I’ve wandered around this planet quite a bit, visited countries I’d like to visit again, and experienced cultures that had some good features and some not so much. In my line, one of the most valuable cultural traits is freedom of the press. It has been under open fire lately, partly because one of the better known candidates claims to dislike most of the press – especially outlets that do not agree with him.
The king of Thailand recently died. Citizens were prohibited, under strict penalties up to and including death, from voicing disapproval of the monarch.
A bill in the Pennsylvania legislature has conservationists on high alert. House Bill 2224, some fear, will open the way to sale of public lands without the normal path through the courts. All they would have to do is declare the “parks, squares or similar uses and public buildings … no longer necessary or practicable.”
Which appears to many to be what Gov. Tom Corbett, R-Marcellus, declared his award winning state park system director, John Norbeck. It seems Norbeck’s “no drilling in the state parks” crashed into the “drill everywhere” juggernaut, and the people of the Commonwealth lost.
“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.
I’m watching an old black and white movie on television, “Cow Country,” made in 1953. It’s about times economic change in the 19th Century West, and cattlemen having a rough time adjusting.
Their situation was like oil companies of the 21st Century saying wind and solar will not work – because it’s easier and more profitable to keep doing what they’re doing than figure out how to do something new.
For years, Pennsylvania’s municipalities have held zoning power within their borders. As long as they provided a place within their borders for all legal land uses, they were allowed to tell developers of all stripe where to go.
But fracking developers did not want township leaders deciding whether the wells would be allowed near a school, or a pipeline under homes.
According to a release last week by MarcellusMoney.org, the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry has spent $23 million in direct contributions to favored legislator campaigns and lobbying efforts since 2000.
The big winners in the Cash for Legislation sweepstakes between 2000 and April 2012 were:
King Coal loudly proclaims its place in our society, from the employment it claims to offer to the electricity it sends to our homes. Billboards along the Interstate insist that coal – often referred to as “clean coal” – is the way to go for continued prosperity and energy independence.
But the billboards and television commercials leave out some established, and troubling, truths their supporters hope we will not notice lurking behind those huge signs.
The largest wind farm in the world may be coming to the Wyoming prairie. And smaller farms are in the works offshore Rhode Island and Massachusetts, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The Wyoming project would comprise up to 1,000 turbines, generating enough electricity to serve a million homes. The project, in two groups of turbines named, respectively, the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre sites, would occupy about 2,000 acres of public and private land south of Rawlins. Together, the two farms could replace two coal-fired generating plants in nearby Nevada.
The Bureau of Land Management has completed the final environmental impact statements …
For decades, science fiction has been telling of parallel universes. I was introduced to the idea in my youth by “The Twilight Zone,” a weekly television show that ran 1959 – 1964 and featured people in strange situations – often in places they thought they recognized, but were not where they thought they were – their home town, but with no people, for instance.
Or “imagine, if you will,” as show host Rod Serling would say, finding yourself on the street where you lived. You walk up to your home and are met by – yourself. It’s you, your wife, your child, your dog – and none of them know who you are.
Sometimes the evening news resembles reruns of those old shows. We recognize the representatives we voters sent to Harrisburg to oversee the state’s operations, but they seem not to recognize us. It’s as though we live under parallel governments.
“With the gas-bearing Marcellus Shale formation underlying 50 percent of the state (of New York), and with the gas industry proposing upwards of 100,000 gas wells (in the state), (Gov. Mario Cuomo’s decision to repeal a moratorium on fracking) could fundamentally transform New York.”
With that, producer/director Josh Fox opens an 18-minute video foray into the dangers of fracking for natural gas. Fox was nominated for an Academy Award in 2010 for “Gasland,” a documentary about the hazards of fracking, and is working on a full-length sequel, “Gasland 2.”
In his new short video, Fox says all the chemicals and gas often do not remain confined to the well casing and pipelines, and the industry knows the dangers they deny exist.
It’s looking as though Pennsylvania lawmakers may repeat last year’s performance and get the 2013 budget approved in time for them to go home for the July 4 holiday. The hot dog industry is depending on them.
To get it done, House and Senate Republicans (Democrats – at least those who would object – have pretty much been left out of the discussions) seem to have struck a deal with Gov. Corbett. If he gives back the cuts he proposed to higher education, they will give him another $1.65 billion for his favorite charity.
Lower-than-hyped revenue, plunging natural gas prices, and growing environmental concerns could spell trouble for the Marcellus Shale industry.
It’s attempt to recover corporate value could be problematic for Pennsylvanians at both ends of the state, as natural gas producers leave the northeast for the, hopefully, more profitable western hills.
While those away from the drilling fields see little effect from the industry’s efforts, those within it notice promised riches, flammable water, and eviction notices.
A newspaper story Thursday reported a federal indictment against a Texas-based company accused of bringing illegal workers to Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale fracking fields.
Coincidentally, workers in West Virginia are staffing road-side positions, protesting the practice of some Marcellus-related companies bringing out-of-state workers to take jobs for which local workers are available.
“We have a lot of people trained to do the work,” Stephen “Vern” Montoney, of Randolph County, W.Va told me last week.
While some of our politicians and fossil fuel barons try, with varying success, to convince us we’re not digging up enough coal, oil or natural gas, the folks who we are told are selling us our oil are busy building a city that doesn’t need it.
For the first time in more than a half-century, the U.S. exports more fuel than it imports. We still are the world’s largest importer of crude oil, but a huge portion of the imported crude becomes exported product, including fuels. Continue reading →
As I begin to write this offering, we await Gov. Tom Corbett’s second State of the State address, scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 11:30 a.m. There is some expectation he will remove a moratorium on releasing additional state forest land for Marcellus shale natural gas exploration. Currently, about 700,000 of the state’s more than two million publicly owned acres has been leased to Marcellus shale developers.
Meanwhile, the state House of Representatives has received a Senate report on House Bill 1950 – a bill that has been batted back and forth, in one form or another, for two years and which may, eventually, begin to levy a tax on the billions of dollars in profits gas and oil companies plan to extract from beneath our feet.
Several years ago, my mother owned 50 acres of woodland in Maine. One day, while I was on leave from the Navy, she came home to report seeing a van parked on the road that ran around the property. Would I go check on it, she asked. Continue reading …