Big Cypress: Searching for Oil in a Nature Preserve

Home to Florida panthers, eastern indigo snakes, and alligators, the Big Cypress National Preserve in southern Florida is a national park, a seemingly superficial designation, because below the surface, Collier Resources Company holds private mineral rights to the reserve. According to Matt Schwartz, the Executive Director of South Florida Wildlands Association, “Collier owns over 800,000 acres of mineral rights in the Everglades” and already has two oil operations in within Big Cypress – one at Bear Island and another at Raccoon Point.

evergladesoil1Burnett Oil Co. has applied for a seismic survey permit in Big Cypress, which will allow Burnett Oil to send vibrations into the ground in order to find the most lucrative areas for oil drilling. Schwartz believes that the survey will almost certainly spot oil, but the question is simply where the most promising areas are specifically located. Once these areas are determined, exploratory oil drilling can occur. Drilling will not necessarily happen immediately after the surveying, however. “Seismic testing is a commodity,” Schwartz explains, “and the data collected during the testing can be sold to other companies.” In an area as large as the Big Cypress National Preserve (over 700,000 acres), knowing the precise location of oil is very valuable to companies interested in purchasing mineral rights. “If I were an oil company, I would want this [information] too,” says Schwartz, “but [Big Cypress] is one of the most biodiverse places in the U.S., and it is very sensitive.” Big Cypress is home to about 30 listed species, which the seismic testing process could place in jeopardy. Continue reading Big Cypress: Searching for Oil in a Nature Preserve

The Millers’ Story

Proponents of fracking often point to increased employment as a selling point, but the fact of the matter is that the true effect of natural gas extraction on employment is uncertain. In April 2014, a Wall Street Journal article by Paul Polzin and Bill Whitsitt claimed that the “oil-and-gas industry has created hundreds of thousands of new, very-high-paying jobs.” However, in a recent study on the effects of shale gas drilling on Pennsylvania’s economy and labor force, physicist Christoph Friedeburg examined local income tax data and federal and state labor statistics to conclude that fracking’s net contribution to employment was “not merely small, but in fact negative.”

On the issue of fracking and labor, we want our global community of readers to engage in dialogues and debates that lead to the formation of ideas and solutions. To inform and facilitate that process, we will present a series of viewpoints from a variety of stakeholders, including those not typically included in the public discourse. We begin the series with a view that is often underrepresented in the fracking discussion – that is the perspective of the homeowners and rig-workers whose daily lives are directly impacted by fracking in a generally positive and personal way.

Pipes frackingRonda Miller and her husband, Brian, live in Butler County, Pennsylvania. Their home is one of about eight to ten properties that touch the Marburger Dairy Farm, which has leased its land to ExxonMobil for natural gas extraction. Ronda is the mother of two sons, Chad and Jay, both of whom have worked in the hydraulic fracturing industry. Ronda and Jay have given first-hand accounts of the impact that fracking has had on their lives.

“Fracking is good for farmers,” Ronda explained, “because they receive checks for thousands of dollars each month for leasing their land.” However, the families who live on the surrounding properties do not necessarily receive any compensation for the sleep-disruption and general irritation that come from the bright stadium lights, which stay on 24 hours a day, and the loud noises that continue intermittently throughout the day and night. Even when a sound barrier was built around the drilling site, the barrier’s roofless structure limited its effectiveness. “If you take a radio and you put a box up [around it],” Ronda explained “it’s still going to come up the top. You would still get noise.” The drilling had already begun when Ronda and her husband “approached [ExxonMobil] and said [they] should get something for being so close to the noise.” Continue reading The Millers’ Story

The Future Grid: A Smarter Way to Power America

On June 11, 2015, the Progressive Policy Institute hosted an event called “The Future Grid: A Smarter Way to Power America,” which included two discussion panels of policy-makers, industry leaders, and expert analysts. In his opening statement, Will Marshall, President of the Progressive Policy Institute, said that the key to advancing the energy grid, and in turn stimulating America’s productivity, “is investing more in infrastructure.” Ladeene Freimuth, Policy Director of GridWise Alliance and President of The Freimuth Group, corroborated Marshall’s statement by arguing that “smart grid technology will give us more resilience and flexibility. And we will have a more reliable grid in the future because new technologies will help us forecast outages.” In response, however, Ronald Minsk, former Director of the National Economic Council at the White House, warned that “sometimes when things get more complex, they get less reliable.”
PPI meeting Continue reading The Future Grid: A Smarter Way to Power America

Pitfalls of Fracking in Argentina

With the Vaca Muerta rock formation reaching over 7.4 million square acres, Argentina boasts the second largest shale gas deposit in the world by some accounts. Currently, Argentina is importing more fossil fuels than it is producing, and the exacerbation of this trend will prove unaffordable in the long-run. Argentina’s government has framed natural gas extraction in Vaca Muerta as the key to ending this trend, but there are also some significant issues to consider.

World Map Shale BasinsProponents of natural gas argue that taking advantage of this resource could significantly boost Argentina’s economy, but it is necessary to look at some of the major concerns regarding increased investment in the hydraulic fracking of Vaca Muerta. According to Elizabeth Tedsen, a Senior Fellow at the Ecologic Institute, “the government has courted foreign investment to begin fracking, which has drawn opposition from local governments, environmentalists, and indigenous groups who fear that the environmental damage of fracking will far outweigh any short-term economic and energy benefits.” Other important considerations include the uncertain nature of the natural gas sector, questions of national and provincial sovereignty in light of government deals with American corporations, and the need for effective regulation. Continue reading Pitfalls of Fracking in Argentina

A 10-Point Plan Toward a Low-Carbon Future

Karl Hausker, WRI.On May 27, 2015, the World Resources Institute (WRI) hosted an event at the National Press Center in Washington, DC. WRI’s Karl Hausker presented a working paper on “Delivering on the U.S. Climate Commitment: A 10-Point Plan Toward a Low-Carbon Future.
Hausker and his colleagues found that “with a comprehensive approach using existing federal laws and state action” the United States could achieve its goal of reducing green house gas (GHG) emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by the year 2025. According to Hausker and his colleagues, the United States can achieve this reduction through two sets of tasks: a) “expanding and strengthening some current and proposed policies and standards”; b) “taking new action across emission sources that are not yet addressed.”
Hausker and his colleagues modeled three low-carbon pathways, each of which reflects a different mixture of policies and the resulting reduction in emissions. Hausker then presented a 10-Point Action Plan, which provides “steps that federal agencies and states can take to achieve the necessary reductions.”
10-Point Action Plan (as presented in the working paper):
1. Strengthen the Clean Power Plan both in the near term and over time to fully reflect cost-effective renewable energy and energy efficiency potential.
2. Scale up programs for residential and commercial energy efficiency.
3. Continue and expand programs to reduce hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) emissions.
4. Use emissions standards and voluntary programs to improve industrial energy efficiency.
5. Set methane emissions standards for new and existing natural gas and oil infrastructure.
6. Extend and strengthen GHG and fuel economy standards for passenger cars while reducing travel demand.
7. Extend and strengthen GHG and fuel economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.
8. Accelerate air travel management and establish standards for new aircraft.
9. Reduce methane emissions from landfills, coal mines, and agriculture through standards or other measures.
10. Reduce emissions from other sources while increasing carbon sequestration from forests and other land types. Continue reading A 10-Point Plan Toward a Low-Carbon Future