiations are set to begin this month and to conclude by September, The East African news outlet quoted Tanzania’s Energy Ministry as saying.

Major international companies have been exploring for gas offshore Tanzania and have found sufficient quantities for a potential LNG plant.

 


Canada and Sweden Warming At Twice The Global Rate, As African Oil Production And Global LNG Increase

In climate-related news:

From CBC:  Canada warming at twice the global rate, leaked report finds.

Excerpts:

Canada is, on average, experiencing warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world, with Northern Canada heating up at almost three times the global average, according to a new government report.

The study — Canada's Changing Climate Report (CCCR) — was commissioned by Environment and Climate Change Canada. It says that since 1948, Canada's annual average temperature over land has warmed 1.7 C, with higher rates seen in the North, the Prairies and northern British Columbia.

In Northern Canada, the annual average temperature has increased by 2.3 C.

According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), since 1948, global average temperatures have increased by about 0.8 C.

Along with these temperature increases, the CCCR says Canada is experiencing increases in precipitation (particularly in winter), "extreme fire weather" and water supply shortages in summer, and a heightened risk of coastal flooding.

From The Local:  Sweden’s temperature is rising more than twice as fast as the global average.

Excerpts:

The average temperature in Sweden is rising more than twice as fast as the global average temperature, according to a new report by the country's national weather agency SMHI.

Between 1991 and 2018, Sweden's annual average temperature rose by 1.7C compared to average temperatures in pre-industrial times, which SMHI calculated using data from the years 1861-1890. In the same period the global average temperature only rose by 0.73C.

"It is in line with what we can expect based on existing climate scenarios and calculations of how global warming might affect us, something that is already happening today," Erik Kjellström, professor of climatology for SMHI, said in a statement presenting the findings.

"The temperature is rising faster in the Arctic, especially during the winter, and this can also be seen here in Sweden. In northern Sweden, the largest increase can be seen in winter.”

But as last summer's heatwave, drought and wildfires showed, the effects of a warmer Sweden will not only be felt during the winter. A governmental climate study from 2017 warned that summer temperatures in northern Sweden could increase by as much as 7C by 2080.

...

In business-related news:

From Oilprice.com:  France’s Total Boosts Angola Oil Production With New Start-Up.

Excerpts:

French supermajor Total said on Tuesday that it had started up production at the Kaombo Sul oil development, adding 115,000 bpd to bring Total’s overall production capacity to 230,000 bpd, equivalent to 15 percent of Angola’s output.

Also from OilPrice.com:  Qatar Petroleum: Global LNG Demand To Grow 2% A Year.

Excerpts:

Worldwide demand for liquefied natural gas (LNG) will increase at a rate of 2 percent every year in the next fifteen years, the chief executive of one of the world’s top LNG providers, Qatar Petroleum, said on Tuesday.

“China, along with India, will continue to lead Asia as the main drivers behind the growth of global LNG demand,” Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi, Qatar’s Minister of State for Energy Affairs and President and CEO of Qatar Petroleum, said at the LNG2019 conference in Shanghai.

From All Africa:  South Africa's 'Game-Changing' Oil Find.

Excerpts:

In early-February, South Africa discovered huge reserves of oil and gas off its shores. President Cyril Ramaphosa, along with many experts, described the find as a "game-changer" and promised legislation to ensure the "world class" discovery is properly regulated to ensure it benefits all concerned.