Natural Gas is Not a Bridge to Future Renewable Energy

by Duane Nichols on August 29, 2016

Wind Turbines in West Virginia

Bridge to the Future of Renewables not Natural Gas

Opinion Editorial by S. Thomas Bond, Morgantown Dominion Post, August 28, 2016

Carbon dioxide emissions from natural gas are projected to exceed emissions from coal by 10 percent this year, accdording to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.  (EIA). Last year, natural gas use was 81 percent highter than coal, although its emissions were nearly equal.

“Another contributing factor to lower carbon intensity is inceased consumption of fuels that produce no carbon dioxide, such as nuclear-powered electricity and renewable energy,” the EIA said.

Of course, gas has several problems, among them the venting of methane, a much more serious short-time greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide; production of huge quantities of wastes, which is an environmental problem, and which requires a great deal of energy to handle; the destruction of aquifers; and its health effects on workers and people living near fracking gas wells.

Recent research by Oil Change International (a research, communications and advocacy organization focused on exposing the true costs of fossil fuels) shows that if all the proposed new pipelines in Appalachia to fire boilers for electricity generation and serve other consumers are completed, it will be impossible for the U. S. to meet its climate goals.  There are 19 pipeline projects proposed to get gas out of the Marcellus and Utica shale regions.

It is obvious the old saw used by gas executives that “natural gas is a bridge to the future” really isn’t what they have in mind.  They don’t intend to make way of renewables, in spite of the language.  They want an era of carbon burning dominated by gas to use of the known reserves.  What we are seeing is business as usual, with no real consideration of impacts on climate.

Flooding in the South – 31 inches of rain in a week, more than a “once in a thousand years” flood in that area – due to warmer ocean termperatures, which cause more water evaporation.

Forest fires in the West are due to warmer air, causing draught.  At the same time, it is reducing food production in many areas.

The ocean level is rising, something the U. S. military is preparing for at coastal bases.  The real estate company Zillow predicts 1.9 million homes will be lost by 2100 and cause a $882 billion loss. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has told the states if they do no climate planning they will get no money from it.

All over the world, glaciers are melting.  The winter snow pack in lower elevations is less.  This threatens the water supply of many areas in the West and around the world. Permafrost is melting; Arctic coasts are sloughing off into the ocean.  Species like alligators and mosquitoes and many plants are moving north, flowers are blooming earlier in the springtime; birds are nesting earlier, and many formerly cooperative species have lost the connection.

But in Florida it is illegal for state officials to talk about sea level rise.  On the other hand, Massachusetts is encouraging offshore wind projects by legislation; has banned electricity rate hikes to fund gas pipeline projects – a court considers if speculating with ratepayers’ money, speculation that is more appropriately the responsibility of investors.  That state’s highest court has also rejected public subsidies of fossil fuels.  Maybe it has something to do with the high educational level of the population of the state.

I live about two miles from a truck stop. In years past, I have seen several of the huge propellers for a wind turbine go through there in a month.  Then the Pennsylvania Legislature made it more difficult to establish windpower; and now they are few and far between.  This amounts to a kind of subsidy for fossil fuels, too.

So what is the status of renewables? The United States in 2015 built more solar electrical generation capacity than gas generation capacity, according to a recent article in Fortune, and also in the first quarter of 2016 according to another source.

Yes, they have had subsidies, but so have fossil fuels, huge subsidies and a lot of favorable legislation for them and the utilities that burn carbon to produce electricity.

With much of solar the utility is eliminated, and no long wires, no second big business to take its share.  Kansas will have enough wind power to meet its needs in a few years.

Sure, fossil fuels are still far ahead of renewables, but that is going to change at an exponential rate if it is not stifled. Subsidies are going to the wrong kind of industry.

Talking about climate change, Paul Krugman got it right in his August 22 column: “We face a clear and present danger, but we have the knowledge to deal with that danger: The problem is politics ….”

 S. Tom Bond is a retired chemistry professor and a member of the Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance, who lives near Jane Lew, Lewis County, WV. 

Solar Ferry Boat of the Future

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Protest of Dakota Access Pipeline

Photo: Native Americans protest the Dakota Access oil pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in southern North Dakota.

