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Energy Production Pushing Water Supply to Choke Point

Report warns that without water, there can be no energy security

By Lisa Song

Sep 28, 2010

After agriculture, the energy sector is the largest consumer of water in the US. Freshwater resources are already dwindling due to climate change and current population levels, and that burden is likely to intensify. The Energy Information Administration estimates a 40% increase in energy demand by 2050, when the U.S. population is expected to hit 439 million.

But alternative energies won’t necessarily ease this pressure. Recent research indicates that most alternative energies—whether renewables like solar thermal and biofuels, or unconventional sources like oil tar sands—use more water than conventional fossil fuels.

"This is shocking, even for people in the business," said Jennifer Turner, director of the China Environmental Forum at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. On September 22, Turner chaired a presentation by , a nonprofit science organization covering global freshwater issues, in which they presented the findings of their investigative series into the relationship between energy production and water consumption in the U.S.

The report, “” argues there can be no energy security without water, and both must be managed together if the country is to avoid shortages of either resource.

Pennsylvania's Fracking Program Gets Mostly High Marks in Independent Review

Still, stricter regulations and disclosure of toxic chemicals used are needed

By Stacy Feldman

Sep 28, 2010

Pennsylvania needs some stricter regulation of the controversial gas drilling technique of hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale formation, with stiffer rules for testing water for toxins and lining leaky pits to contain chemicals, an independent review panel said.

Japan to Drill for Controversial "Fire Ice"

Environmentalists fear potential methane leaks, which can be 21 times as damaging as carbon dioxide

By Guest Writer

Sep 27, 2010

by Michael Fitzpatrick,

In a bid to shore up its precarious energy security, Japan is to start commercial test drilling for controversial frozen methane gas along its coast next year.

The gas is methane hydrate, a sherbet-like substance consisting of methane trapped in water ice—sometimes called "fire ice" or MH—that is locked deep underwater or under permafrost by the cold and under pressure 23 times that of normal atmosphere.

A consortium led by the Japanese government and the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (Jogmec) will be sinking several wells off the southeastern coast of Japan to assess the commercial viability of extracting gas from frozen methane deep beneath local waters. Surveys suggest Japan has enough methane hydrate for 100 years at the current rate of usage.

Battle in Pacific Northwest over 800-Mile Route to Canada's Oil Sands Heats Up

Fear of creating a permanent industrial corridor through the U.S. to serve Canada's tar sands industry

By Stacy Feldman

Sep 27, 2010

The continuing battle between industry and conservationists over Canadian oil sands development is now spilling over onto hundreds of miles of scenic waterways and highways and public forests of the Pacific Northwest.

Over the next year, ExxonMobil and its venture partner Imperial Oil plan to move 207 extrawide-load shipments of South Korean–made machinery through the region to reach the Kearl Oil Sands mine in Alberta, Canada. The largest of the loads is almost the size of a football field and weighs over 200 tons.

Plans call for equipment to travel the Columbia and Snake rivers to the port of Lewiston, Idaho. From there, conveys will crawl over the curvy two-lane Highway 12 in Idaho, cross some 300 miles of Montana and head into Canada.

But conservationists are calling for a time-out until safety and environmental impacts are properly assessed. They fear this project is just the first of many that will create a permanent industrial corridor through the U.S. to a massive energy enterprise they contend is environmentally destructive.

In an "urgent" to six U.S. Senate and 17 House members from the region, a coalition of mostly environmental groups called on the Obama Administration to complete a full environmental analysis before allowing the shipments.

Tibetan Nomads Struggle as Grasslands Disappear from the Roof of the World

Scientists say desertification of the mountain grasslands of the Tibetan plateau is accelerating climate change

By Guest Writer

Sep 26, 2010

by Jonathan Watts,

Like generations of Tibetan nomads before him, Phuntsok Dorje makes a living raising yaks and other livestock on the vast alpine grasslands that provide a thatch on the roof of the world.

But in recent years the vegetation around his home, the Tibetan plateau, has been destroyed by rising temperatures, excess livestock and plagues of insects and rodents.

