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."