Obama Backs Away From Federal Wilderness Protection

Under much duress from Congress, the Obama administration is backing away from a plan to turn millions of acres of undeveloped land in the West into the federal wilderness protection.

Ken Salazar, interior secretary said in a memo last Wednesday his agency won’t designate any of those public lands as “wild lands“. Instead, Salazar said that officials will be working in concert with members of Congress to develop recommendations for managing millions of acres of undeveloped land in the West.

A budget deal approved by Congress prevented the Interior Department from spending money to implement the wilderness policy. GOP lawmakers complained that the plan would circumvent Congress’ authority and easily be used for declaring a vast swath of public land off-limits to oil-and-gas drilling.

Republican governors in Alaska, Utah and Wyoming, filed suit to block the move, claiming that it would injure their state’s economies by taking federal lands off the table for mineral production and the like.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah said:

“Since the majority of land in Utah is owned by the federal government, it is critically important to strike a balance between the needs of our local communities and the protection of public lands that truly do have wilderness characteristics rather than pandering to environmental extremists…Today’s announcement is a positive step toward restoring that balance…Without strong and decisive action from the Department of Interior, wilderness will not be given the protection it is due, putting millions of acres of public lands at risk…”

What’s the Drill? Obama Tells All!

Alaska PipelineAmidst public chagrin about gas prices, President Barack Obama is increasing U.S. oil production by augmenting existing leases in the Gulf of Mexico as well as off Alaska’s coast and holding more lease sales in a federal petroleum reserve in Alaska more often.

Obama said the measures “make good sense” and will help reduce national consumption of imported oil in the long term. Though he acknowledged this won’t help to bring down gasoline prices.

Analyst for Raymond James, Pavel Molchanov said:

“There is practically nothing that Washington can do that would materially change the price of fuel in this country…Given that imbalance, there is simply no policy shift that could plausibly come from the federal government that can significantly change that dynamic.”

Obama’s announcement came after House passage of three bills, including two this week which would speed and expand offshore gas and oil drilling. Those on the right of the aisle say the bills are aimed at easing gasoline costs, however, they too admit there will be latency to the arrival of the benefits.

Molchanov said:

“Even if all that works out, it still would not materially change global oil supply, and therefore would not materially change fuel prices in this country or any other…In the grand scheme of things, none of this changes the reality of $4 gasoline at the pump.”

Wind Turbines Present Health Concerns

A group of residents living close to wind farms in Canada have joined forces to form an anti-wind power movement. According to CNN, the group is concerned with complaints that turbines may cause health problems.

Wind power is growing quicker in Ontario than in all other parts of the country, and government officials are relying on green technology to not only provide clean energy, but they also come with new job opportunities.

Wind Turbines FarmIn the United States, studies have found that 80% of residents in the Northwest support having wind farms near their homes, while the minority of homeowners in the United States, have complained about wind turbine noise.

While a small number of people that live near wind turbines complain of sound-related health concerns and anxiety, citizens living near oil, coal and natural gas sites complain of poisoned water, cancer, lung disease, earthquakes and death.

The risks of drilling for oil have also been observed recently in the news. The effects of the massive BP oil spill will last for years to come. And then there is the recent verdict that Chevron should pay $8 billion to Ecuador’s neighbors along the Amazon border for the environmental and health damage it caused through harmful drilling practices.

Governor Paterson of New York is not Fracking Around Anymore

Gov. David Paterson Environmental groups celebrated when Governor David Paterson directed a seven-month moratorium on natural gas drilling sites in New York; however, environmentalists feel that this still isn’t good enough.

The outgoing governor, a Democrat, vetoed a bill last week which, if passed, would have suspended all new natural-gas drilling permits until the date of May 15 or later. Instead, he issued an executive order prohibiting high-volume hydraulic fracturing of horizontally drilled wells.

Also known as fracking, high-volume hydraulic fracturing consists of the blasting of millions of gallons of chemical-laced water, found thousands of feet under the ground, to shatter shale and release natural gas trapped inside.

Medium Fracking oilIn vetoing the Legislature’s oil and gas-drilling moratorium, Paterson said it would have been applied to all low-volume, conventional, vertically drilled wells, and effectually pulling the plug on an industry which has operated safely for decades.

Low-volume fracking on vertical wells uses thousands of gallons of water per well, as opposed to 8 million gallons per horizontal well used in high-volume fracturing.

Governor Paterson’s budget office estimated that this broad a ban would end up with the loss of thousands of industry jobs, cease landowner payments and reduce state and local revenues from permit fees and taxes significantly.

According to the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York, the Legislature’s moratorium would have threatened the viability of more than 300 producing companies and about 5,000 jobs.

The oil and gas association said the Legislature’s bill would have severed the number of months drilling could take place next year by half, resulting in a net loss of up to $800,000 in real property taxes and $1.4 million in royalty payments.

Gulf Mess

Two congressmen will be holding hearings to investigate how well companies have responded to the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – still stubborn to clean-up operations.

U.S. Representatives Henry Waxman and Bart Stupak sent letters requesting the testimony of officials from BP America,Transocean and Halliburton. BP is the one who operates the rig, which is actually owned by Transocean. Halliburton was working on the rig just shortly before the explosion happened.

A date has not actually yet been set for the hearings which will look into how recovery efforts are going, and what the companies’ safety measures were before the April 20 blast which caused the spill.

The explosion that happened on the Deepwater Horizon, which is operated by BP, killed 11 people. The oil spill which resulted from the explosion is seriously threatening the Gulf Coast’s delicate ecosystem.

