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Quick jump to below stories:
Natural gas drops almost 7% at close
Britain to import half of gas by 2010
Hurricanes wreak environmental disaster, raising concerns of oil's future
State's consultant says nation is primed for using Alaska gas
Melting of permafrost threatens homes and roads, scientists warn
Author of “bush’s brain” put on no-fly watch list

[Although these “surprise” increases in inventory are relatively small and do not change the long-term picture for natural gas supplies by much, they are serious indications that the energy markets are being fraudulently manipulated just as we know the stock markets and the price of gold have been. Actual damage figures from the hurricanes indicate that the natural gas picture should be far worse than this report indicates (see below). This is all to the benefit of energy traders and the detriment of consumers. The US may make it through this winter with far less pain than we expected would come in the wake of Katrina and Rita in spite of the significant damage we’ve already seen but that makes the picture for 2006 even worse. However, those who criticize us “alarmists” for “crying wolf” miss the point of that fable entirely. First, based upon what appeared to be good data those who warned about natural gas supplies were not unjustified in their warnings. Second, at the end of the fable – as pointed out by a speaker at the ASPO-USA conference in Denver last fall – there really was a wolf and he really did eat people. – MCR]

Natural gas drops almost 7% at close

Supplies unexpectedly rise; crude prices fall

By Myra P. Saefong, MarketWatch
Last Update: 4:07 PM ET Jan. 5, 2006 
http://tinyurl.com/9nmve

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Natural-gas futures finished Thursday with a loss of almost 7%, closing at the lowest level in more than five months after a U.S. report showed that inventories of the heating fuel unexpectedly climbed last week.

Crude futures followed natural gas lower, though it did trade higher at times Thursday as traders digested news of a smaller-than-expected decline in supplies and increases in distillate and motor gasoline stocks.

U.S. natural-gas stocks rose 1 billion cubic feet for the week ended Dec. 30, the Energy Department reported Thursday. Market estimates had called for declines anywhere between 30 billion and 80 billion cubic feet.

The increase is "the first recorded for this time of year," Randy Ollenberger, an analyst at BMO Nesbitt Burns, said in a research note.

February natural gas dropped to a low of $9.39 per million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange before closing down 69.8 cents at $9.499 -- a closing level not seen since July 29. See chart.

The contract rose to an all-time high of $15.78 on Dec. 13 so it was down as much as 40% from that peak.

"Warmer-than-normal weather for much of the country has softened natural-gas demand over the holiday season and has caused natural-gas prices to drop significantly from their record highs," said Ollenberger.

"The build recorded for the week compares to a five-year average draw for this time of the year of 90 billion cubic feet and a similar draw of 101 billion cubic feet recorded one year ago," said Ben Weagraff, an associate economist at Moody's Economy.com, in a weekly report issued after the data's release.

Total stocks now stand at 2.641 trillion cubic feet, down 79 billion cubic feet from the year-ago level, but up 168 billion cubic feet from the five-year average, the government data said.

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Britain to import half of gas by 2010

www.chinaview.cn
2006-01-05
http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2006-01/05/content_4010276.htm

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

    LONDON, Jan. 4 (Xinhuanet) -- Britain, once an energy exporter, will import about half of its gas needs by 2010, according to a BBC report on Wednesday.

    By 2020, existing North Sea gas fields will be supplying only 10 percent of the gas needed in Britain, the report said.

    The existing pipeline to Belgium, which has been used to exportgas to continental Europe, is being upgraded to be able to deliver 15 percent of the UK's peak gas demand by the end of this year.

    A new interconnector to be built between Holland and Bacton will supply a further 10 percent.

    The biggest pipeline of all is due to be completed later this year. The Langeled pipe will link Britain directly to a huge gas field off the coast of Norway, which will be capable of supplying 16 percent of the UK's peak demand when it is fully operational.

    A small amount of gas is also imported as liquefied natural gas(LNG) via a terminal on the Isle of Grain, in Medway, Kent, which was opened last year.

