Saturday, November 5, 2016

Does Oil Demand Restrict The Amount Of Safety Regulation On Big Oil Companies?

If the last few decades are used as a litmus test, the following questions can be raised regarding large oil operations inside the United States:

Does our demand out strip our ability to provide safe oil/gas to various parts of the U.S.?

Have regulators lost control of the ability to regulate large oil companies?

How many more oil/gas spills must occur before meaningful change can occur?

The above questions are real and meaningful to each of us.  Below is evidence that these statements might be true or stand to be questioned.

Man-Made Disasters

There is no question that the world demand for oil is out of control.  By out of control, I mean that our dependence on oil is so large that the flow of oil around the world is imperative and not an option.  With the rise of research and development into renewable fuels/energy, the options could change depending on the magnitude of the output of such emerging technologies.

How big is our dependence on oil?

What is the daily dependence of oil on the world scale?

How about a developed nation like the U.S.?

I wrote a blog about the magnitude of the world daily usage of oil a few months ago.  The estimated number of barrels required to fuel the world is around 94 million barrels of oil per day.  In the blog post, I point out by using dimensional analysis that 94 million barrels of oil is equivalent to 4.23 billion gallons of oil per day.  A metric that is commonly used on this blog site is the Mercedez Benz Super Dome shown below:

Source: Nwill21

Which has interior space of 125,000,000 cubic feet of interior space which looks like the picture below taken from 'Wikipedia':

Source: David Reber

Just imagine, nearly 5 Super Domes (4.6) could be filled with the daily Global demand of oil.  WOW.  That puts the global daily demand of oil into perspective.  If you are interested in viewing the calculations, click here to access the post.

What about the U.S.?

The daily oil demand for the US is estimated to be around 19.4 million barrels per day.  With a conversion factor of 42 gallons of oil per barrel, the calculation of the conversion is possible as shown below:

The daily U.S. demand of oil is 814 million gallons a day. Wow.  Further, the oil demand is dispersed throughout the entire U.S. for consumption.  This begs the question:

How does the oil get distributed throughout the U.S. to meet the daily demand?

The three major avenues of distribution are shown below:


Rail Car:

And finally, the most popular form of transport is the 'pipeline' shown below:

Source: Greenbiz

There is no doubt that each form of transportation involves an inherent risk associated.  Over the last couple of years, the oil pipelines have become a hot topic of dispute.  Just recently, a protest has been brewing in North Dakota over the proposed pipeline.  The energy company 'Energy Transfer' wants to run a pipeline through North Dakota underneath a water supply for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

In a blog I wrote last week, I discussed the battle that has erupted over the pipeline.  An article I quoted from 'The New York Times' cited the two following statements regarding pipelines and the safety surrounding them:

Amount of pipeline in the U.S.:

The United States has a web of 2.5 million miles of pipelines that carry products like oil and natural gas, pumping them to processing and treatment plants, power plants, homes and businesses. Most of the lines are buried, but some run above ground.

Safety of pipelines:
Energy companies and their federal overseer, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, promote the safety record of pipelines. Pipeline companies say it is far safer to move oil and natural gas in an underground pipe than in rail cars or trucks, which can crash and create huge fires.

But pipeline spills and ruptures occur regularly. Sometimes the leaks are small, and sometimes they are catastrophic gushers. In 2013, a Tesoro Logistics pipeline in North Dakota broke open and spilled 865,000 gallons of oil onto a farm. In 2010, an Enbridge Energy pipeline dumped more than 843,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, resulting in a cleanup that lasted years and cost more than a billion dollars, according to Inside Climate News.

In a 2012 examination of pipeline safety, ProPublica reported that more than half of the country’s pipelines were at least 50 years old. Critics cited aging pipelines and scant federal oversight as factors that put public health and the environment at risk.

