Energy Week – July 23, 2021

Energy Friendly News from Up and Down the Rocky Mountains

  • Oil Slips and Gets Back Up, Gas Rises
  • Keeping Up with the Market Basket
  • Water Waste Not
  • Can’t Stop the Catastrophe
  • Price Tag for Renewables
  • Good Jobs Cost an Arm and a Footprint

By Dan Larson

This Week’s Guardian of Catastrophe: It is an oldie but remains a benchmark for climate alarmist writing. Shortly after the UN panel on Climate Catastrophe issued its “We are doomed and there’s nothing we can do about it” report in 2018, Rolling Stone writer Jeff Goodell used it as a springboard to ask why an intelligent species like humans, the builder of rockets, creator of art and producer of the Popeye’s chicken sandwich “cannot heed warnings of its own destruction.”

It is far too late to do anything to prevent the end of the world, Goodell writes. Even the mention of taking a positive step or two to mitigate a warming climate is akin to blasphemy. Adaptation is a dirty word among climate warriors, he says. Any talk of adaptation and the compounded urgency to cut carbon emissions is lost. Suggest a possible solution other than a total and immediate elimination of hydrocarbon fuels and you risk falling in with the denier and the discredited. To even entertain the idea of doing something other than snuffing out everything that burns, “is downright self-destructive.”

Still, that doesn’t stop Goodell from a highlighting possible solution: solar radiation management, an old idea for spraying aerosols into the atmosphere to reflect the sun’s heat back into space. And like most old ideas that are still just ideas and not actually tested, there are plenty of potential risks and geopolitical hurdles to leap. For example, just try to find a consensus on the success of cloud seeding programs at ending drought.

End of the Week Price: Forget cash; volatility is king. After spending a month north of $70/bbl, oil prices took a nosedive early in the week following a deal out of OPEC that allows producers such as Russia to increase their output. And as always in a volatile market, market pundits were all over the place. Demand will keep supplies tight, said one, while OPEC and friends will eventually supply 3 of every 4 barrels around the world, driving up supply and crushing prices said another. As the man said, don’t believe everything you read.

So far this summer, strength in the natural gas markets is noteworthy. Since hitting $3 in early May, natgas prices have held the $3.50 range until this week, when the $4/mcf ceiling was tested.

WTI oil closed the week at $72/bbl.

Keeping Up with the Market Basket: The complaints and political hand-wringing over $3.50 a gallon retail continue to die down. Motorists have acclimated as they always do. Retail motor fuel prices have seriously lagged the inflation curve since President Reagan lifted price controls in 1981. Today, with the price of everything up more than 4.7% since last year, consumers have a long list of staples to shake a fist at when crying over what’s left of their paychecks.

The biggest surprise one month into 2H21 is that the solemn pledges made last year to maintain capital discipline and allow cash to flow freely are actually a reality.

No Carbon Free Lunch: Large regulated utilities, including XCEL, quickly jumped aboard the renewable energy toboggan when it became apparent in 2019 which way the political winds were blowing under the capitol’s golden dome. Now, three years later, the first down payment on XCEL’s renewable power plan is unwrapped.

On July 16, XCEL submitted its application for a 13% increase in the rate it charges customers to draw electric power from its grid. If approved, the typical residential power consumer would see a monthly bill that is $9.46 higher than today while the average small business would see an increase of $14.46. The rate charged large users, such as big-box retailers and marijuana grow houses, would see a smaller increase but still add about $4,000 per month for a typical large commercial user.

The Minneapolis-based utility offers that user rates in Colorado are currently about one-third less than the national average for electric power and the requested rate increase is needed to pay for its “ambitious renewable energy and power delivery modernization projects,” says a story in the Denver Business Journal.

Beltway Diktat: A new regulatory gambit slipped into the Democrat’s sprawling Clean Future Act shows again how the Biden Administration and congressional majority intend to push the U.S. over the tipping point to eventual strangulation of the domestic oil and gas industry.

The bill puts a hard stop on greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 with an interim goal of 50% net GHG reduction by the end of this decade. Buried among the laundry list of policies highlighting Clean Electricity Standards, revised building construction codes and electric vehicle grants and consumer rebates is a section aimed at reclassifying produced water as hazardous waste.

Currently, briny water from oil and gas production is disposed of in thousands of Class II Underground Injection Control wells, most of which are regulated under state controls. The bill, if passed, directs the EPA to decide if produced water meets the criteria for hazardous waste. If so, it must then be disposed in Class I UIC wells, of which there are fewer than 200, mostly located in Texas and along the Gulf coast.

The industry may need to pull another innovative rabbit out of its hat.

What You Heard Doesn’t Matter: When the API releases its annual update on the economic impact of oil and gas across the nation and in the top producing states, the story runs somewhere near the front of most papers and near the top of most news websites. As the “Voice of the Rocky Mountain Empire,” the Denver Post this year found it necessary to try and poke holes in the API economic impact report.

While it is not difficult to find someone to scoff at the $43 billion in wages and benefits the industry brings to Colorado, their either/or argument is a false choice. “We can judge whether the economic benefit of Colorado’s oil and gas industry can meet the cost now being levied by its carbon footprint,” declared a professional environmentalist from a Colorado mountain town. What goes unmentioned is the steady decline in shoe sizes for that footprint.

So long for now