Category Archives: Energy-Water Collisions

Subsidies good – for new tech

Rooftop solar panels could become part of a neighborhood microgrid.A few years ago, I wrote about the subsidy Pennsylvanians give to oil companies. I’d done some research and some math, and calculated that if we paid the subsidies at the pump rather than in our tax bill, gasoline would cost slightly north of $16 a gallon. We are still paying, but it’s likely more now.

Natural gas is plentiful and, for now, cheap, but it was the United States government that used taxpayers’ money to make fracking an economically viable process.

Continue reading

“War on coal” ends, water is the new target

Coal train exits a mountain tunnel near Hometown, PA.I woke early Tuesday morning, to the sound of July thunder, and the splattering of humungous raindrops on the roof above my pillow. In my childhood memories, the lake ice is becoming unsafe to walk on. Soon it will turn to crystals that tinkle in the waves of a light spring breeze. One morning soon, the first loon of the year will issue the celebratory call announcing open water.

Continue reading

A fair share of the profits

Marcellus drill rig in Loyalsock State ForestIn another life, another state, Mom came home one afternoon and told me about a van parked beside the road a couple hundred yards from our driveway. You notice things like that out in the country, where no one lives except you. You cannot pretend the vehicle might belong to someone visiting your neighbor because you don’t have any neighbors. Not within walking distance of the parked van, anyway.

So I went out to look around, and discovered someone had been using a hand saw to cut birch trees into four-foot logs, then loading them into the van and selling them at the mill in town, for about $70 a cord, where they would be sliced into veneer to cover particle board bedroom furniture and make it look expensive.

Continue reading

Water, water, every-wear, not counting what we drink

Your Water Footprint book coverIf you wear jeans, you wear water. It takes 2,000 gallons of water to make that pair of denim waist-to-ankle coverings, and another 650 gallons for the T-shirt to top the ensemble.

Growing, processing and shipping the coffee from a mountain producer to the cup you held while deciding which T-shirt and jeans to wear used another 37 gallons of water. The medium burger and fries you may have for lunch adds another 673 gallons, most of it expended in watering the growing beef and potatoes, then processing the harvest into food you can grab onto.

Continue reading

While we still have a choice …

When a train carrying 3 million gallons of North Dakota crude oil crashed Monday in West Virginia, it offered some exploding video for the evening television news. It also derailed 19 of 109 cars in the train, leaking oil from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota into a tributary of the Kanawha River. The latter supplies drinking water for hundreds of thousands of West Virginians.

Will there be reliable drinking water in Alabama or North Dakota after the snow melts in Boston?

The crash was the latest in a series of accidents, many of them fouling nearby water supplies:

  • March 2013 –  Exxon Mobil’s Pegasus pipeline spilled an estimated 210,000 gallons of Canadian crude oil into the town of Mayflower, Ark.
  • July 2013 – An onboard fire and resulting brake failure loosed a train carrying millions of gallons of Bakken Crude on a downhill run that derailed in the town of Lac Megantic (Quebec at the Maine border), virtually vaporized the town, and turned the nearby lake and river to black goo.
  • Nov. 2013 – A train carrying 2.7 million gallons of crude oil derailed while crossing a wooden trestle across a wetland near Aliceville, Ala.
  • April 2014 – A derailment sent multiple cars into the James River near Lynchburg, Va.
  • Jan. 2015 – A break in a 12-inch pipeline injected an estimated 50,000 gallons of North Dakota crude beneath the ice of the Yellowstone River. In the past eight years, according to the Associated Press, the pipeline’s owners have leaked nearly 334,000 gallons in 30 such incidents.
  • Jan. 2015 – Three million gallons of well-drilling wastewater poured into the Missouri River from a broken collection pipe in the North Dakota oil field.
  • Feb. 14, 2015 – Twenty-nine cars of a 100-car train carrying tar-sand oil from Alberta, Canada to Eastern Canada derailed in a remote wooded area of northern Ontario.

