Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The trouble with North Dakota...  

Is, as we all have realized, it's too close to where North Dakota is. Simply put: Location, location, location.

This recent gem of verification of this hard fact.

Our top export last year was (drum roll, please) FUEL.  That's right, citizens, we're importing oil and exporting gasoline/diesel. While much of that is due to consumption decline, the other biggy is the ND problem.
Nevertheless, something real is happening here. What accounts for the new-found U.S. competitiveness? I think a key factor is that abundant new supplies of crude oil from Canada and North Dakota are now coming into the central United States. Between 1987 and 2008, West Texas Intermediate, the benchmark light, sweet crude oil for sale in Cushing, Oklahoma, sold for $1.50/barrel more than Brent, its North Sea counterpart. That differential vanished in 2009-2010, and so far in 2011, WTI has sold at an average price that astonishingly is almost $17/barrel cheaper than Brent. [More]
Since there aren't good ways to get this shale oil to the ports, but there are pipelines from Midwest refineries for fuel, the obvious is happening.

Meanwhile (sigh) I may have been a little too optimistic about shale gas which is currently propelling the energy boom elsewhere.
By the same logic, you can claim to be a multibillionaire, including all your "probable, possible, and speculative resources."
Assuming that the United States continues to use about 24 tcf per annum, then, only an 11-year supply of natural gas is certain. The other 89 years' worth has not yet been shown to exist or to be recoverable.
Even that comparably modest estimate of 11 years’ supply may be optimistic. Those 273 tcf are located in reserves that are undrilled, but are adjacent to drilled tracts where gas has been produced. Due to large lateral differences in the geology of shale plays, production can vary considerably from adjacent wells.
The EIA uses a different methodology to arrive at its resource calculations, offering a range of estimates. In the most optimistic, "high shale resource case," it estimates there are 1,230 tcf in the “estimated unproved technically recoverable resource base.” It also offers several production forecasts through 2035, ranging from 827 tcf in their Reference case, to 423 tcf in their Low case—one-fourth the headline number. In the Low case, which certainly could be correct, the EIA says the United States could once again become a net natural-gas importer by 2035. [More]
I'll keep checking on the estimates, and maybe much of the predicted reserves will be shifted into the solid column, but I should have looked a little harder at where the numbers were coming from.  Maybe it was the "infographic misinformation syndrome" that helped me leap to a possible overly rosy outlook.
Now that Obama's dog has won the War on Christmas, or something, it's time to get down to a war that really matters: the war on terrible, lying infographics, which have become endemic in the blogosphere, and constantly threaten to break out into epidemic or even pandemic status.
The reservoir of this disease of erroneous infographics is internet marketers who don't care whether the information in their graphics is right ... just so long as you link it.  As a Christmas present to, well, everyone, I'm issuing a plea to bloggers to help stop this plague in its track.
Below the break, a tour of some of the more egregious examples, and some thoughts on why they've become so prevalent.
For those of you who can't sit through all that boring writing, however, I will first deliver my message in--ahem!--a more visual format:
 McArdle's identification rules:
If you look at these lovely, lying infographics, you will notice that they tend to have a few things in common:
  1. They are made by random sites without particularly obvious connection to the subject matter. Why is Creditloan.com making an infographic about the hourly workweek?
  2. Those sites, when examined, either have virtually no content at all, or are for things like debt consolidation--industries with low reputation where brand recognition, if it exists at all, is probably mostly negative.
  3. The sources for the data, if they are provided at all, tend to be in very small type at the bottom of the graphic, and instead of easy-to-type names of reports, they provide hard-to-type URLs which basically defeat all but the most determined checkers.
  4. The infographics tend to suggest that SOMETHING TERRIBLE IS HAPPENING IN THE US RIGHT NOW!!! the better to trigger your panic button and get you to spread the bad news BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE! [Same for all above]
It should be obvious the energy business is in the same turmoil as the rest of the global economy, as new demand and precarious economic situations make all sorts of information hard to get and even harder to verify. But either some better minds than mine are investing way too much on a overblown idea of NG reserves or stubborn pessimism will be slowly proven wrong. That said, I no longer assume that richer people are probably smarter people. (And it's not because I think I've gotten smarter)

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