The Week That Was
May 3, 2003

1. New on the Web: A DOUBLE FEATURE ABOUT GLOBAL WARMING FROM CANADA: Lorne Gunter's satire of Earth Day and Ross McKitrick's skewering of the NY Times, "West Wing," and David Suzuki.

2. CANADA'S OIL SANDS RESERVES APPRAISED AT 180 BILLION BARRELS: That's sufficient to cover all US oil imports for 45 years.





7. SWEDEN PREFERS NOT TO FREEZE IN THE DARK: Won't close nuclear reactor

2. Canada's Oil sands reserves appraised at 180 billion barrels by Oil and Gas Journal.

Estimates of Canada's oil reserves jumped from 4.9 to 180 billion barrels this year, making it the second-largest oil reserve in the world, acc. to an annual survey by the authoritative O&GJ. While the resource had been known for some time, it has now become economically recoverable and therefore included as "reserves."

The Alberta oil sands contain tar-like bitumen mixed with sand and clay. Hot water is used to separate the bitumen. Thanks to technology advances that lower the transportation cost of the sands, production costs are now estimated at around $8 a barrel.

But because of Canada's adherence to the Kyoto Protocol, the outlook is cloudy. Koch Industries has withdrawn from a C$3.5-billion investment and Petro-Canada is reconsidering its C$5.2-billion plan. [Financial Post 4/29/03]. There is great concern about what Ottawa plans to do after 2012 in follow-ups to Kyoto. The federal government has offered no guarantees, so uncertainty is discouraging investments and adding to costs.

A May 02, 2003 National Post article titled, "Oilsands' promise may evaporate: This fabled lode of wealth is becoming too expensive to produce" described how many companies are dropping or holding off on their oilsands developments. Most are citing Kyoto-related uncertainties, some are citing increasing costs from numerous competing projects, but either way, the number of active oilsands projects is dwindling.

On the other hand, there are technological prospects for lowering production costs. Atomic Energy Canada Limited (AECL), the developer of the highly successful CANDU nuclear reactor, has long espoused the "Slowpoke" concept, a 10 MW (thermal) reactor that supplies hot water rather than steam for electric power generation. The Advanced CANDU (using enriched uranium, heavy water moderation, but light water cooling) can be built with a cost saving of 40%, being physically smaller. It might be the ideal energy source for the hot water needed for producing oil from Canadian tar sands.

With US oil imports now at 4 billion barrels per year, much of it from unstable sources, there should be considerable interest in seeing to it that the Canadian oil reserves can be developed. If the US goes along with Canada in supporting the single pipeline for Alaskan natural gas through the MacKenzie Delta, a deal could be made that will save billions for US taxpayers and make Canadians richer - a win-win situation. It may have to wait until the Chretien government departs from Ottawa - perhaps in 2004.

3. A new survey by the Potential Gas Committee says that the levels of natural gas are larger than previously thought.

The committee, made up of representatives from the natural gas industry, government agencies and academic institutions, says that 1,311 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) in natural gas resources existed as of the end of 2002 in the United States. That's the equivalent of a 65-year supply of natural gas at current rates of consumption. The size of the base actually increased since the committee's last report in 2000, even though 39 Tcf of natural gas has been withdrawn.

"It makes no sense for laws and regulations to promote greater use of natural gas for increased national energy independence and environmental reasons, while at the same time conflicting regulations hamper the ability of natural gas producers to bring enough supply to market to meet this growing demand," says David Parker, CEO of the American Gas Association.

The mismatch between supply and demand creates price volatility, he adds. That hurts all users from apartment dwellers to industrial operations to electric generators. The time is right for lawmakers to adopt an energy bill that considers the projected demand and environmental benefits of natural gas, as well as the new technologies that make drilling less invasive, Parker says.

Opponents of new exploration, however, contend that such studies are generally industry financed and the results are therefore suspect. Resource levels are exaggerated, which means that added drilling would be environmentally harmful. Supplies are adequate through 2025, they say-enough time to develop alternative energy sources.

The debate rages in Congress. The House has passed a measure to allow drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) but the Senate has voted nay, although the item could get pushed through in any Conference Committee bill that reconciles the two versions. Republican lawmakers have said that they might agree to support government mandates to promote renewable energy if Senate Democrats would give in on ANWR. The Administration estimates natural-gas reserves from ANWR at 35 Tcf (and perhaps up to 100 Tcf from the North Slope).

(From Issue Alert by Ken Silverstein)


4. Gas won't be cheap

We have turned as a country to natural gas in a big way because it is perceived as clean, cheap, and ample. Now, as we become dependent upon it, it is neither inexpensive nor abundant. It will become especially noticeable the next time there is a shortage of power in this country, as we try to turn on more gas-power generation at the same time there exist a shortage of gas to store away for winter season. At that point, $5 gas will become a very cheap memory. We are also headed for a potential major shortage this coming winter, if the weather patterns merely approximate historical trends.

However, as you might expect, I take issue with your attempt to be balanced in your approach to the subject. First, some housekeeping: You refer to depletion rates of 29% for existing supplies. I am quite sure you meant decline rates. Depletion refers to the amount by which reserves are reduced through a given amount of production, and we are not losing reserves at anywhere near that rate. Decline rates refer to the amount by which periodic production from a given well or set of wells decreases from one period to the next. New wells are declining by about 29%, and the rate is heading north of 30% quickly.

Second, the ANWR debate has very little to do with the natural gas. The decision to bring natural gas down from Alaska and/or Canada's MacKenzie Delta is a separate issue with opening ANWR. We could pipe natural gas from Alaska for years without having to even consider ANWR as a possible source. ANWR is mostly about oil.

