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July 30 2012

18:26

Brazil: Belo Monte Dam Threatens Forest, Wildlife, and Indigenous People


Pristine sunsets on the Xingu River in the Amazon may become a thing of the past if the Belo Monte and hundreds of other dams are allowed on the riverGuest post by Nathan Gallagher

The Belo Monte dam project is now underway on the Xingu River in the Brazilian State of Pará.  The current dam project will flood native people’s lands and other land currently housing poor Brazilians in the City Altamira who all rely heavily on the river for their livelihood. The flooded forest will decompose and release methane gas into the atmosphere and destroy the rocky breeding grounds of certain fish used for food. The dam will furthermore reduce the flow to almost zero in a 100km bend of the river destroying local fishing and devastating species of animals and plants. The forest and wetlands on this stretch of the river will also be irrevocably changed if the dam is completed, faced with almost no water much of the year.

Electro Norte Energy Company is spearheading the project, supported in part by the Brazilian government. But there is outside support for the project from all over the developed world. Companies from the United States, Germany, Austria, France and China support the project. The Brazilian government sees this dam project, and the planned 130 additional dams, as economic development. Currently 30 percent of Brazil’s energy use goes to its top 6 industries. Among those are aluminum, steel, and paper production.

The population claims that the money offered to relocate citizens from the areas affected by the project falls short. Apart from claims that the money will not be enough for current residents to live elsewhere many residents are aging and worry they will not be able to find work in the city. Many are uneducated and have learned to live from fishing the rivers or growing crops in the locations to be destroyed by the dam project. Some citizens have been targeted by dam supporters destroying their crops or their homes in order to get them to leave quietly.

The Government’s rhetoric is very closed. They insist that they have done everything necessary to ensure that indigenous people are not harmed, and have gone as far as claiming that Indigenous villages will not be affected under the current plan. The government has been consistent in the viewpoint that indigenous people have no right to their way of life and if the government Brazil wants to build a dam then it will build a dam. Time after time the government has been invited to meet with tribal leaders and has failed to show up.

Voices from across the globe calling for an end to the Belo Monte Dam

The Kayapó People are the subject of a recent documentary titled Belo Monte the announcement of a war which can be seen in full on Youtube. The Kayapó tribe is just one of 25 different ethnic groups in the Xingu basin whose lands will be flooded or cutoff from the river.  They are currently staging an occupation of the construction site and are prepared to fight if necessary to protect their home. In early July occupiers from local tribes dug a trench through the existing dam site. Many groups and supporters including James Cameron, director of Avatar (based on the real plight of tribes in the Amazon) believe that if enough support and outcry from outside builds then developed nations will be forced to pull their financial support for Belo Monte. You can find out more by visiting amazonwatch.org.

-Nathan Gallagher

Main image credit: International Rivers, courtesy Flickr

Infographic by Nate Gallagher 

December 30 2011

18:48

Musings of a Malcontent: The Earth in 2012 – Aye Carumba!


Musings of a Malcontent: Environmental Irony in an Imperfect (but humorous?) World“Musings of a Malcontent” is a weekly op-ed by GlobalWarmingisReal contributor Carlyle Coash

I am beginning to feel redundant.

I mean how many weeks in a row can I talk about oil spills? Seemingly forever at the rate we’re going. If you haven’t seen it yet, there is an absolutely fabulous spill off the coast of Nigeria. Shell Oil clearly put a lot of work into making it look amazing. Let’s put our hands together for them. It really accentuates all the wonderful features of Nigeria’s coastline marvelously. You would think it was made just for that purpose. Stunning!

I think Victoria’s Secret is doing a special fashion show on the slick itself just so we can all revel in the magic. The best designers are involved, showing how much they care for this important issue. The models will be dressed as oil workers just getting off work at the rig from a hard day of drilling. As they strut down their specially made flotilla runway, spray from the slick coats them with the alluring shimmer that only crude oil can create. Covered in oil now, they strip out of their overalls to reveal the new line of sexy hot undergarments made from the carcasses of birds killed by spills all over the world. Fashion at it’s most poignant!

I can dream can’t I?

Will we raise our consciousness about what we are doing to the Earth in 2012?This new spill gives me little optimism for 2012. It just feels like it’s not going to stop. Oil everywhere, huge amounts of methane gas escaping from the Arctic, extreme weather patterns, the start of Celebrity Wife Swap – what are we in for? I know the Mayan calendar is predicting a profound rise in consciousness in 2012, but I’m wondering if that’s because we’ll all be in flames from the massive oil spill-methane-fueled fireball that’s likely to be the Planet Earth.

