Jason Barton

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New Study Finds that Fracking is Safe

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I agree wholeheartedly that it is entirely possible to conduct fracking safely, but also think the scientist from Duke makes a very important point:

‘This is good news,” said Duke University scientist Rob Jackson, who was not involved with the study. He called it a “useful and important approach” to monitoring fracking, but cautioned that the single study doesn’t prove that fracking can’t pollute, since geology and industry practices vary widely in Pennsylvania and across the nation.’

There’s no doubt that hydraulic fracturing can be and generally is done without harming water supplies. The problem is that, as we continue to demand the lowest possible prices for electricity, there is considerable incentive for some, less scrupulous companies to cut corners in their safety and compliance efforts. I am not a proponent of larger government that stifles the free market, but believe there is a place for simple, transparent regulation that ensures future generations have clean water, air, and other natural resources. Citizens must also remain vigilant to keep companies honest, and an effective media is also essential to provide accurate, objective information to keep everyone honest.

Study finds fracking chemicals didn’t pollute water: AP

July 19, 2013, 5:41 AM

A Consol Energy Horizontal Gas Drilling Rig explores the Marcellus Shale outside the town of Waynesburg, Pa. in April 2012

A Consol Energy Horizontal Gas Drilling Rig explores the Marcellus Shale outside the town of Waynesburg, Pa. in April 2012.

 

PITTSBURGH A landmark federal study on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, shows no evidence that chemicals from the natural gas drilling process moved up to contaminate drinking water aquifers at a western Pennsylvania drilling site, the Department of Energy told The Associated Press.

After a year of monitoring, the researchers found that the chemical-laced fluids used to free gas trapped deep below the surface stayed thousands of feet below the shallower areas that supply drinking water, geologist Richard Hammack said.

Read the entire article here.

Not Panic, but a Response is Needed to Oil Prices

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Of course panic would be counterproductive, but rising petroleum prices are yet another motivation for us to continue innovating towards cleaner, renewable, domestic energy resources.

Oil Ministers, CEOs: Don’t Panic About Oil Prices

Oil ministers, CEOs say don’t panic about oil prices but US drivers, economists are worried

The Associated Press
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By JONATHAN FAHEY AP Energy Writer
HOUSTON March 9, 2011 (AP)

Energy leaders from around the world meeting in Houston this week have a consistent message about high oil prices: Don’t panic.

AP

The energy leaders from around the world meeting in Houston in March, 2011, and have a consistent message about recent high oil prices: Don’t panic. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, file) Collapse

Oil markets may have heard the message — prices fell Wednesday for a second straight day to near $104 per barrel. U.S. drivers, however, may not be so easily reassured.

Oil rose 24 percent in the past three weeks. In that same time, the average price of regular gasoline in the U.S. increased 40 cents per gallon to $3.52, the highest since September 2008. This is straining the wallets of drivers and raising fears among economists that high energy prices will stall the nation’s economic recovery, lead to inflation, or both.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

March 10th, 2011 at 9:40 pm

Supporting Despotic Regimes for their Resources Is Not New

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It has been called “The Resource Curse” by economists. When a region has stores of petroleum, metals, arable land, or even spices in earlier days, it behooves the powerful to keep those regions stable, and open to extraction of these valuable resources. This often comes at the expense of the people whose wages are kept low and the lands whose protection is sacrificed to ensure cheap prices.

Eduardo Galeano wrote poetically, heart-breakingly, of this phenomenon and the price paid by people for centuries in his book, Open Veins of Latin America. John Perkins wrote about it more recently in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. The article below continues this discussion in terms of oil and Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi.

These discussions should bring home to all of us the often unseen costs–economic, human, and ecological–of our consumption on distant people and places. If this isn’t shocking enough, you can read more about it here. This is the kind of depressing information with which I used to spend far too much time.

I’m much happier focusing on the positive and the possible solutions, rather than on the problems themselves, but it’s important to be reminded from time to time how pressing are the reasons why we need to change, and the costs if we continue irresponsible use of precious resources.

Qaddafi and his ilk

Blood and oil

The West has to deal with tyrants, but it should do so on its own terms

Feb 24th 2011 | from the print edition

LESS than two years ago, at the G8 summit in L’Aquila in Italy, prime ministers and presidents sat down to talk about world trade and food security with Muammar Qaddafi. Today Libya’s tyrant is paying mercenaries to shoot his people in the streets like “rats” and “cockroaches”.

