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.

Welfare Kings? Study Finds Half of New Oil Production Unprofitable Without Government Handouts

Read time: 5 mins
Oil derrick with 'welfare' spelled on Scrabble tiles

A new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Energy found that 50 percent of new oil production in America would be unprofitable if not for government subsidies. The study, performed by researchers at the Stockholm Environment Institute and Earth Track, Inc., found that, at prices of $50 per barrel, light oil produced by hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) was heavily dependent on subsidies.

In fact, forty percent of the Permian basin in Texas would be economically unviable without subsidies, and for the home of Bakken crude production, Williston Basin, that number jumps to 59 percent, according to the researchers.

Rail Industry Slow on Safety Upgrade for Fleets Carrying Oil and Ethanol

Read time: 6 mins
DOT 117 tank cars

A new government report finds that only 9 percent of all the rail tank cars transporting flammable liquids last year met the stricter safety requirements of regulations set in 2015, which were meant to reduce oil train explosions and accidents. This confirms what DeSmog reported last year showing that the oil and rail industries were not moving to aggressively upgrade the fleet to the higher safety standards. Of course, the regulations gave them over a decade to make the upgrades and provided little incentive for industry to move faster.

Federal Railroad Administration Nominee Plans to Push Rail Industry to Self-Regulate

Read time: 6 mins
Train in Alaska

Ronald Batory — President Trump’s nominee to lead the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) — will be pushing for the controversial self-regulatory approach to safety known as “performance-based regulations,” according to his July 26 statement for the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Shifting toward this self-regulatory approach could have major implications for the safety of trains carrying potentially dangerous cargo, including oil and ethanol.

Retired General: 'Our Bases and Stations on the Coast Are Going Underwater'

Read time: 6 mins
Tangier Island's coast, with rising waters

This past July, in a Congressional hearing on “The Status and Outlook for U.S. and North American Energy and Resource Security,” retired Marine Brigadier General Stephen A. Cheney offered a dire warning for many current military bases in coastal locations.  

From the tactical side our bases and stations on the coast are going underwater. Norfolk [in Virginia] is the prime example. It’s closed dozens of times a year now because of flooding both from rain and sea level rise,” Cheney explained. “We’re going to have to talk about relocation of our bases and stations that are on the coast.”

Cheney also made it clear that he believes in climate change.

Senator Backed by Rail Companies Introduces New Bill That Would De-Regulate Rail Industry

Read time: 7 mins
Locomotive

A new bill by one of the rail industry’s favorite senators looks to change how the industry is regulated to allow “market forces to improve rail safety.” In June, Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), who happens to chair the Senate Surface Transportation Subcommittee, introduced the Railroad Advancement of Innovation and Leadership with Safety (RAILS) Act.

In essence, the bill seeks to shift the rail industry toward a self-regulatory — and more difficult to enforce — approach to safety known as “performance-based regulation,” an effort first reported by DeSmog after a Congressional hearing in May.

Trump’s Ignorance Reveals Why Exporting Crude Oil for 'National Security' Is a Myth

Read time: 6 mins
Trump and Polish President Duda

During President Donald Trump’s recent visit to Poland, he got a lesson in the reality of the global oil and gas market from Polish President Andrzej Duda. In his prepared remarks, Trump addressed the issue of U.S. oil and gas exports, saying, “America stands ready to help Poland and other European nations diversify their energy supplies, so that you can never be held hostage to a single supplier.” 

In the question and answer session that followed, Trump exhibited some of his characteristic bravado when he offered to negotiate a liquefied natural gas (LNG) agreement right then and there. 

I think we can enter a contract for LNG within the next 15 minutes,” Trump said. “Do you have anybody available to negotiate? It will take about 15 minutes.”

Which put President Duda in the awkward position of having to explain to the American president how international energy deals actually happen. As The Hill reported, “Duda laughed in response, saying that it is up to private companies in both countries, not the presidents, to negotiate such a deal.”  

“We Got Lucky” - Four Years After Lac-Megantic, Another Oil Train Accident

Read time: 7 mins

We were very lucky in this instance,” Plainfield Fire Chief David Riddle said. “There was no fire, nobody got hurt by the grace of God.”

As the residents of Lac-Megantic were preparing to acknowledge the 4th anniversary of the oil train disaster that leveled and poisoned their downtown and killed 47 people, residents of Plainfield, Illinois were happy to just be complaining about the odor of spilled oil after a train pulling 115 tank cars of Canadian crude oil derailed near their neighborhood.

Regulators Helped Oil-by-Rail Company Avoid Environmental Review, California Court Rules

Read time: 6 mins
Oil train cars

This week, a court in California overturned a permit allowing the expansion of an oil-by-rail terminal near Bakersfield, California. The opinion from that court ruling reads like a case study for corporations looking to avoid the two biggest hurdles to getting such a project approved: environmental review and public notice and comment. 

Fossil Fuel CEOs Say They Just Want to Lift People Out of Poverty. Do You Believe Them?

Read time: 6 mins
Rex Tillerson

In a 2013 interview about the risks and rewards of oil exploration, Charlie Rose asked then Exxon CEO (and now Secretary of State) Rex Tillerson if his philosophy was “Drill, baby, drill!” 

Tillerson replied that his philosophy was “to make money.” At the same time, during his tenure as CEO of ExxonMobil, he also discussed how energy companies are eager to help lift the developing world out of poverty — a slightly different perspective.  

Oil Trains Remain Industry’s Long-term Plan for Shipping to West Coast

Read time: 6 mins
Train with mountains in the background

Despite a string of recent successes by West Coast communities to block the construction of oil-by-rail facilities, the oil industry has no plans to give up using rail to move oil to the West Coast. And it isn’t hard to understand why. There are no plans for oil pipelines from North Dakota to California or Washington. And with indications that the Bakken field may already be declining, any investment in such a project is highly unlikely. 

And unlike at East Coast refineries, those in the west don't have the option to buy light crude from Africa, delivered via tanker, which is a better option than buying Bakken oil from North Dakota or Montana, delivered by rail, when oil prices are low. That's why the oil industry continues to pursue its long-term plans to move oil west via train. 

Pages