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January 14 2014

22:25

An Uptick in US Greenhouse Gas Emissions as Utilities Use More Coal

Greenhouse gas emissions rise slightly in 2013

Finalizing its 2013 report on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects an increase of 2 percent for the year, the first in three years. Looking out over the longer term, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have been in a downtrend, one that the EIA expects will continue, with emissions from energy generation declining four out of the past six years since their 2007 peak.

2013 national greenhouse gas emissions will come in at slightly more than 10 percent below 2005 levels, according to an EIA press release, “a significant contribution towards the goal of a 17 percent reduction in emissions from the 2005 level by 2020 that was adopted by the current Administration.”

2013 uptick belies longer term downward trend


The EIA attributes 2013′s expected rise in carbon and greenhouse gas emissions to a small increase in coal consumption in the U.S. power sector. With U.S. natural gas prices coming off lows, electric utilities have been using more coal this past year.

U.S. greenhouse gas emissions reached a peak in 2007. Since then, utilities switching to cheaper natural gas from coal, along with growing use of non-hydro renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, helped drive U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to a historic low in April, 2012, when they were 12 percent below 2005 levels.

The EIA identifies key drivers of a changing U.S. energy landscape in its press release:

  • Weak economic growth in recent years, dampening growth in energy demand compared to pre-recession expectations;
  • Continuously improving energy efficiency across the economy, including buildings and transportation;
  • High energy prices over the past four years, with the exception of natural gas, since about 2010;
  • An abundant and inexpensive supply of natural gas, resulting from the widespread use of new production technologies for shale gas (i.e. fracking);
  • Power sector decarbonization since 2010, as natural gas and renewables displaced coal.

Though coal regained some market share among electric utilities in 2013, the EIA forecasts that the downtrend in national greenhouse gas emissions will continue.

Rising tide of renewables

Renewable energy supply continues to rise in the United States

In its latest “Short-term Energy Outlook,” the EIA predicts that emissions-free hydropower and non-hydropower renewables for electricity and heat generation will grow at a 4.7 percent rate in 2014. Use of hydropower to generate electricity and heat will rise 2.2 percent, while non-hydropower renewables will rise 6.1 percent.

U.S. installed wind power capacity will increase 8.8% in 2014 to reach some 66 gigawatts (GW). The EIA pegs growth in 2015 at 14.6 percent, with total installed capacity reaching 75 GW. Wind-driven electricity generation will increase 2.2% this year and 11.4% in 2015, accounting for over 5 percent of the national total.

EIA also foresees ongoing growth in capacity and use of electricity from utility and end-user solar photovoltaic and solar thermal energy sources.

The EIA doesn’t forecast “customer-sited” solar energy capacity or use, though it does expect this largest segment of the solar power market to continue to exceed that for utility-scale solar power in terms of capacity and use. The EIA does track and forecast utility-scale solar power capacity and use, however. The EIA projects that utility-scale solar will increase through 2014 and 2015, though it will account for just 0.4% of overall U.S. electricity generation.

Utility-scale solar power installations more than doubled in both 2012 and 2013, the EIA highlights. It forecasts the sector will grow another 40% or so between year-end 2013 and year-end 2015, “with photovoltaic (PV) capacity accounting for 85 percent of that growth.”

EIA also highlighted the commissioning of the 280 megawatt (MW) Solana solar thermal power plant in Arizona. Designed and built by Abengoa, Solana is the first utility-scale solar thermal, or concentrating solar, power plant to come online since 2007.

Solana is unique: it’s the only solar thermal plant in operation in the U.S. with integrated storage capacity, which enables the system to store and distribute electricity at maximum capacity for up to six hours. EIA expects more of these to come online in 2014.

All images courtesy of Energy Information Administration

The post An Uptick in US Greenhouse Gas Emissions as Utilities Use More Coal appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

October 29 2013

20:22

Phase-Out of Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2050 Technically, Economically Feasible

rosietheriveterCompletely phasing out net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 is not only technically feasible, but could be done at very manageable cost, according to a comprehensive study by Ecofys for the Global Call for Climate Action.

“It is technically and economically feasible to reduce emissions to zero for roughly 90% of current sources of GHG emissions with technological options that are available today and in the near future.” The remaining 10% of GHG emissions could be offset by enhancing carbon sinks, the Ecofys’ report authors conclude. The cost of doing so: around 5% of GDP per year.

Realizing this goal would effectively assure that mean global temperature would not exceed the 2ºC climate change tipping point theorized by the world’s leading climate scientists and agreed to by world leaders in the Copenhagen Accord of 2009. It would also improve the odds of keeping global mean temperature increase to 1.5ºC by the end of the century to 50%.

Phasing out GHG emissions by mid-century

Affecting the changes required to phase out net GHG emissions by 2050 would require globally coordinated action of unprecedented speed, scope and scale, the report authors rightly point out:

“Reducing net emissions close to zero by mid-century means fundamentally restructuring all of our economic sectors in the coming decades.”

