Tag Archives: methane

Friday Linkage 8/21/2015

It got unseasonably cool here in eastern Iowa this week. Like, mid-50s at night and no more than mid-70s during the day. I am sure that we will pay for this comfortable weather with a slap of hot and humid in the coming weeks, but it was a nice preview of the cool fall weather to come.

On to the links…

How The EPA Plans To Cut Methane Emissions From Oil And Gas Wells—This falls into the “boring, but important” category of news. The EPA is proposing new regulations on methane emissions, which is important because methane is a very potent greenhouse gas and a lot of methane is released at gas drilling sites.

Four Powerhouse Bills to Help California get to 50 Percent Renewable Energy—In a lot of economic and policy circles the saying goes “As goes California…” because the size of California determines a lot of what happens in the rest of the country. If California could really get to 50% renewable energy it would be a major change.

World Needs 53GW Of Solar PV Installed Per Year To Address Climate Change—If that is the number, how do we get to 53 GW per year? I know that this is more of a thought exercise than anything else, but in order to beat the worst of climate change we are going to need addressable goals.

Coal Mining Sector Running Out of Time, says Citigroup—I am not going to start playing the funeral dirge just yet, but when major financiers and banks are pulling out of coal and being public about the shift the winds of change are blowing.

90 Years of U.S. Fuel Economy Data Shows the Power of Incentives, Dangers of Stagnation—This is a pretty compelling chart:

UMTRI-90-years-MPG-data.png.650x0_q70_crop-smart

Why did we have such a lull in the 90s and early-2000s? Oh right, SUVs and a right wing that encouraged nothing but “drill, baby drill.” Thanks.

How Much Of California’s Drought Was Caused By Climate Change? Scientists Now Have The Answer.—California is bound to go through periodic droughts, but it looks like the current drought cycle is being exacerbated by climate change.

How Killing Elephants Finances Terror in Africa—This is just a fascinating read. The author placed GPS chips into fake elephant tusks to track where illicit ivory made its way across the globe.

The Pork Industry is Full of this Drug You’ve Never Heard Of—Ractopamine, besides sounding like the name of a plague in a spy movie, is bad stuff. Most of the rest of the world has not deemed meat raised with this drug safe for human consumption, but in the good ol’ USA it’s what’s for dinner.

How the Midwest’s Corn Farms Are Cooking the Planet—Industrial corn production is turning out to be one of the more environmentally damaging agricultural pursuits of the modern age. Maybe it is time we start looking at a different paradigm.

The American Lawn Is Now The Largest Single ‘Crop’ In The U.S.—If corn is bad, lawns are downright insane. At least there is something that comes out of a corn field. A lawn is just a green carpet that requires more maintenance than wall-to-wall white shag carpeting.

What Happens When Your Cash Crop Goes Bust: The Fall and Rise of Zimbabwe’s Coffee Economy—A really good write up about what happened to Zimbabwe’s gourmet coffee economy following the seizing of farms by the Mugabe dictatorship.

An Artist Proves There’s Enough Sugar In Your Soda to Create a Lollipop—Would you drink a lollipop? Probably not, but you are doing the equivalent every time you drink a Coke.

Friday Linkage 5/15/2015

Where did May go? I know that I have a similar sentiment a lot of months, but May really got to the halfway mark pretty fast without me noticing. Here is to hoping that summer can be a slower and lazier season than spring has been thus far.

On to the links…

Iowa Landowner Claims he was Offered Prostitute by Oil Pipeline Rep—This story is getting a lot of play here in eastern Iowa as the debate over a proposed Bakken oil pipeline is really heating up. If anyone is surprised that an oil company would act like this does not know oil companies. Seriously, read about oil company hospitality suites in the 1980s.

Renewables = 84% of New Electricity Generation Capacity in 1st Quarter of 2015—Yes, 84% of the electrical generation capability added in the first quarter of 2015 in the United States came from renewables. For the first time utility scale solar tipped over 1% of the total U.S. generation capacity. Dig it.

