And Corona virus not helping.

Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis:

“The fracking sector as a whole has been struggling mightily throughout the decade to register positive free cash flow but for those based in Appalachia, the numbers have been even more dismal,” said IEEFA financial analyst and briefing note co-author Kathy Hipple.

Negative cash flows for the full year, at $466 million, actually represented the decade’s best performance for these companies. Yet only two of the eight firms in the IEEFA sample, Cabot Oil and Gas and EQT, were cash flow positive for the year. Five of the eight companies—Antero Resources, CNX, Chesapeake, Gulfport, and Range Resources—reported negative cash each year throughout the decade. Southwestern’s cash flow was negative in nine of the 10 years, including 2019.

“The paradox for the fracking sector is that the oil and gas production bonanza has been a cash flow bust,” said IEEFA energy finance analyst Clark Williams-Derry. “Q4 2019 was no exception.”    

On an annual basis, U.S. benchmark gas prices peaked in 2008, at $8.86/MMBtu. But prices have dropped dramatically since then, falling to just $2.56/MMBtu on average in 2019,  and well below $2.00 more recently.

For a brief period in March 2020, some Appalachian-focused gas producers saw their stock prices improve, even as stocks for other oil and gas companies plummeted. This bounce was propelled by an emerging narrative that lower oil prices would curtail drilling in the Permian, translating into reduced gas production from the U.S.’s most prolific shale basin. This comparative improvement in some Appalachian producers’ stock performance lost steam by late March, as natural gas prices continued to decline along with the price of oil, hitting $1.60/MMBtu. 

“We expect gas prices to remain depressed for the foreseeable future and add to that decreased demand from the coronavirus pandemic and that spells continuing distress for producers in Appalachia,” said IEEFA’s director of finance Tom Sanzillo.

Bruce Robertson for Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis:

GLOBALLY, RENEWABLE ENERGY IS THE CHEAPEST SOURCE OF POWER GENERATION. Increasingly, it will be more so. It is a matter of time. In China, this will happen as soon as 2027. In Australia it’s already the case. Wind and solar are already cheaper, even unsubsidised.

Inside the industry, gas executives see very little demand for their product beyond 30 years from now. The proposed Burrup project in Western Australia has a 50 year life. The Northern Territory fracking projects have a minimum 30 year life. But for both, it’s unlikely they will see their 30 year life out.

Prior to covid-19, the gas industry saw increasing demand for their product, even if only within the 30-year projected life span. It will take a long while for all of us to crawl out of the economic effects this virus will heave. It will last for years.

Then there is another issue: there’s an oversupply of gas. The global gas glut will not resolve now until about 2030. It was previously projected to resolve by 2025. So why would any gas company look to build new gas now?

THE LARGEST COST OF RENEWABLE ENERGY IS THE FINANCING. Running a solar plant, for instance, costs very little. In our current climate, financing costs are declining for renewables as interest rates fall, while financing costs for fossil fuels are going up. This is because the debt markets have lost patience. They are downgrading the debt of oil and gas companies.

Currently, the U.S. fracking industry is experiencing a flood of bankruptcies, and soon, some US$86 billion dollars of debt will be due. This will be very difficult for the industry to manage. When enough fracking companies go broke in the U.S., this will force prices back up, at which point gas will become uneconomic to produce.

Whether prices are low or high, it is not good for the fracking industry. Too low and they can’t make money, and too high and they lose market share to renewables.

Origin’s Kyalla fracking project in the Northern Territory’s Beetaloo Basin was pulled this week. It is not, however, just the virus that is stopping them.

Origin, via a consortium, have already invested $25 billion dollars at Gladstone LNG plants in Queensland. They need more gas to put through these plants. If they stop supplying those plants, they go bankrupt.

THE GAS INDUSTRY HAS BEEN GIVEN A FREE RIDE TO CONTINUE FOR SOME YEARS NOW, but they are pulling out because they don’t have the money to continue.

Read the rest of this entry »

Remaining Koch brother, even with one foot in the grave, still reaching out to keep Americans from following best science and health practice to socially distance in what is clearly a global crisis.

They are truly merchants of Death.

