fossil fuels

Sun, 2012-09-23 18:21Laurel Whitney
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Amidst Record Drought, Report Shows Massive Water Requirements For Nonrenewable Fuels

If you haven't heard about the major droughts afflicting most of the US this summer, then you may just have your head in the sand (or more likely a water-parched dusty hole). In fact, the media department of the Drought Monitor website ran out of combinations for modifying the words “intensify” and “widespread” when referring to the drought in their headlines.

Indeed, if you have been keeping tabs on the situation, “megadrought” and “a new normal?” sound highly familiar by now. With farmers nervous about a modern-day Dust Bowl taking hold, the question on everyone's mind is, how long will it last?

This visceral threat of water scarcity puts a new report about the true cost of fossil fuels in perspective. “The Hidden Costs of Electricity: Comparing the Hidden Costs of Power Generation Fuels” evaluates, among other parameters, the water demands of fuel sources such as biomass, coal, nuclear, natural gas, solar, and wind.

In short, the nonrenewables like nuclear and coal use far more water to generate electricity than clean energy technologies like solar and wind. Take a look at how much water power plants need to function (mainly for the purpose of cooling):

Fri, 2012-06-01 04:43Laurel Whitney
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Chesapeake Energy And Other Fracking Companies Squatting On New York Citizens' Land

New York landowners are having a hard time evicting an unwanted tenant, it seems. That's why over 200 people residing in the Marcellus Shale are suing energy companies such as Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Inflection Energy, arguing that the land leases they originally signed with the companies over 5 years ago are now expired.

Originally, land owners signed on with companies like Chesapeake thinking it was a way to earn much needed revenue from their lands. However, citing New York's moratorium and descending gas prices alongside emerging environmental and health complications, many want out. With many of the contracts past their end dates, you would think that wouldn't be such a huge problem.

Except with thousands of acres of land at stake, the oil and gas companies aren't releasing or renegotiating any new leases any time soon, invoking the act of God and natural disaster clauses of the leases.

In legal speak, it's called “force majeure.” It allows the terms of a lease to continue based on unforeseen circumstances. Usually this counts for natural disasters or “acts of God”, but in this case, the companies are arguing that the moratorium on fracking in New York state should fall under this clause and allow them to retain the land.

Tue, 2012-04-10 05:45Ben Jervey
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Tar Sands in the United States: What You Need to Know

Think that that dirtiest oil on the planet is only found up in Alberta? You might be surprised then to hear that there are tar sands deposits in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, much of which are on public lands.

While none of the American tar sands deposits are actively being developed yet, energy companies are frantically working to raise funds, secure approvals, and start extracting.

To help you better understand the state of tar sands development in the U.S., here’s a primer.  

Where are the American tar sands?

The Bureau of Land Management estimates that there are between 12-19 billion barrels of tar sands oil, mostly in Eastern Utah, though not all of that would be recoverable.

This map from the Utah Geologic Survey shows all of the state’s tar sands.

Sun, 2012-01-29 10:58Laurel Whitney
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New York Looks To Local Bans On Fracking

As the New York moratorium on fracking continues to hang in jeopardy, towns within the state are taking it upon themselves to issue fracking bans locally, what may become a last-ditch effort to keep fracking out if the moratorium is lifted. Over 20 cities, including Buffalo, Ithaca, Syracuse, and others in the Finger Lakes regions, have passed bans through the “municipal home rule” to keep fracking outside of their city limits.

The question, though, is whether the state and the courts will uphold the cities' rulings.

The home rule is designed to allow residents to pass laws that protect their health and environment from invading industries like oil and gas development. There is an abundance of evidence that fracking threatens drinking watersheds and wells, releases radiation, causes major sickness and disease, and even could contribute to earthquakes.

New York City's drinking water is protected, with lawmakers vowing to keep drilling operations contained to areas outside the watershed. However, there is still concern that if fracking operations cause major earthquakes, it could shatter the city's antiquated water tunnels that deliver drinking water from upstate.

In order to protect people who live outside the city, where legislators are eager to lift the moratorium and start drilling, local bans may be the only option left.

Fri, 2011-11-18 16:08Laurel Whitney
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Another Blow To Dirty Energy: Fracking Nixed In The Delaware River Basin

Last night, big news erupted across the Northeast with an announcement that fracking in the Delaware River Basin, a pristine watershed that supplies water to over 15 million people, would be suspended. The Delaware River Basin Commission was set to vote on whether or not to permit 20,000 fracking wells in the area on Monday, November 15th. However after enormous citizen backlash, the DRBC realized they did not have the votes to push the practice through.

The Commission is made up of the 4 governors of basin states: New York (Cuomo), New Jersey (Christie), Pennsylvania (Corbett), and Delaware (Markell). The fifth member is from the Army Corps of Engineers, who is there to vote on behalf of the Obama administration.

Earlier in the week, sources indicated that Pennsylvania and New Jersey were set to vote yes, while New York was set to vote no. This left Delaware and the Obama administration up in the air. Advocacy groups and citizens targeted Delaware, knowing that the Obama administration wouldn’t likely leave themselves in the position of tie-breaker.

Mon, 2011-10-03 17:00Mike Casey
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Mr. Morriss Gets Acquainted With Irish Confetti

Originally posted at ScalingGreen.com.