Tesla’s Powerwall Home Battery is already Sold Out through 2016—If you wanted to get a Powerwall home battery you are out of luck until sometime after we choose a new president.

MIT Report: Today’s Solar Panels Fine For Tomorrow’s Needs—We have the technical tools right now to supply the world with clean and green power from the sun. Any further efficiencies will only make the economics better in the long term.

Coal Investments are Increasingly Risky, says Bank of America—The real war on coal is occurring between coal companies and the investment community, which sees the industry as an increasingly riskier place to put their money to use. This is truly the death knell because modern corporations run on debt and financing. It is the lifeblood of large scale economic activity.

Oil And Gas Wells Are Leaking Huge Amounts Of Methane, And It’s Costing Taxpayers Millions—Basically, oil and gas exploration companies are allowing a lot of methane to leak out of wells drilled on public lands. Remember that these are the same oil and gas companies that pay lower than market rates for the right to drill on public lands. What a scam.

In Wyoming, Taking A Photo Of A Polluted Stream Could Land You In Jail—Like “ag gag” laws this law is just waiting for court case to blow open the cozy relationship between lawmakers, polluters, and the chilling effect such a relationships have on free speech. Isn’t it amazing how right wingers love the second amendment, talk about freedom constantly, and are the first in line to trample any freedom that does not involve a firearm?

Is Corn Ethanol Breaking The Law?—Uh oh. Inevitably, farm state lawmakers will pass a correction to this little piece of legislation that will remove the illegality.

Buh-Bye, Corn Ethanol: Joule Makes The Same Thing From Recycled CO2—I would love to fill my truck on ethanol derived in this manner.

First Large-Scale Hemp Processing Plant begins in Colorado—One of the overlooked part of the marijuana legalization in Colorado was the concurrent legalization of industrial hemp. Hemp will not be an instant agricultural miracle, but it could become part of a broader portfolio of options for farmers.

Who Controls California’s Water?—The story is a little more complex than Chinatown makes it out to be, but the problems can be traced to policies that can be changed. Maybe.

Monsanto Bets $45 Billion on a Pesticide-Soaked Future—You can buy organic all day long, but the big companies pushing pesticides and herbicides are betting big on a future where we continue to soak our fields in their deadly chemicals. Who do you think will win?

Sri Lanka First Nation to Protect all Mangrove Forests—Mangrove forests are those great unsung ecosystems. Threatened, like swamps, because they seem like a hindrance to development but the value is not realized until the ecosystem is gone.

M&Ms Candy Maker says, “Don’t eat too many”—Sugar is the equivalent of a drug. It’s addictive and it causes health problems. Now, the pushers are telling consumers that it is a bad idea to eat too much of their own product.

The Brutal Reality of Life in China’s Most Polluted Cities—You do not need to spend $10 and see the new Mad Max movie to witness what a scarred hellscape would be like in the future because China has done all the work for you without the explosions or insane cars.

Friday Linkage 4/17/2015

Hillary is in. Marco is in. I am sure that we are going to here from Chris Christie and a host of Republican also rans…Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum really do not have a lot on the calendar about now do they?

The crazy thing is that the national media cares more about this story than any single person in Iowa save for the self-important campaign operatives who act like gatekeepers to the caucuses. Ahhh, the summer before a caucus in Iowa is a beautiful time.

On to the links…

Ocean Acidification Triggered Devastating Extinction—Here is a simple concept: If the oceans die, we probably die. Save the oceans and you have a good chance of saving the human race plus a good chunk of this planet’s biodiversity. Otherwise it is game freakin’ over.

Overfishing in U.S. Waters Hits All-Time Low—We can make policy that helps the oceans. It’s just too bad no one seems to focus on some of the limited success that we have had in modulating our piss poor behavior.

