subscribe: Posts | Comments

‘Marsh’ Madness: a coastal rant on the cost of oil


Graphic by the author depicting the future cost of oil, gasoline...and diesel fuel needed to implement Louisiana Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast.

by Len Bahr, PhD.*

The annual onset of NCAA March Madness seems even crazier than usual during this carnival election season, with March winds supplemented by gusts of political flatulence and partisan pettifoggery polluting the airwaves and cyberspace.

In most presidential years with an incumbent seeking a second term, the onset of the vernal equinox finds the opposition party with a well-oiled, well-heeled and strongly supported nominee. This year is different, however and the interminable GOP nominating process has not been kind to any of the ‘final four’ nominees, all of whom have performed spectacular bellyflops into the deep end of the pool of extremism.

As an environmental scientist I’m especially appalled by the virulent anti-environment and anti-science tone of the gospel tunes being sung in four part disharmony by this not-very-presidential quartet during a blatant trashing of all things green.

Challenging the National Academy of Sciences on human-caused climate change is no less ignorant than challenging Barack Obama’s Hawaiian birthplace, but that’s exactly what these ill-informed Luddites are doing. Teddy Roosevelt must be turning in his grave, as his Grand Old Party throws conservation and environmental stewardship under the presidential campaign bus. I predict that Earth Day, first celebrated under President Nixon in 1970, will be totally ignored by the GOP next month.

The first president to celebrate Earth Day.

Nothing is more important to our country’s future than curtailing its fossil fuel addiction but neither Mitt, nor Rick, nor Newt, nor Ron has proposed an alternative to Obama’s energy policy…other than cutting EPA and leasing drilling rights in national parks to Exxon-Mobil. Steven Chu, the Nobel physicist who heads the Department of Energy, would doubtless be replaced by someone far cozier with Big Oil, let’s say the CEO of the American Petroleum Institute (API).

When the GOP committee boat fired the cannon to start the GOP White House regatta, economic storm clouds provided favorable winds for the fleet of rival ‘R class’ yachts. Since then, clearing skies have shifted the political wind vane 90 degrees, turning a comfortable broad reach into a close-hauled, spray-soaked beat to windward.

Top: Graphic as published in Investors Daily News (John Merline's article). Bottom: Graphic modified by Len Bahr to turn so called 'oil pyramid' upside down.

With the stock market rising and unemployment rate declining,
Obama’s rivals have decided to blame the POTUS for the recent spike in gas prices. On March 23 Jonathan Tilove reported in The Times-Picayune that energy has become the cause celebre’ of all the candidates for president (including the incumbent). On March 24 Politico.c0m posted an essay by Alexander Burns on the Democratic strategy to blame oil companies and Wall Street speculators for gasoline cost.

Photo from HuffingtonPost taken at the infamously pricey Watergate Exxon station in Washington, DCt.

Newt, et al. want to drill a path to $2.50 gasoline but, short of nationalizing Chevron, this concept is naive on many grounds. Most egregious to me is that it ignores the second law of thermodynamics and the concept of net energy.

The 2nd law inconveniently reminds us that the arrow of time moves in one direction, that house cleaning never ends and that perpetual motion is a myth. Widespread ignorance of the 2nd law is why conservative economists and Hummer drivers believe that American production could expand almost without limit if Barack Obama would only allow the free market to operate freely. This naive notion is effectively countered by a March 13 Salon article by Michael Klare, who points out that, whereas global oil will always be plentiful, the era of easy (cheap) oil is over.

The simple truth of the matter is this: Most of the world’s easy reserves have already been depleted — except for those in war-torn countries like Iraq.  Virtually all of the oil that’s left is contained in harder-to-reach, tougher reserves. These include deep-offshore oil, Arctic oil and shale oil, along with Canadian “oil sands” — which are not composed of oil at all, but of mud, sand and tar-like bitumen. So-called unconventional reserves of these types can be exploited, but often at a staggering price, not just in dollars but also in damage to the environment.

On March 14 a rejoinder to Klare, titled The Myth of Scarce Oil by John Merline was posted in Investors Daily News from which the above graphic was modified. Merline expresses the (flawed) logic that’s now become part of the GOP mantra.

But the figure Obama uses — proved oil reserves — vastly undercounts how much oil the U.S. actually contains. In fact, far from being oil-poor, the country is awash in vast quantities — enough to meet all the country’s oil needs for hundreds of years.

On March 16 The New York Times published liberal economist Paul Krugman’s essay titled Natural born drillers that called out the GOP for its claims that more drilling would result in lower prices at the pump.

Oil prices are up because of rising demand from China and other emerging economies, and more recently because of war scares in the Middle East; these forces easily outweigh any downward pressure on prices from rising U.S. production. And the same thing would happen if Republicans got their way and oil companies were set free to drill freely in the Gulf of Mexico and punch holes in the tundra: the effect on prices at the pump would be negligible.

