A month after over 865,200 gallons of oil spilled from Tesoro Logistics’ 6-inch pipeline near Tioga, North Dakota, the cause of the leak is still largely unknown to anyone but Tesoro. The pipeline resumed operations today. Carrying oil obtained via…
See that cluster of lights by North Dakota? That’s the result of fracking. Six years ago that light cluster did not exist. The reason is over the past years natural gas extraction though the use of fracking has increased exponentially as a result of the push for alternative fuel use and technological achievements.
Fracking is the controversial method of extracting natural gas from shale rock using a chemical and water mixture. Depending on the methods used, some 29% of the gas being extracted can go to waste—or rather, into creating this light show.
That light cluster is fire of natural gas burning as companies work all night to extract resources from the Bakken formation under North Dakota; a place whose citizens now call the “Kuwait on the prairie”.
The natural gas rush has been so sudden that North Dakota now has the lowest unemployment rate in the country — more than 41,000 workers got jobs there between 2008 and 2012. Additionally, seven years ago, the U.S. was importing 60% of its oil. Now oil imports are down to 42%. The Bakken fields play a major role in this.
Natural gas is indeed making an impact, be it for better or for worse, and an impact that is now visible from space! The picture was taken by NASA’s Earth Observatory, which orbits the planet twice a day some 512 miles up.
Andrew Meggison was born in the state of Maine and educated in Massachusetts. Andrew earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Government and International Relations from Clark University and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Northeastern University. Being an Eagle Scout, Andrew has a passion for all things environmental. In his free time Andrew enjoys writing, exploring the great outdoors, a good film, and a creative cocktail. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMeggison
In case you haven’t noticed, gas prices seem to be falling at a fairly steady rate, and the trend shows no sign of reversing. With America’s domestic production on the rise, prices for a domestically-produced barrel of oil could fall to the lowest levels seen in years. But it is unlikely to last according to a new report.
With America’s reliance on gasoline a cornerstone of our economy, domestic production of oil has been a big deal for both political parties. Under President Obama, domestic production of oil is on the rise, though his predecessor George W. Bush really deserves most of the credit/condemnation. With a glut of oil coming from drilling operations in North Dakota, the Gulf of Mexico, and Alaska’s northern reaches analysts expect the price of a barrel of American crude to reach just $50.
But don’t get too excited. Overall, worldwide production of oil is down, though in many places (like Europe) so is consumption. A lot of this American oil is also destined for other nations, meaning that while there will be some relief of the pain at the pump, it isn’t likely to last. Oil companies can’t make a profit on $50 a barrel oil in today’s market, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them pull some of the same tricks pioneered by Saudi Arabia, essentially turning off the spigots to artificially keep prices high.
Besides that, America still gets a lot of oil from countries with higher oil prices, like Nigeria and Venezuela. So while we may see a small drop in gas prices, like we currently are seeing (according to the AAA Fuel Gauge the national average is down about 14 cents in a month), the effects won’t last long.
On one hand, the idea of paying less for gas is certain to strike a chord American consumers. But high gas prices are a primary driver of both fuel efficiency and the search for alternative energy. As history shows, the price of oil can fluctuate wildly, and for a variety of geopolitical reasons; it is an uncertain source of energy that must bow to the whims of theocracies and dictatorships.
My worry is that if gas prices stay too low, for too long, people will stop buying fuel efficient cars or pushing for alternatives to oil. It has happened before, and it could happen again. Stay tuned…
Editor’s Note: Sasha is one of the newest additions to the Gas 2.0 writing team. Welcome Sasha!
North Dakota’s fund for helping ethanol producers hedge against fluctuating corn prices is about to run out, and the producers are getting worried.
The fund, paid for in part by farm vehicle registrations, was drained by high corn prices earlier this year, according to the Bismark Tribune. Ethanol facilities operate on very slim margins, amplifying the effect of market turbulence. The goal of the fund, run by the North Dakota Commerce Department, was to create a safety net — $1.6 million per year to be exact — for existing ethanol production facilities and to draw new facilities in as well. Now the fund only has $2.4 million left.