Jason Barton

Professional Information and Energy News

Archive for the ‘Water’ tag

Mountaintop Mining: Coal Baron Debates a Kennedy

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If the damage to water quality is as bad from mountain top mining as many say it is, the paychecks these miners earn could have to go to their rising health care costs.

Coal baron vs. Kennedy: Activists, industry in mountaintop mining debate for wide US audience

By TIM HUBER and TOM BREEN Associated Press Writers
CHARLESTON, W.Va. January 22, 2010 (AP)

The real audience for the debate between coal baron Don Blankenship and conservationist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was not the hundreds who packed the audience at the University of Charleston.


For Blankenship, mountaintop mining puts food on the table and mortgage checks in the mail. For Kennedy, it defaces majestic scenery, pollutes water and shatters the quiet country existence of people who’ve called the mountains home for generations.


“If we can’t have intelligent discourse about the most important issues we face, where are we?” he said. “If we can help people understand it’s a hard issue, that’s a major step forward.”

Read the entire article here.

California’s agricultural heartland threatens to become a wasteland

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Agriculture has been fascinating to me for so many reasons. This article captures the intersections between economics and resource issues, history and culture. And since everyone eats and jobs are at the foundation of the recovery we need, stories like this speak to many essential issues at once.

The Appalachia of the West

From The Economist print edition

MIKE CHRISMAN looks out from his SUV as he drives through seemingly endless rows of walnut trees on his property near Visalia, in central California. “I have to be optimistic, I’m so tied to this land,” he says. His great-grandfather, after trying his luck in the Gold Rush, settled in Visalia in the 1850s, and the family has been there ever since. But as California’s secretary for natural resources—a job at the intersection of the environmental and farming lobbies, perennially at loggerheads over the state’s scarcest resource, water—Mr Chrisman also knows that optimism has become a minority view.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

January 25th, 2010 at 5:27 am

Brazil’s Lula Inaugurates World’s First Ethanol Power Plant

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Brazil’s ethanol refineries have already been generating electricity from the biomass, sometimes called “trash” or “bagasse,” left over after extracting the sugar from the cane. These refineries perform two different types of processes: biological, fermenting the sugar to produce ethanol; and thermal, burning the biomass to generate heat and steam to run the turbines to produce electricity. They’ve now taken that in a different direction by using the ethanol itself to generate the electricity. The thermal processes have been used by other companies, such as Community Power Corporation of Colorado, discussed in an earlier post. The second generation, cellulosic technology we’ve been hearing about involves using biomass such as left over sugarcane bagasse or corn stalks, called stover, or even grasses such as switchgrass or miscanthus that require very little water or fertilizers. Rather than burning that green matter to generate electricity, research is underway to access the 5 and 6 carbon sugars in the cellulose for fermentation into ethanol or other fuels such as butanol, or even creating a virtual replacement for gasoline.

SAO PAULO – Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has inaugurated a power plant that represents the world’s first use of sugarcane-based ethanol to produce electricity on a commercial scale.

“The developed world is going to have to look at ethanol with new eyes. I think when it comes to fulfilling our commitments and complying with the Kyoto Protocol, to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, ethanol is going to have to come into the equation,” Lula said during the inauguration on Tuesday.

Read the entire article here.

Water central to new energy mix

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It’s been said many times that the next wave of wars will be fought over water. Hopefully we can conduct ourselves, and our economies, in ways that do not force us to confront this possibility.  While living in Brazil and beginning to do research about pursuing a PhD in resource economics, my initial interest was in water. Then some time on farms in Cuba, Nicaragua, and especially Brazil turned my interest to agriculture and another of life’s necessities. When I was pitching my research ideas to a venerable professor in agricultural science at the University of British Columbia he told me that if these were my areas of interest I should consider investigating energy. I was initially confused, then thought maybe at his advanced age he was a bit touched, but now I’m seeing the innumerable, intricate connections between these issues.

By DUSTIN BLEIZEFFER Casper Star-Tribune

Saturday, December 19, 2009 11:55 pm

CASPER — Expect the issue of water conservation to gain more interest in discussions of energy development — be it green, black or somewhere between.

The arid West is likely become more arid with climate change, according to the world’s top scientists, and no longer will residents and municipalities yawn at the prospect of drilling a new well to cool a coal power plant or solar power facility.

And credit Exxon Mobil for bringing a new level of national attention to the practice of hydraulic fracturing, with its $31 billion bid for XTO Energy this past week.

Hydraulic fracturing is the practice of pumping sand and fluids — often diesel fuel — into natural-gas-bearing rock, creating fractures in the rock that allow the natural gas to flow to the production well.

XTO Energy holds 280,000 acres in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania. Residents and environmental groups concerned about maintaining groundwater quality expect that Exxon Mobil, with its deeper pockets, will perforate and “frack” on a scale unseen even in Wyoming’s Jonah and Pinedale Anticline.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

December 20th, 2009 at 8:28 am