Jason Barton

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Archive for the ‘Water’ Category

Colorado: A Leader in Cleantech

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Good stuff. Thanks Eric.

Renewable Energy World

 

 

 

Move Over Silicon Valley: Cleantech Companies Are Finding Their Home on the Range

Eric Drummond, Partner, Husch Blackwell LLP

February 11, 2014

Most people in the cleantech community recognize that Santa Clara Valley is a unique and beautiful place with world-class universities, piles of venture capital and an entrepreneurial history second to none, but recent trends indicate that cleantech companies are beginning to consider a new home base on Colorado’s Front Range.

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So, what makes Colorado’s Front Range so unique and attractive? Many say that it’s a combination of a highly skilled workforce, and nationally competitive federal research centers and research universities, like the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab. Located 20 minutes west of Denver, NREL is the only federal research lab specifically dedicated to renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. In addition, it employs more than 1600 full-time employees and works with nearly 750 visiting researchers, interns and contractors from across the globe.

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Another Colorado asset is the Rocky Mountain Innosphere, a 501c3 non-profit corporation formed to accelerate the success of high-impact scientific and technology start-up companies. Most agree that it is essential for cutting-edge technology companies to have the right kind of business support to commercialize their technology and take that technology to scale, and that’s where the Innosphere comes in. The Innosphere is a unique institution that provides entrepreneurial start-up companies with resources such as specialized test and demonstration facilities at NREL, the Colorado State University Powerhouse and in a 30,000-square-foot LEED Platinum certified building with state-of-the-art wet lab  facilities, assistance with raising capital, access and connections with academic and leading government institutions, a network of experienced advisors, and professional and business development networking opportunities.

Read the entire article here.

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.

Ethanol Mills in the Amazon?

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It’s true that ethanol mills have the potential to protect forests, particularly in the Amazon region where cane producers are required by law to leave 75-80% of each plot of land forested. The question is whether or not these laws will be observed and enforced.

The Brazilian Forest Code mandates that agricultural producers do not plant crops on 75% of their land, and also leave riparian corridors and other sensitive areas fallow. These laws have traditionally not been enforced, however, as they risk causing production costs to rise, making Brazilian agricultural products uncompetitive.

Yes, ethanol production in the Amazon can create jobs, protect forests, and reduce petroleum consumption, all while localizing energy production for people who would use the fuel there in the Amazon where the cane is grown and the ethanol is milled. It will take vigilance by Brazilian citizens and media to ensure these laws are followed if this expansion of cane and ethanol production is to occur.

Reuters

Brazil Bill Seeks to Open Amazon to New Ethanol Mills

Tue, Jun 04 13:01 PM EDT

* Investors say ethanol production in Amazon economically viable

* Environmentalists fear pressure on land use

By Reese Ewing

SAO PAULO, June 4 (Reuters) – Brazil plans to vote on a bill in the coming weeks to reopen large areas of the Amazon to sugar cane mills, rekindling fears that ethanol production could accelerate deforestation and create a major marketing challenge for the country’s biofuels industry.

Environmentalists are concerned Congress’ vote could overturn a ban on cane expansion in the region that went into place in 2009 and increase pressure on land use in areas that amount to nearly a third of the broader Amazon region in Brazil.

Meanwhile, the expansion into the environmentally sensitive areas could hurt ethanol producers’ plans to open new export markets, economists say.

Read the entire article here.

Agricultural Policy Matters to Eaters and Energy Users as much as to Farmers

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Food and energy are increasingly intertwined. As energy is fundamental to food production, processing, and distribution, and because agricultural crops are used for biofuels feedstocks, the interconnections and impacts can become dizzyingly complex. Localizing both food and energy production can, in many instances, increase the efficiency, the quality, and the ecological cleanliness of these two essential production systems.

This is not to say I will give up the coffee that comes from Latin America, and it is often more efficient to eat tomatoes trucked from Mexico than to grow them in greenhouses further north, but there is much we can do to decrease energy inputs to the food system, and we can do it without making significant sacrifices.