    At the same time, new import terminals for LNG are being built at Milford Haven in Wales.

    Those terminals are due to start receiving gas in late 2007. When they are fully operational, they will be capable of handling about 20 percent of Britain's gas.

    The LNG for Milford Haven will be supplied under long-term contract from the Gulf state of Qatar.

    And by the end of the decade, Britain will have a reasonably diverse range of suppliers, including the Middle East and Norway.

    But up to a quarter of the UK's gas will be coming from the continental network, whose biggest supplier is Russia.

    And the terms on which Russia supplies gas to the European network will be very important in determining the price Britain pays for gas in future.

    At present, 40 percent of Britain's electricity is generated from gas.

    That figure will rise in the coming years as the current generation of nuclear power stations are decommissioned.

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[Four months after Katrina we got the number of 166 rigs damaged. It had been previously confirmed at only 108. This story also confirms the weakest link and the real unreported story of hurricane damage. Reporting on refineries, rigs, and well heads doesn’t tell us how badly the chain is broken. The weakest link is, and always has been (as FTW has consistently reported), the pipelines from sea to shore and around shore-based storage facilities and refineries. – MCR]

Hurricanes wreak environmental disaster, raising concerns of oil's future

By Kevin Spear
The Orlando Sentinel
http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/nation/13456588.htm

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

EMPIRE, La. - Remember the Exxon Valdez?

It was the infamous supertanker that disemboweled itself on a rocky reef, spewing nearly 11 million gallons of crude oil into Alaskan waters, coating 200 miles of shoreline and killing thousands of birds and otters. Nearly 17 years later, it remains the nation's worst oil spill and a benchmark for environmental disasters.

Just months ago, oil spills on the Louisiana coast almost reached the scale of the Valdez disaster. But the spills drew little attention because they were only one piece of an even bigger story: Hurricane Katrina.

The storm smashed pipelines and tanks, unleashing at least 7 million gallons of crude; it laced valuable coastal wetlands and oiled wading birds.

"If not for the human impact of Katrina, these spills would be headline news all over the world," said Dan Walker, a scholar at the National Research Council's Ocean Studies Board.

As hurricanes are expected to bludgeon the Gulf of Mexico coast more often during the coming decades, the region's century-old oil industry is poised to expand toward the eastern part of the Gulf. Offshore rigs and oil-production platforms may soon dot the waters off Florida. And once the oil starts flowing, development of petroleum-handling facilities in the state may seem like a logical next step.

Hurricane Katrina was a crucial test for how the industry manages disaster.

In a way, a lot went right. Though most of the spills came from pipes and tanks on Louisiana's shore, federal authorities said none of thousands of undersea wells below the Gulf floor leaked significantly.

It was a triumph for a business eager to prove its trustworthiness and win leverage as it seeks approval to drill in the mostly unprobed petroleum deposits along Florida's coast.

Congress and Florida have not resolved key issues, including when drilling might occur, or where rigs and platforms will anchor - if just out of sight or more than 100 miles from beaches. Nobody can predict whether there will be dozens or thousands of platforms or whether shoreline oil facilities will be permitted.

But there is unrelenting pressure to drill in Florida waters, and that's why what went wrong during hurricanes Katrina and Rita and other recent storms are now lessons for Florida.

Katrina and Rita visited the worst-ever destruction on the Gulf of Mexico oil-production industry and the Louisiana coast. As a result, officials are moving with even more vigor to improve rig and platform designs and their anchors and to better shield platform pipelines from storms.

"In reality, I think our record is pretty stellar, considering the forces of Mother Nature," said David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council, a division of the American Petroleum Institute. "We've got to do even better, and I think we will."

There has been enough destruction during recent storms to keep critics worried.

"The fact that rigs were lifted off their anchors and moved in some cases dozens and dozens of miles shows the potential for catastrophe," said Mark Ferrulo, director of the anti-drilling Florida Public Interest Research Group.

