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