“The energy system presents the greatest potential for emission reductions through efficiency savings and fuel shift,” the Ecofys report authors found. Use of fossil fuels for energy, transport, buildings and industry accounts for some 2/3 of global GHG emissions. The other 1/3 results from land use, raising livestock and industrial processes, they explain.

imageedit_3_5663497138

In their study, “Feasibility of GHG emissions phase-out by mid-century,” Ecofys modelled “several low emissions scenarios that result in (nearly) zero net GHG emissions by 2050…Thse are categorized as one of two types, reflecting two slightly different modelling approaches and resulting strategies:

  • Scenarios with (near) 100% renewable energy by 2050: These scenarios aim, at the outset, at a certain emissions target as well as a certain contribution of renewables. They find that 100% renewable energy by 2050 is possible. Saving energy is a key strategy in these scenarios because high efficiency facilitates an energy supply based almost entirely on renewable sources.
  • Scenarios with less than 100% renewable energy but carbon capture and storage (CCS): So-called integrated assessment models are commonly used to choose from different technological options to achieve a cost optimal global energy system within certain economic boundary conditions, e.g. very low emissions. Energy efficiency is modelled on a more generic level. Consequently, these scenarios result in a higher use of energy and a lower share of renewables. To still meet certain emissions targets, the models assume that carbon capture and storage (CCS), and possibly also nuclear power, are deployed on a large scale. The use of biomass with CCS enables these scenarios to sometimes reach net negative emissions in the second half of the century.”

The possible and the probable

While technically and economically feasible, the likelihood of such fundamental, globally coordinated change occurring is remote given current political, economic and social conditions and trends. While GHG emissions are on the wane in the world’s largest industrialized countries, including the EU and US, responsible for the bulk of anthropogenic GHG emissions in the atmosphere, they’re increasing by greater amounts in rapidly industrializing countries such as China and India.

Barring a series of climate-linked disasters, it seems clear that enacting anything remotely akin to a national strategic plan to phase out GHG emissions in the US would continue to be stymied in a Congressional quagmire of opposition and debate. For their parts, China, India and other large, emerging market economies are clearly unwilling to accept the uncertainty and take the risks of seeking to develop their economies and societies in ways that don’t require locking in their own dependence on fossil fuels.

In their report, Ecofys’ authors echo calls by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the conclusions reached in groundbreaking, comprehensive studies such as the “2010 Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change.” As the Ecofys report authors state,

“Initial steps taken to decarbonise need to be amplified drastically. The longer we wait to act, the more expensive change becomes. Whether a phase-out is politically feasible will be determined in the coming years.”

The post Phase-Out of Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2050 Technically, Economically Feasible appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

October 07 2013

18:06

Enviro News Wrap: Climate Denial Propaganda; Tesla EV Catches Fire; Fukushima Leaks Radioactive Water, and more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • With the IPCC publishing it latest findings on climate change the denial campaign has been stepped up. American and British organizations are partnering to create confusion over science that is very clear. The denial propagandists have spent a lot of time creating strategies that only a sharp and studied person can see through. Think about this, how many climate change skeptics are scientists from a relevant field of study doing current research? Very few if any. The denial side is filled with pundits, otherwise known as regular people paid money to provide non-expert (but touted as expert) opinions.
  • A Tesla electric car caught fire when a metal object pierced the 3-inch protective case to the battery. It is important to remember that cars are inherently unsafe (if less so than decades ago with improvements in safety features and designn), especially the ones driving around with gallons of highly flammable gasloline. Tesla is responding to the incident.
  • The decline of coal continues! Two plants in Pennsylvania are closing  because they are no longer profitable. This is the power of economics, you don’t need to argue with anyone because if something doesn’t make money then it stops. So, good-bye coal, and hello cheaper renewable energy.
  • The government shutdown, while ultimately ridiculous, is impacting renewable energy. Larger projects with permitting timelines and completion deadlines for government incentives are at risk of not meeting their development targets.
  • Renewable energy has become cheaper, but natural gas is still the cheapest energy source in 2013. Natural gas extraction and use is skyrocketing, but what happens when the price spikes and we are stuck on yet another dirty and expensive energy source.
  • There is a single word that sums up the argument against nuclear power: Fukushima. If an energy source carries an unacceptable risk to the environment and human health then it should not be used. The joke goes, an oil spill is a disaster, a solar spill is called a nice day.
  • Methane gas is a byproduct of materials breaking down; our landfills produce a lot of methane and now it is being sold as car fuel in California. Recapturing our waste to use it again is a very good idea.
  • Roads are pollution corridors and lots of people live right next to big roads. Ever see a home on the side of the freeway with black smudge on the outside walls, well that is the same stuff that people are breathing.

