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How Ukraine Crisis Threatens Natural Gas, Oil  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards

How Ukraine Crisis Threatens Natural Gas, Oil  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards.

Follow above link to video…

How Ukraine Crisis Threatens Natural Gas, Oil

Kent Moors, executive chair at Global Energy Symposium, discusses the impact of the Ukraine crisis on global natural gas and oil markets on Bloomberg Television’s “The Pulse.”

How Ukraine Crisis Threatens Natural Gas, Oil  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards

How Ukraine Crisis Threatens Natural Gas, Oil  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards.

Follow above link to video…

How Ukraine Crisis Threatens Natural Gas, Oil

Kent Moors, executive chair at Global Energy Symposium, discusses the impact of the Ukraine crisis on global natural gas and oil markets on Bloomberg Television’s “The Pulse.”

New Study Shows Total North American Methane Leaks Far Worse than EPA Estimates | DeSmogBlog

New Study Shows Total North American Methane Leaks Far Worse than EPA Estimates | DeSmogBlog.

Fri, 2014-02-14 12:40SHARON KELLY

Sharon Kelly's picture

Just how bad is natural gas for the climate?

A lot worse than previously thought, new research on methane leaks concludes.

Far more natural gas is leaking into the atmosphere nationwide than the Environmental Protection Agency currently estimates, researchers concluded after reviewing more than 200 different studies of natural gas leaks across North America.

The ground-breaking study, published today in the prestigious journal Science, reports that the Environmental Protection Agency has understated how much methane leaks into the atmosphere nationwide by between 25 and 75 percent — meaning that the fuel is far more dangerous for the climate than the Obama administration asserts.

The study, titled “Methane Leakage from North American Natural Gas Systems,” was conducted by a team of 16 researchers from institutions including Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and is making headlines because it finally and definitively shows that natural gas production and development can make natural gas worse than other fossil fuels for the climate.

The research, which was reported in The Washington PostBloomberg and The New York Times, was funded by a foundation created by the late George P. Mitchell, the wildcatter who first successfully drilled shale gas, so it would be hard to dismiss it as the work of environmentalists hell-bent on discrediting the oil and gas industry.

The debate over the natural gas industry’s climate change effects has raged for several years, ever since researchers from Cornell University stunned policy-makers and environmentalists by warning that if enough methane seeps out between the gas well and the burner, relying on natural gas could be even more dangerous for the climate than burning coal.

Natural gas is mostly comprised of methane, an extraordinarily powerful greenhouse gas, which traps heat 86 times more effectively than carbon dioxide during the two decades after it enters the atmosphere, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, so even small leaks can have major climate impacts.

The team of researchers echoed many of the findings of the Cornell researchers and described how the federal government’s official estimate proved far too low.

“Atmospheric tests covering the entire country indicate emissions around 50 percent more than EPA estimates,” said Adam Brandt, the lead author of the new report and an assistant professor of energy resources engineering at Stanford University. “And that’s a moderate estimate.”

The new paper drew some praise from Dr. Robert Howarth, one of the Cornell scientists.

“This study is one of many that confirms that EPA has been underestimating the extent of methane leakage from the natural gas industry, and substantially so,” Dr. Howarth wrote, adding that the estimates for methane leaks in his 2011 paper and the new report are “in excellent agreement.”

In November, research led by Harvard University found that the leaks from the natural gas industry have been especially under-estimated. That study, published inthe Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, reported that methane emissions from fossil fuel extraction and oil refineries in some regions are nearly five times higher than previous estimates, and was one of the 200 included in Thursday’s Science study.

EPA Estimes Far Off-Target

So how did the EPA miss the mark by such a high margin?

The EPA’s estimate depends in large part on calculations — take the amount of methane released by an average cow, and multiply it by the number of cattle nationwide. Make a similar guess for how much methane leaks from an average gas well. But this leaves out a broad variety of sources — leaking abandoned natural gas wells, broken valves and the like.

Their numbers never jibed with findings from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of Energy, which approached the problem by taking measurements of methane and other gas levels from research flights and the tops of telecommunications towers.

But while these types of measurements show how much methane is in the atmosphere, they don’t explain where that methane came from. So it was still difficult to figure out how much of that methane originated from the oil and gas industry.

At times, EPA researchers went to oil and gas drilling sites to take measurements. But they relied on driller’s voluntary participation. For instance, one EPA study requested cooperation from 30 gas companies so they could measure emissions, but only six companies allowed the EPA on site.

“It’s impossible to take direct measurements of emissions from sources without site access,” said Garvin Heath, a senior scientist with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and a co-author of the new analysis in a press release. “Self-selection bias may be contributing to why inventories suggest emission levels that are systematically lower than what we sense in the atmosphere.” (DeSmog haspreviously reported on the problem of industry-selected well sites in similar research funded by the Environmental Defense Fund.)

Worse than Coal?

There was, however, one important point that the news coverage so far missed and that deserves attention — a crucial point that could undermine entirely the notion that natural gas can serve as a “bridge fuel” to help the nation transition away from other, dirtier fossil fuels.

In their press release, the team of researchers compared the climate effects of different fuels, like diesel and coal, against those of natural gas.

They found that powering trucks or busses with natural gas made things worse.

“Switching from diesel to natural gas, that’s not a good policy from a climate perspective” explained the study’s lead author, Adam R. Brandt, an assistant professor in the Department of Energy Resources at Stanford, calling into question a policy backed by President Obama in his recent State of the Union address.

The researchers also described the effects of switching from coal to natural gas for electricity — concluding that coal is worse for the climate in some cases. “Even though the gas system is almost certainly leakier than previously thought, generating electricity by burning gas rather than coal still reduces the total greenhouse effect over 100 years, the new analysis shows,” the team wrote in a press release.

But they failed to address the climate impacts of natural gas over a shorter period — the decades when the effects of methane are at their most potent.

“What is strange about this paper is how they interpret methane emissions:  they only look at electricity, and they only consider the global warming potential of methane at the 100-year time frame,” said Dr. Howarth. Howarth’s 2011 Cornell study reviewed all uses of gas, noting that electricity is only roughly 30% of use in the US, and describing both a 20- and a 100-year time frame.

The choice of time-frame is vital because methane does not last as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, so impact shifts over time. “The new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report from last fall — their first update on the global situation since 2007 — clearly states that looking only at the 100 year time frame is arbitrary, and one should also consider shorter time frames, including a 10-year time frame,” Dr. Howarth pointed out.

Another paper, published in Science in 2012, explains why it’s so important to look at the shorter time frames.

