A mixed bag in energy headlines this morning: Some interesting renewable education for the next generation, doctors propose a fracking moratorium on health grounds, oil refiners fined for not blending in cellulosic ethanol, and the official rate of oil that spilled in Deepwater Horizon disaster is confirmed anew (phew). Here's what we're reading this morning:
Illinois High School, Middle School Students Get Dedicated Wind Power Education
Incorporating more solid energy education into all middle and high school is something I can get behind, and this is a definitely a start: Beginning in the 2012-13 school year, the Illinois Wind for Schools program "will offer curriculum development resources, teacher professional development, on-site technical assistance and instructional equipment to middle school and high school teachers across the state." (Renewable Energy World)
Doctors Call For Fracking Moratorium Until Health Effects ARe Better Studied
More doctors are weighing in on the subject of fracking's safety, particularly in populated areas (cough, The Marcellus Shale, cough), due to the effect of chemicals used in the project potential to get into groundwater.
"We've got to push the pause button, and maybe we've got to push the stop button" on fracking, said Adam Law, an endocrinologist at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, in an interview at a conference in Arlington, Virginia that's the first to examine criteria for studying the process. (Bloomberg)
NOAA Confirms Official Estimate of Gulf Oil Spill Leak Rate
Taking a fresh look at the rate of oil flow in the Gulf Oil Spill (in case you've already forgotten, the largest in US history), using chemical measurements instead of the original video analysis and calculations based on pipe diameter and fluid flow, NOAA has determined that an average of 11,130 tons of gas and oil compounds per day flowed from the stricken Deepwater Horizon drilling platform. The earlier official estimate was placed at about 11,350 tons (a bit over 59,000 barrels) per day. More on how the calculation was made at Science Daily).
Multinational Oil Companies "Hijacking" Canada's Energy Policy
Susan Casey-Lefkowitz writes in NRDC Switchboard:
Early last year, Enbridge trumpeted that Sinopec (a state-owned oil Chinese oil company) had provided them with $10-million to help push Northern Gateway through the regulatory process and to conduct public relations (this was part of a part of a bigger $100-million pot). Enbridge admits that millions more have come to the oil pipeline giant from other undisclosed foreign oil companies. But Enbridge refuses to say who. Just last week, after years of pressure, Enbridge finally revealed a handful of their formerly secret backers – including another $10-million from a subsidiary of the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, as well as some Canadian companies.
Casey-Lefkowitz concludes, "Multinational oil companies are making tar sands decisions about what brings them the most profit—and the Canadian federal government seems to want the oil industry to continue making those decisions instead of the Canadian public."
Read more: NRDC Switchboard
Oil Companies Facing Fines For Not Using Cellulosic Biofuel That Doesn't Yet Exist
A case of federal energy policy leading technology, perhaps spurred on by what now seems like wild predictions about second generation biofuels made a few years ago:
When the companies that supply motor fuel close the books on 2011, they will pay about $6.8 million in penalties to the Treasury because they failed to mix a special type of biofuel into their gasoline and diesel as required by law. But there was none to be had. Outside of a handful of laboratories and workshops, the ingredient, cellulosic ethanol, does not exist. (New York Times)
Overall though, I have to take the Times to task in this article for one glaring thing: The whole article focuses on the policy disconnect of fining oil companies for not doing something that they couldn't possibly do because there isn't commercially meaningful available quantities of cellulosic ethanol out there. Fair enough. It then goes on to quote a person from the oil refiners association touting the wonders of tar sands and fracking, in the context of energy security—which plenty of people have debunked as a talking point, both because the estimates of shale gas reserves are probably higher than actually exist and because exploiting tar sands has bee all about export from the start. And that's not even getting into the relative environmental impact of conventional sources of petroleum, unconventional sources, as well as the biofuels the original law in encouraging—none of which are benign.