[Natural] gas has always been there, of course, trapped deep underground in countless tiny bubbles, like frozen spills of seltzer water between thin layers of shale rock. But drilling companies have only in recent years developed techniques to unlock the enormous reserves, thought to be enough to supply the country with gas for heating buildings, generating electricity and powering vehicles for up to a hundred years.
So energy companies are clamoring to drill. And they are getting rare support from their usual sparring partners. Environmentalists say using natural gas will help slow climate change because it burns more cleanly than coal and oil. Lawmakers hail the gas as a source of jobs. They also see it as a way to wean the United States from its dependency on other countries for oil.
But the relatively new drilling method — known as high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking — carries significant environmental risks. It involves injecting huge amounts of water, mixed with sand and chemicals, at high pressures to break up rock formations and release the gas.
With hydrofracking, a well can produce over a million gallons of wastewater that is often laced with highly corrosive salts, carcinogens like benzene and radioactive elements like radium, all of which can occur naturally thousands of feet underground. Other carcinogenic materials can be added to the wastewater by the chemicals used in the hydrofracking itself.
One of our readers drew our attention to a video that shows a cycle route in Rijswijk which is in effect a suburb of The Hague. It shows a road where cyclists have to make a detour while motorised traffic can go straight on. The man in the video calls this a daily annoyance. And he is right. Most cycle routes in this country are as direct or (more often) more direct than routes for motorised traffic.
In this case (see picture below) the green line (about 100 meters/yards) would be the logical route. There is ample room for a cycle path there, but curiously cyclists are required to take the route represented by the red line. This includes going up and down and even an extra level crossing of a light rail line that would otherwise be crossed on the overpass. There is a shortcut (red dots) using the pedestrian stairs. But all in all the red route is at least double the length of the desired green route.
It is clear from the video that this man is not the only one who feels this is wrong. Many cyclist find a short cut by riding over the grass. The city council doesn’t like that but instead of tackling the problem by making the cycle path more direct, they put up a fence to protect the grass. The fence is of course consequently damaged. Another option is to ride against traffic on the opposite side of the road. Which is not a good solution either. continued…’
and this is in the Netherlands, too! Cycling country. but with Den Haag performing below the standard.
Portland has invested heavily in biking over the last two decades, creating hundreds of miles of interconnecting bike paths that allow residents to commute to work, shop at local businesses and ride for pleasure. In contrast, most other US cities have focused on building highways that accommodate automobiles but are unsafe for cyclists, the study, published in the journal, reports.
But will Portland’s residents benefit from its investments in cycling? To find out, Götschi added up the city’s past and planned investments in biking improvements, factored in an increase in residents’ activity levels, and found that the changes will result in significant savings by the year 2040 — up to $594 million in reduced health care spending and as much as $218 million in lower fuel costs. These estimates are based on the city’s planned investments of up to $605 million in biking improvements by that year.
Thanks to a small transformation in federal transportation policy since Obama took office, cities around the nation are looking at the real possibility of creating new streetcar lines within the next year or two.
In a series of momentous moves, the Obama Administration has made it easier for cities to start or expand streetcar lines. The crux of the changes come from the understanding that streetcars are not just about saving people time, they are also highly useful in building an attractive urban landscape, stimulating and channeling investment and growth into the urban core and into other specifically targeted areas of the city, and attracting non-transit riders to efficient mass transit.
Yesss thank you, Prez. Been time enough to catch up with Europe, where streetcars are common across many countries, even in not-so-dense medium-sized cities.
Most European cities I’ve been to have streetcars operating. Streetcars/trams all over Deutschland: Magdeburg, Leipzig, Dresden, Düsseldorf (tram/u-bahn), Hamburg (maybe, I forget). Amsterdam, Brussels, Helsinki, Milan, Zürich, .. plus a bunch of places I’ve yet to visit that’re moved to my second euro-trip list.
So far both Delaware and New Jersey have followed Massachusetts’ lead in passing their own versions of offshore-wind power-purchasing legislation. And they may soon be joined by Maryland where Governor O’Malley has just introduced the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2011 — a bill Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, called the “strongest, most sensible offshore-wind legislation ever adopted by a U.S. state.”
always great to see stuff I’ve learned in class in the news. makes me feel like class is actually worthwhile (vs. majority of university courses/school).
and this article’s great, too. The challenges to offshore wind in the US that I’ve pointed out in my last post are being met, and offshore is finally happening. The future of renewable energy in America. 20 years late. (after Denmark constructed the first offshore wind farm.)
Here’s that presentation I gave for my EIA/SEA (Environmental Impact Assessment/Strategic Environmental Assessment) class early last month that I’ve been meaning to share here.
It’s a PDF of my PPT presentation. Just a short 20 slides, with half of them as graphs, charts, photos, tables, so there’s no reason not to take a look. Especially since the original report (by the NREL [National Renewable Energy Laboratory], 2010: Large-Scale Offshore Wind Power in the US: Assessment of Opportunites and Barriers) I did it on is a 200pg pdf. (I think I did a pretty good job with condensing everything and only giving the important points.) It’s just an introduction to/overview of the current status of offshore wind power in America. As of current, there are NONE. Except for Cape Wind finally getting started after a DECADE.
Here’s the short conclusion:
There are abundant opportunities for offshore wind power in the US, yet significant challenges and barriers to overcome.
Removing deployment barriers could help the first projects take-off.
Integration of national and state energy codes and standards for offshore wind.
Research and prudent citing strategies that involve stakeholders at the site would reduce potential risk.
Costs will likely decrease as gains in experience and technology increase.
Offshore wind will play an important role in the future US energy markets.
Thought this might be a good intro/quick run-down on offshore wind for those not knowing much about it (assuming most people think “wind power”—turbines on grassy fields, and don’t really know what “offshore” should allude to) since I’ve been seeing quite a few news articles about new projects popping up.