Tuesday, February 02, 2016
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
Closer than HorizonIt's the end of 2015, and Houston's traveled "T-plus 27" years past the outside estimate for how long humans may safely extend fossil fuel exploitation before stemming a tide of climate change that increasingly threatens modern civilization plus uncountable animal and plant species with disaster and near-extinction.
Around 1978 Exxon's own excellent internal science staff formulated an estimate with only five to ten years remaining at expected global emissions curves to define an alternative path away from fossil fuels. Well it's taken longer than desired, but with this year's Paris climate accord in hand the whole world now stands united to attempt this major course correction together.
Portland, Oregon and surrounding Multnomah County have followed a joint climate action plan since 1993, now in its fourth installment. Other places started a bit later, and many have yet to begin their first such project. Unfortunate for locals, Houston, Texas in billing itself the Energy Capital of the World to its peril equates that title with fossil hydrocarbon exploration and production. This excerpt downloaded yesterday from the Portland, Oregon local government Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) web site gives energy industry leadership pause:
"In November 2015, Portland City Council passed two new resolutions, signaling local resolve to move away from fossil fuels. The first resolution, passed on November 4, opposes oil trains carrying crude oil from rolling through Portland and Vancouver. The second resolution directs City bureaus to identify how to use the City's authority to restrict the development and expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure (other than infrastructure like pipes to serve direct end users.) Resolutions are not legally binding on their own. Any legally binding code changes will come back to City Council for consideration at a later date.
The new resolutions build on a history of action:Consider that Portland has a 20-plus year lead embracing climate action, and we have reason to expect other US cities and counties will enact similar measures quite rapidly as part and parcel of a national contribution toward global fossil fuel emissions reductions of 80% by 2050. What would this mean for Houston, the nation's fourth largest city, and for surrounding Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery Counties?
- Reduce direct use of fossil fuels: The City has been systematically working to reduce fossil fuel use in Portland for more than 20 years, as detailed in four successive climate action plans. This most recent decision reflects the commitment of Portland’s leadership to stay the course, rather than a radical departure from past practice.
- Don't invest City financial resources in fossil fuels: In September 2015 City Council passed a resolution that adds fossil fuel companies to the City’s "do-not-buy" list of corporate securities.
- Reduce fossil fuels in our electricity supply: The City continues to partner with clean energy advocates and allies to make it easier for renewable energy development to take place in Oregon. BPS has run programs to help residents and businesses go solar, like Solarize Portland, and has piloted new program ideas like crowdfunding for solar on community buildings. BPS has played an active role in supporting state legislative and regulatory proceedings that advance clean energy, like the Renewable Portfolio Standard."
The status of diversification in the Houston-area economyAnyone that lived through the 1983/86 crash in Houston can easily recall to this day what over-reliance on a single fuel to support the regional economy felt like when boom turned to bust. The CEO of Shell Oil Company walked away from a Kingwood mansion and threw in the keys.
Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey (from BLS)Here's a look at the nation's post-war unemployment history.
The 1983 economic crisis became just as pronounced as the 2008 financial meltdown from which we still recover at a national scale.
- Financial Services: almost 7 percent of all employees worked in almost 13 percent of all establishments earning over 12 percent of total wages. Average weekly wage was $2,433.17, or 182% of the county average.
- Aerospace: with just ten employers that provided 3,131 jobs earning $6.4 million in weekly wages, the business of outer space made up a mere quarter percent of the Harris County total. Average weekly wage was $2,051.26, or 153% of the county average.
- Biotech: with a lower location quotient (LQ) of only 0.75, biotech actually appeared underrepresented in Harris County with only 56 establishments supplying 742 jobs earning $1.2 million in weekly wages. This industry supplied four hundredths of a percent of Harris County's total wages, leaving plenty of room for growth. Average weekly wage was $1,672.63, or 125% of the county average.
- Rice Milling: a mature Harris County industry with a whopping 6.71 L.Q., provided 184 jobs in just seven establishments offering $254,621 in weekly wages, which is only one hundredth of one percent of the county total. Average weekly wage was $1,383.81, or 103% of the county average.
- HVAC: the air conditioning industry in this hot and humid land had L.Q. of 1.62 where 212 establishments provided 7,382 jobs offering $9.4 million in weekly wages, which is about one-third percent of county total wages. Average weekly wage was $1,273.90, or 95% of the county average.
- Coffee Bean Roasting: a recent startup industry in Harris County, green coffee roasting maintained 490 employees in eleven establishments offering $605,325 in weekly wages, which amounted to an embryonic two hundredths of one percent of county total wages. Average weekly wage was $1,235.36, or 92% of county average.