Unless methane is controlled, the planet will warm by 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius over the next 17 to 35 years, and that’s even if carbon dioxide emissions are controlled. That kind of a temperature rise could potentially shift the climate of our planet into runaway feedback of further global warming.

“[B]y only looking at the 100 year time frame and only looking at electricity production, this new paper is biasing the analysis of greenhouse gas emissions between natural gas and coal in favor of natural gas being low,” said Dr. Howarth, “and by a huge amount, three to four to perhaps five fold.”

Dr. Howarth’s colleague, Prof. Anthony Ingraffea, raised a similar complaint.

“Once again, there is a stubborn use of the 100-year impact of methane on global warming, a factor about 30 times that of CO2,” Dr. Ingraffea told Climate Central, adding that there is no scientific justification to use the 100-year time window.

“That is a policy decision, perhaps based on faulty understanding of the climate change situation in which we find ourselves, perhaps based on wishful thinking,” he said.

For its part, the oil and gas industry seems very aware of the policy implications of this major new research and is already pushing back against any increased oversight of its operations.

“Given that producers are voluntarily reducing methane emissions,” Carlton Carroll, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, told The New York Times in an interview about the new study, “additional regulations are not necessary.”
Photo Credit: “White Smoke from Coal-Fired Power Plant,” via Shutterstock.

New Study Shows Total North American Methane Leaks Far Worse than EPA Estimates | DeSmogBlog

New Study Shows Total North American Methane Leaks Far Worse than EPA Estimates | DeSmogBlog.

Fri, 2014-02-14 12:40SHARON KELLY

Sharon Kelly's picture

Just how bad is natural gas for the climate?

A lot worse than previously thought, new research on methane leaks concludes.

Far more natural gas is leaking into the atmosphere nationwide than the Environmental Protection Agency currently estimates, researchers concluded after reviewing more than 200 different studies of natural gas leaks across North America.

The ground-breaking study, published today in the prestigious journal Science, reports that the Environmental Protection Agency has understated how much methane leaks into the atmosphere nationwide by between 25 and 75 percent — meaning that the fuel is far more dangerous for the climate than the Obama administration asserts.

The study, titled “Methane Leakage from North American Natural Gas Systems,” was conducted by a team of 16 researchers from institutions including Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and is making headlines because it finally and definitively shows that natural gas production and development can make natural gas worse than other fossil fuels for the climate.

The research, which was reported in The Washington PostBloomberg and The New York Times, was funded by a foundation created by the late George P. Mitchell, the wildcatter who first successfully drilled shale gas, so it would be hard to dismiss it as the work of environmentalists hell-bent on discrediting the oil and gas industry.

The debate over the natural gas industry’s climate change effects has raged for several years, ever since researchers from Cornell University stunned policy-makers and environmentalists by warning that if enough methane seeps out between the gas well and the burner, relying on natural gas could be even more dangerous for the climate than burning coal.

Natural gas is mostly comprised of methane, an extraordinarily powerful greenhouse gas, which traps heat 86 times more effectively than carbon dioxide during the two decades after it enters the atmosphere, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, so even small leaks can have major climate impacts.

The team of researchers echoed many of the findings of the Cornell researchers and described how the federal government’s official estimate proved far too low.

“Atmospheric tests covering the entire country indicate emissions around 50 percent more than EPA estimates,” said Adam Brandt, the lead author of the new report and an assistant professor of energy resources engineering at Stanford University. “And that’s a moderate estimate.”

The new paper drew some praise from Dr. Robert Howarth, one of the Cornell scientists.

“This study is one of many that confirms that EPA has been underestimating the extent of methane leakage from the natural gas industry, and substantially so,” Dr. Howarth wrote, adding that the estimates for methane leaks in his 2011 paper and the new report are “in excellent agreement.”

In November, research led by Harvard University found that the leaks from the natural gas industry have been especially under-estimated. That study, published inthe Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, reported that methane emissions from fossil fuel extraction and oil refineries in some regions are nearly five times higher than previous estimates, and was one of the 200 included in Thursday’s Science study.

EPA Estimes Far Off-Target

So how did the EPA miss the mark by such a high margin?

The EPA’s estimate depends in large part on calculations — take the amount of methane released by an average cow, and multiply it by the number of cattle nationwide. Make a similar guess for how much methane leaks from an average gas well. But this leaves out a broad variety of sources — leaking abandoned natural gas wells, broken valves and the like.

Their numbers never jibed with findings from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of Energy, which approached the problem by taking measurements of methane and other gas levels from research flights and the tops of telecommunications towers.

But while these types of measurements show how much methane is in the atmosphere, they don’t explain where that methane came from. So it was still difficult to figure out how much of that methane originated from the oil and gas industry.

At times, EPA researchers went to oil and gas drilling sites to take measurements. But they relied on driller’s voluntary participation. For instance, one EPA study requested cooperation from 30 gas companies so they could measure emissions, but only six companies allowed the EPA on site.

“It’s impossible to take direct measurements of emissions from sources without site access,” said Garvin Heath, a senior scientist with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and a co-author of the new analysis in a press release. “Self-selection bias may be contributing to why inventories suggest emission levels that are systematically lower than what we sense in the atmosphere.” (DeSmog haspreviously reported on the problem of industry-selected well sites in similar research funded by the Environmental Defense Fund.)

Worse than Coal?

There was, however, one important point that the news coverage so far missed and that deserves attention — a crucial point that could undermine entirely the notion that natural gas can serve as a “bridge fuel” to help the nation transition away from other, dirtier fossil fuels.

In their press release, the team of researchers compared the climate effects of different fuels, like diesel and coal, against those of natural gas.

They found that powering trucks or busses with natural gas made things worse.

“Switching from diesel to natural gas, that’s not a good policy from a climate perspective” explained the study’s lead author, Adam R. Brandt, an assistant professor in the Department of Energy Resources at Stanford, calling into question a policy backed by President Obama in his recent State of the Union address.

The researchers also described the effects of switching from coal to natural gas for electricity — concluding that coal is worse for the climate in some cases. “Even though the gas system is almost certainly leakier than previously thought, generating electricity by burning gas rather than coal still reduces the total greenhouse effect over 100 years, the new analysis shows,” the team wrote in a press release.

But they failed to address the climate impacts of natural gas over a shorter period — the decades when the effects of methane are at their most potent.