By MICHAEL POLLAN
Published October 10, 2012

One of the more interesting things we will learn on Nov. 6 is whether or not there is a “food movement” in America worthy of the name — that is, an organized force in our politics capable of demanding change in the food system. People like me throw the term around loosely, partly because we sense the gathering of such a force, and partly (to be honest) to help wish it into being by sheer dint of repetition. Clearly there is growing sentiment in favor of reforming American agriculture and interest in questions about where our food comes from and how it was produced. And certainly we can see an alternative food economy rising around us: local and organic agriculture is growing far faster than the food market as a whole. But a market and a sentiment are not quite the same thing as a political movement — something capable of frightening politicians and propelling its concerns onto the national agenda.

Continue reading this article here.

Written by Jason

October 11th, 2012 at 5:42 am

Cooperation on Biofuels Increasing between Brazil and US

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With the US ending both the tariff on imported ethanol and the tax credit for domestic blenders, cooperation between the US and Brazil on biofuel technology is increasing, as well as efforts to trade renewable fuels on global markets. (See my post at the end of last year)

Yes, we need to be ever vigilant on the possible effects of increased biofuel production on food availability and prices as well as on land use, soil and water quality, and related issues. In my doctoral dissertation, however, I examined these issues in depth and contend that increased production can occur along with protection of ecological health.

The cooperation discussed in the article below can lead to greater efficiency of renewable fuel production, using less land and less water to produce more fuel.

Energy is fundamental to economic growth, and as countries in Latin America and Africa increase their ability to produce renewable energy domestically, they create more jobs and better the lives of their people in ways that will improve economic as well as environmental conditions for generations. These are undoubtedly positive.

It is a fascinating time to be alive.

Insight: U.S. and Brazil – At last, friends on ethanol

A gas station worker fills a car's tank with ethanol in Rio de Janeiro April 30, 2008. Brazil is the world's largest producer and exporter of ethanol. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

By Brian Winter

BRASILIA | Fri Sep 14, 2012 11:21pm IST

(Reuters) – After years at each other’s throats, Brazil and the United States are working together to promote the use of ethanol in a collaboration that could revolutionize global markets and the makeup of the biofuel itself.

The breakthrough came in January when Washington allowed a three-decade-old subsidy for U.S. ethanol producers to expire and ended a steep tariff on foreign biofuels. The tariff, in particular, had poisoned diplomatic relations between the world’s top two ethanol-producing countries for years.

Continue reading this article here.

Fracking in Colorado

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Ugh, this is such a tough issue.

On one hand, there are substantial benefits from the oil and gas brought out by this process, as well as the jobs and revenues that come with them. On the other, we need the long term vision that will protect human and environmental health and the discipline to ensure both of them.

Particularly in places like Weld County, which is Colorado’s biggest agricultural producer and home to many proposed and existing fracking sites, we see the tangible positives and negatives of fracking, and are hearing from citizens who fall on both the pro- and anti-fracking sides of the debate. In agricultural communities the health of soil and water is important not just for the immediate implications to human health, but also for the long term implications for the health and safety of the food we grow, and the livelihoods of the people who depend on selling that food.

I’ve said on this site before that it is the job of government to internalize the externalities, to create a regulatory framework that ensures industry activities do not have negative impacts on the communities where they operate. This framework must include proactive measures motivating companies to guard against problems, as well as reactive measures that force organizations to pay those external costs of clean up and damages if there are  problems.

The important issue raised in the article below is that companies have worked to avoid making the payments even when they are found to be at fault, causing local citizens to question the statewide framework and seek to implement policies on local levels.

The upsides are that Colorado citizens are learning the details of these issues, making our voices heard from different perspectives, and forcing government and corporations to listen and take action. Keep at it, y’all.

By Bruce Finley
The Denver Post

Denver metro cities digging in before oil and gas drills do

COMMERCE CITY — Even in this bastion of industry that hosts a refinery, residents are imploring their elected leaders to protect them from oil and gas drilling planned within city limits.

“This is where we live, where we made our investments of our lives. It’s not about money,” Kristi Douglas said Thursday during a working-group forum, the latest of dozens of city and county meetings in Front Range communities.

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Colorado’s State Land Board hit the brakes on a controversial metro-Denver drilling project after learning that ConocoPhillips is embroiled in a lawsuit for failing to pay the state $152 million for cleanup of leaky underground gas tanks.

