Laurel Whitney's blog

Fri, 2012-10-05 09:58Laurel Whitney
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New York Farmers Sound Off On Cuomo's Decision To Delay Fracking

That gush of wind some New York residents felt earlier this week presumably came from thousands of simultaneous “finger sparkles” as anti-fracking activists rejoiced while industry executives collectively grunted and ha-rumphed upon hearing the decision of Governor Andrew Cuomo to press the reset button on fracking approvals for the state. As impacts will be reanalyzed, this time to include more study into the potential consequences to public health, the reevaluation period is likely to push back a steadfast approval or ban at least a year or two.

The postponement obviously rattles industry members and a few landowners who want to start exploiting local fuel sources. But even some anti-fracking organizers aren't pleased, calling it “a reprise” when they'd rather see a full ban on the practice in the state.

But what do the state's farmers say?

Sun, 2012-09-23 18:21Laurel Whitney
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Amidst Record Drought, Report Shows Massive Water Requirements For Nonrenewable Fuels

If you haven't heard about the major droughts afflicting most of the US this summer, then you may just have your head in the sand (or more likely a water-parched dusty hole). In fact, the media department of the Drought Monitor website ran out of combinations for modifying the words “intensify” and “widespread” when referring to the drought in their headlines.

Indeed, if you have been keeping tabs on the situation, “megadrought” and “a new normal?” sound highly familiar by now. With farmers nervous about a modern-day Dust Bowl taking hold, the question on everyone's mind is, how long will it last?

This visceral threat of water scarcity puts a new report about the true cost of fossil fuels in perspective. “The Hidden Costs of Electricity: Comparing the Hidden Costs of Power Generation Fuels” evaluates, among other parameters, the water demands of fuel sources such as biomass, coal, nuclear, natural gas, solar, and wind.

In short, the nonrenewables like nuclear and coal use far more water to generate electricity than clean energy technologies like solar and wind. Take a look at how much water power plants need to function (mainly for the purpose of cooling):

Fri, 2012-06-15 11:50Laurel Whitney
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Why Is Pfizer Still Aligning Itself With Heartland Institute On "Public Health" Record?

The Heartland Institute has had a rough time the last couple of months. The climate denial shop has endured the release of embarrassing leaked documents. Then it launched a devastatingly ill-conceived billboard campaign associating climate science adherents with serial killers. That didn't work out so well. So Heartland's donors started pulling out. Its annual Denial-a-palooza festival was put out to pasture.

Despite the exodus of support for Heartland's extremist views, one major health care company remains a financial supporter of the Heartland Institute.

Pfizer, a major pharmaceutical company, continues to support Heartland, although its competitors, Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, and Eli Lily, have already pulled out. Now Forecast the Facts is issuing a call to medical professionals to sign a letter urging Pfizer to dissolve its relationship with Heartland.

According to Pfizer, while the company has publicly stated it disagrees with Heartland on its stance on climate, it still supports Heartland's record on health care.

Here's why that's ironic.

Thu, 2012-06-07 09:54Laurel Whitney
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States Continue To Push For Anti-Climate and Anti-Evolution Curriculum Laws

It looks like Tennessee can add another dumb law to join the ranks of other special ones such as being able to shoot whales out of a car, marrying your cousin, and not being allowed to carry skunks into the state or electrifying your trash. It now joins Louisiana in being one of the only two states to have anti-evolution and anti-climate laws in effect.

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) recently posted their yearly anti-science legislation scorecard. It tallies up all the bills that states tried to pass over the past year attempting to interpose more “objectivity” into science curriculum.

Normally objectivity in science isn't a bad thing, in fact it's quite necessary and essential. However, these state legislatures' brand of objectivity means questioning well-proven theories like evolution and climate change, which are supported by mounds of evidence and have earned consensus among (legitimate) scientists.

Recall that a “theory” in science has a different connotation than when everyday people use it. A scientific theory has been rigorously tested and reviewed by multiple experts by the time it's assigned that label.

Fri, 2012-06-01 21:00Laurel Whitney
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400 PPM Carbon Dioxide Concentrations Breach The Arctic

There's a saying that trouble comes in threes. Earlier this week, the International Energy Administration announced that emissions reached a record high last year, increasing by 1 Gt worldwide. At the Bonn climate talks, experts have warned that the window to curb a global temperature rise of more than 2 degrees is swiftly drawing to a close.

To cap it off, NOAA released the news that carbon dioxide levels have reached a new milestone this spring, tipping the scales over 400 ppm, a concentration the world hasn't seen in the last 800,000 years.

Scientists are seeing these high concentrations at their northernmost stations in the Arctic. Remote sites measure the gas in Alaska, Canada, Iceland, Finland, Norway, and also an island in the North Pacific, Mauna Loa, which has been recording ambient CO2 concentrations since 1959 (and produced the now-famous Keeling curve).

The global average is still around 395 ppm, but the Arctic is seen as an important indicator for global conditions to come, since it is an ecosystem that is much more sensitive to changing conditions.

The northern sites in our monitoring network tell us what is coming soon to the globe as a whole,” said Pieter Tans, an atmospheric scientist with NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) in Boulder, Colo. “We will likely see global average CO2 concentrations reach 400 ppm about 2016.”

Fri, 2012-06-01 04:43Laurel Whitney
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Chesapeake Energy And Other Fracking Companies Squatting On New York Citizens' Land

New York landowners are having a hard time evicting an unwanted tenant, it seems. That's why over 200 people residing in the Marcellus Shale are suing energy companies such as Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Inflection Energy, arguing that the land leases they originally signed with the companies over 5 years ago are now expired.

Originally, land owners signed on with companies like Chesapeake thinking it was a way to earn much needed revenue from their lands. However, citing New York's moratorium and descending gas prices alongside emerging environmental and health complications, many want out. With many of the contracts past their end dates, you would think that wouldn't be such a huge problem.

Except with thousands of acres of land at stake, the oil and gas companies aren't releasing or renegotiating any new leases any time soon, invoking the act of God and natural disaster clauses of the leases.

In legal speak, it's called “force majeure.” It allows the terms of a lease to continue based on unforeseen circumstances. Usually this counts for natural disasters or “acts of God”, but in this case, the companies are arguing that the moratorium on fracking in New York state should fall under this clause and allow them to retain the land.

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