Continue reading

Japan, Ukraine foreshadow environmental risks in PA

John's thumbnail(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 5/9/2014)

Nuclear disaster in Japan and aggression in Ukraine could be good for natural gas producers in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region. For Pennsylvania taxpayers, not so much.

Much of western and central Europe buys about a third of its natural gas from Russia. That’s a lot of countries wondering how they will cope if Russian President Vladimir Putin makes good on his threats to close the valve.

Continue reading

Thoughts on the cost of new homes

John's picture(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 3/21/2014)

An article in the Gettysburg Times reported on “Discovery Gettysburg,” a 2,000-unit housing development proposed for the intersection of US15 and PA394 (Shrivers Corners Road).

It’s a fact that residential growth is the most expensive when compared to agricultural and industrial. For one thing, each new worker living in a residential development occupies a separate home; the same number of employees work together in stores, factories or office buildings.

Continue reading

Atomic States of America; a review

March 28, 2013 marked the 34th anniversary of the TMI meltdown.

Nuclear power is clean, government-regulated, and safe – until something goes wrong. In a 92-minute documentary titled “Atomic States of America,” co-directors Don Argot and Sheena M. Joyce trace the development of nuclear power – and what have turned out to be some of its attendant risks.

“The risk/reward is so different in nuclear power that one bad day at one facility can wipe out decades of good days at dozens of other facilities,” says David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer and Senior Member of Union of Concerned Scientists.

“The hundred tons that’s in the typical core can generate power for millions of homes for two years,” he said. “It is a very enticing technology.” Continue reading on Rock The Capital …

A beachfront cottage in Gettysburg, you say? Could be.

An ice island twice the size of Manhattan, NYC, visible exiting Nares Strait, broke off Greenland's Peterman Glacier in July 2012, then began fragmenting to become sea waterA lot of young hardbodies are going to be very happy in, say, 200 or so years. Several bits of information crossed my desk in the past few days, among them a new scientific report saying ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica, melting faster than was projected just 5 years ago, contain enough ice to raise sea levels 25 feet in a couple centuries – enough to move beach front property inland as much as 50 miles.

The good news is I will be able, on a calm moonlit night, to paddle the family canoe to the Rusty Scupper, a really nice restaurant on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, where, at a table near the piano, I proposed to my wife.

 Continue reading on Rock The Capital …

Electricity-water “collisions” becoming increasingly frequent

Fracking fluid spilled in a stream eventually may find its way to the Chesapeake Bay“Electricity-water collisions” is a term that’s reportedly been around a couple years, but it hasn’t had much attention. Summer 2012 may change that. According to a post by a Union of Concerned Scientist’s senior climate and energy analyst, Erika Spanger-Siegfried, “Our electricity system, it turns out, wasn’t built for summers like 2012, and it showed.”

Summer 2012 proved, or at least strengthened, the dual argument that global warming is real, and continued operation of air conditioners in an effort to pretend otherwise is not a divinely declared certainty.

 Continue reading on Rock The Capital …

Demand for electricity straining water supplies

Rivers streams and lakes are jeopardized by our insatiable thirst for electricityThe Chicago Tribune reported last week nuclear and coal-fired power plants along the Great Lakes have been granted waivers to release hotter-than-normal water into the lakes, causing fish to die or migrate to deeper, cooler locales. Plant operators say they need the waivers because shutting down the plants will cost them profits and make them unable to supply electricity for their elderly customers.

Continue reading …

Nuke power plants in hot water

Three Mile Island was the site of a near melt-down in 1979Last week, the Nuclear Regulatory Agency put the brakes on renewing licenses for existing nuclear-powered electricity generating plants. The agency also announced it will not be approving any additional plants – at least in the near future.

And a nuke plant in Connecticut was shut down Sunday because the ocean water on which it depends has become too warm to use for cooling the plant’s processes.

Continue reading …