Merriam-Webster: Irish Confetti - “A rock or brick used as a missile.”

We recently wrote about professional clean energy critic Andrew Morriss being schooled by Center for American Progress’s Kate Gordon before a friendly crowd at the fossil industry-funded CATO Institute. Back in April, Mr. Morriss couldn’t answer Ms. Gordon’s inconvenient points about the huge government welfare checks received by the dirty energy industries that fund him while he rails against pro-clean energy policies.

Morriss, you see, is a front man for the front group, the Koch-funded Mercatus Center at George Mason University; the Koch-funded Property & Environment Research Center (PERC); and the ExxonMobil and Koch-funded Institute for Energy Research. I’m guessing that he, like others in the cottage industry of anti-clean industry front groups, has been trying to raise more dirty energy money by showing he can put an equals sign between the Solyndra bankruptcy and broad pro-clean energy policies.

Sun, 2011-09-25 12:13Steve Horn
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Pentagon Back to Tried and True PR Tactic - Greenwashing

The Pentagon public relations and propaganda machine is at it again. Working overtime to convince pundits and citizens of the benevolence of its “democracy spreading” missions abroad,  some notables have drank the kool-aid

In a recent article titled, “The military’s historic embrace of smart energy,” Grist's David Roberts wrote, 

The U.S. military's embrace of energy efficiency and renewable energy is going to be one of the great stories of the coming decade. It will be a story about technology, the changing face of warfare, geopolitics in the 21st century, and the struggle to change one of the world's largest bureaucracies…For decades, the lines of warfare on climate change and clean energy have been drearily familiar and amazingly resistant to change. If it follows through on its promises, the Department of Defense – the largest consumer of oil and electricity in America – has the potential to change all that.

Furthermore, in March 2010, the Center for American Progress penned a holistic report titled, “It’s Easy Being Green: The Pentagon Goes Green One Wedge at a Time.”

While a nice and hopeful sentiment, this flies in the face of both history, as well as present day reality of the Pentagon's activities abroad. A review, then, is in order.

Mon, 2011-09-19 15:04Ben Jervey
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EnergyNOW! Tackles Keystone XL, And Talks To Me About Pipelines

EnergyNOW! news on Keystone XL pipeline

On Sunday, energyNOW! news tackled the Keystone XL debate in a wide-ranging half hour program that covered the controversial pipeline in typically comprehensive fashion.

An overview intro segment looks at the “impact on America,” from the alleged reduction of imports of OPEC crude to potential for pollution. Reporter Thalia Assuras' trip to Nebraska to talk to local 'Huskers – landowners and politicians alike – is fascinating.

The show then travels up to Alberta, whose Athabasca tar sands reserves would feed the Keystone XL pipeline, funneling filthy DilBit crude down to Gulf Coast refineries.

The last segment features an exclusive interview with Energy Secretary Steven Chu, which they teased a few weeks back. (And which, you might recall, I responded to at the time, calling his claim that Keystone XL would increase our national “energy security” cynical politics.)

If you're able to spend a half hour learning about this urgent hot-button issue, this show is a great place to start. If you can't see the embedded video below, you can watch on energyNOW's website.

Tue, 2011-09-13 06:15Laurel Whitney
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Video of Keystone XL Tar Sands Protesters Arrested At The White House

Usually the best way to solve a neighborly spat is to march right up to the door and talk it out, face-to-face. However, if said neighbor happens to be away a lot and has rooftop snipers protecting the property, Plan B may be in order: shouting through the fence.

That's why for two weeks over 1250 people got arrested in front of the White House in an attempt to show President Obama that putting a leaky, oily pipeline through their collective backyards is not a very neighborly thing to do. Each day of the protest averaged between 50-100 arrests, steadily increasing until the 14th (and last) day when 244 people were arrested, resulting in the largest act of civil disobedience yet for the climate movement.

Participants protesting the Keystone XL pipeline spanned a wide range of ages, occupations, and origins: including those from the heartland of the Midwest where the pipeline is set to run through, and indigenous and frontline communities situated near the tar sands in Canada.

Wed, 2011-09-07 07:30Ben Jervey
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America’s Natural Gas Pipelines - A Closer Look At This Gigantic Pipeline System

Following up on our broader look at the North American oil and gas pipeline system, with a focus on crude and the special case of tar sands oil pipelines, this week we'll tackle the tubes that carry natural gas.

Natural Gas in the United States

In 2009, the US used some 22 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, surpassing Russia as the world's largest producer and consumer of the fuel. Used for everything from heating homes to lighting cooking ranges to powering fleet vehicles to firing power plants – and often cited as a cleaner-burning energy source than coal or oil – demand for the fossil fuel has spiked in recent years.

While natural gas is produced in 32 states, the top five – Texas, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and New Mexico, in that order – produce a full 65 percent of the nation's total (pdf). This leaves a lot of states dependent on natural gas imports. As this map shows, 28 states need to import at least 85 percent of their gas demands.

natural gas pipelines map

Click here or on the map for a larger version.

Moving this huge amount of natural gas around requires a vast pipeline transmission system. Let's take a closer look at these pipes, shall we?

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