[…]

…but sometimes cynicism can be deeply naive

This is not an argument for callousness. The lesson from the Arab awakening is an uplifting one. Hard-headed students of realpolitik like to think that only they see the world as it truly is, and that those who pursue human rights and democracy have their heads in the clouds. In their world, the Middle East was not ready for democracy, Arabs not interested in human rights, and the strongmen the only bulwark between the region and Islamic revolution. Yet after the wave of secular uprisings, it is the cynics who seem out of touch, and the idealists have turned out to be the realists.

Read the entire article here.

China Meets Energy Efficiency Goals, Improves Economic Edge

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Moves like this could only be achieved by a command economy, or by handing over the electricity grid to a company like Enron, so I’m not arguing for rolling blackouts to increase efficiency.

The point is that China has pushed its economy towards wiser use of energy, reducing energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20% in just five years. That means those firms, and the economy as a whole, is spending less money and expending fewer resources while continuing to grow.

Smart.

China improves energy efficiency 20 pct in 5 years

(AP) – Jan 6, 2011

BEIJING (AP) — China met a five-year target to improve energy efficiency by cutting power to industry and imposing rolling blackouts, even though a massive economic stimulus increased energy use.

Energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product was reduced by 20 percent from 2005 levels by the end of 2010, said Zhang Ping, chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission. It is China’s top economic planning body.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

January 8th, 2011 at 8:08 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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Parenting in China vs. The US

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This has nothing to do with other articles on this site, but I found it so interesting that I wanted it saved.

There’s also an interesting response here.

  • JANUARY 8, 2011

Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior

Can a regimen of no playdates, no TV, no computer games and hours of music practice create happy kids? And what happens when they fight back?

By AMY CHUA

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I’ve done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

Erin Patrice O’Brien for The Wall Street JournalAmy Chua with her daughters, Louisa and Sophia, at their home in New Haven, Conn.

• attend a sleepover

• have a playdate

• be in a school play

• complain about not being in a school play

• watch TV or play computer games

• choose their own extracurricular activities

• get any grade less than an A

• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama

• play any instrument other than the piano or violin

• not play the piano or violin.

I’m using the term “Chinese mother” loosely. I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian parents who qualify too. Conversely, I know some mothers of Chinese heritage, almost always born in the West, who are not Chinese mothers, by choice or otherwise. I’m also using the term “Western parents” loosely. Western parents come in all varieties.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

December 18th, 2010 at 9:58 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

If this is what the Tea Party stands for, I’m all for it

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Activists and the sizeable swath of voters who sympathize with them want to reduce the massively ballooning national debt, cut runaway federal spending, keep taxes in check, reinvigorate the economy, and block the expansion of the state into citizens’ lives.

If this movement can invigorate people to get involved, checking the size and scope of the Federal Government, that would be wonderful for America. This needs to include reducing the Bush era expenditures on defense that invades the lives of people in other countries when they pose no threat to Americans, warrantless wiretaps here at home, the government deciding who can marry whom, and other government incursions on our lives.

The swipes at academics may or may not be apt, but this post is already far enough away from the core competencies of the site and its author that we’ll keep this one brief.

  • OCTOBER 16, 2010

Why Liberals Don’t Get the Tea Party Movement

Our universities haven’t taught much political history for decades. No wonder so many progressives have disdain for the principles that animated the Federalist debates.

By PETER BERKOWITZ

Highly educated people say the darndest things, these days particularly about the tea party movement. Vast numbers of other highly educated people read and hear these dubious pronouncements, smile knowingly, and nod their heads in agreement. University educations and advanced degrees notwithstanding, they lack a basic understanding of the contours of American constitutional government.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman got the ball rolling in April 2009, just ahead of the first major tea party rallies on April 15, by falsely asserting that “the tea parties don’t represent a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment. They’re AstroTurf (fake grass-roots) events.”

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

October 27th, 2010 at 12:21 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Natural Gas Is Fantastic Now, But Let’s Not Rest On Its Laurels

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This is a great example of apparent abundance of fossil fuels now becoming a strain on supply in the near future. Natural gas is clearly a comparatively clean option in the traditional energy matrix, and we ought to keep using more of it, decreasing our reliance on coal and imported petroleum. But if this article is accurate in its telling of nuclear and wind power generation decreasing because of increasing supplies of natural gas, we’re just shooting ourselves in the foot.

