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Sunday, September 28, 2014

rjs: climate news roundup

[Dear Readers, You may have noticed that I have not been posting as much lately. This is due to the fact that I know have a full-time job.  Internet buddy, rjs, has kindly taken up the slack, this week.]

This is a one-time-only mailing in deference to those in the group who traveled to New York for the People's Climate March.

California Or Ethiopia? "Families Dream Every Night About Water" -- It's worst and getting worst-er. Hundreds of domestic wells in California's drought-parched Central Valley farming region have run dry, according to AP, leaving many residents to rely on donated bottles of drinking water to get by. With government set to regulate deeper drilling, hope is plunging that a solution to California's drought will come anytime soon as groundwater levels plunge. The stories of struggle are simply stunning, especially given they are coming from America with Governor Brown signing an executive order that provides money to buy drinking water for residents statewide whose wells have dried up. "We need water like we need air," exclaimed one charity leader trying to raise money for water tanks, "Families every night dream about water," said another. And ripped from the famine-headlines of East Africa, "every day [Californians] thinking about how they're going to deal with water."

Wholesale Water Supplier To Half California’s Population Quickly Running Through Supplies As Drought Drags On — The giant wholesaler that provides drinking water for half the California population has run through two-thirds of its stored supplies as the state contends with a punishing drought.That’s according to Jeffrey Kightlinger, the general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.Without plentiful rain and snow in coming months, Kightlinger said in a speech in Los Angeles Monday that the water agency could consider cutbacks to its regional distributors next year. If such limits are approved, that could lead to rationing or cuts for households in portions of Southern California. At the current rate, billions of gallons in remaining agency reserves could be drained in about 18 months. Gov. Jerry Brown is urging residents to voluntarily reduce water use.

Zero Percent Water - Before we get to what this drought means — the anger and paranoia, the heartbreak and bitterness — it’s important to remember the Central Valley isn’t just any valley. It’s one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world. Our country’s breadbasket. Our primary source for tomatoes, almonds, grapes, cotton, and dozens of other products. I’m scheduled to see all of it, on what I’m told will be a “tour of destruction.” I expect the farmers I meet on this trip to be blighted and sorrowful, a bunch of Tom Joads just trying to make ends meet. But these guys are irreverent and cocksure. Tired, maybe. Clearly they listen to a lot of talk radio. I also expect ceaseless talk of the weather. Having grown up in farm country, I know every farmer looks helplessly to the sky hoping the weather gods will be kind. Even in the best of years, the weather is a weight. But in this current catastrophic cycle — three years of near-record rainfall deficits putting most of California at least one full year of normal rainfall behind recovery, some areas closer to two years, all while record breaking heat has currently left 58% of the state in “exceptional drought” conditions — I’m thinking I’ll hear nothing short of the lament of the forsaken. Instead, a man named Jeff Yarbro hammers on about who they see as enemy #1: environmentalists. As Yarbro has it, these particular environmentalists have fought to make sure whatever precious water is released from the state’s reservoirs goes first to facilitating salmon runs. The problem is that most of this water heads out into the ocean with no attempt to reuse it. “They want this valley all jackrabbits and sage brush,” he says, meaning the environmentalists. “They don’t believe we should be here. They’d like to turn the valley like it was a hundred years ago. And for us to go elsewhere.”

No rain for decades: Stand by for the ‘megadroughts,’ scientists warn - Climate change is set to unleash a series of decades-long “megadroughts” this century, according to research to be published this week.  Experts warn the droughts could be even more severe than the prolonged water shortage currently afflicting California, where residents have resorted to stealing from fire hydrants amid mass crop failures and regular wildfires. Megadroughts – which are generally defined as lasting 35 years or more – will become considerably more frequent as global warming increases temperatures and reduces rainfall in regions already susceptible, warns Cornell University’s Dr Toby Ault, the author of the new report. Megadroughts are also likely to be hotter and last longer than in the past, he claimed. His peer-reviewed research – to be published in the American Meterological Society’s Journal of Climate – is the first to scientifically establish that climate change exacerbates the threat.

“We can now explicitly add megadroughts to the list of risks that are being intensified by climate change. Without climate change there would be a 5-15% risk of a megadrought in the south-west of the US this century. With it, the probability jumps to between 20 and 50%, with the southernmost part of the country particularly at risk,” Dr Ault told The Independent. The threat megadroughts pose is so great they could decimate the world’s economy and food supply, inflicting a humanitarian crisis, experts warned. “Global warming will make droughts evermore severe and devastating in the future. The south-west of the US, southern Europe, much of Africa, India, Australia and much of Central and South America could all have a drought that lasts decades...”

2014 on Track to be Hottest Year on Record -- Just days after NASA data showed that August 2014 was the warmest August on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed the ranking and raised the ante: There’s a good chance 2014 could become the warmest year on record.  “If we continue a consistent departure from average for the rest of 2014, we will edge out 2010 as the warmest year on record,” said Jake Crouch, a climatologist with NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, during a press briefing Thursday.  Specifically, if each of the remaining months of the year ranks among the top five warmest, 2014 will take the top spot, he said. For the year-to-date, the globe has measured 1.22 °F above the 20th century average of 57.3 °F, which makes January-August 2014 the third warmest such period since records began in 1880. The record-hot August marks the 38th consecutive August and the 354th consecutive month with a global average temperature above the 20th century average, according to the NCDC.

Today, 310,000 people took to the streets of New York City to call for climate action - Today, 310,000 [400,000] people took to the streets of New York City to call for climate action -- the largest climate march in history. And we were joined by hundreds of thousands of others around the world at over 2,646 events in 156 countries. And on Tuesday, the world’s politicians will gather in New York to talk about climate action -- 125 heads of state in total. They’ll be gathering with the knowledge that more people than ever are demanding action, not just words, and that their political future is on the line -- as well as the future of the planet. We will bring that message to the top leadership of the UN inside Tuesday’s summit, with a hand-delivered message to top UN climate negotiators. If you stand with the hundreds of thousands of people who marched today around the world, tell world leaders that you mean business:

Photos: 400,000 Protesters March To Prevent Annihilation By Global Warming - Socialists, grandmothers, Baptists, babies, domestic workers, veterans, anarchists, and Leonardo Di Caprio all rallied to save the human species from itself during the People's Climate March on Sunday, in what one of the organizers called "the largest political gathering about anything in America in at least a decade." The "final" head count from the march's officials stood at 400,000, though there is no magic number that triggers the world leaders meeting to discuss climate change at the UN on Tuesday to actually do something about it. For Emma Suzuki-Jones and Holly Fuchigami, two college students who had recently moved to the city from Hawaii, New York's biggest demonstration since the 2004 RNC protests was also their first.   Suzuki-Jones said that she was most concerned about rising sea levels. "It's just weird to think that a lot of places in Hawaii are going to be underwater in 50 years." We didn't have the heart to point out that her adopted home would be underwater too.

"7.1 Billion Demonstrate In Favor Of Global Warming" -  -- In an overwhelming show of support for dangerously escalating temperatures, 7.1 billion people from nearly every nation on earth staged massive demonstrations yesterday in favor of global warming. “Whether they were sitting in their living rooms, watching football at a bar, or just driving somewhere, a sizable portion of the world let its support for climate change be heard loud and clear,” said environmental policy expert Janet Purvis, adding that the protest that began in the morning never lost steam at any point throughout the day. “This should serve as a wake-up call to officials around the world that the factors contributing to global warming are real, important, and must be protected at any cost.” At press time, the 7.1 billion protesters were reportedly making plans to stage similar rallies every day for the foreseeable future. [The Onion]

#OccupyAndOrFloodWallStreetForClimateChange Takes On NYSE TV Studio - Live Feed -- It has been several years since the disjointed, confused, and extremely disorganized Occupy Wall Street movement made any headlines. Alas, in the interim, the career prospects of those who comprise its up prime age demographic have gone nowhere but down while inversely impacting the nominal free time of said cohort, which is why we were somewhat surprised it took as long as it did for the same individuals, best known for camping out in Zucotti Park (until it started snowing of course), to stage a daring comeback. Which they did today, following a weekend in which New York City was overrun with "The People's Climate March", protesting against climate change by... leaving behind them tons of non-biodegradable garbage. It is this same group that has once again made its way all the way down into the Financial district, and specifically in front of the TV studio formerly known as the NYSE.

‘Flood Wall Street’ Protesters Say Root Cause Of Climate Change Is Unchecked Capitalism  — On Monday, a day after nearly 400,000 marchers gathered for the largest climate march in history, activists and protesters turned their attention to the many links between capitalism and climate change by flooding Wall Street with supporters.By early afternoon Monday, several thousand people were gathered just down the street from Wall Street around the iconic Charging Bull statue. They waved flags, chanted, and sat down on the street to draw attention to what they consider to be the primary cause of climate change.  The scene was far more tense than that of the previous day; two people were reportedly arrested for trying to cross a police barricade and several journalists and activists reported on Twitter that the NYPD used pepper spray on protesters rushing a barricade.  “We talk a lot about climate change and the root problems of climate change, but not many people are willing to say that the root problem of climate change is capitalism,” Sam Neubauer, 19, who came to the protest from Minnesota, told ThinkProgress. “Large corporations profit from capitalism by extracting oil and burning that oil and we need to call that out explicitly.”

102 Arrested at Flood Wall Street -- Shortly after the New York Stock Exchange 4 p.m. closing bell and hours after the protest began, New York City police arrested 102 people who were part of the Flood Wall Street protest yesterday, including several individuals in wheelchairs and one dressed as a polar bear.  A day after the historic People’s Climate March in New York City, which attracted around 400,000 people, thousands of environmental activists dressed in blue flooded into the lower Manhattan Financial District. It started with speakers like Naomi Klein, Chris Hedges and Rebecca Solnit as demonstrators assembled in Battery Park for the march and nonviolent sit-in which began around Noon. The demonstration and sit-in were peaceful and festive, although they clogged the streets, blocking normal traffic flow through the district and police presence was heavy throughout the day.