“What is strange about this paper is how they interpret methane emissions:  they only look at electricity, and they only consider the global warming potential of methane at the 100-year time frame,” said Dr. Howarth. Howarth’s 2011 Cornell study reviewed all uses of gas, noting that electricity is only roughly 30% of use in the US, and describing both a 20- and a 100-year time frame.

The choice of time-frame is vital because methane does not last as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, so impact shifts over time. “The new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report from last fall — their first update on the global situation since 2007 — clearly states that looking only at the 100 year time frame is arbitrary, and one should also consider shorter time frames, including a 10-year time frame,” Dr. Howarth pointed out.

Another paper, published in Science in 2012, explains why it’s so important to look at the shorter time frames.

Unless methane is controlled, the planet will warm by 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius over the next 17 to 35 years, and that’s even if carbon dioxide emissions are controlled. That kind of a temperature rise could potentially shift the climate of our planet into runaway feedback of further global warming.

“[B]y only looking at the 100 year time frame and only looking at electricity production, this new paper is biasing the analysis of greenhouse gas emissions between natural gas and coal in favor of natural gas being low,” said Dr. Howarth, “and by a huge amount, three to four to perhaps five fold.”

Dr. Howarth’s colleague, Prof. Anthony Ingraffea, raised a similar complaint.

“Once again, there is a stubborn use of the 100-year impact of methane on global warming, a factor about 30 times that of CO2,” Dr. Ingraffea told Climate Central, adding that there is no scientific justification to use the 100-year time window.

“That is a policy decision, perhaps based on faulty understanding of the climate change situation in which we find ourselves, perhaps based on wishful thinking,” he said.

For its part, the oil and gas industry seems very aware of the policy implications of this major new research and is already pushing back against any increased oversight of its operations.

“Given that producers are voluntarily reducing methane emissions,” Carlton Carroll, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, told The New York Times in an interview about the new study, “additional regulations are not necessary.”
Photo Credit: “White Smoke from Coal-Fired Power Plant,” via Shutterstock.

Keystone XL Decision Highlights Coziness Between Oil and Gas Industry, Obama Administration | DeSmogBlog

Keystone XL Decision Highlights Coziness Between Oil and Gas Industry, Obama Administration | DeSmogBlog.

Mon, 2014-02-03 11:59SHARON KELLY

Sharon Kelly's picture

This past week was good to the oil and gas industry. First, President Obama talked up jobs gains from drilling and labeled natural gas a “bridge fuel” in his State of the Union address, using terminology favored by natural gas advocates.

Then, on Friday, the Obama administration released a much-awaited assessment of the Keystone XL pipeline’s environmental impacts which concluded that pipeline construction “remains unlikely to  significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands,” effectively turning a blind eye to the staggering carbon emissions from tar sands extraction and expansion plans.

While Mr. Obama’s warm embrace of fossil fuels surprised some environmentalists, it should come as little surprise in light of prior comments made by the CEO of the American Petroleum Institute (API).

“It’s our expectation it will be released next week,” Jack Gerard confidently told Reuters, referring to the Keystone XL assessment, while many were still speculating that the report might not be issued until after the November mid-term election. “We’re expecting to hear the same conclusion that we’ve heard four times before: no significant impact on the environment.”

Mr. Gerard added that these predictions were based on sources within the administration.

In fact, as the Keystone decision-making process has unfolded, the oil and gas industry has had — as they’ve enjoyed for decades — intensive access to decision-making in the White House.  This access has helped form the Obama administration’s schizophrenic energy policy, in which the President backs both renewable energy and fossil fuels without acknowledging that the two are competitors. When fossil fuels gain market share, renewables lose.

While even the World Bank has called for immediate action on climate change, the API, which has worked hard to shape Obama’s views on fossil fuels, has also worked to create doubt around the very concept of fossil-fuel-driven climate change and to downplay the impact their industry has had.

There’s no question that the oil and gas industry wields enormous sway inside Washington D.C.

The API has spent $9.3 million dollars this year alone on reportable lobbying expenses, the highest amount in the group’s history, according to data from OpenSecrets.org. This summer, a DeSmog investigation found that API spent $22.03 million dollars lobbying at the federal level on Keystone XL and/or tar sands issues since June 2008, when the pipeline project was first proposed.

The API has also worked hard to convince lawmakers that voters overwhelmingly back the pipeline (despite a groundswell of grassroots organizing that has led to the project’s declining popularity).

This summer, Mr. Gerard’s group launched a massive ad campaign — featuringformer Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — that was timed to be seen by lawmakers in Washington D.C. and when they headed back to their home states for recess. API has also funded astroturf campaigns (exposed by leaked documents), cited questionable job creation numbers, and drawn fire from media watchdogs for playing fast and loose with the facts.

The industry’s influence over Obama’s administration on Keystone XL has at times been downright scandalous. Obama’s State Department hired an API member, Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM), to evaluate the Keystone XL pipeline’s potential environmental impact.

In a blockbuster investigative reportMother Jones revealed that ERM’s Keystone experts previously worked for TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone project, along with other oil and gas companies poised to profit from the pipeline’s construction. When the report was released publicly by the State Department, reporter Andy Kroll had noticed something especially odd: the biographies of each expert had been redacted, suggesting that the State Department may have known of those potential conflicts and attempted to hide that fact.

The State Department’s inspector general promised to investigate the conflict of interest allegations, but the results of those investigations are still not public.

The API has tended to strongly favor Republicans over Democrats in its campaign contributions, but over the past several years, the Obama administration hasreached out to the oil and gas industry group, soliciting its views. Nonetheless, Mr. Gerard remained unsatisfied. “At least they’re listening,” he told Oil and Gas Journal in 2012. “But they’re not following every one of our recommendations.”

If this past week is any indication, that might be starting to shift.

After Obama’s State of the Union address, Mr. Gerard was quick to applaud the President’s description of natural gas — which emits a little more than half as much carbon dioxide when burned as coal, but whose total climate impacts could actually be worse than coal once methane emissions are tallied — saying that the President was evolving.

“This year he gave a full-throated endorsement to natural gas,” Mr. Gerard told theWall Street Journal. “Next year, he’ll be giving a full-throated endorsement to U.S. oil production.”

“His words are going in the right direction for us,” Mr. Gerard added.

The API has emerged as a significant influence over the Obama administration, and its inherently flawed all-of-the-above vision for our energy future.

The reason Keystone XL matters so much is not just as its symbolic importance as the fact that it would reflect a major long-term commitment to continued fossil fuel extraction — at a moment when climate experts are saying we must takeimmediate and drastic action and leave two-thirds of known fossil reserves in the ground.

