Archive for June, 2012

Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (6/29/12)

Posted By Lowell F. on June 29th, 2012

Here are five recommended reads for today (6/29/12)

  1. Stephen Lacey of ClimateProgress reports that “a linguistic analysis of a recent petition opposing new regulation of toxic coal ash” found that “hundreds of the names are complete fakes,” including “more than two thousand Chinese names.”
  2. At Renewable Energy World, Damien LaVera of the Department of Energy asks “whether the U.S. will also continue to be a major manufacturer of solar technology, producing many new jobs for American workers.”
  3. The BBC reports, “The [UK] government needs to multiply investment in clean energy four-fold to avoid breaking laws on renewables and climate change, official advisers say.”
  4. InsideClimateNews has an epilogue on its series about the “dilbit disaster,” in which it asks: “How big was the spill? Was it tar sands oil? Who will pay? How did animals and ecosystems fare? What happened to the people most affected?
  5. At DeSmogBlog, Cindy Baxter of asks, “Exxon’s Tillerson: Could We Really Have Expected a Tiger to Change its Stripes?”
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Priorities, Priorities: “Kardashians Get 40 Times More News Coverage Than Ocean Acidification”

Posted By Lowell F. on June 28th, 2012

We already knew the Kardashians desperately needed to get real jobs, but how about the media focusing on real priorities instead of this silliness?

Carbon dioxide emissions are not just warming up our atmosphere, they’re also changing the chemistry of our oceans. This phenomenon is known as ocean acidification, or sometimes as global warming’s “evil twin” or the “osteoporosis of the sea.” Scientists have warned that it poses a serious threat to ocean life. Yet major American news outlets covered the Kardashians over 40 times more often than ocean acidification over the past year and a half.


In sum, ocean acidification is a major threat to our oceans and the millions of people who depend on them for their food and livelihoods. Yet 77 percent of Americans say they have read or heard nothing about ocean acidification, according to a 2010 survey conducted for the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. Of the 23 percent who say that they have heard of ocean acidification, only 32 percent understand that ocean acidification is caused by carbon dioxide. In other words, less than 8 percent of Americans understand the very basics of one of the largest threats to our oceans –– and a major culprit for that ignorance is the national media.

In sum, thanks to the media’s skewed priorities, the American people know a lot more about such irrelevancies as who the Kardashians are and what they’re up to than they do about one of the most important topics there is: the future survival of life in our oceans, and on our planet. It might be funny if it weren’t so sad.

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“Gas industry got three laps around the track when everyone else was still at the starting gate”

Posted By Lowell F. on June 28th, 2012

The Times Union has a fascinating story, highlighting how the cozy relationship between natural gas fracking companies and the government works at the state level. In this case, it’s New York, but we’d argue it could happen anywhere.

Emails obtained from the state Department of Environmental Conservation by an environmental group show state officials gave details of a proposed permit and regulations for natural gas hydraulic fracturing to industry representatives before making them public.

The Environmental Working Group, which obtained the emails under the state Freedom of Information Act, said the exchange suggests an overly cozy relationship between DEC and the natural gas industry, which is pushing to open up the state’s gas-rich Marcellus Shale region to the drilling technique


These emails raise serious questions,” said Thomas Cluderay, assistant general counsel with the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group, which made its [FOIA] request in March and supplied the results to the Times Union. The group wants a moratorium on the technique until all possible health and safety concerns are addressed to the environmental community’s satisfaction.

“It looks as though the gas industry got three laps around the track when everyone else was still at the starting gate,” Cluderay said. “We believe the people of New York need assurance that they are not being subjected to a dog-and-pony show.”

Perhaps the most disturbing part of this story is that, as pointed out by Michael Livermore, executive director of the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law,  there is apparently nothing illegal about any of it.  Still, Livermore points out, “this is a bad thing for a couple of reasons.” And, he asks, “Why did the DEC only talk to industry and not environmental groups and the impacted communities?” It’s a great question, and one that we suspect could be asked equally of the relationship between the federal government and the fossil fuel industries it’s supposed to be regulating.

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Several Problems with Increased Oil Drilling in the Arctic

Posted By Lowell F. on June 28th, 2012

Earlier this week, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that, “with the conditions Shell has already met, it is highly likely the permits will be issued” for oil drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas offshore Alaska. According to Secretary Salazar, development of these oil fields will “contribute to the ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy this administration is pursuing,” and “will not take place without adequate protections for the environment and local communities.” In fact, Secretary Salazar is so confident about this oil drilling that he declared uncategorically, “there’s not going to be an oil spill.”

With all due respect, we beg to differ with Secretary Salazar for several reasons.

First, we do not believe that continuing to pursue a strategy which relies heavily on fossil fuels is the direction we should be going as a nation. Instead, we should be putting all of our efforts into making the United States far more energy efficient, and towards moving as rapidly as possible to transition to an economy powered by 100%  clean energy – wind, solar, geothermal, etc. The latter is by far and away where the economic opportunities of the 21st century lie, particularly given the pressing need to slash our emissions of harmful fossil-fuel-generated pollutants.

Second, based on our experience in just the past few years, there certainly is no guarantee that there will not be a disastrous oil spill in the ecologically fragile Arctic region.  Currently, for instance, InsideClimateNews is concluding a three-part series on “the biggest oil spill you’ve never heard of,” of diluted bitumen, aka “dilbit,” into the Kalamazoo River in July 2010.  Part of the reason most people aren’t aware of that oil spill is that it took place at about the same time as another, even worse, oil disaster was going on in the Gulf of Mexico. We’d also remind everyone what can happen when oil is spilled in a remote, cold-water region like Alaska – the Exxon Valdez spill was “one of the most devastating human-caused environmental disasters” in history.

Finally, even if Shell Oil oil operations in the Arctic never cause a spill, there are many other downsides to doing so. For instance, as NRDC has pointed out, oil-related seismic work “involves the use of underwater air guns that generate extremely loud noise – a single blast is 10 times louder than a rocket launch, and the blasts occur every 10 to 15 seconds for days, weeks and even months at a time.” This noise can carry for “hundreds of miles and have been known to cause permanent hearing loss in marine mammals,” as well as disruptions to these animals’ “feeding, migration, social bonding, [and] predator avoidance.” Finally, “They also can interfere with Native Alaskans’ ability to hunt for these subsistence food sources, particularly the bowhead whale.”

In sum, increased oil drilling in the Arctic is the wrong way we should be going as a nation for a number of reasons. We urge our government to move in a different direction.

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Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (6/28/12)

Posted By Lowell F. on June 28th, 2012

Here are five recommended reads for today (6/28/12)

  1. Bloomberg reports, “U.K. electricity generated from wind rose by at least 50 percent in the past year as the nation spurs clean power to become energy self-sufficient and curb pollution.”
  2. InsideClimateNews has Part 3 of its series on “The Biggest Oil Spill You’ve Never Heard Of.”
  3. Per The Guardian, “Sea ice in the Arctic has melted faster this year than ever recorded before, according to the US government’s National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC).”
  4. The New York Times reports, “The Obama administration, moving swiftly on the president’s promise to expedite the southernmost portion of the disputed Keystone XL pipeline, has granted construction permits for part of the route passing through Texas, officials said on Tuesday.”
  5. According to Renewable Energy World, “German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government won agreement on cuts to solar-power subsidies and plans to store greenhouse gases underground, breaking a deadlock that threatened to hold up the country’s energy transition.”
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