In the same post, I pointed out that the amount of oil is far less in a given accident by fuel truck compared to a break in the oil pipeline.  A typical fuel truck carries (less than 4,000 gallons) along with a rail car (train car capacity is around 33,000 gallons per car).  The article out of 'The Times' used in the post cited a daily volume of around 470,000 barrels would be moved throughout the pipeline.  That equals around 19.7 million gallons per day being pumped through the pipeline per day.  See post for calculations!

Now, compare the relative volumes being transported by each method.  Here are two images of 'Tweets' that appeared within 24 hours of me publishing the previous post shown below regarding disasters brought on by transporting oil/gas:

Tweet 1:

Tweet 2:

In the first tweet, a pipeline exploded and caused great damage to the surrounding area.  Whereas in the second tweet, a local fuel truck tanker overturned and caused a spill of 1,800 gallons.  Further, a couple of years ago, the company whose pipeline broke due to an explosion has had multiple (5 violations) so far in 2016 as shown by the tweet below:

The energy company 'Colonial' just had a pipeline burst a couple of months ago which spewed around 6,000 - 8,000 barrels of fuel spilled into the forest.  I wrote a blog post about the spill.  According to the company, the spill was small (supposedly) in comparison to others in recent history.  You don't say?

In comparison to the volumes listed in the excerpts above from 'The Times' article which I used in a previous post, Colonial would like you to think the spills are small.  As I calculated in the blog post, the range of 6,000 - 8,000 barrels corresponds to 250,000-330,000 gallons of fuel does not compare well (Really?) with the respective volumes 865,000 and 843,000 gallons of oil.

With all of the oil being dumped and not necessarily reported, one cannot help but wonder where are all of the regulators at?

Are they being paid off by the energy companies to remain silent of overlook disasters?

Have we as a nation reach a point with 2.4 million miles of oi pipelines throughout the U.S. at which regulation becomes impossible?

Do we have enough regulators to handle the job needed to maintain safe oil pipelines?

These questions remain unanswered.  In the United States this coming Tuesday, a national election is going to take place.  If the answer lies anywhere, the answer that involves change will be held with a future President of the United States.  In the next section, each candidates views on regulation, climate change, and business relations will be presented.

Regulation Is Needed!

As I just mentioned, a national election is going to take place this Tuesday.  If an answer to the above questions is possible, the next President should be able to shed light on the matter based on the platform on which they are running for office.  I wrote a blog a couple of days ago which just listed 20 questions that Presidential candidates should answer.  These questions are important in providing any guidance as to the next four years of funding and support for reform and regulation will look like.  See the previous post for all of the 20 questions - only those pertaining to the subject of the post will be displayed below.

The questions and answers below were directly taken (cut and pasted) from the nonprofit's "Science Debate" website under "20 Questions" for candidates about science issues.  Over 56 organizations signed on to make these questions which represent 12 million scientist around the country.

Without further ado, here are the questions and answers:

Climate Change:

Question 3:

The Earth’s climate is changing and political discussion has become divided over both the science and the best response. What are your views on climate change, and how would your administration act on those views?


Hillary Clinton:

When it comes to climate change, the science is crystal clear. Climate change is an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time and its impacts are already being felt at home and around the world. That’s why as President, I will work both domestically and internationally to ensure that we build on recent progress and continue to slash greenhouse gas pollution over the coming years as the science clearly tells us we must. 
I will set three goals that we will achieve within ten years of taking office and which will make America the clean energy superpower of the 21st century: 
1) Generate half of our electricity from clean sources, with half a billion solar panels installed by the end of my first term. 
2) Cut energy waste in American homes, schools, hospitals and offices by a third and make American manufacturing the cleanest and most efficient in the world. 
3) Reduce American oil consumption by a third through cleaner fuels and more efficient cars, boilers, ships, and trucks. 
To get there, my administration will implement and build on the range of pollution and efficiency standards and clean energy tax incentives that have made the United States a global leader in the battle against climate change. These standards are also essential for protecting the health of our children, saving American households and businesses billions of dollars in energy costs, and creating thousands of good paying jobs. 

