In the 1970s, mysterious oil spills began to plague hundreds of kilometers of California’s Central Coast. The spills usually occurred in winter, during large storms, and — with the exception of a few tarball events, like one that afflicted Point Reyes National Seashore in the winter of 1997-98 — little oil was seen on the beaches or in the water.
After decades of back-and-forth, the debate about peak oil boils down to two points of contention: Is peak oil real, and is it cause for concern? But instead of arguing tired positions that don’t seem to be converging on consensus, maybe it’s time we shift our tack and instead see what we can do to bring about the peak as soon as possible.
Energy is a combined product of natural resources, human ingenuity and economy; it is also an engine for economic and social development. This is truer now than ever before because the global economy is more integrated and populations are growing, and with that, competition, challenges and prospects are also rising.
In the 1985 classic “Back to the Future,” Doc Brown, the mad scientist played by Christopher Lloyd, queries his time-traveling visitor, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), in 1955 about the future of America with the simple question of who was president. The answer of Ronald Reagan appeared astounding and ridiculous, as his name was on a movie poster at the time.
Much of the debate concerning energy, climate and the economy involves how to manage the transition from fossil fuels to sustainable energy sources. In this context, it may seem ironic to promote one fossil fuel over another, but natural gas is an inexpensive, abundant and relatively clean fuel that can lead the transition away from coal and oil, while achieving significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants over the next two decades. In short, increased use of domestic sources of natural gas needs to be an essential component of U.S. energy policy.
Marine mammals live in a world of sound. In the open ocean, whales and dolphins depend on sound waves, using echolocation to navigate, find food, attract mates and communicate. But their clicks and calls are not the only noises underwater: Oil and gas exploration, seafloor mapping, and ship and submarine navigation have increased dramatically over the past few decades, making the world’s oceans noisier than ever.
There is definitely a deep plume of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, and it was definitely produced by BP’s damaged Macondo well, according to a report published today in Science. Scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts reported unequivocal evidence of a plume at a depth of about 1,100 meters that was at least 35 kilometers long, as of the end of June. The plume, they said, was traveling to the southwest, largely driven by the topography of the seafloor.
Last September, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) celebrated its 50th anniversary. Over the past five decades, OPEC has earned a reputation for being a powerful cartel that controls the world’s oil production and prices — but there are limits to OPEC’s influence and wealth. In fact, many OPEC countries face grave problems, which, to some extent, are the result of their oil-based economies.