Rockefellers join anti-fossil fuel drive - A grass-roots movement against fossil fuels has secured its highest profile convert, as the family foundation built on the riches of John D Rockefeller’s Standard Oil announced plans to cuts its oil and coal investments. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund joins some 800 institutions and individuals, responsible for $50bn of investment, that have pledged to sell some or all of their fossil fuel holdings. The effort to make oil, gas and coal investments as unpopular as tobacco stocks or investments in apartheid-era South Africa gathered momentum in advance of Tuesday’s New York climate summit organised by Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general. “Stay away from this fossil fuel-based investment. Do much more on renewable energy,” Mr Ban told business and government leaders on Monday. The Rockefeller fund said it would sell its investments in the coal and Canadian oil sands industries and review its remaining fossil fuel holdings for possible sale in one or two years Stephen Heintz, the fund’s president, suggested that the oilman who founded Standard Oil in 1870 would approve and would be “leading the charge” into renewable energy if he were alive today. “He was an innovative, forward-looking businessman,” Mr Heintz said. “He would recognise that clean energy technology is the business of the future.”

Only $1 Trillion: Annual Investment Goal Puts Climate Solutions Within Reach -- A two-year-old number is changing the way governments, companies and investors approach the fight against climate change: $1 trillion. That is roughly the amount of additional investment needed worldwide each year for the next 36 years to stave off the worst effects of global warming and keep the Earth habitable, according to the International Energy Agency. The Paris-based organization of 29 developed countries calculated the cost in 2012 and raised its estimates this year. Ceres, a Boston-based nonprofit investor group that advocates environmental sustainability, framed it as the "Clean Trillion" in an investment campaign that has become a rallying cry. While $1 trillion sounds like a lot, knowing the figure is good news, according to climate activists, investment experts and United Nations organizers of the next round of global climate talks. Worldwide, almost $4 trillion a year will need to be invested over that time anyway in electric grids, power plants and energy efficiency, the IEA says. In a global economy of $75 trillion, $1 trillion works out to 1.3% of the world's annual output of goods and services, or about $140 a person. The calculation also focuses the discussion on investment—suggesting the potential for returns and profits—rather than on costs for disaster response and losses to rising oceans.

Obama Urged to Plug Methane Leaks to Meet Climate Goal - Environmental groups are asking the Obama administration to beef up its climate plan by targeting methane leaks in the web of valves, pipes and pumps drillers use to produce and deliver natural gas. While companies have a vested interest in keeping methane bottled up on its way to customers, some gas inevitably seeps out. That’s worrisome because methane -- the primary component of gas -- is 25 times more potent than carbon at trapping heat. The administration has embraced gas as a cleaner alternative to coal because it produces about half the carbon dioxide when burned to generate electricity. Conrad Schneider, advocacy director for the Clean Air Task Force, a Boston-based environmental group, said the U.S. won’t meet its own climate commitment to reduce greenhouse gases by 17% from 2005 levels by 2020 without targeting methane. “It’s a very potent global warming pollutant,” he said. Regulating methane “could be the great capstone to their climate efforts,” Schneider said in an interview.

The Benefits of Easing Climate Change - On Tuesday, more than 100 world leaders gathered at the United Nations to open a climate summit meeting that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hopes will provide momentum to a new round of negotiations toward a global environmental agreement to be signed in Paris next year. You’re forgiven if you hold your applause. World leaders have been trying without success to cut such a deal for almost two decades, crashing time and again into the fear that slowing the emissions of carbon that are inexorably changing the climate carries an economic cost that few are willing to bear.This time, though, advocates come armed with a trump card: All things considered, the cost of curbing carbon emissions may be considerably cheaper than earlier estimates had suggested. For all the fears that climate change mitigation would put the brakes on growth, it might actually enhance it.   Whether this can tip the balance toward the global grand bargain that has eluded world leaders so many times depends on a couple of things. The first is to what extent it is true. The second is whether this is, in fact, the issue that matters most to the people making the decisions. The most recent salvo came in “The New Climate Economy,” a report issued last week by an international commission appointed by a handful of rich and poor countries to take a new look at the economics of climate change. “There is now huge scope for action which can both enhance growth and reduce climate risk,” it reads. Efficient investments could deliver at least half of the emission cuts needed by 2030 to keep global temperatures in check. And they could do so while delivering extra economic gains on the side.

Is stopping climate change a free lunch? - We’re again seeing the return of magical thinking in the economics profession and elsewhere.  Limiting climate change is indeed worth doing, but it is not close to a free lunch.  Eduardo Porter makes the relevant point quite nicely“If the Chinese and the Indians found it much more economically efficient to build out solar, nuclear and wind, why are they still building all these coal plants?” asked Ted Nordhaus, chairman of the Breakthrough Institute, a think tank focused on [obfuscation] development and the environment. China’s CO2 emissions increased 4.2 percent last year, according to the Global Carbon Project, helping drive a global increase of 2.3 percent. China now accounts for 28 percent of the world’s total emissions, more than the United States and the European Union combined.“I don’t think the Chinese and the Indians are stupid,” Mr. Nordhaus told me. “They are looking at their indigenous energy resources and energy demand and making fairly reasonable decisions.” For them, combating climate change does not look at all like a free lunch. Note that doing something about air pollution and doing something about carbon emissions are two distinct issues.  America did a great deal to clean up its air, for instance when it comes to the dangerous Total Particulate Matter, but has done much less to lower its carbon emissions.  It is no accident that the former is a national public good, the latter is mainly a global public good.  China, India, and other developing nations may well go a similar route and simply keep emitting carbon at high and perhaps even growing rates.   If you lump everything together into a general “the benefits of getting rid of air pollution,” you will be missing that nations can and probably will make targeted clean-up attempts that leave carbon emissions largely intact.

Climate Realities -  ON Tuesday, world leaders will converge at United Nations headquarters in New York for a summit meeting on the climate that will set the stage for global negotiations next year to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the threat of global climate change. The summit is titled “Catalyzing Action,” a decidedly hopeful characterization.I wish I were so hopeful. It is true that, in theory, we can avoid the worst consequences of climate change with an intensive global effort over the next several decades. But given real-world economic and, in particular, political realities, that seems unlikely. There are emerging hints of a positive path ahead, but first let’s look at the sobering reality.  The world is now on track to more than double current greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere by the end of the century. This would push up average global temperatures by three to eight degrees Celsius and could mean the disappearance of glaciers, droughts in the mid-to-low latitudes, decreased crop productivity, increased sea levels and flooding, vanishing islands and coastal wetlands, greater storm frequency and intensity, the risk of species extinction and a significant spread of infectious disease. The United Nations has set a goal of keeping global temperatures from rising by no more than two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. (The average global temperature has increased by about 0.8 degrees Celsius since 1880, with two-thirds of the warming occurring since 1975.) Meeting this goal would require a worldwide reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 40 to 70 percent by midcentury, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That’s an immense challenge. The reality is that 300 years of economic growth in the industrialized countries have been fueled by the combustion of fossil fuels — coal, petroleum and natural gas. We still depend on these. And the large emerging economies of China, India, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico and South Africa are rapidly putting in place new infrastructure that is also dependent on burning fossil fuels.

U.N. Climate Summit: Staged Parade or Reality Show? - - The much-ballyhooed one-day Climate Summit next week is being hyped as one of the major political-environmental events at the United Nations this year.Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged over 120 of the world’s political and business leaders, who are expected to participate in the talk-fest, to announce significant and substantial initiatives, including funding commitments, “to help move the world towards a path that will limit global warming.”  And, according to the United Nations, the summit will mark the first time in five years that world leaders will gather to discuss what is described as an ecological disaster: climate change. The United Nations says the negative impact of global warming includes a rise in sea levels, extreme weather patterns, ocean acidification, melting of glaciers, extinction of biodiversity species and threats to world food security. But what really can one expect from a one-day event lasting probably over 12 hours of talk time, come Sep. 23? “A one-day event was never going to solve everything about climate change, but it could have been a turning point by demonstrating renewed political will to act,” Timothy Gore, head of policy, advocacy and research for the GROW Campaign at Oxfam International, told IPS. Some political leaders, he pointed out, will still use the opportunity to do that, “but too many look set to stay out of the limelight or steer clear of the kind of really transformational new commitments needed.”

Despite Rising Voice of Climate Movement, Global Leaders Dither - The largest ever gathering for climate action took place in New York on Sept. 21, just two days ahead of a major negotiations on a climate treaty between global leaders at the United Nations.  The “People’s Climate March” attracted an estimated 400,000 people and the message to the political class was clear: stop dithering – it’s time for meaningful action to reduce global carbon emissions. Despite the impassioned plea, most protestors are placing little faith in the UN process, as each summit seemingly ends in vague commitments and empty promises to slow the burning of fossil fuels. The 2014 meeting is intended to lay the major groundwork for an ultimate agreement in Paris next year, but few analysts are expecting a breakthrough. As the traditional UN pathway to agreement has proven intractable and largely ineffective, the climate movement has grown louder and more aggressive. Voices within the environmental movement that eschew incremental progress and partnerships with corporations have risen to the forefront. They criticize centrist environmental groups for selling out and helping big polluters “greenwash” their operations.

U.N. climate summit is high-profile, but some of world’s most important leaders will skip it -  This week, the United Nations will host a huge and well-publicized one-day summit on climate change.  It comes just days after thousands of people in New York and around the world took to the streets, demanding more political action to help fight global warming. The climate summit's organizer, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, took part in the New York march, and for Tuesday's event, he is promising to bring together some of the most powerful people in the world with a common purpose. "I have invited leaders from government, business, finance and civil society to present their vision, make bold announcements and forge new partnerships that will support the transformative change the world needs," wrote in a blog post on the summit for the Huffington Post. It's certainly true that the climate summit has an impressive guest list: More than 120 world leaders are heading to the United Nations in New York for the event, including President Obama and many big names from the private sphere. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio will give one of the opening speeches. But as impressive as that guest list is, what's more interesting is who is missing. Notably, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are skipping the event. In empirical terms, it's hard to think of two more important leaders in the world right now: Together they lead more than 2.5 billion people, more than a third of the world's population. And the two countries are not only the first and second most populous countries on Earth; research shows they also were the first- and third-biggest producers of carbon dioxide emissions (the United States holds the No. 2 spot). That figure can only partly be explained away by their huge populations: One study showed that per capita emissions from China recently surpassed that of the European Union, and India is predicted to follow suit in five years.Xi and Modi are not the only notable world leaders missing the summit. Russia is the 10th-most-populous country in the world and the fourth-largest producers of carbon dioxide emissions, yet President Vladimir Putin won't be in attendance.