On March 17 Bob King posted an essay in about bogus claims in the rhetorical gas price war that includes the governor of the Bayou State.

…the Republican governor (Bobby Jindal) said (on Fox and Friends) the Obama administration has seen the “highest prices for oil and gasoline in 150 years.”

The reality: Gasoline prices are still below the peaks they reached under Bush in June 2008, when the inflation-adjusted monthly average price for a gallon of regular gasoline hit $4.26, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. And even at $107 a barrel, crude oil is still well below that summer’s high price of $145 a barrel.

On March 21 Zach Carter reported in HuffingtonPost on the effect of energy future speculation on the recent increase in oil prices.

“Speculation was the second-largest contributor to oil prices and accounted for about 15 percent of the rise,” the economists wrote. “The effect that speculation had on oil prices over this period coincides closely with the dramatic rise in commodity index trading — resulting in concerns voiced by policymakers.”

Baton Rouge NPR affiliate station WRKF-FM’ broadcast a March 21 interview on presidential politics and oil prices by news director Amy Jeffries with Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (LOGA). Briggs’ disdain for the president is clear.

BRIGGS: This is a global market when you talk about oil. And global means that we don’t set that (oil) price. The guy that sets the price is the guy that’s got the most oil, and that is OPEC. And they’re happy with $90-oil-plus. And believe me, if oil got down to $70, you’d see OPEC close that valve real quick, and take oil out of the marketplace, and drive the prices back up. If we were producing much more oil, then our prices that we’re paying for oil could decline (?)

JEFFRIES: Over the last three years under the Obama administration, have things gotten better or worse in terms of the ease of doing business?

BRIGGS: Oh, they’ve gotten much more difficult. When he (Obama) came on board, we could drill on the East Coast and the West Coast, and we were getting (ready) to drill off of Florida. He did shutdown the East Coast, the West Coast, and also Alaska…it’s no secret – the president is not in love with fossil fuels, and he does not like the oil and gas industry.

JEFFRIES: It sounds to me like you are quite convinced that having one of these Republican candidates in the oval office would be a good thing for Louisiana, and probably the nation, in that regard.

BRIGGS: Absolutely. It certainly would be.

On March 22 the New York Times published an op/ed column on gas price paranoia by Paul Krugman.

…the president of the United States doesn’t control gasoline prices, or even have much influence over those prices. Oil prices are set in a world market, and America, which accounts for only about a tenth of world production, can’t move those prices much. Indeed, the recent rise in gas prices has taken place despite rising U.S. oil production and falling imports.

These arguments and counter arguments about the future availability and cost of oil have three important implications for the restoration of America’s Delta:

A) Whomever is elected POTUS in November will be Louisiana’s federal partner in implementing the Louisiana Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast during the next four crucial years;

B) global oil availability and consumption will continue to influence the rate of sea level rise and ocean acidification; and

C) if the price of oil accelerates as shown in Figure 1 between now and 2030 (phase one of the Master Plan) the estimated $9.41 billion cost to create wetlands with dredged sediments will be far short of what’s needed.

*Founding Editor


Be Sociable, Share!
  1. Greetings! I’ve been following your website for a long time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Kingwood Tx! Just wanted to say keep up the good job!

  2. I was recommended this blog by my cousin. I’m not sure whether this post is written by him as no one else know such detailed about my difficulty.
    You’re amazing! Thanks!

  3. You have established you are eligible to write about this issue. Information for you to mention and the understanding and comprehension of these matters plainly reveal that you then have a lot of practical knowledge.

  4. Heya i am for the first time here. I came across this board and I find
    It really useful & it helped me out much. I hope to give something back and aid others like you helped me.

  5. I am a keen letter writer, and would like to know if there is in any case of creating a letter writing community by this. Creative letter writers writing to creative letter writers the planet over. I will reply to all those who wish to write and not just receive. 51 Lavender Sweep, London SW11 1DY. England

  6. Hello! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my good old room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this write-up to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

  7. This video post is genuinely wonderful, the echo quality and the picture quality of this film post is in fact remarkable.

  8. What do you guys believe of your new OSX Lion that just came out for Mac?

  9. Thumbs up for the very well-written article on the subject which I am very keen in. Can I enquire if there are edits in the near future? I will now put a bookmark on your wonderful site for readings in the future. Daisy Suites

  10. I was just chatting with my coworker about this final week in the resturant. Do not know how on the planet we landed on the subject truly, they

  11. I needed to post you this little word in order to thank you yet again considering the striking thoughts you’ve featured in this case. It was certainly strangely open-handed with people like you to provide without restraint what exactly many of us could have offered for an e book to generate some money for their own end, certainly since you could have tried it if you considered necessary. These suggestions additionally served to be a great way to realize that other people online have the same dreams like mine to see more and more when it comes to this problem. I believe there are numerous more pleasant periods in the future for folks who find out your website.

  12. my brother has a gambling challenge and he just burned a thousand bucks in 1 night-

  13. This article is top-notch. Your points are presented with intelligent and thoughtful content. Your contribution to this subject matter is more interesting than what I have found in other articles.

