Holly Wilde and Russ Doty: Unwanted consequences of the Keystone pipeline

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Are projects that make climate change worse — like the Keystone XL pipeline — in the national interest? Not if short-term expedience creates long-term disaster. The 1,711-mile long, yard-wide Keystone pipeline would transport oil from underneath Alberta’s boreal forests to refineries in Oklahoma and Texas. The oil most likely would be exported from there.

One long-term cost of the pipeline is its contribution to raising the Earth’s temperature. Burning fossil fuel carried in the pipeline produces carbon dioxide. Dr. James Hansen, who heads NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, calculates the Keystone pipeline will carry enough tar sands oil to raise the level of carbon dioxide on Earth by 200 parts per million (ppm). Eighteen American scientific organizations support the consensus view that excess carbon dioxide, which is at its highest level in the last 800,000 years (392 ppm), is warming our planet. An increase in the Earth’s temperature causes climate change, which has many negative effects.

For example, climate change has enlarged the range of disease-bearing insects that once thrived only in warmer climates. In Africa, malaria kills a child every 30 seconds. Climate change will expand the habitat of the tropical mosquitoes that carry malaria, adding 80 million cases annually to that toll. In 1933, malaria infected 30 percent of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s inhabitants. Spraying of DDT, which no longer is considered safe, eradicated malaria in the U.S. by 1951. However, if climate change produces the warming and torrential rains that exacerbate stagnant water pools, malaria could return.

Another example of an increase in the spread of disease caused by climate change is dengue fever. Before being eradicated here, it infected half a million Texans in 1922. On the rise in other countries, dengue is expected to revisit the American Southwest and areas stretching to Chicago, where one of its carriers, the Asian tiger mosquito, has migrated.

Lyme disease — carried by ticks — is becoming more prevalent as our climate warms. From 2000 to 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported between 17,000 and 24,000 cases each year. At the close of 2009, the CDC reported 29,959 cases.

Let’s compare. The Keystone pipeline will produce 5,060 to 9,250 full-time equivalent, temporary, non-local jobs during the two-year construction phase as calculated by Cornell University’s Global Labor Institute — a realistic number lower than the inflated 20,000 claimed by Keystone supporters. Thus, the pipeline will produce $253 million to $555 million in wages. Compare that with the $534 million-plus cost of treating 6,000 added U.S. cases of Lyme disease every three years. Within three years or less, global warming-related health costs will begin to outweigh wage benefits of the Earth-warming Keystone project.

Burning fossil fuels also detrimentally impacts agriculture and fuel costs. For example, excess carbon dioxide created from burning more fossil fuels will increase dryness in Colorado. Scientists at the USDA and elsewhere note a 10 percent to 17 percent decline in wheat, corn, soybean and rice yields for every 1 degree Celsius rise in temperature during growing periods. As temperatures rise, our ability to raise food will diminish.

TransCanada, Keystone’s developer, indicates that some oil now refined for domestic production will be diverted to the pipeline for export to more lucrative markets overseas. As a result, according to the GLI, 15 Midwestern states will experience a 10- to 20-cent per-gallon increase in gasoline prices. Taken together, increases in health care and fuel costs and decreases in food production obliterate any financial benefit from Keystone pipeline jobs and local tax revenues.

Others warning of the threats to U.S. national security that climate change poses include the National Intelligence Council, Council on Foreign Relations, Center for Navel Analysis, CIA and Institute for Strategic Studies. The National Intelligence Council’s classified assessment for Congress concludes that climate change could threaten U.S. security in the next 20 years by causing political instability, mass refugee migration, terrorism or conflicts about water and other resources. So, our national interest lies in preventing use of tar sands oil, not in facilitating it.

When a State Department hearing addressed whether the Keystone pipeline was in the national interest, pipeline advocates carried pre-printed signs saying, “Reason Not Extremism.” Whose side is reason on?

Holly Wilde is an actress, adjunct professor and writer in Steamboat Springs. Russ Doty is CEO and general counsel for New World WindPower in Billings, Mont.

Comments

Fred Duckels 2 years, 5 months ago

No conflicts of interest here. We will need this energy to fuel power plants so that they will be up and running when the wind stops. In the meantime when the wind blows they can purchase the duplicate power from the wind mills even though this excess energy has no value. Whose side is reason on?

