Exxon

Exxonomics 101

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Published on the Peak Surfer on November 8, 2015

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"You don't need 100,000 marines to secure windmills in North Dakota."

 

 The New York Times, which is quickly becoming to print media what Fox is to television news, has done what no first year news stringer should do. It buried the lead. 

It buried the lead on what is likely to become one of the most important stories of all time.

Hidden in the science section of its November 6th daily edition is this headline from a story by Clifford Kraus: More Oil Companies Could Join Exxon Mobil as Focus of Climate Investigations.  Kraus's lead is:

HOUSTON — The opening of an investigation of Exxon Mobil by the New York attorney general’s office into the company’s record on climate change may well spur legal inquiries into other oil companies, according to legal and climate experts, although successful prosecutions are far from assured.

The story goes on to describe the fraudulent activities undertaken by Exxon Mobil, Chevron and other oil majors from 1990 to 2001, using astroturf fronts with names like Global Climate Coalition and the American Legislative Exchange Council. The writer, and presumably the Times editorial team, assumes the reason NY Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is investigating is because the companies spent millions or billions on a disinformation campaign, purchasing no fewer than four U.S. presidents and vast numbers of Congressmen and Senators. These disinformation campaigns cast doubt on climate science by parading shill pseudoscientists before legislative committees. The purchased politicians then went before the public and parroted the oil company line: "Climate Change? Nothing to see here, move along."

The Times seems to think the NYAG is after some kind of conviction for perjury or advertising fraud.

By now this spin on the story is so old and been told so many times, we are surprised that it is still considered news. Maybe that is why it got bumped to the science page. Everyone knew, despite the feigned shock of Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein and others, that Exxon had extensively researched the subject in the 1970s, concluded by the mid-80s that climate change was a serious threat, and then killed its own research program and financed opposition.

The real news story is something else. It is not what the investigation is but where it is. The New York Attorney General's office peers from its eyrie in Albany down the Hudson River, across the white plains and palisades to lower Manhattan, but it is only one of two such offices that watches. The other is located closer to the action, in the Federal Courthouse just below Wall Street, where dwells the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, a Mr. Preet Bharara. If you bike by there, however, you see that dog is chained by a very long chain that runs all the way to the back porch of a big white house in Washington. Lest we forget, the nation's last Attorney General came from and went back to Wall Street's Covington & Burling, after 6 years of hearing nothing, seeing nothing and saying nothing as the nation's top law enforcer.

Why should Exxon and Chevron be worried? That would be because what is of interest to a NYAG watchdog is not about buying politicians or suborning perjury. It's about stock manipulation. After a decade of pretty good in-house science, Exxon and the other majors knew by the 80s that the pace of global warming was accelerating and that very soon there would be a massive, increasingly desperate effort underway to shift from fossil fuels to carbon-free renewables in order to escape Cauldron Earth. The hotter it gets, the more frenzied this effort will become, and the less likely Exxon will be able to cash in its balance sheet of fossil assets.
 

Meadows, et al, 1971 Limits to Growth with overlay of
Bates 1990, Climate in Crisis

If you were a CEO of one of these companies, the math would trouble your mind. It would cloud your thinking as you set up for that long putt on the 8th green. It would creep into your internal dialog as you are eyeing that cocktail waitress at a swank restaurant. Your worth as a company, the basis for the company's share price, and your own compensation and stock option packages, all depend on the estimated and proven reserves of oil and gas still in the ground. If, for some reason, those reserves could never be withdrawn – never be burned – then you have a serious problem. Your company is overvalued, and likewise the share price, and your own personal net worth. This is what interests the NY Attorney General. It's the math. Its also the mens rea – your state of mind; what you knew and when you knew it.

It is one thing to have a company whose worth exceeds not only that of any company on Earth but also of any company in history. It is another entirely if that worth is overstated, perhaps by a factor of 100, 1000, or one million times. That becomes the biggest stock fraud in history. For a young or politically ambitious AG, it is a ticket to glory.

On Thursday the Times reported:

Attorneys general for other states could join in Mr. Schneiderman’s efforts, bringing far greater investigative and legal resources to bear on the issue. Some experts see the potential for a legal assault on fossil fuel companies similar to the lawsuits against tobacco companies in recent decades, which cost those companies tens of billions of dollars in penalties.

