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Wed, 2014-06-04 05:00Don Lieber
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European Activists Protest First Major Tar Sands Shipment from Canada, Threaten Escalating Actions

Protests erupted in Spain last week at the site of the first major delivery of tar sands crude imported from Canada via the United States.  

According to a news report by EurActiv.com, an online news service focused on EU affairs, 600,000 barrels of Western Canada Select (WCS) crude were due to arrive at the port of Bilbao, Spain, imported by the Spanish oil company Repsol. According to MarineTraffic.com data on the tanker's location, it appears the delivery at Bilbao occurred on 29-30 May.

The Spanish oil giant is using this delivery as ‘a test’ to determine if future bulk deliveries are feasible.   

On 29 May, about 50 protesters staged a demonstration outside Repsol's Bilbao refinery, after rumours spread that the dirty fuel shipment had already arrived.  

The protesters, including local residents and environmentalists from all over Europe, have vowed to increase the scope and organization of the protests if shipments continue.  

Fri, 2014-04-04 12:07Don Lieber
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Spills, Explosions, Earthquakes and War: Welcome to American Energy “Independence”

A well-deserved show of gratitude to the efficient and reliable fossil fuel sources of American energy independence — oil, coal and gas — is in order, following a truly remarkable string of success stories in recent days nationwide.      

On March 25, the BP refinery in Whiting, IN, leaked some 1,600 gallons of crude oil about eight miles upstream from a main drinking water inlet to Chicago. (As of this writing, investigators have not yet determined if the oil is conventional crude or heavy tar sands.)

Three days prior, on March 22, nearly 170,000 gallons of bunker fuel oil spilled into Galveston Bay, TX, from a barge, soiling one of the nation’s busiest export terminals with one of the heaviest, stickiest forms of oil on Earth. As a result, 20 containment vessels were dispatched. 

And five days before that, on March 17, a Sunoco-owned oil pipeline leaked 20,000 gallons into the Oak Glen Nature Preserve in Ohio, some 20 miles from Cincinnati. To be fair, the leak was only ‘discovered’ on March 17. Nobody knows when the leak actually began, and the true amount of oil leaked will be impossible to conclude.   

These impressive gains by the oil industry, however, pale in comparison to the string of breakthroughs achieved in the coal industry in recent days in North Carolina.

Sat, 2013-09-28 07:00Don Lieber
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Solar Power Fights Climate Change, Poverty, and Lung Cancer

My writing for DeSmog, and other blogs, has focused on the problems related to climate change.  The burning of fossil fuels is at the root of these problems. 

The fossil fuel industries (oil, coal, gas) spend millions of dollars in PR campaigns and political contributions to downplay the consequences of their continued monopoly on world energy while portraying non-fossil fuel alternatives, like solar power, as impractical and too expensive to meet the energy needs of the world.   

The large oil, coal and gas companies don’t want us to be aware, for example, that renewables already account for up to 20% of total global electricity production, according to one French-based study.  A recent report in Scientific American states that renewables (solar, wind, hydro, together) will soon become the ‘second most important’ global energy source’ (after coal) and are “becoming cost competitive with fossil fuels”.    

While governments have been slow to support the widespread introduction of renewables (despite the scientific necessity), awareness of private and non-governmental programs, such as that of the WakaWaka Foundation, helps provide the public more confidence in the inevitable, necessary shift toward solar, wind and other non-fossil fuel sources which don’t wreck our climate.   

Take the example of one new solar manufacturer.  WakaWaka, a Netherlands-based NGO, provides solar products to some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. WakaWaka runs several programs which combat extreme poverty AND promotes the use of solar power.  The foundation develops climate education kits for local communities and schools; provides micro-enterprise support  for start-up solar power entrepreneurs (including the provision of micro-community loans as necessary); and, donates solar products directly to some of the most isolated, poorest people on Earth, including those in humanitarian crisis zones.   Current programs are in Haiti, Africa and South America; they recently began a program serving a Syrian refugee community.

Tue, 2013-09-24 11:00Don Lieber
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Stanford Scientists: Climate Change Occurring 10 Times Faster Than Any Time in Past 65 Million Years

With scant media attention, climate scientists from Stanford University have concluded that climate change is occurring 10 times faster than at any time in the past 65 million years, and the current pace of change will lead to a 5-6 degree (Celsius) spike by the end of this century.

The findings come from a review of climate research by Noah Diffenbaugh, an associate professor of environmental Earth system science, and Chris Field, a professor of biology and of environmental Earth system science and the director of the Department of Global Ecology at the Carnegie Institution.  Both scientists are senior fellows at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.  Their work is part of a special report on climate change in the current issue of Science.

Without human intervention to reduce additional greenhouse gas emissions in the near-term, the report says, the ensuing rise in global temperature will place significant stress on terrestrial ecosystems around the world.

The report pointed to historical precedents in naturally occurring temperature rise.  While similar climate change has occurred in specific periods of Earth’s history, said the authors, the rate of such rise during today’s crisis is unprecedented – and attributable to human influences not present in previous epochs.

Sat, 2013-07-27 07:41Don Lieber
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GOP Elder Statesman George Shultz Urges Strong Action on Climate Change - In Stark Contrast To Current GOP Leadership

George Shultz, who served as Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State from 1980 through 1984, is urging strong action on climate change and urging the US to move away from oil.    

In an interview in the July 24 issue of Scientific American magazine, Mr. Shultz said that dependence on oil weakens US national security; using coal for electricity ‘gets us nowhere’; using solar power is better than coal and natural gas; and that the US should increase funds for renewable energy research and development.

Mr. Shultz, saying he wanted to ‘walk the talk’, said he installed solar panels on his own roof six years ago – and the savings on his electric bill since then have paid for the initial investment.

He also said that he drives an electric car (a Nissan LEAF), saying “I have a charging device in my garage so I figure I'm driving on sunshine, and it's free. It doesn't cost me anything, so I kind of like it.”

Sun, 2013-07-14 12:22Don Lieber
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Whether By Train Or By Pipeline, Oil and Gas Transport Is Unsafe

The deadly oil train disaster in Lac Megantic, Quebec on July 5, which (as of this writing) has left 33 people dead, with 17 still missing, and contaminated over 60 miles of local drinking water sources, has initiated a curious response across the media spectrum.

Some observers cite this accident as reason to consider pipelines, rather than trains, as the safer choice to transport oil and gas fossil fuels.

Two new major reports, however, reveal that this question misses a much larger point: oil, gas, and coal – the fossil fuel trio – indeed are inherently unsafe industries regardless of the mode of transport.

The first report, from Environment & Energy Publishing (E&E),  an organization which focuses on energy policy and markets, examined on-shore oil and gas and documented over 6,000 spills and accidents at oil and gas sites in 2012 - an average of more than 16 spills a day. A total of 15.6 million gallons of oil, fracking fluid, wastewater and other liquids were reported spilled at production sites during 2012. That's more than the 11 million gallons of oil that leaked from the shattered hull of the Exxon Valdez in 1989.

This represents a significant increase in accidents since 2010 and parallels the dramatic rise in drilling activity across key oil and gas producing states, such as North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Wyoming.  

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