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Oil Companies in Alaska Refreeze Melting Permafrost to Keep Drilling
A new industry is taking off in Alaska, as innovators help oil companies compensate for the irony that climate change is making oil exploration harder on the increasingly less frozen permafrost, NPR reported Monday.
Ed Yarmak, for example, heads a company called Arctic Foundations that makes metal tubes filled with a refrigerant called thermosyphons. These are then partly buried in permafrost, where they pull heat from the ground.
"To be honest, climate change is pretty good business for our company," Yarmak told NPR. "We're in the business of making things colder."
Yarmak said he had been selling the tubes to oil companies since the 1970s, but that business has only picked up with global warming, which is moving at double the speed in Alaska as it is in the rest of the country, according to NPR.
Josh Kindred, who worked representing oil companies for the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, acknowledged the contradictions of the oil companies' predicament, victims of a problem their actions helped to cause.
"It is ironic, and it's challenging for a state that is so dependent on resource extraction but is also really feeling the impacts of climate change," Kindred said.
Kindred said Alaska was too reliant on oil revenue to consider stopping operations.
But many oil companies are hesitant to admit that climate change is posing problems. Companies NPR reached out to for comment chose not to be interviewed.
Warming temperatures cause challenges for the industry because it builds pipelines and buildings on top of permafrost, and those structures become less stable when that permafrost melts.
"[T]he doors start to stick, the sheet rock cracks, the floor isn't level any more. Things aren't the way that they planned them," Yarmak explained.
Structural integrity isn't the only thing threatened by melting permafrost. Global warming also means the tundra is freezing two months later than it did in the 1980s, and companies aren't allowed to build the ice roads needed to transport equipment for exploration until the ground is frozen.
Brian Shumaker has developed a way for companies to get the most exploration time possible. He created a thermometer that can be stuck into the permafrost and attached to a solar-powered box that sends temperature readings to the Internet via satellite, so that oil companies can move as soon as they know the ground is cold enough. He sells them through his company Beaded Stream.
"Usually with our technology we can get folks out there days to weeks early," Shumaker told NPR. "It translates into huge cost savings."
- Permafrost thaw prompts emergency orders from Alaska regulators ... ›
- Alaska's plan to pay for climate change: drill for more oil - Vox ›
- Alaska's Permafrost Is Thawing - The New York Times ›
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‘Companies Should Not Be Allowed to Use Hazardous Ingredients in Products People Use’: Michelle Pfeiffer Speaks Up for Safer Cosmetics
The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.
Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.
The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.
By Julia Conley
Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.
The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.
"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.