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Thoughts from the Frontline

Sometimes They Ring a Bell

October 12, 2013

After last week's discussion of the Affordable Care Act, it would be easy to drift off into all of the negative consequences of the current problems in Washington DC. There's just so much negative energy every time you turn on the TV that it simply drains you. I am well aware of what's happening and why, and yet I still find myself weary simply from the process of trying to follow what's happening. If I feel that way, it's no wonder the polls show that the general public's attitude is "a plague on all your houses." Of course, the snafus always seem to get resolved, but you just wonder how worthwhile all the drama is.

In this week's letter, though, we are going to talk about a different type of energy and a story that I find enormously positive. Three items have come across my screen in the past month that, taken together, truly do signal a major turning point in how energy is discovered, transported, and transformed. And while we'll start with a story that most of us are somewhat aware of, there is an even larger transformation happening that I think argues against the negative research that has come out in the last few years about the reduced potential for growth in the world economy.

Sometimes They Ring a Bell

This week we learned that China has become the #1 oil importer in the world, surpassing the United States. A few weeks ago the Energy Information Agency (EIA) reported that the US is now the largest producer of oil in the world, surpassing Russia. And the port of Houston is now the biggest port in the United States, surpassing New York (think chemicals and energy-related materials). Those…

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Oct. 15, 2013, 6:22 a.m.

When the subarctic methane-trapping permafrost goes, and the Japanese liberate the frozen methane from ocean floors, the rate of temperature rise will truly accelerate again.  The great fast-approaching tipping point is nigh, I fear. Too bad about those ‘externalities’, as the blindered economists like to call physical reality.

Ronald Nimmo

Oct. 15, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

This was a very encouraging article. However, I wonder if the chart of peak oil has an extra 0 on the scale on the left. For instance, the chart has the UK producing 20,000,000 barrels of oil/day in 1995, and Australia producing 22,000,000/day in 1995, and even Egypt producing 15,000,000/day in 1995. In 2010 total world oil production was 87,400,000 barrels/day. On the other hand Libya and Nigeria, major oil producers for decades, aren’t even on the chart at all.

Ronald Nimmo

Oct. 14, 2013, 7:38 p.m.

There is supposedly a huge shale oil field under coastal California from the San Francisco Bay area to San Diego. But it would have to be accessed by fracking, which is difficult to do in urban areas. Additionally there is major political opposition to fracking in CA over supposed environmental risks. On Sept. 23 the CA Legislature passed a law regulating fracking in CA., one that is conceded to be in need of re-writing.

Robert Watkins

Oct. 14, 2013, 7:30 a.m.

Great article! I too embrace technology but there are a few problems presented with your facts. First, with advancements in healthcare, we hopefully will live much healthier and much longer, that’s great news. Question, in your words you say “we face an impossible entitlement debt”, how much burden will another 20 years to each our lives add to that debt? Secondly, it is a fact that we must reduce our entitlements in order to reduce our debt. While acknowledging the fact that technology must replace many jobs to make us competitive, how will we create enough jobs for both those working much later in life and all the youngsters looking for jobs? For my son and my future grandkids, I hope and pray your enthusiasm is warranted!

Jason Storey

Oct. 13, 2013, 3:06 a.m.

Great article John. I work at an oil refinery in California and apt of what you are writing about are topics that help put me at ease knowing that I may still have a job here in 10 years. My refinery is a small one in the Bay Area and what seems to be saving us at the moment is the fact that South and Central American countries are demanding more oil than their refineries can provide. As well as the fact that they seem to desire our cleaner CARB blends. I know that you tend to focus more on macro economic issues more often than microeconomic issues, but I was wondering what is your take on the California refining industry and the refining industry as a whole. We are squeezed on multiple ends at the moment by high crude oil prices, low gasoline prices at the pump, RIN’s, carbon cap-and-trade, ever increasing regulation, conversion of many commercial vehicles to natural gas, and many more elements. Also, refining capacity around many parts of the globe such as Asia, South and Central America are increasing.

As a personal gripe, you mention increased automation and the fact that companies are doing more with less. As a worker I feel the increased pressure of this trend every day, as do millions of other workers across the country and across the world.  With more people being forced out of work due to automation and other factors how are people ever going to afford living into their 80’s as many people do today or even into their 100’s as you claim will be possible in the somewhat near future?

John Tepley

Oct. 12, 2013, 7:42 p.m.

Enjoy today while you still can, Mr. Mauldin.