April 18 News: Toxins found in gas drilling fluids; States seek greenhouse-gas curbs

Toxins found in gas drilling fluids

The drilling fluids used to recover natural gas and oil from deep shale formations contain substances identified as human carcinogens, or listed as hazardous under federal clean air or water rules, according to a report issued late Saturday by senior House Democrats.

Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce committee described their report as the first comprehensive national inventory of chemicals used by companies that engage in a process known as hydraulic fracturing.

The composition of hydraulic fracturing fluids has become a key point of tension between the oil and gas industry, which has been reluctant to disclose the specific contents of drilling fluids, and those who say such disclosure is necessary to determine whether hydraulic fracturing poses a threat to drinking water.

The gas industry has said it will voluntarily disclose the composition of drilling fluids. The Democratic paper noted that disclosure to this database will be voluntary, and “will not include the chemical identity of products labeled as proprietary.”

States seek greenhouse-gas curbs

A battle over whether states can use nuisance laws to curb greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants will come to the Supreme Court Tuesday in a case that puts a twist on the debate over climate policy.

The case pits a coalition of states against five of the nation’s biggest power companies and the Obama administration, which has said it intends to curb greenhouse-gas emissions from big utilities but objects to the way the states want to do it.

The arguments come amid a running dispute between the administration and members of Congress who want to block the Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to regulate the carbon dioxide pumped out of power plant smokestacks as a hazardous pollutant under the Clean Air Act.

At issue is whether a state can seek a federal court order to force power plants in another state to curb emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases linked to climate change on grounds that those emissions create a public nuisance.

Gore to young advocates: Battle industry lobbyists to turn the tide on climate

Al Gore told young green energy advocates Friday that progress on global warming must come from a strong grassroots movement that can counter the oil and coal lobbies, which he alleged have “paralyzed” governments.

Gore – who compared action on global warming to the Civil Rights movement – was the keynote speaker at Power Shift 2011, a Washington, D.C. conference attended largely by college students.

“It’s true that governments by and large have been politically paralyzed because the energy companies, the coal companies, the oil companies, the coal-burning utilities, they have spent enormous amounts of money and they have succeeded in many countries in paralyzing the political process,” the former vice president said.

“There are four anti-climate lobbyists on Capitol Hill in this city for every single member of the House and every single member of the Senate,” Gore said Friday night at the opening of the April 15-18 conference.

Home electricity monitor hits retail at Lowe’s

The PowerCost Monitor, one of the few energy-tracking gadgets sold directly to consumers, will now be available at Lowe’s hardware stores.

The monitor’s maker, BlueLine Innovations, said today that the PowerCost Monitor and WiFi Gateway will be available at 319 Lowe’s stores in California, Washington, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, and Maryland. The product has been available for sale online but this is its first big-box retail distributor.

There are dozens of companies making electricity monitors, with many being trialed through utilities’ smart-grid programs geared at reducing energy use during peak time or reducing customers’ overall power consumption.

The PowerCost Monitor is not as sophisticated as some of the more advanced home energy management systems, but it’s a good option for people who want to better understand their overall electricity usage. It doesn’t require professional installation.

Obama meets with greens at White House

President Barack Obama met with a dozen environmental activists at the White House Friday as his energy agenda continues to come under fire from all sides.

Obama dropped in on a meeting between White House staffers and Energy Action Coalition activists in town for the Power Shift 2011 conference “” a gathering of some 10,000 people, almost entirely college students, organizing to promote clean energy and the environment.

The discussion could be seen as an attempt to head off discontent on the left over the failure to pass a comprehensive climate change bill and Obama’s embrace of offshore oil drilling, nuclear power and the use of “clean coal” technology.

Power Shift is organizing a Monday protest in front of the White House.

Courtney Hight, co-director of the Energy Action Coalition and a former White House Council on Environmental Quality staffer, said the group is happy the White House and congressional Democrats were able to stop GOP attempts to block greenhouse gas regulations in the budget bill.

Scientists want climate change early-warning system

A better monitoring network for greenhouses gases is needed to warn of significant changes and to keep countries that have agreed to cut their emissions honest, scientists said in papers published Monday.