It’s amazing how being on fire can elevate your consciousness.

If you can’t tell – I’m worried. Somehow I think I am not alone in this. The question is what will it take to slow things down? Do we need an Occupy the Oil Companies movement? Yeah, that would work. Groups can start camping out at gas stations. We can all begin to use alternative fuel sources – like used fry oil from fast food restaurants. Soon the Chevy Volt will be the car everyone craves and all the oil-producing countries will be begging for us to use their product again. Yet because of our Mayan induced surge of conscious awakening we will no longer even need motor vehicles – as we will simply travel through teleportation.

We are totally screwed aren’t we?

Those changes are not going to happen. Sorry Mayans. Why? Because instead of cleaning up the mess currently spanning the globe, these big companies want to add to it. They have all the sway in just the right places. I know this because for the most part nothing has really happened to them. Sure they have gotten fined, but they are still getting away with all sorts of shaky behavior. Just like nothing has really happened to the Wall Street companies that did a collective pistol shot to our femurs, leaving us to bleed out on the street while they sauntered away whistling a tune. The exchange rate is maintained in their favor. I don’t see Bernie Madoff getting a Gaddafi style treatment at the hands of those he screwed. Heck I would settle for a daylong carnival dunk tank opportunity with old Bernie as the star.

Just give us some payback – a little hint that the scales are not totally off balance.

I am not holding my breath. I do have some desire for self-preservation.

So we step into a new year. Hopefully it will not be full of continued disasters. Or scams and misdeeds. Or torture and killing. Or horrors done on each other for just no good reason (like the guy lighting a woman in his building on fire in a very un-consciousness heightening way). Or stories of how much the rich and famous are spending on Christmas gifts ($12,000 worth of gifts from one Twilight series star to the other. They are in love though).

Ugh.

For the consciousness to shift it has to be about something else. Taking responsibility. Taking care of our world and each other. Practicing compassion. Practicing kindness. Practicing generosity. Speaking out when we see things that are unjust. Not tolerating violence. Calming our minds.

Can’t be that far fetched. If the Mayans thought it could happen, why not right?

So what if they died off.

Right.

————
Image sources: The Alopecian Muse, Astrological Musings

Sponsored post

December 21 2011

18:28

Melting Arctic Ice is Releasing Massive Amounts of Methane


Researches ignite escaping methane gas from the melting iceThe melting Arctic ice is causing huge quantities of methane gas to be released into the atmosphere. Concerns about climate change-inducing greenhouse gases are often centered on carbon dioxide (CO2), but methane is a greenhouse gas that is 20-30 times more potent than CO2. Each methane molecule is actually about 70 times more potent in terms of trapping heat than a molecule of carbon dioxide, however, methane breaks down more quickly in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

The sub-sea layer of permafrost traps methane, preventing it from escaping, but as it melts it allows the methane to rise from underground deposits. According to scientists, large releases of methane gas can cause rapid climate changes.

There are historical precedents to back-up this assertion. Scientists believe that long ago, sudden releases of methane were responsible for rapid increases in global temperatures, dramatic changes to the climate, and even the mass extinction of species.

The Paleocene/Eocene thermal maximum (55.5 Million years ago) is a period with drastic climate change due to massive releases of methane. It has also been suggested that large temperature swings during the last glacial period have been caused by abrupt releases of methane.

Hundreds of millions of tons of methane gas are locked beneath the Arctic permafrost, which extends from the mainland into the seabed of the relatively shallow sea of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf.

Researchers at the Russian Academy of Sciences, the University of Alaska and Stockholm University have been surveying the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf off northern Russia for nearly 20 years. Early in December, they reported dramatic and unprecedented volumes of methane being released from the Arctic seabed. They estimate that eight million tons of methane is currently leaking into the atmosphere every year.

Vast amounts of methane have been seen bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean. There are fields in the Arctic where the release is so intense that the methane does not have time to dissolve into the seawater but rises to the surface as large bubbles.

In an exclusive interview with the Independent, lead scientist Igor Semiletov said that he has never before witnessed the scale and force of the methane being released from beneath the Arctic seabed. Dr Semiletov made his findings public early in December at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.

“Earlier we found torch-like structures like this but they were only tens of metres in diameter. This is the first time that we’ve found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures, more than 1,000 metres in diameter. It’s amazing,” Dr. Semiletov said. “I was most impressed by the sheer scale and high density of the plumes. Over a relatively small area we found more than 100, but over a wider area there should be thousands of them.”

Recent observations suggest that previous surveys may have significantly underestimated the amount of methane being released into the atmosphere from the Arctic seabed.

