The University of Texas is curating this series of blogs to raise important questions about energy. This is a unique opportunity for you to join in discussions with some of the world’s brightest energy minds.
Nov 8, 2012: Gas Prices: The Dog that Didn’t Bark?
Back in March, amidst a steep increase in the price of gasoline, the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake and Chris Cillizza declared, “It’s the gas prices, stupid”—a take-off on James Carville’s famous “it’s the economy, stupid” mantra from the 1992 presidential campaign. They suggested that gas prices would likely be a “critical factor” that would help voters make up their minds in 2012.
Oct 18, 2012: Why Shale Could Rebalance the Geo-economic Scales with China
As the candidates for president exchange barbs over whose policies will be a stronger bulwark against a rising China, the American oil industry may in the end accidentally provide the best solution. Growing shale resources in North America look poised to strengthen the U.S. economic and diplomatic position with respect to China, just as they have already done with respect to Russia. U.S. shale gas has already played a key role in weakening Russia’s ability to wield an energy weapon over its European customers. By significantly reducing U.S. demand for imported liquefied natural gas (LNG), rising shale gas production has freed up more of the global LNG supply to go to Europe instead of the U.S. As American shale production expands from natural gas to oil, the geopolitical fallout will also mushroom.
Sept 10, 2012: Energy Efficient Buildings: Technology Only Part of the Solution
Most experts agree we’re in an energy crisis. Since 40% of energy used in the United States is consumed by buildings, pressure has increased to design and build more energy-efficient structures and respective systems to reduce demand. As humans, our natural inclination is to look for a technological solution. That’s the approach taken with the Passive House Standard, which started in Germany and is intended to create buildings which are passively energy-efficient, typically with highly-insulated, airtight construction, and the incorporation of renewable energy sources such as photovoltaic panels.
April 24, 2012: BP Responds to Tad Patzek on Safety at BP
Safety is at the heart of everything we do – driven by our leaders and applied through our operating management system. Our safety and risk management approach is built on deep experience in the oil and gas industry. This includes learning from the conclusions of investigations into the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 and the Texas City refinery explosion in 2005, as well as operations audits, annual risk reviews, other incident investigations and from industry practice of sharing experience.
April 19, 2012: The Big Energy Tango: Drilling Safety After Deepwater Horizon
Tadeusz (Tad) Patzek
As easily recoverable oil is depleted, humans reach to faraway, deep, cold, and wet places that also happen to be fragile and ecologically important to the Earth. Such is humanity’s understandable and irreversible choice. The global oil and gas industry, the largest human enterprise ever, is the technological executor of our choice. We in turn like and utilize the industry’s products, but have zero tolerance for mishaps, accidents, and real or perceived transgressions of their operations. Thus, we have a serious and growing problem the industry is trying to address: While the severity and scope of operational risks in hydrocarbon production increase, the society’s (and planet’s) ability to absorb possible accidents decreases. For both partners in this “Big Energy” tango – us and them – the Deepwater Horizon accident was a watershed. We all realized how unprepared humanity was for such disasters and how disruptive they were for the living Earth.
April 13, 2012: Despite Challenges, U.S. Should Keep Nuclear In Mix
In his February 27 post, Dale Klein paints a persuasive picture of the economic challenges nuclear energy faces in the U.S. thanks to the low price of natural gas, which is projected to be a less costly alternative for electricity production in the next few years. Despite this fact, however, as Klein himself suggests, it would be dangerous for the U.S. to put all of its energy eggs in one basket. We need a diverse and less carbon-intensive energy matrix. These are important reasons for energy policy makers to keep nuclear as a viable option within the total mix.
March 23, 2012: Don’t Forget The Fukushima Fifty
In a week of remembrances about last year’s events at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant it is surprising how little has been said about the Fukushima Fifty. “Fukushima Fifty” was the name the Japanese and international media applied to the group of plant workers and emergency responders who, on the morning of March 15th, stayed behind to man the control systems and the site while the bulk of the plant’s employees were relocated.
February 27, 2012: Post-Fukushima: the Future of Nuclear Power in the US
Dale Klein, Ph.D.
It’s hard to believe, but it’s been almost a year since a titanic earthquake and tsunami crippled northeastern Japan, triggering a partial meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. While much of the resulting media coverage has focused on the events at Fukushima, the true tragedy is that nearly 20,000 people were killed from the earthquake and tsunami. In contrast, we have not learned of any deaths or significant injuries from radiation exposure, though that could change over time.