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Fossil Fuels vs. The Public Interest
Kurt Cobb, Scitizen
The fossil fuel industry often pretends to have the public’s best interests in mind. The operative word is “pretends.”
Fossil fuel executives get out of bed in the morning thinking about two things: 1) Making sure they can sell all their current in-ground inventory of fossil fuels at a profitable price and 2) finding more fossil fuels to replace those they’ve already taken out of the ground.
But it is how they do their jobs which should interest us. In the past when few suspected that carbon emissions might affect the climate or that fossil fuels were limited enough in their ultimate supply that the world needed to be looking for alternatives, these executives had an easier job. Almost no one questioned the wisdom of using fossil fuels to power the expanding industrial base of the world, a base that was bringing ever greater material wealth to whomever was able to build it. The job of the fossil fuel companies was simple: Get fossil fuels out of the ground and deliver them in ever greater quantities to voracious industrial, commercial and residential customers.
Then the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, a huge jump in oil prices in the 1970s associated with the Arab oil embargo, the publication of Limits to Growth, rising concerns about air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels, and preliminary concerns about climate change linked to carbon emissions, all combined to make the public and policymakers question the world’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels.
(1 September 2010)
Is Fracking Even Worse Than Drilling?
William Fisher, IPS
With cleanup of the Gulf of Mexico barely underway, energy companies are already assuming a crouching stance in anticipation of a no-holds-barred attack by environmentalists on what the industry says is the next major breakthrough in natural resource extraction.
The breakthrough is called fracking – short for hydraulic fracturing – the process of injecting water and chemicals into reservoirs to fracture rock and free up gas and oil.
Critics say fracking can poison water supplies. They also say it uses large amounts of fresh water and generates large amounts of wastewater with limited disposal options. Hydraulic fracturing injects high volumes of water, chemicals and particles underground to create fractures through which gas can flow for collection.
According to the industry, fracturing has been used in roughly 90 percent of wells in operation today and 60 to 80 percent of new wells will require fracturing to remain viable. The industry contends the process is safe.
But hydraulic fracturing operations have been linked to environmental risks that could have significant financial implications for the companies involved and are leading to increased regulatory scrutiny.
(26 August 2010)
Canada tar sands industry ignoring toxic river pollution
Study contradicts Alberta government and industry claims that pollutants are from natural sources and not from the expanding production of oil from tar sands
Canada’s rapidly expanding tar sands industry is causing the toxic pollution of its rivers, but the government of Alberta continues to deny there is a problem.
A two-year study of the Athabasca River by ecologists at the University of Alberta found levels of arsenic, copper, cadmium, lead, mercury, nickel, silver and zinc far in excess of national guidelines downstream from industrial oil sands sites in the Canadian province.
It said the findings ran ‘contrary to claims made by industry and government in the popular press’, and that the sector was ‘substantially increasing loadings of toxins’ to the river, which is linked to high incidences of embryonic mortality and deformity in fish.
(1 September 2010)