Potential fines and imprisonment don't begin to tell the story here. Devaluation of the stock – mark to market – is the real penalty. Is Exxon, whose shares are held by teachers' credit unions, public employee pension funds, and more people than almost any other stock, too big to fail? Whether it is too big to jail is irrelevant. Once that asset is devalued, something huge will be set in motion: a trillion dollar switch away from fossil investment, and just coincidentally, an end to the leading justification for military adventurism, support for Israeli hardliners, the puppet regime in Kiev, the ISIS black op and Saudi Arabian feudalism, among other pastimes.


That whole shooting match in Syria, driving millions of refugees into Europe, is about whether Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Russia and Iran and a proponent of a gas pipeline from Iran across Kurdistan to the sea, will be deposed by ISIS terrorists trained by CIA in the Colonel Kurtz style of spectacular horror and funded by the Pentagon so that the US could instead build a pipeline to European markets through Syria from Iraq. The Russian Air Force, with a new generation of fighters that can fly circles around anything built by Lockheed Martin, is looking like it will decide that one. It is pulverizing ISIS.

You don't need 100,000 marines to secure windmills in North Dakota.

That is the story the Times is missing.

In the Thursday story, the Times had a link to a 29-page Exxon report for its shareholders. The company essentially ruled out the possibility that governments would adopt climate policies stringent enough to force it to leave its reserves in the ground, saying that rising population and global energy demand would prevent that. “Meeting these needs will require all economic energy sources, especially oil and natural gas,” it said. Here is an image from that report. We especially enjoyed the absurdity of their idea of what better farming looks like.

 

World population is going to grow by 3 North Americas in 15 years.

In their report, Exxon predicts that the world will add 2 billion more people in the next 15 years, or roughly four more North Americas if you include Mexico and Canada. This tracks similar assessments by the UN and the World Population Council. That increase is baked in the cake just from the number of adolescents reaching childbearing age in these coming years. Exxon believes GDP will grow at 3 times the rate of population if energy supply is adequate. "We see the world requiring 35 percent more energy in 2040 than it did in 2010."
 

"In analyzing the evolution of the world’s energy mix, we anticipate renewables growing at the fastest pace among all sources through the Outlook period. However, because they make a relatively small contribution compared to other energy sources, renewables will continue to comprise about 5 percent of the total energy mix by 2040."


While we don't buy the whole package, we find ourselves agreeing with Exxon about one thing. Business as usual is not possible with an all-renewables portfolio. We wonder where even the finance for such a build-out would come from? More debt? The world financial system came with in a hair's breadth of financial collapse in 2008. Since then the balloon has reinflated and stretched bigger. China just arrested its free-falling stock market by issuing even more debt. But sooner or later loans have to be repaid, with interest, and in a shrinking resource economy they cannot be. When the day of reckoning eventually arrives, our chances of avoiding collapse are very slim. Gail Tverberg says,  "The change … is similar to losing the operating system on a computer, or unplugging a refrigerator from the wall."

Where we part company with Exxon is that Exxon thinks governments will choose to keep heating the planet and we think they will dispense with business as usual. Only time will tell, although the issue will be up for serious debate this December in Paris.

Business as usual will not be an easy thing to give up.

In terms of energy conservation, the leaps made in energy efficiency by the infrastructure and devices we use to access the internet have allowed many online activities to be viewed as more sustainable than offline.

On the internet, however, advances in energy efficiency have a reverse effect: as the network becomes more energy efficient, its total energy use increases. This trend can only be stopped when we limit the demand for digital communication.
 

***

In recent years, the focus has been mostly on the energy use of data centers, which host the computers (the “servers”) that store all information online. However, in comparison, more electricity is used by the combination of end-use devices (the “clients”, such as desktops, laptops and smartphones), the network infrastructure (which transmits digital information between servers and clients), and the manufacturing process of servers, end-use devices, and networking devices.  

Low Tech Magazine

By 2017, the electricity use of the internet globally is expected to rise to between 2,547 teraWatt-hours (low case) and 3,422 tWh (high case). The high case is made more likely by underdeveloping nations bypassing wired communications to go directly to smart phones and other devices, which are increasingly dependent on cloud services. Under these circumstances electricity use for internet will likely double every 5 years, to 110000 tWh (110 petaWatt-hours) by 2040. This would add another USA in electricity consumers every 5 years  three more USAs in 15 years. That, of course, assumes that cloud computing doesn't follow the exponential growth its proponents seek.

