Ben Jervey

Primary tabs

Ben Jervey's picture

Personal Information

Twitter URL
http://twitter.com/#!/benjervey
Profile Info

Ben Jervey has been covering and working in the climate, energy, and environmental fields for a decade. He is regular contributor to DeSmogBlog. He was the original Environment Editor for GOOD Magazine, and wrote a longstanding weekly column titled “The New Ideal: Building the clean energy economy of the 21st Century and avoiding the worst fates of climate change.” He also contributes to National Geographic News, Grist, OnEarth Magazine, and many other online and print publications. His book–The Big Green Apple: Your Guide to Eco-Friendly Living in New York City–has been called the “bible of green living for NYC.” A bicycle enthusiast, Ben has ridden across the United States and through much of Europe.

Army Corps Fast Tracks Port of Morrow Coal Export Terminal

The Army Corps of Engineers has decided that the transfer of coal from trains onto barges in Oregon’s Columbia River is not worthy of a full environmental impact study. For now.

At issue is the Morrow Pacific Project, a coal transfer facility that is a key pivot point in Ambre Energy’s plans to export American coal to Asia. We’ve covered this project before (here's all the background on the Morrow Pacific Project), as well as the broader strategy of coal companies to ship American coal – much coming from taxpayer-owned public lands – off to China and other overseas buyers.

Basically, Ambre Energy (an Australian coal and shale company) is planning on shipping coal by train from the strip mines in the Powder River Basin to this Morrow Pacific facility at the Port of Morrow in Boardman, Oregon. There the coal would be offloaded onto barges – at the rate of two per day at full capacity – which would then float down the Columbia River to Port Westward (roughly 30 miles north of Portland), where it would again be transferred onto massive Panamax vessels for shipment to Asia.

No Breakthroughs Necessary: 95 Percent Renewable Energy Possible By 2050

Shutterstock | James Steidl

It’s a commonly held belief, even within the climate action advocacy community, that significant technological breakthroughs are necessary to harness enough clean, renewable energy to power our global energy demands.

Not so, says a new study published this month, which makes an ambitious case for “sustainable sources” providing 95 percent of global energy demand by mid-century.

This new analysis, “Transition to a fully sustainable global energy system,” published in Energy Strategy Reviews, examines demand scenarios for the major energy use sectors – industry, buildings, and transport – and matches them up to feasible renewable supply sources.

Over on VICE’s Motherboard, Brian Merchant dug into the study and put it into proper context.

It is entirely possible, using technologies largely available today, to power nearly the entire world with clean energy—but we need to conjure the will to make revolutionary strides in public policy and the scale of deployment.

First U.S. Tar Sands Mine: Six Years Digging Up Sixty-Two Acres...For Just 6 Hours Worth of Oil

Rena Schild / Shutterstock.com

How much oil can we expect to get out of the very first tar sands mine on American soil? About six hours worth.

That’s how long the 4.7 million barrels of bitumen that U.S. Oil Sands Inc plans to extract from a 62-acre mine in eastern Utah would sate our American oil demands.  

Back in April, I wrote about the prospects of tar sands mining in the American West.

As DeSmogBlog readers are well aware, tar sands are being aggressively extracted up in Canada – turning about 35 million acres of Alberta boreal forest into a wasteland – but up to this point, U.S. tar sands have been kept in the ground. A couple of Canadian companies are working to change that, and one, U.S. Oil Sands, has just cleared its last major legal hurdle to open up its first mining operation, the “North Pit” of the so-called P.R. Spring lease in the Uintah Basin in eastern Utah’s Colorado Plateau region.

Romney's "Oil Above All" Energy Plan Short on Variety, and on Energy



Last Thursday, Mitt Romney presented his “oil above all” energy plan, in which he promised “North American energy independence” by 2020. Far from comprehensive, the plan echoes the familiar “Drill, Baby, Drill” mantra from the 2008 presidential campaign, and offers no energy strategy beyond increasing domestic production of oil and gas, and increased access to Canadian tar sands crude.

Proving his devotion to “oil above all” was the graph that the presidential hopeful presented while unveiling his plan to a “modest crowd” in New Mexico. As far as graphics go, it's  confused and misleading, so let me walk you through it in case you missed CNN's live coverage.

Though it's titled “North American Oil Production: Energy Independence by 2020,” the demand line represents only the United States' oil needs. Hey, at least the Romney team doesn't anticipate our oil consumption to rise over the next eight years.

"Goliath" Melting Year Shatters Records in Greenland

It’s been a “Goliath,” record-setting melting year in Greenland, home of the world’s second largest ice shelf. On August 8th, a full four weeks before the end of “melting season,” cumulative melting on the island had exceeded the previous record set in 2010, which included the full season.

The record melt was figured by the “cumulative melting index,” created by researcher Marco Tedesco of The City College of New York’s Cryosphere Processes Laboratory to measure the “strength” of the melting season. The index is basically the number of days when melting occurs multiplied by the physical area that is subject to melting.

Tedesco said in a statement, “With more yet to come in August, this year’s overall melting will fall way above the old records. That’s a goliath year – the greatest melt since satellite recording began in 1979.”

Earlier this summer, much was made of a massive melt event on Greenland, during which 97 percent of the island’s ice sheet surface area experienced thaw and melt over a short couple of days. While the event was startling, and a direct result of record high surface air temperatures, this measure of the overall melting is far more alarming.