Permafrost’s Ticking “Carbon Bomb” may Never Truly Detonate—A slow leak is better than an explosion, so to speak, but this is still a major problem when considering how to combat global climate change.

Forest Service Sticks up for Coal Mining on Roadless Lands—Why? Why would an agency of the federal government actually encourage coal companies to destroy wilderness in the pursuit of a fossil fuel that is in its long cycle death throes? Oh wait, it’s the Forest Service. This should be their logo:

selling_the_forest_for_the_trees

Are You Ready for Corn-Powered Hydrogen Fuel Cells?—Hydrogen powered transportation was a bait-and-switch from the Bush administration almost as good as Iraq having WMDs. If hydrogen, which is really just an energy storage mechanism, can be produced in a way that is not energy intensive it is a good solution.

Striking Chart Shows Why Solar Power will Take Over the World—This chart reminds me of those I used to see in the late-1990s showing processor power and cost. It was a way to explain the previously unimaginable proliferation of computer controlled objects. Guess what, solar is coming like a freight train of awesome:

solar-price-installation-chart.jpg.662x0_q70_crop-scale

U.S. Predicted To Be Net Energy Exporter In Next Decade; First Time Since 1950s—Maybe we should not drill, baby drill and keep some of that energy in the ground for the time being.

In The Midst Of Toxic Oil Spill, Vancouver Announces It Will Go 100 Percent Renewable—This is not some small city in the sun belt of the U.S., but a major Canadian metropolis in a the somewhat overcast Pacific Northwest. Granted, it’s over the next 20 years but if it happens it will be a big deal.

100% Renewable Electricity By 2050 Possible In France—If it’s possible by 2050, why not get it done sooner? What are the obstacles and how do we overcome them?

Investment In Australian Renewable Energy Industry Plummets 90%–Here is why we cannot get to 100% renewables sooner. Policy makers screw up, insert uncertainty into the planning process, and slow down progress. What a joke.

Dubai Will Invest $3 Billion To Boost Solar Power Project Capacity To 3 GW—Sometimes all it takes is some oil money to get the job done.

4 Ways to Invest in the Low-Carbon Economy—Our personal investment choices are rarely something we think about as a tool against climate change but our 401ks and IRAs may have thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars that could be focused on positive investments for the planet.

How Refrigeration Determined What We Eat and Where We Live—Trust me, millions of people would not move to the Sun Belt if there was no ice cream or ice cold air conditioning.

How to Successfully Grow an Herb Garden—It’s that time of year when everyone has grand garden plans, including myself. Maybe a little herb garden is all we really need:

The-Herb-Growers-Cheat-Sheet-infographic1

Friday Linkage 11/21/2014

Winter blew in with some force. Keystone XL went down in the Senate. Obama pissed off Republicans by leading, taking executive action, and doing something about the mess that is U.S. immigration policy. Remember, every time you hear a Republican moan about the imperial presidency these were the same people who were okay with W using signing statements to change the intent of laws. Every time a Republican screams an angel’s head explodes.

On to the links…

Chicken Abuse Revealed by Undercover Videos at Koch Foods Sites—Well, it looks like the Kochs just don’t hate liberals but they also hate chickens.  I wonder how fast ag gag laws are going to show up in every state with a Koch funded legislator and lobbyist?

Emissions Rules Yield Little Benefit along Colorado’s Front Range—Basically, even if emissions from any one particular well are decreasing the impact of so many new wells swamps the improvement of a single site. If you drive anywhere in eastern Colorado you get a real sense of the boom in oil and gas drilling.

‘Scandalous’ Solyndra Program Actually Earned Taxpayers A $5 Billion Profit—Where is Darrell Issa’s righteous indignation now? Oh right, he’s a vaudeville performer in politician’s clothing. The program, in total, worked even if particular projects failed.

Don Blankenship Charged with Conspiracy over Mine Explosion that Killed 29—Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy or a snappier dresser:

rally12_i0909072049581.jpg.662x0_q100_crop-scaleIn case you were wondering, he plead not guilty.