Can renewables meet this demand? Right now in the US, renewables account for 13.2 percent of domestically produced electricity. Wind turbine capacity is 65 GWe installed (0.07 tWe), but because of wind and load intermittency, the mills only turn about 32% of the time, producing about 180 million kWh last year (180 GWhr, or 0.2 TWh). That was one ten-thousandth of what was used globally by the internet. To build out renewables to power just the internet by 2040 would require 110 pWh, or more than a million times all the renewable electricity produced by the USA today.

How probable is that? Exxon is completely accurate in labeling it fantasy.

And speaking of fantasy, imagine for a moment that Mr. Schneiderman gets his teeth into Exxon's stock fraud and won't stop shaking until the company restates its book value, sans proven reserves. There has been a recent fall in oil price (owing less to fracking, as the popular narrative has it, than to China's deflationary spiral that has tanked world demand), but if you are a shareholder, this might be a good time to sell.

Or you could take your advice from the nation's paper of record and assume everything is hunky dory. 

Shortest Book Ever: Oil Company Ethics

Off the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

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Published on the Daily Impact on July 19, 2015

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Stress reveals character among humans, and the ongoing, slow-motion implosion of the great American shale oil revolution is throwing stark light on the nature of the humans involved in the oil industry. (I refuse, contrary to the shorthand title of this piece, to attribute human characteristics to corporations. They have none. The people who run them sometimes do.) One should not expect much of people who take as their life’s work the wresting of the planet’s last morsels of carbon from the earth so that we can burn it and destroy the ecosystem that nourishes us, but still: they live among us, they raise children, they pretend to share with us at least some fundamental values.

Even knowing, as many of us do, that they lie, that they hire elegant blonde women to stroll across our Sunday TV landscape and lie in their cosmetically enhanced teeth about what oil companies are doing and what the consequences are, it is nevertheless something of a shock to watch their present descent from dishonesty and greed to sheer, don’t-give-a-damn evil.

Cases in point:

  • Oil companies that find themselves in trouble in Alberta are simply walking away from their rigs, leaving miles of pipe in the ground and acres of polluted ground and water on the surface to be cleaned up by a little-known and under-funded industry organization, the Orphan Wells Association. Last year, the OWA had 164 wells to clean up in Alberta; now that number is up to 704. It’s possible to handle a clean site for $50,000 and two years of work, but oil people are not clean operators, and many sites  are costing more than a million dollars and are taking 10 years to fix. The OWA has been completing remediation on 43 sites a year; at that rate its present backlog is 16 years long.
  • One tar sands operator in Alberta reacted to falling profits by laying off 15 people and refusing to transport them out of the wilderness in which they were working. Air transportation into the tar sands for 20 days of work and back out for eight days off was provided by the company, but the 15 were told that getting back to civilization was their problem. The classy company (Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.) relented only after worldwide outrage at the plight of the dismissed workers.
  • Oil companies whose wells play out in the Gulf of Mexico are “required” to seal them permanently to prevent leaks of the residual oil, which is still under pressure in pipes subject to severe corrosion. There are 27,000 abandoned wells in the Gulf, of which nearly 4,000 have a figurative cork stuck in them — a temporary seal that the company intends maybe to someday somehow replace with the “required” permanent seal. (Wait, make that “permanent” seal.)
  • In the eight years since Exxon Mobil promised the world to stop funding climate-change-deniers, it has given them more than $2.3 million to pollute public discourse and hamstring efforts to deal with the oncoming planetary crisis. It took a British newspaper — the Guardian — to figure this out, and oddly enough, CNN did not go wall-to-wall on this story.
  • Nor did anyone pay much attention to the story — okay, this is old news, but still capable of rendering hair flammable — that the fracking industry in California continues to get rid of its waste fluids — millions and millions of gallons of water so polluted it can never be used for anything related to human consumption — by injecting them into previously untainted underground aquifers that are the state’s last best hope for irrigation and drinking water as their worst drought in history continues.

There’s more, much more. But before this abbreviated review of oil company crimes against humanity becomes the longest book in the world, let’s go turn on the TV and watch the Exxon Lady sing her Siren song.


Thomas Lewis is a nationally recognized and reviewed author of six books, a broadcaster, public speaker and advocate of sustainable living. He also is Editor of The Daily Impact website, and former artist-in-residence at Frostburg State University. He has written several books about collapse issues, including Brace for Impact and Tribulation. Learn more about them here.

