Justin Mikulka

Primary tabs

Justin Mikulka's picture

Personal Information

Twitter URL
https://twitter.com/JustinMikulka
Profile Info

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.

Columbia University Hires Trump Official and Fossil Fuel Defender as Climate Policy Expert

George David Banks

Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP) is a hugely influential policy group filled with heavy hitters from politics and the oil industry. While the center's home page describes it as “an independent, interdisciplinary, and nonpartisan platform,” its track record shows that CGEP consistently supports the same policies favored by the fossil fuel industry. 

And one of its latest moves — hiring former Trump energy advisor and fossil fuel defender George “David” Banks as an expert on “international climate policy” — shows that trend will continue.

Get Weekly News Updates

This Federal Policy Enabled the Fracking Industry’s $280 Billion Loss

Stock market numbers over oil drill pumpjack

Most people probably aren’t familiar with the acronym ZIRP. It stands for zero interest rate policy and is the policy that unintentionally created the American fracking bubble — just one of its many consequences.

And while most people may not know much (if anything) about ZIRP or the Federal Reserve (Fed), it is likely that they are aware of the impact this policy has on their own lives.

Get Weekly News Updates

How Wall Street Enabled the Fracking 'Revolution' That's Losing Billions

Wall Street sign

The U.S. shale oil industry hailed as a “revolution” has burned through a quarter trillion dollars more than it has brought in over the last decade. It has been a money-losing endeavor of epic proportions.

In September 2016, the financial ratings service Moody’s released a report on U.S. oil companies, many of which were hurting from the massive drop in oil prices. Moody's found that “the financial toll from the oil bust can only be described as catastrophic,” particularly for small companies that took on huge debt to finance fracking shale formations when oil prices were high.

And even though shale companies still aren't turning a profit, Wall Street continues to lend the industry more money while touting these companies as good investments. Why would investors do that?

Get Weekly News Updates

Exporting Gasoline by Rail to Mexico Likely to Recreate Mistakes of Explosive Bakken Oil Trains

Rusty rail car reading 'Texas Mexican Railway'

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.

Get Weekly News Updates

The 'Green' Biomass Industry Pruitt Called 'Carbon Neutral' Uses Typical Fossil Fuel Industry Tricks to Pollute More

Aerial view of Enviva wood pellet production plant in North Carolina

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.

Get Weekly News Updates

GOP Tax Law Bails Out Fracking Companies Buried in Debt

A Scrabble board spells out 'Bankruptcy' overlaid on an unconventional oil and gas rig

EOG Resources is one of the top companies in the fracking industry, and thanks to the new tax bill passed by Republicans and President Donald Trump at the end of last year, EOG had an exceptionally strong year compared to 2016.

In 2017, the company reported a net income of $2.6 billion. The previous year? A loss of $1.1 billion. That financial turnaround seems very impressive until you realize that $2.2 billion, or about 85 percent, of its 2017 income was the result of the new tax law. Without that gift from the GOP and Trump, EOG would have lost approximately $700 million between those two years. Instead they are $1.5 billion ahead of the game.

Get Weekly News Updates

With Oil by Rail Poised for Comeback, Will Lack of Safety Regulations Mean 'Bomb Trains' Return too?

Gogama oil derailment and fire

Investors love a good comeback story and right now oil by rail seems to be a story they're pushing to justify investment in rail companies, especially Canadian ones.

But with little change in safety practices or regulations since the 2014 oil-by-rail boom, is the industry setting itself up to once again earn the nickname that rail workers gave oil trains — that is, will “bomb trains” make a comeback?

Get Weekly News Updates

The Secret of the Great American Fracking Bubble

Natural gas drilling well pad in Wyoming

In 2008, Aubrey McClendon was the highest paid Fortune 500 CEO in America, a title he earned taking home $112 million for running Chesapeake Energy. Later dubbed “The Shale King,” he was at the forefront of the oil and gas industry's next boom, made possible by advances in fracking, which broke open fossil fuels from shale formations around the U.S.

What was McClendon’s secret? Instead of running a company that aimed to sell oil and gas, he was essentially flipping real estate: acquiring leases to drill on land and then reselling them for five to 10 times more, something McClendon explained was a lot more profitable than “trying to produce gas.” But his story may serve as a cautionary tale for an industry that keeps making big promises on borrowed dimes — while its investors begin losing patience, a trend DeSmog will be investigating in an in-depth series over the coming weeks. 

Get Weekly News Updates

Aliso Canyon Disaster Highlights Risks, Inadequate Safety Rules Governing Natural Gas Storage

Aliso Canyon's leaking natural gas storage well in southern California

A recent report spearheaded by researchers at the University of Southern California blames the largest greenhouse gas leak in U.S. history on dysfunctional management and poor regulatory oversight. Southern California Gas (SoCalGas) is the company that operates the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility near the Los Angeles neighborhood of Porter Ranch, which suffered a catastrophic methane leak that lasted from October 2015 to February 2016. 

Get Weekly News Updates

Canada's Pipeline Challenges Will Force More Tar Sands Oil to Move by Rail

Gogama oil train derailment in Ontario

The Motley Fool has been advising investors on “How to Profit From the Re-Emergence of Canada’s Crude-by-Rail Strategy.” But what makes transporting Canadian crude oil by rail attractive to investors?

Get Weekly News Updates

Pages