Environment Forum

Surprise ending to director’s oil sands visit

James Cameron did not meet expectations with his high-profile visit to Alberta’s oil sands, and that’s probably to the Canadian-born filmmaker’s credit.

An earlier contention by the director of “Titanic” and “Avatar” that development of the massive energy resource was a black eye for Canada had industry supporters in a tizzy.

Surely, his trip to oil sands plants and native communities in the region would be just another example of some celebrity seeking to burnish his green cred without knowing the real story, they said.cameron

On the other side of the emotional debate, some green groups staunchly opposed development expected Cameron to fully side with them. They had trumpeted comparisons between the oil sands and resource extraction portrayed on the fictional planet Pandora in “Avatar.”

In the end, he proved them both wrong.

After his tour this week, he told Reuters he realized the complexities of what is the largest crude deposit outside the Middle East and a major environmental battleground, and that there are no easy answers.

The Green Gauge: Chevron slides on oil spill news

ECUADOR-CHEVRON-TEXACO TRAIL

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico strikes close to home for Chevron as it faces a $27 billion lawsuit brought on by the indigenous people in the Amazon region of Ecuador for water pollution, and a fresh Chevron oil spill in Utah, a bi-weekly analysis of companies in the news by ASSET4 data providers shows.

Company selections were made by Christopher Greenwald, director of data content at ASSET4, a Thomson Reuters business that provides investment research on the environmental, social and governance performance of major global corporations. These ratings are not recommendations to buy or sell.

Here is a breakdown of the companies that made headlines June 5 to June 18 for winning or losing credibility based on environment-related activity.

Americans are ready for a climate bill

Sugar cane harvester

Rona Fried is the CEO of SustainableBusiness.com, a news, networking, and investment site for green business, including a green jobs service and a green investing newsletter. The following opinions expressed are her own.

We are in a dire situation. One that our president recognized in his oval office address on Tuesday night: America has postponed overcoming our oil addiction for decades. The first call to wean ourselves from oil came more than three decades ago by President Carter in the late 1970s. Had we done it then, the job would have been completed in 1985. It is beyond time to end our dependence on oil. And Americans are finally ready to do it.

Recent polls say Americans want the government to prioritize renewable energy. One conducted by Benenson Strategy Group found that 63% of voters support an energy bill that limits pollution and encourages companies to use and develop clean energy.

Boom or bust in oil spill fight

The giant Gulf of Mexico oil spill is breaching some of the apparently threadbare defenses that are being used contain it.

The National Wildlife Federation took a group of journalists on Thursday on a tour of some of the affected south Louisiana wetlands. Scientists on the tour took samples of oil that have washed into wild cane fields that tower more than 10 feet above the water.

OIL-RIG/LEAK

The smell of oil hung thickly in the humid air and its presence was clear at the base of the green cane and reeds, which was darkly discolored.

This oil leak is different

USA-RIG/LEAK

– Willy Bemis is Kingsbury Director of Shoals Marine Laboratory, collaboratively operated by Cornell University and the University of New Hampshire, and professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell. Any views expressed here are his own.–

Earth Day 2010 will be remembered for the explosion and fire on the Transocean Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, from which 11 workers are missing and presumed dead.

One week later, the resulting oil leak now seems certain to become one of the greatest ecological catastrophes in United States history.

Map: Oil spill forecast

oilgraphic

Goldilocks and the three fuels

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– Richard Heinberg is the author of eight books, including “Peak Everything”, “Blackout: Coal, Climate and the Last Energy Crisis” and “The Party’s Over”. He is also a senior fellow with the Post Carbon Institute. The views expressed are his own. –

Recent shale gas projects, including those involving the massive Marcellus Shale in several northeastern states, have been yielding significant quantities of fuel. Reserves of the stuff are enormous. But drilling costs and per-well decline rates are high, so producers can make a profit only if gas prices are near historic highs.

Where are oil prices headed in 2010? Forecasts for the year are all over the map, from more than $100 a barrel to under $50.

The silent revolution in energy efficiency

– John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own —

John Kemp

Current debates about cutting energy consumption and carbon emissions often carry a strong undercurrent of asceticism.

There is an almost missionary zeal to save the planet by reverting to a simpler and more satisfying past when energy consumption was lower (or at least encourage other people to make necessary sacrifices).

But the post-war experience of the United States and other industrialized economies suggests it is possible to combine rising living standards with the same or lower energy use.

Will biofuel from algae look like Big Oil or Big Agriculture?

Hundreds of companies and laboratories are racing to find an economical way to make “green crude” from algae. The biofuel industry is grappling with a series of hurdles, which players readily recognized at a summit this week in San Diego and we cover in this story.

One question asked by one of the sector’s early leaders is will biofuel from algae look like Big Oil or Big Agriculture.

Steve Mayfield, who directs a new center for algae biotechnology at the University of California, San Diego, believes it should be more like agriculture.

Calling Dr. Strangelove!

Perhaps you’ve heard about the Russian submarines patrolling international waters off the U.S. East Coast (if you haven’t, take a look at a Reuters story about it) in what feels like an echo of the old Cold War. The Pentagon’s not worried about this particular venture, but there are concerns from the U.S. energy industry about another Russian foray — this one in concert with Cuba. In rhetoric that may ring a bell with anyone who saw the 1964 satirical nuclear-fear movie “Dr. Strangelove,”
the Washington-based Institute for Energy Research is sounding the alarm about a Russian-Cuban deal to drill for offshore oil near Florida.

“Russia, Communist Cuba Advance Offshore Energy Production Miles Off Florida’s Coast,” is the title on the institute’s news release. Below that is the prescription for action: “Efforts Should Send Strong Message to Interior Dept. to Open OCS in Five-Year Plan.” OCS stands for outer continental shelf, an area that was closed to oil drilling until the Bush administration opened it last year in a largely symbolic move aimed at driving down the sky-high gasoline prices of the Summer of 2008.

Environmentalists hate the idea. So does Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who has made opposition to offshore drilling one of his signature issues. But as it turns out, it’s unlikely that anybody — from Russia, Cuba, the United States or anywhere else — is going to get petroleum out of the OCS in the immediate future.

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