In his State of the Union, Mr. Obama talked up benefits of oil and gas and thengave mention to renewables like wind and solar, but he showed no awareness that a long-term commitment to fossil fuels is in direct tension with furthering renewable energy.

“If we are truly serious about fighting the climate crisis, we must look beyond an ‘all of the above’ energy policy and replace dirty fuels with clean energy,” the Sierra Club’s Michael Brune said. “We can’t effectively act on climate and expand drilling and fracking for oil and gas at the same time.”

For its part, the API’s stance on climate has long been one of obfuscation. A 1998 API “Communications Action Plan” reads: “Victory will be achieved when … citizens ‘understand’ uncertainties in climate science … [and] recognition of uncertainties becomes part of the ‘conventional wisdom.'”

Jack Gerard has argued that fracking represents a benefit for the environment,citing the fact that carbon emissions have dropped since the shale boom began.

Not only does this ignore the role that the recession has played in reducing energy consumption, but it also ignores the effects of another key greenhouse gas: methane. There is strong evidence that methane emissions from the oil and gas industry could make natural gas even worse than burning coal, in terms of its overall climate impact.

And, there are signs that the reductions cited by Mr. Gerard are already over. Earlier this month, the EIA announced that CO2 emissions rose 2 percent in 2013, reversing earlier declines.

Of course, if Keystone XL is ultimately approved, carbon emissions can be expected to spike. The pipeline will carry up to 830,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day. Opening Keystone would emit as much CO2 into the atmosphere as opening six new coal-fired power plants, the Pembina Institute estimated.

“This is a large source of carbon that’s going to be unleashed,” Larry Schweiger, the president of the National Wildlife Federation told The New York Times after the State Department’s Keystone report was released. “We’re headed in a terribly wrong direction with this project, and I don’t see how that large increase in carbon is going to be offset.”

But if you ask Jack Gerard, there’s nothing to worry about. “This final review puts to rest any credible concerns about the pipeline’s potential negative impact on the environment,” he said in a statement. “This long-awaited project should now be swiftly approved.”

Photo Credit: Oil and Gas Well, via Shutterstock.

Keystone XL Decision Highlights Coziness Between Oil and Gas Industry, Obama Administration | DeSmogBlog

Keystone XL Decision Highlights Coziness Between Oil and Gas Industry, Obama Administration | DeSmogBlog.

Mon, 2014-02-03 11:59SHARON KELLY

Sharon Kelly's picture

This past week was good to the oil and gas industry. First, President Obama talked up jobs gains from drilling and labeled natural gas a “bridge fuel” in his State of the Union address, using terminology favored by natural gas advocates.

Then, on Friday, the Obama administration released a much-awaited assessment of the Keystone XL pipeline’s environmental impacts which concluded that pipeline construction “remains unlikely to  significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands,” effectively turning a blind eye to the staggering carbon emissions from tar sands extraction and expansion plans.

While Mr. Obama’s warm embrace of fossil fuels surprised some environmentalists, it should come as little surprise in light of prior comments made by the CEO of the American Petroleum Institute (API).

“It’s our expectation it will be released next week,” Jack Gerard confidently told Reuters, referring to the Keystone XL assessment, while many were still speculating that the report might not be issued until after the November mid-term election. “We’re expecting to hear the same conclusion that we’ve heard four times before: no significant impact on the environment.”

Mr. Gerard added that these predictions were based on sources within the administration.

In fact, as the Keystone decision-making process has unfolded, the oil and gas industry has had — as they’ve enjoyed for decades — intensive access to decision-making in the White House.  This access has helped form the Obama administration’s schizophrenic energy policy, in which the President backs both renewable energy and fossil fuels without acknowledging that the two are competitors. When fossil fuels gain market share, renewables lose.

While even the World Bank has called for immediate action on climate change, the API, which has worked hard to shape Obama’s views on fossil fuels, has also worked to create doubt around the very concept of fossil-fuel-driven climate change and to downplay the impact their industry has had.

There’s no question that the oil and gas industry wields enormous sway inside Washington D.C.

The API has spent $9.3 million dollars this year alone on reportable lobbying expenses, the highest amount in the group’s history, according to data from OpenSecrets.org. This summer, a DeSmog investigation found that API spent $22.03 million dollars lobbying at the federal level on Keystone XL and/or tar sands issues since June 2008, when the pipeline project was first proposed.

The API has also worked hard to convince lawmakers that voters overwhelmingly back the pipeline (despite a groundswell of grassroots organizing that has led to the project’s declining popularity).

This summer, Mr. Gerard’s group launched a massive ad campaign — featuringformer Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — that was timed to be seen by lawmakers in Washington D.C. and when they headed back to their home states for recess. API has also funded astroturf campaigns (exposed by leaked documents), cited questionable job creation numbers, and drawn fire from media watchdogs for playing fast and loose with the facts.

The industry’s influence over Obama’s administration on Keystone XL has at times been downright scandalous. Obama’s State Department hired an API member, Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM), to evaluate the Keystone XL pipeline’s potential environmental impact.

In a blockbuster investigative reportMother Jones revealed that ERM’s Keystone experts previously worked for TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone project, along with other oil and gas companies poised to profit from the pipeline’s construction. When the report was released publicly by the State Department, reporter Andy Kroll had noticed something especially odd: the biographies of each expert had been redacted, suggesting that the State Department may have known of those potential conflicts and attempted to hide that fact.

The State Department’s inspector general promised to investigate the conflict of interest allegations, but the results of those investigations are still not public.

The API has tended to strongly favor Republicans over Democrats in its campaign contributions, but over the past several years, the Obama administration hasreached out to the oil and gas industry group, soliciting its views. Nonetheless, Mr. Gerard remained unsatisfied. “At least they’re listening,” he told Oil and Gas Journal in 2012. “But they’re not following every one of our recommendations.”

If this past week is any indication, that might be starting to shift.

After Obama’s State of the Union address, Mr. Gerard was quick to applaud the President’s description of natural gas — which emits a little more than half as much carbon dioxide when burned as coal, but whose total climate impacts could actually be worse than coal once methane emissions are tallied — saying that the President was evolving.

“This year he gave a full-throated endorsement to natural gas,” Mr. Gerard told theWall Street Journal. “Next year, he’ll be giving a full-throated endorsement to U.S. oil production.”

“His words are going in the right direction for us,” Mr. Gerard added.

The API has emerged as a significant influence over the Obama administration, and its inherently flawed all-of-the-above vision for our energy future.