From an Article by Sonali Kolhatkar, TruthDig.Com, August 24, 2016

Until a few years ago, the word “occupation” was synonymous with power, imperialism and foreign invasion. Today, in the post-Occupy Wall Street era, more and more activists are using their physical presence to make demands. From Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park to Tahrir Square in Cairo, occupation has become a powerful method of organizing.

One of the most dramatic such occupations is occurring in the form of a growing encampment at the Cannonball River in North Dakota, where indigenous tribes are leading a coalition of environmental activists in protest over the building of a new crude oil pipeline.

The Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) has stolen more than a name from American Indians (“dakota” means “friendly” or “allied”). If built, it would pass under the Missouri River twice. The pipeline, which could leak, as many pipelines do, threatens to contaminate the drinking water, crops and burial grounds of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. Federal regulatory agencies, including the Army Corps of Engineers, quietly approved DAPL, which will transport Bakkan crude oil from North Dakota through South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.

Last November, President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have transported tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast. The rejection was the result of a years-long, hard-fought battle by thousands of activists, many of whom made personal sacrifices, traveled long distances and were even arrested for their acts of civil disobedience.

DAPL, which is only seven miles shorter than Keystone would have been, has not received the same scrutiny. Now, the only thing standing in the way of the pipeline is a growing army of nonviolent protesters blocking construction. An occupation that began in April has grown to about 2,000 and is still growing. Members of the Standing Rock Sioux have set strict rules at the space they are calling Sacred Stone Camp: No weapons, alcohol or drugs.

Members of other North American tribes, including Canadian First Nations, are traveling to the site in solidarity. Celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Shailene Woodley and Ezra Miller have lent their support. The protesters are standing firm, and more than 20 people have been arrested.

Jason Coppola, a filmmaker and journalist who has been covering the protests, explained in an interview with me that one of the most important aspects of this story is one that is age-old: The U.S. government is violating its treaty obligations to Native American tribes. According to Coppola, “The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 guaranteed complete and total access, undisturbed access, [of the land] to the Great Sioux Nation of the Oceti Sakowin [Seven Council Fires].” But that treaty has not been respected. The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration explains how—as a result of an expedition led in 1874 by Gen. George Armstrong Custer in search of gold on the Black Hills reservation in North Dakota—”[t]o this day, ownership of the Black Hills remains the subject of a legal dispute between the U.S. government and the Sioux.”

Coppola told me that it is “important to see this fight in the broader context,” because “the Lakota nation and its people have been fighting situations like this for a very long time.” The DAPL dispute is not just about a pipeline running under a river. It is, broadly speaking, about the rights of the original inhabitants of the United States.

At a time when white-supremacist notions are re-emerging and a major-party presidential candidate is encouraging America to hate again, this battle of government and corporate power against Native American rights is an important reminder of the real power dynamics in the U.S. and of who has been denied rights since the founding of the country.

Earlier this year, a group of armed white men led by Ammon Bundy occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon for more than 40 days in protest of federal land ownership. Those occupiers, who garnered far greater mainstream media attention than the DAPL protesters, ignored the fact that the original stewards of the land they were claiming were members of the Burns Paiute tribe. In fact, the tribe fought for decades in court to gain rights to the land, only to be given a paltry few hundred dollars per person as compensation.

By contrast, the very people that the U.S. has historically sold out and continues to betray lead the occupation in North Dakota. Just as it served the needs of white settlers in decades past, the government is putting corporate power and fossil fuel interests over Native American rights in the case of the DAPL project.

Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline, has launched a website with the innocent-sounding name of daplpipelinefacts.com. On it, the company touts seemingly optimistic economic gains, including the creation of “8,000 to 12,000 construction jobs” (contrasted with a mere “40 permanent operating jobs”). It echoes the standard claim of “energy independence” by liberal politicians, saying that the pipeline will help the U.S. be “truly independent of energy from unstable regions of the world,” because “every barrel of crude oil produced in the United States directly displaces a barrel of imported foreign oil.”

Under the “frequently asked questions” section, the website asks: “What is Dakota Access Pipeline’s commitment to protecting sensitive areas and the environment, such as wetlands and culturally important sites?” The lengthy answer addresses only concerns such as restoring seed banks and vegetative cover, but says nothing about the “culturally important sites” that it raises in its own question. The rest of the page focuses mostly on the concerns of private landowners. There is no mention whatsoever of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. It is as if the tribe does not exist.