Intellectualist:

Americans for Prosperity, founded and funded by Charles Koch, has blasted shelter-in-place orders in several states.

Libertarian billionaire Charles Koch is actively fighting during the coronavirus crisis engulfing the United States and the world — but rather than fighting against the virus’ spread, his group is pushing for businesses to stay open and an end to shelter-in-place orders.

Americans for Prosperity, which Koch founded and funds, released a statement last week urging businesses to remain open, The Intercept reported, as states across the U.S. began shutting down nonessential businesses in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

“Rather than blanket shutdowns, the government should allow businesses to continue to adapt and innovate to produce the goods and services Americans need, while continuing to do everything they can to protect the public health,” Emily Seidel, chief executive of AFP, wrote in a press release.

AFP is speaking out at the state level as well, according to the report: “Some of the group’s state chapters have taken a similar tone. AFP Pennsylvania’s state director, as well as a regional director with the group, have taken to Twitter to lambast shelter-in-place policies.”

And when Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a stay-at-home order that closed down Michigan’s fitness centers, nail salons, amusement parks, casinos, and other nonessential businesses, AFP’s Michigan chapter slammed the move.

“All businesses are essential — to the people who own them, the people who work in them, and the communities they serve,” Annie Patnaude, the Michigan state director for AFP, said in response to the order.

But public health officials have maintained that such measures are necessary if the country hopes to avoid overwhelming its hospital systems with coronavirus patients.

“Experts around the country have called for shelter-in-place policies for nonessential businesses, arguing that social isolation can drastically curb the spread of the coronavirus,” The Intercept noted. “Slowing the pandemic, they say, can save lives by lowering the demand for medical supplies and limited hospital beds.”

Andy Dessler took some of his social distancing time to critique a recent slide set by climate denier Roy Spencer.

Worth your time, and if you have not seen Andy and others tear into Spencer, and his partner John Christy’s, dodgy science record.

Rolling Stone:

Bob Dylan, who hasn’t released an original song since 2012’s Tempest,unexpectedly dropped a previously unheard, nearly 17-minute-long new track, “Murder Most Foul,” late Thursday night.

Dylan didn’t say exactly when the song was recorded, but his delicate vocal delivery resembles the way he’s been singing in his live shows in the past couple of years. “Greetings to my fans and followers with gratitude for all your support and loyalty over the years,” Dylan said in a statement. “This is an unreleased song we recorded a while back that you might find interesting. Stay safe, stay observant, and may God be with you.”

This dizzying, utterly extraordinary song — as allusive as it is elusive — starts off seeming like it might be a straightforward recounting of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, but expands into an impressionistic, elegiac, increasingly apocalyptic journey through what feels like the entire Sixties (complete with references to the Who’s Tommy, Woodstock, and Altamont) and then perhaps all of 20th-century America, especially its music.

Kentucky GOP representative Thomas Massie is in the news, but sharp eyed readers of this blog probably remember him from this exchange above with Secretary of State John Kerry, about climate change.

He’s now one of the most hated members of congress, neck and neck with his Kentucky colleague Rand Paul, for using a procedural lever to force members of the House to return to Washington DC for a vote on Corona Virus relief.

Politico:

Thomas Massie might be the least popular man in Washington.

The Kentucky congressman attempted unsuccessfully on Friday to require House members to take a recorded vote in order to pass a $2 trillion coronavirus relief package. And although Massie’s colleagues were able to foil his parliamentary procedure in a matter of seconds, his efforts nonetheless forced scores of lawmakers to travel to Washington amid a pandemic to stop him.

Led by President Donald Trump, both Republicans and Democrats lined up to whack the GOP lawmaker who tried to derail the bipartisan stimulus bill. 

“Looks like a third rate Grandstander named @RepThomasMassie, a Congressman from, unfortunately, a truly GREAT State, Kentucky, wants to vote against the new Save Our Workers Bill in Congress,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

House Republican leadership had been concerned that Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) would move to demand a recorded tally as opposed to a voice vote on the historic measure, throwing a last-minute hurdle in the legislation’s path to the president’s desk. 