Oil: A Fit of Peak

From the keyboard of Thomas Lewis
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First published at The Daily Impact  May 7, 2015
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Arthur Berman is perhaps the most credible debunkers of oil hype on the planet because he is a highly qualified petroleum geologist and a longtime, top-tier employee of the oil industry. In a presentation early this year, he made an offhand remark in answer to a question about Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson. “Oh,” Berman responded, “Rex knows his company is in liquidation and he’s terrified his stockholders are going to find out.” I don’t know if anyone else heard a thunderclap at that moment. The discussion moved quickly onward, but I sat stunned (as I listened to the tape). It seemed to me I had just heard spoken aloud the essential truth of our industrial age: it’s in liquidation, and the people in charge are terrified we are going to find out.

Liquidation, also known as a going-out-of-business sale, is a stunning word to use about the oil industry, unless you think about it for a minute. A company in liquidation stops making or buying its product and keeps selling until its inventory is gone, then turns out the lights and locks the doors. Oil companies don’t make oil, they have to find it, and they aren’t finding any. What’s more, take a look at their capex (capital expenditures for exploration and development) numbers and you see that after a decade of increasingly frenzied and expensive searching for new oil fields, with ever-diminishing returns, the industry has virtually stopped looking. Which brings us once again to the shoals of peak oil.

Oil hypists have been declaring the “theory” of peak oil to be dead since the phrase was first used. Never more enthusiastically than when the shale oil “revolution,” a.k.a. the fracking boom, took hold in America five years ago. The assault on logic and uncommon sense was massive, well funded and for a time successful: for a while, the term “peak oil” became synonymous with “loser.” Not any more. Peak oil is back, and Rex Tillerson is, if anything, more terrified than he was at the beginning of the year.

First of all, peak oil is not a theory, it is a straightforward expression of mathematical reality. If you are using a resource whose supply is finite, at some point you will have used half of it. And by extension, of course, at some point you will run out altogether. But peak oil is not about running out, it’s about reaching that halfway point, after which the supply of oil will steadily decline toward zero. That’s because everybody goes after the cheap and easy oil first; the second half is harder and more expensive to get.

Once we drilled a hole a few hundred feet into the ground and watched a gusher soak the neighborhood with crude. Now we drill through four miles of rock in order to wring oil by the pailful out of a sponge made of stone. As if that were not enough evidence that we are, as someone said, taking jelly beans out of a jar that is no longer even close to full, consider the torrent of reports and articles that just in the past few weeks has documented our arrival at the peak:
 

The oil hypists would have us believe that this is all the fault of the collapse of oil prices last fall, and all will be well as soon as this temporary blip is over. But well before prices fell below $100 a barrel, the oil companies were giving up on their capex budgets and the frackers were up to their eyeballs in debt and running out of sweet spots to frack.

Where there is no liquidity, there is liquidation. Now the stockholders are finding out. Be afraid, Exxon. Be very afraid.

 

 


Thomas Lewis is a nationally recognized and reviewed author of six books, a broadcaster, public speaker and advocate of sustainable living. He also is Editor of The Daily Impact website, and former artist-in-residence at Frostburg State University. He has written several books about collapse issues, including Brace for Impact and Tribulation. Learn more about them here.

 

Volcanoes, Earthquakes, Arctic Oil and Hong Kong Riots

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on September 28, 2014

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Snippet:

http://cdn.pjmedia.com/lifestyle/files/2013/09/duck-and-cover-drill.jpg…I’ll start today’s Rant with a personal story, we got a 6.2 magnitude Quake in Willow a couple of days ago, just about 80 miles or so from where I am located, which was the cause of much excitement and conversation around here, but very little in the way of damage. Preppers may have lost a few Pickle Jars off the shelves and a few paintings may have dropped off some walls, but not much more than that.

Still, it was the biggest Quake here since I moved to Alaska, and you definitely felt it. The cabin did some nice shaking for around 30 seconds or so. Kidz were in skule, and they got the opportunity to do a Duck & Cover Drill under their desks. There was enough time while it was going on for me to think, “Is this gonna get bigger? How long will it go?” Then it stopped.

For me, it gave me my first physical Benchmark feeling for what 6 on the Richter Scale feels like. It’s a logarithmic scale, so a 7 is 10X as severe, 8 100x etc. Anchorage did experience one of the few 9s ever recorded, a 9.2 in 1964, that is 1000X the 6 we just got. Yowza.

10X definitely would have caused damage in the cabin, and 100X would have brought it down for sure. 1000X is overkill here…

For the rest, LISTEN TO THE RANT!!!

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