This new information was recorded in late summer 2011 by Dr. Semiletov and his team of researchers. The scientists onboard the vessel Academician Lavrentiev conducted an extensive survey of 10,000 square miles of sea off the East Siberian coast. The scientists made their observations with the help of four highly sensitive seismic and acoustic instruments that monitor the methane seeping from the ocean floor.

“In a very small area, less than 10,000 square miles, we have counted more than 100 fountains, or torch-like structures, bubbling through the water column and injected directly into the atmosphere from the seabed,” Dr. Semiletov said. “We carried out checks at about 115 stationary points and discovered methane fields of a fantastic scale – I think on a scale not seen before. Some plumes were a kilometre or more wide and the emissions went directly into the atmosphere.”

Expeditions in the Laptev Sea in 1994 did not detect elevated methane levels. However, since 2003 a rising number of methane “hotspots” have been detected.

Research prepared for publication by the American Geophysical Union in 2008 by Dr. Orjan Gustafsson of Stockholm University in Sweden indicated that anomalies were recorded in the East Siberian Sea and the Laptev Sea. These preliminary findings were uncovered by scientists aboard the research vessel Jacob Smirnitskyi. At the time, Gustafsson was quoted as saying:

“The conventional thought has been that the permafrost ‘lid’ on the sub-sea sediments on the Siberian shelf should cap and hold the massive reservoirs of shallow methane deposits in place. The growing evidence for release of methane in this inaccessible region may suggest that the permafrost lid is starting to get perforated and thus leak methane… The permafrost now has small holes. We have found elevated levels of methane above the water surface and even more in the water just below. It is obvious that the source is the seabed.”

In 2011, the scientists aboard the vessel Academician Lavrentiev revealed much higher concentrations of methane covering thousands of square miles of the Siberian continental shelf. These researchers found Arctic seabed methane up to 100 times background levels.

According to Natalia Shakhova, of the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, “The concentration of atmospheric methane increased three times in the past two centuries from 0.7 parts per million to 1.7ppm, and in the Arctic to 1.9ppm. That’s a huge increase, between two and three times, and this has never happened in the history of the planet.”

The Arctic is warming faster than any other region on earth. As a whole, the Arctic has experienced an average temperature increase of 4C over recent decades. The World Meteorological Organization said that northern areas like the Russian Arctic experienced the greatest increases in temperature in 2011. They also report that since 1970, the Arctic has warmed at a rate twice as fast as the rest of the globe.

Scientists predict that over the next thirty years 45 billion metric tons of carbon from methane and carbon dioxide will seep into the atmosphere as the permafrost thaws. By the end of the century it is expected that about 300 billion metric tons of carbon will be released from the thawing Earth.

Adding in that gas means that warming would happen “20 to 30 percent faster than from fossil fuel emissions alone,” said Edward Schuur of the University of Florida. “You are significantly speeding things up by releasing this carbon.”

The release of trapped methane will cause higher temperatures, leading to even more melting of the permafrost and the release of yet more methane. This troubling trend of melting permafrost on the floor of the Arctic Ocean is accompanied by a dramatic decline in summer sea ice covering the surface. The loss of sea ice will further accelerate the warming trend because open ocean absorbs more heat from the sun than a reflective ice surface. This represents a strong positive feedback that amplifies anthropogenic warming.

Scientists have estimated the amount of methane stored beneath the Arctic to be greater than the total amount of carbon locked up in global coal reserves. Subsea permafrost is losing its ability to be an impermeable cap and models suggest that if even only one percent of the methane were released from the ocean floor, it would radically accelerate global warming.

——————-
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, 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: WorldCulturePictorial.com 

December 02 2011

21:34

Smeared But Still Fighting, Cornell's Tony Ingraffea Debunks Gas Industry Myths

Cornell University Professors Robert Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea made waves in April 2011 when they unveiled what is now known simply as the "Cornell Study."

Published in a peer-reviewed letter in the academic journal Climatic Change Letters, the study revealed that, contrary to the never-ending mythology promulgated by the gas industry, unconventional ("natural") gas, procured via the infamous hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process, likely emits more greenhouse gas pollution into the atmosphere during its life cycle than does coal. DeSmogBlog documented the in-depth details of the Cornell Study in our report, "Fracking the Future: How Unconventional Gas Threatens our Water, Health, and Climate."

Since the report was published, the Cornell Study has receieved serioius backlash from the gas industry, in particular from Energy in Depth, the industry's go-to front defensive linebackers on all things fracking related. DeSmogBlog revealed earlier this year that Energy in Depth is an industry front group created by many of the largest oil and gas companies, contrary to its preferred "mom and pop" image. 

