Tag: energy

Battle lines drawn over new fossil fuel infrastructure

Signs of oil and gas development are visible on a landscape level from 35,000 feet in the air.
Signs of oil and gas development are visible in eastern on a landscape level from 35,000 feet in the air. @bberwyn photo.

Broad coalition of conservation groups oppose measure that could speed approval of natural gas export terminals

Staff Report

Pro-fossil fuel legislators in Congress hope they can help their campaign donors by putting the cart before the fracking horse. An amended version of the Senate’s Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016 (S. 2012) includes provisions that would speed up the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval of liquefied natural gas export terminals.

According to critics of the measure, that artificially increases the demand for U.S. natural gas and hits communities with additional health and climate risks. More than 370 organizations are urging the Senate to reject provisions in the bill that would encourage oil and gas fracking.

The groups delivered a letter to Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski and ranking member Maria Cantwell demanding an energy bill that transitions the country to a truly clean, safe, renewable energy future. Continue reading “Battle lines drawn over new fossil fuel infrastructure”

Journalism: Covering climate change

A big story …

global temperature map March 2016
The average global temperature spiked to yet another record in March 2016.
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This is what global warming looks like.

Staff Report

VIENNA —Longtime Summit Voice readers will have noticed a gradual transition over the last few years away from local news coverage in Colorado to focusing on what is probably the over-riding environmental issue of our time.

There’s no longer much doubt that global warming poses an existential threat to humanity. The Earth, to be sure, will survive, but the ability of humans to maintain some semblance of civilization is definitely under the gun.

At worst, climate change (and yes, I use the terms interchangeably) will trigger some catastrophic and and as-yet unforeseen tipping point that will lead to mass extinctions and widespread ecological collapse. That’s not far-fetched if the world doesn’t get a grip soon on greenhouse gas emissions.

At best, even if we meet the targets set at last year’s climate talks in Paris, there will be massive dislocation from coastal areas from flooding and storms, and mass migration from parts of the world that will just be too hot. There will probably be major disruptions to the world’s food supplies. And many of the world’s natural treasures, like its glaciers and coral reefs, will just disappear.

It’s easy enough to say that life goes on, at least in the short term, but that’s not enough. Sure, some of the other short-term issues (politics comes to mind) matter, but in the long run, none of it will unless we get our act together soon to cut greenhouse gas emissions to near zero.

Some of my climate change reporting is now online at InsideClimate News and I’d like to invite all Summit Voice readers to check out their feed. Their great team of journalists is working hard to cover the most important aspects of the climate change story, and I’m happy to add my reporting to that effort.

My recent stories there include a look at how the Department of Energy under President Obama has been pumping billions of dollars into clean coal technology; a story about projections for record Arctic sea ice melting this summer, and a report on the melting of Austria’s glaciers.

Take some time in the next few months to consider the implications of climate change as you think about the upcoming election and choose wisely!

Environment: Can dams be operated without killing rivers?

Glen Canyon Dam. Image courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.
Glen Canyon Dam. Image courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

New study eyes impacts to aquatic insects

Staff Report

Using a vast sample of data collected in a citizen science project, researchers say they’ve been able to discern how hydropeaking affects aquatic insects that form the base of river food chains. The information could help resource managers develop alternative hydropower practices that aren’t as harmful to ecosystems, according to a new study published in the journal BioScience.

Hydropeaking refers to the practice of increasing river flows at times of peak demand, generally during the day. This study shows how abrupt water level changes affect aquatic insects in every stage of life. The research was done by scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey, Oregon State University, Utah State University and Idaho State University. Continue reading “Environment: Can dams be operated without killing rivers?”

Opinion: Colorado Supreme Court fracking ruling is a slap in the face to voters in Longmont and Fort Collins

Oil and gas drilling near schools and homes in Firestone, Colorado. Photo courtesy Shane Davis, Sierra Club, Rocky Mountain Chapter.
Oil and gas drilling near schools and homes in Firestone, Colorado. Photo courtesy Shane Davis, Sierra Club, Rocky Mountain Chapter.

Next stop, November ballot

By Bob Berwyn

This week’s Colorado Supreme Court ruling on local fracking regulations is a huge slap in the face to Colorado citizens, but it shouldn’t come as a big surprise. The court has nearly always sided with the state’s extractive industries over protecting public health and the environment, including a 2009 decision overturning local regulations that would have prohibited potentially disastrous cyanide heap-leach mining.

Both rulings are couched in carefully phrased legalistic terms that are nothing but poor attempts to disguise and justify the deeply anti-democratic nature of such decisions. Both are examples of the growing gap between the will of the people and the imperatives of large corporations that do business with impunity and with no regard for the social, economic and environmental consequences of their actions. Continue reading “Opinion: Colorado Supreme Court fracking ruling is a slap in the face to voters in Longmont and Fort Collins”

Op-Ed: Bankrupt Peabody should lead on de-carbonization

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Coal is so 19th century!

Can the fossil fuel industry transcend itself?

By Bob Berwyn

If there’s any silver lining to the global warming story these days, it’s that fossil fuel company stock prices are dropping even faster than global temperatures are going up. Investors aren’t buying the climate-denying baloney being peddled by the coal kings and oil barons anymore, as evidenced by this week’s bankruptcy announcement by Peabody Energy — the world’s biggest coal company.

The company’s debt burden is $10.1 billion, but you can be sure that none of its top executives will be standing in a breadline anytime soon. They probably have their money stashed safely in offshore accounts, but that’s the least of our worries. Continue reading “Op-Ed: Bankrupt Peabody should lead on de-carbonization”

Will Colorado voters go for strict fracking regulations?

fracking rig in Colorado
Community advocates in Colorado will start gathering signatures for ballot initiative requiring setbacks for fracking rigs. @bberwyn photo.

Fossil fuel industry attacks proposed ballot measure as economically destructive

Staff Report

Feeling the increased pressure from health- and environment-minded citizens and communities, Colorado’s oil and industry reacted strongly to the news that a proposed fracking-regulation initiative is one step closer to reaching the statewide ballot box.

Initiative 78 would require that all “new oil and gas development facilities” to be located at least  2,500 feet from “occupied structures and areas of special concern.” It would enable local governments to establish greater setbacks, and does not ban new construction within the setbacks. Continue reading “Will Colorado voters go for strict fracking regulations?”

BLM claims 2 billion tons of coal has no climate impact

Court battle over Wyoming public lands coal leases shows contradictions in Obama’s climate change policies

Coal mining in Wyoming
An open-pit coal mine in Wyoming. Photo courtesy BLM.

Staff Report

The battle over fossil fuels is intensifying both on the ground — where activists are protesting new coal projects — and in the courts, where environmental organizations are trying to block a series of huge federal coal leases on public lands in the U.S.

In the U.S. District Court case, the Sierra Club and WildEarth Guardians are challenging four leases that would permit fossil fuel companies to strip mine more than two billion tons of coal, and the conservation groups pointed out this week in a press release that the federal government is taking the absurd position that the leases won’t affect the amount of coal mined, the amount of coal burned, or the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. Continue reading “BLM claims 2 billion tons of coal has no climate impact”