Astronomy Picture of the Day

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Green Mountains, Gaz, and Great Green Groups

This just in from the Stop the Fracking VT Pipeline group...

Thanks for the contributions from all over...

Here's some interesting new information:

Thank you, Katherine Blume, for this information:
Kathryn Blume: Vermont Techtonics:

We had a major seismic event in Vermont recently. You might have felt it
right before Christmas, a quake designed to shake us from our fleece-covered
heads to the depths of our wooly-socked toes. It wasn't a disturbance of
geologic origin, not the friction-laden sliding of one tectonic plate over
another. Rather, it was the soul of the Green Mountain State herself quaking
with an excess of irony. It was a friction of policy so profoundly sticky
that the rubbing of these political plates together could easily generate
enough heat to warm our chilly winter homes for decades.

On the one hand, we had the Department of Public Service releasing the first
draft of their Total Energy Assessment. This is a document designed to serve
as both a detailed articulation of where we are on our journey to a clean,
renewable energy future, as well as the game plan for how we move forward
and achieve the goal laid out in our Comprehensive Energy Plan, a goal which
can be tidily summed up with the pithy phrase "90 by 2050" - our
collectively developed intention to achieve 90 percent renewable energy
across all sectors in 36 years.

Ninety percent renewables in three decades and change. It's a time frame
that's both too short to easily accomplish such a wholesale systems
transformation, and too long to effectively respond to the accelerating
urgency of climate change and peak oil.

However, it's also an abundantly necessary goal, and so, hitching up our
suspenders and lacing our boots, forward we shall go.

More accurately, natural gas is a leaky barge floating on that famous
Egyptian river "Denial."

Or, rather, forward we might go, were it not for the other event in this
ground-joggling narrative: the quietly released Christmas Eve approval by
the Public Service Board of a proposed natural gas pipeline which would run
the length of the state, serve the Ticonderoga Paper mill, and, truth be
told, seriously upset many of my neighbors in Charlotte, Hinesburg and
Monkton who are at risk of being forced to host a pipeline they most
assuredly do not want.

Despite how it's framed in marketing campaigns, there is nothing benign
about natural gas. It's a fossil fuel, obtained at great cost - including
permanent groundwater contamination, methane release, and real earthquakes -
to the communities from which it's extracted. While, admittedly, it does
burn with fewer emissions than fuel oil or gasoline, the broadly advertised
notion that it's actually a clean energy source is a gross distortion of

Plus, the oft-repeated assertion that it's a "bridge fuel" to a clean energy
future is profoundly careless and incorrect. More accurately, natural gas is
a leaky barge floating on that famous Egyptian river "Denial." Natural gas
wells have been touted as reliable sources of hundred-year supplies, when in
reality, they quickly lose the first flush of their productivity and
frequently have to be re-fracked at a cost of millions of dollars and
millions of gallons of groundwater. Not to belabor the point, but just so
clear, re-frackable does not equal renewable.

So, on the one hand we have the Department of Public Service doing their
darndest to chart a course to a clean energy future, and on the other hand,
the Public Service Board approving a colossal investment in dirty energy;
giving their stamp and seal of approval to an enormously expensive project
which is already - before a single length of pipe has been laid - inherently

We might also note that Gov. Shumlin, a man who, as Speaker of the House,
spent a great deal of time educating his colleagues about the perils of
climate change, a man who shouted climate change from the rooftops following
Tropical Storm Irene, a man who serves on President Obama's nationwide task
force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, also happens to wholeheartedly
support this pipeline. This seems a confoundedly contradictory stance for a
man who has so often positioned himself as a staunch climate champion.

All of us registered to vote in this state took an oath promising that
whenever we give our suffrage "touching any matter that concerns the state
of Vermont," we will do so in a way which we feel benefits "the best good of
the same." If we take that oath seriously, then any choices we make -
personally or professionally - concerning large scale infrastructure
projects should be made in a similarly civic-minded fashion.

Because climate change is the greatest single threat we've got to our
collective well-being and fossil fuels are the driver of that threat, then
every choice we make about those infrastructure projects must be designed to
move us away from fossil fuels as fast and thoroughly as possible. A fracked
gas pipeline hardly serves that purpose, and clearing a legal pathway for
that pipeline hardly serves the public good.

Thank you, Kathy Leonard, for the following information:
January 4, 2014 at 1:27 pm
The bubble is building..
1/3/13 GORHAM, NH - New Hampshire's Gorham Paper and Tissue mill is
temporarily restructuring and cutting staff. The company announced Friday
that sudden, extreme increases in New England's natural gas prices is
forcing the temporary restructuring of its papermaking operations.

Thanks to Annette Smith and Daniel Gilbert for the following information:

January 4, 2014 at 10:54 am
It's all about money and "cheap"natural gas. But as happened a decade ago,
the days of cheap gas are ending. A recent PA Supreme Court decision giving
local communities rights to regulate that were taken away by legislation is
a game changer. The true societal and environmental costs of fracking are
going to be reflected by increasing costs to customers.

In addition, the WSJ had an article on Jan. 2 about foreign investment
drying up, fewer wells being drilled, the easy gas is gone. Prices will
rise. I can't post the whole article here because of copyright issues but
here is the link, and some relevant paragraphs

"For U.S. Drillers, the Days of Easy Money End

Oil and Gas Companies Slash Spending as Foreign Investment Dries Up

Jan. 2, 2014

Foreign shale-drilling investment declined in 2013 compared with 2012.

Since 2008, deep-pocketed foreign investors have subsidized the U.S. energy
boom, as oil and gas companies spent far more money on leasing and drilling
than they made selling crude and natural gas.

But the rivers of foreign cash are running dry for U.S. drillers. In 2013,
international companies spent $3.4 billion for stakes in U.S. shale-rock
formations, less than half of what they invested in 2012 and a tenth of
their spending in 2011, according to data from IHS Herold, a research and
consulting firm.

So U.S. oil and gas producers have started to slash spending. "The days of
easy money are over," said Amy Myers Jaffe, executive director of energy and
sustainability at the University of California-Davis. "The emphasis is going
to be on lowering costs."

Last year, 80 big energy companies in North America spent a combined $50.6
billion more than they brought in from their operations, according to data
from S&P Capital IQ. That deficit was twice as high as in 2011, and four
times as high as in 2010.

Chronically low natural-gas prices have prompted international firms to cool
on American shale, with some experiencing buyers' remorse. Royal Dutch Shell
RDSB.LN +0.31% PLC in July concluded that its shale properties in North
America were worth $2 billion less than it had estimated. A year earlier,
BHP Billiton Ltd. BHP.AU -1.13% wrote down the value of its U.S. shale-gas
fields by $2.8 billion.

In 2013 natural gas prices rebounded 26% to end the year at $4.23 per
million British thermal units. But that increase come off near-historic
lows. Natural gas prices sunk below $2 in 2012, the lowest level in a
decade, as surging output across the U.S. and mild weather left a glut of
the fuel. Prices rose last year as some power companies shifted to gas to
reduce use of coal."

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