All posts by maxgruenig

A Fresh Look at Oil and Gas Drilling from Europe

Read all about Our Energy Solutions in the UK, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands:

Environmental Issues: What matters and what we can do

Climate change is a topic that has been receiving constant attention in the news and by experts for over a decade. We wanted to explore the general public’s opinion about climate change and what they knew and felt about it. We decided to go out and ask people in DC and the surrounding areas in Maryland and Virginia in order to get a more diverse perspective on climate change.

These are the questions we asked anyone who was willing to answer our questions: Does climate change exist? Is climate change caused by human impact? On a scale from one to five, how much does climate change impact your life on a day to day basis? Can you give an example of how climate change affects you? Do you personally do anything to mitigate the effects of climate change? Do you or any of your neighbors have solar panels? Why do you think solar panels are not more popular in your area?

The interviews are a project of the Ecologic Institute summer interns 2015: Christina Ennis, Pauline Feldman and Andrew Staffelbach. Christina Ennis is a student at Virginia Tech majoring in International Studies. She was most surprised by how responses changed depending on where the interviewee was from. Participants from California, Utah, and Nevada felt much more negatively affected by climate change and more willing to take action. Andrew Staffelbach is a graduate student from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University at Bloomington. He was surprised by how informed the citizens were on the subject of climate change. Many knew specific details about how climate change impacts them and what they could do to individually change their behavior to reduce their impact on climate change. Pauline Feldman is a student at Cornell University.

In the video above, you can see the many differing responses we received and the local public’s real opinion regarding the impacts of climate change. Please send us your feedback in the comment window below.

Is there a safe way to transport fossil fuels?

Bakken Rail Cars

With an explosive investigation into the failures of the government agency responsible for ensuring pipeline safety by Politico and the growing list of pipeline accidents and spills (already 9 in the US this year alone), people are questioning not only the consequences to environmental health but also the risks to people and communities of new construction projects.

One popular alternative, and Warren Buffett investment strategy, is to ship oil and gas above ground, using America’s storied railways. However, the shift to rail transport is not making the transport of fossil fuels safer, as the Washington Post reported in February. Continue reading Is there a safe way to transport fossil fuels?

Hydraulic Fracturing, Produced Water, and Toxicity Study

FrackTracker Flaring Image

A study recently published in the scientific journal Environmental Science: Processes and Impacts, came out with new findings detailing the contents of fracking wastewater, or the water that rises to the surface after hydraulic fracturing operations, also known as produced water. Produced water is not just water used in the fracking operation, but also water that was in or nearby the reservoir that was being pumped now that the geologic formation it was trapped in has been fracked.

There has been significant concern about the chemical content of this water and its possible effects on water tables, human health, and the surrounding environment. Researchers took samples from three wells and conducted analysis. They found that all samples had levels of toxic elements such as mercury and arsenic in excess of US federal contamination standards on water quality. They also found carcinogens at dangerously high levels. However they did not find ethylbenzene and other polyaromatic hydrocarbons, which had previously been thought to be dissolved in produced water.  These two compounds are carcinogens.  Significant amounts of halogenated hydrocarbons, such as chlorine and bromine were also found, which causes neurological damage in humans.

This research highlights problems with wastewater and fracking. It not only confirms the presence of toxic and carcinogenic elements in fracking wastewater it also identifies the challenges of cleaning produced water.  The study calls for more research at different sites to establish a broader understanding of produced water and to develop better ways of cleaning produced water.

Source: Maguire-Boyle, S., & Barron, A. (2014). Organic compounds in produced waters from shale gas wells. Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts 16(10): 2237–2248. DOI: 10.1039/C4EM00376D.