The post Enviro News Wrap: Climate Denial Propaganda; Tesla EV Catches Fire; Fukushima Leaks Radioactive Water, and more… appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

September 24 2013

15:30

More Wind & Solar Can Reduce Utility Costs and Emissions

renewable-energy-girlThose opposed to spurring development and adoption of renewable solar and wind energy resources continually assert that their intermittent nature not only reduces grid reliability and raises the cost of electricity, but negates the carbon and greenhouse gas emissions reductions that contribute so greatly to their rapid adoption in the first place.

While it’s true that bringing greater amounts of solar and wind-generated electricity on grids means utilities have to cycle more frequently – ramp down and ramp up or stop and start – fossil fuel generators to ensure a smooth, reliable flow of electricity, a study by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) shows that the carbon emissions that result from cycling are negligible – less than 0.2% – of the carbon reductions realized by generating electricity from the sun and winds.

Not only that, but the research revealed that bringing “high levels of wind and solar power [on to the grid] would reduce fossil fuel costs by approximately $7 billion per year across the West, while incurring cycling costs of $35 million to $157 million per year.” That amounts to an increase in operations and maintenance costs of only $0.47-$1.28 per megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity generation for the average fossil fuel power plant, according to a September 24 NREL press release.

How can this be?  The explanation lies in the fossil fuel costs utilities avoid by making greater use of solar and wind energy generation.

Avoiding fossil fuel costs, and pollution

According to Debra Law, the project manager for NREL’s study,

“Grid operators have always cycled power plants to accommodate fluctuations in electricity demand as well as abrupt outages at conventional power plants, and grid operators use the same tool to accommodate high levels of wind and solar generation.

“Increased cycling to accommodate high levels of wind and solar generation increases operating costs by 2% to 5% for the average fossil-fueled plant. However, our simulations show that from a system perspective, avoided fuel costs are far greater than the increased cycling costs for fossil-fueled plants.”

Besides determining that the carbon emissions associated with greater cycling of fossil fuel generating capacity is negligible (<0.2%) compared to the reductions from bringing wind and solar energy generation on to the grid, the NREL project team found that sulfur dioxide emissions reductions from wind and solar are 5% less than expected due to greater cycling of fossil fuel generators. Nitrogen oxide emissions reductions were 2% greater than expected.

This latest study, entitled “Phase 2 of the Western Wind and Solar Integration Study” (WWSIS-2), is a follow-up to NREL’s initial, May 2010 research into “the viability, benefits, and challenges of integrating high levels of wind and solar power into the western electricity grid.”

Source: Western Wind and Solar Integration Study, Phase 2; NREL

Source: Western Wind and Solar Integration Study, Phase 2; NREL

NRELchart_cycling_cost_system

Impacts of 33% renewable energy on the Western Interconnection grid

To calculate the emissions and cost of wear-and-tear, the NREL research team designed five hypothetical scenarios to examine generating as much as 33% of the U.S. portion of the Western Interconnection power system for the year 2020 from wind and solar energy. “This is equivalent to a quarter of the power in the Western Interconnection (including Canada and Mexico) coming from wind and solar energy on an annual basis,” the report authors explain.

The researchers’ model also assumes a future average natural gas price of $4.60/MMBtu – an optimistic assumption given the volatility and uncertainty inherent in natural gas prices – as well as “significant cooperation between balancing authorities, and optimal usage of transmission capacity (i.e., not reserving transmission for contractual obligations).”

Modeling the entire Western Interconnection power system at five-minute intervals for each year, the researchers found “that high wind and solar scenarios reduce CO2 emissions by 29%-34% across the Western Interconnection, with cycling having a negligible impact.”

The modeled reductions in sulfur dioxide (SO2) were 5% less than anticipated due to greater cycling, yet SO2 emissions would nonetheless be reduced by 14%-24% in the high solar and wind scenarios. Nitrogen oxide emissions would be reduced by 16%-22%, 1%-2% greater than expected. Added Lew,

“Adding wind and solar to the grid greatly reduces the amount of fossil fuel — and associated emissions — that would have been burned to provide power. Our high wind and solar scenarios, in which one-fourth of the energy in the entire western grid would come from these sources, reduced the carbon footprint of the western grid by about one-third. Cycling induces some inefficiencies, but the carbon emission reduction is impacted by much less than 1%.”

On average, it takes 4 MWh or renewables to displace 1 MWh of coal generation and 3 MWh of natural gas, according to the researchers, with the ramping up and down of coal-fired power plants having the biggest potential increase in terms of cycling.

Other key takeaways from the report include:

  • Because of sunset and sunrise, solar power creates the biggest ramping needs on the grid in this study. However, because we know the path of the sun through the sky every day of the year, system operators can predict these large ramping needs and plan accordingly. Solar variability due to fast-moving clouds is much less predictable, but it creates relatively smaller ramping needs.
  • Errors in day-ahead wind forecasts can make it challenging for operators to decide which power plants need to be online the next day. However, because forecast accuracy increases four hours ahead compared with 24 hours ahead, a four-hour-ahead decision on whether to start up those power plants that can be ramped up relatively quickly can help to mitigate these forecast errors.
  • Despite the differences between wind and solar in terms of grid operations, the study finds their impacts on system-wide operational costs are remarkably similar.

