Justin Mikulka

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Justin Mikulka is a freelance writer, audio and video producer living in Trumansburg, NY.

Justin has a degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Cornell University.

2018 Was a Rough Election Year for Climate and Anti-fracking Measures

Read time: 6 mins
Solar panels and oil pumpjacks

Around the U.S., many states and municipalities were voting in the U.S. midterms on races with implications for limiting the environmental and public health impacts of fossil fuels, particularly drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking). On cue, however, the oil and gas industry responded by spending massive amounts of money to defeat these initiatives and elect their preferred candidates, with plenty of success. 

In just three of those states, energy and fossil fuel companies reportedly spent almost $100 million fighting a price on carbon, a ban on new fracking and drilling near homes, and a more ambitious state renewable energy requirement.

Peak Shale: Is the US Fracking Industry Already in Decline?

Read time: 7 mins
Fracking well sites from the air, in Jonah, Wyoming

In 2016, lower oil prices led to an overall drop in production for shale companies, which use horizontal drilling and fracking to extract oil and gas from shale formations such as the Marcellus and Permian. This was one of the few relatively positive financial periods for an industry plagued by high costs and low returns (although it still lost money in 2016).

But the industry shouldn't get complacent, warned Robert Clarke of energy industry research and consulting group Wood Mackenzie. Cracks already are starting to emerge in the optimistic forecasts of how much these shale formations can produce, which is a bad sign for turning around the industry's struggling finances.

Why Canadian Tar Sands Oil May Be Doomed

Read time: 9 mins
Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, tar sands oil operations

At current prices, Canadian tar sands oil producers are losing money on every barrel of oil they dig out. Despite signs earlier this year the industry would “turn profitable in 2018,” a much more likely scenario at this point is a fourth straight year of losses.

Climate Deniers on the Ballot in 2018

Read time: 8 mins
Hurricane Michael destruction on a beach in Florida

As the midterm elections approach, DeSmog is taking this opportunity to highlight some of the top climate science deniers currently running for office in the U.S.

Did we miss someone notable? Let us know.

Oil-by-Rail Rises Once Again as Safety Rules Disappear

Read time: 6 mins
Oil train

While a second oil-by-rail boom is well underway in North America, both the U.S. and Canada are taking steps that ignore or undermine the lessons and regulatory measures to improve safety since the oil train explosions and spills of years past.

US Oil Exports Are Exceeding Almost All Predictions—Thanks to Fracking

Read time: 5 mins
Oil tanker in the Houston ship channel

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported in September that crude oil exports are continuing to set records, mostly due to the fracking boom in the Permian Basin, in Texas and New Mexico. June exports hit a record 2.2 million barrels per day, while the monthly average was up almost 80 percent for the first half of this year compared to the same period last year.

And crude oil exports are supposed to double by 2020, according to the San Antonio News-Express. That’s a lot of oil — and almost all of it is fracked.

The Fracking Industry’s Water Nightmare

Read time: 7 mins
Sign reading "hot water"

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has clearly documented the multiple risks — despite repeated dismissals from the oil and gas industry — that hydraulic fracturing (fracking) poses to drinking water supplies. However, the tables may be turning: Water itself now poses a risk to the already failing financial model of the American fracking industry, and that is something the industry won’t be able to ignore.

South Portland's Ban on Tar Sands Oil Survives Court Challenge

Read time: 7 mins
Location of proposed pollution control towers in South Portland Maine's harbor

The City of South Portland, Maine, won a major legal victory at the end of August when a federal judge ruled that the city’s effective ban on tar sands oil did not violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The decision, like a similar one in Portland, Oregon, has potentially widespread implications for other communities fighting fossil fuel infrastructure projects within their borders.

The Fracking Industry Is Cannibalizing Its Own Production, Increasing Spill Risks

Read time: 6 mins

In the climactic final scene in There Will Be Blood — arguably the greatest movie about the oil industry — the main character played by Daniel Day Lewis explains how he sucked the oil from a neighbor’s land by using horizontal drilling. To help his neighbor understand what has happened, he explains it by saying he took a very long straw and “Drank your milkshake!”

Well, guess what is happening with the fracking revolution built on the concept of horizontal drilling? Not only are oil producers drinking each other’s milkshakes, they are drinking their own, and in the process losing even more money and raising the odds of dangerous environmental risks.

And unlike in the movie where the main character knew what he was doing, the modern fracking industry really has no clue what to do about the problems caused by the combination of horizontal drilling and greed. 

Portland, Oregon Wins Court Battle to Ban New Oil Infrastructure

Read time: 5 mins
Portland, Oregon

In a big win for the City of Portland, Oregon, the Oregon Court of Appeals issued a ruling that the city had not violated the U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause by voting to ban any new fossil fuel terminals within its borders.

This is a major victory for the climate and our communities,” said Maura Fahey, staff attorney at Crag Law Center, which represented environmental groups intervening in the case, in a statement. “Industry couldn’t even get its foot in the door of the courtroom to try to overturn the City’s landmark law. This sends a powerful message to local communities that now is the time to take action to protect our future.”

This ruling could have important implications for other communities fighting fossil fuel projects because the court ruled that the city's ban did not violate the Commerce Clause, which is the main argument the oil industry has used against bans like the ones in Portland, Oregon and other cities.

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