28 April 2013

The Gas We Eat

The Gas We Eat

Nearly half of the world’s population owes its existence to food grown with industrial nitrogen fertilizer produced from natural gas. (1) In 2004, journalist Richard Manning published an intriguing, if somewhat controversial, article in Harpers magazine called The Oil We Eat: Tracing the food chain back to Iraq. Manning notes that growing our food under the usual practices requires about 10 calories of fossil fuel energy for every calorie of …

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21 March 2013

EPA to Enbridge: Dredge More Submerged Oil from the Kalamazoo River

EPA to Enbridge: Dredge More Submerged Oil from the Kalamazoo River

On July 25 2010, the 30-inch diameter Enbridge 6B pipeline ruptured near Marshall, Michigan. Roughly 1 million gallons of diluted bitumen (DilBit) from Canadian oil sands spilled into Talmadge Creek, a tributary to the Kalamazoo River. Nearly three years later, the cleanup continues. Last week, the U.S. EPA issued a final Administrative Order requiring Enbridge, the owner of the pipeline, to conduct additional dredging to remove submerged oil from three portions of …

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15 February 2013

Dubai Flare Gas Slated for Motor Fuel

In the city of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is a partnership between the city and the national oil company that will create a project to capture flare gas (see previous post), compress it, and use it for motor fuel. An excerpt from the press release: Emirates Gas LLC (EMGAS), a subsidiary of Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC), has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Dubai Municipality to treat land …

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11 February 2013

The Letter: Closing Remarks from Outgoing Energy Secretary Steven Chu

Picking Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Chu to lead the Department of Energy signaled President Obama’s committment to having science influence policy and scientists running some of the government. Contrast Secretary Chu’s credentials with those of Gearge W. Bush’s first Energy Secretary, Attorney and Republican Party leader Spencer Abraham. In fairness, Bush’s second Energy Secretary, Samuel Bodman, held a doctorate in Chemical Engineering. I’ve been impressed with Secretary Chu’s accomplishments, …

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28 January 2013

Oil Well Natural Gas Flares Seen from Space

From the blog Random Policy: Waste Not, Want Not, Michael Cain presents an interesting NASA night time satalite image of North America. The continent is dark except for lights emitted from cities and other sources, notabley, waste gas flares from the Bakken and Eagle Ford shale oil fields. Near the North Dakota-Montana border is a cluster of gas flares roughly the size of Pittsburgh. The Eagle Ford flares trace a …

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28 December 2012

Dustbowl Adaptations: Conservation, Irrigation

Dustbowl Adaptations: Conservation, Irrigation

The excellent Ken Burns documentary, “Dustbowl” (see previous post) featured personal accounts of many individuals who experienced the disaster first hand. The film emphasized a mostly non-technical, human perspective that, I thought, did a good job of placing us into the shoes of those who endured incredibly tough circumstances – within the United States. In the second half of the film, Burns introduced Hugh Hammond Bennett and other soil scientists …

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17 November 2012

Ken Burns Presents “The Dust Bowl” on PBS

Ken Burns Presents "The Dust Bowl" on PBS

This coming Sunday and Monday nights (November 18-19), PBS is featuring the Ken Burns documentary, The Dust Bowl. Burns calls it “the greatest man-made ecological disaster in Unites States history… A ten-year apocalypse superimposed over the worst economic cataclysm in our nation’s history, the Great Depression.” From an article by James West at the Atlantic: As the East Coast licks its wounds from superstorm Sandy, many in New York and …

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22 October 2012

Romney on Yucca Mountain: Let Nevada Decide

On the topic of nuclear waste disposal, it appears Mitt Romney is at odds with his running mate and other Republicans who want to re-open the permit process for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. Here are remarks from Governor Romney speaking in Nevada: “The idea that 49 states can tell Nevada, ‘We want to give you our nuclear waste,’ doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Romney said. “I think …

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4 August 2012

A $3 Million Prize for Fundamental Physics

Let’s face it: if scientists aim to get rich, they picked the wrong profession. However, if you can hit a ball with a stick and be really good at it, you can earn tens of millions of dollars a year. Chrystia Freeland (no relation) has a nice article at Reuters about the latest $3 million Fundamental Physics Prize, which was created by Russian billionaire investor Yuri Milner. An excerpt: Milner, …

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19 July 2012

Introducing the European Geoscience Union – Soil Systems Science Division

The European Geoscience Union, a leader in the free dissemination of scientific research, has rolled out its Soil Systems Science Division (SSSD). The SSSD has a blog newsletter with some fine articles and beautiful images about soils and surface geology of Europe. When Editor Jessica Drake (Soilduck) kindly invited me to write a short “why I do soil science” biographical piece, I jumped at the chance. Being that I’m American, …

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