At U.N., Obama Calls Climate Change a ‘Global Threat’ - In a forceful appeal for international cooperation on limiting carbon pollution, President Barack Obama warned starkly on Tuesday that the globe's climate is changing faster than efforts to address it. "Nobody gets a pass," he declared. "We have to raise our collective ambition."  Speaking at a United Nations summit, Obama said the United States is doing its part and that it will meet its goal to cut carbon pollution 17% from 2005 levels by 2020. He also announced modest new U.S. commitments to address climate change overseas. The summit aims to galvanize support for a global climate treaty to be finalized next year. But Obama's strongest comments came as he sought to unify the international conclave behind actions to reduce global warming."The alarm bells keep ringing, our citizens keep marching," he said. "We can't pretend we can't hear them. We need to answer the call. We need to cut carbon emission in our countries to prevent worse effects, adapt and work together as global community to tackle this global threat before it is too late." He said the U.S. and China as the largest polluters have a responsibility to lead. But, Obama added, "No nation can meet this global threat alone."

US will not commit to climate change aid for poor nations at UN summit -- Barack Obama will not be pledging any cash to a near-empty fund for poor countries at a United Nations summit on climate change next week, the UN special climate change envoy said on Friday. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, has challenged the 125 world leaders attending the 23 September summit to make “bold pledges” to the fund, intended to help poor countries cope with climate change. The UN has been pressing rich countries to come up with pledges of between $10bn and $15bn. “We are putting a lot of pressure for them to do it at the summit on the 23rd,” the UN envoy and former Irish president, Mary Robinson, told the Guardian on the sidelines of a US Agency for International Development meeting. But she added: “I know the United States is not going to commit because I’ve asked.”

We Need A Global Carbon Tax -- Despite my suspicions of the neoliberal tenor of the organizers and my post-Occupy reservations about marches without explicit political demands, I’m going to the People’s Climate March this morning. But if we were mobilizing around just one demand today, we could do worse than a global carbon tax, with revenues redistributed directly back to people through a global universal basic income. The policy is both politically infeasible and economically inferior to more complex and radical policy packages. But it is so blunt, and so revealing of the twin issues of inequality and climate change, that it is still a “useful utopia.” One of the many things I admire about Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century is that it examines capital and inequality through an international lens. His proposed solution is thus global in scope — the institutions and political alliances needed to make any progress must to operate at the same level as (or higher than) other global regulatory, diplomatic, and public goods arrangements. Wealth inequality across the global population is a problem just as inequality between current and future generations is a problem, one that must be addressed at a transnational level.  I want to make the connection between some of Piketty’s arguments about climate policy and environmental economics concrete, just as people like Naomi Klein and Christian Parenti have linked climate issues to redistribution and inequality.

At Summit, China Says It Will Peak Emissions ‘As Early As Possible’ But Bold Pledges Come Later -- As Tuesday’s United Nations summit wrapped up, there were an array of pledges to reduce carbon emissions and help fund green programs, but what did the world’s largest GHG emitter — China — have to say? Already expectations had been lowered due to the fact that President Xi Jinping sent Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli as his special envoy rather than going himself.  Speaking at the summit before Zhang, President Obama specifically said that the United States and China — the world’s two largest economies and largest carbon polluters — bear a “special responsibility to lead,” saying “that’s what big nations have to do.” “Nobody gets a pass,” Obama said. “We will do our part, and we’ll help developing nations do theirs.”  When it was his turn to speak, Zhang told the United Nations gathering that China will “try” to achieve a peak in its carbon emissions “as early as possible.” He did not provide further information on the timeline for that peak. He also pledged to provide $6 million for efforts by the U.N. to promote South-South cooperation on climate change among developing countries.  “As a responsible major developing country, China will make an even greater effort to address climate change and take on international responsibilities that are commensurate with our national conditions,” said Zhang.

China, the Climate and the Fate of the Planet -- The problem for China, in a word, is coal: About 70% of the country's electrical power comes from burning dirty rocks. The Chinese consumed nearly 4 billion tons in 2012, almost as much as the rest of the world combined. Like the oil industry in the U.S., the coal industry has enormous sway in China, making it all the more difficult to kick the habit. But as the rising power of the 21st century, China is under enormous political pressure to behave responsibly, lest it be seen as a pariah like Russia. "The choices that Chinese leaders make in the next decade will be absolutely pivotal to solving the climate crisis," says former Vice President Al Gore. And for China's economic and social stability, the consequences couldn't be higher. "Politically, it's very difficult to be fingered as the one most responsible for a looming catastrophe," Gore continues. Or, as Harvard's Stavins says, "If it's your century, you don't obstruct – you lead." On a more human level, there's also a lot of nervousness about China's notorious difficulty as a negotiating partner. "China has a very top-down culture – you have to speak to people right at the top," one of Kerry's top advisers tells me. "And they are very motivated on climate, due to air-pollution issues. But it's hard to get China to do hard things, in part because, unlike other Asian countries, doing things for the greater good is not a big motivation for them."

India's Push for Renewable Energy: Is It Enough? -- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will skip the United Nations climate summit happening in New York City next week just ahead of his first official U.S. visit. But India still faces steadfast international pressure to deliver action on climate change, even as Modi promises to bolster the energy supply in a country where more than 300 million people lack access to electricity. Growing economies like China and India, which are set to contribute more than half of the global increase in carbon emissions in the next 25 years, will play a critical role in any effort to address climate change. Shortly after Modi took office in May, one of his party officials made a sweeping promise: India would develop enough solar power to run at least one light bulb every home by 2019. The goal is part of a larger push to boost renewables in India, where energy demand is projected to double over the next 20 years. But even with a drastic boost of renewable energy, India faces a formidable challenge in weaning itself from coal, which accounts for 59 percent of its electric capacity. That dependence on fossil fuels is why India ranks fourth behind China, the United States, and the European Union in global greenhouse gas emissions.

Emissions From India Will Increase, Official Says - In a blow to American hopes of reaching an international deal to fight global warming, India’s new environment minister said Wednesday that his country would not offer a plan to cut its greenhouse gas emissions ahead of a climate summit next year in Paris.The minister, Prakash Javadekar, said in an interview that his government’s first priority was to alleviate poverty and improve the nation’s economy, which he said would necessarily involve an increase in emissions through new coal-powered electricity and transportation. He placed responsibility for what scientists call a coming climate crisis on the United States, the world’s largest historic greenhouse gas polluter, and dismissed the idea that India would make cuts to carbon emissions. “What cuts?” Mr. Javadekar said. “That’s for more developed countries. The moral principle of historic responsibility cannot be washed away.” Mr. Javadekar was referring to an argument frequently made by developing economies — that developed economies, chiefly the United States, which spent the last century building their economies while pumping warming emissions into the atmosphere — bear the greatest responsibility for cutting pollution.Mr. Javadekar said that government agencies in New Delhi were preparing plans for India’s domestic actions on climate change, but he said they would lead only to a lower rate of increase in carbon emissions. It would be at least 30 years, he said, before India would likely see a downturn. “India’s first task is eradication of poverty,” Mr. Javadekar said, speaking in a New York hotel suite a day after a United Nations climate summit. “Twenty percent of our population doesn’t have access to electricity, and that’s our top priority. We will grow faster, and our emissions will rise.”

Seeking an easy win on carbon emissions? Cut global trade --The Obama administration has proposed several ad hoc multi-country economic agreements, and in doing so has abandoned de facto the World Trade Organization (WTO) as insufficiently malleable to its interests. The two most important of these are the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the more recent Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Even as the latter was being negotiated by US and EU officials, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported that the increase in greenhouse gases is more rapid than expected. The organisation’s secretary-general warned that humankind is “running out of time” to reverse rising levels of carbon dioxide that drive climate change.These two items, agreements to increase world trade and rapidly rising greenhouse gases, call for a bit of “linked up thinking.” Trade itself is the problem.The US trade and investment initiatives have come under considerable attack for handing too much power over public services to private corporations, for reducing employment rights and for harming national sovereignty. Whatever the validity of these objections, there is a more fundamental problem. The purpose of the TPP and the TTIP is to increase the volume of trade among countries, and that is inherently bad for humankind because of its environmental effects. The charts below show why. The two countries with the most exports in 2012 are the US and China, with Germany and Japan considerably further back (both the US and China over US$2 trillion, Germany at just over 1.5). By no accident, China and the United States are at the top of the pollution list, with Japan fifth and Germany sixth. 

Capitalism vs. The Climate: Stephen Colbert Talks To Naomi Klein - Lobbing her softballs in the form of affable iterations of stock climate denier statements like “I don’t deny climate change, it’s happening I just don’t know if we need to do anything about it,” and “I fly over the country all the time, it’s green out there, there’s lakes, there’s rivers, it’s a beautiful world—it’s all cyclical,” Colbert provided her openings to explain her book’s thesis—that capitalism, with its demands for constant growth to fuel profit, must be scrapped to reverse climate change. “I haven’t finished reading the book,” said Colbert. “I don’t want to know who wins, capitalism or the climate. But I assume it’s capitalism because the book costs $30 and it’s printed on dead trees.”

