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Beyond the Light Switch Wins 2012 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award

Beyond the Light Switch, a Detroit Public Television two-part documentary hosted by Scientific American Associate Editor David Biello, has been awarded a Silver Baton 2012 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, it was announced today. Biello and the production team of Ed Moore, Bill Kubota, Paul Dzendzel, Genevieve Savage and Jordan Wingrove spent more than a year [...]

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Guest Blog

Technogenic Disasters: A Deadly New Normal for the Media

Some go to school to become journalists. Others hit the road with a notebook, camera and insatiable curiosity, while others have a shocking moment of awareness of the complexity of the human condition and want to document it. I decided to enter the field when a war journalist showed me a roll of images from [...]

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Observations

40 Years after OPEC Oil Embargo, U.S. May Finally Get Off Imported Crude

oil-drums graph

So you think President Barack Obama’s calls for energy independence have seemed a bit starry-eyed? Well, every U.S. president since Richard Nixon has publicly called for the country to become self-sufficient. Why? Because of oil. Specifically, oil imported from Middle Eastern nations of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The ongoing chorus stems [...]

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Observations

The Answer to Coal Climate Pollution Is Natural Gas and Carbon Capture, EPA Says

mccarthy-sworn-in

The Environmental Protection Agency has new rules for how much carbon dioxide power plants can spew. Designed to ensure that no new plants built in the U.S. can be highly polluting, the regulations would prohibit the dirtiest coal-fired power plants without additional technology to capture and store CO2. The trouble is: hardly any such coal-fired [...]

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Observations

“All of the Above” Energy Means More Fracking, Renewables, Nukes and Clean Coal

ernest-moniz

There is no technical issue with fracking, the controversial technique of fracturing shale rock with high-pressure, chemically treated water to release natural gas. But there is clearly a political one, judging by the multiple interruptions to a talk at Columbia University by new Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz. The affable former M.I.T. professor and [...]

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Observations

Oil Addiction, Not Fracking, Caused the 2011 Oklahoma Earthquakes

Earthquakes have become more than 10 times more common in normally quiescent parts of the U.S., such as Ohio and Oklahoma, in the past few years. Given the simultaneous uptick in fracking—an oil and gas drilling technique that involves fracturing shale rock deep underground with the use of a high pressure water cocktail—it’s common to [...]

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Observations

Meet the New Secretary of Energy Nominee: Ernie Moniz

ernest-moniz

Ernest J. Moniz, a nuclear physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who serves on Scientific American’s board of advisors, will be President Barack Obama’s pick to replace Nobel laureate Steven Chu as Secretary of Energy. While Moniz has yet to win a Nobel, he served on the President’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear [...]

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Observations

Matt Damon’s Fracking Movie Depicts Gas Companies as Liars

You won’t find any resolution about fracking in Promised Land, Matt Damon’s movie that went nationwide this weekend. But you will find condemnation, a very surprising plot twist and one egregious science scene. The timing couldn’t be better. New York State, the front lines in the political battle over whether to vastly expand the hydraulic [...]

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Observations

Climate Change Action and More Drilling Likely in Obama’s Second Term

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President Barack Obama secured a second four-year term in yesterday’s vote. What is the likely outcome of that historic event on energy and environmental issues? Simply put: more of the same. Let me rephrase that slightly. Obama will likely stay the course on his current energy and environmental policies. That means more executive orders like [...]

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Observations

Deny This: Contested Himalayan Glaciers Really Are Melting, and Doing So at a Rapid Pace–Kind of Like Climate Change

tibetan-plateau

Remember when climate change contrarians professed outrage over a few errors in the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s last report? One of their favorite such mistakes involved an overestimation of the pace at which glaciers would melt at the “Third Pole,” where the Indian subcontinent crashes into Asia. Some contrarians back in 2010 proceeded [...]

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Observations

Fracking’s Biggest Problem May Be What to Do with Wastewater

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Of all the troubles with fracking, the biggest—and growing—challenge seems to be what to do with all those millions of gallons of water contaminated with frack chemicals, leached minerals and salts. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the process of drilling sideways into subterranean shale and blasting it open with millions of gallons of water to [...]

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Observations

Fracking Could Work If Industry Would Come Clean

VANCOUVER—Resistance to hydraulic fracturing in the U.S. has risen steadily in recent months. Citizens and politicians are worried that fracking deep shales to extract natural gas can contaminate groundwater, trigger earthquakes and release methane, the potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. But a panel of experts not tied to industry told a large audience at [...]

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Plugged In

Eight Presidents, One Pledge: To Reduce Dependence on Foreign Oil

EIA_energy_transitions

At a time when partisanship seems to lead most every story in politics, it’s worth highlighting a sweeping bipartisan push that’s lasted four decades… Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama have all made the same pledge to reduce our dependence on [...]

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Plugged In

When, not if, China taps into shale gas

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Think of China as an energy consumption behemoth, but also an energy production behemoth.

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Plugged In

Do Americans Understand Energy? Not Really.

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The latest wave of the UT Energy Poll just came out (full disclosure: I am the director) and results highlight the large disconnect between energy and the American public. The poll is a nonpartisan, objective, and comprehensive nationwide survey covering topics from efficiency and voting behavior to climate change and hydraulic fracturing*. This time we [...]

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Plugged In

Duke study finds radium and elevated salinity in treated oil and gas wastewater; highlights need for revised water quality regulations

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A Duke University study of treated oil and gas wastewater finds that current water quality regulations are inadequate to prevent accumulation of radioactive material in surface waters.

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Plugged In

When David always beats Goliath

Image from http://rummuser.com/?p=2733

Perhaps I’m just out of touch or a just new school environmentalist, but I don’t agree with beating up on fossil fuels just because it’s the convenient thing to do. I see it all over the web and my Twitter feed, like today in this article from ThinkProgress about how the IPCC report has increased [...]

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Plugged In

Back off, Texas — More NC Science Crazy

Okay you know who’s happy today? The people of North Carolina and the people of Texas, whose legislative antiscience crazy doesn’t seem especially off the hook given the nationwide legislative crazy we have going on. But — and I hate to do this to Texans — North Carolina antiscience crazy never takes time off. You’re [...]

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Plugged In

On environmentalism and ‘frackademia’

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It’s sad that the biggest takeaway from the UT Austin/Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) study on methane emissions from upstream shale gas production has been the involvement of industry. The discussion is now how much influence oil & gas companies wielded over scientists; chasing bogeyman instead of learning from the data. This is unfortunate because there [...]

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Plugged In

EPA “got it right” on more stringent methane regulations

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One of the big takeaway from the big UT Austin/Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) methane leakage study released today is emissions rates are actually lower in some parts of the production process than initially thought. For wellheads surveyed as part of the study, two-thirds of the wells had new emissions capture control technology installed, so-called “green [...]

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Plugged In

Switching from coal to natural gas may be better for the climate than previously thought: new measurements see lower fugitive emissions from fracking

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A new study finds that methane emissions from shale gas production are nearly 50 times lower than previous estimates, improving the climate benefit of switching from coal to natural gas.

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Plugged In

North Dakota flared off $1 billion worth of natural gas last year

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Energy producers flared off 30% of all produced natural gas in North Dakota due to lack of infrastructure.

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