As the fracking boom matures, the drilling industry's use of water and other fluids to produce oil and natural gas has grown dramatically in the past several years, outstripping the growth of the fossil fuels it produces. A new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances says the trend—a greater environmental toll than previously described—results from recent changes in drilling practices as drillers compete to make new wells more productive. For example, well operators have increased the length of the horizontal portion of wells drilled through shale rock where rich reserves of oil and gas are locked up.They also have significantly increased the amount of water, sand and other materials they pump into the wells to hydraulically fracture the rock and thus release more hydrocarbons trapped within the shale.The amount of water used per well in fracking jumped by as much as 770 percent, or nearly 9-fold, between 2011 and 2016, the study says. Even more dramatically, wastewater production in each well's first year increased up to 15-fold over the same years.
For policymakers interested in getting innovative energy bills signed into law, the nation’s capital is the last place to be, a former U.S. governor told the Midwest’s legislators in July. Instead, he said, go to Springfield, Lansing or the many other state capitals where policy breakthroughs have occurred.“We haven’t had comprehensive federal legislation since 2007, so what do we do? We turn to the states,” said Bill Ritter, currently the director of Colorado State University’s Center for the New Energy Economy.At any given time, Ritter noted during a session of the Midwestern Legislative Conference Annual Meeting, his center is tracking up to 4,500 state-level energy bills. Legislatures not only are brimming with new ideas, he added, but they remain a place where compromises can be forged — across party lines and among competing stakeholder groups.“There may be partisanship at the state level, but it is oftentimes not intractable,” Ritter said. “It’s not the kind of partisanship where conversations break down.”Michigan and Illinois provide two cases in point. Lawmakers there successfully built support for measures (SB 437 and 438 in Michigan, and SB 2814 in Illinois) that are now viewed as cornerstones of the two states’ energy futures.
Mention alternative energy, and rooftop solar panels and electric vehicles may come to mind. But in Colorado, a disproportionate share of jobs in that emerging part of the economy are tied to wind turbines and biofuels, according to a new report from the business group Advanced Energy Economy. The alternative energy sector, or what the industry is now calling advanced energy, employs 3.2 million people in the United States, including 62,800 people in Colorado, a number close to Grand Junction’s population, according to the report.The biggest category in Colorado and across the country involves energy efficiency, with the bulk of those jobs on the installation side, i.e. construction trades, and to a lesser degree in research and manufacturing.
In today’s Digest, spider silk applications including football helmets and hearing aids, biobased products from bellybutton bacteria, Elon Musk biobased surfboards, all the taste with half the sugar, cellulose in paints, edible cutlery, organic burial, 3D printing and more ready for you now at The Digest online.
A North Carolina project harnessing gas from hog manure for use in a Duke Energy power plant was billed as a breakthrough when it came online in March. Now, supporters of the state’s fledgling biogas industry fear an order from state regulators will make the Duplin County venture a one-off.The ruling suspends new renewable natural gas projects, which purify methane captured from waste and inject it into pipelines, where it’s blended with conventional gas and burned to generate power.The technique isn’t the only way to convert waste-derived methane to electricity, but experts say it’s the most economical and essential for jumpstarting a biogas industry that’s struggled to gain a foothold here.The June ruling blindsided renewable energy developers, farmers, and other parties, who say regulators’ concerns about low-quality gas lack evidence. They also contend the three-year delay will make it impossible for utilities to meet a state mandate for swine-waste-to-energy.
The Trump administration’s plan to roll back federal car standards promises to be a major fight with California and other liberal states. But it’s also opposed by at least one state that voted for President Trump. Arizona wants to maintain the aggressive standards established under former President Obama to avoid future regulations on air pollution, said Timothy Franquist, air quality director for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ). His office opposes Trump’s plan to freeze the standards at 2020 levels.“We are going to talk the language of both aisles that this is bad for the health, bad for the economy,” Franquist said of the president’s plan.
The number of coal jobs edged down in Kentucky between April and the end of June, illustrating the continued struggles of the industry despite President Donal Trump’s campaign promise to “put our miners back to work.” Statewide, the number of coal jobs averaged 6,238, according to a report published this week by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet. That was down 0.9 percent from the first three months of the year, but it was 4.8 percent less than the same period in 2017, the report said. Jobs were down in both the state’s coalfields.Production also tailed off as summer approached — down 4.2 percent statewide from the first quarter, 2.5 percent in Western Kentucky and 6.3 percent in Eastern Kentucky.
For the past two decades, Peterson and his wife Christine have been dealing with the spillage of saltwater — a byproduct of oil production — on their land, which grows peas, soybeans and various types of grain. Almost 40 years ago, they signed a contract with an oil company "land man" who came to their house and said there might be oil on their land. In 1997, two spills covered dozens of acres with more than 50,000 gallons of saltwater. A decade later, another 21,000 gallons of saltwater spilled. And since then, though their land never produced much oil or oil revenue, the Petersons say they have seen another 10 spills.They claim these spills were never properly cleaned up. Peterson says it's become his "life's mission" to get some justice for his land, so he and his wife are suing the oil company, Petro Harvester."It's incumbent on me to protect my property to the best of my ability for myself and my family," Peterson said. "Enough is enough."
A common argument for expanding renewable energy sources is that technologies such as solar panels and wind turbines are responsible for far less carbon dioxide than power plants that burn fossil fuels. But two other powerful benefits should also be getting much more attention: the switch can save vast quantities of freshwater, and can create a large number of new, high-paying jobs. Want proof? Let’s look at the data that our detailed research has revealed. To provide electricity for an average home, a nuclear power plant requires 615 gallons of cooling water a day, a coal-fired plant requires 199 gallons per day, and a natural gas power plant requires 114 gallons per day. The stunning volume is a quiet thief that threatens the U.S. water supply.
The last time carbon dioxide levels hit the mark the Trump administration envisions for the end of the century, crocodiles roamed the poles and palm trees existed where glaciers are today. In fact, there were no glaciers — not even in Antarctica. Although the White House has avoided addressing climate change, it made a rare acknowledgement that its proposal to weaken vehicle fuel efficiency standards would contribute to a warmer planet. Its prediction for what the atmosphere will look like in 2100 startled climate scientists — a carbon dioxide concentration of 789.76 parts per million. That's nearly double current levels.Scientists said reaching that mark would be devastating for the planet. Although humans would survive, much of that would depend on the ability to adapt to new conditions. Food and water scarcity would result from changing precipitation patterns and higher temperatures. Potentially billions of people would struggle. Some species and ecosystems would collapse."By mid Century, food and especially water shortages will likely become so widespread that regional conflicts and environmental refugees will dwarf anything we see now, and hence it is not really livable for all humans," Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said in an email. "So the last time 800 ppm occurred is not really pertinent because there were not 10 billion people present."