- Medicine: an average-paid Medical Center with lower-wage supportive services like ambulance drivers and home health care workers, combined to offer $188 million in weekly wages (6.74% of the county's total) to 178,819 workers (8.6% of the county total) spread over 8,706 establishments. Thus averaged, a weekly wage of $1,053.47 was 79% of county average. The gigantic and expending size of the Texas Medical Center hinted at a large and growing population in the Houston metro area, Houston–The Woodlands–Sugar Land was the fifth-largest metropolitan area in the United States and second-largest in Texas with a population of 6,313,158 in 2013 and 6,490,180 in 2014, according to U.S. Census Bureau's most recent mid-year (ACS 1-Year) estimates. Considering the size of population served, the medical profession in Harris County still has a location quotient of only 1.27, meaning it has ballooned but only to 27% larger than the average medical industry of a US metropolitan city.
- Finally, with over three times the L.Q. average, Harris County's innovative Bus and Rail Transit industry employed 3,120 workers in 12 establishments offering a total of almost $3 million in weekly wages, between one and two tenth's percent of the county total. Average weekly wage was $910.45, or 68% of the county average, marking this the lower-wage industry among the big ones in the Houston area.
- implementing ever more efficient co-generation solutions wherever the remaining fossil fuel budget may be burned.
- right-sizing petroleum production for almost exclusively closed-loop feed stock and not so much direct-burn fuel purposes.
- becoming a serious supplier of pure carbon buckyball lubricants and nanotube fiber stocks as sequestering develops a non-fossil-fueled ability to retrieve and split CO2 from ambient air.
- partnering with the private aerospace industry to create prodigious amounts of pure hydrogen and oxygen to fuel ever cheaper launches and deeper space ventures, and on the side power embedded fuel cells and entire trains of self-driven hydrogen cars on land, rail and in the air.
- mitigating existing ship channel properties to redevelop the land for future-trade post-Panamax business, especially if asteroid mining begins to pay raw-materials dividends.
- hugely retooling and reinvesting in future base-load energy options such as modular breeder reactors and eventually magnetically-constrained slow fusion direct electric and heat production.
- exploiting that intense nuclear energy and supplementing it with abundant alternatives to create a stream of custom hydrocarbons (boutique fuels) from seawater and feed stocks.
- partnering with the public to mainline carbon-fee dividends to customers' checking accounts.
- participating in a tremendous new public-private partnership to develop free energy as public good, perhaps distributed underground from a safe, secure superconducting spine that will traverse the center of North America from Hudson Bay to Houston.
- taking ownership of whatever the OPEC oil states may leave to private oil majors after they have predominantly purchased winners of competition in advanced bio-fuel industries.
- final development of identified fossil fuel reserves but only within Earth's limited remaining carbon budget, and in order of most economical-ecological exploits first - the rest will remain in solid earth reservoirs.
- eventually, and this is really looking ahead, making good on those space company partnerships to transport valuable new bulk hydrocarbon resources from Jupiter's moons for safe delivery to a carefully carbon-neutral future Earth.
Tuesday, April 07, 2015
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Tuesday, July 08, 2014
Monday, May 19, 2014
- to upgrade Gulf Coast capabilities to crack (https://rbnenergy.com/gulf-coast-diesel-crack-habit%E2%80%93can-refiners-live-without-it-part-2) the dirtiest but most accessible unconventional heavy sour crudes (http://www.ogj.com/articles/print/volume-112/issue-1b/regular-features/editorial/why-allow-crude-exports.html),
- to build continental scale pipeline infrastructure expecting to carry Canadian diluted bitumen into the Houston area (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/03/keystone-export-opposition_n_4891785.html),
- to expand the Houston port infrastructure and deepen/widen the ship channel (http://www.txgulf.org/newsletter/2014%20JAN%20PBN%201-2-14.pdf, http://www.poa.usace.army.mil/Portals/34/docs/AKports/Planning%20for%20Alaska's%20Ports%20&%20Harbors%20Jan%2011.pdf, http://www.glmri.org/downloads/Ports&IntermodalTransport.pdf and perhaps protect it from storm surges and sea level rise http://guidrynews.com/story.aspx?id=1000059263),
- to expand the Panama Canal (http://en.portnews.ru/news/180622/),
- and to design and construct larger "New-Panamax" (http://maritime-connector.com/wiki/panamax/, http://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2014-may-the-port-to-nowhere-#.U3ozQE0U9aQ) tanker ships spec'd as 1200' long, 160' wide and 49.9 feet draught to haul rising amounts of fossil fuel products from the Gulf of Mexico to thirsty and fast-growing "developing" world nations even as so-called "advanced" nations ramp down fossil-carbon-based fuels in a belated attempt to mitigate excess greenhouse effect that appears inexorably headed toward abrupt climate change.
- Finally, the recent bonanza of unconventional domestic light sweet crude production may not be sustainable for very long (http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-10-10/u-dot-s-dot-shale-oil-boom-may-not-last-as-fracking-wells-lack-staying-power, http://www.rtcc.org/2014/04/25/how-long-can-the-fracking-revolution-last/), leading to this week's local summit about what jobs might replace upstream domestic petroleum production (https://www.bauer.uh.edu/IRFRegistration/).
"private capital provides the medium while planning provides the sieve, form or template"
Friday, April 25, 2014
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