July 22, 2013

Another tar sands spill

'Nobody understands' how to stop 6 week old spill at Alberta tar sands operation - with over 1,000,000 gallons spilled so far.

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. has been unable to stop an underground oil blowout that has killed numerous animals and contaminated a lake, forest, and muskeg at its operations in Cold Lake, Alberta. The scientist said Canadian Natural Resources is not disclosing the scope of spills in four separate sites, which have been off bounds to media and the public.

The company's operations use an "in situ" or underground extraction technology called "cyclic steam stimulation," which involves injecting thousands of gallons of superhot, high-pressure steam into deep underground reservoirs. This heats and liquefies the hard bitumen and creates cracks through which the bitumen flows and is then pumped to the surface.
The scientists, who asked not to be named for fear of losing their jobs, said the operation was in chaos.
"Everybody (at the company and in government) is freaking out about this," said the scientist. "We don't understand what happened. Nobody really understands how to stop it from leaking, or if they do they haven't put the measures into place."

GE Wind Turbine (batteries included)

The next generation of wind turbines from GE comes with batteries included - to store energy when it isn't needed and provide energy when the wind stops or slows. [Climate Progress]

Sustainability News

The Georgia Public Service Commission voted in favor yesterday of a plan that will require the state's largest energy provider to increase its solar power capacity by 525 megawatts by the end of 2016. [Atlanta Business Chronicle]

Air pollution kills more than 2 million people worldwide per year, with sooty particles and ozone causing the most deaths, according to a new study. [Guardian]

Warning! The bridge is out - Natural gas prices rise - use of coal rises along with CO2 emissions [LA Times]

In Southern California, fish populations dropped 78 percent in 40 years, which experts say can't be related "to anything other than a regional oceanographic climate effect." [LA Times]
The United States is now one of four countries to achieve 10 gigawatts of solar power capacity, and installations are only expected to accelerate. [CleanTechnica]

EPA's recent retreat on a study linking fracking to drinking water contamination in Wyoming is not the only time the agency has retreated on fracking investigations and studies. [High Country News]

The Great Barrier Reef's coral cover has declined 50 percent since 1985, and its overall condition is now classified as "poor" — changes due in part to extreme weather in Australia. [Guardian]

MIT climatologist (and Lexington resident) Kerry Emanuel has a new study out showing that with unchecked greenhouse gas emissions, the world faces not just more intense hurricanes, but up to 20 more per year by the end of the century. [Climate Central]

Toronto was pummeled with a "month's worth of rain" yesterday, causing floods that stranded 1,500 on a commuter train and downed power in much of the city. [NBC News]

The life expectancy of 500 million people may have dropped 5 years due to the promotion of coal use in Northern China. [Washington Post]

Google has invested $1 billion in renewable energy, making the company a major player in the energy sector. [Fuel Fix]

Washington, D.C. is considering waiving parking space requirements for new buildings, echoing shifts other cities have made in response to shrinking car ownership. [Wall Street Journal]

Evangelical scientists call for emission reductions

200 self-identified evangelical scientists from secular and religious universities sent a letter to the U.S. Congress calling for legislation to reduce carbon emissions and protect the environment. The signatories, all of whom hold master's or doctorate degrees in scientific fields, cited the Biblical teachings of charity and compassion for the poor and the scientific evidence of increased extreme weather events to make the case for climate legislation:
The Bible tells us that "love does no harm to its neighbor" (Romans 13:10), yet the way we live now harms our neighbors, both locally and globally. For the world's poorest people, climate change means dried-up wells in Africa, floods in Asia that wash away crops and homes, wildfires in the U.S. and Russia, loss of villages and food species in the Arctic, environmental refugees, and disease.  
Our changing climate threatens the health, security, and well-being of millions of people who are made in God's image. The threat to future generations and global prosperity means we can no longer afford complacency and endless debate. We as a society risk being counted among "those who destroy the earth".

Water, Power and everything else

Nuclear and fossil fuel power plants are Europe's single biggest consumer of water — accounting for 43 percent of all surface water withdrawal. [Climate Progress

We have a very similar situation here in the US with 47% of all fresh water used to cool our nuclear and fossil fuel plants. 

Switching to renewable energy sources like wind and solar will help us solve both the climate crisis and the water crisis. 

Because buildings use 73% of all electricity and power plants use 47% of the water in the US – that means that our buildings' energy use is responsible for 34% of all water used in the US. 

Improving our building's energy efficiency actually lowers our demand for water. Not many folks realize that reducing our energy demand by 20% will also lower our water demand by 7%. 

So many things get better when you start moving to renewable energy – not just energy and water. 

For example, renewable energy creates 3 times more jobs than oil and gas drilling or coal mining. Every dollar invested in clean energy results in 3 times more jobs than investing that same dollar in fossil fuels.  And those jobs pay better than oil, gas and coal jobs (approximately 13% better).  On top of that, those jobs are much, much safer than oil, coal and gas jobs. People working in oil and gas drilling fields have 7x the fatality rate when compared to the US average. 

Health effects – coal is such a dirty fuel that burning coal to generate electricity causes 100 times more deaths per kWh than wind power. It has been shown that children exposed to mercury emissions from coal plants have significantly lower IQs.  Natural gas – the "clean" fossil fuel -  causes 28 times more deaths per kWh than wind power. 

I could go on – but you get the picture. 

Switching to renewable energy is a huge part of the solution to climate change, but it will also help the economy by creating  more and better paying jobs and everyone in the country will be healthier and more productive. It also has the added benefit of reducing demand for water so that we can grow our food without draining our rivers dry. It may even make our kids smarter – and we certainly will need smart kids if we want to make the transition to a sustainable future. 

Focusing on the top 20%

Even if every house on your street looks the same, there's a good chance they're emitting vastly different amounts of pollution, according to a new study published by Environmental Science and Technology.

Researchers found that 21% of the households in the investigated region were responsible for 50% of the total greenhouse gas emissions. If those homes cut their emissions in half, the total emissions for the whole community would be reduced by 25%.

Wondering if you are in the top 20%? Get a home energy assessment and start saving right away.