New ‘Solar Cloth’ Allows Solar Cells To Be Stretched Across Parking Lots, Stadiums—The U.S. is covered in an estimated 61,000 square miles of roads and parking lots. Imagine if just a fraction of that were covered in relatively easy to deploy solar cloth?

Google, IKEA, And SunEdison Bought A Lot Of Wind Power This Week—Private companies and utilities are adding a lot of wind to their portfolios. I wonder what the driver of this behavior is right now?

Wave Goodbye to the Two-Car Family—Has there been a bigger driver of bad planning behavior than the American love affair with the personal automobile? Not that I can think of, but the switch away from auto ownership will have equally huge outcomes.

The 10 Biggest Factors Changing Millennial Driving Habits—I was going to blame hipsters, but it looks like there are a lot of correlations driving behavior here.

Why Going to the Library is one of the Best Things I Do—I think I said something similar a short while ago, even using the term “original sharing economy.” It’s good to see people agree with me.

Hellmann’s Are a Bunch of Giant, Eggless “Mayo”-Slinging Hypocrites—These clowns got all huffy with a company using the term mayonnaise in reference to their spread which did not contain eggs, but the plaintiffs also did the same thing. Huh? Oh right, it’s big food trying to smash an upstart. My bad.

Appliance Science: The illuminating physics behind LED lights—LEDs are transforming lighting, but how many of us actually understand how the little buggers work?

You Must Read—The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World

Fracking is either America’s economic savior or one step further along the staircase to ecological doom. In truth, it may be both things at the same time or neither depending upon who you ask and when you ask the question.

9781451692280There is no doubt, however, that fracking—the process by which hydraulic pressure is used to create numerous small fractures dispersing from a bore hole—is controversial. What Russell Gold attempts to do in The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World is clarify some of the misconceptions about the industry in general and put a face to a dynamic that seems to dominate the headlines.

First, fracking as a concept is not new. The technology to “frack” a well has existed almost as long as oil and gas men, make no mistake that this is a male dominated industry, have been drilling holes in the ground to extract dino juice. The actual mechanisms have changed dramatically, replacing explosives with high pressure water and sand.

Second, the concerns are legitimate. To get at most shale gas the bore hole needs to pass through the strata of rock that many aquifers reside. To ensure that this underground water is not contaminated by escaping gas the well needs to be “cemented.” If you remember the Deepwater Horizon disaster and a score of other incidents where wells have failed miserably you will understand that this process if riddled with potential errors. In the race to pull gas out of the ground as fast as possible or get wells drilled before lease terms lapsed, frackers have regularly failed to follow the industry’s best practices and regulators have not held their feet to the fire in order to drive better behavior. While some people were getting rich and our homes were cheaper to heat a lot of holes got put into the ground that will impact our environment for generations to come.

Third, the change wrought by the expansion of natural gas supplies in the United States is somewhat uncharted territory. The U.S. was supposed to both consume more natural gas and produce less as the twenty-first century progressed, yet the opposite happened. Efficiency and production shifts away from natural gas flat lined domestic demand while domestic production soared. Between shale gas and unconventional oil the U.S. is producing more fossil fuels than it has in many decades, which is dramatically reshaping the economy in ways that may not be sustainable.

Lastly, the story of fracking is one about personalities. No single person dominates the story in The Boom more than Aubrey McClendon, the deposed founder of Chesapeake Energy Corporation. Chesapeake was one of the single biggest proponents of fracking and natural gas from the outset of the boom. Its fortunes were made and lost on the backs on the price of natural gas and the markets, which may or may not have been manipulated by people close to McClendon.

Toward the end of the book there is an interesting side bar about the odd marriage of McClendon and Carl Pope, who at the time of the story was the Executive Director of the Sierra Club. Perhaps in exchange for promoting natural gas as a bridge fuel to wean the world off of coal McClendon became one of the Sierra Club’s largest donors. Talk about an odd couple. When Michael Brune took over as executive director the decision was made to cut ties with McClendon at great cost to the Sierra Club’s coffers.