These standards set the floor, not the ceiling. As President, I will launch a $60 billion Clean Energy Challenge to partner with those states, cities, and rural communities across the country that are ready to take the lead on clean energy and energy efficiency, giving them the flexibility, tools and resources they need to succeed. 

Donald Trump:

There is still much that needs to be investigated in the field of “climate change.”  Perhaps the best use of our limited financial resources should be in dealing with making sure that every person in the world has clean water.  Perhaps we should focus on eliminating lingering diseases around the world like malaria.  Perhaps we should focus on efforts to increase food production to keep pace with an ever-growing world population.  Perhaps we should be focused on developing energy sources and power production that alleviates the need for dependence on fossil fuels.  We must decide on how best to proceed so that we can make lives better, safer and more prosperous.


Question 7:

Strategic management of the US energy portfolio can have powerful economic, environmental, and foreign policy impacts. How do you see the energy landscape evolving over the next 4 to 8 years, and, as President, what will your energy strategy be?


Hillary Clinton:

The next decade is not only critical to meeting the climate challenge, but offers a tremendous opportunity to ensure America becomes a 21st century clean energy superpower. I reject the notion that we as a country are forced to choose between our economy, our environment, and our security. The truth is that with a smart energy policy we can advance all three simultaneously. I will set the following bold, national goals – and get to work on Day 1, implementing my plan to achieve them within ten years of taking office: 
1) Generate half of our electricity from clean sources, with half a billion solar panels installed by the end of my first term. 
2) Cut energy waste in American homes, schools, hospitals and offices by a third and make American manufacturing the cleanest and most efficient in the world. 
3) Reduce American oil consumption by a third through cleaner fuels and more efficient cars, boilers, ships, and trucks. 
My plan will deliver on the pledge President Obama made at the Paris climate conference—without relying on climate deniers in Congress to pass new legislation. This includes: 
1) Defending, implementing, and extending smart pollution and efficiency standards, including the Clean Power Plan and standards for cars, trucks, and appliances that are already helping clean our air, save families money, and fight climate change. 
2) Launching a $60 billion Clean Energy Challenge to partner with states, cities, and rural communities to cut carbon pollution and expand clean energy, including for low-income families.  
3) Investing in clean energy infrastructure, innovation, manufacturing and workforce development to make the U.S. economy more competitive and create good-paying jobs and careers. 
4) Ensuring the fossil fuel production taking place today is safe and responsible and that areas too sensitive for energy production are taken off the table. 
5) Reforming leasing and expand clean energy production on public lands and waters tenfold within a decade. 
6) Cutting the billions of wasteful tax subsidies oil and gas companies have enjoyed for too long and invest in clean energy. 
7) Cutting methane emissions across the economy and put in place strong standards for reducing leaks from both new and existing sources. 
8) Revitalizing coal communities by supporting locally driven priorities and make them an engine of U.S. economic growth in the 21st century, as they have been for generations. 

Donald Trump:

It should be the goal of the American people and their government to achieve energy independence as soon as possible.  Energy independence means exploring and developing every possible energy source including wind, solar, nuclear and bio-fuels.  A thriving market system will allow consumers to determine the best sources of energy for future consumption.  Further, with the United States, Canada and Mexico as the key energy producers in the world, we will live in a safer, more productive and more prosperous world.


Question 10:

The long-term security of fresh water supplies is threatened by a dizzying array of aging infrastructure, aquifer depletion, pollution, and climate variability. Some American communities have lost access to water, affecting their viability and destroying home values.  If you are elected, what steps will you take to ensure access to clean water for all Americans?