Radical Ideas for Radical Times - Capitalism is again in the cross hairs of global climate activists. To save the earth, declare young activists, we need earth-shaking change going beyond the narrow constraints of a system that unapologetically prioritizes profits over people. The clock is ticking with scientists warning that substantial changes must be made in this century or our environment will suffer irreparable damage. As a result, more and more people are becoming less and less patient with an unresponsive power structure saturated with dollars. For example, popular author and social activist Naomi Klein, doesn’t mince words in her most recent best seller that unabashedly identifies the problem upfront in her title – Capitalism vs. the Climate. Such a frank discussion of how private ownership of our natural resources poisons the earth below and pollutes the atmosphere above needs to shift to economics as well. In this realm, one of the most renown figures of modern economics, John Maynard Keynes, describes best the pitfalls of our privately-owned economy by colorfully putting it this way: “Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.” To get out from under this wickedness, I argue that we need to go beyond Keynesian reforms that normally propose massive government stimulus creating more jobs. Of course, any and all reforms that offer even temporary relief should be fully supported.

Leonardo DiCaprio: We already knew there is a climate crisis. What most people don’t know is that it could rapidly accelerate because of the thaw and release of methane in the Arctic.- “We already knew there is a climate crisis. What most people don’t know is that it could rapidly accelerate because of the thaw and release of methane in the Arctic. We need immediate action to reverse this trend before it’s too late.” - Leonardo DiCaprio, narrator of Green World Rising, a series of episodes on the state of climate and solutions to the climate crisis.  

Episode 1 - CARBON shows how we can keep carbon in the ground through putting a price on carbon.
Episode 2 - LAST HOURS - the real threat of the release of methane from the melting arctic, thus triggering an extreme climate change event.
Episode 3 - Green World Rising shows our pathway forward through renewable technology that decentralizes the current power grid.
Episode 4 - Restoration discusses how the earth's natural ecosystems deal with climate and how we can work with nature to turn the tide.

Some Fracking Idiots Remain Skeptical of Climate Change - A climate-change march that organizers claim was the largest on record is nevertheless unlikely to change the minds of idiots, a survey of America’s idiots reveals. Despite bringing attention to a position that is embraced by more than ninety per cent of the world’s scientists, the People’s Climate March, which took place on Sunday in New York City, left a broad majority of the nation’s idiots unconvinced. “Look, if hundreds of thousands of people want to march about something, it’s a free country,” said Carol Foyler, an idiot from Kenosha, Wisconsin. “But let me ask them something: if the climate is really getting warmer, why was it so cold up here last winter?” Harland Dorrinson, an idiot from Hollywood, Florida, was also unmoved by the message of Sunday’s march. “What these marchers don’t realize is that the planet goes through natural cycles of heating and cooling,” he said. “Blaming people for global warming is like blaming dinosaurs for the ice age.” Skepticism about scientists characterized many of the idiots’ remarks, including those of Tracy Klugian, of Albuquerque, New Mexico. “Those marchers are holding signs that say ‘Scientists this, scientists that,’ ” he said. “Well, how can scientists be sure that the Earth was colder thousands of years ago, when no one had invented a thermometer?” Klugian said he was confident that, despite the impressive numbers for Sunday’s march, idiots would prevail in the ongoing climate-change debate. “At the end of the day, there are more people like us in Congress,” he said.

Memo To Obama: Expanded Natural Gas Use Worsens Climate Change -- A new study confirms that “increased natural gas use for electricity will not substantially reduce US GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions, and by delaying deployment of renewable energy technologies, may actually exacerbate the climate change problem in the long term.”  This Environmental Research Letters study should be sobering to fans of expanded gas use who care about global warming — such as the Environmental Defense Fund and President Obama — because it is true even if methane leakage from gas production and delivery could somehow miraculously be reduced to zero. “Natural gas has been presented as a bridge to a low-carbon future, but what we see is that it’s actually a major detour,” explained lead author Christine Shearer in the news release. “We find that the only effective paths to reducing greenhouse gases are a regulatory cap or a carbon tax.”  Although many fracking advocates pretend otherwise, this is not a new finding. Indeed, most claims that shale gas will significantly reduce U.S. carbon emissions in the future are based on little more than hand-waving and wishful thinking, as the literature makes clear. That’s because — even if we ignore methane leaks — those claims assume natural gas is replacing coal only, rather than replacing some combination of coal, renewables, nuclear power, and energy efficiency, which is what is happening in the real world.

Natural gas won’t save us from global warming, study confirms -  In his January State of the Union address, President Obama said that natural gas could be a low-emission "bridge fuel" that could allow the U.S. to help slow global warming. Demonstrators at Sunday's climate protest in New York apparently didn't get the talking points memo from the White House -- many carried signs calling for an end to fracking. The reality is that shale gas probably won't have much effect on climate change either way, according to a new study published Wednesday. "If you increase the use of gas, that will actually delay the deployment of renewable energy," said Christine Shearer of the University of California, Irvine, one of the authors of the study. Shearer and her colleagues modeled how the consequences for the climate in the next forty years would differ depending on how big the gas boom gets, how quickly solar technology develops, and what policies the federal government adopts to slow global warming. Their forecasts showed that the more natural gas is available, the less the energy sector will rely on renewable resources, and that the supply of natural gas will not have much effect on greenhouse gas emissions. Abundant gas reserves will lower electricity bills and encourage people and businesses to burn more electricity, the authors find. Also, cheap energy from gas will make building new solar panels and wind turbines less attractive to investors. The paper predicts that a larger supply of gas might reduce or add to emissions slightly, depending on how well companies can keep gas from leaking.

Arctic sea ice helps remove CO2 from the atmosphere: Due to global warming, larger and larger areas of sea ice melt in the summer and when sea ice freezes over in the winter it is thinner and more reduced. As the Arctic summers are getting warmer we may see an acceleration of global warming, because reduced sea ice in the Arctic will remove less CO2 from the atmosphere, Danish scientists report. "If our results are representative, then sea ice plays a greater role than expected, and we should take this into account in future global CO2 budgets," says Dorte Haubjerg Søgaard, PhD Fellow, Nordic Center for Earth Evolution, University of Southern Denmark and the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, Nuuk. Only recently scientists have realized that sea ice has an impact on the planet's CO2 balance. "We have long known that the Earth's oceans are able to absorb huge amounts of CO2. But we also thought that this did not apply to ocean areas covered by ice, because the ice was considered impenetrable. However, this is not true: New research shows that sea ice in the Arctic draws large amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere into the ocean." "The chemical removal of CO2 in sea ice occurs in two phases. First crystals of calcium carbonate are formed in sea ice in winter. During this formation CO2 splits off and is dissolved in a heavy cold brine, which gets squeezed out of the ice and sinks into the deeper parts of the ocean. Calcium carbonate cannot move as freely as CO2 and therefore it stays in the sea ice. In summer, when the sea ice melts, calcium carbonate dissolves, and CO2 is needed for this process. Thus, CO2 gets drawn from the atmosphere into the ocean - and therefore CO2 gets removed from the atmosphere," explains Dorte Haubjerg Søgaard. The biological removal of CO2 is done by algae binding of carbon in organic material.

Record sea ice around Antarctica due to global warming, -- The extent of the sea ice around Antarctica has hit a record high – for the third year running. Counter-intuitively, global warming is responsible.  Since satellite records began in 1979, the winter maximum sea ice cover around Antarctica has been growing at 1.5% per decade. This year has long been on track for a new annual record, with 150 daily records already set. The record was finally broken on 15 September and sea ice extent has increased since, according to data from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center analysed by Australia's Bureau of Meteorology in Hobart. More sea ice may seem odd in a warmer world, but new records are expected every few years, says Jan Lieser of the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre in Hobart. That's because the Southern Hemisphere warms more slowly than the north, as it has less landmass, boosting the winds that circle Antarctica and pulling cold air onto the sea ice. The melting of ice on the Antarctic mainland may also be creating more sea ice, by dumping easily frozen fresh water into the ocean, says Nerilie Abram of the Australian National University in Canberra.

Stop Syngenta’s radical new bee-killing pesticide plan

Take action now ►
Dear Tenney,
Save the bees.
The United States has already lost more than half of its managed honeybee colonies – and the problem could soon get much worse.
Swiss agribusiness giant Syngenta, which is one of Monsanto’s biggest competitors, just filed paperwork with the EPA requesting permission to increase the amount of the bee-killing pesticide thiamethoxam it uses on alfalfa, corn, barley, and wheat crops by up to 40,000%.1 If approved, this proposal would be absolutely devastating for bees and other pollinators.
The EPA has opened a crucial public comment period to take feedback on Syngenta’s bee-killing proposal – but we only have a few days to flood it with comments and save the bees.
A growing number of scientists place the blame for the rapid collapse of bee populations on neonicotinoid pesticides, including Syngenta’s thiamethoxam, which suppress bees’ immune systems and make them more susceptible deadly viruses and bacterial diseases.
That’s why governments and individuals around the globe are taking action to save bees and other pollinators by restricting or prohibiting the use of neonicotinoids. In Europe, after a major report found that these pesticides posed “high acute risks” to bees, the European Commission enacted a two-year ban in order to conduct further studies.2 And just a few weeks ago, Canadian beekeepers filed a $400 million lawsuit targeting pesticide manufacturers Syngenta and Bayer for their role in contributing to the deaths of honeybees.3
But here in the United States, the EPA plans to continue studying the issue until 2019 before taking action, despite the fact that bee populations continue to collapse.4 Bees can't afford to wait for the EPA to get its act together – and neither can we.
Syngenta’s new proposal to radically increase neonicotinoid pesticide use could be a death sentence for bees – and we need your help to build massive pressure on the EPA to reject it.
Thanks for fighting to save the bees.
Josh Nelson, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets
Add your name:
Take action now ►

RJS: Fracking news for September 28, 2014

There wasn't much fracking related news that got widespread coverage this week; there was some coverage of another study, this time from Stanford and Duke scientists, that showed that fracking wastewater cannot be treated by conventional wastewater treatment plants, and when it is, like they sometimes do in Pennsylvania, those disinfecting treatments that remove bacteria and similar organisms from water in those plants actually end up making the fracking wastewater more toxic, and unsafe for use downstream even when fracking wastewater is at concentrations of 0.01% of the total volume (1 part per ten thousand) of the water treated..