Another, recently posted article on this site listed about 90 years worth of natural gas available in the US, which I assume is based on current use levels. If we use more gas and less coal for electricity, and use more LNG to power our vehicle fleets, that 90 years will move down towards 50 years. Broadcasting that we have more than enough fossil fuels gives a false sense of security and lends itself to the license to continue wasting energy through inefficiency. Add in the disincentive to continue innovation in renewable energy supplies and the picture for the next generation gets pretty bleak.

Use the gas, sure, but let’s not make the ignorant assumption that we can continue with business as usual when it’s clear that, for economic, environmental, issues of national security, our energy system is in desperate need of an overhaul in the next two decades at the most.

Natural gas proves to be energy game-changer

Its sudden abundance is a boon to many and a pain to its competition

By JONATHAN FAHEY
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Oct. 17, 2010, 7:42PM

NEW YORK — By unlocking decades’ worth of natural gas deposits deep underground across the United States, drillers have ensured that natural gas will be cheap and plentiful for the foreseeable future. It’s a reversal from a few years ago that is transforming the energy industry.
The sudden abundance of natural gas has been a boon to homeowners who use it for heat, local economies in gas-rich regions, manufacturers that use it to power factories and companies that rely on it as a raw material for plastic, carpet and other everyday products. But it has upended the ambitious growth plans of companies that produce power from wind, nuclear energy and coal. Those plans were based on the assumption that supplies of natural gas would be tight, and prices high.
[…]
The U.S. uses natural gas to produce 21 percent of its electricity. Coal is the dominant fuel, accounting for 48 percent of the electricity mix. By 2015, natural gas is predicted to reach 25 percent, while coal is expected to fall to 44 percent.

[…]
Natural gas, which had traded at about $2 per million British thermal units in the 1990s, hit nearly $15 in 2005. It is now about $3.50, driven lower by reduced industrial demand and rising production by those learning to make a profit from shale gas at ever lower prices.
[…]

Plans for nuclear plants and wind farms were made under the assumption that gas prices would average $7 to $9. At that level, electricity prices would be high enough to make wind and nuclear power look affordable. Now many of these projects suddenly look too expensive.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

October 18th, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Does New Republican Bill Signal Bipartisan Support for Clean Energy Investment?

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Posted by Jesse Jenkins
A windfarm is seen 30 December 2006 near Palm ...Image by AFP via @daylife

New legislation introduced by Republican Representative Devin Nunes (CA) and backed by several GOP House members would invest billions into renewable energy deployment, signaling an opportunity for bipartisan support for clean energy technology policies.

[…]

As Curwin notes, Nunes’ plan would rely solely on new revenues from oil and gas leasing to fund the renewable energy investments, including the always contentious proposals to open up areas of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as well as the development of oil shale resources and expanded offshore drilling. While more offshore drilling enjoyed bipartisan support just months ago, in the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf, the prospects for new offshore oil and gas production are uncertain.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

August 25th, 2010 at 2:41 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Colorado Citizens Concerned about Move from Coal to Natural Gas

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Darn, this looked like such a positive move from so many angles, but it’s hard to argue against people who have valid concerns that this move could raise their utility prices or, much worse, threaten their jobs.

The volatility in prices is difficult to control, but is it possible that a slow reduction in coal mining could lead to a smooth retraining for these people into jobs, even within the energy industry, that are safer for Coloradans as well as the people who work in the mines?

These people’s concerns certainly have merit, and I haven’t looked deeply enough into the particulars to offer much insight, but this is a typical example of stakeholders in a somewhat antiquated system fearing change, not because they don’t believe it will be better for all in the long run, but because they fear it will be worse for them in particular in the near future.

If solutions to problems like this one can be found, they could be applied in so many places all over the country in the coming years.

Western Coloradans air concerns on Xcel energy plan

Associated Press
08/30/10 10:00 PM PDT

GRAND JUNCTION, COLO. — Many western Coloradans are urging state regulators to reject moves to switch from coal to natural gas as the fuel to generate electricity.
About 300 people turned out Monday night for a hearing in Grand Junction on a new state law aimed at using natural gas to fuel power plants in efforts to cut power plant emissions. Xcel Energy, the state’s largest producer of electricity, has announced a $1.3 billion plan to convert coal-fired power plants to natural gas in Denver and close a coal plant in Boulder.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

August 1st, 2010 at 8:06 am

The Profitability and Economic Advantage of Renewable Energy

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“[Then Gov.] Bush and his fellow Texans didn’t create the [renewable energy] industry because they were worried about global warming. They did it because there was money to be made.
There still is. And if Congress doesn’t hurry, most of it is going to be made in China.”

