First Flight w/o Fossil Fuels. You Can’t Handle the Truth! Good to the Last Drop?

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Today’s Key Takeaways:  Virgin Atlantic transatlantic flight with sustainable aviation fuel.  “American Oil – Good to the Last Drop?”  China allows small amount of critical minerals to be exported.  Media outlets are not trusted as sources of climate information. 


In a first, a major airline will cross the Atlantic without fossil fuels
Maria Gallucci, Canary Media, November 27, 2023

Virgin Atlantic will use 100% sustainable aviation fuel on a flight from London to New York. It’s an important step toward slashing emissions from planes.

A Virgin Atlantic flight taking off this week from London to New York City will last about eight hours, span around 3,500 miles — and emit only a fraction of the planet-warming gases associated with a typical transatlantic flight.

On Tuesday, the British airline is set to pluck a Boeing 787 Dreamliner from its fleet and run the two powerful engines on 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF, during the journey from Heathrow Airport to John F. Kennedy International Airport. If all goes to plan, Virgin Atlantic will be the first commercial airline to fly a passenger plane across the Atlantic Ocean by burning only fossil-free jet fuel, marking an important milestone for the CO2-intensive industry.

The flight will demonstrate ​“the longer-term potential of SAF to decarbonize aviation,” said Joey Cathcart, a senior aviation associate in the Climate-Aligned Industries Program at RMI, a clean energy think tank. (Canary Media is an independent affiliate of RMI.)

“This is really critical because SAF is the most readily available decarbonization mechanism that aviation has today,” he added. Cathcart, who is based in Salt Lake City, is slated to board the ocean-crossing plane tomorrow in London with a select group of passengers. ​“Confidence is high,” he replied when asked if he had any preflight jitters.



American Oil—Good to the Last Drop?
JinJoo Lee, The Wall Street Journal, November 27, 2023

Exxon and other companies have devised ways to squeeze more oil out of U.S. fields as some of the best ones near exhaustion, but it could be costly

How low can they go?

U.S. shale developers have been on a relentless chase to drill for oil as cheaply as possible. With plenty of cash in their pockets and a hunch that they might soon exhaust their best inventory in the prolific Permian Basin, some companies have been shifting their focus to making sure they get every last drop of crude they can get out of what they have. That could mean higher costs today.

Producers have done a great job of maximizing initial production. U.S. land and offshore productivity—measured as the amount of oil produced in the first 12 months per foot drilled—has been on a steady upward trajectory since 2007, according to data from Enverus. 

U.S. onshore and offshore wells that have been producing for 12 months since August 2022 were 59% more productive compared with those that were drilled five years earlier, the data show. Those gains have been driven by improvements in seismic technology and mapping, longer wells and the amount of fracking fluid used, according to Jason Brown, economist at the Kansas City Fed.

It is unclear how long productivity gains can continue at this pace. There may be a limit on how long lateral wells can get, for example. Not only does the lengthening of a well require more contiguous land, but the longer wells get, the trickier it is to service them, according to Mark Chapman, senior vice president of oil-field services intelligence at Enverus. 

Meanwhile, efficiency gains have stalled. Speed of drilling has peaked at around 1,400 feet a day in the Midland side of the Permian Basin, according to Chapman. And capital efficiency over the life of a development has been somewhat stagnant in recent years and has declined more recently because of rising oil-field service costs.



China Allows Export Of Small Amounts Of Critical Minerals
Alex Kimani, OilPrice.Com, November 26, 2023

  • Back in July, China announced export restrictions of germanium, gallium and their chemical compounds used to make parts for chips, telecommunications equipment, and electric vehicles.
  • After a two-month hiatus, China has now resumed export of the minerals, albeit half-heartedly.
  • It’s likely that there will be some improvement in strained relations between the two countries  after presidents Xi Jinping and Joe Biden met in San Francisco last week.

Back in July, China announced export restrictions of germanium, gallium and their chemical compounds used to make parts for chips, telecommunications equipment, and electric vehicles. Graphite, a key material for EV batteries, is also set to come under export controls on Dec. 1. Although Beijing has claimed that the export ban of these critical minerals was done on national security grounds, observers have cried foul play and claim China has just escalated its tit-for-tat trade war with the U.S. and Europe.

After a two-month hiatus, China has now resumed export of the minerals, albeit half-heartedly. Chinese traders looking to export germanium and gallium are now required to apply for licenses from the government and also provide information on the identity of their customers and how the minerals are used. Chinese traders exported small quantities of germanium and gallium in October after exporting almost nothing in the preceding two months. Just 0.65 tons of germanium was exported in  October compared to 8.78 tons in July while the numbers for gallium were  0.25 tons vs. 7.58 tons. China exported 44 tons of germanium and 94 tons of gallium in 2022.



The know-it-all problem
Craig Medred, November 26, 2023

News as propaganda kills trust

Sometimes it is hard to tell whether scientists or journalists are most responsible for the pervasive global warming skepticism in the world’s largest and most powerful democracy.

A Pew Research survey in October found only about a third of U.S. citizens greatly concerned about the future climate, and after the Pew Research Center conducted in-depth interviews with 32 skeptics, it concluded that “climate scientists are valued for their expertise, but also seen as potentially having an agenda; media outlets are not trusted sources of climate information.”

Surprise, surprise.

Case in point: Alaska Public Media, which just days ago reported that “Anchorage broke its November snowfall record halfway through the month after repeated storms. Climatologists say the city could see more heavy snowfall like this in the future.”

This is the same Anchorage that went through a series of extremely snow-short winters in the 2010s that by 2013 had Smithsonian Magazine reporting the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race,  the 49th state’s biggest and best-known sporting event, was destined to become a victim of climate change.

“Rain has been falling in place of snow, and the annual snowfall has been just 29 percent of what it was last year,” it was written there. “Though such a drastic year-over-year change is down to the weather, scientists are attributing a long-term drop in snowfall to climate change.”

This long-term drop in snowfall due to climate change became the theme for the rest of the decade with the New York Times in 2019 cutely headlining “The Mush in the Iditarod May Soon Be Melted Snow.”

Almost magically, the snow and cold returned shortly thereafter, and Anchorage winters have been a pretty snowy normal since. The only real difference between this year and last year is that the snow season has begun in earnest a month prior to the official first day of winter on Dec. 21.

At least Mother Nature had the courtesy to wait until closer to that date before dumping on Alaska’s largest city in 2022. It wasn’t until December 12 last year that Rick Thoman with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks declared an “Anchorage Snowpocalypse, 2022 Edition.”

“For the first 12 days of December,” he reported in his Alaska and Arctic Climate Newsletter, “the National Weather Service (NWS) office near the Anchorage Airport has reported nearly 30 inches of snow, including a seven-day total of 27.8 inches between December 6 and December 12. Other places in the urban area have already exceeded 40 inches for the month.”

By the time Iditarod 2023 rolled around on the first Saturday of March with the official first day of spring fast approaching, Anchorage was a snow-covered winter wonderland primed for sled-dog racing with still more snow then falling.