Last year, the oil industry learned much about what a storm can do to drilling rigs, which bore holes into the seafloor and dip into crude briefly before permanent platforms are set up.

During Hurricane Ivan, a Transocean Inc. drilling rig rampaged more than 70 miles toward Florida before the storm subsided and a crew was able to get aboard and bring it under control.

Early in this year's hurricane season, federal regulators warned owners of the 134 drilling rigs in the Gulf that "rigs adrift are not acceptable!"

Yet Katrina and Rita set off stampedes of the steel behemoths, some as big as beachside condos.

A Transocean rig romped for 80 miles. A Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc. rig beached at Dauphin Island, Ala. All told, drilling rigs were adrift 19 times.

The storms also destroyed or badly damaged 161 of 4,000 production platforms - stations affixed to about 8,000 undersea wells.

Safety valves under the seafloor stopped oil from escaping. But even the most advanced platform designs - what the oil industry promises to use near Florida - succumbed to nature's fury.

The platform Mars, 130 miles southeast of New Orleans, is a brute among offshore structures - at 70 million pounds, more than twice as tall as the Empire State Building and girded for 140-mph winds. Then came its match - Katrina.

Mars' 16 prodigious wells, pulsing with enough crude to fill 500 backyard pools daily, remained secure thanks to shutoff valves. But the storm crippled the platform, smacking its towering derrick overboard and badly damaging other major components.

Even when valves stop undersea wells from leaking, rigs and platforms still have oil storage tanks aboard that can be damaged and spill crude.

Officials haven't determined how much oil may have leaked from those rigs and platforms. Satellite photos found widespread slicks in the Gulf near Louisiana soon after Katrina, but the oil dissipated before cleanup crews could arrive.

Oil companies admit that, despite their pledges to build rigs that withstand wind and waves, there is no way to eliminate all risk of spills. Just in the past few years, hurricanes have proved that point.

After Hurricane Lili in 2002, a Murphy Oil Corp. platform spewed nearly 15,000 gallons of orange-hued crude over four days, forming a 6-mile slick in the Gulf of Mexico south of Louisiana. Less than half was mopped up.

During Hurricane Ivan last year, a Taylor Energy Co. platform sank 19 miles from the Louisiana coast, dumping 17,000 gallons of crude, 2,300 gallons of diesel, 1,000 gallons of jet fuel, 880 gallons of machinery oils, 546 gallons of acid and 3,260 gallons of other chemicals.

In June, an Amerada Hess Corp. rig evacuated for the relatively mild Tropical Storm Arlene lost 560 gallons of crude. The oil killed nearly 700 brown pelicans in Breton National Wildlife Refuge just off the Louisiana coast.

What has happened offshore, however, pales compared with the spills along coastal Louisiana.

The spilled crude came from broken pipes. Crude-storage tanks peeled apart and were so storm-scoured there was little oily sheen left in sight. Other large tanks were cracked open by flooding.

In all, oil spilled from at least 143 sites.

Some of the plumbing is decades old and may have been weakened by age. But state officials also are looking at whether the region's chronic erosion of wetlands, long valued as a buffer to storms, could have left tanks and pipes more vulnerable to waves and wind.

Still in harm's way along coastal Louisiana are thousands of tanks and enough pipeline to wrap around the world. The tanks vary from bus-sized to several stories tall and temporarily hold crude oil gathered by pipelines from offshore platforms. The oil eventually is transferred by barge or by more pipeline to some of the 17 refineries in Louisiana or other plants along the Gulf Coast.

One marsh was so heavily oiled that the best cleanup method was to ignite it, with the hope that once the roiling pall of greasy smoke died down, plant roots would survive and grow into new marsh.

In other areas, the work was tedious, requiring crews to hack into swamp forests. Oil-field welder Wayne Paolini, 48, who lives in the area, saw workers sponging patches of ground and leaves of marsh vegetation.

"They were out there with what I call 'diapers' soaking it up," he said.

