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Critical List: U.N. is optimistic about renewables, U.S. studies ‘safe hydrofracking’

The U.N.'s climate change panel reports that, by 2050, 80 percent of the world's energy could come from renewables. The panel also issued this reassuring news: As long as we fulfill the most ambitious of renewable build-out plans and cut one-third of greenhouse gas, it is possible to keep the planet from nosediving into life-altering, irreversible climate change. So, no pressure. For starters, you could seriously just turn the effing A/C down. America's working on that whole clean energy thing, President Obama said this weekend. But China's getting there faster, surprise surprise. Japan wants to shut down another vulnerable nuclear …

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DOE shocker: the future will be like the past, but more so

Last October, I had some fun looking at the Department of Energy's historic predictions of natural gas prices and noting their consistent failure to, uh, predict. From 2004 to 2010, natural gas prices were massively volatile, ranging from $4 to $11 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) (on an annual, inflation-adjusted basis). Not only did DOE's predictions fail to anticipate this volatility, but every year they seemed to assume that the best 20-year predictor of future gas prices was ... last year's price. This has created an odd situation: The only thing more volatile than actual natural gas prices has …

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Yesterday’s fracking blowout: What happened, and will it happen again?

Yesterday, on the one-year anniversary of the BP oil spill, a natural gas well in Bradford County, Pennsylvania -- perhaps suffering from an overload of irony -- ruptured and leaked "thousands and thousands of gallons" of fracking fluid over the surrounding farmland and into a nearby creek. Officials say no gas was released, but local land and waterways were contaminated in a community that depends on farming for its livelihood. We don't even know for sure what's in this fluid, but it probably sucks, says the Huffington Post: The chemicals used in fracking fluids have been a contentious subject, as …

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Major fracking spill happening now in Pennsylvania

We have the makings of an environmental disaster in northern Pennsylvania at the moment. According to local Pennsylvania television station WNEP, a natural-gas well blew out in the middle of the night while crews were engaged in "fracking" activities: Bradford County's director of public safety said a Chesapeake well went out of control late Tuesday night. That means the well blew near the surface, spilling thousands and thousands of gallons of frack fluid over containment walls, through fields, personal property and farms, even where cattle continue to graze. DEP is taking ground water and stream samples to determine the extent …

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Fossil fuel industries kill and injure an awful lot of their workers

Oil production and oil refining has killed 77 workers and injured over 7,000 in the last 40 years.Cross-posted from the Center for American Progress. This post was coauthored by Valeri Vasquez, special assistant for energy policy at the Center for American Progress. On the one-year anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster and the Massey coal mine explosion in West Virginia, we are reminded how dangerous our dependence on fossil fuels can be. A large cost of our reliance on these energy sources is the death or injury of workers in these industries. Transitioning to cleaner energy technologies such …

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Now you’re cooking with gas: Ask Umbra on energy-efficient stoves

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, My wife would like to remodel the kitchen. This frightens me, personally, but I look it as an opportunity to buy some more energy-efficient appliances. Right now we have an ancient electric stove. Would replacing it with a natural gas stove be more efficient, or should we stick with electric and just go for a newer model? (Of course we would go for the greenest option available when it comes to electricity.) Mike London, England Is remodeling brewing in your near future? Make it green.Photo: Josh PesaventoA. Dearest Mike, Greetings from across …

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Is this the natural gas industry’s fib-filled high pressure sales strategy?

As reported by Brian Merchant at Treehugger, a tipster has offered up an internal oil and natural gas company document called "Talking Points for Selling Oil and Gas Lease Rights." If this is genuine, it’s basically a “How To Lie To Get Drilling Rights For Fun and Profit” guide. One thing the document tells us is that apparently the best way to manipulate naive landowners into endangering the quality of their land and water is to appeal to their patriotism. (Hmmm, where have we seen that tactic before?) Most landowners will be patriotic Americans, and will desire to free our …

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Japan could rebuild faster with renewables, says report

In the wake of severe natural disasters, how is Japan going to get its electrical infrastructure back online? The Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability has an answer, and it's anything but business as usual. By deploying a mix of renewables and energy efficiency technology, they argue, Japan's need for electricity could be met three years sooner than through nuclear and conventional fossil fuel power. All told, Japan's earthquake and tsunami have knocked out at least 15,000 megawatts of electricity generating capacity -- that's greater than the total summer peak demand for all of New York City. The plants that …

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Natural gas from fracking is worse for climate than coal, says new study

Photo: Erland HowdenNatural gas obtained through "fracking" -- the increasingly common process of splitting open underground deposits with high pressure chemicals -- now has an even bigger strike against it than its potential to contaminate regional water supplies. Fracking, it turns out, yields more global warming per unit of energy than coal -- at least 20 percent more, and possibly up to twice as much. Those are the bombshell findings of a new study [PDF] released by a trio of scientists at Cornell University. It turns out that after the fracking process, when the high-pressure drilling fluid is flowing back …

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America’s energy use, in one nifty chart

Periodically, it's nice to step back and get reacquainted with some energy basics. There's no better way to do it than with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's famed (or oughtta be famed) energy flow charts. Here's the most recent, from 2009 (click for larger version): Chart: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory I'm not going to ruin the pretty picture with a bunch of wonk talk. Just a few basic things that are worth noticing: 1. Holy sh*t we waste a lot of energy! I mean seriously. Look up there in the top right -- "rejected energy." Well over half of the raw …