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The Walney offshore windfarm. David Dixon / CC BY-SA 2.0

Britain's electricity grid hit a "major milestone," as its total renewable electricity capacity leapfrogged fossil fuels for the first time, experts revealed Tuesday.

The total available capacity from wind, solar, biomass, hydro and other renewables reached a record 42 gigawatts between July and September, overtaking the 40.6 gigawatts available from fossil fuels, according to a report commissioned by Drax's Electric Insights and produced by Imperial College London researchers.

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Mine opponents said the project would cause environmental destruction in Druridge Bay. John Robert McNally / Flickr

In an unprecedented move, the British government rejected plans for a new open-pit coal mine in Northumberland county in northeast England, citing concerns over climate change as a reason.

Northumberland County Council had approved in 2016 a plan from developer Banks Mining to extract three million metric tons of coal, sandstone and fireclay from a site near Druridge Bay. While supporters said the mine would create at least 100 jobs and bring economic investment in the region, opponents said the mine would hurt wildlife, harm tourism and continue the UK's dependence on the polluting fossil fuel.

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Like other groups, Zero Carbon Britain (ZCB) is working to find the best ways to address and respond to climate change. The difference in ZCB is that the organization doesn't want to rely on future promises or technologies to get the job done.

ZCB says the job can be done with existing resources, sooner than later.

"By making changes to our buildings, transport systems and behavior, and by investing in a variety of renewable energy generation technologies suited to the UK (without a nuclear component), we can provide a reliable zero carbon energy supply without negatively impacting on quality of life," reads an executive summary of the organization's latest report, Rethinking the Future.

Planetary boundaries, divided into sections representing those with common

roots of climate change and of land use.The grey circle represents the ‘safe operating space’ for humanity. Graphic credit: Zero Carbon Britain

Those ideas are coming to the U.S. next week when ZCB coordinator Paul Allen comes to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History for a special lecture about the project. Allen has held several key positions in the United Kingdom, including climate change commissioner for Wales and board member of the International Forum for Sustainable Energy.

Allen's appearance is through the GreenCityBlueLake Institute, the museum's sustainability center. He will likely provide advice for Sustainable Cleveland 2019, an initiative to minimize the city's environmental impact as it tries to expand and accelerate its economy.

The ZCB team is comprised of researchers who formed the group in 2006. They have have released three reports to date, all of which contain "rapid scenarios" for getting to a zero-carbon United Kingdom and, perhaps, world. Rethinking the Future imagines a successful transition a decade and a half from now.

"It is 2030. We have acknowledged our historical responsibility as a long-industrialized nation and made our contribution to addressing climate change by reducing UK greenhouse gas emissions rapidly to net zero," the report reads.

The 214-page document spells out how emissions related to energy, transportation, buildings and more are each reduced to arrive at a zero-carbon state.

The Center for Alternative Technology (CAT) houses ZCB and uses its materials for educating its students, while the group also offers its reports to people looking to encourage their local politicians to enact policies that will aid in the quest to reduce emissions.

Allen is external relations director at CAT. This 2010 clip from Peace Trees features Allen explaining the ZCB vision:

Allen was little more blunt in late 2013 when he appeared at an event in Penrith, Cumbria to discuss the report.

"We know we can do it, we just have to get off our butts and do it," he said.

Oil Change International

By Andy Rowell

Exporting LNG to Europe and the thirsty markets of Asia could be a sign of things to come.

The oil and gas industry has long argued that the fracking boom sweeping America will lead to an age of plenty where gas prices remain low indefinitely, energy is cheap and jobs are created.

But the oil and gas industry does not work in geographical isolation; it is an international industry. And increasingly the U.S. is looking to export frack gas as liquified natural gas (LNG).

Yesterday came the first of what could potentially be many deals. The British company Centrica announced that it had signed a $15 billion, 20-year, “landmark” agreement with Cheniere Energy Partners, which would allow it to export enough from the U.S. to supply just under 2 million British homes each year.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, welcomed the deal: “Future gas supplies from the U.S. will help diversify our energy mix and provide British consumers with a new long-term, secure and affordable source of fuel.”

Exporting LNG to Europe and the thirsty markets of Asia could be a sign of things to come. Indeed, in the Financial Times, Ed Crooks argues that more than 40 percent of the entire U.S. marketed gas production could be exported, if all the LNG applications go ahead.

He writes: “The U.S. Department of Energy has been sent applications from 21 proposed LNG projects for permits to export a total of 28.3bn cubic feet of gas per day: 41 percent of the entire marketed gas production of the U.S. last year.”

The rush to export has provoked a backlash, and Crooks argues that: “An increasingly vocal campaign is arguing for a go-slow in allowing U.S. shale production to be exported as liquefied natural gas.”

The reason for this is simple old economics of supply and demand. At the moment, there is a glut of U.S. gas, driving down prices, but if 20 or 30 percent is exported, this will reduce supply in the U.S. and raise prices. And if prices rise, investment will fall, further curtailing supply and further increasing prices.