Obama claimed to set his administration apart from previous ones by partnering with Native American communities. He has made it a point to visit reservations, a rare act by presidential standards. In 2014, during a visit to North Dakota, he said he was “determined to partner with tribes … on just about every issue that touches your lives.” Indeed, his rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline could be viewed in light of that partnership (Oglala Sioux leader Bryan Brewer called Keystone “a death warrant for our people” during Obama’s visit). In the last few months of Obama’s administration, it remains to be seen whether it will intervene to stop the DAPL despite the approval of federal permits.

Regardless, indigenous activists are determined to occupy their own land for as long as it takes to stop construction of the pipeline. If they succeed, it will be one small measure of justice in a line of injustices going back to the founding of this nation.

READ: Dakota Pipeline Would Make Water the New Oil, Devastating All but the Rich

 READ: The People vs. the Bakken Pipeline in Iowa and the Dakotas

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Third Study on Adverse Health Effects of Fracking for Natural Gas

August 27, 2016

Health Dangers of Fracking Revealed in Johns Hopkins Study From an Article by  Wenonah Hauter, EcoWatch.com, August 25, 2016 A new study out today from Johns Hopkins in Environmental Health Perspectives revealed associations between fracking and various health symptoms including nasal and sinus problems, migraines and fatigue in Pennsylvanians living near areas of natural gas development. [...]

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Guidance for Monitoring Water Supplies Threatened by Pipeline Development

August 26, 2016

From: Rick Webb, Nelson County, VA Sent: August 22, 2016 To: Pipeline Contacts and Affected Persons Subject: Guidance for Monitoring Water Supplies Threatened by Pipeline Development The Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) has released a report for landowners and water providers concerned about the potential impacts of pipeline development on water supplies: GUIDANCE FOR MONITORING EFFECTS [...]

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Arctic Ice is Disappearing Faster than Realized

August 25, 2016

‘Next year or the year after, the Arctic will be free of ice’ From an Article by Robin McKie, The Manchester Guardian, August 21, 2016 Scientist Peter Wadhams believes the summer ice cover at the north pole is about to disappear, triggering even more rapid global warming. Peter Wadhams in the Arctic in 2007: ‘We [...]

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The Collapse of Our Society is Underway at a Rapid Pace

August 24, 2016

We’re Running Out of Buffer as a Society, According to Experts From an Article by Dawn Allen, Legal Review, August 1, 2016 Photo: The Wayne Morse Federal Courthouse is within sight of a temporary location of the Whoville Homeless Camp in Eugene, Oregon. A given population, whether it is the yeast in a homebrewer’s carboy [...]

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Public Hearing in West Union on Antero Landfill Project (8/23/16)

August 23, 2016

  Your Comments are Needed on Antero Landfill Project Announcement from WV Rivers Coalition, August 22, 2016 Public Hearing Tomorrow, August 23, 2016, in West Union, WV The WVDEP is currently accepting comments on two permit applications for Antero’s landfill project, 401 water quality certification and NPDES stormwater construction permit. The permit application for these large [...]

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Dramatic Decrease in Diversity of Life Discovered

August 22, 2016

The diversity of life across much of Earth has plunged below ‘safe’ levels From an Article by Chris Mooney, Washington Post, July 14, 2016 Photo in original article: An aerial view shows a tract of Amazon rain forest that has been cleared by loggers and farmers for agriculture near the city of Santarem, Para State, April [...]

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Young Girl Reflects on Suing State over Climate Change

August 21, 2016

A 22-year old Activist Reflects on Suing the State over Climate Change From an Article by Kara Holsopple, The Allegheny Front, August 18, 2016 When she was just 16, Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania’s Ashley Funk was already up to big things—most notably, suing the state over its handling of climate change. The case was part of [...]

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Ethane Pipelines Under Development for Cracker Useage

August 20, 2016

Shell At Work on Three-State Ethane Pipeline System to Feed PA Cracker From an Article by Jamison Cocklin, NGI Shale Daily, August 11, 2016 An affiliate of Royal Dutch Shell plc started acquiring rights-of-way this month for a 94-mile ethane transport system that would feed the company’s proposed multi-billion dollar cracker in Western Pennsylvania. The [...]

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