Hillary Clinton:

Chronic underinvestment in our nation’s drinking and wastewater systems has sickened and endangered Americans from Flint, Michigan, to Ohio and West Virginia. Outdated and inadequate wastewater systems discharge more than 900 billion gallons of untreated sewage a year, posing health risks to humans and wildlife life, disrupting ecosystems, and disproportionately impacting communities of color. In addition, many struggling communities around the United States have limited or no access to clean, safe water.

We will invest in infrastructure and work with states, municipalities, and the private sector to bring our water systems into the 21st century and provide all Americans access to clean, safe drinking water.

Climate change is also triggering changes in weather patterns, including the increased prevalence of long, hard droughts that pose a dire risk to the health and prosperity of American communities, particularly in the West. The federal government must become a better partner in supporting state and locally-led efforts to improve water security. To that end, we will create a coordinated, multi-agency Western Water Partnership to help fund water efficiency, consideration, and infrastructure modernization projects across the region, including significant new investments in water reuse and reclamation. 

We will also work to bring cutting edge efficiency, treatment and reuse solutions to our nation’s water challenges by establishing a new Water Innovation Lab. The Lab will bring urban water managers, farmers and tribes together with engineers, entrepreneurs, conservationists and other stakeholders to develop practical and usable technologies and strategies that can be deployed by local water utilities, agricultural and industrial water users, and environmental restoration projects across the country.

Donald Trump:

This may be the most important issue we face as a nation for the next generation.  Therefore, we must make the investment in our fresh water infrastructure to ensure access to affordable fresh water solutions for everyone.  We must explore all options to include making desalinization more affordable and working to build the distribution infrastructure to bring this scarce resource to where it is needed for our citizens and those who produce the food of the world.  This must be a top priority for my administration.

Nuclear Power:

Question 11:

Nuclear power can meet electricity demand without producing greenhouse gases, but it raises national security and environmental concerns. What is your plan for the use, expansion, or phasing out of nuclear power, and what steps will you take to monitor, manage and secure nuclear materials over their life cycle?


Hillary Clinton:

Meeting the climate challenge is too important to limit the tools available in this fight. Nuclear power – which accounts for more than 60 percent of our zero carbon power generation today – is one of those tools. I will work to ensure that the climate benefits of our existing nuclear power plants that are safe to operate are appropriately valued and increase investment in the research, development and deployment of advanced nuclear power. At the same time, we must continue to invest in the security of our nuclear materials at home, and improve coordination between federal, state, and local authorities. We must also seek to reduce the amount of nuclear material worldwide – working with other countries so minimize the use of weapons-grade material for civil nuclear programs.

Donald Trump:

Nuclear power is a valuable source of energy and should be part of an all-the-above program for providing power for America long into the future.  We can make nuclear power safer, and its outputs are extraordinary given the investment we should make.  Nuclear power must be an integral part of energy independence for America.

Global Challenges:

Question 13:

We now live in a global economy with a large and growing human population. These factors create economic, public health, and environmental challenges that do not respect national borders. How would your administration balance national interests with global cooperation when tackling threats made clear by science, such as pandemic diseases and climate change, that cross national borders?


Hillary Clinton:

Many of the greatest - and hardest - challenges facing our country extend beyond our borders and can only be ultimately addressed through global solutions. Climate change is a case in point. And that is why as Secretary of State I elevated the role of climate policy in our diplomacy, appointing our country’s first Special Envoy for Climate Change, making climate policy a key part of our broader relationship with China and other key countries, and helping to create and launch the global Climate and Clean Air Coalition to reduce potent non-carbon climate pollution.

As the world’s biggest and most powerful economy—and as the second-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and the biggest historical emitter—the United States has a responsibility to lead the global response to the climate challenge. By making strong progress to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at home, President Obama was able to persuade and pressure other major emitters, including China and India, to step up. This dual process, where domestic policy changes helped spur international action, led tot the historic 195-nation Paris climate agreement, the first in our history where every country agreed to be part of the solution to climate change. 

