Justin Mikulka's blog

Defying Climate Goals, New York Approves Rate Hike to Pay for New Natural Gas Infrastructure

Read time: 6 mins
New York City

One of the first tests of New York’s ambitious climate plan didn't go well, as the New York Public Service Commission voted on January 16 to raise electricity rates on customers by $1.2 billion over the next three years to help Consolidated Edison, or Con Ed, pay for new natural gas pipelines and infrastructure.

New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) targets 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2040 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. To meet those goals, any new gas infrastructure constructed now and in the future would have to be retired well before the end of its useful life, becoming stranded assets.

This Problem With Fracked Oil and Gas Wells Is Occurring 'at an Alarming Rate'

Read time: 13 mins
XTO well pad blowout in Belmont County, Ohio

On February 15, 2018, a fracked natural gas well owned by ExxonMobil's XTO Energy and located in southeast Ohio experienced a well blowout, causing it to gush the potent greenhouse gas methane for nearly three weeks. The obscure accident ultimately resulted in one of the biggest methane leaks in U.S. history. The New York Times reported in December that new satellite data revealed that this single gas well leaked more methane in 20 days than an entire year's worth of methane released by the oil and gas industries in countries like Norway and France.

The cause of this massive leak was a failure of the gas well's casing, or internal lining. Well casing failures represent yet another significant but not widely discussed technical problem for an unprofitable fracking industry

Debunked Australian Bushfire Conspiracy Theories Were Pushed by Alex Jones, Murdoch Media

Read time: 3 mins

As unusually intense and widespread bushfires have ravaged a drought-ridden Australia, bots and trolls have begun pushing climate science denial across the internet in the form of conspiracy theories about the fires. Thanks to climate change, exceptionally hot, dry drought conditions have worsened and lengthened Australia's typical fire season.

Two of the main conspiracies about the fires are based on the false ideas that they are caused by a spate of arson and they have been worsened by the Green Party's supposed efforts to stop controlled burns as a fire management and reduction measure.

Forecast for 2020: More Oil Trains, Fires, Spills, and the Rise of LNG by Rail

Read time: 10 mins
Canadian oil train accident scene

As 2019 drew to a close and the new year ramps up, a number of signs point to the growing risks of transporting oil and gas by rail, with little government oversight to speak of: from increasing oil train traffic into the U.S. to fiery oil train derailments and new approvals for moving liquefied natural gas (LNG) by rail.

The Fracking Industry's Methane Problem Is a Climate Problem

Read time: 9 mins
methane gas warning sign

While carbon dioxide — deservedly — gets a bad rap when it comes to climate change, about 40 percent of global warming actually can be attributed to the powerful greenhouse gas methane, according to the 2013 IPCC report. This makes addressing methane emissions critical to stopping additional warming, especially in the near future. Methane is shorter-lived in the atmosphere but 85 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period. 

Atmospheric levels of methane stopped increasing around the year 2000 and at the time were expected to decrease in the future. However, they began increasing again in the last 10 years, spurring researchers to explore why. Robert Howarth, a biogeochemist at Cornell University, recently presented his latest research linking the increase in methane to fossil fuel production, with fracking for natural gas, which is mostly methane, likely a major source. 

As Fracking Companies Face Bankruptcy, US Regulators Enable Firms to Duck Cleanup Costs

Read time: 9 mins
Equipment for reclamation of an old oil and gas well in the eastern U.S.

In over their heads with debt, U.S. shale oil and gas firms are now moving from a boom in fracking to a boom in bankruptcies. This trend of failing finances has the potential for the U.S. public, both at the state and federal levels, to be left on the hook for paying to properly shut down and clean up even more drilling sites.

Expect these companies to try reducing their debt through the process of bankruptcy and, like the coal industry, attempting to get out of environmental and employee-related financial obligations. 

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