Gold’s book is a breezy, not overly technical, account of how an obscure process to extend the life of oil and gas wells turned out to fundamentally alter the conversation about energy in America. Given how dependent our lifestyle and economy is on hydrocarbons sucked from the ground there can be few stories more central to the history of modern America.

Friday Linkage 2/28/2014

It’s the final day of February and it is cold.  Like polar vortex cold.  I know that global warming is actually global climate change and weather extremes are only going to get worse, but I am really looking forward to some warmer weather.  I’ll probably be complaining about the heat and drought in a few months.

On to the links…

Obesity Rate for Young Children Plummets 43% in a Decade—It’s not all bad news all the time.  Maybe all the attention that is being given to children’s activity levels and food consumption is paying off in healthier children.

99 Percent of U.S. New Power Generation Added in January Came from Renewable Energy—The future is renewables and every month new numbers come out proving the point.  Sure, coal and other fossil fuels will play a role in our future energy plans but that role is increasingly marginalized.   Dig it.

Cape Wind Could be First U.S. Offshore Wind Farm Operating by 2016—It looks like Cape Wind has secured the necessary financing and could become the first U.S. offshore wind farm in operation by 2016.  I will believe it when I see it because I do not think the legal wrangling and monkey wrenching by moneyed interests is done quite yet.

Colorado Becomes First State to Regulate Methane Emissions from Fracking—Colorado is the first, but it will not be the last.  The willy nilly expansion of fracking in the U.S. has caused a lot of people to reexamine their support of oil and gas drilling.

Oil Spill Shuts down 65 Miles of Mississippi River—I have lived all my life in states bordering the Mississippi River and for almost two decades I lived in a river town along the Mississippi River.  It’s a commercial waterway in every sense of the word, but the way that we treat the river is a tragedy.

How Ultra-Conservative Utah Became a Bastion of Environmental Activism—It’s a disservice to conservatives to lump them into a single bloc.  As if a religious or social conservative is also a fiscal conservative.  We tend to view the right as a monolithic bloc and the left as a patchwork coalition of interests.  As demographics shift and politics shatter, the right is looking more like the left every day.

Colorado Expects to Reap Tax Bonanza From Legal Marijuana Sales—Here’s something everyone can get behind.  The real story is not just about the new revenue being brought in, but the funds not being spent on enforcement of petty marijuana crimes.  If there was ever a win-win for states it is a legalization regimen like Colorado.

Giant Slaughterhouse Recalls Fancy Grass-Fed Beef After Processing “Diseased and Unsound Animals”—It’s not just the mystery meat in your Hot Pocket that got recalled, but high end grass fed beef as well.  If all slaughtering operations are centralized in massive facilities then we lose some resiliency in the system.  On a separate note, what is the nastiest Hot Pocket flavor?  Gotta’ be Spicy Beef Nacho.

Just How Much does it Cost Growers to Give us Cheap Bananas?—The high price of “cheap” food is something we should all be concerned about because it is not sustainable and it is not justifiable given the long term consequents to people or the environment.

Colorado Tumbleweed Explosion Creating Hazards and Headaches for Many—The stories about roadways being entirely covered and buildings getting lost in massive waves of tumbleweeds are amazing.  It’s like something out of stories from the Dust Bowl in the 1930s.

California Endangered Species: Plastic Bags—There is the old school tumbleweeds clogging Colorado roadways and there is the modern tumbleweed—the t-shirt plastic bag.  When are we going to finally just give up on these wholesale?

Why the Plan to Dig a Canal Across Nicaragua Could Be a Very Bad Idea—The reemergence of a plan to build a canal across Nicaragua to supplant the Panama Canal is like some b-movie bad guy.  It’s a plan that will never completely die no matter how many dreams, reputations, careers, and lives are shattered by it.

