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Posts published in “Day: April 5, 2015”

Leave this cheap oil in the ground

trahant MARK


Could we be nearing the moment to really address climate change?

A quick answer is “no.” Of course not.

The Republicans in Congress are hell-bent on pretending that climate change does not exist let along agree to any shifts in policy. So they continue to fight for the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. As the House Energy and Commerce Committee tells the story, the pipeline expansion “would carry up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day 875 miles from Alberta, Canada to Steele City, Nebraska. From there, the oil would go to refineries in the Midwest and Gulf Coast. The new pipeline would also transport some of the rapidly-increasing oil production from the Bakken formation in North Dakota and Montana.”

But here is the thing: There is already a glut of oil and the idea of adding more makes no sense.

As National Public Radio reported last week “there has been some concern that the U.S. will run out of places to put it all. Some analysts speculate that could spark another dramatic crash in oil prices.” How big a decline is an unknown. NPR quotes a Citigroup analyst saying $20 a barrel is possible. Others predict a continued fall in oil, to, say, $35 a barrel. Oil is a commodity and traded on public markets. So the price depends on perception about its supply and scarcity.

One reason why there is so much oil out there is that people are using less. The Nation recently wrote that the Energy Information Administration “projected that global oil demand would reach 103.2 million barrels per day in 2015; now, it's lowered that figure for this year to only 93.1 million barrels. Those 10 million "lost" barrels per day in expected consumption may not seem like a lot, given the total figure, but keep in mind that Big Oil's multibillion-dollar investments in tough energy were predicated on all that added demand materializing, thereby generating the kind of high prices needed to offset the increasing costs of extraction. With so much anticipated demand vanishing, however, prices were bound to collapse.”

I happen to think the decline in consumption is a long-term trend. There are a couple of reasons for that. The first is that people drive less after 40 years old — and the Baby Boom is long past that. A New Direction Our Changing Relationship with Driving and the Implications for America’s Future, a 2013 report by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund found that “Americans drive no more miles in total today than we did in 2004 and no more per person than we did in 1996.”

And, while Baby Boomers are less inclined to drive, the Millennial generation is thinking about transportation differently, “driving significantly less than previous generations of young Americans. Millennials are already the largest generation in the United States and their choices will play a crucial role in determining future transportation infrastructure needs.”

Even if gas prices stay low these trends are not likely to reverse. As the New Direction report points out: “If the Millennial-led decline in per capita driving continues for another dozen years, even at half the annual rate … total vehicle travel in the United States could remain well below its 2007 peak through at least 2040—despite a 21 percent increase in population.” (more…)

On the front pages


Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Slower rise in Idaho college tuition (Boise Statesman)
Nearing end of legislature (Boise Statesman)
Legislative discussion of who pays for mental health (IF Post Register)
Debate over pay raises at Idaho Falls Power (IF Post Register)
Reviewing the region's mental health system (Lewiston Tribune)
Canyon County crime continues to diminish (Nampa Press Tribune)
Stalemate over legislative transportation action (Nampa Press Tribune)
Possible Pocatello, Chubbuck fire department merger (Pocatello Journal)

How the Civic Stadium buy came together (Eugene Register Guard)
Sardine fishing may close on coast (KF Herald & News)
Redband surveys by state underway at Spring Creek (KF Herald & News)
Building more routes for walking and biking (Medford Tribune)
More about the 94k Hayes email release (Portland Oregonian, Salem Statesman Journal)
Wyden and firefighting funding legislation (Salem Statesman Journal)

Details of Inslee's climate proposal (Bellingham Herald)
WA clinic will need 18 months to open (Bremerton Sun)
Inslee opposing new state cleanup plan (Bremerton Sun)
Timber sale near Index will continue (Everett Herald)
Green gorge electricity carrying local costs (Longview News)
Sardine fishing may close on west coast (Longview News)
Financial trouble on mobile home financing (Seattle Times)
Washington hopes to collect online taxes (Spokane Spokesman)
179th St in east Vancouver may be developed (Vancouver Columbian)