Dr. Anthony Ingraffea wrote a must-read piece this week for CBC News, "Does the natural gas industry need a new messenger?

In his article, Dr. Ingraffea discusses and debunks many key gas industry myths, which he explained "always have at least a kernel of truth, but you have to listen to the whole story, carefully, not just the kernel."

"With decades of geopolitical influence and billions of dollars on the table, it is not surprising that the gas industry has perpetuated…myths to keep the public in the dark, regulators at bay, and the wells flowing," Ingraffea writes.

Let's review four of the myths exploded by Dr. Ingraffea:

Myth One: "Fracking is a 60-year-old, safe, well proven technology"

Dr. Ingraffea writes:

Yes, fracking is 60 years old. But using this shorthand obscures the truth that what’s at issue here isn’t really just fracking. It's the entire process of coaxing gas from shale using high-volume, slickwater fracking with long laterals from clustered, multi-well pads.

Myth Two: "Fluid migration from faulty wells is rare"

Ingraffea dismantles this one:

Fluid migration is not rare. For example, industry researchers Watson and Bachu, in a Society of Petroleum Engineers paper in 2009, examined 352,000 Canadian wells and found sustained casing pressure and gas migration…Most recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found benzene, methane and chemicals in water-monitoring wells in Pavilion, Wyoming…

Myth Three: "The use of clustered, multi-well drilling pads reduces surface impacts"

Ingraffea:

Such pad sites are large and growing, up to 10 acres or more. Newer sites, in Canada, are bigger than 50 acres, and each will leave behind clusters of wellheads and holding tanks for decades.

Cluster drilling facilitates and prolongs intense industrialization and leaves a larger, more concentrated, and very long-term footprint, not a smaller and shorter one.

Myth Four: "Natural gas is a 'clean' fossil fuel"

This one would be laughable if so many people did not believe it. As the old adage goes, "A lie can travel halfway 'round the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."

Ingraffea on this whopper:

NASA climate scientist Drew Shindell’s work, published in the prestigious journal, Science, shows that methane – natural gas – is 105 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a global warming contributor over a 20-year time horizon, and 33 times more powerful over a century.

He proceeds to explain that methane gas is prone to leakage, which is not taken into account when proponents tout gas as a "clean" source of energy:

Leaks happen routinely during regular drilling, fracking and flowback operations, liquid unloading, processing, and along pipelines and at storage facilities.

The rate of leakage is anywhere from 3.6 per cent to 7.9 per cent of the lifetime of production of a shale gas well, which means from three to 200 per cent greater leakage rate than from conventional gas wells.

Exposing Other Mythology, Making a Plea For Truth 

Dr. Ingraffea also discusses other myths the gas industry relies upon on a daily basis, including "jobs created," "gas for energy independence," gas as a "bridge fuel" toward renewable energy, among others. All of these lies and misdirections have been debunked on multiple occasions, by numerous sources.

Concluding where he began his article, Ingraffea makes a plea to his readers: "keep asking questions, dig for the truth, and you’ll get the whole story."

November 29 2011

23:06

To Understand What's Happening with Fracking Decisions in New York, Follow the Money

In a November 25 article titled, "Millions Spent in Albany Fight to Drill for Gas," The New York Times reported:

Companies that drill for natural gas have spent more than $3.2 million lobbying state government since the beginning of last year, according to a review of public records. The broader natural gas industry has been giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to the campaign accounts of lawmakers and the governor…The companies and industry groups have donated more than $430,000 to New York candidates and political parties, including over $106,000 to Mr. Cuomo, since the beginning of last year, according to a coming analysis of campaign finance records by Common Cause.

Those who were wondering the motive behind NY Democratic Governor Anthony Cuomo's decision to lift New York's moratorium on fracking now have a better sense for his enthusiasm: campaign cash.

Back in June, I wrote,

Despite the copiously-documented ecological danger inherent in the unconventional drilling process and in the…gas emissions process, as well as the visible anti-fracking sentiment of the people living in the Marcellus Shale region, Cuomo has decided it's 'go time.' Other than in New York City's watershed, inside a watershed used in the city of Syracuse, in underground water sources deemed important in cities and towns, as well on state lands, spanning from parks and wildlife preserves, 85% of the state's lands are now fair game for fracking, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

It is clear that Cuomo did not have science on the top of his priority list when making his decision to lift the moratorium. 

But as any good reporter knows, possibly one of the most crucial tenets of good jouranlism is to follow the money, which is just what the Times and Common Cause did. 