The high-altitude meadows are rarely mentioned in discussions of global warming, but the changes to this ground have a profound impact on Tibetan politics and the world's ecological security.

For Phuntsok Dorje, the issue is more down to earth. He is used to dramatically shifting cloudscapes above his head, but it is the changes below his feet that make him uneasy.

"The grass used to be up to here," Phuntsok says, indicating a point on his leg a little below the knee. "Twenty years ago, we had to scythe it down. But now, well, you can see for yourself. It's so short it looks like moss."

Conservationists Go Funny With Online Videos

By Elizabeth McGowan

Sep 24, 2010

WASHINGTON— This morning Stephen Colbert brought his singular brand of political satire to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship and Border Security, testifying in character about his experience picking produce alongside migrant workers.

But while satirists like Colbert provide some of the most stinging commentary on the political scene today, conservationists are often categorized as too uptight, singularly focused or angst-ridden to yuk it up.

America's First Oil Sands Project in Utah to Face Legal Challenges

Developer claims project will produce no toxic waste but water worries persist for project one permit away from breaking ground

By Stacy Feldman

Sep 24, 2010

A plan to strip-mine oil sands crude on U.S. land for the first time in northeastern Utah is facing legal challenge.

Through a legal appeal, a pair of local environmental groups are working to overturn a decision earlier this month by John Baza, director of the (UDOGM). He upheld a permit approval for a 62-acre mine in the remote Uinta Basin of the Colorado Plateau.

Should the legal option fail, the groups said they are determined to block the project – by whatever "peaceful" means.

"We're not willing to accept it," Tim DeChristopher, founder of the Salt Lake City-based environmental group , told SolveClimate News. "If it means we have to blockade the site, we'll do what we have to do."

Peaceful Uprising and , a non-profit based in Moab, said they have 10 days from September 17 to appeal to the UDOGM board, and are now working to determine the legal grounds.

World's Biggest Offshore Windfarm Opens Off UK Coast, but British Firms Miss Out

Blow to UK green techonology industry as less than 20% of $1.4 billion investment in Thanet windfarm goes to British firms

By Guest Writer

Sep 23, 2010

by Terry Macalister,

The world's biggest offshore windfarm will be opened officially today off the UK coast but less than 20% of the $1.4 billion (£900m) investment in the project has gone to British firms.

The low figure will concern ministers who have portrayed green technology as a growth sector that will help drive a recovery in the UK economy. In his speech to the Liberal Democrat conference on Tuesday, the energy and climate change minister, Chris Huhne, promised a "third industrial revolution" led by green energy.

The biggest single contract for the Thanet farm off the coast of Kent has gone to Vestas of Denmark, the turbine manufacturer that closed its only UK blade-making facility on the Isle of Wight last year.

Global Warming May Have Slowed in the 1970s Due to Suddenly Cooler Oceans

By Lisa Song

Sep 23, 2010

A rapid surface cooling of the northern oceans may have caused a temporary slowdown in global warming that occurred during the early 1970s, according to an article in the September 22 issue of the science journal Nature. Moreover, the article also suggests that the cooling coincided with an unexpected influx of freshwater, most likely from melting ice, that flowed from the Arctic Ocean into the North Atlantic.

The findings cast doubt on the conventional explanation that human-produced sulfate aerosols were responsible for the cooling, and in the larger picture suggest that climate change can happen more abruptly than was thought.

Solar Energy Surging in Italy, Outpacing U.S.

New feed-in-tariff law, streamlined approval process fueling growth and optimism

By Sara Stroud

Sep 22, 2010

Italy is in the midst of a solar surge, outpacing the United States and coming in second only to solar powerhouse Germany in the push to install new projects.

The Mediterranean country’s solar boom is likely to continue for the next several years, thanks to recently adopted changes to its feed-in tariff scheme and a new national authorization process for solar projects. In the meantime, the U.S. solar industry says implementing similar policies stateside could propel domestic solar growth, and federal, state and municipal lawmakers are pushing to get such rules on the books.