The historic environmental protection bill is now in danger. A new focus is being put on the perils of offshore drilling.

The bill calls for new offshore drilling – a concession by environmentalists. But with the tragedy in the Gulf growing daily, even conservationists who have waited a decade for the legislation are now saying that it is bound to fail if offshore drilling remains in the bill.

Now would be a good time for Obama to start making noise about the search for alternative energy.

Effectively Replacing Petroleum

oil drillingI need not strain myself by explaining that people and governments are both stubborn when it comes to going green. Global warming is nearly an impossible sell and as for energy, well, “if it ain’t cheap, it won’t compete.” Governments, worldwide apparently do not have the cajones to legislate a significant cut in oil consumption. And while the global oil supply is not actually running out, it is getting harder to find. Drill drill drill, that’s been the motto for as far back as we can remember. Now oil companies are anxious to begin drilling in the North Pole, the only untouched continent in the world.

Given the global aloofness to environmental concern, oil will only disappear as a necessity for transportation fuel when someone replaces it with a power-packed, cheap, stored energy alternative, which is easy to handle and quick to refuel with. These, my friends, are the facts.

As far as energy cost goes, the one obvious choice for replacing diesel and gasoline is pure battery electricity. Electric vehicles can be recharged from the grid for much less than the cost of gasoline or diesel from the pump. However electric vehicles and their batteries ARE expensive.

Currently lithium-based rechargeable batteries are used. And they cost an arm and a leg. They are costly because of the combination of using a rare, expensive metal combined with an involved production process. So what’s the cost solution? How about, Rechargeable Zinc-Air batteries!

It has long been thought that zinc battery chemistries could not be electrochemically recharged. ReVolt Technologies of Norway, proudly denies this myth. They have developed zinc-air technology which is indeed rechargeable. They have developed a technology which may be used to power anything from cars to cellular phones. ReVolt claims that their zinc-air chemistry has twice the amount of stored energy than conventional Lithium-ion batteries.

ReVolt is trying to break into the U.S. electric vehicle market; they are opening up a U.S. headquarters in Portland, Oregon. Currently the company is applying for $30 million in grants from the US Department of Energy (DOE) under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), in order to speed up the commercialization process of its large format zinc-air batteries for energy storage and electric vehicle applications.

Foreign Oil Makes way for Domestic Manure

Power CircleShawn Saylor inherited his multi-generational family dairy farm, and with it, came all the cow manure. 600 cows worth of cow manure. All that foul-smelling awfulness was causing complaints from passersby. That, and energy costs were going up, while the price of milk was going down. So Saylor put 2 and 2 together, and decided to get rid of the smell while at the same time drastically reducing his energy costs.

He installed a system that scrapes all the manure into a 19,000-gallon tank, moves it into 16×70 foot digester that heats it for a little over 2 weeks, and out comes methane gas that powers twin electric generators. The electricity is enough to power the whole farm and 12 neighboring homes, and then some. The heat runoff is used to heat water, buildings, and whatever is left over he sells back to the local grid.

Overall, it saves him $200,000 a year. With a system expense of about a million bucks, the whole thing pays for itself in about 5 years. Besides paying for the farm’s electric bill, the digesters reduce 98 percent of all odor. Electric generators give off a rather neutral smell compared with the contents of a cow’s behind.

After the gas is extracted, there’s still the matter of solid waste to deal with. It’s actually sold to the local community, which uses it for bedding for animals, or garden fertilizer.

And how about this for once: The government doing something right! Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection gave Saylor a $600,000 boost to get this thing going.

Perhaps we can all reduce our dependence on foreign oil by increasing our dependence on domestic poo.

Satire: Cola to save the world

How could Coca Cola help our environment?

The answer is simple:

  1. Cola is black. Oil is black. Can you imagine the possibilities? Environmental terrorists could silently pollute oil reserves with coca cola, therefore making people suspicious of oil, and more likely to switch to alternative sources of energy.
  2. Cola is a very acidic liquid. We all know that if we leave a coin inside a bottle of cola, it won’t be there in the morning. I’m sure we can find tons of cool uses that take advantage of this acidic property. The best one I came up with is spraying cola above the atmosphere so it could burn away the hole in the ozone layer…
  3. Deforestation is a big problem. One of the main reasons we cut down trees is to make paper. And why do we use paper? To write down information that we can’t easily remember and store in our heads. But hey, Cola contains caffeine, and caffeine improves memory performance. If we start supplying free cola to school children, they won’t have to use notebooks anymore!
  4. And last but not least: Cola is addictive. Again, mostly because of its caffeine. If we hook up endangered animals on Cola, we could make sure they return each day to our special drinking pools, and it’d be much easier for scientists to monitor their status.

Image via http://www.raystownprimitives.com/HOME.htm

What do you think: Are there any other ways in which we could use coca cola to save the world? Or am I simply too high on cola??

Will the economic crisis affect the environment?

How will the economic crisis affect the environment? I don’t know. But we have several speculations:

On the “positive” side:

1. Falling oil prices will decrease the need for drilling in Alaska.

2. A global slowdown will decrease consumption rates for all products, including paper and wood, and therefore may lead to a slightly slower rate of deforestation.

But on the other side:

3. Public concern as well as federal funds will now be diverted from other sources to handle the financial crisis, and this include less attention and funds to global warming and other environmental causes.

Is any of this actually going to happen? Time will tell.