Environment Forum

Must the natural gas industry clean up its act?

Natural gas is regarded as a relatively clean source of energy but there is mounting evidence that it has a dirty side.

My colleague Jon Hurdle has reported on Wyoming water woes that have been linked to the booming gas industry. You can see his stories here and here.

In August U.S. government scientists reported that they had for the first time found chemical contaminants in drinking water wells near natural gas drilling operations, fueling concern that a gas-extraction technique is endangering the health of people who live close to drilling rigs.

The Environmental Protection Agency found chemicals that researchers say may cause illnesses including cancer, kidney failure, anemia and fertility problems in water from 11 of 39 wells tested around the Wyoming town of Pavillion in March and May this year.

On Monday, I reported that high concentrations of harmful compounds have been found in the air in a north Texas town that is in the heart of the region’s gas industry, according to a report released by an environmental consultancy.

from MediaFile:

In latest green move, Apple quits U.S. Chamber

Apple, which made news in environmental circles recently with its new approach to environmental accounting, took another high-profile action on climate change Monday when it resigned its membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over the group's environmental policies.

Apple became just the latest defection from the business lobbying group. And given that Apple's every move generates buckets of publicity, the action may serve to thrust the climate change issue into greater focus for the buying public.

Last month three big power utilities -- Exelon Corp, PG&E Corp and PNM Resources Inc -- said they were leaving the Chamber over its stance on global warming legislation. Nike last week resigned from the board of the Chamber, which has pushed for public hearings to challenge the scientific evidence of manmade climate change.

Better Than A Rainforest? Air Capture Climate Technology Gets A Closer Look

It sounds almost too good to be true: new technology that would be better than carbon neutral — it would be carbon negative, taking more climate-warming carbon dioxide out of the air than factories and vehicles put in. It’s called air capture technology, and Reuters took a look at some promising versions of it on October 1.

This technology is expected to help some of the world’s poorest countries capitalize on any global carbon market, which would put a price on carbon emissions and let rich companies that spew lots of carbon buy carbon credits from poor companies and countries that emit less. The least developed countries emit very little carbon now. But the way the carbon market is set up under the Kyoto Protocol, this puts them at a disadvantage. If you don’t emit a lot it’s tough to get access to financing and clean technology under the current rules.

Most of these less-developed countries are going to be on the front lines of climate change, if they’re not there already. The predicted ravages of a changing climate, including droughts, floods and wildfires, would hurt them worst and first. The idea is that they need to develop, to give themselves a cushion against these disasters. To develop, they need energy. And usually, getting energy has meant spewing more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, adding to the climate change that caused the problem in the first place.

Endangered yellow taxi? US climate bill could turn them green

The sweeping legislation unveiled in the U.S. Senate today aims to curb climate change, arguably one of the biggest tasks ever undertaken on this planet. But it’s a bill that runs to more than 800 pages, and hidden in its folds is a provision that could turn a noted symbol of New York City — the yellow taxicab — green.

And it wouldn’t just be in New York. Boston, San Francisco, Seattle and other major U.S. cities would be able to create taxi fleets made up entirely of hybrid vehicles under the proposed Green Taxis Act of 2009.

Offered by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who now fills Hillary Clinton’s former seat in the Senate, the measure aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 296,000 tons in New York City alone, which its sponsors say would be like taking some 35,000 cars off the road and save drivers $4,500 annually in gas costs.

SolarCity envisions California “solar corridor” for green drivers

Electric cars can be smooth, quiet and environmentally friendly. But they still need fuel.

Many have asked — and invested according to their answer — whether that fuel will come from batteries, utility grids, curb-side charging stations or some other technology.

Drivers in California have a new option, if they drive a Tesla electric vehicle. And it’s extra environmentally friendly.

New Jersey has best payback on residential solar in U.S.

California may be the Golden State, but it’s New Jersey where U.S. residents get the best deal on their solar power systems, new research shows.

A survey by Global Solar Centertried to give an “apples to apples” comparison for the cost of solar power in all 50 states, the center’s chairman Jack Hidary told Reuters.

The common denominator turned out to be the cash payback, or how many years it would take a residential or commercial customer to recoup their investment and start seeing real savings, Hidary said.
“That takes into account the cost of the system, the sun at that spot, the incentives of that region, utility rates. It blends in everything all together,” Hidary said.

from Summit Notebook:

Global warming: Economic opportunity or not?

Stephan Dolezalek, Managing Director of VantagePoint Venture Partners and Tom Werner, Chief Executive of solar power company SunPower, sat down at Reuters' Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit in San Francisco and shared their views on global warming, investment and cleantech.

Dolezalek sees industrialization in developing countries as a more predictable impetus for investment than global warming.

Werner sees global warming as a stimulus for new business and a tool for adaptation.

from Summit Notebook:

Enviro-boxer Britain needs to spend more on climate cure

Scientists may face an uphill battle in trying to warn the world about the looming perils of global warming, but one of Britain's top academics wouldn't trade places with the politicians tasked with negotiating a new global treaty to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

"Although the science (of climate change) is difficult and still uncertain, it's a doddle compared to the politics," said Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society, Britain's science academy.

Thousands of international delegates will convene at UN climate talks in Copenhagen in December. All early indications suggest those talks, seen as critical to agreeing a successor to the Kyoto Protocol after it expires in 2012, will be anything but a cake walk.

from Summit Notebook:

Silver Spring Networks shows grid smarts

Scott Lang, the Chief Executive of Silver Spring Networks, sat down at Reuters' Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit in San Francisco to talk about building and expanding within green tech sector.

Here Lang discusses how his company's technology for reporting power consumption to utilities also finds problems quickly.

(Editing/video by Courtney Hoffman)

from Summit Notebook:

BrightSource CEO talks about building carbon-free future

John Woolard, the chief executive of solar thermal energy company BrightSource, sat down at Reuters' Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit in San Francisco to talk about energy efficiency, project financing and the future  of carbon-free power.

His advice: build fast!

(Editing/video by Courtney Hoffman)

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