Stanford Students Demand Divestment From Fossil Fuel Industry During Lengthy Sit-In
November 20, 2015 12:09 PM
STANFORD (CBS SF) — Stanford University students and supporters were holding a rally Friday culminating a five-day sit-in calling for the college’s divestment from the fossil fuel industry.
More than 100 students have been camping out at the main quad since Monday afternoon outside University President John Hennessy’s office demanding administrators divest from the top 100 oil and gas companies .
The action was organized through Fossil Free Stanford, a student organization that has been working on the effort for nearly three years, organizer Michael Peñuelas said.
The group was inviting the administrators to address any concerns at the 11 a.m. rally, when students will be prepared to accept any charges the university may file against them, according to Peñuelas.
On Thursday night, the university sent the group a notice stating that administrators are considering suspension of their request for divestment from oil and gas companies due to the action, which was a disappoint for Peñuelas.
The notice also stated that if students didn’t leave the quad with their belongings by 5 p.m. Friday the university would review them under its Fundamental Standard, which outlines conduct expected from students, Peñuelas said.
The students have also violated the college’s use of the main quad policy and trespassed in violation of state law since they are blocking an administration building, according to university officials.
The sit-in is surrounding a building housing the university’s president and provost offices, where no staff have shown up since Monday, Peñuelas said.
The students plan to leave the quad at the end of the rally to participate in a Transgender Day of Remembrance scheduled in the afternoon, Peñuelas said.
The university has a Thanksgiving recess scheduled next week.
The group held a meeting with Hennessy on the issue last week and attempted to schedule another one with him for Friday, according to organizer Michael Peñuelas.
Throughout this week, professors have held classes at the quad in support of the group’s cause and teach-ins on environmental issues, Peñuelas said.
About 30 alumni rallied with the students on Thursday calling for divestment and said they will not make contributions to the university unless they follow through with the divestment, Peñuelas said.
Seniors have also pledged to not donate to the senior gift, a fundraiser that helps contribute to The Stanford Fund to assist in university scholarships, academic programs and student organizations , according to Peñuelas.
Last year, the university divested from the coal industry after a petition brought forward by Fossil Free Stanford and recommendations from the Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing.
Study finds the warmer it gets, the more world economy hurts
By SETH BORENSTEIN, Oct. 21, 2015 3:55 PM EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) — With each upward degree, global warming will singe the economies of three-quarters of the world’s nations and widen the north-south gap between rich and poor countries, according to a new economic and science study.
Compared to what it would be without more global warming, the average global income will shrivel 23 percent at the end of the century if heat-trapping carbon dioxide pollution continues to grow at its current trajectory, according to a study published Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature.
Some countries, like Russia, Mongolia and Canada, would see large economic benefits from global warming, the study projects. Most of Europe would do slightly better, the United States and China slightly worse. Essentially all of Africa, Asia, South America and the Middle East would be hurt dramatically, the economists found.
“What climate change is doing is basically devaluing all the real estate south of the United States and making the whole planet less productive,” said study co-author Solomon Hsiang, an economist and public policy professor at the University of California Berkeley. “Climate change is essentially a massive transfer of value from the hot parts of the world to the cooler parts of the world.”
“This is like taking from the poor and giving to the rich,” Hsiang said.
Lead author Marshall Burke of Stanford and Hsiang examined 50 years of economic data in 160 countries and even county-by-county data in the United States and found what Burke called “the goldilocks zone in global temperature at which humans are good at producing stuff” — an annual temperature of around 13 degrees Celsius or 55.4 degrees Fahrenheit, give or take a degree.
For countries colder than that economic sweet spot, every degree of warming heats up the economy and benefits. For the United States and other countries already at or above that temperature, every degree slows productivity, Burke and Hsiang said.
The 20th-century global average annual temperature is 57 degrees, or 13.9 degrees Celsius, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Last year — the hottest on record — was 58.24 degrees and this year is almost certain to break that record, according to NOAA. Burke and Hsiang use different population-weighted temperature figures than NOAA calculates.
But the U.S. economy is humming despite the heat. When asked how that can be so, Burke said there were many factors important for growth beyond just temperature. He said one year’s temperature and economic growth in one nation isn’t telling. Instead, he and Hsiang looked at more than 6,000 “country-years” to get a bigger picture.