With the August recess just a few days away, and politicians focused on the most important mid-term elections in at least a decade, I have little faith that anything substantive will happen with energy legislation before the new year. And with Republican prospects as strong as they are and a lack of Republican support for rewriting the way our government influences our energy usage, the chances don’t look much better in 2011.

I suggest not a quantitative change in government intervention, unless it’s a decrease, but a qualitative shift. In other words, this is not a call for increased government intervention or market distortions, but a change in the way the government intervenes. Today’s regulations hamper the ability of people in the free market to find the most efficient solutions to our energy challenges. Not good.

The best bet would be for the government to set the standards, as with Renewable Electricity Standards (RES), bring pricing in line with the externalities associated with different forms of fuel, so that issues such as healthcare costs incurred as people get sick from breathing air that’s been polluted by coal, and then let firms work within this transparent framework to deliver reliable power at the best possible price. These RES would offer much better prospect for people in later generations to enjoy more of the options we have presently, without forcing us to make unrealistic sacrifices now.

Without these measures, we face a number of serious problems, including an economy plagued by dependence on foreign energy, air that continues to be dirtied by coal and petroleum, and more jobs going to places like China as those visionaries who know that renewable fuels are going to bring big returns on investment flock to the countries that encourage, and benefit from, this necessary and lucrative innovation.

Senate Inaction Cedes U.S. Energy Race to China

By Eric Pooley – Jul 29, 2010 7:00 PM MT

Right now the U.S. Senate is conducting a master class on the perils of legislation by rearview mirror. On July 27, when Majority Leader Harry Reid unveiled the “Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Company Accountability Act,” the two most powerful clean energy provisions were missing: a cap on carbon emissions from the electric power sector and a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), which would require utilities to generate at least 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2021.
For years, business leaders from General Electric Chief Executive Officer Jeff Immelt to venture capitalist John Doerr have warned that if America failed to pass a comprehensive climate-and-energy bill, the country risked losing the clean energy race to China — sacrificing the jobs of the future in a timid, ill-fated effort to preserve the jobs of the past. Now those warnings are coming true.
[…]

In a meeting with business leaders and environmental advocates early last year, Obama economic adviser Larry Summers described a “scissors” approach to economic recovery, according to several people who were present but not authorized to discuss it publicly.
The first blade of the scissors, Summers explained, was the stimulus package and its tens of billions for clean energy deployment. The second blade would be a mandatory, declining cap on carbon, which would remove the investment uncertainty that has hobbled the energy market, and draw billions of private dollars off the sidelines.
[…]
Instead of funding U.S. projects, banks and venture capitalists increasingly are putting their energy money into China, where the market is large and secure, thanks to government mandates. In the second quarter, for example, China attracted more clean-tech asset financing than Europe and the U.S. combined, according to data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
[…]
On the same day that Reid pulled the plug on the carbon cap, China Daily announced that the People’s Republic would begin an experiment in carbon trading — a policy mechanism invented in America, used by Republican George H.W. Bush to fight acid rain, and vilified by today’s GOP as “cap and tax.”
[…]
Colorado voters approved one in 2004, and the state has increased the standard twice: The current target is 30 percent by 2020, double the one left out of the Senate bill. Colorado now generates almost 6 percent of its electricity from wind, and its commitment to clean energy has helped develop a solar industry as well: from 100 companies in 2007 to more than 400 today, according to the governor’s office. When Vestas Wind Systems, the Danish turbine maker, chose to build its North American manufacturing plants in Colorado (a $1 billion investment that was good for 2,500 new jobs), it called the RES a major factor in the decision.
[…]
Another early adopter is Texas. Its RES, signed into law by Governor George W. Bush in 1999, has helped the state become a major producer of U.S. wind power, adding almost 10 gigawatts (up from 0.2 in 1999) and thousands of new jobs in the decade since the law was enacted. Although Texas has reduced its carbon emissions as a result of this push into wind energy, Bush and his fellow Texans didn’t create the industry because they were worried about global warming. They did it because there was money to be made.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

July 30th, 2010 at 6:56 pm