The post More Wind & Solar Can Reduce Utility Costs and Emissions appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

July 09 2013

18:31

The EU: Climate Change Threats at the Water-Energy Nexus

Credit: European Environment Agency

Climate change poses a growing threat across European Union society – at the nexus of water and energy resource availability and use in particular. Warming water temperatures and reduced river flows will make thermal coal and nuclear, as well as hydro power, plants vulnerable to rising costs, reduced availability and decreasing output, according to long-term study published by the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).

Warming water temperatures and reductions in mean annual river flow will reduce gross hydropower capacity and the water resources available for cooling thermal coal and nuclear power plants an average 4-5% across the EU between 2031 and 2060 as compared to 1971-2000, an international team of hydrological researchers from across Europe concluded. Large declines in southern and southeastern EU member countries will more than offset forecast increases in the northern EU countries of Norway, Sweden and Finland, according to their paper, “Water constraints on European power supply under climate change: impacts on electricity prices.”

Reduced water, hydro, coal and nuclear power availability, rising costs

Wholesale electricity prices will rise in most EU countries as a result relative to that during 1971-2000, the research team concludes. The highest increases will occur in Slovenia (12%-15%), Bulgaria (21%-23%) and Romania (31-32%). Increased water availability in Sweden and Norway, in contrast, will result in lower annual price averages as lower cost hydro power pushes out more expensive thermal coal, natural gas and nuclear power generation, they anticipate.

Seasonal factors have a substantial impact on electricity costs, however. “For most countries, the increases in wholesale electricity prices are higher for summer period than on mean annual basis, because restrictions in cooling water use for thermoelectric power and reductions in water availability for hydro power potential are highest during this season. Strongest increases in wholesale prices during summer are projected for Slovakia (14–19%), France (14–17%), Austria (22–25%), Slovenia (25–33%), Romania (55–60%), and Bulgaria (44–45%).”

Replacement of coal-fired power plants by more expensive natural gas plants is also expected to contribute to rising wholesale power costs, according to the report authors.

"Water constraints on European power supply under climate change: impacts on electricity prices,"  Michelle T H van Vliet et al 2013 Environ. Res. Lett. 8 035010 doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/3/035010 © 2013 IOP Publishing Ltd

Source: “Water constraints on European power supply under climate change: impacts on electricity prices,” Michelle T H van Vliet et al 2013 Environ. Res. Lett. 8 035010
doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/3/035010
© 2013 IOP Publishing Ltd

Hydropower and water resource usage in the EU

Hydro power accounted for 10 percent of total electricity consumption and around 80 percent of electricity generated from renewable sources in Europe in 2006, according to the European Commission (EC). In addition to the direct use of water to generate electricity, thermal coal and nuclear power plants also make use of a large share of the region’s water resources for cooling purposes.
Renewable energy sources in the EU

“On average, 44 percent of total water abstraction in Europe is used for agriculture, 40% for industry and energy production (cooling in power plants), and 15 percent for public water supply,” according to the European Environment Agency (EEA).

The vast bulk of Europe’s hydropower comes from large-scale hydroelectric plants: some 16,800 small hydropower plants installed in the EU-27 had a total capacity of 11 gigawatts (GW) accounted for about 3% of total electricity generation, according to the European Small Hydropower Association (ESHA).

There’s not much water left to squeeze. The EC estimates that more than 82 percent of all economically feasible small hydropower (SHP) potential has been exploited in the former EU-15. In contrast, the SHP exploitation rate is much lower in EU-10, less than half that of the EU-15. It’s also very small, around 6 percent, in EU Candidate Countries, according to the EC.

Climate change’s varying impact on water resource use across the EU

Those countries with the highest SHP potential include Italy, France and Spain, along with Poland and the Czech Republic. These are among the countries where climate change poses the greatest threat to water resources and power plants, however, according to the study.

Moreover, thermal coal and nuclear, as well as hydropower plants, are vulnerable to a warming climate. In their study, the researchers conclude that “the combination of increased water temperatures and reduced summer river flow under climate change is likely to affect both hydropower and thermoelectric power generating capacity in Europe, with distinct impacts on electricity prices.

“Useable capacity of thermoelectric power is expected to be most strongly impacted in countries in the central, southern and south-eastern part of Europe, where strong declines in low summer river flow are projected in combination with large increases in water temperature. This is expected to increase environmental restrictions on cooling water uses, and can result in substantial reductions in power plant capacities during summer (up to 16–20 percent for Bulgaria and 15–21 percent for Spain for 2031–2060).