One businessman, Peter Huntsman, chief executive of Huntsman chemicals who is advocating a slowdown in exports, cautions that “the U.S. price of gas would skyrocket,” if LNG exports are allowed to continue.

Indeed, there is now an industry-backed campaign called America’s Energy Advantage that is warning that billions of dollars of potential investment in U.S. industry could be at risk if the large scale LNG exports do indeed happen.

The group—which includes the heavy energy users such as Dow Chemical, Huntsman and Alcoa—is essentially calling for exports to be curtailed soon.

On the other side of the fence more than 100 members of Congress have signed a letter asking for the Obama administration to “advance without delay … toward approval of export permits.”

The oil industry has also attacked opponents of exporting natural gas. Earlier this month, Exxon Mobil Senior Vice President Michael Dolan told an energy conference in Houston that “It’s absolutely embarrassing for people in our industry at very high levels to make a case that’s blatantly to put money in their pocket.”

Writing on the Oilprice.com website yesterday, Kurt Cobb author of the peak-oil thriller, Prelude, argued that the pro-export drive of the oil industry “is to get higher prices for its product than customers in the United States can provide.”

But all may not be what they seem in the U.S. right now he argues. Cobb argues that, even without a massive export boom, that “U.S. natural gas production could actually start declining soon and send prices soaring … the present and the past suggest that the so-called shale gas revolution is about to be laid to rest.”

If Cobb is proved right, and that is a big if, Centrica may have just bet $15 billion on the wrong horse.

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING and LNG pages for more related news on this topic.

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Sign the petition today, telling President Obama to enact an immediate fracking moratorium:

 

Media Matters for America

By Salvatore Colleluori

The Oklahoman relied on the "absence of compelling evidence" and the comments of a single geologist to conclude that the largest recorded earthquake in Oklahoma's history was not tied to fracking, despite mounting evidence that indicates otherwise. In doing so, the paper dismissed mounting evidence linking underground injection of wastewater to earthquakes at large, continuing its attempt to cast doubt on science and shut down policy debates that could affect the paper's owner, billionaire oil and gas tycoon Philip Anschutz.

In a Dec. 11 editorial, The Oklahoman dismissed the links between oil and gas exploration and earthquakes by saying "unless proven otherwise," any assumption of what caused the earthquake "should go to nature" instead of being attributed to mankind. From The Oklahoman editorial (emphasis added):

Ties go to the runner in baseball. Assumptions about nature, when apparently tied, should go to nature. Unless proven otherwise.

This is the heart of the discussion on whether the largest recorded earthquake in Oklahoma history was manmade rather than an act of nature. Some believe that oil and gas exploration activity in the area of the epicenter caused the quake. That's an assumption, as is the belief that earthquakes are natural phenomena always caused by nature and never by mankind.

We subscribe to the view that in the absence of compelling evidence that a natural phenomenon was caused by human activity, we should assume it was caused by nature. But we live in a time when science-based policymaking is highly politicized and a portion of mankind dislikes humanity to the point of suspecting that many "natural" events (such as hurricanes) are the unnatural result of people.

The editorial points to one seismologist, Oklahoma Geological Survey's Austin Holland, who said, "until you can prove that it's not a natural earthquake, you should assume it's a natural earthquake." However, experts believe that the November 2011 earthquake and other events in Oklahoma—such as the drastic increase from six earthquakes between 2000 and 2008 to 850 earthquakes between January 2010 and March 2011 in Oklahoma County—point to a link between fracking-related activites, specifically wastewater injection and seismic activity. Similar links have also been made in Dallas, Texas, Ohio and Arkansas. Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey also presented a report in April that found that "seismicity rate changes" in Arkansas and Oklahoma "are almost certainly manmade," although it remains unclear if the changes were related specifically to fracking or to the rate of oil and gas production.

Even shale development corporations have voiced their concerns that their activities may have contributed to seismic activity. Cuadrilla Resources, the only company in Britain using hydraulic fracturing to extract oil and gas, admitted in a report that earthquakes near Blackpool, England were likely caused by their work in the area. From the Huffington Post:

The only company in Britain using hydraulic fracturing to release natural gas from shale rock said Wednesday that the controversial technique probably did trigger earth tremors in April and May.

But a report commissioned by Cuadrilla Resources, which is drilling for gas in the area outside the northwestern English coastal resort town of Blackpool, cautioned that the tremors, measuring 1.9 and 2.8 on the Richter scale—were due to an unusual combination of geology and operations and were unlikely to happen again.

The Oklahoman editorial is the second editorial in two weeks to criticize the use of science in policy making. On Nov. 28, the paper told policymakers to ignore science because it could hurt jobs and increase economic hardship "in the name of global warming theories" its editors don't believe are valid. In fact, since the paper was purchased by oil and gas tycoon Philip Anschutz, whose company sued a town that banned fracking, the paper has dismissed the links between fracking and groundwater contamination and written two previous editorials attacking the connection between fracking-related activities and seismic activity.

Despite the mounting evidence that oil and gas extraction could be harmful to our planet, The Oklahoman continues to disregard science and shut down any debate that might hurt its owner's financial interests.

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

 

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