The Coast Guard said 3 million gallons were pumped out, wiped up or burned. The rest evaporated - joining the world's cloud of air pollution - or was dispersed, meaning it was blasted into tiny particles and spread too far and thinly into wetlands to clean up.

Scientists worry that the wetland ecosystem may not show all ill effects of the petroleum bath for years to come.

Oil-industry defenders blame Mother Nature for unavoidable damage to oil equipment, but some think the industry shares blame.

"They knew everything about the possibility of an environmental disaster," said Louisiana resident Jerome Ringo, a former oil worker and now chairman of the National Wildlife Federation. "These people aren't stupid. Did they take the proper steps to address it? No."

New Orleans attorney Val P. Exnicios has sued oil companies, accusing them of not being better prepared for storms.

Though the industry calls hurricane damage an "act of God," oil companies should have taken steps such as bolting down tanks to prevent them from floating away and spilling crude, he said.

"They were, I assume, relying on the weight of the oil in the tank to hold them down," Exnicios said. "But oil is lighter than water."

It's a fact that is symbolic of the Gulf's future: Storms may continue to be more powerful than whatever the oil industry builds.

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[As usual, the really relevant facts are buried more than 20 paragraphs in and buried so as to be missed by casual readers who only have time to read the headline and first six plus the last two paragraphs. Thanks to Ed K for finding this one. – MCR]

Q. In your book you predicted the Lower 48 will undergo a severe natural gas supply shortage as rising consumption will outstrip supplies from U.S. and Canadian gas fields. Do you think that this shortage is under way now?

A. I recently submitted an academic article on that with a graduate student in Chicago. We see about 2007 as the peak date for North American natural gas production.

One of the interesting things with natural gas, though, is that the technology is so good that reserves are being depleted much faster. This means the peak may hold out a little longer, maybe even until 2008, then it will be followed by an even sharper fall.

The bottom line is the U.S. is in big trouble. The only really easy substitute for natural gas is oil. Coal and nuclear power will take time. But oil is tight, too.

State's consultant says nation is primed for using Alaska gas

By BILL WHITE
Anchorage Daily News
December 18, 2005
http://www.adn.com/money/industries/oil/v-printer/story/
7296501p-7208184c.html

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Doug Reynolds' career choice of 20 years ago has finally gotten red hot.

 Reynolds is one of a small handful of energy economists working in Alaska. And increasingly he's being asked to share his insights and research on the biggest development issue before the state: the proposed $20 billion project to move the North Slope's natural gas bounty to Lower 48 consumers.

 Last Monday, he started consulting on a state contract to explore how the Alaska job market would change during and after gas pipeline construction.

 In 2002, he led a team helping the Legislature understand gas markets and pipeline-construction issues, and how state taxes could aid or harm the project. The next year he published a book summarizing his findings.

 The book -- "Alaska and North Slope Natural Gas: Development Issues and U.S. and Canadian Implications" -- so impressed U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, that he has distributed copies widely in Washington and Juneau, said Courtney Boone, the senator's spokeswoman.

 "The senator believes Dr. Reynolds really has a handle on the economics and what needs to be done for the pipeline and for ANWR exploration," Boone said.

 Reynolds, 46, is associate professor of oil and energy economics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

 He came of age amid the early 1970s energy crisis and thought technology and engineering would solve the world's energy problems. He earned a bachelor's in mechanical engineering, studying solar energy, nuclear energy and hydro power along the way. But oil prices crashed soon after he graduated and the industry slashed payrolls and spending.

 "I was disillusioned when I saw that there were actually very few jobs in energy. It was much easier to get into defense work, so I did. I worked for a defense contractor," he said.

 Within a few years, the Cold War was over and defense spending shriveled. Reynolds went back to college.

 "I went into economics, which is the real heart and soul of energy solutions," he said about earning his Ph.D. in economics 11 years ago.