“Replacement in cooling systems and changes in sources of fuel (increased efficiency) reduce water demand of thermoelectric power plants for cooling, and therefore decrease the vulnerability to climate change and aggravated cooling water shortage. However, estimated reductions in power plant useable capacities for power plants with recirculation (tower) cooling systems were smaller but still non-negligible, especially for countries in southern, central and south-eastern Europe.”

Climate change adaptation at the Water-Energy Nexus

The researchers recommend the EU take several proactive steps to prevent or at least alleviate what appears to be a looming decline in water resource availability. The climate change adaptation steps they recommend include retrofitting or replacing existing thermal coal and nuclear power plants and diversifying the EU’s energy mix by relying more on renewable energy resources that are not dependent water availability and water temperature.

“Considering the high shares of hydro power, coal-fueled and nuclear-fueled power plants in most European countries, the vulnerability to declines in summer river flow and increased water temperatures can be high,” they wrote.

“Planned adaptation strategies are therefore highly recommended, especially in the southern, central and south-eastern parts of Europe, where overall largest impacts on thermoelectric and hydro power generating capacity are projected under climate change. Considering the high investments costs (EPRI 2011), retrofitting or replacement of power plants might not be beneficial from the perspective of individual power plant operators, although the social benefits of adaptation could be substantial.

“An increased diversification in the electricity sector, with a larger contribution of renewable energy resources that are independent from water availability and water temperature (e.g. solar PV, wind power), might reduce the vulnerability of the electricity sector to climate change, although wind power can also be negatively affected by climate change.”

Main image credit: European Environment Agency
Featured image credit: underclassrising.net, courtesy flickr

The post The EU: Climate Change Threats at the Water-Energy Nexus appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

July 04 2013

22:23

The New Front Lines of the Fight Against Fracking

The fight against fracking at a Manhattan protestThe front lines of the fight over hydraulic fracturing -or “fracking” – are being drawn at the lowest political levels. Fracking involves detonating explosions deep underground and then pumping large volumes of chemical laced water at high pressure into these wells. More than 1,000 chemicals have already been identified as those commonly used in the drilling process.

According to a Scientific American Report, as of June 2012, there were more than 680,000 fracking wells throughout the country. The International Energy Agency reports that by 2018, North America’s daily supply of oil will be 3.9 million barrels higher than it was in 2012.

Polarized Debate

Attitudes towards fracking for natural gas are highly polarized in the U.S. On the one side, there are scientists and the environmentally concerned and on the other, there are business groups and the oil industry. Those who support fracking point to the economic and employment benefits as well as the issue of energy independence.

Those who resist fracking say the limited benefits it offers are trumped by the civilization-ending threat posed by climate change. In addition to methane, fracking releases radioactivity and generates toxic fracturing fluids known as BTEX, which are found to have harmful effects on the nervous system as well as cause birth defects and cancer.

In essence, the debate boils down to job creation and economic growth versus pollution and environmental risk. A large and growing pool of research makes the point that fracking is not clean energy, it is in fact a major environmental problem, in addition to putting significant quantities of greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere, it contaminates huge amounts of increasingly scarce ground water resources. Due in large part to fracking, the U.S. is emerging as a global fossil leader which has important deleterious implications.

Fracking is also known to cause earthquakes. A British company official admitted that fracking in the UK has caused “a number of minor seismic events,” The U.S. Geological Survey has also made the connection between fracking and seismic events in the U.S., Canada and Japan.

Economics

Natural gas is a large and growing part of American exports with many states reaping significant financial gains, this includes states like North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Ohio. All across America, economic benefits are driving what can only be described as a fracking frenzy.

While some states have outlawed fracking (eg New York, Vermont), other states like Illinois have enacted legislation welcoming the industry into their state.

EPA and the Federal Government

Right now, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has no jurisdiction when it comes to fracking, thanks to a provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act known as the Haiburton Loophole—named after the first company licensed to practice fracking. Although previously cleared, in 2010, the EPA reopened its investigation into fracking.

The EPA has pushed its timeline for release of its study assessing the impact of hydraulic fracturing from 2014 to 2016. This study was initiated by Congress in 2010 and was meant to provide guidance for states. Now that this research is off the table for the next few years, states will have to draw their own conclusions about the safety of fracking.

This means that by the time EPA rules, there will be massive amounts of fracking chemicals in America’s groundwater and vast quantities of global warming causing methane emissions in our atmosphere.

President Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama sees fracking as a bridge fuel. While Obama does support fracking for natural gas, he has indicated that he wants to reduce the industry environmental impacts. While the Obama administration suggested that it would force oil companies to disclose the chemicals they use in the drilling process they are not required to reveal chemicals that are considered “trade secrets.” This is a glaring weakness that must be remedied with full disclosure.

The President’s Climate Action Plan clearly states that, “Curbing methane emissions is critical to our overall effort to address global climate change.” However, his support for fracking does not acknowledge that methane is the chief GHG released into the atmosphere by fracking.