Ohio injection wells were in the news again this week; the Government Accountability Office released a report that cited Ohio as the only state that allows any and all unknown poisons to be disposed in its injection wells without so much even inquiring what might be going down there...obviously, this sets us up to get the worst of the worst poisons from everywhere; if anyone anywhere has a toxic liquid which they suspect wont pass muster for disposal in their own state, the logical choice would be to send it to Ohio...Ohio will take anything, no questions asked...

Also of interest locally, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources opened bidding for fracking rights under the northernmost 22 miles of the Ohio River that border that state... this is the finger of West Virginia that is sandwiched between Ohio and Pennsylvania, and the part of the river that they'll be fracking is about 30 miles south of Poland Ohio, where the ODNR had to shut down fracking operations because they generated'd think that with the experience West Virginia has with having toxic operations next to rivers they'd have learned their lesson, but no, here they go again....maybe the politicians in West Virginia have absorbed so many noxious chemicals over their lifetimes it's impacted their ability to think clearly...

Otherwise, there are several good articles near the end of this batch relating to the financing of marginal oil i've pointed out previously, many of the fracking operations in this area are unprofitable, and now they're faced with lower oil prices and the prospect of higher interest rates as the Fed unwinds its monetary stimulus...whether the whole fracking expansion itself is a financial Ponzi scheme or not is debatable - they do produce a product - but it seems certain that if oil prices should fall to $80 a barrel and stay there for any length of time, a significant part of the fracking that's being done in the US will have to fold up its tent and go home...

Since a number of you were involved in the Peoples Climate March, I'm going to follow this mailing with my batch of climate related links from this past week, which includes some coverage of the climate march and the UN climate summit... I would otherwise just add it here, but the number of links is a criteria for some spam filters to flag a mailing, and these packages are already getting pretty unwieldy already.

Once again, we'll start with Ohio news & opinion...

We support the right to protect local water; yes on 7 - Athens NEWS  - We support a "yes" vote on Issue 7 on the Athens city general election ballot Nov. 4. This ordinance, if passed, will seek to ban shale oil and gas drilling in the city, as well as related activities such as deep injection wells for fracking/drilling wastes. A local community should have the right to protect its air, water and quality of life against high-impact industrial activities. The fact that state law expressly says that Ohio cities and towns don't have this basic right is a scandal and disgrace.

Ohio Community Protests Fracking Wastewater Zoning: As natural gas production continues to spread across the country, some citizens are trying to fend off drilling rigs and waste sites in their backyards. While gas companies say they already face tough state regulations, that oversight doesn’t always ease residents’ fears. As Ohio quickly becomes a go-to destination for the nation's frackwaste, some people worry about earthquakes and water contamination, and argue the state has taken away their authority to decide whether oil and gas waste should be allowed in their backyards. Julie Grant reports for the public radio program the Allegheny Front, and has this story from a rural county that’s the biggest dumping ground in Ohio. [INDUSTRIAL NOISE]  This is the sound of dirty water flowing from a big, industrial truck into storage tanks. We’re in the countryside in Portage County, Ohio, in the midst of cornfields and a horse farm. When you drive in further, you see the large green storage tanks, the pump house, and the wellhead.  He’s just about unloaded there. See the hose shaking? That means that hundred barrel of water is in the system now. [INDUSTRIAL NOISE] Randy Ile operates this well for a Texas company, Stallion Oilfield Holdings. He says the water was trucked here from Pennsylvania. It’s wastewater from an oil and gas well.

Thirsty wells: Fracking consumes billions of gallons of water - Drillers in Ohio have used more than 4 billion gallons of water to frack horizontal shale wells since 2011. That’s a lot of water. Enough to fill one two-liter soda bottle for every person on the planet; or in terms that motorists in shale country can relate to, 800,000 tanker-loads of water.  The state surpassed the thousand-well mark in August. A Repository review of water usage reported by drillers to FracFocus, a national fracking-chemical registry, as of Sept. 12, shows:
    • • Of the first 1,031 Utica and Marcellus shale wells drilled, FracFocus listed the amount of water used to frack 662.
    • • Water use for all 1,031 wells could approach 6.7 billion gallons, based on average water-use rates per county.
    • • Chesapeake Energy used 2 billion gallons on 411 reported wells.
    • • Three wells in Ohio topped 17 million gallons.
    • • Average water usage was 6.1 million gallons.
    • • Fracking could consume more than 10 billion gallons of water if all current well permits are drilled.
    • • Some wells used more water than what drillers estimated on permit applications.
Ohio is cited in GAO report for fracking waste disposal - Drilling – Ohio -- Only Ohio allows fracking waste disposal without advance disclosure of chemical contaminants. : The federal Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) released a new report ( ) disclosing that Ohio alone of eight states studied allows contaminated waste fluids from oil and gas wells to be disposed without advance disclosure of the contaminants it contains. The report had been requested by members of U.S. Senate and House environment committees to disclose the level of disclosure on the nature and toxicity of such wastes since “fracking” of deep shale rock layers to unlock oil and natural gas deposits has become common. The report concluded that of the eight states studied (California, Colorado, Kentucky, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas), each state - with the sole exception of Ohio - required waste disposal companies to provide information on the characteristics of the waste to be disposed before they could receive a permit to “inject” the waste. The primary disposal method for these wastes are injection wells, which inject the waste fluids, frequently under high pressure, into deep rock formations where, in theory, it cannot contaminate sources of drinking water. The report acknowledges that the amount of oil and gas well wastes has increased dramatically since the advent of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” and that at least 2 billion gallons of contaminated wastes are disposed in injection wells daily; this water is also laced with a variety of chemicals, many toxic and many whose nature is undisclosed, to fracture the rock so the oil and gas it contains can be mobilized. Much of the contaminated fluid injected in this fashion is then forced back to the surface where it is collected and trucked off site for disposal at an injection well.The report reveals that many of the states studied have elaborate requirements to confirm the nature of this waste fluid before it can be approved for disposal. In stark contrast, Ohio requires no disclosure of the characteristics of the waste fluid either before, or after, an injection well permit is issued by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). 

'Crippling penalties' urged for drillers hiding fracking chemical lists - Some big, diverse names are speaking out on proposed EPA rules that could require oil and gas drillers to disclose the chemicals they use in fracking. Comments from the New York Attorney General and commissioners in Portage County, Ohio, plea for federal regulation, while oilfield services giant Halliburton Co. and the governor of Wyoming want the EPA to butt out. The commenting deadline was Sept. 18. Drillers generally oppose such regulations. They say their mix of chemicals used to get gas and oil out of shale is a trade secret. Other groups are in favor, because when accidents happen it’s imperative to know what emergency responders are dealing with. Plus, nearby residents should know what’s being pumped beneath them.  Rules differ by state, as I reported. At least 20 states have some sort of rule about chemical disclosure. Ohio requires companies to post chemicals concoctions to FracFocus, a website operated by the Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission. Eighty-three percent of registered Ohio wells invoked an exemption based on trade-secret claims. Commissioners in Portage County, which is just west of some of the big Utica shale counties in eastern Ohio, say they’re concerned about nondisclosure. The county has 18 active underground injection wells and eight more permitted. Ohio hosts 205 injection wells, where drillers in the Utica and Marcellus shale plays dispose fracking-related waste. “In short, chemicals should be disclosed, completely, from cradle to grave. Regulations should be strict, and penalties should be crippling so that companies are brought into line as soon as possible,” the board recommended.

Learning from the Marcellus to drill the Utica: “They’re a village of about 2,000 people, and they get all of their drinking water from two public water supply wells.” Because of that concern, the Garrettsville board hired Mr. Dick, director of the Natural Gas and Water Resources Institute at Youngstown State University, to conduct a groundwater baseline study on about 20 wells in the surrounding area that supply water. The study was funded by tax dollars, Mr. Dick said. It began in 2012 and is ongoing. Mr. Dick monitors the well water twice a year, in spring and fall. So far his research has found traces of chemicals associated with conventional oil and gas activity in the groundwater such as chloride, barium and methane, but they are not above the maximum concentration limits imposed by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. “What we found was evidence that oil and gas wells, not Utica wells, may have leaked materials,” Mr. Dick said. Parts of eastern Ohio, including Portage County where Garrettsville is located, used to be hot spots for traditional drilling activity, which could explain the chemicals found in the water, Mr. Dick said. “In order to determine the exact cause of it, it would take considerably more effort, but we did determine there has been leakage,” he added.

Pa. system for tracking compliance at Marcellus Shale well sites in disrepair: Six years into the Marcellus Shale natural gas boom, the state Department of Environmental Protection’s online data on Pennsylvania well sites is a study in incomplete data and inaccurate information. The DEP acknowledges that the online Compliance Report, which was supposed to provide clear and accessible information on everything from spills to driller performance, is so error-ridden that it is virtually impossible to get an accurate picture of how drilling is being regulated. The Post-Gazette analyzed every paper record for every Marcellus well incident that resulted in fines through June 1, 2014, and compared those to the information on the online Compliance Report. It found vast discrepancies between the field reports of the incidents and the electronic accounting of them. Among the findings:
  • • Of the 568 incidents at a Marcellus well that resulted in a fine, only 380 are listed online.
  • • Of those 380 listed incidents, a comparison with paper records showed that in 48 cases at least one violation was obscured because a generic code was used, in 44 cases an incorrect code was used, and in 102 cases at least one violation was completely dropped.
  • • In all, 256 violations were dropped. For example, in a Washington County case, Rice Energy was fined $85,000 for 10 violations, but the online record showed only one violation.
  • • Of the 188 fines not found online, 172 were for less serious administrative violations of filing late well records (149) and failing to obtain a state permit (23). Sixteen were for spills, sediment-laden water running off a site, or other potentially serious incidents that could directly impact the environment.
Treated Fracking Wastewater is Still Potentially Harmful - Concerns that fluids from hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” are contaminating drinking water abound. Now, scientists are bringing to light another angle that adds to the controversy. A new study, appearing in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, has found that discharge of fracking wastewaters to rivers, even after passage through wastewater treatment plants, could be putting the drinking water supplies of downstream cities at risk. William Mitch and colleagues point out that the disposal of fracking wastewater poses a major challenge for the companies that use the technique, which involves injecting millions of gallons of fluids into shale rock formations to release oil and gas. The resulting wastewater is highly radioactive and contains high levels of heavy metals and salts called halides (bromide, chloride and iodide). One approach to dealing with this wastewater is to treat it in municipal or commercial treatment plants and then release it into rivers and other surface waters. The problem is these plants don’t do a good job at removing halides. Researchers have raised concern that halide-contaminated surface water subsequently treated for drinking purposes with conventional methods, such as chlorination or ozonation, could lead to the formation of toxic byproducts.

