December 21, 2010

Natural gas in Virginia???

Headlines promise more natural gas in Virginia, but Pennsylvania fines fracking polluters.

Three related, but not so similar headlines about natural gas within only four days?

On December 16, Pennsylvania officials announced a settlement to force a Texas-based natural gas drilling company to pay $4.1 million to Dimock, PA residents. Some of these folks “starred” in the recent HBO documentary, Gasland, after their drinking water became so contaminated by methane (from the fracking process used to get the gas out of the ground) that the water burst into flame. I prefer cold water myself.

It seems that the drilling contractors inject millions of gallons of water laced with chemicals into the rock as part of a process called hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) that releases natural gas so it can be piped to the surface. Some of that gas got into the drinking water; 19 families complained loudly. After a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection investigation, these families received twice the value of their homes in compensation. Also, the drilling company will also pay the state $500,000 for the cost of the investigation and the state pulled the permits.

Then I read on the Chesapeake Bay blog about Maryland State Delegate Heather Mizeur crying out for her state to avoid the mistakes and spills suffered by Pennsylvanians. She stated some wow factor figures: “To release the gas, the rock is injected with a highly pressurized mixture containing at least 2 million gallons of water, 200,000 pounds of sand and 80,000 pounds of chemicals. That would be like putting three Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of water, a sand volleyball court, and enough chemicals to outweigh five African elephants into the ground — for just one well.” That got my attention! ....

Then the Daily Press devoted their December 20 front page feature article to natural gas as Virginia’s “Energy Answer.” Hmmm. I still prefer less drama than flaming water when I turn on my faucet.

With drilling for gas off Virginia shorelines on hold for a few years, and opposition to the proposed coal-burning power plant along the James River (across from historic Williamsburg) continuing, more folks are buying into T. Boone Pickens’ proposal. The Pickens Plan pushes for conversion of the truck and bus fleets across America from diesel to the natural gas route.

But natural gas is not pollution-free. It’s cleaner than coal for sure, but not dramatically so. Plus that fracking sure doesn’t get much oversight and regulation at this point.

True, the Marcellus Shale Field, extending in a huge swath from upper New York State through Western Virginia (and Virginia) holds googads of natural gas. The Energy Information Agency (EIA) recently upped last year’s estimate of “technically recoverable” natural gas in the nation’s shale deposits from 353 trillion cubic feet to 827 trillion cubic feet. With that kind of estimating, I have some doubts about their mathematicians.

So . . . who and what do YOU believe?

"Household Chemical" Collection Recap for 2010

Thanks to VPSSA and 4700 residents of James City County, Williamsburg, York County, Poquoson, and Hampton, more than 268,000 pounds of household chemicals did NOT go to area landfills.

In addition, 103,500 pounds of computers and other electronic equipment was properly recycled and didn't get shipped to those small towns in China where the local kids pull them apart. Thanks to the 1500 residents who dropped off their computers on VPSSA's scheduled computer recycling days, these kids were not exposed to the toxic metals in our much-loved computers.

Click the link in the 2011 Recycling Guide on this blog to see the upcoming collection dates in 2011.

December 20, 2010

Need some energy facts?

If you want to search through the technical websites and sift through googads of stats, have at it.

But there's a dandy energy website for kids from the government's Energy Infomation Administration that I found helpful for adults too.

Check it out by clicking on their logo below.
Energy Kids Web Banner

December 12, 2010

Want a lump of coal with your coffee?

You no longer have to fear having coal with your coffee at Starbucks now that the company has just completed a two-year process of replacing incandescent and halogen lamps in their stores with LEDs.

What's the connection with coal, you ask?  Starbucks' green decision is expected to reduce lighting consumption by approximately 80 percent. That's nearly $.60 per square foot and we know their stores have a LOT of square feet.  Efficient lighting could replace the equivalent of 26 large-scale coal-fired power plants in the U.S. alone, according to UNEP.

Check out the en.lighten initiative website too.

December 4, 2010

Really green gifts

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has quite a few nifty "green Christmas gifts" in a wide range of prices if you need something for the person who has everything but cares about the environment. Click here to see what they offer.