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Efficient Environmental Regulation in the Unconventional Oil Industry

Iowa State University | Posted on November 22, 2017

US oil production has skyrocketed since 2007. Technological advances in oil and gas drilling (commonly referred to as ‘fracking’) have allowed producers to access vast petroleum reserves that were previously too costly to recover. The growth in oil and gas production from unconventional sources has been tremendous, so that unconventional sources now make up more than 50 percent of total US petroleum production (EIA 2015). While this represents a boost to job growth and the broader economy, growth in the oil industry comes with its fair share of problems. Academics and news agencies have documented a host of costs associated with new oil and gas production— groundwater pollution, oil spills, large “man camps” and increased crime, and even increases in traffic accidents and exploding train cars. Some of these costs were seen in Iowa with the contentious nature of right-of-way issues associated with building out the Dakota Access pipeline across the state. Farmers and environmentalists alike are bound together in their concern for right-of-way, human rights concerns, and environmental issues.

World’s cheapest solar power to be generated in Mexico

inhabitat | Posted on November 21, 2017

The clean energy projects recently approved by Mexico will be online and selling power by 2020. These projects and others are important steps towards meeting Mexico’s goals under the Paris agreement as well as regional goals established by Mexico, the United States, and Canada. In 2016, all three countries pledged to source 50 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025. Canada is on track to meet this goal while Mexico continues to build up its renewable portfolio. As it was when the regional pledge was made, the United States still lags behind in its transition to clean energy.

Nebraska clears path for Keystone XL pipeline, challenges remain

Reuters | Posted on November 21, 2017

Nebraska regulators approved a route for TransCanada Corp’s Keystone XL pipeline through the state on Monday, removing a big regulatory obstacle for the long-delayed project backed by President Donald Trump, but leaving its future shrouded in legal and market uncertainty.

Missouri Dept of Energy to award approximately $5.1 million in energy loans

St Louis News | Posted on November 16, 2017

The Missouri Division of Energy announced today approximately $5.1 million has been awarded for low-interest loans to assist four public schools, three city/county governments, and one fire protection district with energy-efficiency and renewable energy projects. The funded projects, which are expected to support 65 jobs and benefit more than 439,062 Missourians, are expected to result in annual energy savings of approximately $720,484. The loans will be repaid with money saved on energy costs as a result of implementing these upgrades and improvements. In addition, the projects will reduce electricity use by more than 10,101,195 kilowatt hour (kWh) and natural gas use by 4,915 Million Btu (MMBtu), avoiding 7,362 metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution, which equates to removing 1,556 passenger cars from the road for a year.

Wisconsin Businessman Creates Fund To Help Nonprofits Go Solar

WUWM | Posted on November 16, 2017

Cal Couillard has been intrigued with solar energy since the 1970s. But, it wasn't until this year that he took the plunge, and had solar panels installed at his Edgerton-based business.  He also created a fund to help others "go solar." Solar energy used to be expensive, Coulliard explains, and therefore, only people who wanted to be green jumped aboard. Now, he says, prices have dropped dramatically and it makes sense financially.

Oil Industry Group Tells Barrasso E15 Storage not Compatible, RFA Says not so Fast

DTN | Posted on November 16, 2017

Though the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is considering the legalities of allowing year-round E15 sales, the Renewable Fuels Association said in a news release on Wednesday a petroleum group is spreading misinformation about E15 underground storage tanks and the Renewable Fuel Standard. In a letter to Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last week, the Petroleum Marketers Association of America made the claim petroleum marketers will not be able to legally sell E15 because underground storage tanks are "non-compatible." In addition, the group asks Barrasso to work toward reducing RFS volumes because of "severe" economic harm.Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, reportedly continues to hold up the nomination of Bill Northey to a post at the USDA until President Donald Trump's administration holds a meeting with oil companies and lawmakers from oil-producing states.In the letter to Barrasso the PMAA said, "As you meet with the Trump administration to discuss the RFS, PMAA respectfully requests that you take small business petroleum marketers' concerns into consideration." In response, the RFA contacted Barrasso to counter the PMAA claims about E15, "Since 1990, all steel tanks and double-walled fiberglass tanks have been approved to store up to 100% ethanol," RFA said in a letter to Barrasso.

Iowa company will convert cow manure into natural gas. But is it an environmental asset or hazard?

Des Moines Register | Posted on November 16, 2017

Walz Energy plans to custom-feed 1,680 cattle in each of six partially enclosed open feedlots. "We'll be the hotel, the inn-keeper, the caregiver," Haman said. All the manure will be captured under the cattle in 2-foot deep manure pits "that will be flushed at least twice a day," Haman said.The manure will be mixed with feed and food waste, which will get pumped directly into storage tanks before getting mixed into six,1.5-million-gallon anaerobic digesters."Anything that stinks makes gas," Haman said.Micro-organisms will break down the waste, and the methane will be pulled off, converted into natural gas, and pushed through existing underground pipes to end-users.What's left over — called digestate — will be stored in the operation's 39-million-gallon open lagoon. Each fall the liquid fertilizer will be applied to farmland.The project is getting no state or federal tax credits, grants or loans.

Biofuels Fight Is Brewing Between U.S. and Brazil Over Ethanol

Bloomberg | Posted on November 15, 2017

The U.S. biofuels industry, fresh off a win against Big Oil, is lining up for a fight with Brazil. American ethanol producers said Thursday in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer that they’re seeking Brazil’s suspension from a trade program allowing duty-free imports into the U.S. The move follows Brazil’s decision in August to slap a 20 percent tariff on ethanol shipments from the U.S. that exceed a 600 million-liter (158 million-gallon) annual quota.The U.S. ethanol lobby was buoyed last month by President Donald Trump’s instruction to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to support the Renewable Fuel Standard, a law mandating the use of fuels such as corn-based ethanol and soy-based biodiesel. Trump’s personal interventioncame despite the objections of oil refiners.

Massive Fracking on Nevada Public Lands Sought by Trump Administration, Conservation Groups Launch Legal Protest

EcoWatch | Posted on November 15, 2017

The protest—filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, WildLands Defense and Basin and Range Watch—says the BLM has violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act by failing to analyze the risks of drilling for oil and fracking with dangerous chemicals on such a massive scale. Development of these parcels, one of the largest fracking plans in the country, could contaminate ground and surface water, threaten endangered species and cause irreparable harm to the global climate. "The Trump administration is putting some of Nevada's most critical water supplies at risk of fracking pollution by auctioning off this public land to oil companies," said Patrick Donnelly, the Center for Biological Diversity's Nevada state director. "This plan reeks of callous disregard for our state's water and wildlife. Trump's BLM is flagrantly violating our nation's environmental laws to line the pockets of the fossil-fuel industry. "

Rural program generates energy savings through efficiency

Billings Gazette | Posted on November 15, 2017

Low-to-moderate income renters and homeowners in rural Arkansas are reaping the savings from a program they pay for themselves over time to improve energy efficiency in their house or apartment.Tammy Agard, president and co-founder of EEtility in Arkansas, told nearly 190 people attending the 46th annual meeting of the Northern Plains Resource Council Saturday about a program in which an energy cooperative lends people money for energy efficiency or renewable energy improvements to their homes.Residents pay nothing out-of-pocket for the improvements, but instead pay off the loan over time through their monthly utility bill.One rule of thumb: The resident’s saving needs to be at least 20 percent more than the cost of the improvements.The on-bill loan program is also known as tariff on-bill financing. What Agard appreciates about the program she manages is that “it helps low-income people achieve energy efficiency. The mentality used to be that energy efficiency is for wealthy people, and not for me. We are proud to be at the forefront.”