Scientists: Fracking Wastewater Poses Threat To Drinking Water - Every year, hundreds of billions of gallons of wastewater are produced by fracking operations across America. Some of that water gets stored in manmade ponds, some of it is injected underground, and some of it is treated and put back into rivers. For the people whose drinking water systems are downstream of those rivers, scientists have some bad news. New peer-reviewed research from Stanford and Duke University scientists shows that even when fracking wastewater goes through water treatment plants, and is disposed of in rivers that are not drinking water systems, the treated water still risks contaminating human drinking water. That’s because there are generally drinking water systems downstream of those rivers, and treatment plants aren’t doing a good job of removing contaminants called halides, which have the potential to harm human health. The scientists say halides — which are salts like bromide, chloride, and iodide — are often found in fracking wastewater, and the concern about them is that their presence in the water can promote the formation of something called “disinfection byproducts,” or DBPs. These chemicals — trihalomethanes,haloacetic acidsbromate, and chlorite — are formed when the disinfectants used in water treatment plants react with halides, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology and released by the American Chemical Society on Wednesday, the research showed that toxic compounds formed in water even when fracking wastewater made up only 0.01 to 0.1 percent of the waters’ volume. To prevent this from happening, the researchers recommended that fracking wastewater should not be discharged into surface waters, even when it is treated.

Frackers Rebranding Fracking - When a product or corporation takes a hit in public opinion, one of the steps that will be taken is to change their name or roll out a rebranding campaign. Led by their front group, the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC), frackers are rebranding fracking. Or to put it another way, they are putting a pretty red bow on a pile of poop. How much are they spending on this fracking rebranding campaign? They won’t say. It’s proprietary, hush hush, in the same fashion as the super-double secret ingredients in the chemicals used in fracking.With the blessings of the Heritage Foundation, a right wing think tank, the fracking ad campaign feature actors , including a little girl, saying “ Fracking’s a good word,” “Fracking Rocks” and “Fracking: Rock Solid for PA.” The astroturf industry group, United Shale Advocates has the ad up on their youtube channel titled Rock Solid Facts. Not surprising, the ad is a rerun of the same pile of talking point poop the industry has been promoting all along.A few years ago, the industry shied away from the word “Fracking.” They thought it was obscene.  People agreed, fracking is obscene.Today they are embracing the obscene word as much as they have embraced the obscene practice of drilling, fracking and extraction of fossil fuels, while neglecting to mention the consequences this has on real people.

Facing tough budget picture, West Virginia to let companies frack under Ohio River — Facing another tough budget scenario, West Virginia is ready to let companies drill for oil and natural gas deep beneath 14 miles of the Ohio River. On Friday, state commerce officials opened bids to drill under the northern West Virginia section of the river, which serves as a natural border with Ohio. Officials said other river tracts could be next, and a wildlife management area is under consideration. Leasing state land for a drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking, is a new venture for West Virginia, and could produce plenty of money during uncertain budget times. A bid by Triad Hunter, for instance, would yield the state $17.8 million up front for a five-year lease, plus 18 percent in royalties from what's extracted. "It creates what could be a substantial revenue stream at a time when budgets are very tight," said state Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette. The state used $100 million from its Rainy Day Fund to balance this year's budget, and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's administration expects to need another $100 million to help shore up next year's budget.

West Virginia DNR opens bids for oil and gas drilling rights under Ohio River -  The West Virginia Department of Commerce opened four bids Sept. 26 for period for drilling rights on state-owned land under 22 miles of the Ohio River in Pleasants, Marshall and Wetzel counties. The Division of Natural Resources, which is under the Department of Commerce, opened the bidding period on Aug. 13, and required a minimum bid of at least 20 percent worth of production royalties and a per-acre least payment. The Department received a bid for drilling rights from river mile markers 106 to 116 in Marshall County for a 20 percent royalty payment and $211.11 per acre cash bonus from Houston-based Noble Energy; a bid for rights from mile 124 to 125 in Wetzel County for a 20 percent royalty payment and $8,125 per acre cash bonus from Houston-based Statoil USA Onshore Properties; a bid for rights from mile markers 108 to 116 in Marshall County, 121 to 125 in Wetzel County, and 145-147 in Pleasants and Tyler counties for a royalty payment of about 18 percent and a $7,100 per acre cash bonus from Marietta, Ohio-based Triad Hunter LLC; and a bid for rights under mile markers 121 to 123 in Marshall and Wetzel counties for a 20 percent royalty payment and $3,500 per acre cash bonus from Gastar Exploration, which is also based in Houston. Although DNR required a minimum 20 percent royalty payment, Josh. Jarrell, the Department's deputy secretary and general counsel, said he wouldn't yet “disqualify” Triad Hunter for choosing a royalty payment of less than 20 percent. “We're going evaluate everything,” Jarrell said, adding that the team choosing the winner will be “examining to determine the highest competitive, responsible bid.”

Four Bids Submitted to Drill for Oil and Natural Gas Under Ohio River -  Four bids are in and the Department of Natural Resources is reviewing them to see who will be fracking in the Ohio River. People appear to be split on Governor Earl Ray Tomblin's plan. While some believe that it could be damaging to the environment, others think it'll be great for the economy. Governor Tomblin believes West Virginia should continue to capitalize on the benefits of its natural resources, even if that means drilling in the river. According to the West Virginia Department of Commerce, frackers will give the state at least 20 percent worth of production royalties. "This is step one of a much larger process, obviously; we own the mineral rights, we manage those mineral rights. This isn't even the first drill, mineral, along the Ohio River, under the Ohio River," West Virginia Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette said. The plan would affect 22 miles under the Ohio River, going through Marshall, Wetzel and Pleasants Counties. Burdette said they're not at the permitting process just yet. "We do not issue permits, so this is not the permitting process. This will be regulated by the Department of Environmental Protection as they do all other drilling; they'll have to make sure that the permit meets all the safety requirements of the law."

For Oil and Gas Companies, Rigging Seems to Involve Wages, Too - A ProPublica review of U.S. Department of Labor investigations shows that oil and gas workers – men and women often performing high-risk jobs – are routinely being underpaid, and the companies hiring them often are using accounting techniques to deny workers benefits such as medical leave or unemployment insurance. The DOL investigations have centered on what is known as worker "misclassification," an accounting gambit whereby companies treat full time employees as independent contractors paid hourly wages, and then fail to make good on their obligations. The technique, investigators and experts say, has become ever more common as small companies seek to gain contracts in an intensely competitive market by holding labor costs down. In the complex, rapidly expanding oil and gas industry, much of the day to day work done on oil rigs and gas wells is sub-contracted out to smaller companies. For instance, on one gas rig alone, the operator might hire one company to construct the well pad, another to drill the well, a third company to provide hydraulic fracking services and yet another to truck water and chemicals for disposal.  As of August this year, the DOL has conducted 435 investigations resulting in over $13 million in back wages found due for more than 9,100 workers. ProPublica obtained data for 350 of those cases from the agency. In over a fifth of the investigations, companies in violation paid more than $10,000 in back wages.

ProPublica: Oil, gas workers underpaid for high-risk jobs - A ProPublica review of U.S. Department of Labor investigations has found that oil and gas workers are routinely being underpaid for their high-risk jobs and often denied benefits such as medical leave or unemployment insurance, Naveena Sadasivam writes.. The DOL investigations have centered on worker "misclassification," an accounting gambit whereby companies treat full-time employees as independent contractors paid hourly wages, and then fail to make good on their obligations. The technique has become ever more common as small companies seek to gain contracts in an intensely competitive market by holding labor costs down. Sadasivam goes on to note: Over the last decade, the oil and gas industry has seen tremendous growth, even as average employment in all U.S. industries has fallen. At the same time, the industry has seen an increase in fatalities and injuries on the job -- risks often associated with inadequate training or overworked laborers. As of August this year, the DOL has conducted 435 investigations resulting in over $13 million in back wages found due for more than 9,100 workers in the fracking industry and its related industries. Labor lawyers specializing in wage disputes say the governing law -- the Fair Labor Standards Act -- is not easy to understand, interpret and comply with. As a result, they say employers can be unintentionally violating wage laws. But several investigations by the DOL show there are companies willfully dodging their responsibilities as well.

Living Death: The Real Costs of Fracking - The first animal to die wasn't a horse, but a young, beloved boxer named Mr. Higgins. A veterinarian diagnosed kidney failure. One of Mr. Higgins' lymph nodes was enlarged; a New York State veterinarian named Michelle Bamberger, who was interviewing Pennsylvania residents for a book she was writing with Cornell University molecular medicine professor Robert Oswald, advised a needle biopsy to rule out lymphoma (common in this breed).  The needle biopsy was never done - even though Josie brought Mr. Higgins to a specialty clinic, she "declined further diagnostics and opted for euthanasia," not being able to bear watching him suffer any longer. Next in the death march was a horse named Amy, pronounced healthy by a veterinarian several months after Mr. Higgins died, but who, a few weeks after that, stopped eating, lost weight and appeared to lose her balance and coordination. A vet came to treat Amy for what he assumed was a neurological disease (equine protozoal myeloencephalitis) and took blood for testing. Two days later Amy's back legs became so weak she couldn't stand. She sank in her stall and began convulsing. Again distraught, Josie had Amy euthanized. The blood results indicated liver failure due to toxicity - the vet suspected poisoning from heavy metals (these are present in fracking wastewater) - but the illness was never diagnosed. Josie couldn't afford the necropsy and further testing that might have concluded the diagnosis. Moreover, representatives of the drilling company came soon after the euthanasia and offered a "neighborly thing": carting Amy's body off to be incinerated.

