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.

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

Read time: 8 mins
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.

GOP Tax Law Bails Out Fracking Companies Buried in Debt

Read time: 6 mins
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.

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

Read time: 7 mins
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?

The Secret of the Great American Fracking Bubble

Read time: 8 mins
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. 

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

Read time: 9 mins
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. 

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

Read time: 8 mins
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?

The Manhattan Institute's Joke of a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed

Read time: 4 mins
Cass Oren's report cover for 'Overheated: How Flawed Analyses Overestimate the Costs of Climate Change'

A new report by Oren Cass of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research dismisses predictions of the impacts of a warming world with a simple solution: When climate change turns up the heat, people just need to turn on their air conditioners.

From his analysis, “Overheated: How Flawed Analyses Overestimate the Costs of Climate Change,” the Wall Street Journal somehow arrived at the following headline for Cass’s recent op-ed: Doomsday Climate Scenarios Are a Joke.

Yes, Exxon Is Accusing Local Governments of Misleading Investors on Climate Change

Read time: 6 mins
ExxonKnew projections on buildings in San Francisco

In January, ExxonMobil filed a legal petition seeking to depose more than a dozen city and county government officials in California, claiming that the municipal officials are defrauding investors by not fully disclosing the risks posed by climate change.

You read that right. Exxon is legally challenging cities and counties for not talking up the risks of climate change enough to the investors who purchase municipal bonds for those localities. Has Exxon had a change of heart and now become concerned about transparency and the impacts of climate change?

Let's take a closer look.

Exxon’s Fantastical Vision of the Future and Climate Change

Read time: 7 mins
ExxonMobil climate risks report cover

There really is little need to read past the cover of ExxonMobil’s 2018 Energy and Carbon Summary, a report purportedly meant to offer insights to shareholders on how the company manages climate-related risks. Apparently at Exxon, the plan is for humanity to frack its way out of the climate crisis by pouring more money into developing oil and gas.

The report you are reading looks into a lower-carbon future. It provides a perspective on what such a future might mean for our business,” Darren Woods, CEO of ExxonMobil, writes in the introduction.

But it doesn’t.

'Keep It In the Ground' Approach to Fossil Fuels on US Public Lands Would Cut Climate Emissions, Study Confirms

Read time: 8 mins
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Limiting fossil fuel production on U.S. federal lands would reduce both global oil consumption and overall carbon emissions, according to a new study by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), a research organization focused on sustainable development. In the study, SEI researchers specifically examined the policies proposed in the “Keep It in the Ground Act,” which would ban new and renewed leases to extract oil, gas, and coal on all federal lands, and was introduced in Congress in 2015, 2016, and again in 2017.

Our models show that each barrel of U.S. oil left undeveloped leads to about a half-barrel drop in global oil consumption,” said Pete Erickson, SEI senior scientist and study co-author. “In the long term, the smart choice — for the climate and the economy — is to phase down oil and gas production, not ramp it up.”

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