Energy resources

  • U.S. to require railroads to notify states when oil is shipped

    With the increase in available oil from fracking and larger pipeline capacity, railways are moving more and more oil. Rail companies moved 400,000 oil carloads in 2013, dwarfing 2005’s 6,000 oil carloads. The increase in oil shipments of oil has led to an increase in the number of accidents involving oil tankers. In the wake of recent accidents, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has released an emergency order to railroad companies which is designed to reduce the risk when shipping crude oil across the nation.

  • Limiting methane emissions would more quickly affect climate than limiting CO2

    When discussing climate change, scientists point to “radiative forcing,” a measure of trapped heat in Earth’s atmosphere from man-made greenhouse gases. The current role of methane looms large, they say, contributing over 40 percent of current radiative forcing from all greenhouse gases. The role of methane as a driver of global warming is even more critical than this 40 percent value might indicate, they note, since the climate system responds much more quickly to reducing methane than to reducing carbon dioxide. The implication is that while it is true that in order to slow, or even reverse, global warming we must limit emissions of both carbon dioxide and methane, it makes more sense to concentrate now on limiting methane emissions because reducing methane emissions would buy society some critical decades of lower temperatures.

  • Experts: Fracking-induced earthquakes are real, requiring scientific guidelines

    In the wake of increased seismic activity and rare advanced warnings, seismologists are urging the U.S. Geological Survey to include quakes resulting from hydraulic fracturing for underground oil and gas, or fracking, as an estimated hazard.

  • As fracking activity grows in Mexico, so does the number of fracking-induced tremors

    Mexico has the fourth largest amount of recoverable shale gas in the world, with 681 trillion cubic feet. As fracking activity has increased in the state of Nuevo Leon, so have the number of tremors. Between January and mid-April, forty-eight tremors, some reaching a magnitude of roughly 4.3, were recorded across the state of Nuevo Leon, compared to two tremors in the same period last year.

  • Energy-subsidy reform can reduce carbon emissions, add years to oil exports: study

    Reform of energy subsidies in oil-exporting countries can reduce carbon emissions and add years to oil exports, according to a new study. The study reviews the record of energy-subsidy reforms and argues that big exporters should reduce energy demand by raising prices, and that this can be done without undermining legitimacy of governments that depend on subsidies for political support

  • Producing more oil by capturing carbon

    Any method that leads to the production of more oil seems counter to the prevailing wisdom on climate change that says use of more greenhouse-gas-emitting fuel is detrimental. There is one oil-recovery process, however, which some say could be part of the climate change solution and now unites unlikely allies in industry, government and environmental groups.

  • More crude oil shipments by rail mean more accidents, but security measures lag

    American rail companies have long operated under federal laws, making it difficult for local officials to gather information on cargo and how rail companies select their routes. An increase in the number of trains transporting crude oil, accompanied by a series of derailments and explosions, has highlighted the dangers of transporting hazardous substances by rail.In February, the Department of Transportation announced that railroads had voluntarily agreed to apply the same routing rules to oil trains that they currently apply to other hazardous materials. Critics say more needs to be done.

  • Oklahoma worries that fracking-induced earthquakes threaten the state’s bridges

    Many residents in Oklahoma are questioning whether hydraulic fracking is to blame for the sudden increase in earthquakes, but for transportation officials, the security of the state’s 6,800 bridges is the immediate concern. There are 468 bridges in Oklahoma which are classified as “structurally deficient,” and most were not built with frequent earthquakes in mind. Earthquakes have become so common, however, that inspectors have had to inspect bridges several times a week.

  • Promoting nuclear power to avoid geoengineering

    There are two basic geoengineering strategies to reduce climate change: injecting aerosols such as sulfates into the stratosphere to block a portion of the sun’s radiation and thereby cool the Earth, much as volcanic emissions do; and the large-scale removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The aerosol-injection approach is much more likely to be pursued at current stages of technological development. Scientists say that in order to avoid the need for geoengineering, which could have enormous unforeseen consequences, the international community should pursue increased deployment of nuclear power plants, which do not emit carbon dioxide, to address the climate crisis. Many climate scientists are generally supportive of nuclear engineering and less fearful of it than they are of geoengineering.

  • Avoiding water wars between fracking industry and residents

    The shale gas boom has transformed the energy landscape in the United States, but in some drier locations, it could cause conflict among the energy industry, residents, and agricultural interests over already-scarce water resources, say researchers. They add that degraded water quality is a potential risk unless there are adequate safeguards.

  • Climate benefit of biofuels from corn residue questioned

    Using corn crop residue to make ethanol and other biofuels reduces soil carbon and generates more greenhouse gases than gasoline, according to a new study. The findings cast doubt on whether corn residue can be used to meet federal mandates to ramp up ethanol production and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

  • A few “problem” shale gas wells source of greenhouse gas

    High levels of the greenhouse gas methane were found above shale gas wells at a production point not thought to be an important emissions source, according to a new study. The findings could have implications for the evaluation of the environmental impacts from natural gas production. The study, which is one of only a few to use a so-called “top down” approach that measures methane gas levels in the air above wells, identified seven individual well pads with high emission levels and established their stage in the shale-gas development process.

  • High-altitude wind energy shows promise

    Wind turbines hovering high in the air and tethered to the ground, like kites, have the potential to generate huge amounts of electricity, based on a recent wind availability study. Researchers pinpointed tracts of the atmosphere ideal for locating airborne wind energy (AWE) devices, which convert kinetic energy from wind into electricity. Recently published research shows that there are enough areas usable by airborne turbines to produce several terawatts of electric power annually — more than enough needed to meet worldwide demands. More than twenty companies are developing various versions of the technology, with over 100 related patents filed in the United States alone.

  • Making ethanol without corn or other plants

    Ethanol today is produced at high-temperature fermentation facilities that chemically convert corn, sugarcane, and other plants into liquid fuel. Growing crops for biofuel, however, requires thousands of acres of land and vast quantities of fertilizer and water. In some parts of the United States, it takes more than 800 gallons of water to grow a bushel of corn, which, in turn, yields about three gallons of ethanol. Stanford scientists have created a copper-based catalyst that produces large quantities of ethanol from carbon monoxide gas at room temperature.

  • Debate over closing NY’s Indian Point nuclear power plant intensifies

    Indian Pointnuclear power plant, just thirty miles from New York City, has presented a conundrum for environmentalists who advocate clean-air initiatives, caps on carbon emissions, and increasing investment in non-polluting renewable energy sources — but at the same time argue that nuclear power poses a safety hazard to the surrounding area and demand that Indian Point cease operations. Closing the plant would require a long-term energy strategy to replace the 2,000 megawatts the plant currently produces.