 "Now I see a lot better how much we are dependent on energy, and how few solutions we have. After all, if there were so many solutions available, then why wouldn't firms hire tons of engineers in energy and make billions off of their inventions?"

 The Daily News interviewed Reynolds in early December about Alaska natural gas issues. The North Slope's estimated 37 trillion cubic feet of gas is the nation's single biggest supply of undeveloped gas. Although natural gas prices are soaring, a project to tap the Slope's gas has yet to be approved or funded.

 Two pipeline routes are under discussion: one down the Alaska Highway to the Midwest and the other to Valdez, where the gas would be superchilled into a liquid then exported on tankers to the West Coast.

 The biggest North Slope oil and gas producers prefer the highway route and are negotiating state tax, pipeline ownership and other issues should they decide to pursue the project.

 In his interview, Reynolds spoke on which route makes more sense, the slow negotiations with the oil producers and the billions of dollars in state revenue at stake. Excerpts are below.

Q. In your book you predicted the Lower 48 will undergo a severe natural gas supply shortage as rising consumption will outstrip supplies from U.S. and Canadian gas fields. Do you think that this shortage is under way now?

A. I recently submitted an academic article on that with a graduate student in Chicago. We see about 2007 as the peak date for North American natural gas production.

 One of the interesting things with natural gas, though, is that the technology is so good that reserves are being depleted much faster. This means the peak may hold out a little longer, maybe even until 2008, then it will be followed by an even sharper fall.

 The bottom line is the U.S. is in big trouble. The only really easy substitute for natural gas is oil. Coal and nuclear power will take time. But oil is tight, too.

Q. With rising natural gas prices, more Lower 48 drilling is going on, liquefied natural gas, or LNG, imports are being discussed, a proposed pipeline from Canada's Mackenzie River delta gas fields is being pushed. Will there be room for a big slug of gas from Alaska?

A. Yes.

 Many of my colleagues still think that it was some sort of technological revolution that caused the oil prices to decline after the 1970s. But really, we just substituted natural gas, coal and nuclear power for oil.

 This time around both oil and gas will have problems.

 Even though technically there are a lot of natural gas reserves around the world, unfortunately, they are government-owned reserves.

 You can see what that means if you look at what happened with government-owned oil production in the 1970s: it didn't increase all that much, and that was when OPEC had no production quotas.

 So all these sources of LNG are government-owned, and they will not be increasing as fast as North American natural gas supplies decline.

Domestic unconventional natural gas, such as coal-bed methane, will not be enough to fill the gap.

Q. Lower 48 natural gas prices have been above historical averages for four or five years now, which has relit the interest in an Alaska pipeline. How lasting do you think these higher prices are?

A. These prices will last and probably go up and stay high.

 Oil and gas markets are both tight, and with most oil and gas reserves around the world under government control, there is not much incentive to expand outputs. Look what Chavez did with oil in Venezuela. He retroactively changed all agreements in the country. That can happen in Russia, or in any of the producer countries. Then the incentives for quick expansion just aren't there. The countries will receive high rents, but production will lag.

The thing I am surprised about is how relaxed most energy economists are about how desperate the situation is for the United States. The U.S. really needs Alaskan natural gas, and if anything it will be the U.S. Senate that will be grilling the producers on why they haven't struck a deal with Alaska so that America can get our gas.

Q. Does it matter that negotiating state terms for the Alaska gas project is taking so long?

A. I think Alaska will be impatient with the amount of time it's taking, and we might go to court over it. We can delay too and get what we want. In the end look how the Deh Cho tribe in Northwest Canada is getting what it wants (on a proposed Mackenzie River gas pipeline) by delaying.

 The producers will be able to out wait us, though, and get a slightly better deal.

 The problem with Alaska is there are different ideas on what we want.

 But what we should do is maximize revenue to the state. What we may end up getting is an extra equity share in the pipeline, but that doesn't give nearly as much value to the state as getting more gas.

 Whatever agreement we get, it will probably be about as good an agreement as we can get.