What we are seeing is the concerted application of really a substantial amount of money to try to move public policy into a pro-fracking stance. It is a tremendous amount of pressure on our state government," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause New York, to The New York Times.

Common Cause and The New York Times, then, have shed more light as to why Cuomo decided to make this decision and the light is colored green, the color of money

August 24 2011

12:00

General Electric's Jim Cramer Heads to Midwest As Fracking Cheerleader

This article is cross-posted from the Center for Media and Democracy's PRWatch

Today, CNBC's Mad Money with Jim Cramer's "Invest in America" series will take the show to a seemingly unlikely locale, a place many would consider the middle of nowhere -- North Dakota.

Why North Dakota? Four words: The Bakken Shale Formation.

Referred to as "Kuwait on the Prairie" by The New Yorker in an April 2011 feature story and located predominately in northwest North Dakota, the shale formation possesses a vast amount of both oil and methane gas, gathered via the notorious fracking process. Recognizing the economic opportunities that the formation would present to fossil fuel corporations, the U.S. Energy Information Administration penned a report in November 2006 titled "Technology-Based Oil and Natural Gas Plays: Shale Shock! Could There Be Billions in the Bakken?", highlighting them in some depth.

The report opens on this note:

"The Bakken Formation...is a success story of horizontal drilling, fracturing, and completion technologies...success came from analysis of geologic data on a decades-old producing area, identification of uptapped resources, and application of the new drilling and completion technology necessary to exploit them."

In short, the Bakken Shale, like the Marcellus Shale, Haynesville Shale, Eagle Ford Shale, Barnett Shale, Fayetteville Shale, and other shale basins, is big business for big methane gas drilling corporations.

Even more importantly in this case is the fact that CNBC is a subdivision of NBC, which is owned by General Electric (GE).

The General Electric Economic Stake in the Bakken Shale

On February 10, the Associated Press reported that GE Energy Financial Services formed a partnership with Sequel Energy LLC, whose headquarters are in Denver, Colorado.

The partnership's purpose was to acquire oil and gas reserves located in the Williston Basin, where the Bakken Shale is located, from St. Mary Land & Exploration Co., for $137 million.

AP reported, "The companies declined to disclose the size of the reserves but said they are in producing fields. Other financial and operational details were not disclosed."

The press release on CNBC's preview of Cramer's visit to the Bakken Shale reads,

"CNBC ... will cover this story from all angles focusing on jobs, technology, infrastructure and the American pioneer spirit, among other topics."

 

Cramer, a de facto employee of GE, which has a direct economic stake in his cheerleading rather than objective reporting, will most likely cover the "mad money" that could be made by a small handful of rich corporations, including his own, from exploitation of the Bakken Shale.

In all likelihood, though, he will not cover the angle most inconvenient to the methane gas industry -- the multitude of ecological perils inherent in fracking for gas and burning it.

Don't expect to hear much about that in this edition of Cramer's "Invest in America" series at the Bakken Shale.

November 23 2010

15:51

Mayors Flaunt Resolve in Advance of Cancún

Some 138 cities sign a pact promising to set goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions; their progress will be reported to an online registry.

November 14 2010

03:18

EPA Rules Require Disclosure of Oil and Gas Methane Pollution and Electronics Fluorinated Gas Emissions

EarthJustice.org The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced final rules for the disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas industry, one of the largest sources of methane, a potent global warming pollutant November 9, 2010 Washington, D.C. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced final rules for the disclosure of greenhouse [...]

September 28 2010

14:02

Short on Roof Space? Adobe Plants Fuel Cells

Stymied by the fact its operations are in urban skyscrapers rather than on a sprawling campus, Adobe installs about a dozen 100-kilowatt Bloom Energy fuel cells on top of a parking garage in downtown San Jose.

March 06 2010

11:03

Study: Arctic seabed methane stores destabilizing, venting

March 4, 2010 Fairbanks, Alaska—A section of the Arctic Ocean seafloor that holds vast stores of frozen methane is showing signs of instability and widespread venting of the powerful greenhouse gas, according to the findings of an international research team led by University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists Natalia Shakhova and Igor Semiletov. The research results, published in [...]

December 11 2009

19:46

Coal Mine Operator Refuses to Cap Climate Pollution

EarthJustice.org Valuable methane gas at western Colorado coal mine being vented into atmosphere December 9, 2009     Denver, CO – In a report to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management made public on November 15, 2009, as part of a lawsuit filed last January, Mountain Coal Company, asserts it is not “economically feasible” to capture and use, or otherwise address, methane currently [...]
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