Are Elevated Bicycle Highways the Future of Transportation?—I do not think that widespread adoption of elevated bicycle highways is going to be the future of transportation, but used in ways to make bicycling safer and more convenient in areas where cars rule it is a genuine solution.

Friday Linkage 2/7/2014

Damn, February.  Pretty soon I will have to break out the garden porn and figure out what I want to grow this year.  I need to come up with a way to convince my wife to allow me to build a hop trellis on our property.  Homegrown hops in a house IPA…now that is an idea that I can get behind.

On to the links…

Senate Passes Long-Stalled Farm Bill, With Clear Winners and Losers—The farm bill is a big deal.  It’s policies shape our food system in fundamental and dramatic ways.  Overall, the bill continues the status quo in many ways but at least hemp is getting a little love.

E.P.A. Staff Struggling to Create Pollution Rule—This is a big deal.  The EPA, without any obstruction from Congress, can limit the amount of carbon pollution from power plants if the agency so chooses.

‘Out-Of-Control’ Rig In The Gulf Gushing Methane Freely Into The Atmosphere—When is the world going to realize that the people we have entrusted to extract oil and gas from the Earth’s crust do not have a clue what they are doing?  In the Gulf of Mexico an offshore rig run by Rowan Companies is spewing methane into the air.  These kinds of “spills” do not get the attention of a traditional oil spill because there is not goop coating cute birds.  Remember, methane is an uber potent greenhouse gas.

Federal Leasing Program A Giveaway To Big Coal—Basically, the U.S. government allows coal companies to lease huge tracts of land for coal extraction at prices far below what the market should bear.  Just another stealth subsidy for the energy sources that are killing the planet.

Up To 82,000 Tons Of Toxic Coal Ash Spilled Into North Carolina River From ‘Antiquated’ Storage Pit—Recently it was West Virginia, but it’s now North Carolina’s turn to be inundated with a byproduct of the coal mining industry.  Will these people stop before the entire world is polluted?

The Government’s Secret Research into Climate Change as a Security Risk—Republicans in Congress may deny the existence of consensus on climate change, but the U.S. security establishment thinks it is real enough to devote resources studying the potential impacts.

IEC Makes Case for Solar Power in Iowa—Iowa is not a hot bed of activity when it comes to solar energy.  In a state that gets over 25% of its electricity from wind turbines you can cut us a little slack for not being on the razor’s edge when it comes to photovoltaics.  Now the Iowa Environmental Council is making a push for just such a technology.  Sweet.

World’s Largest Solar Bridge Officially Launched—The Blackfriars railway bridge in London is now covered in solar photovoltaics.  Why aren’t we rushing to put panels on every place?  Plus, why do the British have all the cool names like Blackfriars?  It’s not fair.

Bernie Sanders: Should We Provide Welfare For Walmart?—The answer is no, but if you look at government policy the answer is much less clear because there are a lot of policies that are essentially welfare for WalMart.

About That Tainted Seafood In Texas—Is Texas just a hellish place where rules are meaningless, oilmen are immune from scrutiny, and everyone who is not a millionaire is screwed?  Pretty much.

Growing Insects: Farmers Can Help to Bring Back Pollinators—As bad as things seem in this world, there are steps that everyone can take to make improvements.  The ability of farmers to improve the situation is overlooked by a lot of people because we tend to paint the entire occupation with a broad brush.

Michael Pollan Explains What’s Wrong With the Paleo Diet—Take a minute and enjoy the musings of our modern day food sage, Michael Pollan, as he dissects the problems associated with the faddish Paleo diet.

Sugar Linked to Heart Disease Deaths in National Study—In the United States we eat too much sugar and it is killing us.  It is not just diabetes, however, as a new national study finds it may be a culprit behind deaths resulting from heart disease.

Giant Boulders Plow Through Italian Farmhouse & Vineyard—Sometimes we forget the everyday power of nature.  These pictures are kind of amazing.