Q. What is the minimum long-term natural gas price that will provide enough profit to the North Slope producers that they will back the project?

A. Probably $5, although we saw $3.50 as feasible when we did our models for the Legislature. They disagreed with that. With steel prices higher and labor shortages in Canada, costs could be higher, requiring a higher price.

Q. If your price forecast is right, how much money annually are we talking about for the state treasury?

A. That depends on the deal we strike. If we get a fairly good progressive tax, then we can easily see $5 and $10 billion every year as oil and gas prices go above the $100 per barrel of oil mark and beyond.

 My best guess is that we will be averaging $5 billion a year in today's dollars for years to come.

 But $10 billion or more would not surprise me.

Q. Why do you think the Alaska Highway route for a pipeline is more likely than one from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez?

A. From an economic/engineering point of view the Alaska Highway route is the best way to go.

 It goes to a very tight Atlantic Ocean market where the United States is competing with Europe for natural gas supplies. Therefore you get a higher price for your natural gas.

 The Alaska Highway route has a lower cost per cubic foot of gas, so Alaska gains more of the revenue.

 And the project can be completed quicker in terms of construction.

Everything else is political or legal. If another route is chosen, it is important that all the benefits of the route can be compared. For example, does Alaska want a project that offers maybe a few more Alaskan jobs, or a project that offers each Alaskan a higher Permanent Fund dividend? Probably given the choice, people would choose higher dividends.

Q. What are the main advantages and disadvantages of the state being part owner of the pipeline?

A. The question is, where will Alaska receive most of the revenue from this project? From a $2.50 tariff (pipeline-use fee per thousand cubic feet shipped) to get the gas to market as part owner of a pipeline? Or from the $7.50 per thousand cubic feet or higher wellhead (the value of the gas as it comes out of the ground)? It will come from the wellhead, and we already control that, or at least are negotiating that.

 Will having ownership help Alaska extract more value somehow in terms of jobs or expanding the gas line? That is a legal or a political question.

Q. The Murkowski administration wants to take its royalty share of production and its severance tax collection from North Slope producers in the form of gas itself, called an "in-kind" payment, rather than cash. Some say taking the gas in-kind exposes the state to the risk it won't be able to find buyers for the gas at the best price. Others say selling the gas should be no problem. What do you think?

A. You can always find buyers in the U.S. now. It is just the price you receive that changes, and there are spot markets for that.

 We would have a pipeline to Chicago that we would be obligated to use. Once in Chicago, the natural gas market is almost as ubiquitous as the oil market. There will be plenty of buyers and pipelines to different markets.

Q. In your book you advocate a progressive state tax structure on gas production that will bring relatively more wealth to the state treasury when gas prices are high and relatively less when prices are low. Why would this be a good idea?

A. It will maximize average revenue to the state. With a straight tax/royalty we might get say 10 percent of the final price, which is roughly $1 billion a year at a Chicago price of $5 per thousand cubic feet. Then at $10 in Chicago we would get 10 percent and get $1.7 billion.

 But if the state's take were say 20 percent at $10, then we would get about $3.5 billion.

 At $20 per thousand cubic feet, which is not unthinkable seeing as prices recently climbed to $15, with a straight tax and probably higher costs we would get $3 billion. But if the tax/royalty rate went to 30 percent, we could get roughly $6 billion, again due to higher costs.

Q. That could lead to wildly fluctuating state revenue. How best should that be handled?

A. This is an excellent question. Revenue will be wild, even with a straight royalty/tax. You have to put every last dime into a fund, and live off the earnings of the fund. As the fund increases, the revenue increases, and this system can cushion the budget if a slide in gas prices causes lower revenue.

 Norway has a petroleum fund that is five times bigger than Alaska's Permanent Fund even though they produce only three times as much oil as we do, although they do already sell natural gas.

 We need to increase our fund, and live off of the fund.

Q. What are the main factors that could derail the Alaska project to keep it from being built?

A. That is another legal or political question. The economics are there even with the risk. After all, every business endeavor no matter how good it looks is risky.

