Posted by: coastlinesproject | October 11, 2014

Oil and Ebola.

Chapter 19

 

Oil and Ebola

Nigeria,

October 8, 2014

 

Nothing turned the energy world upside down more than fracking. All of a sudden the United States was producing more natural gas and oil than any other country, leading some to refer to us as Saudi America. The price of gas plummeted so far it dramatically altered our position in the Middle East and nobody would be speaking about peak oil for a while.

 

In the beginning of the fracking boom, many of the larger environmental organizations embraced fracking as the bridge to an economy powered by renewable energy. But as the boom expanded, it became clear that fracking was going to be a short leaky bridge at best.

 

Unlike oil, fracked gas tends to run out quickly. Most of the gas in a new field will be pumped out it the first year of production. Plus natural gas leaks out of wells and pipelines throughout all phases of production, and it turns out that methane as natural gas is almost called is thirty times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

 

The divestment campaign and a network of local anti-fracking groups finally shamed the bigger environmental groups into finally opposing fracking.

 

But fracking’s greatest impact was to show the world that big oil companies had become as fossilized as the fuel they were extracting from the earth. Unlike scrappy little frackers, the big oil companies once called the Seven Sisters, had to keep searching for larger, more expensive oil fields in less accessible areas to stay in the game. They couldn’t just bet a few thousand dollars that they frack gas from shale in Texas, they had to mount major expeditions to drill in the deep waters of the Arctic or in isolated parts of Africa.

 

But when frackers sent the price of oil below $90 a barrel, big oil’s huge investments became stranded assets too expensive to continue developing. Plus, if all their reserves were drilled it would guarantee that the world would become uninhabitable, so their financial futures were based on a business model dependent on destroying the world for human habitation, not a very good long-term strategy.

 

The situation also showed how vulnerable big oil companies could be to social changes. In 2013 Shell Oil’s revenues dropped 49%, from $5.6 billion to $2.9 billion. This came about because Shell lost a court battle against the Inuit to drill for oil off Alaska.

 

Exxon Mobil may have to abandon or delay exploiting a mega oil field they discovered in the Kara Sea with Russian partners  because of sanctions imposed against Russia for its invasion of the Ukraine. And both Exxon and Shell stopped drilling in Liberia and Nigeria because of concerns about Ebola.

 

For years drilling companies crews had encouraged their crews to eat bush meat when working in remote areas where food was expensive. This is the way diseases like AIDS, Ebola and Marburg fever jump from being diseases found primarily in wild animals like monkeys and bats into diseases found in humans.

 

So it is sadly ironic that it has taken Ebola to finally stop Exxon from drilling in Nigeria where environmentalists have been trying to rein it in for routinely spilling the equivalent of an Exxon Valdez amount of oil, every year, for over 50 years.

Read more in; Islands in the Storm, Storm Surge; A Coastal Village Battles the Atlantic, Beach Wars; 10,000 Years on a Barrier Beach. See Strawberry Hill, UPNE, and Schiffer book tabs at the top of this page.

 

 

 


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