Shale gas extraction issues go beyond fracking: Ask oil and gas industry advocates, environmentalists and regulators about the biggest issues facing shale gas development, and none are likely to cite the possibility of fracking fluids traveling up thousands of feet of rock into groundwater aquifers as their top concern. There’s surface spills, transportation accidents, leaks in holding tanks and impoundments — all of these have much more potential to pollute groundwater. Yet blaming — or exonerating — fracking for this method of groundwater pollution seems to lead reports of new shale studies, even if those studies say little about actual fracking. “Faulty well integrity, not hydraulic fracturing deep underground, is the primary cause of drinking water contamination from shale gas extraction in parts of Pennsylvania and Texas, according to a new study by researchers from five universities,” began a press release last week from Duke University, former home of Rob Jackson, one of the scientists involved in the study. The study, one of several for Mr. Jackson dealing with groundwater contamination from shale development, used noble gases and more traditional gas fingerprinting techniques to trace the origin and pathways of methane traveling into groundwater. It suggested that leaks in either the steel pipes that carry gas to the surface or in the cement that envelopes those pipes allowed methane to escape into shallower depths, causing changes to well water supplies in Pennsylvania and Texas. The study did not examine whether the pressure exerted on the well’s layers during hydraulic fracturing contributed to or caused the casing to become compromised.

Frack Spill du Jour - The good news:
(1) The two spill sites impacted a small creek (Little Mingo Creek) which does not flow into the scenic Mingo Creek passing through Mingo Park.
(2) Bentonite clay (at least by itself) is basically considered ‘non-toxic.’

The bad news:
  • Bentonite is a very fine gray clay which has serious impacts on aquatic life. “When released in large amounts it can coat the bottom of a stream, smothering spawning gravels and killing the insects on which fish feed. Even diluted amounts of bentonite in a stream are a considerable risk to the function of an ecosystem. The ecological ramifications of a bentonite spill are NOT minor and may affect aquatic ecology far downstream from the spill site.”
  • Several miles of small streams and creeks were impacted, so Sunoco Logistics’ subcontractor Precision Pipeline was hosing out 2 miles of the most impacted creek beds.
  • This sort of spill has occurred multiple times in our county over the past few years, and with pipeline construction still ramping up, more impacts to creeks are a near certainty.
  • Video of Scene:
Tribe bans fracking: The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has joined a growing number of local governments opposing the state legislature’s decision to allow hydraulic fracturing, called fracking, in North Carolina. Earlier this month, tribal council passed a resolution outlawing the practice on tribal lands, a force of authority stronger than what county and municipal governments possess. The June legislation that lifted the state’s moratorium on fracking included a clause keeping local governments from outlawing the practice in their jurisdiction, so their resolutions are an expression of opinion rather than an act of law. But the Eastern Band is a sovereign nation, so the tribal council is able to completely prevent drilling on Cherokee land. “The State of North Carolina is without legal authority to permit hydraulic fracturing on Tribal Trust lands,” the resolution reads, later continuing, “The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will not permit or authorize any person, corporation or other legal entity to engage in hydraulic fracturing on Tribal Trust lands.” Though Councilmember Perry Shell says he understands the economic benefits of producing natural gas, he’s not convinced that it can be done without harming the land.

Fracking's environmental impacts scrutinized —Greenhouse gas emissions from the production and use of shale gas would be comparable to conventional natural gas, but the controversial energy source actually faired better than renewables on some environmental impacts, according to new research. The UK holds enough shale gas to supply its entire gas demand for 470 years, promising to solve the country's energy crisis and end its reliance on fossil-fuel imports from unstable markets. But for many, including climate scientists and environmental groups, shale gas exploitation is viewed as environmentally dangerous and would result in the UK reneging on its greenhouse gas reduction obligations under the Climate Change Act. University of Manchester scientists have now conducted one of the most thorough examinations of the likely environmental impacts of shale gas exploitation in the UK in a bid to inform the debate. Their research has just been published in the leading academic journal Applied Energy and study lead author, Professor Adisa Azapagic, will outline the findings at the Labour Party Conference in Manchester on Monday (22 September). "While exploration is currently ongoing in the UK, commercial extraction of shale gas has not yet begun, yet its potential has stirred controversy over its environmental impacts, its safety and the difficulty of justifying its use to a nation conscious of climate change."

With 38% of Global Shale Gas Located in Regions of Water Stress, More Oversight of Fracking is Urgently Needed -- As more data emerge, shale gas increasingly appears to be in the cross-hairs of the water-energy nexus, and far too little is being done to defuse impending conflicts. While hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”), the process used to unleash natural gas from shale deposits, has raised serious concerns about groundwater contamination, less attention has been given to the added competition for limited water supplies the process can bring. Each fracking well can require up to 25 million liters (6.6 million gallons) of water. A new study by the World Resources Institute (WRI), a research group based in Washington, DC, attempts to fill this knowledge gap by overlaying known recoverable resources, or “plays,” of shale gas onto maps of water stress.   The results raise concerns. The WRI team found that 38% of shale gas resources worldwide reside in areas that are either naturally arid, and so have limited water overall, or in areas with high to extremely high levels of water stress, which means that competition for water is already keen if not intense. With some 386 million people living atop these shale-gas regions and agriculture the dominant water user in 40 percent of them, the stage is set for rising tensions as shale gas production competes with farmers and city dwellers for limited water.  Of the 20 countries with the largest shale gas resources believed to be technically recoverable, 8 are either in arid zones or already face high water-stress in the regions where those resources are located: Algeria, China, Egypt, India, Libya, Mexico, Pakistan and South Africa.

Is the Shale Revolution a ‘Ponzi Scheme’ or the End of Peak Oil?  -- A lot of folks are fervently forecasting that shale gas and oil production is a bubble about to pop, possibly producing an economic collapse similar to the one in 2008. Earlier this week, the left-leaning Center for Research on Globalization in Montreal dismissed the shale revolution as a “Ponzi scheme” and “this decade’s version of the Dotcom bubble.” In a column last year for The Guardian, Nafeez Ahmed of the Institute for Policy Research and Development cited studies predicting that U.S. shale gas production will likely peak in 2015 and oil production in 2017. A month later, Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute said, “It turns out there are only a few ‘plays’ or geological formations in the US from which shale gas is being produced; in virtually all of them, except the Marcellus (in Pennsylvania and West Virginia), production rates are already either in plateau or decline.” So was President Barack Obama wrong in 2012, when he claimed, “We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years”? Perhaps not. The renaissance of oil and gas production in the United States has largely been the result of applying the technique of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), which releases vast quantities of hydrocarbons trapped in tight shale formations. The bubble theorists make much of the fact that production tends to drop more rapidly in fracked wells than in conventional ones, forcing the frackers to drill more holes just to keep up. They overlook the fact that drillers are working ever faster and cheaper and that newer wells tend to be more productive than earlier wells.  So what about Heinberg’s claim that “production rates are already either in plateau or decline”? He’s just wrong. The September drilling productivity report from the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA) notes that since 2013, that gas production is up in every one of the “plays” cited by Heinberg. Production in the Bakken region of North Dakota grew 8 percent; the Eagle Ford, Permian, and Haynesville regions in Texas increased 15, 7, and 97 percent, respectively; the Niobrara region in Wyoming and Colorado rose by 29 percent; and the Utica and Marcellus regions in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia surged 142 and 47 percent.

Shale Revolution Deniers Face An Inconvenient Truth - Despite turning the U.S. into the world’s largest producer of natural gas and driving a 3 million barrel per day surge in U.S. oil production in just the last three years, the shale revolution still has its doubters. They couldn’t be more wrong. Time and again over decades, the naysayers and “peak oil” advocates have grossly underestimated the energy industry’s ability to innovate and beat production forecasts. Today’s shale pessimists continue to do so. There are two important reasons why the shale pessimists are wrong: innovation and expertise. The shale revolution was launched because of breakthroughs in a range of technologies, most notably advances in horizontal drilling paired with advanced hydraulic fracturing. Competition and innovation drive the oil and gas industry, particularly in the U.S. The innovation that unlocked the nation’s oceans of shale resources hasn’t stopped but instead has actually intensified. New ideas, technologies and ways of cracking the shale code emerge daily. And America’s amazing “petropreneurs” have obviously gotten very good at what they do.Crews are working more efficiently, bringing wells online in shorter periods and producing more oil and gas from each new well. Consider Arkansas’ Fayetteville Shale, where the average drilling time for a new well has fallen from 17.5 days in 2007 to just 6.2 days in 2013. In the Marcellus Shale, America’s largest single shale gas field, each well is producing eight million cubic feet of gas per day on average — more than eight times what each well produced as recently as 2009.

Fracked Up: Don't Believe In Miracles -- There is no doubt that fracking stopped the long-term decline in U.S. oil output. Since the all-time low output in 2006, daily oil production has increased by 30%. Natural gas production has soared even higher, but seems to have leveled off. Ignoring the environmental impacts of fracking, just the economics alone show that shale oil and gas are not the miracle that will save us from the perils of peak cheap oil. Fracking extraction of oil is extremely expensive. If oil prices were to fall to $80 per barrel, there would be no profits for frackers. They would stop drilling wells. So don’t plan on ever paying less than $3 per gallon for gasoline ever again. Don’t believe in miracles.