 Ask yourself this, if you were a retiree and you had to invest your last thousand dollars in something for a little extra money later, would you invest in a natural gas pipeline to America? Or Cold Fusion?

 And by that I mean, what technology over the last 100 years has more consistently given higher returns than oil and gas? Not computers, not telecommunications and not retailing. Even GM is close to bankruptcy. All the energy alternatives over the years have ended up going nowhere.

Natural gas is the future, and we have it. Sooner or later, we will sell it.

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Melting of permafrost threatens homes and roads, scientists warn
· Study foresees huge release of carbon by 2100
· Water runoff could affect global currents

David Adam, environment correspondent
December 21, 2005
Guardian
http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,3858,5360489-117780,00.html

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Global warming could melt almost all of the top layer of Arctic permafrost by the end of the century. Scientists say the thaw would release vast stocks of carbon into the atmosphere, threaten ocean currents and wreck roads and buildings across Canada, Alaska and Russia.

David Lawrence, a climate scientist with the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, said: "There's a lot of carbon stored in the soil. If the permafrost does thaw, as our model predicts, it could have a major influence on climate." Thawing permafrost is one of several climate "tipping points" feared by environmental experts, because carbon released by melted soil would accelerate global warming. Permafrost makes up about a quarter of land surface in the northern hemisphere and the upper layer is believed to hold at least 30% of the carbon stored in soil worldwide.

Dr Lawrence said: "In terms of its impact on the global climate, I don't see how it can be good news, but just how bad it is is unclear. It's very difficult to see how we can halt it. We may be able to slow it down."

Dr Lawrence and Andrew Slater, of the University of Colorado's national snow and ice data centre used a computer to simulate how the Arctic permafrost - defined as soil that remains below freezing for at least two years - would react to Earth's changing climate.

Assuming that emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from cars, power stations and other sources continue to rise, they found the area holding permafrost within about 3.5 metres of the surface will shrink from 4m square miles to a little over 1m square miles by 2050. The area of surface permafrost will shrink further by 2100, to about 400,000 square miles. Deeper permafrost will remain largely unaffected.

Under a low emission scenario, which assumes that new technology and energy efficiency measures will slash future greenhouse gas pollution, the permafrost area shrinks to about 1.5m square miles by 2100. The results appear in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Dr Lawrence said the study was the first to examine permafrost in a model that accounted for interactions between the atmosphere, ocean, land and sea ice, as well as the freezing and thawing of soil. He said the predictions of the computer model were already being backed up by observations in and around the Arctic. In August, scientists working in Siberia reported an unprecedented thaw in the world's largest peat bog, which they fear could release billions of tonnes of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Melting permafrost frees carbon because warmer temperatures allow bacteria to degrade previously frozen dead vegetation.

Recent warming has degraded large sections of surface permafrost across central Alaska, with pockets of soil collapsing as the ice within it melts. The melting has buckled roads, destabilised houses and produced so-called "drunken forests" in which the trees lean at wild angles. Sections of the Alaskan Arctic oil pipeline buried in sensitive areas are refrigerated to keep the permafrost around it solid.

The computer model also predicted that the massive thaw would significantly increase the amount of fresh water draining into the Arctic Ocean, which could affect global currents. "Thawing permafrost could send considerable amounts of water to the oceans," said Dr Slater. Water runoff from permafrost to the ocean has increased by 7% since the 1930s. In the high-emission simulation, the computer predicted a further increase of 28% by 2100. About half of this is down to ice melting within the surface soil, with the rest because of increased rainfall, snowfall and increased drainage.

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[This is extremely serious. Since 9/11 I have seen little or no outright repressive moves against journalists and authors; certainly not this blatant. The political cost would be too risky. This story needs to be disseminated far and wide because – to quote the cliché – if we do not hang together we shall all hang separately. A line needs to be drawn in the sand here. This man is a recognized and accomplished journalist. Clearly, whatever risks have kept the Neocons from going this far before are now outweighed by an even greater need. It is unfathomable that Karl Rove would not have considered the consequences.