The reason Keystone XL matters so much is not just as its symbolic importance as the fact that it would reflect a major long-term commitment to continued fossil fuel extraction — at a moment when climate experts are saying we must takeimmediate and drastic action and leave two-thirds of known fossil reserves in the ground.

In his State of the Union, Mr. Obama talked up benefits of oil and gas and thengave mention to renewables like wind and solar, but he showed no awareness that a long-term commitment to fossil fuels is in direct tension with furthering renewable energy.

“If we are truly serious about fighting the climate crisis, we must look beyond an ‘all of the above’ energy policy and replace dirty fuels with clean energy,” the Sierra Club’s Michael Brune said. “We can’t effectively act on climate and expand drilling and fracking for oil and gas at the same time.”

For its part, the API’s stance on climate has long been one of obfuscation. A 1998 API “Communications Action Plan” reads: “Victory will be achieved when … citizens ‘understand’ uncertainties in climate science … [and] recognition of uncertainties becomes part of the ‘conventional wisdom.'”

Jack Gerard has argued that fracking represents a benefit for the environment,citing the fact that carbon emissions have dropped since the shale boom began.

Not only does this ignore the role that the recession has played in reducing energy consumption, but it also ignores the effects of another key greenhouse gas: methane. There is strong evidence that methane emissions from the oil and gas industry could make natural gas even worse than burning coal, in terms of its overall climate impact.

And, there are signs that the reductions cited by Mr. Gerard are already over. Earlier this month, the EIA announced that CO2 emissions rose 2 percent in 2013, reversing earlier declines.

Of course, if Keystone XL is ultimately approved, carbon emissions can be expected to spike. The pipeline will carry up to 830,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day. Opening Keystone would emit as much CO2 into the atmosphere as opening six new coal-fired power plants, the Pembina Institute estimated.

“This is a large source of carbon that’s going to be unleashed,” Larry Schweiger, the president of the National Wildlife Federation told The New York Times after the State Department’s Keystone report was released. “We’re headed in a terribly wrong direction with this project, and I don’t see how that large increase in carbon is going to be offset.”

But if you ask Jack Gerard, there’s nothing to worry about. “This final review puts to rest any credible concerns about the pipeline’s potential negative impact on the environment,” he said in a statement. “This long-awaited project should now be swiftly approved.”

Photo Credit: Oil and Gas Well, via Shutterstock.

Ukraine overthrows Yanukovych amid US/Russia power struggle over natural gas – National Environment | Examiner.com

Ukraine overthrows Yanukovych amid US/Russia power struggle over natural gas – National Environment | Examiner.com.

See also

February 22, 2014

The popular uprising in Ukraine has resulted in ex-President Yanukovych fleeing the capitol on Saturday, apparently retreating to the safety of Kharkiv, a city in Russia-friendly Eastern Ukraine. While it’s extremely historically significant that a popular uprising has overthrown a Russia-backed government, the events also illustrate a global power struggle centering on natural gas supplies, hydraulic fracturing, and Europe’s reliance on Russia for natural gas.

Ukraine is not only a key linkage point between Europe and Russia, the country also has significant shale deposits from which shale gas can be extracted through fracking (a.k.a. hydraulic fracturing). Coincidentally, the two regions of shale deposits, centered around Lviv in western Ukraine and Kharkiv in the east, happen to be key cities in Yanukovych’s overthrow. Lviv freed itself from rule by the central government months ago. Further, the platoon of police officers who “defected” on Friday, joining the protesters, were from Lviv. Kharkiv is the city to which Yanukovych has fled, and which was the scene of an assembly of regional political bosses who have voted to reject actions by the Parliament.

The crisis in Ukraine began a few years ago when Russia cut off gas supplies to Europe because Ukraine had raised trans-shipment fees. Ukraine houses several natural gas pipelines that have historically linked Russia and Europe, and through which Russia supplies Europe with most of its natural gas. Since then, Russia has begun work on two pipelines, Nordstream and South Stream, which are meant to bypass the pipelines going through Ukraine, letting Russia directly sell natural gas to Europe.

At the same time the US State Department set up a program, the Unconventional Gas Technical Engagement Program, whose purpose is to export hydraulic fracturing technology to countries all around the world. One focus of the program is also to help Europe free itself from dependency on Russian natural gas. The pattern followed by the UGTEP is to start by educating governments about the benefits, downplaying hazards, while assessing regulatory requirements in each country. An example is a USAID document, UKRAINE SHALE GAS: ENVIRONMENTAL AND REGULATORY ASSESSMENT, assessing the possibility of exploiting shale gas deposits in Ukraine. The document was meant to prepare the Ukranian government to exploit their shale gas deposits, or specifically:

  1. Help the government of Ukraine to develop an environmentally sound framework for pursuing shale gas development
  2. Develop more refined environmental reviews for shale gas development
  3. Develop improved regulatory approaches
  4. Assist in the development of more transparent and efficient contract tendering

Therefore, the US Government’s goal is to develop shale gas in Ukraine using Hydraulic Fracturing. The task is very expensive, well beyond Ukraine’s financial capabilities, leading the country to seek financial aid from either the European Union or Russia. In January 2013, Ukraine signed a deal with Royal Dutch Shell allowing that company to begin exploratory work ahead of fracking operations, and in November 2013 Ukraine signed a similar deal with Chevron. Meaning that Western powers were making progress in Ukraine, until the country performed an about-face and embraced Russia.

The crisis began when Ukraine chose to partner with Russia rather than the EU. That pitted the West (US and EU) against Russia in a battle for dominance over Ukraine.

The protesters in the street were angered by that turn of events, preferring to partner with the EU rather than Russia. Now that the protesters have succeeded in removing Yanukovych from power, the door is open to Western powers reasserting the control necessary for Western oil companies to go about the job of Fracking Ukraine. Unless the country dissolves into a civil war.

Meanwhile In Non-Pro-Europe Ukraine | Zero Hedge

Meanwhile In Non-Pro-Europe Ukraine | Zero Hedge.

The bad feelings concerning Russia run deep in the Western parts of Ukraine (as they topple statues of Lenin in growing numbers) while in the East they see themselves much more as Russians. These feelings run very deep in the region and memories do not fade so easily as the mayor and police chief of Kerch vigorously defend the Ukrainian flag in the clip below – deep in the eastern Crimea region (that Russia has already suggested it is willing to go to war over). Russian President Vladimir Putin has now been placed in a very difficult position, as Martin Armstrong notes, the entire set of circumstances creates the image of events in Ukraine that have diminished the power of Russia, which is a matter of pride and the only stable resolution remains a split along the language faultline. The critical question then is – will Putin let it go?