“The natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence,” the President said in his 2013 State of the Union address. “That’s why my Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water.” The President said.

While we may some some minor regulatory oversight, leadership on fracking will not be forthcoming from the federal government in the next few years. Independent of the political wrangling at the federal level, the fight against fracking will continue.

State Governments

In the absence of the President’s leadership and ahead of the EPA’s study in 2016, State governments are charged with the responsibility of regulating the fracking industry.

The EPA has stepped back and allowed state government to assume oversight right across the country including Parker County, TX, and Dimock, PA.

Wyoming’s state government illustrates the problems associated with charging the states to regulate fracking.  Wyoming appears to be whitewashing its investigating of fracking impacts in a development near Pavillion, WY. The state’s Republican governor Matt Mead has been accused of collusion with Encana, the company doing the drilling in that area.

The California State Assembly rejected a bill that would have banned oil and natural gas fracking in the state

A growing number of people are getting involved and taking to the streets to protest against fracking. In New York, more than 3,000 people recently came together to send a message to Gov. Cuomo and state legislators demanding that they reject fracking and lead the nation in renewable energy.

However, as demonstrated by Wyoming, state governments may not be the best place to combat fracking.

Regional and Municipal Politics

In the absence of federal and state leadership, the fight over fracking is increasingly taking place at the regional and municipal levels.

Even at the municipal level, fracking is a highly divisive issue. Boulder County in Colorado has enacted a new moratorium on fracking for 18 months and Dryden, New York, also upheld a ban.

However, some municipalities are so hungry for jobs that they ignore environmental impacts. One such community is Youngstown, Ohio. which is a city that has been hit hard by the collapse of the steel industry. Even two earthquakes which measured 2.7 and 4.0 on the Richter scale did not deter voters from rejecting a proposal to ban hydraulic fracturing in the city. In Illinois Governor Quinn signed into law a statewide pro-fracking bill (SB1715).

Despite the early mixed results at the local level, it is positive that the discussion about fracking is expanding. Being engaged in the discussion at the local level inspires people to get involved and encourages them to be better informed about the issues.

One of the major roadblocks to local decision making on fracking is the fact that in many states, towns do not have the adequate legal authority to deny oil and gas companies. However, environmental lawyers, Helen and David Slottje, have figured out a way that towns might be able to use zoning rules to stop fracking. A May lawsuit in New York state upholds municipalities’ rights to decide zoning rules as they relate to fracking.

New Data

Every day we are seeing more data pointing to the destructive impacts of fracking. NOAA studies show that methane emissions from natural gas development are much higher than commonly assumed. A recent report by U.S. military advisors also questions the value of fossil fuels including natural gas.

A recent report from environmental consultant Jessica Ernst reviewed the contamination of North America’s groundwater sources resulting from  fracking. Food & Water Europe and NGSFacts.com have also provided information revealing the dangers associated with fracking.

While an ORC International survey, indicates that most Americans support domestic energy production, they are unwilling to sacrifice clean water, increased energy efficiency, and expanded power from renewable energy.

It may be that the President is deferring federal action on fracking due to the political climate. In fairness, the President`s new Climate Action Plan does emphasize significant reductions in GHGs and strong support for renewable energy and efficiency. The President must choose his battles if he want to see them succeed.

As the old cliche goes, “Rome was not built in a day” and this is particularly true if we are building for an enduring future and a truly sustainable economy.

Even with the blight of fracking, President Obama`s action plan is moving the U.S. in the right direction.

With the federal government abdicating its responsibilities, the fight against fracking is being waged at the municipal and state levels. To succeed in efforts to minimize fracking, we must not lose hope that the war will be won.

As Franklin D. Roosevelt said,

”The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.”

We will bring an end to fracking one town at a time.

——————-
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Adrian Kinloch, courtesy flickr

 

The post The New Front Lines of the Fight Against Fracking appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

July 01 2013

19:01

Enviro News Wrap: Obama’s Climate Plan; Shell in the Arctic; the Growth of Renewables; Natural Gas Greenwash, and more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

The post Enviro News Wrap: Obama’s Climate Plan; Shell in the Arctic; the Growth of Renewables; Natural Gas Greenwash, and more… appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

May 06 2013

18:56

Enviro News Wrap: Climate Change and National Security; Keeling Curve On the Brink of 400; Getting Beyond Politics Leads to Climate Action, and more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

The post Enviro News Wrap: Climate Change and National Security; Keeling Curve On the Brink of 400; Getting Beyond Politics Leads to Climate Action, and more… appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

March 25 2013

18:54

Enviro News Wrap: Growth in US Solar; Changing Perceptions of Global Warming; US Plays Catch-Up in Enviro Policy, and more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

 

 

 

The post Enviro News Wrap: Growth in US Solar; Changing Perceptions of Global Warming; US Plays Catch-Up in Enviro Policy, and more… appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