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Rob Douglas 2 years, 5 months ago

One of the advantages of living long enough to have a few grey hairs (OK--an entire head full) is to have watched round after round of well-meaning (well, some are well-meaning, others are downright malicious and yet others are just dupes) Chicken Littles proclaim the sky is falling because of (fill in the blank). I can remember back in the late 60s and early 70s when the latest rage was that our planet wouldn't make it to the year 2000 because of over-population. Indeed, my cousin used to bore the bejabbers out of the gathered family every Thanksgiving and Christmas with that nonsense. The truth is that population "explosions" within given countries and regions moderate as the examined population becomes more prosperous. Heck, many countries in the West (see Europe - while you can) are unable to maintain current population levels absent immigration. So, a quick peek at the calendar indicates that somehow we seemed to make it past the year 2000. Then came "Global Cooling." Yes. That's right. Global Cooling. Oh my. Life as we knew it would end because we were headed for a new Ice Age because of all the horrible things we were doing to the planet. In fact, if you go back and look at the predictions of horrible conditions we would experience because of "Global Cooling," well, they match exactly what were now told we'll experience because of "Global Warming." I guess the Global Warming crowd really does believe in recycling, cause they're recycling the predictions of our impending demise from Global Cooling. Ain't that a neat trick. Oh yeah. Speaking of the year 2000 - remember Y2K? Another time we were told the world would end and planes would fall from the sky because of man's demonic inventions. Heck, ABC Radio even stationed me on the Mall in Washington, DC at the base of the Washington Monument to report at the stroke of midnight what I observed - which turned out to be nothing more than the usual drunks partying on the New Year. The reality is that there are no disasters on the way and, no, the world is not going to be overtaken by Lyme disease, dengue fever and malaria. Stop the hysteria. Enough of us have seen this routine before and, frankly, it's getting quite tiresome. A final thought. The real shame is that DDT - which is perfectly safe - was driven off the market. If so-called environmentalists are concerned about the horrific number of children (and others) killed by malaria, they ought to take a long, hard look in the mirror to find the culprit. Remember: Many do-gooders do no good.

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kathy foos 2 years, 5 months ago

Very nice article Holly and Russ,you are right of course.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 5 months ago

Okay, I am breaking my promise to only post on the stupidity of banning semi-anonymous posters because it is absolutely wrong and could be dangerous if anyone which access to DDT believed the comment "DDT - which is perfectly safe". DDT is well documented as being harmful. No one with any knowledge on the topic would suggest that it perfectly safe.

Rob seems to be completely ignorant on the topic because DDT is currently being used to fight malaria in Africa and Southeast Asia. The US ban on DDT did not ban it around the world. It is not as effective as in the past because insects have become resistant to it.

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jerry carlton 2 years, 5 months ago

I am all for wind power. The more we get, the better off our country will be. Anything to break the stranglehold of mid-east oil dependency. That said, an actress and a wind company executive writing an article against an oil pipeline? What a joke!

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Fred Duckels 2 years, 5 months ago

Jerry, Have to disagree. In order for power to be usable it must be constant, wind is not. Our power mostly comes from fossil fuels because of the need for reliability. These plants cannot turn on and off easily requiring constant operation. Our power companies are required to use renewable resources for a certain percentage of their power by politicians. Basically they purchase unneeded duplicate wind power to fulfil this requirement. This results in the consumer subsidizing wind with little return except for the feel good factor. On the other end Obama is betting the farm to install these white elephants. Europe has been in the forefront in this area and is beginning to back off. Spain is basically insolvent over this idea.

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

Hi Jerry: I'm always interested in what attribute will create credibility and thank you for your observation in that regard. One of the reasons we quoted Dr. Hansen, 18 US Scientific Organizations, Cornell University's Global Labor Institute and the many institutions who watch over US national security is because those groups and individuals have far more credibility on these issues than we do. Space limitations caused us to eliminate credit to Dr. Paul R. Epstein, who before he died this year was Associate Director of the Center for Health and Global Environment at Harvard Medical School and an MD trained in tropiclal health, whose 2011 book "Changing Planet, Changing Health: How the Climate Crisis Threatens Our Health and What We Can Do About It, documents the health concerns we and in some cases the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have expressed.

While we are admittedly not in the league on these issues with those we've quoted, perhaps it would help our credibility a small bit if you knew that I've been counsel to the Montana Public Service Commission, have dealt with utility and natural gas (not oil) pipeline issues as a contract Minnesota administrative law judge and have written a book, Poles Apart, on utility ratemaking published by the University of Montana Press. Having graduated with honors from Brown University in Providence, Holly is an excellent writer/editor who also teaches math at the Colorado Mountain College. We both have written syndicated articles on energy for Writers on the Range which is based here in Colorado.

