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.Read more

Environmental Prognostication

Chesapeake Bay Watershed sign on I-70.Seasonal weather finally is upon us, maybe. Temperatures should be in the 40 F range, and they’re often in the 60s, but last year this time they were in the 80s, so I suppose it is a bit more seasonal. The juncos, looking like flying preachers in their white shirts and dark gray capes, have returned. Nearly all the other “snowbirds” – what northerners who move south for the winter are called – have departed for what they hope are warmer climes.Read more

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.Read more

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.Read more

Fracking Pennsylvania: Flirting with Disaster

Fracking Pennsylvania: Flirting with Disaster, by Walter M. Brasch(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 10/4/2013)

Well before most Pennsylvania residents were aware of a natural gas industry north of the Gulf of Mexico, it was taking root in the Commonwealth. “Fracking Pennsylvania: Flirting with Disaster,” by Walter M. Brasch, is the story of that enterprise.

The narrative begins in 2000, when Mitchell Energy, with help from the U.S. Department of Energy, finally proved that extracting natural gas from shale a mile and-a-half below the state’s surface was a practical – read profitable – undertaking.Read more

Promised Land: The popcorn was great.

Another pipeline path cuts across Loyalsock State ForestThe hype made it out to be a movie about frackers coming to a small Pennsylvania town, population 880, and buying up leases from unsuspecting farmers. And then …

The “and then” was a little unclear, even in the trailers, but there was considerable implication there would be conflict of some sort. Alas …

As the story begins, Read more

Exploitation without conservation: a recipe for disaster

I love traveling. I enjoy meeting people in a variety of places, with different manners of talking and thinking. Though sometimes there aren’t as many differences as one might think. A friend turned 40 a few years ago, nearly at the top of Engineer Pass, just outside and way above Ouray, CO. I was drivingRead more

Letter to Obama

My son used to tell untruths. Sometimes he’d even say he hadn’t done a thing I’d just stood there watching him do. But he’s all grown up and haired over – except that place on his head where you could draw a map of Alaska and not mess up any follicles. OK, maybe a mapRead more

DCNR on its way to being DR

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.”Read more

Adequate DEP funding should be budget priority

A truck crash dumped “minor amounts of petroleum fluids” into Pine Creek, in Lycoming County. That’s important where I live because Pine Creek, at the southern edge of a heavily drilled natural gas field, flows into the Susquehanna River, which runs past Harrisburg and the City of York, in its way to the Chesapeake Bay.Read more

Electricity-water “collisions” becoming increasingly frequent

“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.”Read more

Courts to rule on fracking regs

Citing a lack of regulations to complain about, a U.S. District Court judge Monday ruled against a requirement for a full environmental review of fracking in the Delaware River Basin. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania townships await a ruling by that state’s top court that may determine whether traditional municipal control over zoning applies to the controversial methodRead more

Demand for electricity straining water supplies

The 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 themRead more

EVs closing in, slowly, on their niche

Electric Vehicles are coming – as soon as the charging stations are built and the price comes down. They have the mirror image of the problem Marcellus Shale drillers having. Nissan Leaf  has sold about 1,400 of its all-electric LEAF so far this year, down about 70 percent from 2011 sales. The company only soldRead more

Appeals court says municipalities may tell frackers where to go

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 aRead more

Wind helping blow coal away – in the U.S., anyway

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 twoRead more

The Sky is Pink

“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 intoRead more

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