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Frackers dodge responsibility for earthquakes, science be damned

cracked concrete
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We've known for a couple of years that fracking for oil and gas has been linked to some sizable earthquakes. The shaking doesn't actually come from the high-pressure fracking itself, but from the injection of tons of post-frack dirty wastewater into disposal wells. Only Ohio requires a risk assessment for quakes around the state's injection wells.

Mother Jones digs into this story, speaking with numerous scientists who agree: Frack the earth and it will frack you back. "There is no shortage of evidence," writes reporter Michael Behar.

Between 1972 and 2008, the USGS recorded just a few earthquakes a year in Oklahoma. In 2008, there were more than a dozen; nearly 50 occurred in 2009. In 2010, the number exploded to more than 1,000. These so-called "earthquake swarms" are occurring in other places where the ground is not supposed to move. There have been abrupt upticks in both the size and frequency of quakes in Arkansas, Colorado, Ohio, and Texas. Scientists investigating these anomalies are coming to the same conclusion: The quakes are linked to injection wells. Into most of them goes wastewater from hydraulic fracking, while some ... are filled with leftover fluid from dewatering operations.

Flatter states are more susceptible to fracking-related quakes -- as MoJo puts it, "a stone makes a bigger splash when it's hurled into a glassy pond than a river of raging whitewater." (But pretty please don't take that as an invitation to drill California to shaky bits.)

The least surprising part of all this? That the industry is reluctant to accept that it might be responsible for tearing peoples' houses down -- or at least that it doesn't want to talk to lefty magazines about it.

Some scientists are concerned that industry and government officials don't want to work with them on the issue.

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Colorado lawmakers want to jack up ridiculously low oil-spill fines

Colorado Capitol
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Some Colorado lawmakers say $1,000 a day in fines is not enough for an oil spill.

We told you last week about the underground leak of a mysterious “natural-gas liquid” near a gas-processing plant along a creek in western Colorado. The spill was discovered on March 8, and has been spilling ever since, but plant owner Williams Corp. still doesn’t know for sure where it's coming from.

Meanwhile, some Colorado lawmakers are expressing dismay that state fines for such spills have been capped at $10,000 for the past half century unless the spills are deemed to have "significant adverse impact" on public health or the environment.

From the Denver iJournal:

A Lafayette lawmaker says Colorado’s system of levying fines against oil and gas companies for environmental disasters like the spill this month near Parachute Creek is totally out of whack with other states and needs to be brought “into this century.”

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Flies that eat organic live longer, make more fly babies

Scientists may be split on whether organic foods are better for human health. But a new study published in PLOS ONE presents evidence that organic foods help you live longer and make more babies -- if you're a fruit fly.

Maybe organic food just puts flies in the mood?
T. Chapman
Maybe organic food just puts flies in the mood?

Researchers at Southern Methodist University fed fruit flies extracts of organic or conventional versions of bananas, potatoes, raisins, or soybeans from a Whole Foods in Texas. (Unlike those organic-loving rats, the flies didn't get to choose their foods.)

Read more: Food

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How to power America with renewables on the cheap: Build a shit ton of wind and solar capacity

We don't need much more than this, but we do need an awful lot of it.
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Wind and solar will do the trick, but we'll need a whole lot of them.

America could be powered almost entirely with wind turbines and solar systems by 2030 at a cost comparable to what we're spending for dirty power today, a new study finds. The necessary approach would surprise most people, and it would generate enough economic activity to make any capitalist drool: Build, build, build ... and then build some more.

From Midwest Energy News:

The analysis ... challenges the common notion that wind and solar power need to be paired with fossil fuel or nuclear generators, so utilities can meet electricity demand when it’s not windy or sunny.

The paper instead proposes building out a “seemingly excessive” amount of wind and solar generation capacity — two to three times the grid’s actual peak load. By spreading that generation across a wide enough geographic area, Rust Belt utilities could get virtually all of their electricity from renewables in 2030, at a cost comparable to today’s prices, it says.

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America’s wildlife to get some moving help as climate changes

Wildlife corridors could help birds find new homes
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Wildlife corridors could help birds find new homes.

The climate is changing, and flora and fauna the country over are on the march, on quests for hospitable new homes.