 

In the west they are toppling Lenin statues en masse

 

 

But in the East, the mayor and city officials in Kerch, Crimea defend the Ukrainian flag…

 

 

 

The big question- of course – will Putin let it go? (via Martin Armstrong),

Russian President Vladimir Putin has now been placed in a very difficult position. As the protesters in Ukraine gathered the support of the police against the mercenaries, they turned the tide of politics for the moment. Putin’s Sochi Olympic moment has been overshadowed by the bloody mess in neighboring Ukraine thanks to the insanity of Yanukovich trying to oppress the people as in the old days. Yanukovich has demonstrated that ultimate power always corrupts ultimately. There must be checks and balances.

The entire set of circumstances creates the image of events in Ukraine that have diminished the power of Russia, which is a matter of pride. The situation may appear that it is slipping out of control and Russia will just walk away. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine that Putin will just walk away and leave Ukraine to its own devices. There is political pride that is at stake here and Putin said in 2005 that the fall of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century. Putin’s view of this is not economic, but only political. From that perspective, we must understand that if the USA split apart as was the case with the Civil War, there is a sense that a loss of prestige and power will engulf the nation unless the lost portion is regained.

There are lessons from history on this point to demonstrate this is not my personal opinion. Take the Roman Emperor Aurelian (270–275 AD) who fought to regain the European portion that separated from Rome known as the Gallic Empire and in the East defeated Zenobia who established the Empire of Palmyra. Putin’s desire to retake the former nations that were part of the Soviet Union is in accordance with history and would be an exception if it were not true.  Therefore, to allow Ukraine to slip out of Russia’s orbit would make Putin no better than Mikhail Gorbachev, who presided over the Soviet empire’s dissolution in 1991 and allowed the very thing he sees as a great geopolitical catastrophe.

There can be no question that Putin wants Ukraine to join Russia’s economic attempt to create the offset to the EU with his Customs Union that includes Belarus, Kazakhstan, and soon, Armenia. The Customs Union is his counter economic response to the European Union’s much larger trading bloc. On this score, economics is the battleground.

It is true that only after Yanukovych broke off with the EU moving away from a European Union integration accord last November and chose Russia instead that the protests began in Ukraine. Putin applied pressure and Yanukovych responded taking the nation toward the Customs Union rather than the EU that would have no doubt curtailed trade to a large extent and reduced the prospect for greater entrepreneurship in Ukraine. The emergence of small business in Ukraine does not match the oligarchy monopolies inside the Russian economic model. However, this was more the straw that broke the camel’s back than the spark that ignited the revolution.

I have explained in the Cycles of War that Russia and Ukraine have deep historical links dating back to the Kievan Rus, from whom the very word “Russia” emerges. They were the days of the 11th and 12th centuries and they are traditionally seen as the beginning of Russia and the ancestor of Belarus and Ukraine. Kiev was the first real capital of Russia before Moscow. Therefore, we have a mother-country complex involved as well.

According to the Russian business daily Kommersant, they cited a source in a NATO country’s delegation back in 2008 that reported Putin had told President George W. Bush: “You understand, George, that Ukraine isn’t even a state.” Indeed, Ukraine has been the real mother-country to Russia for most of the last 900 years prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Certainly, parts of what is now called Ukraine have been controlled by many various countries as the borders have constantly change including Poland, Lithuania, the Khanate of Crimea, Austria-Hungary, Germany, in addition to Russia. Putin has often referred to Ukraine as “little Russia.” So clearly, there are serious issues here that warn that the immediate result in Ukraine may not yet be permanent independence. I have suggested that Ukraine split along the language faultline BECAUSE history warns that Russia is not likely to simply fade into the night. This is the ONLY solution that may allow Ukrainian independence and Russia to maintain its pride.

Strategically, Crimea, the southern part of Ukraine on the Black Sea, was part of Russia until 1954. At that time, Crimea was given to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, supposedly to strengthen brotherly ties. However, the majority of the population were Russian – not Ukrainian! Therein lies part of the problem. This “gift” of Crimea to Ukraine would be like the USA giving Texas to Mexico and Texans would suddenly all be Mexican. Would they “feel” Mexican or American?

There is also Russia’s Black Sea Fleet that is headquartered in the Crimean city of Sevastopol, which is less than 200 miles northwest of Sochi where the Olympic Games are being held. It is hard to imagine that the Ukrainian government could even end that lease without major consequences. Russia would no doubt be forced to move its headquarters east to Novorossiysk, yet this will have a serious geopolitical loss of face. Just last December, Russia proposed a deal of providing cheaper natural gas to Ukraine in exchange for better terms on its lease in Sevastopol. This is another reason there should be serious consideration of a split handing back the Crimea to Russia.

With the crisis over Syria that is the Saudi attempt to get a pipeline through Syria to compete with Russia on natural gas sales to Europe, Ukraine also presents a very serious problem for Russia. Natural gas sales to Europe are a key source of foreign exchange for Russia, yet a large portion of that gas actually passes through Ukraine. An independent Ukraine may present an economic threat to Russia if those pipelines were to be shut off. Nevertheless, Gazprom is also hedging its bets by building a new South Stream pipeline that crosses the Black Sea on the seabed from Russia to Bulgaria, bypassing Ukraine. This could relieve that geopolitical-economic threat, but it is not immediate. Clearly, this comes at a time that is serious in light of what the USA and Saudi’s are trying to pull off with the overthrow of Syria pretending they care about human rights when in fact it is all about that pipeline.

The Ukrainians really do not “feel“ that they are Russian and they have toppled statues of Lenin everywhere.  Why? Historically, Josef Stalin brutally subjugated Ukraine back in the 1930s. He confiscated all the wealth liquidating the farmers that were known as kulaks. The bad feelings concerning Russia run deep in the Western parts while in the East they see themselves as Russians.These feelings run very deep in the region and memories do not fade so easily. We still have the word “vandalize” that comes from the North African Vandals sacking Rome back in 455AD. China still hates Japan for their brutal invasion. These feelings and memories do not really exist in the USA most likely because of the very diverse ethnic backgrounds creating a melting pot rather than one group that remembers another.

ClubOrlov: Shock over Ukraine

ClubOrlov: Shock over Ukraine.