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

Good afternoon Fred: Thank you for pointing out one of the operational difficulties with coal-fired electric generation--namely that it is hard on them if they are required to cut back in production. That is why other power production facilities are often used for peaking during times of higher use. Traditionally, natural gas and hydro have provided peaking power. However, because coal plants are so dirty, natural gas has been used as a cleaner baseload fuel. As a consequence whenever a renewable resource like wind, solar or geothermal can operate, it has the effect of eliminating pollution control and fuel costs from the energy mix. So there is quite a bit of value to having wind on the system.

In Montana for example, the costs of wind coming from the Judith Gap wind farm is close to 2 cents a kilowatt hour cheaper than power coming from the coal complex. Thus the price difference pretty much covers the 10-year tax break that will accrue to windpower coming from Judith Gap. When that credit for currently operating windmills ceases in 2015, windpower will be even cheaper. Similar events should be occurring in other wind production facilities.

In addition, Southern Montana Generation and Transmission recently built a gas generation plant in Great Falls that puts every active member of that unit in hoc for $20,000 to pay for that plant. For that kind of money plus the various tax credits each individual member of Southern Montana's various co-ops could each have an adequate solar photovoltaic electric generating system on their roof and own it themselves.

Spain is not bankrupt because of its wind generation. A good article on it appears at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_Spain . An excerpt from that article: "In 2009, for the first time in the annual calculation, wind overtook coal that produced 33,844 GWh. In 2010, wind energy has covered 16% of the demand, compared to 11.5% in 2008 and 13.8% in 2009." On windy days it is even more. "On November 6, 2011 a new record was reached with 59% of power generated by wind power.["

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Robert Huron 2 years, 5 months ago

Oil production in the US is up 18% over the past 3 years. For the first time in decades the US is exporting gasoline and still the price of gas keeps rising. The main reason is the oil speculators on Wall St. are driving up the price of oil using the threat of war with Iran as an excuse. On top of that China and India are demanding more gas to fuel their expansion of automobiles. The Keystone pipeline will bring Canadian sand oil to the Gulf to be refined and shipped overseas not to be marketed in the US. We will get the pollution to refine the oil with no benefit at all. They will use Eminent Domain to take private property for the right of way for this pipeline. The citizens of Nebraska and other states are against it because it will endanger their precious water supplies in the event of pipeline breaks like the one in Montana last year.
In 1973 Pres. Nixon during his State of the Union Address said that with the Alaskan pipeline coming on line we would be oil independent in 6 years. At the time we imported 36% of our oil. Today we import close to 70%. Drill Baby Drill will not get us off foreign oil because the US has only 3 % of all the oil reserves. All we need to do is cut consumption by 15% which is what we import for countries in the Middle East. Most of our oil comes from Canada, UK and Mexico anyway. We need to be smart and use all means of energy from solar, nuclear, wind, mileage standards etc. The oil and gas companies own our politicians and have for decades until that changes we will continue to hear Drill Baby Drill and all the BS that goes with it. BP showed us last year how dangerous oil drilling can be when making money is priority one and safety and the environment don't matter.

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

Goodness Rob, calling us "dupes," "chicken littles," "do-gooders," so-called environmentalists." Where does all that contempt and condescention come from? Listening to a little too much Rush on hate radio?

As far as your claim that the health effects of climate change that we outlined will not happen, perhaps Paul Epstein's book (cited above in my post to Jerry) would give you more proof about what is already taking place. If not check out the trees on Cameron Pass and around the Boat for bark beetle a bug that can reproduce faster because of warmer weather and which does not get killed off as much for the same reason. Its the same type of pest expansion we are profiling in our column.

The global cooling prediction of the early 1980s which was picked up by a major news magazine because of what one scientist concerning an anomoly said is hardly comparable to the overwhelming majority of climate scientists who have studied warming trends over much longer periods. Before you get too tired of the dialogue, check out what real scientists think on www.realclimate.org . And think for a minute what will happen to trout fishing in the Yampa as the river runs warmer.

As to population, it is well accepted that the countries that have controlled population growth are the ones prospering. And that Population Bomb is still ticking. Update yourself on both ideas in Lester Brown's latest book--World on the Edge--download it and see a fine slide presentation for free at www.earth-policy.org/books/wote

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jerry carlton 2 years, 5 months ago

Russ, You improved your credibility with me greatly, however it would still be like the CEO of BP publishing an article on all the bald eagles killed by wind turbines. I grew up in Houston, went to college at Beaumont and worked for awhile at the Baytown refinery so I have breathed a few gas and oil fumes in my life. I intensely dislike BP and do not buy anything from any of their branded stores during my travels since they raped the Gulf of Mexico last year.

