Monday, March 29th, 2010
Hydro fracturing is a profitable method of natural gas extraction that uses large quantities of water and chemicals to free gas from underground rock formations. But New York City’s concerns that the practice would threaten its water supply have slowed a juggernaut that has been sweeping across parts of the northeastern United States.
The highly productive method of natural gas extraction known as “hydro fracturing” has spread rapidly across the United States in recent years, opening up vast new reserves in Texas, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, and other states.
Last fall, however, the process — also known as “fracking” — ran headlong into opposition from New York City. And for now at least, stiff resistance from the city, which fears the contamination of its pristine water supply in upstate New York, seems to have slowed the momentum behind this highly touted — and highly controversial — drilling technique. (more…)
Thursday, March 25th, 2010
Daniel B. Botkin’s new book, Powering The Future: A Scientist’s Guide to Energy Independence, offers a balanced look at the issues surrounding our future energy resources. In his own words, Botkin provided CleanTechies with an overview of his vision:
“We hear so many opinions about how to solve America’s energy problem that it is hard to know what to believe. As an ecologist with a background in physics, and as previously as chairman of the Environmental Studies program at the University of California, Santa Barbara, I have long been interested in how energy is obtained and used in natural ecosystems, how energy from our environment affects us, and how we affect our environment in our pursuit of energy.
“For my work, I had to keep up with energy issues, and in doing so noticed some odd contradictions that began to occur around 2002. Solar and wind were already providing energy in many parts of the world, but environmental economists I worked with kept telling me a very different story. (more…)
Monday, March 1st, 2010
When New York State’s environmental agency came out with a draft environmental review of drilling in the Marcellus Shale in September, it set off a flurry of action for environmentalists, industry advocates and the general public.
People were given 30 days — later extended to 90 — to digest the highly technical 800-plus-page document and submit comments. They could also voice their opinions at four public hearings.
At stake was the future of gas drilling in New York’s portion of the Marcellus Shale, which could produce vast amounts of natural gas, but which some residents fear also could contaminate drinking water sources and the air.
Since the comment period ended on Dec. 31, New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation has been assembling and evaluating the public’s response, which included a stinging analysis of the plan by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. DEC officials aren’t saying when the final version of the review will be unveiled, but two department representatives, Yancey Roy and Maureen Wren, did agree to walk us through the process. (more…)
Thursday, February 25th, 2010
Bloom Energy has unveiled its long-awaited and much-hyped fuel cell technology, which it says can convert natural gas into electricity through an electrochemical process that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent and at a price competitive with far-dirtier coal-fired electricity.
With California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in attendance, Bloom co-founder and chief executive K.R. Sridhar unveiled his Bloom Energy Server at the Silicon Valley headquarters of one of its first customers, eBay.
Taking up no more room than a parking space and looking like a large refrigerator, the servers (at left) — which cost roughly $750,000 — convert natural gas or another fuel into electricity by creating an electrochemical process on a series of small, stacked disks.
Thursday, January 14th, 2010
A period of extremely cold, windless weather has brought home to the British the drawbacks of relying on wind power and the need to keep a supply of natural gas in reserve. While the cold spell has strained natural gas supplies, leading in some cases to cutoffs to industrial users, it also has highlighted the unpredictability of wind power. Although Britain’s wind farms are supposed to provide 5 percent of the country’s electricity, they were in fact only providing 0.2 percent during the recent run of frigid, still days.
Saturday, December 26th, 2009
The headline on Tuesday’s editorial in Investor’s Business Daily – “Get the Frackin’ Gas” – is both clever and on the mark. The publication gets into trouble, however, when the body of its editorial veers into mischaracterizing ProPublica’s reporting on the environmental risks that need to be dealt with to produce the huge amounts of natural gas available underground in the United States.
Our reporters, led by Abrahm Lustgarten, have researched and written more than 50 stories on the subject over the past 18 months and are as expert on the topic as anyone in America.
Here is what is beyond dispute: The gas is highly desirable as a fuel, because it burns relatively cleanly and produces less greenhouse gas per unit of energy than oil or coal. There is lots of it obtainable within the U.S. using an enhanced version of an old drilling technology, called hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” – much more than was widely supposed just a few years ago. That means using natural gas to power cars and electrical generation doesn’t require sending huge sums abroad, weakening the dollar and strengthening countries that aren’t particularly friendly to ours – Russia, Iran and Venezuela among them.
Tuesday, December 15th, 2009
As environmental concerns threaten to derail natural gas drilling projects across the country, the energy industry has developed innovative ways to make it easier to exploit the nation’s reserves without polluting air and drinking water.
Energy companies have figured out how to drill wells with fewer toxic chemicals, enclose wastewater so it can’t contaminate streams and groundwater, and sharply curb emissions from everything from truck traffic to leaky gas well valves. Some of their techniques also make good business sense because they boost productivity and ultimately save the industry money — $10,000 per well in some cases.
Sunday, November 22nd, 2009
Pennsylvania residents whose streams and fields have been damaged by toxic spills and whose drinking water has allegedly been contaminated by drilling for natural gas are suing the Houston-based energy company that drilled the wells. A worker at the company is among the 15 families bringing suit.
The civil case, filed Thursday in U.S District Court in Scranton, Pa., seeks to stop future drilling in the Marcellus Shale by Cabot Oil and Gas near the town of Dimock. It also seeks to set up a trust fund to cover medical treatment for residents who say they have been sickened by pollutants. Health problems listed in the complaint include neurological and gastrointestinal illnesses; the complaint also alleges that at least one person’s blood tests show toxic levels of the same metals found in the contaminated water.
Sunday, November 15th, 2009
For years now, many members of Congress have insisted that cutting carbon emissions was difficult, if not impossible. It is not. During the two years since 2007, carbon emissions have dropped 9 percent. While part of this drop is from the recession, part of it is also from efficiency gains and from replacing coal with natural gas, wind, solar, and geothermal energy.
The United States has ended a century of rising carbon emissions and has now entered a new energy era, one of declining emissions. Peak carbon is now history. What had appeared to be hopelessly difficult is happening at amazing speed.
For a country where oil and coal use have been growing for more than a century, the fall since 2007 is startling. In 2008, oil use dropped 5 percent, coal 1 percent, and carbon emissions by 3 percent. Estimates for 2009, based on U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) data for the first nine months, show oil use down by another 5 percent. Coal is set to fall by 10 percent. Carbon emissions from burning all fossil fuels dropped 9 percent over the two years.
Wednesday, November 11th, 2009
Five years ago the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency assured the nation that the technology credited with opening vast new natural gas supplies was safe. Now Congress has ordered the agency to take another look.
As part of the $32 billion Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill recently signed by President Obama, lawmakers asked the EPA to re-visit hydraulic fracturing, the process where copious amounts of water and sand mixed with toxic chemical additives are furiously pumped underground to break up gas-bearing rock thousands of feet below.