Solar “Farms” Keep us in the Dark

solar farm

In this type of solar "farm," mirrors focus the sun on the tower to boil water. Lots of sun in the desert, but water? Photo by Bardot/Wikimedia

The relentless industrialization of renewable energy continues, now with the support of government at all levels. The case for solar “farms” and wind “farms” (note how the word “farm” summons bucolic images that have nothing to do with these immense factories), dripping with greenwash, obscures the fact that industrial renewables are no alternative for a petrochemical-addicted society, simply another industrial dead end. As an example, consider the solar “farm.” Continue reading

Black Eye for “Clean” Coal

Power plant

Coal burning power plants, like this New York City veteran, are fast becoming industrial dinosaurs because they do more harm than good. (Photo by futureatlas.com)

Last week, the East Kentucky Power Cooperative abandoned plans to build two coal-burning power plants in Clark County. This major setback for Big Coal in the heart of Big-Coal country, comes just a year after Ohio’s American Municipal Power gave up its attempt to build a coal fired electric plant on the Ohio River near Cleveland. And according to a Sierra Club tally, it brings the number of coal-fired generating plants planned, announced and then abandoned in recent years to over 100. Continue reading

60 Minutes on Natural Gas: A Couple Minutes Short

Not the 60 Minutes stopwatch

Not the 60 Minutes stopwatch. (Photo by William Warby/Flickr)

Now comes the venerable television news show 60 Minutes, leading the way to a consideration of the pros and cons of hydraulic fracturing for so-called “natural” gas. They led the way if, that is, you don’t count the hard-hitting documentary Gasland that aired months ago on HBO, or the solid investigative reporting done by Pro Publica over recent years. Continue reading

EPA to Halliburton: Raise Your Right Hand

a natural gas well using hydraulic fracturing

It's not just a drilling rig, it's a fracking rig, and it can make your water flammable.

Halliburton, the world’s second largest oilfield services company, is not in the habit of having to answer to the United States government. Thus, typically, it ignored a request from the Environmental Protection Agency, back in September, to share information about the chemicals the company routinely injects into this country’s underground water sources in order to retriever more natural gas out — a process called hydraulic fracturing. Continue reading

Whistling Past the Oil Field

World energy demand is skyrocketing. Supplies are running out. Official response: not to worry.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) says the world is going to need one-third more energy, primarily from oil and coal, by 2035, as demand from China, India and the Middle East continues its dramatic growth. Most objective students of the world’s fossil fuels do not believe that the sources of that energy exist.

In its annual report titled World Energy Outlook, the IEA said “It is hard to overstate the growing importance of China in global energy markets.” Continue reading

Risky Business: Another Well Blows

Little noticed in the shadow of the catastrophic Gulf of Mexico oil eruption, the blowout of a natural-gas well in Pennsylvania last Thursday — after the failure of its blowout preventer — spewed gas and toxic chemicals for 16 hours before being brought under control. A single spark near the scene could have turned the event into a headline-grabbing conflagration that would have brought unwelcome attention to another unfamiliar new technology being used to get at previously inaccessible gas deposits. Continue reading

Signs and Portents Ignored

Deepwater Horizon on FireThe more things change, etc. Now in the aftermath of the Gusher in the Gulf (more delicately branded as the “Gulf Oil Spill,” as if it were more like a teacup knocked askew than an ocean destroyed) the people who did it, and the people whose job it was to prevent it — the same people who previously told everyone that it could not happen — are shrugging their shoulders, rolling their eyes and saying, “Who knew?”

In the aftermath, it is becoming clear who knew, as The New York Times recently reported: Continue reading

The Seven Greatest Myths About the Gulf Oil Spill

It’s a Spill. The word spill means that a portion of a finite amount of stuff in a container is inadvertently transferred to another surface. But in the Gulf, toxic oil from a deposit so large its volume cannot even be estimated is erupting into the water column a mile below the surface at a rate so large it has not yet been authoritatively estimated. If this is a spill, then the eruption of  Mt. St. Helens was a burp. Continue reading

Troubled Oil on Gulf Waters

The elegant blonde lady who appears in all the Exxon commercials on TV should now appear with scorched hair, blackened face and wet clothes. It’s the least she could do after years of assuring us that, among other things, to worry about the safety of offshore oil drilling is soooo 1990. With our technology and expertise, the industry murmurs daily, nothing can go wrongongongongong. Continue reading

Hope Springs: Can a Fuel Cell Save Us?

It was the morning of the third day of the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg. As his army maneuvered into place for what history would remember as Pickett’s Charge, General Robert E. Lee turned to his most trusted subordinate, General James Longstreet, and said, “This could be the day.” He could see victory for the besieged Confederacy, just a few hundred yards away, up the deceptively gentle rise of Seminary Ridge, just beyond the bristling blue line of Federal muskets, bayonets and cannon that waited there.

Today, in the 11th hour of the American Republic as it confronts the absolute limits of its supplies of energy from fossil fuels, with no preparations made for the inevitable and catastrophic encounter with those limits, I will say to you that today could be the day. Today, we just might set a new course toward a better future. For someone who has spent several years writing about the inevitability of an impending crash of the industrial age, this stirring of hope is quite unfamiliar. I had better explain. Continue reading