Archives for June, 2012

The U.S. has opened more offshore areas to oil drilling — including parts of the controversial Alaska Arctic frontier — in the Obama administration’s push to further reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil. The plan, released by the Department of Interior, allows the leasing of 12 areas in the Gulf of Mexico, which suffered…

Peter Voser, the chief executive officer of Shell, sees a world where energy, food, and water resources face increasing stress, and where businesses can offer the leadership that national governments have failed to provide in the search for solutions. Shell is sponsor of National Geographic’s Great Energy Challenge, an effort to engage and enlighten readers…

Part two — the view from the grassroots. Last week I led a group of Nicholas School colleagues on an “eco fact-finding” trip to learn about fracking in Pennsylvania. We spent the first half of the trip (covered last week) touring facilities and getting a bird’s eye view of what’s going on with the landscape.…

Delegates gathered this week in Rio de Janeiro at the 20th anniversary of the historic Earth Summit  affirmed that climate change “requires urgent and ambitious action,” in an agreement that commits them to no new steps toward meeting that goal. But while nations are as far as ever from putting a global price on carbon…

Something crucial was missing from the first-ever global inventory of tax breaks for oil companies and other fossil-fuel subsidies when the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development released it last fall. The report detailed all the subtle and not-so-subtle supports for production and consumption of oil, coal, and natural gas in 24 nations, including the world’s most advanced economies—all…

Americans still haven’t lost their taste for living large, at least when it comes to housing. The latest Census Bureau statistics show that the average new American home got a little bigger in 2011 — just by 88 square feet over 2010, but still a surprise given the poor housing market. Housing experts say this…

The energy industry may be increasing the risk of earthquakes  by pumping fluids underground, says a new federal scientific study. But the biggest danger is not due to extraction of fuel, but disposal of waste, said the report published Friday by the National Academies of Science. Hydraulic fracturing of shale formations to unlock gas has…

Greetings from Pennsylvania. That’s where I am this week, leading a group of Nicholas School colleagues on an “eco-fact-finding” trip. Our objective: to learn more about shale gas drilling, including the tandem two-step of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (collectively known as fracking)  that make it all possible. Here’s a bit of what we’ve seen…

The UN Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development is kicking off next week in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  People from around the world are arriving in that beautiful city, each attempting to change the course of the proceedings, and perhaps of history, in his or her own way.  Member states of the United Nations will negotiate policies to…

Despite sluggish growth in most developed countries and the on-going debt crisis in Europe, renewable energy investment showed solid growth of 17 percent in 2011 over the year before, says a new status report on renewable energy. In 2011, renewable energy investment hit a new record of $257 billion, according to “Global Trends in Renewable…

As a child of the ’80s, I have a soft spot in my heart for the Transformers. Those kindhearted robots blew our minds with their ability to go from everyday vehicle to mega-machine in seconds flat. For practical purposes, however, I always thought it would be terrifying to drive a car that might morph into something…

Stretching across Nicaragua’s west coast, the Maribios volcanic chain may harbor a solution to the country’s energy crisis. The power embedded in those volcanoes is being harvested through geothermal projects, which could help Nicaragua wean itself from its dependence on imported fossil fuels and meet more of its energy demand. A report released by the…

U.S. Navy veteran Elmer Rankin, 71, has a failing heart, prostate cancer and arthritis that keeps him in a wheelchair. Last year, Rankin, who survives on his Social Security checks, could no longer afford the mounting costs to heat his home and power the oxygen tank he uses every night. He turned down the heat…

Sometimes, the under appreciated ingredient in energy policy is fear. For some, it’s fear of not being able to afford to fill up the gas tank or run the air conditioner. For others it’s irreversible climate change. In places like Kentucky, it’s about having a job, period. In the coal country of Kentucky, the slow…