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“The state has the experience and the infrastructure to effectively and responsibly regulate oil and gas development,” Colorado Department of Natural Resources spokesman Todd Hartman said. “A healthy industry is important to our state’s economy, and a mosaic of regulatory approaches across cities and counties is not conducive to clear and predictable rules that mark efficient and effective government.”

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But the board delayed a decision after it learned another state agency is suing Conoco in a dispute over past cleanups of contamination at 354 sites of leaking underground gas tanks.
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“We need to get the state General Assembly involved. We need to get some things, like setbacks, addressed,” Benson said. “Yes, we welcome industry here. But you’ve got to protect the health and safety of your people.”
Read the complete article here.

Algae May Be the Future of Biofuels, but it’s a Distant Future

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This is promising. Whatever we may say about Monsanto (read more here), there are some smart people working there, and their investment in technology to use algae for biofuels shows there is some real promise in those efforts. The innovation needed to make this technology energy efficient and cost effective, however, is a long way off.

Cellulosic biofuels from crops with which we have great experience, such as corn and grasses, continues to face considerable barriers. First, while we have known for millennia how to ferment 6 carbon sugars such as glucose,we lack the experience and an efficient method to ferment the diverse, 5 and 6 carbon sugars in cellulose. To complicate matters further, unlike the sugars in cane or in the carbohydrates in corn, the sugars in cellulose are mixed in with lignin, the stiff, woody parts of plants that give them their structure.

Sapphire energy, the company discussed in the article below, will not likely ferment the sugars for fuels like ethanol, but will extract the oil to make diesel fuel. This process still faces barriers as formidable as those I discuss above, plus the added disadvantage that we don’t have proven methods to grow, harvest, and process algae efficiently.

You might be thinking, ‘the pond near our backyard grows tons of algae and we don’t even want it, how hard can it be?’ When we’re trying to grow enough to be used to power cars and planes, and in a small space with limited inputs of water and other form energy, it gets trickier.

It will take time to develop the methods to do all of this. It can be done, but let’s not figure that developments such as this give us license to continue using fossil fuels with our present, reckless abandon.

Innovation, yes, efficiency always.

Monsanto Backs Algae Startup Sapphire Energy

content by earth2tech

By Katie Fehrenbacher at Earth2Tech

Tue Mar 8, 2011 11:07am EST

Agriculture and genetics giant Monsanto has made its bet on algae. On Tuesday Monsanto announced that it has made an equity investment in, and developed a partnership with, algae startup Sapphire Energy.

Founded in 2007, Sapphire Energy uses synthetic biology to make a green crude out of algae that can be turned into gas, diesel or jet fuel. Monsanto wants access to Sapphire’s genetic research technology to use it for its own agricultural development. Using Sapphire’s genetic technology, Monsanto can isolate traits in algae (like high yields and stress traits) that could be used to tweak other crops. Monsanto’s CTO Robb Fraley said in a release that algae is an “excellent discovery tool,” for agricultural genetic research.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

March 20th, 2011 at 10:52 am

Obama and the New Brazil

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After a first visit to Brazil earlier in the 20th Century, a foreign diplomat boldly stated that “Brazil is the country of the future!” Self-deprecating Brazilians quickly added, “And it always will be.”

Based on my four years of living in Brazil and many return visits in the four years since, I don’t think Brazilians are saying this any longer, nor are the popular media or President Obama.

It has been fascinating to watch the changes in Brazil since my first arrival shortly before Lula’s election in 2002. I feel very fortunate to have earned the job that first brought me there, and to have stayed in close contact with the amazing colleagues and friends with whom I worked and laughed during the past decade.

Mr. Obama, Meet the New Brazil

By JULIA SWEIG and MATIAS SPEKTOR
Published: March 18, 2011

When Barack Obama lands in Brazil this weekend, he will find a country transformed. In little more than a decade, some 30 million people have been lifted out of poverty and the country has risen to seventh place in the world economy.

Change at home has revolutionized policies abroad. Brazil has woken up to the 10 states along its borders, becoming the eminent power and driver of regional integration in South America. It has set out to develop closer ties simultaneously with Israel, Syria and Iran.

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With most of the Amazon within its borders, the world’s 10th largest oil stores, and nearly a fifth of the world’s fresh water, Brazil is an environmental power, an energy power, and guarantor of global food security.