Federal Investigation: "Complete Breakdown of Safety at Enbridge" Caused Kalamazoo River Tar Sands Oil Spill

It was the most expensive pipeline oil spill in the country’s history, the fallout from which still plagues the local communities, and government investigators have found that it was entirely preventable.

The National Transportation Safety Board released its findings from a two year investigation of the 2010 Enbridge tar sands crude pipeline spill (which DeSmogBlog has covered in depth) that dumped over a million gallons of toxic diluted bitumen (or DilBit) into the Kalamazoo River and its watershed.

Complete breakdown of safety.”

The report draws two very stark, clear conclusions about Enbridge’s culture of safety, or lack thereof.

First, Enbridge had known of corrosion and cracking along the 6B pipeline for five years, but the company refused to make repairs.

“Enbridge detected the very defect that led to this failure (in 2005),” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman, “…Yet for five years they did nothing to address the corrosion or cracking at the site, and the problem festered.” (You can watch video of the NTSB announcements here.)

Second, after the rupture, Enbridge employees had many opportunities to minimize the volume and impact of the spill, but failed repeatedly.

Bloomberg Stunner: How Chesapeake Energy Paid Less Than a 1% Tax Rate On $5.5 Billion in Profits

Chesapeake Energy, a company that is no stranger to financial scandals, has found itself on the front page of the financial papers again. This time, the subject is taxes. Or how Chesapeake barely pays them.  

Over its 23-year history, Chesapeake Energy, the second largest producer of natural gas in the U.S., and the company described by its founder and CEO Aubrey McClendon as “the biggest frackers in the world,” has earned roughly $5.5 billion in pre-tax profits. To date, the company has paid $53 million in taxes. That’s an effective tax rate of under 1 percent - a massive taxpayer subsidy.

The corporate income tax rate in the U.S. is 35 percent. 

The Bloomberg article that exposed these stunning figures is quick to note that this is far less than the 12 percent rate that GE paid in 2010 that caused such public outrage, and even a tiny percentage of the 18 percent effective rate that Google had to answer for.

So how does Chesapeake pull this off? Mostly, it’s due to a rule written in 1916 that allows oil and gas producers to, according to Bloomberg, “postpone income taxes in recognition of the inherent risk of drilling wells that may turn out to be dry.

The break may be outdated for companies such as Chesapeake, which, thanks to advances in technology, struck oil or gas in 99.6 percent of its wells last year.“ When the policy was written, drillers struck “dry wells” roughly 80 percent of the time.

The DilBit Disaster: InsideClimate News' Incredible In-Depth Report on Enbridge's Kalamazoo Oil Spill

Update 7/3: On Monday, June 2, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration of the Department of Transportation announced that Enbridge would be fined $3.7 million for 24 safety violations associated with the Kalamazoo River oil spill, including the damning charge that Enbridge had identified corrosion on the faulty pipeline more than six years before it failed. The $3.7 million claim is a record civil penalty, and Enbridge has 30 days to decide whether to accept the decision. 

Trailbreaker Lives: How Plans to Bring Tar Sands Crude to the East Coast are "Going in Reverse"

With efforts to pump tar sands crude south and west coming up against fierce resistance, Canada’s oil industry is making a quiet attempt at an end run to the east.

The industry is growing increasingly desperate to find a coastal port to export tar sands bitumen, especially now that the highly publicized and hotly contested Keystone XL pipeline is stalled, at least temporarily, and the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project that would move tar sands crude across British Columbia to terminals on Canada’s west coast is running into equally tough opposition.

And by all indications, as laid out in a new report, Going in Reverse: The Tar Sands Threat to Central Canada and New England, by 19 advocacy groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Conservation Law Foundation, Greenpeace Canada, the National Wildlife Federation, and 350.org, Enbridge is taking the lead in finding that new outlet.

The company is resuscitating an old industry plan to link the pipeline system in the American Midwest to a coastal terminal in Portland, Maine, traveling through Ontario and Quebec, and then across northern New England. When first proposed in 2008, this project was called Trailbreaker, but Enbridge appears to be avoiding any mention of the former proposal, which spurred quick and firm resistance.

Senator John Kerry Speaks the Scary, Ugly Truth on Climate Change

There are precious few voices in the U.S. capital these days that are speaking the truth about climate change. Which is what makes Senator John Kerry's speech on the Senate floor today so powerful, and so necessary. 

In his speech, which clocked in at nearly 55 minutes, Senator Kerry attacked a “calculated campaign of disinformation” that, he says, “has steadily beaten back the consensus momentum for action on climate change and replaced it with timidity by proponents in the face of millions of dollars of phony, contrived ‘talking points,’ illogical and wholly unscientific propositions and a general scorn for the truth wrapped in false threats about job loss and tax increase.”

The senator from Massachusetts' words were clearly timed to inject some energy into the Rio+20 meetings of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, which begin in earnest tomorrow and which are struggling to stay relevant during a time when Europe is barely functioning and the U.S. is moving into election season. President Obama's decision not to attend the meetings has many diplomats and activists gathering in Brazil questioning the American committment to climate change and the great global environmental challenges.

Senator Kerry didn't mince words in his talk, calling out the “disgraceful” campaign of climate denial as the “conspiracy” that it is, and also placing some blame on the media for its reluctance or inability to bring reason and truth to the climate conversation.

Pages