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Libya’s Revolution Could Provide Stimulus through Cheaper Oil

After rebel forces swept into Libya’s capital, Tripoli, the country may be able to start to ramp oil production and exports again, which many analysts hope will bring down oil prices.

Libya claims Africa’s largest proven oil reserves, and was producing about 1.6 million barrels a day when the production suddenly dropped to near zero in February. Many analysts said it will take two to three years for Libya’s oil production to recover to previous levels, and by year’s end they may only be producing a quarter to a third as much as before.

Even before rebels had taken over Moammar Gadhafi’s compound, oil companies were preparing to return to the country, which they left months before.

So far, though, the price has been up and down, in part because of anticipation of the outcome of a summit this week, which may result in a new round of quantitative easing, which would likely drive down the value of the dollar.

Trading Leaks

To try to understand how much speculators are driving oil prices, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission has been looking into “excessive speculation.” Earlier this year, five traders were chargedwith making $50 million off speculation.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, a long-time critic of oil speculation, became frustrated with the pace of investigations and leaked the records of many trades.

Unconventional Contention

While dozens were in jail in Washington, D.C., after protests to oppose the construction of another pipeline carrying tar sands products from Canada to the U.S., a New York Times editorial argued against the pipeline because of high greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands operations. Canadian officials, meanwhile, stepped up lobbying on its behalf.

Producing natural gas from shale deposits using hydraulic fracturing has also been under scrutiny for its greenhouse gas emissions, and now a new study argues Marcellus Shale natural gas has slightly higher emissions than conventional natural gas, but fewer emissions than coal.

West Virginia issued emergency rules to regulate horizontal drilling, which the governor hoped was a first step to more permanent regulations for this drilling.

Dark Days in America, Brighter Elsewhere

With budget woes, spending cuts, and more spending cuts scheduled to be made over the coming years, it appears renewable energy in the U.S. is entering “dark days,” reported GreenBiz.

But renewables are gaining increasing traction elsewhere. In Brazil, in a large power auction, wind emerged as the cheapest source of electricity, beating out natural gas and hydroelectric power. The contracts could lead to the construction of 1.9 gigawatts of new wind farms.

Japan is expected to pass a renewable energy bill that would introduce a feed-in tariff to make renewables more attractive, and set down in law the government’s target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent (compared with 1990 levels) by 2020. To cope with the Fukushima disaster, though, Japan has boosted its use of fossil fuels in the short term.

Germany’s national rail company, which is the country’s biggest electricity consumer, is also moving toward renewables, planning to quit fossil fuels by 2050.

The Billionth Car

The future is bright for electric cars, according to a forecast from Pike Research, which said worldwide sales are likely to grow to 5.2 million by 2017, more than 50 times this year’s estimated sales.

However, even then electric cars would make up a tiny fraction of all cars, with more than one billion on the road as of 2010, a new study said. About half of the recent growth in cars has been in China, which has higher efficiency standards than the U.S., but the country is showing little interest in hybrids and electric cars.

Scientists Scrutinized

Scientists working on climate change have been under scrutiny, with a polar bear researcher being suspended from his job for the U.S. government.

Another researcher came under fire after the “Climategate” leak of e-mails. He was cleared earlier this year in an investigation by his university, and now has been cleared in a second investigation by the National Science Foundation.

The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.