Let us all consider the consequences of silence. – MCR]

AUTHOR OF “BUSH’S BRAIN” PUT ON NO-FLY WATCH LIST

The Huffington Post
01-04-06
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-moore/branded_b_13272.html

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

BIO: James Moore is an Emmy-winning former television news correspondent and the co-author of the bestselling, Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential. He has been writing and reporting from Texas for the past 25 years on the rise of Rove and Bush and has traveled extensively on every presidential campaign since 1976. He is currently writing a book on the long term consequences for America of Bush and Rove policies, which will be published next year.

There are times in which it is easy to be suspicious. We can get to that feeling fairly quickly if we even pay slight attention. I've been trying to get over this odd emotion for at least a year. I can't find any rationale for letting it go, though I want desperately not to have these thoughts.

This week last year I was preparing for a trip to Ohio to conduct interviews and research for a new book I was writing. My airline tickets had been purchased on line and the morning of departure I went to the Internet to print out my boarding pass. I got a message that said, "Not Allowed." Several subsequent tries failed. Surely, I thought, it's just a glitch within the airline's servers or software.

I made it a point to arrive very early at the airport. My reservation was confirmed before I left home. I went to the electronic kiosk and punched in my confirmation number to print out my boarding pass and luggage tags. Another error message appeared, "Please see agent."

I did. She took my Texas driver's license and punched in the relevant information to her computer system.

"I'm sorry, sir," she said. "There seems to be a problem. You've been placed on the No Fly Watch List."

"Excuse me?"

"I'm afraid there isn't much more that I can tell you," she explained. "It's just the list that's maintained by TSA to check for people who might have terrorist connections."

"You're serious?"

"I'm afraid so, sir. Here's an 800 number in Washington. You need to call them before I can clear you for the flight."

Exasperated, I dialed the number from my cell, determined to clear up what I was sure was a clerical error. The woman who answered offered me no more information than the ticket agent.

"Mam, I'd like to know how I got on the No Fly Watch List."

"I'm not really authorized to tell you that, sir," she explained after taking down my social security and Texas driver's license numbers.

"What can you tell me?"

"All I can tell you is that there is something in your background that in some way is similar to someone they are looking for."

"Well, let me get this straight then," I said. "Our government is looking for a guy who may have a mundane Anglo name, who pays tens of thousands of dollars every year in taxes, has never been arrested or even late on a credit card payment, is more uninteresting than a Tupperware party, and cries after the first two notes of the national anthem? We need to find this guy. He sounds dangerous to me."

"I'm sorry, sir, I've already told you everything I can."

"Oh, wait," I said. "One last thing: this guy they are looking for? Did he write books critical of the Bush administration, too?"

I have been on the No Fly Watch List for a year. I will never be told the official reason. No one ever is. You cannot sue to get the information. Nothing I have done has moved me any closer to getting off the list. There were 35,000 Americans in that database last year. According to a European government that screens hundreds of thousands of American travelers every year, the list they have been given to work from has since grown to 80,000.

My friends tell me it is just more government incompetence. A tech buddy said there's no one in government smart enough to write a search algorithm that will find actual terrorists, so they end up with authors of books criticizing the Bush White House. I have no idea what's going on.

I suppose I should think of it as a minor sacrifice to help keep my country safe. Not being able to print out boarding passes in advance and having to get to the airport three hours early for every flight is hardly an imposition compared to what Americans are enduring in Iraq. I can force myself to get used to all that extra attention from the guy with the wand whenever I walk through the electronic arches. I'm just doing my patriotic duty.

Of course, there's always the chance that the No Fly Watch List is one of many enemies lists maintained by the Bush White House. If that's the case, I am happy to be on that list. I am in good company with people who expect more out of their president and their government.

Hell, maybe I'll start thinking of it as an honor roll.

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