You mentioned that Canada has made up the difference in our shortfall of natural gas production until now, but you failed (probably for lack of space) to mention that Canadian production is starting to fall off also. Coming at a time when our own production has fallen, this is doubly bad. You might also have mentioned that Mexico is starting to import more natural gas from the U.S., a trend that should continue unless the U.S. is opened up to more exploration.

You also neglected to mention that these studies showing a 65+ year supply do virtually nothing to consider commercial viability for much of those estimates. You and I may have some deposits in our back yard, and deposits such as those are figured into these estimates of gross availability. But they are no more accessible under today's environment than gas deposits off the coast of Florida. And to include them into reserve estimates is to do a great disservice to the debate over making restricted areas accessible.

People who continue to claim that drilling is environmentally evil have watched the movie "Giant" one too many times. Such efficient advances as directional drilling have greatly improved the productivity along with the clean activity of newer wells, a fact that is inconvenient for the "greens". It will take a lot of effort to get the environmentalists to accept this, and many of the current generation never will, since reality threatens their raison d'etre.

You say some environmentalists are supportive of our need to expand exploration and drilling efforts. The fact is it only takes one group to close down, or greatly impede, any effort to expand our hydrocarbon asset base. Various groups have successfully blocked numerous efforts to expand drilling into areas that should be producing now.

We have already lost a huge amount of industry in the US because of higher gas prices, as evidenced by the fact that industrial use of natural gas has dropped from 17.2 Bcf/day in 2000 to an estimated 7.2 Bcf/day in 2003. Even with that decline, we run a very real risk of entering this next winter without enough gas to last the heating season at any cost.

James R. Halloran
Energy Analyst, National City Bank

5. Cancer Risk Higher At Rocky Flats Plant (By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS (AP) -

Rocky Flats employees who assembled nuclear weapons components and inhaled radioactive particles had an increased risk of lung cancer, a new study found. The $2.5 million study found that workers who dealt with plutonium were about two times more likely to develop lung cancer than workers who were not exposed. The study was done by the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Researchers compared 180 former workers who died of lung cancer with 720 other workers who were considered healthy. Those who died of lung cancer had higher levels of radiation exposure on average. Dr. James Ruttenber, who led the study, said the research offers the first concrete information in the United States that lung cancer is linked to plutonium ingestion. ``We have supporting evidence from other studies that, along with our findings, support the hypothesis that plutonium exposure causes lung cancer,'' Ruttenber said. He said researchers will study the data to determine if standards for handling plutonium should be changed. ``One case study is not enough,'' he said. ``We need to make sure that we > have robust findings before we make sweeping changes.''

Doug Benevento, director of the state health department, said other factors have been shown to cause more of a risk of cancer. ``You have to put it into context: If you smoke, you're seven times as likely to develop lung cancer,'' he said. He also said the study did not definitively link worker's cancers to their employment at the plant, noting other factors, such as exposure to chemicals at home, lifestyle differences or pure chance could explain the elevated risk results.

Arvada resident Wally Gulden, 65, who worked at Rocky Flats for 26 years, said he wasn't surprised by the findings or satisfied with the study. ``There are more of us out there with cancers not related to the ones that were studied,'' said Gulden, who has non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. ``I worked in a hot spot and I know I ingested plutonium, and I want to know if it's related to my work.'' Gulden has filed a claim under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act program, which compensates people suffering from cancer and other illnesses as a result of their work on Cold War-era weapons projects. ``I hoped for more answers, but there aren't any,'' Gulden said.

The lung cancer findings were part of a broader study that tracked 16,303 people who worked at the plant between 1952 and 1989. The study also found that Rocky Flats workers were 2.5 times more likely to develop brain tumors than other people. Researches plan to examine those findings further.

Rocky Flats manufactured plutonium triggers for nuclear warheads for almost 40 years. It closed in 1989 because of safety and environmental problems. The site is being cleaned up and will become a wildlife refuge. The study was funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

On the Net: Rocky Flats workers study:


6. Myth: Plutonium is one of the most dangerous poisons known -- But

Reality: Three studies in report, "Toxicological Profile for Plutonium," prepared for and issued by Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, Georgia, in collaboration with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, December 1990, show just the opposite:

**A 37-year study(as of 1990, the year of this report) of 26 plutonium workers at Los Alamos laboratory during World War II with plutonium deposition ranging from 2,000 to 95,000 picocuries plutonium with a mean of 26,000 picocuries showed mortality of 2.0 vs. 6.6 in a comparable number of the general population. In addition, no malignant neoplasms have occurred in this group during this extensive follow-up.

**Study begun in 1974 of an additional 224 Los Alamos workers with average whole body deposition of 19,000 picocuries plutonium showed 43 deaths compared to 77 in a comparable number of the general population. The number of deaths due to malignant neoplasms was 8 vs. 15 in the general population, including only one lung cancer vs. five in the general population.

**Study of 7,112 workers employed at the Rocky Flats plutonium facility during 1952-1979 showed comparable results. Observed deaths of workers were significantly less than those in comparable numbers of general populations (452 vs. 831). Malignant neoplasms were also less (107 vs. 167).

By Clinton Bastin <>

7. Sweden changes its mind: Won't close nuclear reactor

The socialist-democratic government (with support from the Left and from Center parties) has decided not to close Bärsebeck 2 in 2003, as originally planned. It could not guarantee adequacy of supply during extreme clod weather. Sweden obtains half its electric power from nuclear reactors.




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