Archive for the 'Energy' Category

Nov 09 2011

Inspector General to Review Keystone XL Pipeline Process

Published by under Energy

Protest against Keystone XL Pipeline (8/22/11), via wikimedia


On November 7, the Inspector General for the State Department announced that he would be investigating the State Department’s handling of the Keystone XL pipeline decision.  This decision comes in response to claims hat there was pressure applied to the State Department’s policy makers.  The IG will be looking into whether there were conflicts of interest among the policy makers and whether they complied with the relevant laws and regulations in considering the Keystone XL pipeline.

This proposed pipeline would stretch from the tar sands oil fields in Canada to Texas, crossing over the Oglalla Aquifer as part of its route.  Since its proposal, it has been rejected twice by the EPA for an insufficient Environmental Impact Statement, has been the subject of two large protests, and been opposed by Republicans in Nebraska.   President Obama recently made a statement on Keystone XL that indicated he might be considering a more active role in the decision-making process.  For more information about the pipeline and its potential impacts, see the previous post on the topic on this blog. Continue Reading »

Comments Off on Inspector General to Review Keystone XL Pipeline Process

Sep 05 2011

The Keystone XL Pipeline: Fuse on a Climate Bomb

Published by under Climate Change,Energy

Keystone XL demonstration, White House Photo Credit: Josh Lopez, via wikimedia

A sit-in protest has been going on outside the White House.  It’s attracted hundreds of protesters and resulted in hundreds of arrest, including some very high profile activists.  Among them are such diverse figures as Bill McKibben of (the architect of the protest), Dan Choi, and Daryl Hannah.  Called the largest act of civil disobedience in a generation, it was sparked by a project called the Keystone XL Pipeline.

This pipeline would be an expansion of the existing Keystone pipeline system and carry oil from the tar sands in Canada to refineries in Texas and is currently be considered by the State Department.  The protestors have several problems with this proposal.  First, tar sand oil itself has three times the carbon footprint of conventional oil, mostly because of the energy-intensive extraction process.  TransCanada, the owner of the Keystone pipelines system, insists that they have found ways to reduce the carbon footprint of tar sands production. However, Canada’s environmental ministry estimates (pdf) that emissions from tar sands will continue to be incredibly large.  James Hansen, NASA’s top climate scientist who was also arrested at the Keystone XL protest, has said that if this pipeline is approved it will be pretty much “game over” for the climate. Continue Reading »

Comments Off on The Keystone XL Pipeline: Fuse on a Climate Bomb

Aug 24 2011

BP Oil Spill Part Two?: New Oil Slick Found in Gulf

Published by under Energy,Water/Maritime

Oil Spill, via wikimedia

The appearance of an oil sheen in the Gulf of Mexico near the source of last year’s major BP spill sparked new fears in a community still suffering from oil spill jitters.   BP has denied that the oil is coming from any of its wells, including the capped Macondo well that was the source of the worst oil spill in U.S. history.  They nevertheless sent boats and booms to the capped well and investigated the site with submersibles to ensure that there are no leaks.  The source of the oil sheen is not currently known, but there are several other abandoned oil wells that may be the culprits.  So far, this incident is another reminder of the ever-present danger of oil spills, which increases in offshore rigs, and the reality that minor spills and leaks from such rigs happens on a regular basis.  This summer also saw more two major oil leaks: the Shell leak in the North Sea and the ruptured ExxonMobil pipeline that spilled into the Yellowstone River. Continue Reading »

Comments Off on BP Oil Spill Part Two?: New Oil Slick Found in Gulf

Apr 25 2011

Fracking Problem: Shale Gas may be Worse for Climate than Coal

Published by under Energy

Natural Gas Processing Plant, via wikimedia

Natural gas has recently been touted as a major up and coming energy source for getting us off of dirtier sources such as coal and limiting greenhouse gas emissions.  However, many communities have complained about one of the main methods of harvesting this resource: hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”.  The process involves pumping large amounts of water and proprietary chemicals into the shale rock in order to allow the gas to come up faster and easier.  It has already been banned from Pittsburgh, PA and Buffalo, NY and is the subject of a proposed study from the EPA as well.  Now, a new study from Cornell argues that during the fracking process so much methane is released that, from production to burning, natural gas from shale may contribute more than 20% more to climate change than coal does.  This is in part because methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, the main GHG from coal.  Shale natural gas also about 30% worse for the climate than natural gas gotten by more conventional means.  This study adds another weapon for opponents of fracking to use in trying to get the industry to move away from the practice.  On the other hand, Andrew Revkin in his Dot Earth column points out that the science is still in its beginning stages.  Furthermore, there may be profitable ways to capture the greenhouse gases and make fracking cleaner.  See his article and more linked below. Continue Reading »

Comments Off on Fracking Problem: Shale Gas may be Worse for Climate than Coal

Apr 20 2011

One Year Later: The BP Oil Spill

Published by under Energy,Water/Maritime

Anchor-handling tugboats battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon, via wikimedia

Today is the one year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  On that fateful day, eleven people lost their lives in the explosion on the rig and seventeen more were injured.  This then touched off a disastrous oil leak from the blown wellhead that brought words like “blowout preventer” and “dispersant” into our collective understanding.  Speeches were made and hearings held in Congress as lawmakers attempted to get to the cause.  Meanwhile, attempts to stop the relentless flow of oil continued for months and workers in the Gulf of Mexico were frantically trying to keep the oil offshore and out of the wetlands, with limited success.  When the well was finally capped, the future of the Gulf of Mexico was uncertain.

One year later, the Minerals Management Services is no more, replaced by the unfortunately named Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE).  BOEMRE is setting a breakneck pace trying to balance pressure from the industry to get permits approved and environmentalists worried about another spill.  The oil in the Gulf is still around and recently there has been a rash of mysterious dolphin deaths, with dead baby dolphins washing up on the beaches.  Residents and scientists still worry that large oil plumes may exist underwater, sink to the seafloor, create “dead zones” for fish, and affect crab and shrimp harvests.  If anything, this anniversary is a reminder that the full effects of this disaster have not been fully felt or understood yet and we should not forget that. Continue Reading »

Comments Off on One Year Later: The BP Oil Spill

Mar 21 2011

EPA Pushes Forward: New Air Pollution Regulations Unveiled for Power Plants

Published by under Air,Energy

Castle Gate Power Plant near Helper by David Jolley 2007, via wikimedia

On Wednesday, March 16, the last day of a court-ordered deadline, the EPA released new, more stringent proposed regulations for air pollution from power plants called the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. This is the first time a national standard on air pollution from coal-fired power plants has been issued and is sure to meet with stiff challenge from industry and particularly House Republicans. Lisa P. Jackson, administrator for the EPA, announced the new standards flanked by the head of the American Lung Association and two doctors.  She emphasized that this move was long overdue and would significantly improve air quality.  Though it would cost approximately $10 billion dollars for industry to comply (translating to a $3-4 rise in individual energy bills after 2015), it would also produce benefits totaling up to $100 billion a year. The American Lung Association estimates that particle pollution from power plants has caused the death of 13,000 people each year. The rules have already had an effect. Georgia Energy closed two of its oldest power plants after finding that it was more cost effective to shut them down than to retrofit them to comply with the new regulation. Continue Reading »

Comments Off on EPA Pushes Forward: New Air Pollution Regulations Unveiled for Power Plants

Next »