Attention turned to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (above) yesterday as rumors swirled that President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron had reached a deal saying that both countries would open their reserves in an effort to drive down gas prices. Press Secretary Jay Carney said there was no such agreement but Prime Minister Cameron hinted at such a deal before an audience of college students at New York University. The combination of SPR talk and a slight drop in demand knocked down oil prices yesterday. Meanwhile, in a lengthy analysis, Reuters says that the logistics for tapping the reserve have become more complicated than most people realize.
Gas prices remained at the top of the political agenda as President Obama told an audience of community college students in Maryland that oil production was higher than ever. But the Institute for Energy Research in Washington released figures showing that most of this is coming from private land – particularly the Bakken – where the government has no control. Oil production on federal lands, it said, is at a nine-year low.
Fracking technology is moving abroad rapidly, with both China and Poland making big plans to tap their reserves. China announced it plans to produce 6.5 billion cubic meters of shale gas by 2015. Authorities said they are looking for ways to improve the technology. The Financial Times notes that China will need lots of new pipeline infrastructure to meet these goals. Meanwhile, Poland announced it is aiming for 1 bcm with production beginning in 2014. South Africa is also showing interest in its reserves.
Renewables are causing a big stir in the United Kingdom as enthusiasts cast about for a way to forestall the country’s return to nuclear power. RenewableUK has suggested wave and tide power and asked the government to provide development funds. The Huffington Post exudes that Scots are abandoning support for nuclear in favor of renewables. But John Parness, writing in RTCC, says the industry should beware of making promises it cannot keep.
Finally, hydrogen fuel cells seem to be climbing off the drawing boards as a handful of fueling stations have opened in California. (Remember Governor Schwarzenegger’s “Hydrogen Highway?”) Fuel cells use hydrogen to generate electricity in a battery-sized device that can power a car. Some of the hydrogen in California is being generated from sewage and some from an egg farm. In Switzerland, hydrogen-powered vehicles are sweeping the streets. And FuelCell Energy has just signed a deal with Air Products to manufacture a stationary home power plant that can produce hydrogen, electricity and high quality heat. After kicking around for more than a decade, the idea of usable hydrogen devices may finally be taking off.