Read the entire article here.

More Advancements in Cellulosic Biofuels

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Government investments in cellulosic biofuels may be paying off.

Not only do these advances move us closer to using grasses and other crops that require less water and fertilizer and compete less with food, it also moves us closer to the advanced biofuels that, unlike ethanol, can be used as drop in replacements for gasoline (read more here).

We need to combine these advancements with further efforts in conservation and efficiency, or we risk converting so much of the Earth’s biomass to serving human uses that we will decrease biodiversity to the extent that we risk further ecological collapse.

This doesn’t just diminish our ability to go camping in pretty places, it also threatens our supply of essential resources such as clean, healthy water and soil.  I like to go camping, but I like eating and drinking healthy food and water even more. They’re really important, and clearing diverse forests and prairies so we can plant crops such as grasses, whether for fuel, food, fiber, or feed, poses risks to water and soil.

Energy Department Announces New Advance in Biofuel Technology

Highlights Opportunity to Reduce America’s Oil Dependence and Create Jobs in Rural America

March 07, 2011

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu today congratulated a team of researchers at the Department’s BioEnergy Science Center who have achieved yet another advance in the drive toward next generation biofuels: using bacteria to convert plant matter directly into isobutanol, which can be burned in regular car engines with a heat value higher than ethanol and similar to gasoline. This research is part of a broad portfolio of work the Department is doing to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil and create new economic opportunities for rural America.

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Secretary Chu added that: “America’s oil dependence—which leaves hardworking families at the mercy of global oil markets—won’t be solved overnight. But the remarkable advance of science and biotechnology in the past decade puts us on the precipice of a revolution in biofuels. In fact, biotechnologies, and the biological sciences that provide the underlying foundation, are some of the most rapidly developing areas in science and technology today – and the United States is leading the way. In the coming years, we can expect dramatic breakthroughs that will allow us to produce the clean energy we need right here at home. We need to act aggressively to seize this opportunity and win the future.”

Read the entire article here.

Obama Pursues a Moderate, Pragmatic Approach During Energy Woes

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Of course times are tough. I tend to drive my car until the gas light comes on so I have to fill up less often, but then kick myself for driving so much as I watch the cost climb past $40 a tank. These are minor pains compared to the ones some folks are feeling, but even this light irritation is enough to make me want a fast change to whatever it is we’re doing, or not doing, in terms of making energy more affordable.

Patience is key. Jumping in to more drilling without taking the time to make sure it’s safe and efficient could cause as many problems, and increase total costs, as much as launching scads of new and often inefficient wind or solar projects.

Energy is expensive. Our government has helped it to be artificially cheap since early in the last century. This has lead to great advantages in our country, such as the great access most people in the U.S. have to everyday conveniences such as lights, heat, cars, buses, and airplanes. In most countries these aren’t nearly as accessible to people on, say, the bottom half of the socio-economic strata.

As Obama weathers the criticism from the right that we need to expand our use of fossil fuels, and from the left that more needs to be done to move us to alternative forms of energy, I hope that he and Secretary Chu continue their pragmatic approach, leaving the door open to more fossil fuels so long as they are safe, while also encouraging innovation and investment in alternatives.

More fence sitting, I know, but I believe this middle path is the best one.*

Obama Faces Bipartisan Criticism on Energy Policies

By Jim Angle

Published March 05, 2011

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell are questioning the Obama administration's energy policies and arguing more should be done to develop domestic sources of energy. (AP)

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell are questioning the Obama administration’s energy policies and arguing more should be done to develop domestic sources of energy. (AP)

With energy prices rising in part because of turmoil in the Middle East, lawmakers from both parties are questioning the Obama administration’s energy policies and arguing more should be done to develop domestic sources of energy.

“I don’t think the president’s position on oil and gas is as strong as it should be,” said Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, where the oil industry plays a large role in the local economy. “Oil and gas is an important industry in the United States today and it will be in the next decades.”

Many in the administration emphasize alternative forms of energy and some, including the president, have openly talked of the need for higher prices on oil and coal to make alternatives such as wind and solar more price-competitive.

Read the entire article here.

* I hope my post is fair and balanced. Not like the Fox version, but truly fair and truly balanced.