Pawel Kuczyński

[Update: I am pushing this live a few days early, because the Ukrainian situation is evolving so rapidly. One political corpse (Yanukovych) is out; apparently he has fled to Russia. Another political corpse (Tymoshenko) has been hastily rehabilitated and is ready to be put on the ballot for elections in May. Question is, Will there still be a country for her to (pretend to) run? Financial reserves are down to a few days, federal structures are being dismantled throughout the country, regional governors are fleeing, and a default on some €60 billion of Ukrainian bonds, many held by Russian banks, seems likely. Could this be just the kind of financial contagion needed to finally pop the ridiculous US equities bubble? At least two Ukrainian provinces are openly talking secession; one (Crimea) wants to immediately join Russian Federation. A question for US State Dept. flunkies and EU functionaries: What does that do to your geopolitical calculus? At risk are five nuclear power plants and a lot of Russian gas that transits Ukraine on its way west. Ukraine is shaping up to be a lot like Yugoslavia, except with more than twice as many people, lots of crazed street fighters who think they now own the place, and a role critical to European energy security. If you aren’t in shock about this, then you haven’t been paying attention.]

I’ve been receiving a lot of emails asking me what I thought was happening in Ukraine. It took me a while to formulate an opinion, but what I now think is happening is this: a complete and utter failure of politics on every level.

Everyone has failed: the EU representatives, the US State Department with its Victoria “Fuck the EU” Nuland, the Yanukovych government, its political opponents, and the Kremin. And now they are all in shock and nobody knows what to do. Except for the protesters, who do know what to do: continue to protest. Most of them don’t even know what it is they are protesting, but, in essence, they are protesting the very existence of their country, which is made up of two parts: Eastern Poland, which is Ukrainian-speaking and predominantly Catholic, and Western Russia, which is Russian-speaking and predominantly Orthodox. The “Russians” outnumber the “Ukrainians” two to one. The ultimate resolution to the crisis lies in partitioning the country. Nobody has the stomach to even talk about it—yet. But until that happens we will continue being subjected to this strange spectacle, where every single actor in Ukraine does everything possible to undermine the country’s political system. Deep down, the Ukrainians don’t want there to be a different government in Kiev—they don’t want there to be a government in Kiev at all.
I now turn it over to Andrey Tymofeiuk, a Kiev resident who posted the following on his Facebook page, in obscenity-riddled Russian. (The Russian language is remarkably rich in obscenities, which pack tremendous expressive power but don’t translate into English with its paltry collection of four-letter words.) I think he provided a good, information-rich summary of the situation from all the angles, his graduate-level potty-mouth notwithstanding, so please give him props. Translation and clean-up are mine.
I think that the current situation is such that everyone is in terrible shock over what’s happening.

The EU representatives are shocked most of all. They were playing at being skillful diplomats, who stooped to work with the barbarous dictator of a third-world country. He was supposed to quiver with anticipation over his handout, in the form of an EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, which would have allowed him to don the mantle of the great Euro-integrator and win the 2015 elections.

Gazing down from their lofty diplomatic perch, these experts were blindsided when the barbarous dictator suddenly decided to do a bit of arithmetic, spotted a flaw in the deal (Ukrainian national bankruptcy) and swiftly decided to take his 46 million slaves away from the EU and give them to Moscow instead. And then, due to their ridiculous bureaucracy and complete lack of understanding of Ukrainian reality, they allowed an initially peaceful protest to develop into something like civil war.

The EU representatives really don’t need a bloody quagmire with a humanitarian crisis, hundreds of thousands of refugees, terrorist attacks, tanks on the streets and other such joys, and they will try to do all they can to prevent it, even if this means that the thick-headed barbarous dictator has to stay in power. But the problem is that the barbarous dictator seems to have lost his mind.
Now the EU representatives will have to answer some very difficult questions from television viewers back home. Such as: “Why are the people waving EU flags wearing Nazi emblems? Are we supporting Nazis?” or “If they are peaceful, then why are they throwing Molotov cocktails at policemen and taking them hostage?” That’s just for starters. Here is a more serious question: “Do we really want 46 million of these violent barbarians to join the EU?” And how about this one: “What makes you think that the five Ukrainian nuclear power plants will remain safe if the country falls into chaos?” Just one more, but it’s a doosie: “If Ukraine becomes ungovernable, how are we going to get our fix of Russian natural gas next winter? Are we going to freeze to death?” But the EU representatives may not have to field such questions much longer because their diplomatic careers may be at an end. After all, they haven’t been too effective, have they? To transform a perfectly peaceful protest into a bloody mess is not exactly the pinnacle of European diplomacy. A few mid-level al Qaeda operatives could have managed the job just as well.
Ukrainian opposition leaders are in shock as well. They were all ready to use the energy of the demonstrators to advance their own political ambitions—but now these ambitions seem rather beside the point. They are politicians, not field commanders, and now they don’t know what to do. Their task is an immensely intricate one: on the one hand, they must act like ardent revolutionaries, or the crowd will turn against them, haul them off the podium and string them up; on the other hand, they have to placate the Europeans and somehow make them believe that they still have influence, that this is still a peaceful protest, and that they are not leading illegal combatants to overthrow lawful authority, but legitimate, peaceful protesters. They still hope that the Europeans will give them jobs in the new puppet government once this is all over. So far, this is not working, and they themselves no longer believe that they are in control of anything. They sign agreements to end hostilities, and hostilities continue.

The barbarous dictator, Yanukovych, is in shock too. His luck has been quite good until now, but has suddenly run out. He rose from low ranks, became one of the kingpins of the Donbass region, survived the collapse of 2004 and then got rich and built himself a palatial estate complete with a Solid Gold Toilet. Up until now he had several different ways of winning the elections in 2015. After that, he could have borrowed a page from Lukashenko’s playbook and fashioned himself into Ukraine’s president-for-life. But now that dream is gone.

He had a couple of chances to resolve the situation, but he made missteps, constantly listening to the hard-liners in his administration, and now the situation is serious and his options quite limited. After the events of February 18 there is no way for him to even claim to be a caretaker president, in power until the 2015 elections. His special forces can’t disperse the protesters. He was counting on Putin’s help, but Putin is less than pleased with his avarice and stupidity, and is noncommittal even about granting him asylum should he need to escape from Kiev. Plus, he’d be leaving behind the Solid Gold Toilet. But if he sticks around the people might hang him. He has gone from trying to survive the next election to trying to survive until the next election.

