Tag Archives: environment

Fracking: opportunity or danger? Or cute cartoon?

Hydrofrackturing rock formations to extract gas – or fracking, as it’s commonly known – has generated more than a fair share of debate in recent years.

Supporters call it the key to solving our energy needs while moving towards more green energy, while opponents call it the worst idea since the Romans put lead in their aqueducts.

And water is often at the heart of the debate between the two sides, with opponents saying that fracking causes pollution of drinking water and also causes earthquakes. Supporters, on the other hand, say that this isn’t the case and point to the fact that gas extracted through fracking has lowered the use of coal in some countries, meaning that it’s helping reduce the amounts of CO2 humans pump into the atmosphere.

Right or wrong, this is a complex issue. Good thing we have cartoons.

OK, that’s a dig (bad pun, sorry), but this illustration of the pros and cons actually does a pretty good job of explaining the whole thing:

Obama’s plan on the environment – not great, but has infographic

President Obama has revealed his plan to reduce American CO2 emissions and generally improve the state of the environment.

Left and right have already had a swing at it, and if you’re into the environment as a sorta nice place to hang out, you’ll probably be a bit disappointed at its limited scope and level of ambition.

But hey, it comes with an infographic:


GROVER goes to Greeland to look at ice

Photo: NASA

NASA have sent GROVER on an autonomous mission to Greenland to look at ice sheet that covers more or less all of the massive island.

GROVER is short for ‘Goddard Remotely Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research’. In simple terms it’s a solar-powered robot car equipped with powerful radar-equipment. The idea is that GROVER will drive around and measure how thick the ice sheet is in various spots. Over time, the data collected will give scientists a clearer picture of the ebbs and flows in the ice sheet, and through that a better understanding on how global warming is affecting the interior of Greenland.

GROVER is currently ambling around Greenland on a trial run.

I haven’t read too much about this project, but I have to admit that the idea of using a solar-powered robot in a region where the sun more or less disappears for six months at a time strikes me as odd….

German brewers united against fracking for gas

Mmmhmhhm, beer, mwarhghgh
Mmmhmhhm, beer, mwarhghgh

Photo by: barockschloss

German brewers are warning the country’s government that the controversial fracking for shale gas could ruin the industry.

Basically, the brewers are concerned that fracking, which involves pumping a mix of water, sand and chemicals into sediments deep underground, might cause impurities in some of the water sources the industry relies on.

Although it’s still very uncertain if fracking could impact the brewers in any way near what they’re fearing and at the same time impossible because of the brewing process, it could be kinda funny seeing an Oktoberfest where people in lederhosen were lighting their beers and burps on fire. Or is that just me?

World’s energy production fails to limit CO2 emissions – in spite of growth in green energy

Photo by: JanetR3

While the number of wind farms, solar energy powerplants and hybrid cars are growing constantly, the World’s energy production is as ‘dirty’ today as it was 20 years ago.

The depressing statement comes from the International Energy Agency in a new report called Tracking Clean Energy Progress 2013, that has looked at how the World is doing, if we are going to live up to the goal of limiting temperatures rising by no more than two degrees.

“Stark messages emerge: progress has not been fast enough; large market failures are preventing clean energy solutions from being taken up; considerable energy-efficiency potential remains untapped; policies need to better address the energy system as a whole; and energy-related research, development and demonstration need to accelerate,” the report states.

The report uses an indicator called Energy Sector Carbon Intensity Index that measures how many tons of carbon dioxide, or CO2, are emitted per unit of energy supplied. In 1990 that number was 2.39 tonnes CO2, whereas the same number in 2010 was 2.37 tonnes.

Part of the reason for this might be found in the ongoing US shale gas bonanza that has meant lower gas prices in the US. That, in turn, has meant that the price of coal has fallen, leading several European countries to use more coal instead of gas in their powerplants.

US lawmaker says bicycing is bad for the environment – because of bikers’ breathing

In what can only be described as a bit of 1+1 equals 17½, the Republican member of the Washington House of Representatives, Ed Orcutt, has been putting his foot in his mouth, hopefully slightly limiting the air supply to his brain.

Not that I hope the foot to mouth move would harm him, but because it might be the only (slightly) good reason for Mr. Orcutt’s recent comments about bicycling.

In an email response to a constituent, Ed Orcutt claimed that bicycling isn’t environmentally friendly, because a cyclist ‘has an increased heart rate and respiration. That means that the act of riding a bike results in greater emissions of carbon dioxide from the rider. Since CO2 is deemed to be a greenhouse gas and a pollutant, cyclists are actually polluting when they ride’.

Yep. He actually said that.

And it’s not a fake.

NASA projects shows where the forest is going

A new project from NASA uses satellites to show the effects of forest fires and deforestation across the entire planet. And if you like forests, or might just be a little worried about the potential harmful effect of sprusing an entire planet, you will probably find the study’s results more than a little depressing.

Japan’s nuclear plants are (almost) offline

According to an article in The New York Times, nearly all of Japan’s nuclear plants are now offline. Only two of the country’s 54 nuclear reactors are still running.

So far, the shut down hasn’t led to any major power outages, but that’s partially due to some pretty extreme measures taken by the people and Government of Japan.

For example, air-conditioners are now shut off, even in the heat of summer.

One place the country have felt the brunt force of what shutting off the plants means is on the economy. Partially due to the tsunami, but also due to a sudden rise in the cost of energy, Japan posted its first trade deficit for nearly three decades.

Apart from rising energy prices, Japan also faces another financial problem. Several of the country’s industrial giants have both constructed and run nuclear power plants. The shutting down of these plants leaves these companies with a greatly reduced income and many workers very suddenly out of a job.

One potential way out of this is for the companies to look abroad for opportunities to build and run nuclear power plants there. However, the mood is very much against nuclear power in many places at the moment.

Retreating glaciers threaten Peru’s water supply

A new study in the Journal of Glaciology spells bad news for regions of Peru. The study shows that the glaciers on the Cordillera Blanca mountain range are retreating much faster than previously thought.

This is likely to lead to droughts in many of the arid regions that get their water from the glaciers and a water shortage that will take effect about 20 – 30 years earlier than had previously been expected.

Michel Baraer, lead researcher on the study, said that the results showed that the time needed for the region to adapt to the coming water shortages, previously thought to be decades off, simply didn’t exist.