Fossil Fuels

Climate & Energy

Three energy developments that are changing your life — and not in a good way

This essay was originally published on TomDispatch and is republished here with Tom’s kind permission. Here’s the good news about energy: Thanks to rising oil prices and deteriorating economic conditions worldwide, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reports that global oil demand will not grow this year as much as once assumed, which may provide some temporary price relief at the gas pump. In its May “Oil Market Report,” the IEA reduced its 2011 estimate for global oil consumption by 190,000 barrels per day, pegging it at 89.2 million barrels daily. As a result, retail prices may not reach the stratospheric …

Fossil Fuels

Carbon President: Why does Obama keep OK’ing big fossil-fuel projects?

The future’s looking hot.Photo: The White HouseThis essay was originally published on TomDispatch and is republished here with Tom’s kind permission. In our globalized world, old-fashioned geography is not supposed to count for much: mountain ranges, deep-water ports, railroad grades — those seem so 19th century. The Earth is flat, or so I remember somebody saying. But those nostalgic for an earlier day, take heart. The Obama administration is making its biggest decisions yet on our energy future and those decisions are intimately tied to this continent’s geography. Remember those old maps from your high-school textbooks that showed each state …

Pro-fracking ad accidentally reveals dangers of fracking

ExxonMobil has been running full-page ads that make underground hydraulic fracturing operations — the same ones responsible for massive environmental problems all over the U.S. — look about as threatening as a World Book encyclopedia illustration of a water pipe. The ads highlight the multiple layers of steel and concrete used to protect shallow aquifers. Too bad this casing fails regularly, according to ProPublica, leading to multiple accidents in the American Northeast, as well as Colorado and Ohio. The ad also falsely implies that these layers of protection extend the full length of the well — turns out that they don't. That's …

Politics

The House wants to slow the military’s clean energy march

Cross-posted from the Center for American Progress. The Department of Defense is the largest energy consumer in the nation. It has made significant efforts to wean the military services from their sole dependence on fossil fuels — particularly jet and diesel fuel made from oil — to power their planes, ships, and vehicles. Pollution from burning these fuels contributes to global warming, which, according to military leaders, is a “threat multiplier” for national security. Instead, the services are developing more efficient aviation, naval, and terrestrial heavy equipment, and various cleaner domestic advanced biofuels.[1] Unfortunately, the House Armed Service Committee’s National …

Maybe fracked natural gas isn’t dirtier than coal, after all

The climate story on natural gas is gnarlier than ever. First there was a paper from Robert Howarth of Cornell claiming that natural gas from fracking is worse than coal, as far as net warming effect on the earth. Now the Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has fired back, sort of, with a report that seems to have already been in progress when Howarth published his. NETL says that when natural gas is used to produce electricity, it results in 50 percent less greenhouse-gas emissions than coal over a 20-year time horizon, and 54 percent less when …

West Virginia’s new coal-to-gasoline plant will produce dirtiest fuel known to humanity

Well hello there, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin! The last time we checked in with you, you were literally putting a bullet into climate change legislation. And today you're celebrating the opening of a new plant that will turn coal into gasoline, which is pretty much the single worst possible technology we could pursue if we want to preserve a livable climate. Manchin claims the new plant will use technology that is "cutting edge," which is true if by that he means "cutting-edge about 70 years ago when the Nazis used it to fuel their Kriegsmaschine." Back then, a little …

Oil

Senate Republicans filibuster to protect oil-industry subsidies — after getting gusher of oil money

Cross-posted from Think Progress. On Tuesday night, Republicans in the Senate filibustered the majority’s attempt to repeal $21 billion in subsidies for the big five oil companies — the same companies that made over $30 billion in profits in just the first three months of 2011. While three out of four Americans believe ExxonMobil and the other oil majors should pay their fair share, instead of receiving taxpayer welfare, the oil-friendly Senate split 52 to 48 to end the subsidies. Though the majority of the Senate voted to repeal these oil tax breaks, the procedural motion required a 60-vote threshold. …

Coal

Will Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s new mayor, deal with the city’s coal pollution problem?

Will new Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel get tough on coal?Photo: Daniel X. O’NeillChicago has a major coal problem. The city’s Fisk and Crawford coal-fired power plants, which have been operating for nearly 100 years and were rebuilt more than 40 years ago, were grandfathered in under the 1970 Clean Air Act amendments. The assumption at the time was that these plants would be shutting down within a few years since they were already so old. Needless to say, that hasn’t happened — yet. Some key facts about the Fisk and Crawford plants: These are the only large coal plants in …

Some biofuels worse than dirtiest fossil fuels

If you fuel your truck with biodiesel made from palm oil grown on a patch of cleared rainforest, you could be putting into the atmosphere 10 times more greenhouse gasses than if you’d used conventional fossil fuels. It's a scenario so ugly that, in its worst case, it makes even diesel created from coal (the "coal to liquids" fuel dreaded by climate campaigners the world over) look "green." The biggest factor determining whether or not a biofuel ultimately leads to more greenhouse-gas emissions than conventional fossil fuels is the type of land used to grow it, says a new study …

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