March 01 2013

20:54

Q and A: The Angry Economist

Because of its natural gas boom, the United States is ahead of Europe in fixing climate change, the Oxford economist Dieter Helm argues.
20:17
18:42

August 29 2012

22:39

A Late Bet on Coal May Not Pay Off

A consortium of utilities decided to build a coal-fired power plant, probably one of the last that will be allowed under E.P.A. regulations, figuring it would be cheaper than buying electricity on the open market. The low cost of natural gas has foiled that calculation.
17:55

Mitt Romney’s Love Affair with the Fossil Fuel Industry


Romney's energy plan is made by and for the fossil energy industryRepublican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s “new” energy plan, relies on 19th century fossil fuel technology. It is but the latest incarnation of a longstanding Republican obsession with oil and gas. Romney’s energy strategy is reliant on Canada’s environmentally disastrous tar sands. He wants to expedite the Keystone XL pipeline, reduce regulations on hydraulic fracturing and ease the permitting process for offshore oil and gas. Romney wants to take regulatory power away from the federal government and give it to individual states. He wants to amend the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act and weaken the EPA’s ability to regulate pollution.

While Romney is pushing for more oil and gas, his plan does not advocate either conservation or efficiency. Instead he would end subsidies for renewable sources of energy like solar and wind.

The Republican convention in Florida was delayed due to concerns about Hurricane Isaac. The timing of Isaac is ironic given that GOP appears oblivious to the relationship between global warming and extreme weather. They do not see the powerful symbolism of four hurricanes, Andrew, Katrina, Irene and now Isaac, all landing at roughly the same time and in the same place.

The Republican presidential hopeful’s support for fossil fuels ignores the overwhelming price of extreme weather. With a cost of $81 billion and 1,836 dead, Katrina was the most expensive natural disaster in American history. About 20 years ago this week, Hurricane Andrew hit Florida; it cost $25 billion and killed 15 people. Hurricane Irene struck one year ago and caused an estimated $15 billion in damage while killing at least 67 people.

Romney continues to push for more offshore oil despite the fact that Hurricane Isaac will likely stir up oil left over from the massive Gulf spill of 2010. The remnants of that spill take the form of large tar mats that lie submerged just off the coast.

It appears nothing will deter Romney from pursuing his wanton desire to increase America’s reliance on oil and gas. As reviewed in a Grist article by Lisa Hymas, Mitt Romney’s 21 page energy strategy mentions oil a total of 154 times and natural gas 36 times. The document references coal more often than solar or wind energy and efficiency only gets mentioned once. His plan completely ignores the smart grid, sustainability and climate change.

Romney claims his fossil fuel fixation will create jobs and he eschews government support for renewable energy. However, clean energy has been a great jobs creator, in many cases far more than the fossil fuel industry. In Iowa alone, 7,000 jobs have been created in the wind power industry. Thanks to the wind production tax credit (PTC), the wind industry now employs more people than the coal sector. The US solar energy industry currently employs 100,000 workers at 5,600 companies.

The Republican nominee wants to kill support for renewable energy while continuing to give oil companies $4 billion in annual subsidies. In addition, the Romney plan would provide a $2.3 billion tax cut for the big five oil companies through cuts in the corporate tax rate. Over the next 9 years, the U.S. coal industry is expected to receive $8 billion in taxpayer support.

Romney claims oil is more economical, but his plan does not factor the massive health care costs associated with the burning of fossil fuels. According to a Harvard Medical study, these costs amount to $345 billion. When health issues are factored into the equation the cost of coal per kilowatt is more than 3x the cost of wind.

Romney’s emphasis on oil and gas and resistance to support renewable energy should come as no surprise as his top advisors are closely affiliated with the fossil fuel industry. Harold Hamm is the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Continental Resources Inc. (CLR). Hamm is one of the richest people in America and the chairman of Romney’s Energy Policy Advisory Group. Romney’s other advisors are also oil industry insiders. David Wilkins is a Canadian lobbyist for tar sands oil and Andrea Saul was formerly with the DCI Group, a public affairs and lobbying firm that has worked with Big Oil to undermine the facts on global warming.

At one time, Romney was a strong supporter of action on climate change. Now in his bid to be President, he is leading the climate deniers with a strategy that seems to invite climate change. Romney is a political opportunist who is depending on the oil and gas industry to help fund his campaign. According to the Center for Responsive PoliticsRomney has directly received more than $1 million from the oil and gas industry and the Koch brothers are expected to spend up to $200 million to help get their man elected.

Romney’s love of fossil fuel is at odds with the sentiments of most Americans. Americans hate the oil and gas industry and want global warming and clean energy to be national priorities. According to an August Gallup poll, a total of 61 percent of Americans gave the fossil fuel industry a negative rating, the worst of any industry in the U.S. Romney’s opposition to clean energy is also at odds with the views of the American public. A March Gallup poll had found that people were twice as likely to support solar and wind energy than coal or natural gas. The same poll found that 69 percent of Americans favored spending more government money on developing renewable energy.