Two hours after Trump’s initial post, Massie confirmed that he would do just that, tweeting: “I swore an oath to uphold the constitution, and I take that oath seriously. In a few moments I will request a vote on the CARES Act which means members of Congress will vote on it by pushing ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or ‘present.’”

Massie ultimately failed on Friday afternoon when the House approved the package. But his threat compelled dozens, if not hundreds, of lawmakers to return to Capitol Hill from their home districts, navigating across interstates and through airports at a time when public health officials have urged Americans to avoid nonessential travel and gathering in large groups.

“He just wants the publicity. He can’t stop it, only delay, which is both dangerous … & costly,” Trump tweeted of Massie. “Workers & small businesses need money now in order to survive. Virus wasn’t their fault. It is ‘HELL’ dealing with the Dems, had to give up some stupid things in order to get the ‘big picture’ done. 90% GREAT! WIN BACK HOUSE, but throw Massie out of Republican Party!”

UPDATE:

No-so-clean coal strikes again.

NBC 12 – Richmond:

Coal mining continues in Southwest Virginia even as workplace constraints prevent miners from following many of the social distancing practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As of Monday, all of Virginia’s coal and mineral mines that had been open before the appearance of COVID-19, the disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus, were still operating, said Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy spokesperson Tarah Kesterson.

“We are very concerned that the appearance of coronavirus in a coal mine will rapidly spread,” said Phil Smith, the director of communications and government affairs for the United Mine Workers of America. But, he added, “it’s the nature of the work and the nature of how you get to the work that you’re going to be closer than six feet apart.”

As Gov. Ralph Northam tightens orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which has led to six deaths and 38 hospitalizations so far in Virginia, businesses are increasingly being required to shut down or allow employees to telework.

But while other industries that remain open are implementing social distancing practices, the terrain of a coal mine often leaves little room for separation.

Workers at underground mines must take an elevator and then special vehicles such as mantrips to reach their worksites, all of which are confined and generally enclosed, said Smith. Once at their site, “they usually spread out a bit, but “then at the end of the shift they repeat that process,” he said.

“To a certain degree there’s only so much you can do in a coal mining atmosphere,” he said.

Kesterson said that many mining companies are doing extra cleaning and encouraging workers to follow social distancing whenever possible, while “some of the larger mines are staggering shifts to avoid having too many people together at once — especially upon entering the mine.”

Because COVID-19 impairs respiratory function, coal miners may be at elevated risk from the disease, especially in the Central Appalachian region, where the most severe form of black lung has been on the riseover the past decade.

I’ve been following research on the North Atlantic Current (Scientists call it the Atlantic Overturning Meriodonal Circulation – AMOC) for some years.
New research underlining the climate connection to a slowing of that current has now been published.

Nature Communications:

North Atlantic sea surface temperatures have large climate impacts affecting the weather of the Northern Hemisphere. In addition to a substantial warming over much of the North Atlantic, caused by increasing greenhouse gases over the 21st century, climate projections show a surprising region of considerable future cooling at midlatitudes, referred to as the North Atlantic warming hole. A similar pattern of surface temperature trends has been observed in recent decades, but it remains unclear whether this pattern is of anthropogenic origin or a simple manifestation of internal climate variability. Here, analyzing state-of-the-art climate models and observations, we show that the recent North Atlantic warming hole is of anthropogenic origin. Our analysis reveals that the anthropogenic signal has only recently emerged from the internal climate variability, and can be attributed to greenhouse gas emissions. We further show that a declining northward oceanic heat flux in recent decades, which is linked to this surface temperature pattern, is also of anthropogenic origin.

EurekAlert:

Severe winters combined with heat waves and droughts during summer in Europe. Those were the consequences as the Atlantic Ocean heat transport nearly collapsed 12,000 years ago. The same situation might occur today, according to a new study published in Nature Communications.

Record-breaking cold ocean temperatures across the central North Atlantic in recent years suggest that the northward oceanic heat transport through the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) has reached a long-term minimum and might be the weakest for at least 1,600 years. Most climate models project that the already observed slowdown will continue under global warming scenarios although a complete collapse appears unlikely – at least based on current models.

Read the rest of this entry »