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.

New Report Warns Geoengineering the Climate Is a 'Risky Distraction'

Read time: 7 mins
view of Earth from space

A new report makes the case that the fossil fuel industry prefers geoengineering as an approach for addressing climate change because it allows the industry to keep arguing for continued fossil fuel use.

In Fuel to the Fire: How Geoengineering Threatens to Entrench Fossil Fuels and Accelerate the Climate Crisis, the Center for International Environmental Law (CEIL) warns that geoengineering, which includes technologies to remove huge amounts of carbon dioxide and to shoot particles into the atmosphere to block sunlight, potentially offers more of a problem for the climate than a solution.

Fatal Rail Accident 'Eerily Similar' to Lac-Mégantic Oil Train Disaster

Read time: 8 mins
Site of a fatal Canadian Pacific train accident near Field, BC

The only way to have a rail accident that is “eerily similar” to the Lac-Mégantic oil train disaster that killed 47 people and wiped out the small Quebec downtown is if a massive regulatory failure did not address the causes of that 2013 tragedy.

Which is exactly what has happened. And is why a fatal train accident on February 4 in Field, British Columbia, was dubbed “eerily similar” to the one in Lac-Mégantic by Garland Chow, a professor and transportation expert at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business.

Are Investors Finally Waking up to North America’s Fracked Gas Crisis?

Read time: 7 mins
natural gas flare

The fracked gas industry's long borrowing binge may finally be hitting a hard reality: paying back investors.

Enabled by rising debt, shale companies have been achieving record fracked oil and gas production, while promising investors a big future payoff. But over a decade into the “fracking miracle,” investors are showing signs they're worried that payoff will never come — and as a result, loans are drying up.

The Fracking Industry’s Flaring Problem May Be Worse Than We Thought

Read time: 8 mins
Natural gas flaring

In 2018, the oil and gas industry operating in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale burned off record amounts of natural gas, largely obtained via hydraulic fracturing (fracking). This process, known as flaring, costs the industry money — it literally burns one of the products being pumped out of the ground — but more importantly, the resulting release of globe-warming emissions of carbon dioxide and methane spells disaster for the climate.

And a new analysis of satellite evidence indicates the industry is likely underreporting how much gas it is actually flaring in the Permian Shale, with implications for other oil fields.

Top Oil Lobbyist Wants Government Open to Keep Rolling Back Environmental Rules

Read time: 6 mins
A sign indicating the Freer and Sackler art galleries and other Smithsonian museums are closed during the January 2019 government shutdown.

Although the partial U.S. government shutdown, now marching into its fourth week, isn’t hurting the oil and gas industry, according to Mike Sommers, the head of the American Petroleum Institute (API) says he wants the shutdown to end so that the Trump administration can get back to actively helping the industry by meeting federal deadlines for rolling back environmental regulations. 

Nevertheless, there are signs the Trump administration is still at work on that fossil fuel-friendly agenda in some places, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), despite the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

Green New Deal Has Broad Bipartisan Support (Though Most Voters Haven't Heard of It)

Read time: 5 mins
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at a Sunrise Movement Green New Deal sit-in

A version of the Green New Deal (GND) — an FDR-style plan to address climate change by shifting America to a just and renewably powered 21st century economy — is widely popular with American voters of both parties, according to a recent survey.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this proposal has stronger support among Democrats but still polls well with Republicans. The survey found that 81 percent of registered voters said they either “strongly support” or “somewhat support” a rapid transition to 100 percent renewable electricity and other green technology initiatives.

However, the poll, conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YCCC), also found that very few voters were aware of the Green New Deal: 82 percent said they “knew nothing” of the proposal. Notably, the poll's language focused on renewable electricity and job creation, but made no mention of the full decarbonization and social overhaul of the American economy that also are central tenets of the full Green New Deal. 

2018: The Year of Day Zero and the Mega-Drought

Read time: 8 mins
Sign reading 'no swimming' at a drought-dried swimming hole

In 2018, Cape Town, South Africa, one of the wealthiest cities in Africa, faced the prospect of running out of water. This city of four million people was counting down the days to “Day Zero,” when they would turn on the taps and find them dry.

Ultimately, Cape Town's water conservation measures helped the city narrowly miss reaching Day Zero (for now).

However, the experience stands out as a warning of what's to come for large, developed population centers as climate change puts increasing pressure on the world's water in unprecedented and unexpected ways, from a mega-drought in the American West to drier soils preventing rivers and lakes from recharging when rain does arrive.

Fracking in 2018: Another Year of Pretending to Make Money

Read time: 8 mins
Gas flare

2018 was the year the oil and gas industry promised that its darling, the shale fracking revolution, would stop focusing on endless production and instead turn a profit for its investors. But as the year winds to a close, it's clear that hasn't happened.

Instead, the fracking industry has helped set new records for U.S. oil production while continuing to lose huge amounts of money — and that was before the recent crash in oil prices.

But plenty of people in the industry and media make it sound like a much different, and more profitable, story.

Canadian Government Declares Oil Trains Safe and Plans to Get Into the Oil Train Business

Read time: 8 mins
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on September 5, 2018 to discuss the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

As Canadian oil-by-rail numbers reach record new volumes (and expected to rise), Canada's Transportation Safety Board (TSB) announced recently that it would no longer list shipping the hazardous material by rail as a top safety concern.

Just a month later, the Alberta provincial government — where the majority of tar sands oil is produced — announced plans to bail out the tar sands industry by getting into the oil-by-rail business.

Here's why that's bad news for the communities in both Canada and the U.S. where this influx of oil train traffic will pass.

Warning of Solar Geoengineering's Dangers, Group Recommends a Global Ban

Read time: 7 mins
Partial solar eclipse

A Harvard research team recently announced plans to perform early tests to shoot sunlight-reflecting particles into the high atmosphere to slow or reverse global warming. 

These research efforts, which could take shape as soon as the first half of 2019, fall under the banner of a geoengineering technology known as solar radiation management, which is sometimes called “sun dimming.” 

However, less than two weeks after the announcement, the climate science and policy institute Climate Analytics took aim at these ambitions in a new briefing titled ”Why geoengineering is not a solution to the climate problem,” which goes as far as recommending a global ban on solar geoengineering.

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