As reviewed in a press release from the Sierra Club, greenhouse gas emissions are down to their lowest level in 20 years, Americans are using less oil, and new fuel standards will double efficiency and slash CO2. Over the last four years U.S. wind power has doubled and solar has grown by a factor of five. All of these advances would be reversed by Romney’s energy plan.

Romney’s intention to double down on oil and natural gas is a policy position that is incompatible with a 21st century economy. Romney’s resistance to renewable energy and support for fossil fuels is nothing short of reckless. His plan would result in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in the clean energy industry and unleash pollutants that would harm Americans.

Romney’s energy strategy is a blueprint for increasing emissions and a roadmap for runaway climate change. America simply cannot afford a President who is so willfully ignorant on energy and the environment.

——————-

Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: TerranceDC, courtesy Flickr

00:10

August 24 2012

19:08

August 20 2012

17:15

Enviro News Wrap: Cape Cod Wind Project Approved; Few Deniers in Canada; the Dangers of Arctic Drilling, and more…


The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

August 17 2012

22:24

A 20-Year Low in U.S. Carbon Emissions

Energy-related emissions were lower in January to March than for any first quarter since 1992, partly because of the shift from coal to natural gas in power generation.

August 15 2012

16:04

August 10 2012

17:27

Republican Ohio Governor Kasich's Trillion Dollar Shale Gas Lie

About the only positive thing you can say about industry-funded astroturf groups is that they at least base their misinformation campaigns on phony “studies” and “reports.” Their lies are based on SOMETHING.

The same cannot be said of Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich, who has come up with a whopper based on absolutely nothing. Kasich recently told the press that his state of Ohio is sitting on top of $1 trillion worth of natural gas that’s just ripe for fracking.

Obviously, this would be quite an economic boom for not just Ohio, but the entire United States. The only problem is that, again, Kasich isn’t basing his estimate on any studies, reports, documents, surveys, or anything even remotely credible. It appears that Kasich is telling reporters that this trillion dollar bonanza number is what he overheard from members of the natural gas industry.


CityBeat explains the story:
  

Arthur Berman, a Texas-based petroleum geologist and independent energy consultant, says there is no way to verify Kasich’s number.

“No one knows what the reserve number is,” he says. “It takes longer before we know.”

Berman says a true analysis would take at least 18 months and, more realistically, eight to 10 years. This is because geologists need to wait until they “have enough months of production to see a trend,” Berman says.

Even when enough time has passed and geologists get a real estimate, Berman says there will still be a lot of uncertainty about how much of the oil and gas can actually be obtained. He says that although there might be a lot of oil and gas, it could be inaccessible due to technological and practical constraints. After all, if oil and gas reserves are found beneath a city, it’s unlikely operators will actually try to drill there.

Another question for Berman is whether Kasich expects the $1 trillion to come over time or immediately. With the way Kasich has been presenting the number to the media, Berman is worried Ohioans might be getting the impression that the $1 trillion would come as an “immediate windfall.” The reality, Berman says, is that “it takes a long time to produce natural gas and oil.” That means even if Kasich’s number was somehow right, it would take years — Berman estimates longer than Kasich’s gubernatorial terms — to see that $1 trillion.

Kasich claims he heard the number from an unnamed CEO at an energy company. That brings up some concerns for Berman. In his experience, oil and gas operators tend to overestimate production potential by about double, relative to Berman’s own data. Berman says they could be overestimating because it makes the venture seem more profitable to investors.

To truly understand how much oil and gas is underground, Berman would like to see an independent, objective opinion. More importantly, he hopes that Kasich would demand a higher standard of analysis before promoting any policy.

“I hope the governor would make decisions based on more than a lunch conversation,” Berman says.
 

Berman is absolutely correct – the head of a state needs a little bit more information than can be gathered through eavesdropping in order to come up with policies for his state.

So why the trillion dollar lie? Kasich isn’t a member of the industry, and as a whole, Follow the Money tells us that Kasich received a meager $50 from the energy industry during his last campaign. But things aren’t always what they seem. The fracking industry has been much more generous to Kasich than the reports would have you believe.

A Truth-Out report from last year reveals that Kasich actually received more than $213,000 from the natural gas industry, more than any other Ohio politician in the last 10 years. The Truth-Out report also tells us that Kasich was the recipient of an additional $127,000 from Koch Industries.

Not only does this money explain Kasich’s trillion dollar lie, but it also helps us understand why he has opened up state parks and other protected lands for natural gas companies to frack.

In the era of Super PACs, political money flowing to candidates is going to become harder and harder to trace. But when you’re making the rounds on the media, telling lies worth one trillion dollars, honest and hard working investigative journalists like those at Truth-Out and elsewhere are going to do their homework and figure out the truth.

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