National / International News

Video of nanny abusing toddler shocks Uganda

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 05:47
Maid child abuse shocks Uganda

'Ferguson Forward': Churchgoers Seek A New Normal

NPR News - Mon, 2014-11-24 05:38

Spiritual leaders are praying for calm, but preparing for everything, as they wait for a grand jury decision in the shooting of Michael Brown.

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'Abuse risk' for 132 city youngsters

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 05:32
A report finds 132 young people in Birmingham are suffering or are vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

The problem with fracking

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-11-24 05:31

Slumping oil prices are wrecking life for drillers around the world, particularly high-cost producers now struggling to make a profit ... like the U.S.

American oil from shale, which comes out of the ground through fracking, is pricey to extract. On top of that, sources of oil become mere trickles within a year or two.

The notion of oil wells tailing off and aging isn’t new. In the late 50s, a Hollywood celebrity famously joked that actors are, “about as short-lived as an oil well and twice as pretty.”

The issue is, for the new so-called shale wells, production falls like a stone in the first year.

“Let’s say you produce 500 barrels in the first month of production,” says James Burkhard, head of oil market research for IHS Energy. “Twelve months later you could be producing around 250 barrels. So a decline rate of about 50 percent. In a conventional well, the decline rate is much less steep.”

Oil from shale is not a pool of liquid, but rather small amounts trapped in tight rock. That requires drillers to fracture, or frac, the shale rock to release the oil. Quickly, though, output slows and pressure falls. And the driller has to drill and frac again, in a new spot. That’s expensive — in many places, each well costs $8 million.

“I’ve seen it personally firsthand,” says Ed Hirs, managing director of the Houston-based oil and gas firm Hillhouse Resources. He also teaches economics at the University of Houston. “We’ve had wells on production since 2009, 2010 that have been plugged and abandoned here in 2014, because they are not producing enough to cover their cost.”

Hirs says his firm barely profited in shale. So it returned to drilling old-school conventional oil, where a good well returns five, even 10 dollars for each one invested.

Fracking for shale oil, he says, is a fad, like that scene where the cruise ship tilts to one side.

“They all ran to the shale side of the boat,” Hirs says. “That was the fashion of the day. We see this in other industries as well.”  

Fast-declining wells also require continuous drilling and investing to increase production. Before one tails off, you have to drill the second. And then before that tails off, you drill the third. It’s a treadmill, which may be speeding up as the most productive drilling spots are taken.

Some call this the 'Red Queen' race. Remember Alice, from the Wonderland books? In one scene, she runs and runs and gets nowhere, at which point the Red Queen chimes in.

“Now here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”  

Constant drilling means constant spending, and according to the U.S. Department of Energy, production revenues are not keeping up with expenditures. Some shale investors are edgy, analysts say.

“If you’re giving money to somebody, you eventually want to get something back,” says Virendra Chauhan of Energy Aspects in London. “If that’s not happening, then there seems to be something wrong with the business model.”

To which shale optimists shake their collective heads. Looking back more than a century, drilling technology has repeatedly proven skeptics wrong. “Until we hit peak knowledge, until the human race hits peak knowledge, we won’t hit peak oil supply,” Burkhard of IHS Energy says.

Companies now drill and frack wells deeper, closer together and more efficiently. So, can technology improve faster than shale wells fall off? “If today the wells you’re drilling are twice as good as the wells you drilled two years ago, then that goes a long way toward addressing that decline,” says geologist Allen Gilmer, CEO of oil and gas database firm Drillinginfo.

Today, the U.S. produces more than 3 million barrels a day, from shale alone. That’s more than the total output of Iran, or Iraq, or Venezuela. “I think it’s very unlikely to ramp down,” Gilmer says, “unless operators really start pulling back on drilling. And as long as a well is economic, I don’t see that happening.”       

Ed Hirs at Hillhouse Resources does see that happening. With oil prices low, and investors antsy, exuberance could go bust. “The challenge with these fast-declining wells is this pace of drilling needs to continue,” Hirs says. “Without the pace of drilling continuing, that three and a half million barrels a day will peter out to zero in the next three to five years.”

That’s the debate: whether shale oil production declines the way its wells do, the way movie stars come and go. Bullish types will note the actor who compared short careers to oil wells decades ago. That actor's name? Ronald Reagan

VIDEO: Israel: 'Don't give Iran atomic bombs'

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 05:30
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells the BBC's Kevin Connolly that the only acceptable deal for Israel would be the dismantling of Iran's nuclear capabilities.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Will Step Down

NPR News - Mon, 2014-11-24 05:30

The news comes as troops pull out of Afghanistan and begin a new offensive against the Islamic State. The New York Times cites officials saying that fight would "demand a different kind of focus."

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US defence secretary 'to step down'

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 05:28
Chuck Hagel will resign as US defence secretary after a request from President Barack Obama to step down, US media report.

VIDEO: Why does the rouble keep sliding?

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 05:27
Russia's president has warned of "catastrophic consequences" if the rouble continues to slide. The BBC examines how we got here.

VIDEO: Can UK change migrant benefit rules?

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 05:26
Open Europe says new rules over access to benefits for EU migrants in the UK might be a "perfect compromise".

Hamilton on way to greatness - Stewart

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 05:07
Double world champion Lewis Hamilton cannot be considered a great yet but he is on the right path, says Sir Jackie Stewart.

VIDEO: Looted 'Nazi art' to be returned

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 04:58
Switzerland's Bern Art Museum has agreed to accept hundreds of artworks bequeathed by German Nazi-era art hoarder Cornelius Gurlitt.

Day in pictures: 24 November 2014

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 04:49
24 hours of news images: 24 November

Glyndwr Uni visa status reinstated

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 04:47
Glyndwr University has its right to sponsor international students reinstated by the Home Office.

Quiz: The best-connected state in the nation

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-11-24 04:43

More than 70 percent of American households have a high-speed internet connection, according to a Census Bureau report.

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VIDEO: RBS apology for 'incorrect' evidence

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 04:37
Royal Bank of Scotland has apologised for giving incorrect evidence to a parliamentary hearing, it has emerged.

Ukraine will hold Nato referendum

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 04:32
Ukraine's president says he intends to hold a referendum on joining Nato, in a move likely to anger Russia.

Belgian firm 'bulldozed Congo homes'

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 04:27
A Belgian mining firm "consistently lied" about the bulldozing of hundreds of homes in DR Congo and should pay compensation, Amnesty International says.

Portuguese ex-PM back in court

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 04:27
Jose Socrates, Portugal's prime minister between 2005 and 2011, is questioned again by a judge on suspicion of corruption and money laundering.

With Long-Term Deal Elusive, Iran Nuclear Talks Are Extended

NPR News - Mon, 2014-11-24 04:25

The two sides had set a deadline of today to hammer out a deal, curbing Iran's nuclear programs. Instead, Western powers and Iran agreed to a second extension of talks.

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Iran nuclear talks deadline extended

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 04:24
Deadline for Iran nuclear deal extended to end of June after Vienna talks end with no agreement, diplomats say