How Rising Interest Rates Could Spell the End of the U.S. Energy Boom: The winding down of extraordinary measures taken by the U.S. Federal Reserve to ameliorate the effects of the financial crisis could reverberate through energy markets. The Fed has kept short-term interest rates near zero for several years, a target that the institution hoped would spur lending and kick start the moribund economy in 2009. With job growth anemic for half a decade after the crash, the Fed has maintained its monetary stimulus right up until today.   But with the economy on more solid footing, the Fed is preparing to wind down its stimulus, known as “quantitative easing.” And although details are murky, the Fed will likely decide to raise interest rates sometime in 2015.   So what does this have to do with energy? The oil and gas industry is extremely capital intensive, with billions of dollars required in some cases to pull hydrocarbons from the ground. That means that companies need to sell a lot of debt to financial markets, and use the cash to bring projects online.  But if interest rates rise, it will significantly raise borrowing costs for oil and gas operators. And the repercussions will amount to a double whammy.  First, increasing interest rates should strengthen the U.S. dollar relative to other currencies. Higher interest rates makes holding dollars more attractive, which increases demand for the currency. Why does that matter? Oil is priced in dollars, so a stronger dollar pushes down oil prices, along with other commodities priced in dollars. Lower oil prices mean lower revenues for oil companies.   Second, higher interest rates will make debt more expensive. Yields on corporate debt will rise as the Fed targets higher interest rates, making it more expensive to take out a loan to drill an oil well.

UK Government Says Never Mind What People Want, Let’s Frack -- Following a nearly three-month public comment period in which more than 90 percent of the comments were opposed, the UK government announced it will go ahead with a plan to allow fracking beneath homes without the owners’ permission. Current rules allow homeowners to block shale gas projects. The government says the legal process to force them to allow them so is too time-consuming and expensive. The Guardian of London reported that of the 40,647 responses received, 99 percent opposed the plan. Removing 28,821 responses submitted by two environmental group campaigns, 92 percent opposed it.“The majority of respondents included campaign text opposing hydraulic fracturing and/or the proposed change to underground access legislation and did not specifically address the questions to the consultation,” the government websitesaid. “We acknowledge the large number of responses against the proposal and the fact that the proposal has provided an opportunity for the public to voice their concerns and raise issues. However the role of the consultation was to seek arguments and evidence to consider in developing the proposed policy. Whilst a wide range of arguments were raised and points covered, we did not identify any issues that persuaded us to change the basic form of the proposals.” So they didn’t.

Look out below: Danger lurks underground from aging gas pipes: About every other day over the past decade, a gas leak in the United States has destroyed property, hurt someone or killed someone, a USA TODAY Network investigation finds. The most destructive blasts have killed at least 135 people, injured 600 and caused $2 billion in damages since 2004. The death toll includes:
  • • The explosion that leveled part of a New York City block in East Harlem in March, killing eight and injuring 48 more.
  • • A blast that flattened the concrete floors of an apartment building in Birmingham, Ala., killing one woman in December.
  • • A flash fireball in 2012 that left an Austin man dead, a scarred foundation where his house once stood and debris strewn across yards of his neighbors.
The gas leaks that fueled those blasts are not uncommon. Neither is the cast-iron pipe — some of it more than a century old — that is the chief suspect in each of those three explosions and many others, according to the investigation by USA TODAY and affiliated newspapers and TV stations across the country.

Top Pittsburgh emergency response official talks about risks of crude oil trains -- Emergency response officials are currently assessing the risks that trains carrying millions of gallons of highly combustible crude oil pose to residents in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Raymond DeMichiei (Dee-Mi-Shay), deputy director of Pittsburgh’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, is overseeing that appraisal. “We don’t want people to have a false sense of security,” he said. “Yes, there is a risk. [But] we’re managing the risk.” Trains carrying crude snake through Pittsburgh and the region on their way from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale fields to refineries in Philadelphia and other East Coast cities. Pittsburgh landmarks that could be in the line of fire if a train exploded, he said, are all of downtown, Heinz Field, PNC Park and the CONSOL Energy Center. All are within a half mile of rail lines that carry crude oil, said DeMichiei. A half mile on each side of railroad tracks is the federally recommended evacuation zone if a crude-oil train fire occurs.

Oil Producers Say Oil Train Safety Rules Wouldn’t Make Oil Trains Safer -- North Dakota oil producers aren’t happy about new regulations that could force them to make their crude oil less volatile before they load it onto trains, claiming that the regulations won’t actually make shipping oil any safer. As the AP reports, North Dakota is considering implementing new regulations aimed at reducing the volatility of crude oil by removing specific gases and liquids from the oil. The regulations would require oil recovered from North Dakota’s Bakken region to be refined further before being shipped, in an attempt to reduce the chance of the oil catching fire or causing an explosion if the train it’s being carried in derails. But some oil producers in the state don’t think these new precautions are necessary.“To date, no evidence has been presented to suggest that measurable safety improvements would result from processes beyond current oil conditioning,” Hess Corp. spokesman Brent Lohnes told the AP.Kari Cutting, vice president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, which represents more than 500 companies involved with North Dakota’s oil industry, also tried to downplay crude’s volatility. Several major train accidents have occurred in the last few years, including the disastrous derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, that killed 47 people. Cutting said the crude oil in the railcars “was not the cause” of these accidents.  “Requiring stabilization beyond current conditioning practices would be a costly, redundant process that would not yield any additional safety benefits,” Cutting said.

Why so much oil from the fracking boom is moving by high-risk rail -- Rail shipments of U.S. crude oil produced in the fracking zones rose by 2,400 percent from 2008 to 2012, according to a report issued Monday by the Government Accountability Office — a period when oil production from the shale and sandstone formations, though booming, increased by less than sixfold. Main reason: Pipeline construction lagged far, far behind the surging production of both oil and natural gas, because investment in U.S. infrastructure for transporting, processing and storing both oil and natural gas went up just 60 percent in the same five-year period, with new pipelines accounting for only a piece of that. Main result: More deaths and injuries past and future, because rail shipping is inherently more prone to these than pipeline transport. Also, a much higher risk of catastrophe as oil-laden "unit trains" of 80 to 120 tank cars move through the nation's largest, densest metropolitan areas, including the Twin Cities. (More oil is moving by truck and barge as well.) It is difficult, for some reason, to clearly attribute injuries and fatalities to rail shipments of oil and gas versus other cargo. However, GAO's auditors found that from 2007 to 2011,Fatalities averaged about 14 per year for all pipeline incidents reported to the [Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation], including an average of about 2 fatalities per year resulting from incidents on hazardous liquid and natural gas transmission pipelines.

Why It Matters That Statoil Just Shelved Its Multi-Billion-Dollar Tar Sands Project -- In what’s being hailed as a huge win for environmentalists, Norwegian oil company Statoil announced on Thursday that it would postpone a planned multi-billion dollar tar sands oil development project in Fort McMurray, Alberta, for at least three years. The major project, when completed, was supposed to produce 40,000 barrels of Canadian tar sands, or oil sands, crude oil every day. Statoil is putting the project on hold for a few reasons, but the most notable is the company’s assertion that there is “limited pipeline access” for the oil. In other words, Statoil is not sure there is enough pipeline capacity for it to actually get the oil out of northern Canada. According to Reuters, Statoil is the first company to explicitly cite pipeline access as a reason for delaying or cancelling a project. For environmentalists and advocates opposed to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, this decision is huge. A group of six environmental organizations including the Sierra Club and are calling it “tangible proof” that strong, coordinated opposition to big pipeline projects like Keystone XL “lead to real reductions in tar sands investment and associated carbon pollution.”

Could Low Oil Prices Point To A Debt Bubble Collapse?: Oil and other commodity prices have recently been dropping. Is this good news, or bad?I would argue that falling commodity prices are bad news. It likely means that the debt bubble which has been holding up the world economy for a very long–since World War II, at least–is failing to expand sufficiently. If the debt bubble collapses, we will be in huge difficulty. Many people have the impression that falling oil prices mean that the cost of production is falling, and thus that the feared “peak oil” is far in the distance. This is not the correct interpretation, especially when many types of commodities are decreasing in price at the same time. When prices are set in a world market, the big issue is affordability. Even if food, oil and coal are close to necessities, consumers can’t pay more than they can afford. A person can tell from Figure 1 that since the first part of 2011, the prices of Brent oil, Australian coal, and food have been trending downward. This drop in prices continues into September. For example, as I write this, Brent oil price is $97.70, while the average price for the latest month shown (August) is $105.27. It is this steeper, recent drop, which many are concerned about.We are dealing with several confusing issues. Let me try to explain some of them. Issue #1: Over the short term, commodity prices don’t reflect the cost of extraction; they reflect what buyers can afford. Oil prices are set on a worldwide basis. The cost of extraction varies around the world. So it is clear that oil prices will not match the cost of extraction, or the cost of extraction plus a reasonable profit, for any particular producer.

Peak Oil: Are We In The Eye Of The Storm? - Ten years ago peak oil was assumed to be a rather straightforward, transparent process. What was then thought of as “oil” production was going to stop growing around the middle of the last decade. Shortages were going to occur; prices were going to rise; demand was going to drop; economies would falter; and eventually a major economic depression was going to occur. Fortunately or not, depending on your point of view, the last ten years have turned out to a lot more complicated than expected. Production of what is now known as “conventional” oil did indeed peak back around 2005, and many of the phenomena that were expected to result did occur and continue to this day. Oil prices have climbed several-fold from where they were in the early years of the last decade – surging upwards from $20 a barrel to circa $100. This rapid jump in energy costs did slow many nations’ economies, cut oil consumption, and with some other factors set off a “great” recession.  The high selling price per barrel, coupled with cheap money, led to a boom in U.S. oil production where fortuitous geological conditions in North Dakota and South Texas allowed the production of shale oil at money-making prices, provided oil prices stay high.  What is so interesting about all this is that a temporary surge in what was heretofore a little-known source of oil in the U.S. is masking the larger story of what is taking place in the global oil situation. The simple answer is that except for the U.S. shale oil surge, almost no increase in oil production is taking place around the world. No other country as yet has gotten significant amounts of shale oil or gas into production. Russia’s conventional oil production seems to be peaking at present, and its Arctic oil production is still many years, or perhaps even decades, away. Brazilian production is going nowhere at the minute, deepwater production in the Gulf of Mexico is stagnating, and the Middle East is busy killing itself. On top of all this, global demand for oil continues to increase by some million b/d each year – most of which is going to Asia.