“What we’re hoping to do is see if the warming is feeding the warming, particularly in the Arctic,” said Euan Nisbet, a specialist in methane emissions at the University of London.

“Our monitoring network is very, very limited. We feel more observation is needed.”

Such measurement could warn of possible climate tipping points, scientists said in papers published by Britain’s science academy, the Royal Society.

Car 2.0 overview

Even though automotive executives initially deemed Better Place’s all-electric solution as “nothing more than a thought experiment,” Shai Agassi started by redesigning the all-electric vehicle or EV to prove them wrong and make it as good as any gasoline car today. This was done by developing a convenient system (because it is unacceptable to drive your car for an hour and charge for eight) that’s more affordable (not a forty thousand dollar sedan that would be impossible to finance today). This system uses technology that is feasible with current technology and economics. It is readily available to be scaled to mass in order for 99% of the population to drive it.

The former SAP executive and inventor of Better Place, Shai Agassi, bases his infrastructure on a feasible top-down design rather than catering to a niche market, as Elon Musk does with the Tesla roadster sportscar. As Agassi puts it in his Long Beach California TED Speech, there is “no time for a science fair, no time for a magic battery.” The way this new system works is through developing a network composed of two integral parts: 1) charging stations wherever one parks (people tend to drive for two hours, park for twenty two hours) and 2) battery swapping stations to provide range extension (current electric range is 120 miles, which may be good for most, but is not acceptable for all). The automated battery swapping stations allow the user to drive over a platform that replaces the old battery for a new one in 1 minute and 6 seconds. Better Place backs up its claim of “doing swapping less times than you stop at a gas station” by paying you if the number of swaps exceeds 50 per year.

I was so intrigued by this revolutionary model that I decided it essential to extend my college group trip in Israel on the last Friday I was there in order to find Better Place and head back by the start of my semester on Monday. Despite Better Place’s national consumer launch across Israel very soon, it took two cabbies with the exact address and me having to call Better Place directly to guide us in order to find their headquarters. Not only is the all-electric solution obviously built on sustainable practices, but the headquarters are located out of a retrofitted water tank!

Clouds part for U.S. solar industry

A potentially dim week for the American solar power industry ended on a bright note instead.

Solar advocates mounted a last-minute push Monday to prevent sweeping cuts to a federal loan guarantee program for clean energy development in a Republican budget plan. The cuts would have essentially closed the program, which is popular with solar power developers, and rescinded billion of dollars in loan commitments for dozens of projects.

A bipartisan group of legislators joined the campaign to spare the program, and in a conference call on Thursday with reporters, Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, announced that the cuts had been averted.

Mr. Reid noted that funds for the program would only last until October, however, raising the prospect of another budget fight in 2012.

“We need to get more money to continue this program,” he said. “I’m going to fight very hard for that in next year’s budget.”

21 Responses to April 18 News: Toxins found in gas drilling fluids; States seek greenhouse-gas curbs

  1. Colorado Bob says:

    PHILADELPHIA – The same storm system that spawned more than 240 tornadoes to the South brought record rainfall to Philadelphia and other areas.

    The National Weather Service says the 3.11 inches of rain that inundated Philadelphia broke the old single-day record of 2.43 inches set back in 1986.

  2. Sasparilla says:

    A very interesting article:

    The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science

  3. Colorado Bob says:

    “These are astounding changes, a tremendous shifting of the very base of the food web in those lakes into a state that has not been seen in the recorded history of the lakes,” said Mary Anne Evans, lead author of a paper scheduled for publication in the April 15 edition of the journal Environmental Science and Technology. “We’re talking about massive, ecosystem-wide changes.”

  4. Mike Roddy says:

    The absence of public disclosure of fracking chemicals comes from Cheney, as part of his Energy Task Force rules and recommendations. That group was of course strictly fossil fuel companies. Cheney and his oil company colleagues have no interest in whether people get cancer, since they themselves will not be drinking that water. They are gangsters, and proud of it, and somehow have gotten this attitude wrapped in the flag.

