March 1, 2015

When oil and money mix

This is an extremely sobering and must read look from the New York Times at the impact of oil and money on the people living in North Dakota.

We have a choice - Do we move towards a clean, safe, and healthy future or do we continue to let the corrosive mix of oil and money pollute our water, contaminate our land, control our politics, and ruin the lives of the people who happen to live near oil and gas drilling fields?

It was the 11th blowout since 2006 at a North Dakota well operated by Continental Resources, the most prolific producer in the booming Bakken oil patch. Spewing some 173,250 gallons of potential pollutants, the eruption, undisclosed at the time, was serious enough to bring the Oklahoma-based company's chairman and chief executive, Harold G. Hamm, to the remote scene.
It was not the first or most catastrophic blowout visited by Mr. Hamm, a sharecropper's son who became the wealthiest oilman in America and energy adviser to Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential campaign. Two years earlier, a towering derrick in Golden Valley County had erupted into flames and toppled, leaving three workers badly burned. "I was a human torch," said the driller, Andrew J. Rohr.
Blowouts represent the riskiest failure in the oil business. Yet, despite these serious injuries and some 115,000 gallons spilled in those first 10 blowouts, the North Dakota Industrial Commission, which regulates the drilling and production of oil and gas, did not penalize Continental until the 11th.
This is just the start of a major article looking at the results of lax enforcement of safety regulations in the oil fields of North Dakota.

Is it too late for Miami?

You don't have to look 85 years into the future to see what a sinking world looks like—you only need to look as far as Miami.

Over the last nineteen years, sea levels around the Miami coast have gone up 3.7 inches. In a post updated yesterday, McNoldy highlights three big problems that follow from those numbers—and they should worry all of us.

First: Sea level rise is accelerating.

Second: Predictions about day-to-day tide levels are less accurate than ever

Third: Sea level rise is causing saltwater intrusion into aquifers used to supply 90% of South Florida's freshwater [Wired]

Solar is a better investment than the stock market

study by the NC Clean Energy Technology Center finds that in all but 4 of the 50 largest cities in the U.S., installing a fully-financed 5 kilowatt solar panel system makes more financial sense than investing in a popular stock market index fund. 
Further, the same system would beat the costs of buying energy from local utilities in 42 of those 50 cities. 
Boston is ranked the #2 city for solar in the country for immediate average monthly savings, the relative value of investing in solar versus the S&P 500, and the levelized cost of solar energy compared to local utility rates. 
"(S)olar is now ...a real opportunity for anyone looking to take greater control over their monthly utility bills and make a long-term, relatively low-risk investment," concludes the study which was done under funding by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Looking at the levelized cost of energy for solar PV systems (the average cost per kilowatt over the expected 25-year life span), the NC Clean Energy Technology Center's study found that nearly 21 million homeowners in 42 of the nation's largest cities would save money with financed solar systems over getting their power from the grid.
For average homeowners, the study concludes, "solar can generate both significant monthly savings and long-term investment value, and not infrequently, cost less than energy from some of America's largest electric utilities."

October 21, 2014

Germans love renewable energy

Germans generated one third of their electricity from renewable sources while enjoying unusually low wholesale electricity rates, one of the most reliable electricity grids in the world with only 16 minutes of power outages a year (15x more reliable than the US), due to a national policy for coordinating distributed generation. 

In addition, support for renewables remains very high among the German public with over half the renewable energy capacity in Germany owned by local citizens who benefit from the renewable energy production. [Climate Progress]

GAO: US not doing enough to address ocean acidification

The federal government agencies tasked with studying, monitoring, and preventing the widespread acidification of our oceans have not been doing their job as well as they could be, according to a report released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Science Foundation, and NASA have indeed been spending money on efforts to study ocean acidification, a phenomenon that happens when oceans absorb the carbon dioxide humans emit from power plants, deforestation, manufacturing, and driving. But more of that money needs to go toward actual strategies to mitigate and stop ocean acidification if detrimental impacts to ocean ecosystems, and by extension the U.S. economy, are to be avoided, the GAO said.

"GAO recommends the appropriate entities within the Executive Office of the President take steps to improve the federal response to ocean acidification," the report said. "[That includes] estimating the funding that would be needed to implement the research and monitoring plan and designating the entity responsible for coordinating the next steps in the federal response."

Ocean acidification is one of the biggest and least-talked-about effects of global warming. More than 25 percent of all human-made carbon emissions are absorbed by the ocean, and because of that, their acid levels have increased by a staggering 26 percent over the last 200 years, according to the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity.

Pentagon: Climate Change poses an immediate threat

Pentagon: Global Warming is a "threat multiplier" and poses an 'Immediate Risk' To National Security 

The 20-page “2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap” said the U.S. Department of Defense is “already beginning to see” some of the impacts of sea level rise, changing precipitation patterns, rising global temperatures, and increased extreme weather — four key symptoms of global warming. These symptoms have the potential to “intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict” and will likely lead to “food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe,” the report said.

Tar Sands Pipeline spill clean up finally complete - 4 years and $1 billion later

More than four years after an oil leak was discovered July 26, 2010 near Marshall, the Canadian pipeline company Enbridge has completed its cleanup and restoration of the Kalamazoo River.' [MLive

Enbridge Inc. was required to clean up the mess from a pipeline leak that sent an estimated 843,000 gallons of crude oil into Talmadge Creek and the river, the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, "Enbridge Energy Partners LLP (Enbridge) reported a 30-inch pipeline ruptured on Monday, July 26, 2010, near Marshall, Michigan. The release, estimated at 843,000 gallons, entered Talmadge Creek and flowed into the Kalamazoo River, a Lake Michigan tributary. Heavy rains caused the river to overtop existing dams and carried oil 35 miles downstream on the Kalamazoo River."
The EPA  mobilized an Incident Management Team made up of federal, state and local agencies and the spill was contained approximately 80 river miles from Lake Michigan.
Four years later, all sections of the river are once again open for public use, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Weekly Fish Report of Oct. 9.