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Study: Unchecked methane emissions from fossil fuel exploitation may push Earth past the climate tipping point

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FrackNation … but for how long?

Is natural gas really the lesser of two evils?

Staff Report

FRISCO — As frackers desperately try to pump every last bit of gas from the ground before the global warming clock runs out, scientists warn that methane emissions could push Earth over a climate tipping point in just a few years.

“We have to control methane immediately, and natural gas is the largest methane pollution source in the United States,” said Robert Howarth, greenhouse gas expert and ecology and environmental biology professor at Cornell University. “If we hit a climate-system tipping point because of methane, our carbon dioxide problem is immaterial. We have to get a handle on methane, or increasingly risk global catastrophe.” Continue reading

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Study: Methane emission estimates much too low

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America’s natural gas infrastructure has leakage issues.

Methane emissions from natural gas industry facilities and other sources may be up to 75 percent higher than EPA estimates

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A comprehensive air quality analysis shows that most estimates of methane emissions from various sources — including the natural gas industry — are much too low, a result that didn’t surprise the scientists who led the study. Total U.S. methane emissions are probably about 25 to 75 percent higher than EPA estimates.

“People who go out and and actually measure methane pretty consistently find more emissions than we expect,” said the lead author of the new analysis, Adam Brandt, an assistant professor of energy resources engineering at Stanford University. “Atmospheric tests covering the entire country indicate emissions around 50 percent more than EPA estimates,” said Brandt. “And that’s a moderate estimate.” Continue reading

Power plant greenhouse gas emissions drop 23 percent

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Switching to natural gas power generation has helped slow the pace of greenhouse gas emissions. Photo via the Wikimedia Commons.

Coal losing ground, but is still the biggest source of fuel for generating electricity

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The gradual shift to natural gas power plants may not be a panacea for reducing concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases, but the switch has helped slow the pace emissions.

“Since more and more of our electricity is coming from these cleaner power plants, emissions from the power sector are lower by 20, 30 even 40 percent for some gases since 1997,” said NOAA atmospheric scientists Joost de Gouw. Continue reading

EPA’s proposed limits on power plant emissions would accelerate shift from coal to natural gas

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Coal-fired power plants currently produce about 46 percent of the country’s electricity. Photo via Wikipedia and the Creative Commons.

Study compares economic sensitivity of gas and coal-fired power plants

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Proposed new limits on power plant emissions could spur a big shift away from coal and toward natural gas. The new rules on sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, nitrogen oxide and mercury may make nearly two-thirds of the nation’s coal-fired power plants as expensive to run as plants powered by natural gas, according to a new Duke University study.

“Because of the cost of upgrading plants to meet the EPA‘s pending emissions regulations and its stricter enforcement of current regulations, natural gas plants would become cost-competitive with a majority of coal plants — even if natural gas becomes more than four times as expensive as coal,” said Lincoln F. Pratson, a professor of earth and ocean sciences at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. Continue reading

Environment: Texas gas company hit with $200,000 fine after polluting air in southwest Colorado for 12 years

A natural gas drilling rig. Photo via Wikipedia and the Creative Commons.

Cleanup slated at the Ignacio Gas Treating Plant on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A Texas-based energy company has been hit with a $207,150 Clean Air Act fine after polluting the air around Ignacio, Colorado for more than 10 years.

After working with the EPA to resolve the alleged violations, Texas-based Elm Ridge Exploration Company, LLC will clean up its act at the Ignacio Gas Treating Plant located on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation. The company will also pay $67,850 in unpaid permit fees.

The plant has been in operation since 1999, accepting low-pressure raw and untreated natural gas from about 140 surrounding wells in the Ignacio Blanco Gas Field in La Plata County. The plan became a major source of nitrogen oxides and formaldehyde in 2000.

A 2010 inspection showed that the plant failed to show continuous compliance with various emissions standards and that the operators failed to obtain a required permit. 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

A switch to natural gas may not slow global warming

A natural gas drilling rig in Texas, via the Creative Commons.

Methane leaks a wild card in energy and climate change equation

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A new study from a senior researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research challenges the conventional wisdom that shifting from coal to natural gas would help slow the rate of global warming. The findings suggest that a partial worldwide shift to natural gas could actually accelerate climate change through at least 2050, even if without methane leaks from gas production.

Methane is a potent heat-trapping gas and it’s unclear how much methane is released during natural gas production. The picture is further complicated by the fact that coal combustion also releases large amounts of sulfates and other particles that tend to cool temperatures by blocking incoming solar radiation — as bad as those byproducts may be for the environment.

“Relying more on natural gas would reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, but it would do little to help solve the climate problem,” said researcher Tom Wigley, who is also an adjunct professor at the University of Adelaide in Australia. “It would be many decades before it would slow down global warming at all, and even then it would just be making a difference around the edges.” Continue reading

U.S. shale gas boom could tilt global ‘petro-power’ balance

Conservative think tank advocates for responsible development of  domestic resources, saying increased U.S. production could curb Russia’s petro-power

U.S. natural gas production could quadruple in the next 30 years.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — In Colorado, the debate over natural gas production from shale formations like those in the northwestern part of the state often focuses on environmental impacts, including the growing fragmentation of wildlife habitat and concerns about air and water quality from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

But there’s also a geopolitical dimension dimension to the rising tide of U.S. gas production. By some recent estimates, shale-gas production will quadruple by 2040, to more than 40 billion cubic feet per day. And that level of production has the potential to affect Russia’s ability to wield an “energy weapon” over its European customers, according to a recent study by the Baker institute. Continue reading

Colorado oil and gas drillers drop challenge to new rules

Oil drillers in Colorado drop challenge to new regs.

Pit liners to be treated as solid waste

By Summit Voice

The Colorado Petroleum Association this week withdrew its petition to roll back one of Colorado’s landmark 2008 oil and gas regulations. Specifically, Rule 905 requires companies to dispose of the pit liners in accordance with state solid waste laws.

The CPA pit liner petition was withdrawn at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s (COGCC) regular meeting on Monday.

“CPA should be commended for its willingness to work within existing COGCC rules,” said Earthjustice staff attorney Michael Freeman. “Rule 905 simply requires oil and gas companies to play by the same rules that apply to other industries doing business in Colorado.  Those environmental laws protect Colorado communities, our drinking water, and our land.” Continue reading

Natural gas drilling set to start beneath U.S. Capitol

Operation to include precendent-setting safeguards

Natural gas drilling, aided by fracking, will soon begin beneath the U.S. Capitol to help bolster America's energy independence.

By Summit Voice

Washington D.C. — Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers announced April 1 that natural gas deposits were discovered on U.S. Capitol grounds during the construction of the underground Capitol Visitor center. The discovery — made prior to the visitor center’s opening in 2008 — was announced today after mineral rights and jurisdictional issues were resolved allowing leasing to proceed and gas production oversight to be implemented.

An unsuspected natural gas bearing shale formation — similar to the Marcellus Shale underlying middle Appalachian states, the Barnett Shale in north-central Texas, and other shale gas plays around the country — was uncovered as the pit was dug for the several stories deep undergound Capitol visitor center.  The new visitor center was deemed necessary in the wake of 9/11 to mitigate the possibility of terrorist attack on the Capitol Building.

It is this type of shale gas, now accessible because of a recent gas production innovation known as horizontal hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) that has increased U.S. natural gas reserves to the point that President Obama made natural gas part of his Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future announced on Wednesday at Georgetown University. Continue reading

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