By Andrew Ward, Nordic bureau chief
A new nuclear race appears to be brewing in eastern Europe. Fortunately, this one involves reactors rather than weapons.
Three countries have announced firm plans to build nuclear power plants within a relatively small area of the Baltic region.
Lithuania is planning a replacement for the Soviet-era Ignalina reactor shut down last year; Belarus has proposed a reactor just across the border from Lithuania; and Russia is vowing to build one in its Kaliningrad enclave between Lithuania and Poland.A fourth country, Estonia, has also floated tentative plans for a reactor of its own.
Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana, has been among the most vocal in calling for an end to the oil leak in the Gulf and its containment to protect the state’s vulnerable wetlands. It is a rallying cry expected of him, given Louisiana’s fragile ecosystem.
The wetlands make up a very small percentage of the total land found in the country, and yet southern Louisiana contains about 40 per cent of these wetlands across the country. They are an important breeding ground for aquatic life, as well as a source of flood control, water purification and a buffer from storms. Yet they have been disappearing at an alarming rate of 25 square miles of wetlands each year, or what residents like to quote - a football field sized area every 30 minutes. As the oil began washing into the marshlands, Jindal made a point in May to emphasise their importance in a statement:
The oil is no longer just a projection or miles from our shore. The oil is here. It is on our shores and in our marsh. To put this in perspective, our state has already lost 2,300 square miles of coastal lands since the 1930s. This is like losing the entire state of Rhode Island or Delaware. This is the same area that is home to one of our nation’s most productive estuaries. We have been working aggressively to reverse this trend of coastal land and wetlands loss. …Our state was on track to have the lowest rate of land loss in 80 years as a result of our efforts and investments in our coast. Our shrimpers were rebounding, our oyster fishermen were recovering and our coastal communities were rebuilding. This spill fundamentally threatens Louisiana’s way of life.
One would think, then, that Jindal would support the Obama Administration’s efforts to prevent another spill by imposing a six-month moratorium on new deepwater drilling in the Gulf to ensure there are enough safety precautions being taken by the industry and regulators. But Jindal is conflicted.
By Andrew Ward, Nordic bureau chief
Deepwater Horizon may have raised questions over the future of offshore drilling. But there is no sign so far of the disaster slowing the rush for access to potentially massive untapped reserves beneath the Arctic Ocean.
Two stories in the FT this week highlighted the continued jostling for position in the Arctic and the contrasting approaches being taken by different countries.
In the first one Jens Stoltenberg, Norwegian prime minister, said his country’s recent maritime border deal with Russia – involving a 175,000 sq km area of the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean that had been disputed for decades – was a model for international co-operation.
What he really meant was a model for the five countries with Arctic coastlines – Norway, Russia, the US, Canada and Denmark – to divide the seabed among themselves under rules set out in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
One of the points BP highlighted when launching its annual statistical review on Wednesday was that the Gulf of Mexico had made the biggest contribution to global oil supply growth in 2009.
BP’s chief executive acknowledged that was due to Opec quotas, but added “This is not an excuse for anything but a piece of the reality in which we all live.”
But this isn’t necessarily going to continue — new regulations (or moratoria) or not. BP’s statistical review doesn’t do forecasts, but the US Department of Energy’s EIA does, and so does the International Energy Agency. And they have very different views on the future of US oil production, in particular from the Gulf of Mexico. In fact the EIA is far more optimistic than either the IEA or the Minerals Management Service.
[NB: All these forecasts were published in the past seven months, but all were made prior to the Deepwater Horizon accident and ensuing reviews of offshore leases and regulations.]
This is how the EIA sees it:
The new official estimate range for oil flowing from the Gulf of Mexico Macondo well is 25,000 – 30,000 barrels per day, but Marcia McNutt, director of the US Geological Survey, said the range from the plume modelling team could be as high as 40,000 or as low as 20,000.
So, taking those two extremes, how do the first six days of oil captured with the lower marine riser pump (LMRP) containment cap compare to both the high and low estimates?
At the low estimate, it looks pretty good:
Oil captured, compared to low flow estimate (FT Energy Source)
And on the high estimate, not so good:
Oil captured compared to 40,000 flow rate (FT Energy Source)
The UK’s prime minister and London’s mayor have stepped into the BP fray, amid concern from several UK businesses that the Obama administration’s response to the Gulf oil spill is encouraging anti-British rhetoric.
But are they getting a little over-excited?
One Energy Source reader wrote, on our ‘British Parochialism or British Pariah’ post:
I’m sorry but I was in the US last week and the anti-British aspect of this is totally being overplayed in the British press. This may appeal to self-important British newspaper writers/readers, but for the vast majority of Americans in the states bordering the Gulf, they just want to maintain their lives and livelihoods.
Senator Lisa Murkowski’s attempt to prevent the US Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases has failed, not even getting a 51-vote simple majority. It did however win support from six Democrats (and no Republicans opposed it).
This was seen as something of a test for the likelihood of a climate bill getting through the Senate.
As we’ve written before, the BP oil spill hasn’t made the politics of a US climate bill any less murky. In fact, counter-intuitively, it might be even more complicated for sponsors of a climate bill to navigate the complex mix of Democrats senators from fossil fuel-rich states and potential Republican climate supporters. Offshore oil drilling is by no means universally unpopular.
- BP’s ever-falling share price and the UK dividend pie
- Groupthink behind both toxic assets and toxic oil
- Lessons for BP from Russia
- Peak oil is blowin’ in the wind
- Home truths on oil for Obama
- Second biggest oil reserves in Venezuela