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16 June 2016

Half of U.S. Corn Crop Now Goes to Ethanol

Farming has always been about energy. We eat food for energy our bodies need to survive. But now American farming is increasingly about filling gas tanks as well as bellies. At a typical gas station found along an interstate highway, one can fill up on gasoline blended with 10% ethanol made from corn, pay for it using a plastic card, perhaps made from corn, pull around the side of the …

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25 August 2013

Is Fukushima Out of Control?

Following up on a recent post, the news out of Fukushima just got worse last week in what appears to be shaping up as a major environmental crisis requiring a massive and coordinated international response. A spike in radioactivity led to the acknowledgement by Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) of a leaking tank used to store some of the more heavily contaminated water from the damaged reactor. Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory …

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18 August 2013

Groundwater Whack-a-Mole

In two high-profile cases, efforts to block the flow of contaminated groundwater resulted in short-term relief – until water tables rose and leaks started popping up all over the place. It’s groundwater whack-a-mole. Red and Bonita Mines Near Silverton, CO, owners of a metallic mine with an acid mine drainage problem and state regulators reached a consent decree that was supposedly going to solve the problem. A tunnel access to the …

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31 July 2013

The Ins and Outs of Fracking and Underground Waste Injection Wells

When the Akron Beacon-Journal Online publishes its updated interactive map of active, permitted, and producing oil and gas wells in Ohio, it places another map right below it. The second map shows underground waste injection wells. These two maps belong together because underground injection wells are used to dispose of the polluted flowback water from high volume hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations. When thinking about potential for groundwater contamination, hydrofractured oil/gas …

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28 April 2013

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

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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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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