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Winter ozone formation in Utah linked with atmospheric inversions and persistent snow cover

Oil and gas drillers must to more to protect the airsheds they operate in.

Oil and gas drillers must to more to protect the airsheds they operate in.

Air quality worsening in rural areas affected by fracking

Staff Report

FRISCO — Dangerously high levels of winter ozone pollution in parts of Utah can be traced directly to chemicals released into the air by oil and gas exploration. The volatile organic compounds, common byproducts of fossil fuel exploitation, get trapped under atmospheric inversion layers and sunlight reflected by snow sparks the chemical process that forms the corrosive gas.

For example, in 2013, ozone in Ouray, Utah, exceeded the national air quality standards 49 times during the winter season. By contrast, in the densely populated, urban area of Riverside, California, the standards were exceeded about half that amount that same year, but during the summer. Continue reading

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Climate researchers issue stern warning on natural gas

”  … It is the total quantity of CO2 from the energy system that matters to the climate.”

Shale gas deposits around the world. Map courtesy Energy Information Administration.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Researchers at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change have finally called the hoopla surrounding natural gas for what it is — mostly fossil fuel propaganda.

“The proponents of shale gas have always claimed that it is a lower carbon alternative to coal,” said Chris Shearlock, sustainable development manager at The Co-operative, an institutional investor in oil firms. “However, this is only true if the coal it displaces remains in the ground and isn’t just burnt elsewhere. Without a cap on global carbon emissions, shale gas is burnt in addition to other fossil fuels, increasing total emissions.”

The Tyndall report points out that, while U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have dropped by 8.6 percent since 2005, more than half of the recent emissions reductions in the power sector may be displaced overseas by the trade in coal. Continue reading

Large-scale forest bio-energy creates carbon debt

Study says nurturing healthy forests does more to curb global warming

Healthy, growing forests are good carbon sinks; converting woody biomass to energy results in a carbon debt that takes 100 years to repay.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — While some logging advocates continue to talk up forest biomass as a green energy source, there’s good reason it isn’t happening on a significant scale. Cutting wood and burning live trees, in whatever form, is just not energy efficient, except perhaps on a modest scale with low-frequency harvests every 50 to 100 years — or on a small, local level, where already dead wood is converted fuel on the spot.

In one of the most recent studies, researchers at Duke and Oregon State universities concluded that maintaining intact forests as carbon sinks does more to curb climate change over the next century than cutting and burning their wood as fuel.

After modeling numerous harvesting and conversion scenarios, the study concluded that it takes more 100 years to repay the carbon debt — the net reduction in carbon storage — incurred by cutting, transporting and burning woody forest biomass. Continue reading

A small carbon tax on coal could help drive shift to natural gas and reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly

The Mojave generating station, near Laughlin, Nevada. PHOTO VIA WIKIPEDIA AND THE CREATIVE COMMONS.

Harvard study tracks energy use, emissions during the 2009 recession

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A slight shift in the relative prices of coal and natural gas could pay big dividends in the quest to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to Harvard researchers who said that, when the United States fell into the 2009  recession, greenhouse gas emissions also fell, by 6.59 percent relative to 2008.

They said that, in the power sector, the recession was not the main cause. Instead, it was a decrease in the price of natural gas reduced the industry’s reliance on coal.

According to the econometric model developed by the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, emissions could be cut further by the introduction of a carbon tax, with negligible impact on the price of electricity for consumers. Continue reading

Shoddy accounting by feds hinders a valid cost comparison between fossil fuel and emerging renewable energy sources

Subsidies to old-school energy producers are under-reported, according to a study from watchdog group.

Reporting by Energy Information Administration tilts the playing field against renewables

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A new federal report on energy subsidies is skewed in favor of fossil fuel and nuclear power, according to watchdog group that performed its own analysis to show the true scope of taxpayer funds going to oil companies, coal-burning power plants and nuclear reactors.

Consistently under-reporting direct and indirect federal subsidies to  the nuclear and fossil fuel industries enables those industries to tout how much cheaper they are than renewable energy sources, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“Thanks to reporting omissions, the nation’s most highly subsidized, polluting industries will be able to use the Energy Information Administration’s flawed analysis to claim they receive far fewer subsidies than emerging, clean energy technologies,” said Ellen Vancko, manager of the UCS Nuclear Energy and Climate Change Project. “Recent independent analyses show that nothing could be further from the truth.”

The problem with the EIA’s methodology stems from the fact that the agency adopted a “snapshot” approach to measuring subsidies by only looking at a single year: 2010. By doing that, Vancko, the agency failed to count the massive federal subsidies that the fossil fuel and nuclear industries have enjoyed for decades — benefits they presumably will continue to receive unless Congress acts to limit them, Vancko explained. Continue reading

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