The “Dazzling Dozen” is not just a clever name for the twelve states that are leading the way in solar photovoltaic installations; they are an example to be followed in the move from fossil fuels towards a renewable energy utility of the future. On July 23rd, 2013, Environment America Research and Policy Center released a report, “Lighting the Way: What We Can Learn from America’s Top 12 Solar States,” describing the benefits of solar energy and some of the related policies.
The Dazzling Dozen are ranked by the highest per capita solar electricity capacity, and include the states of Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, New Jersey, New Mexico, California, Delaware, Colorado, Vermont, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Maryland. Arizona ranked first, producing 167 Watts per person of solar electricity, while Colorado ranked eighth, producing 52 Watts per person. These twelve states account for only 28% of the population, but 85% of installed solar photovoltaic systems in the United States. Continue reading The “Dazzling Dozen” Lead the Way in Solar Installation→
Natural gas produced from shale formations, commonly referred to as “shale gas”, has become increasingly important in the energy supply market for the U.S. and worldwide. Obtaining natural gas from shale reserves was not considered economically feasible until recently because of low permeability of the shale rock formations. New developments in hydraulic fracturing technology have led to a boom in domestic shale gas production since massive scale utilization in 2003. The United States has experienced economic benefits via revenue and job creation in predominantly rural areas while simultaneously increasing the energy security of the U.S. by decreasing dependence on foreign oil supplies. However, the resounding question remains: at what cost? In order to realize the implications of this question we first need to understand some basics about the hydraulic fracturing process and the uncertainties that continue to surround the shale gas industry. In this report I will primarily focus on the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing and well development, but it is important to realize that direct impacts on the environment can and will extend to affect human health.
Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is a stimulation process used to extract natural gas, and in some cases oil, from deep shale reserves 5,000-8,000 feet below the ground surface. This process allows energy companies to access previously unavailable energy sources in states that have deep oil and gas reserves. The fracking process involves pumping a mixture of water, chemicals and sand at high pressure into a well, which fractures the surrounding rock formation and props open passages that allow natural gas to freely flow from rock fractures to the production well. Once the well is developed, the carrying fluid can then flow back to the ground surface along with the gas.
The government accountability office has long since kept track of issues that it considers high-risk to the United States. In February 2013, two new high-risk issues were added to the list, including Limiting the Federal Government’s Fiscal Exposure by Better Managing Climate Change Risks and Mitigating Gaps in Weather Satellite Data.
These high-risk issues are placed on the list for a variety of both qualitative and quantitative reasons. Some of the qualitative issues include the risk of public health and safety, national security, economic growth, and/or citizens’ rights. Quantitatively, a minimum of $1 billion must be at risk in areas such as the value of major assets being impaired, revenue sources not being realized, or major agency assets being lost, stolen, damaged, wasted, or underutilized. Finally, measures must be taken of the current and future actions that will be performed in order to effectively reduce the risk. Continue reading Government Accountability Office adds Climate Change to High-Risk Issues→
We all know that climate change has seriously impacted humans as a species, so it is no surprise that plants and wildlife are struggling with the changes as well. In January 2013, The National Wildlife Federation released the report, Wildlife in a Warming World: Confronting the Climate Crisis, demonstrating how wildlife and their habitats are being affected in various regions across the United States.
A few of the key climate change related impacts seen on wildlife include shifting ecosystems, biological changes, and struggles to adapt to extreme weather events. Since average temperatures have increased overall, a noticeable shift in plant species and wildlife habitat in North America has occurred. Many species are being seen to relocate either to further north latitudes or towards higher elevations. According to the report, “fourteen species of small mammals in the Sierra Nevada region extended their ranges up in elevation by about 1,640 feet in the last century”. Also, the seasonal changes and habitat shifts are affecting species’ internal biological clocks, causing changes in migration, hibernation, and breeding. For instance, birds are migrating later than previously seen and bears are coming out of hibernation earlier in the spring. Another issue discussed in the report is the amount of stress that extreme weather events put on various species. In the western United States, droughts and low-stream flow are making it difficult for fish to breed, while off the east coast, tropical storms have decimated coastal habitats.
Imagine a world where global average temperatures are 4°C (7.2°F) above pre-industrial levels. Summers are extremely hot, plants struggle to survive, ocean levels are rising, and storms are larger than ever before. Turn Down The Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided, a climate report released in November 2012 by the World Bank, estimates that global average temperatures will be 4°C higher within the next century. According to the report, the current average global temperature is already 0.8°C higher than pre-industrial levels.
The World Bank’s press release recapped the report: “Turn Down The Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided summarizes a range of the direct and indirect climatic consequences under the current global path for greenhouse gas emissions.” Some of the key findings include:
Extreme heat waves that would typically occur once every several hundred years will occur almost yearly during the summer months.