Environment: Denver squeaks into top-10 list of cities with most energy efficient buildings

Energy efficient buildings save money

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A view of Denver from the International Space Station.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Making buildings more energy efficient may not be as sexy as putting up new wind turbines or a fancy new solar power facility, but it’s low-hanging fruit if the goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Energy use in commercial buildings accounts for 17 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions at a cost of more than $100 billion per year, and simple changes like switching to compact fluorescent bulbs on a large scale can save vast amounts of energy and money. Designing buildings to be green from the ground up has even more potential to help in the fight against climate change. Continue reading

Proposed Senate bill addresses oil train safety

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Oil train routes in the U.S. Map courtesy Center for Biological Diversity.

‘It’s painfully clear something needs to be done to protect people and the environment from the mounting dangers of these oil trains’

Staff Report

FRISCO — A series of common-sense steps could help reduce the risk of fiery oil train crashes, a quartet of Democratic senators said this week, introducing legislation that would remove the most dangerous tank cars from service, increase track inspections, and help better prepare first responders.

The bill would also require the U.S. Department of Transportation to set a national standard for the maximum volatility of oil being transported by rail, which would help prevent the massive explosions that followed recent derailments in Canada and West Virginia.

The derailments during the past few months show the risks associated with transporting crude oil by train, a practice that has increased dramatically. Five years ago, very little crude oil was hauled by the nation’s railroads. Today, more than 1.1 million barrels per day move by rail, largely originating in the Midwest. There have been four fiery derailments involving oil trains in North America since the start of February. Continue reading

USGS study points out huge fracking data gaps

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Fracking in western Colorado. bberwyn photo.

No way to assess water quality impacts on a regional or national level

Staff Report

FRISCO — Oil and gas companies like to present fracking as benign, and, for the most part, government regulators play along. For example, a recent oil and gas task force in Colorado barely touched on the subject of groundwater impacts from fracking. Continue reading

Environment: Canadian Citizen groups say new tar sands rules too weak to protect the Athabasca River

Activist: ‘These new rules read like an oil industry wish list”

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A NASA Earth Observatory satellite image shows the scale of tar sands mining along the Athabasca River in Alberta. Visit the NASA site for more information.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A set of proposed new water rules has unleashed a storm of protest in Canada, where citizen and conservation groups charge that the government is giving away the store to energy companies exploiting the tar sans of Alberta.

The updated regulatory framework sets guidelines on how much water oil sands companies can extract from the Athabasca River, and guidelines regarding the management and production of toxic tailings waste. Continue reading

Environment: What’s the true cost of fossil fuels?

Can carbon capture help mitigate the climate impacts of carbon dioxide?

Can carbon capture help mitigate the climate impacts of carbon dioxide?

‘We’re making decisions based on misleading costs’

Staff Report

FRISCO — The costs of burning fossil fuels are much higher than official estimates when the environmental and human health toll is factored into the equation, according to Duke University scientists who took a close look at the numbers and published their findings in the journal Climatic Change.

When those costs are factored in, a gallon of gasoline costs about $3.80 more than the pump price. The social cost of a gallon of diesel is about $4.80 more than the pump price; the price of natural gas more than doubles; and coal-fired electricity more than quadruples. Solar and wind power, on the other hand, become cheaper than they initially seem. Continue reading

Energy: Sometimes you have to wrestle down the 800-pound fossil fuel gorilla one finger at a time

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The San Onofre nuclear power plant, via the Creative Commons.

Can lost nuclear power capacity be replaced by renewable energy?

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — This week’s decision by a PUC judge in California may help jolt the slow shift toward renewable energy into a higher gear, according to environmental advocates who have been watchdogging the process of replacing the power once produced by the now-defunct an Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

At issue was an application by San Diego Gas & Electric to contract with Carlsbad Energy Center, LLC for the purchase of energy from a proposed new gas-powered plant. When San Onofre closed, SDG&E was directed to replace the shuttered plant with at least 200 megawatts from clean energy resources and between 300-600 MW from “any resource,” which could include gas or clean energy. Continue reading

More fracking woes in southwest Colorado

BLM rejects request for orderly master leasing plan

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The BLM’s new management plan for the Tres Rios area is spurring criticism.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Residents and elected officials in southwest Colorado say a new management plan for a vast swath of public lands in the region favors oil and gas companies over community interests.

According to critics, the BLM Tres Rios land resource management plan would allow drilling near the edge of Mesa Verde National Park, adding to near-critical air pollution woes and disturbing important wildlife areas.

Most importantly, the federal agency ignored requests by local governments to ensure the orderly and safe development of fossil fuels. Continue reading

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