    It’s unbelievable that this disclosure exemption has not been challenged since then, and that the Democrats seem afraid to make an issue out of it. Too many of the horrors of the Bush Administration remain with us, and Obama needs to really get out the broom- if he wants to, that is.

  5. Colorado Bob says:

    China hailstorms kill 17, wound 150
    Straight line winds of up to 186 kph with these storms.

  6. Robert In New Orleans says:

    As the weather becomes more extreme, will tougher building codes follow?

    Could mobile homes be banned as too dangerous?

    If so what will replace them?

  7. catman306 says:

    Mobil homes have always been associated with tornado damage. There is an effective and inexpensive solution to having a mobile home picked up and tossed in high winds and tornados (if you’re in it at the time, you probably die).

    Cable tie downs are steel cables secured deeply in the ground that wrap the trailer in protection from being blown away.

    The companies that make these should be heavily promoting them during our extreme weather climate change.

  8. Colorado Bob says:

    A life form that is adapting faster than we will –
    The fungi have damaged wheat grown in a broad ribbon of dry climate from Morocco to northern India, where as much as 60 percent of the crop has been lost, said Mahmoud Solh, the center’s director. The prevailing theory is that wetter winters caused by climate change are helping the fungi persist until new crops are planted.

    Before his death in 2009, Norman E. Borlaug, the plant biologist who won the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize partly for his role in creating more vigorous varieties of wheat, called one particular fungus — known as Ug99 for its 1999 discovery in Uganda — “a looming catastrophe,” even more dangerous than the strain that destroyed 20 percent of American wheat in the 1950s. Since then, Ug99 has been joined by other fungal strains.

  9. Vic says:

    Toowoomba’s inland tsunami labelled a 1-in-370 year event.

    Darwin endures it’s wettest wet season since records began.


  10. Michael T. says:

    James Hansen posted a new 52-page draft paper entitled “Earth’s Energy Imbalance and Implications”:

    Here is the link to the lecture Hansen gave at GISS last week on this topic:

  11. Colorado Bob says:

    A lot of people are in shock.”

    So far this year, wildfires have charred 1.65 million acres across the state, the Texas Forest Service reported. That’s almost twice as much land as usually burns in Texas in a year.

    “We’re at historic dryness levels, and it’s expected to get worse before it gets better.”

    She said the state forest service is fighting fires from the Louisiana border to the mountains of West Texas, a distance of more than 500 miles.

  12. Robert In New Orleans says:

    I see Texas Governor “Good Hair” Perry is asking the Obama Administration for disaster help for the people hurt by the wild fires.
    Isn’t this the same guy who was talking about Texas independance not so long ago.

    Don’t Mess With Texas!! (unless we are hit with a natural or in this case manmade disaster) ;)

  13. Vic says:

    Despite having already raised 1.1 billion euros in international funding, Ukraine is now seeking a further one billion dollars in donations that would allow it to construct a new concrete structure to seal the remains of the Chernobyl nuclear plant.

    A makeshift shelter erected over the damaged reactor within eight months of the accident in 1986 has developed cracks and holes and is no longer considered reliable.

  14. paulm says:


    Amtrak reports 187 trips were cancelled between December 9 and March 19. The company blames the weather. More specifically, it’s been a horrendous season for mudslides, according to Amtrak’s Vernae Graham.

  15. Leland Palmer says:

    About the Supreme Court case American Electric Power vs. Connecticut, there have been some good amicus briefs filed to support the states. Sadly, they are outnumbered by the amicus briefs from a huge coalition of fossil fuel industries and traditional manufacturers.

    These are available at Scotusblog:

    Scotusblog: AEP vs. Connecticut

    The briefs for the respondent include a brief from a group of climate scientists, a group of law professors, environmental groups, alternate energy companies, and so on. They argue that public nuisance lawsuits are a necessary legal tool when all else fails, among other arguments.

    The scientists’ brief is very clear, very logical. It gives me hope that the truth and long held legal principles will triumph over greed and self-interest.

    Could it be?

    No, probably not. :(

  16. John Hollenberg says:

    Photoblog: Wildfires scorch over 1000 square miles in Texas:

    Part of “Hell and High Water”