In a week that has seen a number of blows for the prospects of ecological stability - there's been an innovative backlash to...
Back in 2011, The New York Times first raised concerns about the reliability of America's proved shale gas reserves. Proved reserves are the estimates of supplies of oil and gas that drillers tell investors they will be able to tap. The Times suggested that a recent Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rule change allowed drillers to potentially overbook their “proved” reserves of natural gas from shale formations, which horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) were rapidly opening up.
“Welcome back to Alice in Wonderland,” energy analyst John E. Olson told The Times, commenting on the reliability of these reserves after the rule change. Olson, a former Merrill Lynch analyst, is best known for seeing the coming Enron scandal 10 years before the infamous energy company imploded in 2000.
Today, those same rules have allowed shale drillers to boost their reserves of oil, as well as natural gas. As a result, these “proved” reserves, which investors and pipeline companies are banking on, could potentially be much less proven than they appear.
And the unprecented degree to which this is happening in the shale industry casts a shadow of doubt on the purportedly bright future of America's booming oil and gas industry.
The oil industry learned an important lesson from its rush to move by train the highly flammable oil drilled in North Dakota's Bakken Shale. The lesson wasn't that those oil trains were unsafe and even dubbed “bomb trains” by rail workers (although they were). The lesson wasn't that their derailments caused several major oil spills in North America as well as the tragic accident in Lac-Mégantic, Canada, which killed 47 people and leveled the downtown area (although they did).
No, what the oil industry learned from this experience was that when it doesn’t have adequate pipeline capacity, its companies can still make money moving flammable petroleum products by rail, despite the well-documented risks outlined above. And the industry is now taking the same steps to move refined petroleum products — including gasoline — to Mexico by rail.
This week, CNN published a startling multimedia report on cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The investigation revealed troubling conditions in so-called “artisanal” cobalt mines, where hand mining operations are carried out with a combination of unsafe working conditions and child labor. As is all too often the case with resource extraction — whether for cobalt in Congo, oil in Ecuador, or coal in West Virginia — unsafe, unhealthy local labor practices deserve media exposure.
Unfortunately, CNN’s promotion of the investigation and headline misappropriate the blame, leaving casual readers to conclude that electric vehicles are responsible for these awful labor conditions.
All of the 197 signatories of the landmark accord now have at least one national law or policy on climate change, an analysis published Monday by the London School of Economics (LSE) found.
This past week, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt declared that the EPA would now consider burning wood and other forest products for energy as “carbon neutral,” despite his previous comments expressing doubt that carbon dioxide from human activity (and therefore carbon neutrality) is even a cause for concern. In his announcement about the carbon footprint of the biomass industry, Pruitt even went as far as to claim: “This is environmental stewardship in action.”
Not surprisingly, scientists featured in several media outlets immediately pointed out the error of his statement, and a report, released within days of Pruitt's announcement, highlights the environmental and public health impacts of the biomass industry.
Scientists have known for a long time that as climate change started to heat up the Earth, its effects would be most pronounced in the Arctic. This has many reasons, but climate feedbacks are key. As the Arctic warms, snow and ice melt, and the surface absorbs more of the sun’s energy instead of reflecting it back into space. This makes it even warmer, which causes more melting, and so on.
This expectation has become a reality that I describe in my new book Brave New Arctic. It’s a visually compelling story: The effects of warming are evident in shrinking ice caps and glaciers and in Alaskan roads buckling as permafrost beneath them thaws.
But for many people the Arctic seems like a faraway place, and stories of what is happening there seem irrelevant to their lives. It can also be hard to accept that the globe is warming up while you are shoveling out from the latest snowstorm.
This week at the U.N. climate treaty talks, governments are poised to hash out the details needed to bring the Paris Agreement from concept to reality. The meeting is about agreeing on the process, the detail and the rulebook.
One item high on their agenda will be how the UNFCCC and its member governments address the growing problem of the fossil fuel industry’s corrosive interference and disinformation in climate policymaking.
Growing pressure from a big coalition of civil society and environmental groups is mounting to make the process transparent and democratic.
Ford Motor Company would really like the public to believe that it supports strong emissions and efficiency standards for personal vehicles. Just ask Board Chair Bill Ford and President and CEO Jim Hackett, who recently wrote: “We support increasing clean car standards through 2025 and are not asking for a rollback.”
However, a “rollback” is exactly what EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, in his own language, has promised, and his planned rewrite of auto emissions standards has been guided almost exclusively by the input of Ford and other automakers through the powerful Alliance of Auto Manufacturers (the Auto Alliance).
Challenger Cynthia Nixon recently unveiled an ambitious climate platform and promised to reject fossil fuel campaign donations.
As New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo seeks to bolster his environmental platform amid a contentious primary race, campaign finance records show that the Democratic governor has taken in more than $100,000 from the oil and gas industry during this election cycle.
On Monday, days after Cynthia Nixon — the Sex and the City actress challenging Cuomo from the left — announced she would be rejecting campaign contributions from the oil, gas and coal industries, the two-term governor declared that he plans to push for legislation banning single-use plastic bags, an apparent shift from February 2017, when Cuomo blocked New York City’s efforts to impose a 5-cent fee on plastic bags.
The continuous flow of dangerous pollution from B.C.’s Elk Valley coal mines into a Montana watershed is a top discussion item for Canadian and U.S. delegates convening at a bilateral meeting in Washington, D.C., Thursday.
Selenium from five metallurgical coal mines owned and operated by Teck Resources has been leaching into B.C.’s Elk River and flowing southeast into Montana’s Kootenai River watershed for decades. Contamination levels measured in U.S. waters exceeds maximum concentration limits outlined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Selenium is released from waste rock piled at Teck’s large-scale open-pit coal mines, where rainfall and snowmelt draw it into the Elk and Fording Rivers. Selenium can be harmful to biological organisms at even small amounts and causes deformities in fish and birds.