Burke compared the effect of global warming on economies to a head wind on a cross-country airplane flight. The effects at any given moment are small and seemingly unnoticeable but they add up and slow you down.
While it is fairly obvious that unusual high temperatures hurt agriculture, past studies show hot days even reduce car production at U.S. factories, Burke said.
“The U.S. is really close to the global optimum,” Burke said, adding that as it warms, the U.S. will fall off that peak. The authors calculate a warmer U.S. in 2100 will have a gross domestic product per person that’s 36 percent lower than it would be if warming stopped about now.
But because the U.S. is now at that ultimate peak, there’s greater uncertainty in the study’s calculations than in places like India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Nigeria and Venezuela where it’s already hot and there’s more certainty about dramatic economic harm, Hsiang said.
The authors’ main figures are based on the premise that carbon dioxide emissions will continue to rise at the current trajectory. But countries across the world are pledging to control if not cut carbon pollution as international leaders prepare for a summit on climate change in Paris later this year. If the current pledges are kept, the warming cost in 2100 will drop from 23 percent to 15 percent, Burke said.
Gary Yohe, an environmental economist at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, praised the study as significant and thorough, saying Burke and Hsiang “use the most modern socio-economic scenarios.” But Richard Tol, an economist at the University of Sussex in England, dismissed the study as unworthy to be published in an economics journal, saying “the hypothesized relationship is without foundation.”
Other experts found good and bad points, with MIT’s John Reilly saying it will spark quite a debate among economists.
Canada oil sands have more emissions than those in US
By Kat Kerlin, UC Davis News Service, 06/25/15, 3:20 PM PDT
Gasoline and diesel fuel extracted and refined from Canadian oil sands will release about 20 percent more carbon into the atmosphere over its lifetime than fuel from conventional domestic crude sources, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, UC Davis and Stanford University.
The research was funded by the Bioenergy Technologies Office and Vehicle Technologies Office within DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
The researchers used a life-cycle, or “well-to-wheels,” approach, gathering publicly available data on 27 large Canadian oil sands production facilities. The study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, found the additional carbon impact of Canadian oil sands was largely related to the energy required for extraction and refining.
“The level of detail provided in this study is unprecedented,” said co-author Sonia Yeh, a research scientist at the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCD, who helped lead research on emissions related to land disturbance. “It provides a strong scientific basis for understanding the total carbon emissions associated with using this resource, which allows us to move forward with informed discussions on technologies or policy options to reduce carbon emissions.”
Canadian oil sands are extracted using two processes, both of which are energy intensive. Oil close to the surface can be mined, but still must be heated to separate the oil from the sand. Deeper sources of oil are extracted on site, also called in situ extraction, requiring even more energy when steam is injected underground, heating the oil to the point it can be pumped to the surface. The extracted oil product, known as bitumen, can be moved to refineries in the United States or refined on site to upgraded synthetic crude.
On-site extraction tends to be more carbon intensive than surface mining, and producing refined synthetic crude generally requires more carbon emissions than producing bitumen. Depending on which methods are used, the carbon intensity of finished gasoline can vary from 8 percent to 24 percent higher than that from conventional U.S. crudes.
“This is important information about the greenhouse gas impact of this oil source,” said lead author and Argonne researcher Hao Cai. “Canadian oil sands accounted for about 9 percent of the total crude processed in U.S. refineries in 2013, but that percentage is projected to rise to 14 percent in 2020.”
Repost from the New York Times [Editor: The reporter admirably gives industry spokespersons plenty of space to refute the claims of this study. But don’t quit reading there. Farther down in the article is scientific rebuttal and further explanation: “Dr. Brantley described the geology in northern Pennsylvania as being similar to a layer cake with numerous layers that extend down thousands of feet to the Marcellus Shale. The vertical fractures are like knife cuts through the layers. They can extend deep underground, and can act like superhighways for escaped gas and liquids from drill wells to travel along, for distances greater than a mile away, she said.” – RS]
Fracking Chemicals Detected in Pennsylvania Drinking Water
By Nicholas St. Fleur, May 4, 2015
An analysis of drinking water sampled from three homes in Bradford County, Pa., revealed traces of a compound commonly found in Marcellus Shale drilling fluids, according to a study published on Monday.
The paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, addresses a longstanding question about potential risks to underground drinking water from the drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The authors suggested a chain of events by which the drilling chemical ended up in a homeowner’s water supply.
“This is the first case published with a complete story showing organic compounds attributed to shale gas development found in a homeowner’s well,” said Susan Brantley, one of the study’s authors and a geoscientist from Pennsylvania State University.
The industry has long maintained that because fracking occurs thousands of feet below drinking-water aquifers, the drilling chemicals that are injected to break up rocks and release the gas trapped there pose no risk. In this study, the researchers note that the contamination may have stemmed from a lack of integrity in the drill wells and not from the actual fracking process far below. The industry criticized the new study, saying that it provided no proof that the chemical came from a nearby well.
In 2012, a team of environmental scientists collected drinking water samples from the households’ outdoor spigots. An analysis showed that the water in one household contained 2-Butoxyethanol or 2BE, a common drilling chemical. The chemical, which is also commonly used in paint and cosmetics, is known to have caused tumors in rodents, though scientists have not determined if those carcinogenic properties translate to humans. The authors said the amount found, which was measured in parts per trillion, was within safety regulations and did not pose a health risk.
Dr. Brantley said her team believed that the well contaminants came from either a documented surface tank leak in 2009 or, more likely, as a result of poor drilling well integrity.
The nearby gas wells, which were established in 2009, were constructed with a protective intermediate casing of steel and cement from the surface down to almost 1,000 feet. But the wells below that depth lacked the protective casing, and were potentially at greater risk of leaking their contents into the surrounding rock layers, according to Dr. Brantley.
In April 2011 the three homeowners in Bradford County sued the drilling company, Chesapeake Energy Corporation, over reports of finding natural gas and sediment in their drinking well water. In May of that year, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection cited the oil and gas company for violating the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act and Clean Streams Law by letting natural gas enter the drinking wells, though the company admitted no fault. In 2012, the homeowners settled the lawsuit and the company bought the three households.
As a result of that suit, the state environmental protection agency recommended that the drilling company require that their wells extend what are known as intermediate casings beyond 1,000 feet.
Dr. Brantley described the geology in northern Pennsylvania as being similar to a layer cake with numerous layers that extend down thousands of feet to the Marcellus Shale. The vertical fractures are like knife cuts through the layers. They can extend deep underground, and can act like superhighways for escaped gas and liquids from drill wells to travel along, for distances greater than a mile away, she said.
Katie Brown, an energy consultant with Energy in Depth, an advocacy group for the Independent Petroleum Association of America, said the authors had no evidence that the small traces they found of 2BE, which is also used in many household items, came from a drilling site.
“The entire case is based around the detection of an exceedingly small amount of a compound that’s commonly used in hundreds of household products,” Ms. Brown wrote in an email. “The researchers suggest the compound is also found in a specific drilling fluid, but then tell us they have no evidence that this fluid was used at the well site.”
Garth T. Llewellyn, a hydrogeologist with Appalachia Hydrogeologic and Environmental Consulting and the lead author of the report, said that when his team sampled water wells that were farther away from the drilling sites, they did not find any of the compounds found in the three households. “When you include all of the lines of evidence, it concludes that that’s the most probable source,” he said.
Victor Heilweil, a hydrogeologist from the University of Utah who was not involved with the study but reviewed its details, said it was noteworthy for showing “the detailed geologic fabric explaining how these contaminants can move relatively long distances from the depth to the drinking well.”
An environmental scientist from Stanford University, Rob Jackson, who also reviewed the paper, said it “clearly shows an impact of oil and gas drilling on water quality.” But he emphasized that this instance was an exception.
The dates of the incident were not surprising to Scott Anderson, a senior policy analyst with the environmental advocacy group Environmental Defense Fund, who said that well integrity was generally poor around 2008 and 2009. He said that using casings of steel and cement at depths below 1,000 feet was a good idea in this region. But he also noted that the industry has strengthened its practices since then, including increased use of intermediate casings.
“Industry knows how to construct wells properly, but the fact is that they don’t always do so,” Mr. Anderson said. “My hope would be that papers like this will encourage industry and its regulators to do a better job of doing what they already know they are supposed to do.”