The administration’s hard-liners are in shock too. They sincerely believed that all they have to do is wave some night-sticks and the crowds will disperse. They trucked in special forces, traffic cops, criminals under their control, assorted zombie idiots, and ordered them all to attack the protesters. They tried it once—nothing; tried it again—still nothing. Protesters aren’t dispersing. Just the opposite: the more they beat on the protesters, the more their numbers grow and the more violent their tactics become. Once they saw an armored personnel carrier —a symbol of their invincibility—engulfed in flames, their hands started to shake. They don’t think that Yanukovych will abandon them, but what can he do? Order in the army? But the army people haven’t been placated with special privileges like the special forces and the police, don’t have much to lose, and could easily cross over to the other side.

The special forces are in even greater shock. A lot of them also worked as policemen, happily beating up football hooligans and collecting bribes from businessmen. And now they are confronted with a most unwelcome situation: the hooligans and the businessmen are united against them. In the beginning it was fun for them—beat on defenseless people in the center of Kiev, receive medals and money, and go home. But things have dragged on and on. The the stupider ones (the majority) are now furious, can’t understand why they haven’t been ordered to just shoot everyone, and think that Yanukovych is a sissy. The smarter ones (the minority) understand full well how dangerous that would be. First of all, success is not guaranteed and losses are likely to be high on both sides—but they have no desire to lay down their lives in defence of the Solid Gold Toilet. Second, even if they manage to suppress and disperse the protesters, the day after that they would start getting killed off one by one, because there exists a database with their names and addresses. Unlike the higher-ups in the administration, they won’t have the chance to flee abroad, and will stay to experience popular anger firsthand. They really want Yanukovych to magically return the situation to the way it was before, but the probability of this happening is dropping every day.

The Kremlin is in a bit of shock as well. They were carefully masterminding the situation, supporting the Donbass thugs, gradually ramping up their influence in Ukraine and buying up key stocks. They were methodically planning to annex half of Ukraine as a “voluntary incorporation.” But then this idiot Yanukovych started giving them a hard time trying to extort money in return for joining the Customs Union, and then he made a series of mistakes leading to the current disaster—in the middle of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, no less! The right thing to do would be to send tank columns into Donbass and Crimea, but that would put a damper on the Olympics. Plus, nothing is ready—Ukraine is not tiny Georgia, and a beautiful textbook military operation would not be possible without preparation. And a less-than-stylish military operation could lead to visa problems and international banking difficulties for the Russian leadership at a minimum, and World War III at a maximum.

The Kremlin’s propaganda people are observing the formation of the contemporary Ukrainian nation right on the streets of Kiev, and they are crying bloody tears. How are they going to be able to explain to these people that their country is not Ukraine but “Little Russia,” that their national language is made up, and that they should come home to Mother Russia and start sending their taxes to Moscow? More importantly, what about the average Russian, who is used to thinking that “nothing can be done” but is now seeing right on his television screen how for three months now special forces, armed to the teeth, haven’t been able to do much of anything to put down a ragtag mob of provincials? Thoughts are starting to course through his brain—dangerous thoughts. And the average Belarussian is even further ahead in his thinking. He has stopped looking at the television screen, has walked over to the window, and is looking at the door of the nearest government office, where local officials recently beat a bribe out of him.

The Americans and the Brits are also in shock. They couldn’t possibly care any less about the sufferings of the Ukrainian aborigines. All they care about is that Russia doesn’t grow stronger. Until recently Yanukovych seemed like a pleasant sort of dictator—not too accommodating toward the Russians, and willing to talk business with the West, about shale gas and other natural resources in particular. But now there’s a bloody mess, with Molotov cocktails, troop carriers on fire, catapults, snipers… They could dismiss Yanukovych, but then who would honor all the agreements and contracts he has signed? And who will they talk business with? The guerilla warrior nationalists from The Right Sector? The club-wielding Cossacks? And what if the Russians achieve some kind of breakthrough, absorb Russian-speaking Eastern Ukraine into the Russian Federation, and grow even stronger?

Even China has something to think about. China has its own interests in Crimea, and is not so much shocked as perplexed: why can’t the local barbarian put down his opponents? There was a similar problem in China in 1989 on Tiananmen square, but there they mowed down hundreds of unarmed students without any undue excess of emotion and it was all over quickly. The West grumbled for a bit, but then resumed economic cooperation as if nothing happened. The Chinese can’t grasp why this dictator can’t do the totally obvious thing, but in general they don’t care. Ukraine is far away, and they have no desire to play a part in Eastern European conflicts. They have more important things to think about, like winning every single medal at the Olympic games in 2016 and putting a red flag on Mars.

The active population of Kiev has been in shock for a few months now, continuously, more and more every day. But at some point shock was replaced with active enthusiasm: it is better to go carry medicine to the wounded and to hurl shingles at police on Independence Square than to watch horrors unfold on television.

The passive population of Kiev is still quietly drinking beer and poking around with social networking apps. They don’t understand what’s happening yet. But if the unofficial state of emergency (including limitations on access to the city) last a few more days—and food and drink running out—then they will end up in a state of shock more serious than anything they have ever experienced.

So, who isn’t in shock? I saw him today on Independence Square: a Cossack dressed in national garb, who, with a smile on his face, was marching off to skirmish with the special forces. In one hand he held a shield with “Glory to Ukraine” written on it, and in the other a frighteningly big club. He was singing a patriotic song. It occurred to me that this man isn’t bothered by questions such as “How will I get home tonight?” or “What if something happens to me?” or “What is going to happen to us all?”

He isn’t in shock. He no longer gives a damn, bless him.

“Polar Vortex” Shock And Awe: The Utility Bill Arrives (And Why It Will Get Worse Before It Gets Better) | Zero Hedge

“Polar Vortex” Shock And Awe: The Utility Bill Arrives (And Why It Will Get Worse Before It Gets Better) | Zero Hedge.

The “polar vortex” shock has arrived, only this time it is not in the form of another 12 inches of overnight snow accumulation but in the shape of household utility bills. A reader was kind enough to send us his just received ConEd bill for the month ended Februery 10. The result speaks for itself. It also speaks for where so much of US household disposable income will go in first quarter. Spoiler alert: not toward discretionary purchases.

 

If readers have more dramatic instances of the “Polar Vortex” invoice shock, please forward them to us at the usual address.

And unfrotunately it will get worse before it gets better. On the back of a rapid decline in the “glut” of low cost natural gas (as stockpiles are drawn down to the lowest level since 2004) and the shift in forecast (that the freezing weather could last well into March), Natural gas futures are soaring (up over 10% today). This is the highest front-month futures contract price since December 2008 as “the possibility of periodic shortages now looms.”

 

 

Charts: Bloomberg

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