  14. Hello, I observed your blog site within a new directory of blogs. I will not know how your blog site came up, will need to have been a typo, Your blog looks excellent. Possess a nice day

  15. whoah this blog is superb i enjoy reading your articles. Preserve up the good function! You know, a lot of individuals are hunting around for this information, you can assist them tremendously. I appreciate, lead to I identified just what I was in search of. You have ended my four day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Possess a wonderful day. Bye

  16. Hi all, here every one is sharing such familiarity, thus it’s nice to read this webpage, and I used to go to see this weblog everyday.

  17. What’s up to every one, for the reason that I am in fact eager of reading this weblog’s post to be updated on a regular basis. It includes fastidious material.

  18. Exceptional blog right here! Additionally your web-site lots up fast! What host are you the use of? Can I get your affiliate link for your host? I want my internet site loaded up as quickly as yours lol

  19. From ‘Die Hard’ to ‘Sin City’, Bruce Willis’ good-guy-having-a-bad-day routine has evolved tiny, but it does not have to be fixed.

  20. It is the happiest time of my life so far, when I am watching these funny videos here, since after whole day working I was so tired and now feeling fine.

  21. Thank you for the sensible critique. Me & my neighbor were just preparing to do a little research on this. We got a grab a book from our local library but I think I learned more from this post. I’m very glad to see such great info being shared freely out there.

  22. buy viagra from us, amazing prices,f ast delivery, includes cialis and levitra

  23. Pretty great post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wished to say that I have absolutely enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you create once again soon!

  24. Your weblog never ceases to amaze me, it is actually very nicely written and organized.~*:`-

  25. Magnificent post, will probably be a daily visitor from now on!

  26. Hello! I recently would pick out to make a enormous thumbs up for the great information you might have right here for this post. We are coming back for your blog web site for considerably a lot more soon.

  27. Truly no matter if someone doesn’t know afterward its up to other users that they will assist, so here it occurs.

  28. Its like you read my mind! You seem to know so much approximately this, like you wrote the ebook in it or something. I feel that you can do with a few p.c. to force the message house a little bit, but other than that, that is magnificent blog. A fantastic read. I’ll definitely be back.

  29. This can be a excellent weblog and i desire to visit this every single day from the week .

  30. I simply wished to appreciate you yet once again. I’m not certain what I would have attained devoid of the complete tips documented by you with regards to such region. Certainly was a depressing circumstance in my position, but encountering this professional avenue you processed that created me to cry for happiness. I’m just happier for your facts and even wish you really know what a potent job you happen to be delivering teaching people at this time by way of your internet weblog. Most possibly you may have under no circumstances come across any of us.

  31. What’s up to all, I am also in fact keen of learning Personal home pages programming, but I am new one, I always used to examine articles related to Personal home page programming.

  32. Very interesting topic, regards for putting up.

  33. I’m content that I noticed this weblog , specifically the best info that I was searching for! .

  34. In fact when someone doesn’t understand then its up to other people that they will assist, so here it occurs.

  35. Hi to all, the contents existing at this site are really remarkable for people knowledge, well, keep up the nice work fellows.

  36. I like this site very much so much excellent information.

  37. I’m curious to find out what blog platform you have been using? I’m experiencing some minor security issues with my latest site and I’d like to find something more risk-free. Do you have any solutions?

  38. Very interesting post. I think your site really needs a re-design though! lol

  39. Hurrah, that’s what I was seeking for, what a information! present here at this blog, thanks admin of this web page.

  40. I am not used to blogging. Just how do i add a subscribe function to my website so new post goes to their email?

  41. hello!,I like your writing so much! percentage we be in contact more about your post on AOL? I need a specialist on this house to unravel my problem. Maybe that’s you! Looking ahead to peer you.

  42. fantastic points altogether, you simply gained a logo new reader. What may you suggest in regards to your publish that you just made a few days ago? Any sure?

  43. Hi i read your website usually and thought i’d personally say each of the greatest for 2010!

  44. “is no less ignorant than challenging Barack Obama’s Hawaiian birthplace”

    I don’t see why this is ignorant. Shouldn’t the president of the USA who is required to be a native born American Citizen provide a birth certificate. Or is my daughters T-Ball team more important? Doesn’t make sense to require a birth certificate for a kids T-ball team but not the President of the country.

  45. riverrat says:

    Briggs’ statement is amazing, and one more indication that his sanity is at times questionable. The East and West coasts were not open for drilling when Obama came into office, although he did propose opening part of the East coast a month before the BP disaster. That proposal hasn’t been revived so far. But he’s also moved to open up more of Alaska to drilling (although not the Arctic Refuge so coveted by Republicans as a chance to stick it to the environmental movement once and for all). What universe is Briggs living in? Is he delusional, or just a liar, or some combination of both? No such question needs to be asked of the Governor – he’s just a liar.

Leave a Reply