Arctic Ocean oil and gas lease auctions canceled


Arctic Ocean oil and gas drilling is off the table for now.

Feds also deny requests for extension of current leases

Staff Report

Drilling for oil and gas in the U.S. slice of the Arctic Ocean is a no-go for the foreseeable future, federal officials said this week, canceling plans for future lease sales and denying extension requests for existing leases.

Citing market conditions and low industry interest, the U.S. Department of the Interior said it’s canceling two potential Arctic offshore lease sales scheduled under the current five-year offshore oil and gas leasing program. The decision comes on the heals of Shell’s announcement to halt exploration in the Chukchi Sea. Continue reading

Bakken drilling boom displaces grassland birds


Rare species like the Sprague’s pipit are losing ground to energy development. USFWS photo.

More thoughtful energy development could reduce habitat impacts

Staff Report

If the Bakken drilling boom continues, land managers and fossil fuel companies will have to do much more to prevent further displacement of grassland birds, according to U.S. Geological Survey scientists.

Already, the furious pace of energy development in the region has displaced many species, the researchers said after documenting habitat impacts in a new study of Bakken grassland sites in northern North Dakota containing oil well pads. Continue reading

EU identifies potential for energy savings in food industry

What's the energy footprint on your dinner plate? @bberwyn photo.

What’s the energy footprint on your dinner plate? @bberwyn photo.

Report eyes energy footprint of typical consumer food basket

Staff Report

The EU’s food production industry has some catching up to do when it comes to adopting renewable energy, according to a new report that took a close look at the food sector.

Overall, renewable sources now account for 15 percent of the EU’s energy mix, but in the food production sector, that share is only about 7 percent, according to study, which acknowledges the challenges of of decarbonizing food production. Continue reading

Colorado: Not much love for new fracking rules


Finding common ground on proposed new oil and gas drilling rules won’t be easy based on initial comments. @bberwyn photo.

Industry, community groups both criticize meek draft regulations

Staff Report

New rules proposed by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission are drawing fire from both the industry, which says the proposed regulations go far beyond what was recommended by an advisory panel that met last summer, and by some citizen groups, who claim rules leave the door wide-open to large-scale fracking operations near homes and schools.

The proposed rules specifically address recommendations made by the Colorado Oil and Gas Task Force related to the size of oil and gas extraction and processing facilities, requirements for advance disclosure of drilling plans and  the ability of local communities to help determine locations through a consultation process. The proposed rules are posted here. Continue reading

Energy: Are fusion reactors ready for prime time?


Will fusion reactors be part of our energy future? Schematic courtesy ITER.

Advances in superconductor technology could help spur economic viability of fusion energy

Staff Report

Recent advances in superconductor technology could bring fusion reactors online within the next few decades, energy researchers said in a new study, advising policy makers to start making plans for replacing nuclear power plants.

The analysis compared building, running and decommissioning fusion power stations to traditional fission nuclear power, showing that fusion is close to being economically viable.

“Obviously we have had to make assumptions, but what we can say is that our predictions suggest that fusion won’t be vastly more expensive than fission,” said Professor Damian Hampshire, of the Centre for Material Physics at Durham University, who led the study. Continue reading

Report says U.S. lags on offshore wind energy


Can the U.S. take advantage of its enormous potential for offshore wind energy? Photo courtesy Andy Dingley/University of Delaware.

University of Delaware study identifies key policy hurdles

Staff Report

The U.S. has fallen way behind on developing its potentially huge offshore wind energy potential, according to University of Delaware researchers, who identified some of the obstacles in a recent study.

According to their paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. is farther from commercial-scale offshore wind deployment today than it was in 2005.

“As we celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005, it is disheartening to see that while land-based wind and solar have reached new heights, U.S. offshore wind has remained a missed opportunity,” the paper’s lead author, Jeremy Firestone, said in a release that summarized the study findings. Continue reading

Shell shuts down Arctic drilling program

Regulatory hurdles cited as part of the reason for decision


Shell Oil is giving up on drilling for oil in the Chukchi Sea.

Shell Oil's Arctic drill rig, Kulluk, stranded near Kodiak Island, Alaska

One of Shell’s Arctic mishaps came in 2012, when a drilling rig escaped its tow ships and ran aground. Photo via U.S. Coast Guard.

By Bob Berwyn

Shell Oil’s hotly contested Arctic oil-drilling operation will shut down for the foreseeable future, the multinational fossil fuel company announced today, drawing sighs of relief from environmental advocates who had described the exploration efforts in apocalyptic terms.

The company’s efforts have been stop-and-go for a long time. In 2013, for example, Shell announced a temporary pause in the program after a string of incidents, including failed tests of oil spill containment gear, runaway ships and notices for violations of environmental regulations. Continue reading


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