And hey, here comes Uncle Obama in his metaphorical truck, ready to lend a hand.

From the Los Angeles Times:

The Obama administration Tuesday announced a nationwide plan to help wildlife adapt to threats from climate change.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Energy secretary nominee Ernest Moniz has deep ties to oil, gas, and nuclear industries

Ernest Moniz
Reuters
He keeps some questionable company.

The Republican minority in the Senate loves to obstruct confirmation of President Obama's Cabinet nominees, but it isn't saying boo about the man who appears set to become the nation's next energy secretary.

That might be because Ernest Moniz has friendly relations with a number of dirty energy companies -- the kind of companies that generously fund so many senators' campaigns.

From Democracy Now:

President Obama’s pick to become the nation’s next secretary of energy is drawing criticism for his deep ties to the fossil fuel, fracking and nuclear industries. MIT nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz has served on advisory boards for oil giant BP and General Electric, and was a trustee of the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, a Saudi Aramco-backed nonprofit organization.

Moniz also directs the MIT Energy Initiative, which gets significant corporate funding from BP, Saudi Aramco, Shell, Chevron, and a number of utilities that operate nuclear plants.

At the same time, Moniz has stressed the importance of moving away from coal and has promoted and called for more funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency. That's earned him praise from the Natural Resources Defense Council. But other environmental and watchdog groups are campaigning against his nomination because of his industry ties.

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Chris Christie slams ‘selfish’ homeowners blocking coastal protection measures

Some waterfront residents would prefer to risk storm surge destruction such as this, in unprotected Mantoloking after Superstorm Sandy, than lose their views.
Shutterstock / Glynnis Jones
Some waterfront residents would rather risk devastating storm surges than lose their views.

Would you like a dose of utter destruction with that view?

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, some New Jersey residents living in vulnerable oceanfront properties are stymieing efforts to build sand dunes and widen beaches along the coastline to block storm surges. Some fear losing their views. Others worry that new public-access beach areas could be opened up adjacent to their properties.

Gov. Chris Christie (R) said on Tuesday that he has "no sympathy" for property owners standing in the way of a $3 billion federal project to widen beaches and build protective dunes. He announced plans for dealing with these "selfish" property owners during a town hall meeting in Middlesex Borough.

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Oil industry likely triggered big 2011 Oklahoma earthquake, scientists find

Mining in Oklahoma and other states is inducing earthquakes.
Shutterstock / Anthony Butler

A 2011 earthquake in Oklahoma, the most powerful ever recorded in the state, can probably be blamed on the oil industry, according to new research by university and federal scientists.

The 5.7-magnitude quake and a string of smaller quakes that rocked central Oklahoma in November 2011 appear to have been induced by oil-drilling wastewater being pumped into the ground at high pressure. That's the conclusion of a study published Tuesday in the journal Geology.

Turns out that pumping tainted water into the ground at high pressure creates problems. Go figure.

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Climate change is killing the corn cob pipe

Add another item to the list of things climate change will kill! But this one makes me a little gleeful.

NPR reports that "corn cob pipes have made a comeback in recent years" (which, what?), but now higher temperatures and drought are severely cutting into the supply of this "natural product."

13-03-26corncobpipe
ilmo joe
Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Do trees fight crime in Philadelphia?

trees in Philadephia
htomren

We already know that having more trees around protects our health. Turns out those trees might also protect our wealth and safety, according to a new study from researchers at Temple University, published in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning.

Controlling for some socioeconomic factors such as poverty, education, and density, the researchers examined crime and tree data and found that "the presence of grass, trees and shrubs is associated with lower crime rates in Philadelphia, particularly for robberies and assaults."

Here's where things get a little presumptuous. The authors "surmise this deterrent effect is rooted in the fact that maintained greenery encourages social interaction and community supervision of public spaces, as well the calming effect that vegetated landscapes may impart, thus reducing psychological precursors to violent acts," according to a Temple University press release.

A study published in the same journal last year backs up the connection: A 10 percent increase in trees in Baltimore correlated to about a 12 percent decrease in crime. “It’s really pretty striking how strong this relationship is,” said Austin Troy, lead author of that study.

But is it truly a causal relationship?

Read more: Cities, Living