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.

Chevron and Exxon Say They Can Turn Around the Failed Finances of Fracking Industry

Read time: 9 mins
Gas station sign reading 'Exxon' and 'On the Run'

After a decade of the American fracking industry burning through hundreds of billions of dollars more than it earned, this industry previously dominated by shale drilling specialists is entering a new phase. The oil majors — a group of multinational companies that typically have divisions throughout the oil supply chain — now are investing heavily in fracked oil and gas operations.

Trump Order to Allow LNG by Rail Would Expand ‘Bomb Train’ Risks

Read time: 8 mins
Fiery detonation of a propane train in Utah

On April 10, first responders in Durham, North Carolina, responded to a suspected natural gas leak. While they were evacuating people from the area, the gas exploded, killing one person and injuring at least 25.

The same day Durham was dealing with the aftermath of a deadly natural gas explosion, President Donald Trump was issuing an executive order directing federal regulators to create new rules allowing rail companies to transport liquefied natural gas (LNG) by train in the next 13 months, or less.

'Are You Serious?' John Kerry Interrupts GOP Climate Denial Logic in Disbelief

Read time: 6 mins
John Kerry

Congressional discussions over climate change have reached such a low point that during this week’s House hearing on the national security risks of climate change, former Secretary of State John Kerry, who was testifying, broke down and just asked his Republican questioner, “Are you serious?”

Federal Government Foot-Dragging Helps Oil Industry Delay Oil-by-Rail Rules

Read time: 6 mins

In an attempt to reduce the risk of fiery oil train accidents, the state of Washington is working to pass a bill that would limit the vapor pressure of oil on trains to below 9 pounds per square inch (psi). Vapor pressure is a measure of the volatility of flammable liquids and correlates to their likelihood of igniting. Higher vapor pressure means an oil is more volatile and more likely to ignite and burn when a train derails.

If the federal government won’t act to protect public safety and adopt a safer nationwide standard, we will adopt our own,” state Sen. Andy Billig (D-Spokane) said of the bill he sponsored. “There is just too much to lose — for people and our environment.”

Billig's comments point to the federal government's repeated failure to address the volatility of the oil moving by rail in America.

Oil Industry Ponders Getting ‘Dragged into Low-Carbon Future’ While Claiming it ‘Stepped up’ on Climate

Read time: 8 mins
fossil fuel refinery

The fossil fuel industry's faith that the modern world economy will be powered by its products for the indefinite future is usually unwavering. But cracks in that faith recently appeared in Houston at the top annual oil industry conference, known as CERAweek.

The trade publication Platts S&P Global noted that “talk of oil at CERAWeek felt a bit more lackluster this time around,” according to several attendees. Various pressures — from climate-anxious investors to competition from renewables — apparently are tempering the oil and gas industry's usual optimism.

What Norway’s Big Divestment Decision Means for Fracking, Tar Sands and Global Oil Exploration

Read time: 7 mins
Bergen, Norway

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund — a state-owned investment fund worth approximately a trillion dollars — recently announced it was divesting from oil and gas exploration companies around the world. Not surprisingly, many oil and gas stocks declined following the announcement.

While this is good news for the climate, this was simply a smart business decision. Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, known as the Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), primarily exists due to Norwegian oil production. And the fund will continue to be a major investor in companies like Exxon.

It appears it’s just cutting its losses on money-losing endeavors like fracking in America, tar sands oil production in Canada, and frontier exploration by UK companies in Africa and South-East Asia.

Despite Risks, Canada's Tar Sands Industry Is Betting Big on Oil Trains

Read time: 6 mins
Canadian Pacific train

Last year, Canada exported a record amount of tar sands oil to the U.S., despite low oil prices leading to major losses once again for the struggling tar sands industry. That achievement required a big bump in hauling oil by rail, with those daily volumes in late 2018 more than double the previous record in 2014 during the first oil-by-rail boom.

Canada's oil industry essentially has reached its limit for exporting oil into the U.S. through pipelines. That's why it's turning to rail to export more and more oil, but as an ever-increasing number of oil trains hit the tracks of North America, expect more accidents and oil spills to follow.

Fracking 2.0 Was a Financial Disaster, Will Fracking 3.0 Be Different?

Read time: 8 mins
Clippy paperclip art on fracking drill well pad

Two years ago, the U.S. fracking industry was trying to recover from the crash in the price of oil. Shale companies were promoting the idea that fracking was viable even at low oil prices (despite losing money when oil prices were high). At the time, no one was making money fracking with the business-as-usual approach, but then the Wall Street Journal published a story claiming all of this was about to change because the industry had a trump card — and that was technology.

Today, frackers are again relying on technology as a financial savior, but this time, they are looking to Microsoft.

Fracking the World: Despite Climate Risks, Fracking Is Going Global

Read time: 7 mins
'Fracking: it's happening' sign overlaid on a view of Earth from space

The U.S. exported a record 3.6 million barrels per day of oil in February. This oil is the result of the American fracking boom — and as a report from Oil Change International recently noted — its continued growth is undermining global efforts to limit climate change. The Energy Information Administration predicts U.S. oil production will increase again in 2019 to record levels, largely driven by fracking in the Permian shale in Texas and New Mexico.

And the U.S. is not alone in trying to maximize oil and gas production. Despite the financial failures of the U.S. fracking industry, international efforts to duplicate the American fracking story are ramping up across the globe. 

Another Oil Train Crashes as Alberta Government Gets Into Oil-by-Rail Business

Read time: 4 mins
Oil train derailment and spill in Manitoba

The government of Alberta, Canada, the heart of tar sands country, recently announced plans to get into the oil-by-rail business. Attempting to work around a lack of pipelines, the provincial government intends to spend $3.7 billion to lease 4,400 oil tank cars and locomotives to export more Canadian tar sands oil to the U.S. The announcement came just days after the latest oil train derailment and spill in Manitoba, Canada.

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