The Paris agreement is critical, but it is not sufficient on its own. To keep global warming below the two degrees Celsius threshold and avoid the worst consequences of climate change, we need to cut emissions by at least 80 percent below 2005 levels by mid-century. To get there, we will need to continually work to improve upon the goals set in Paris, both in the United States and around the world. That’s why we must work to support more clean energy investment in emerging economies, help developing nations build resilience to the climate impacts that can’t be avoided, and continue to drive clean energy innovation here at home. And we will continue to work on a bilateral and multilateral basis with our partners, with key countries like China, and with the UNFCCC to protect our nation, our planet, and our children’s future. 

When dealing with the outbreak of diseases, we must be sure to act with caution, and rely on science to inform our decisions around trade, travel, and treatment. We are privileged to live in a country that individuals around the world aspire to visit and even immigrate to. It is within our national interest to think beyond our borders, and through our leadership, do everything we can to foster peace, health, and security around the world. In the United States, we need to break the cycle in which our own public health system is beholden to emergency appropriations for specific epidemics. We can do this by creating a dedicated Rapid Response Fund to help shore up our defenses, accelerate development of vaccines and new treatments, and respond more effectively to crises. We will also create a comprehensive global health strategy that moves beyond the disease-by-disease emergency model and seeks to build a robust, resilient global health system capable of quickly responding to and ending pandemics. 

Donald Trump:

Our best input to helping with global issues is to make sure that the United States is on the proper trajectory economically.  For the past decade we have seen Gross Domestic Product growth that has not provided adequate resources to fix our infrastructure, recapitalize our military, invest in our education system or secure energy independence.   We cannot take our place as world leader if we are not healthy enough to take care of ourselves.  This means we must make sure that we achieve our goals in tax reform, trade reform, immigration reform and energy independence.  A prosperous America is a much better partner in tackling global problems that affect this nation achieving its national objectives. 


Question 14:

Science is essential to many of the laws and policies that keep Americans safe and secure. How would science inform your administration's decisions to add, modify, or remove federal regulations, and how would you encourage a thriving business sector while protecting Americans vulnerable to public health and environmental threats?


Hillary Clinton:

It is essential that environmental, health, and energy regulations, among other areas, use the best available science to guide decision-making, and I am committed to making sure that continues. For instance, we will have science guide us as we make important investments around health care. We will continue to invest in research to further our understanding of disease, including ramping up our investment in Alzheimer’s and related dementias to $2 billion per year, continuing Vice President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot, and scaling up our broader investment in the National Institutes of Health’s budget to combat all of the diseases of our day. 

My opponent in this race has consistently discounted scientific findings, from his comments about vaccines to his claim that climate change is a hoax. These dangerous positions not only put Americans at risk, but can have long term impacts on our country’s growth and productivity. Science will ensure our country continues to progress, and will help our government use its resources to provide the best possible life for all Americans.  

Donald Trump:

This is about balance.  We must balance a thriving economy with conserving our resources and protecting our citizens from threats.  Science will inform our decisions on what regulations to keep, rescind or add. A vibrant, robust free market system will regulate the private sector.

The above responses give us a starting point on which to form our opinion when we head to the voting polls next Tuesday.  At this point, you might ask the following question:

Mike, there are more than two Presidential Candidates?

What about Gary Johnson or Dr. Jill Stein?

For brevity, I chose to only include the two major candidates responses.  In order to view the remaining two candidates answers to the above questions, please visit my previous blog post with the questions and answers.


Regardless of who wins next Tuesday at the national election for the next seat as President of the United States, the issues at hand will still remain the same.  Although, armed with the answers to the questions above along with the remaining questions, each of us can get a sense of where the support lies in protecting us and the environment.  Our transition toward renewable energy is not just a "must happen" but a "when will it happen" statement.  With a more educated voting population, the process can move forward more easily.  Each of us should consider the above questions and answers seriously and plan for the future.

Until next time, Have a wonderful day!

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