Fred I spent 2 years in Cheyenne Wyoming in the Air Force many years ago and the wind blows 24-7 365 days a year. Some times 5 miles an hour, usually 25 miles an hour. I have no idea what the solution to our energy problem is but I do know that since the first big gas lines in 1980? or so every Republican and Democrat administration has done nothing about it except blow smoke up our you know what.

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jerry carlton 2 years, 5 months ago

Robert, It is not just Big Oil that owns the federal government but Big Corporations in general.

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Jeff_Kibler 2 years, 5 months ago

Folks complain about agriculture subsidies, paying people to not grow crops. Now the BPA is paying wind farmers to not generate power due to an overabundance of hydro-power during spring runoff. Go figure.

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Jeff_Kibler 2 years, 5 months ago

Robert, oil speculators? Perhaps some contribution to the price swings. Don't forget that oil is traded is $USD. Don't you think that the fact that we incessantly print a fiat currency also helps to push prices higher?

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Rob Douglas 2 years, 5 months ago

Russ, Brilliant of you to cite the recent beetle kill epidemic as evidence of Global Warming. Because Lord knows that's never happened before due to a wide range of conditions - including normal temperature variations that the planet has experienced long before folks like you tried to get rich by fear mongering. http://www.fs.fed.us/rm/pubs_rm/rm_gtr049.pdf This summer when I'm camping in the Flat Tops and checking out the snags dating back to the last (but far from only) major infestation, I'll ponder just what type of person buys the nonsense you're peddling. But, sadly, there are many dupes in this country. So, go for it. Keep scaring families and children with your false predictions of diseases that they will be ravished by. After all, FUD is what charlatans use to sell a product that can't stand on merit alone.

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

Jeff: BPA is not paying wind farmers to not generate electricity. However, PBA is asking FERC for permission to do that. Why? Because: 1) The developers who put turbines in did so thinking they would be able to earn enough from power generated by them in order to cover the costs of financing the turbines; 2) transmission bottlenecks prevent the use of the power outside the NorthWest; and 3) managing a multi-use river basin requires adjusting hydro flows to accommodate many things including salmon runs, and this means that when spring flows are high and transmission is constrained, some power curtailment may be necessary.

Paying for power not used also happens of in the fossil fuel sphere. Southern Montana Generation and Transmission has not sold a kilowatt from a natural gas plant in Great Falls that has been online since September. Yet consumers must pay to cover the cost of putting that plant online. Southern has also had to pay for power not used from a PPL coal-fired generation station in Colstrip because the head of Southern Montana gambled on the power market and signed a take and pay contract. It required his outfit to use a certain amount of power or pay for it even if not used. When the demand dropped and the spot power market went down (partially because of renewables), this left the co-ops he served in hoc for millions for power they never saw.

Note that the spot power market is down because of renewables. This means that utilities that buy power for their consumers on the spot market are paying less than they otherwise would for it. It also means that there is less demand for natural gas to produce power which has the effect of reducing prices by about half a penny a kilowatt hour. So it is complicated and there are pluses and minuses for the consumer.

We have to pay for power generating infrastructure which is why the plans to build hundreds of coal-fired generating stations have been scraped. Despite having to pay wind developers for curtailed generation, it is likely cheaper to have the additional infrastructure. It allows for retirement of aging fossil fuel facilities and therefore reduction in the increasing costs of crazy weather events related to increasing CO2. And it is an alternative to having to pay for expensive upgrades in those coal-generating facilities to meet air-quality standards.

Sad that the FOX News commentators I watched decrying the proposed payout didn't have a clue about the complexity of the problem and what to do to solve it.

We could create hydrogen from water during periods when excess windpower is available. Germany is constructing hundreds of hydrogen refueling stations for use in hydrogen cars and trucks. If we convert water to hydrogen, we get the water back at the end of the fuel-cell cycle. We would only need to convert the amount of water that runs past the mouth of the Mississippi for 29 hours to fuel the entire US transportation fleet for a year.

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Jeff_Kibler 2 years, 5 months ago

Russ, there's a time for terseness. It's time for you.

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

Good evening Rob: I'm aware that pine beetle kills have occurred many times in the past. I've seen logs scarred by beetles in early log cabins. So while the 1977 article you linked to was interesting, it did not deal with other causes of beetle proliferation, namely climate change. To update yourself try the real climate site I suggested, specifically the 2010 information at: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/10/seeing-red/ That article (no doubt peer reviewed by the nonsense-peddling, get-rich-quick, fear mongering types you distain) explains: "A key reason for the destructive potential of aggressive species like the MPB is plasticity in the number of generations produced per year, which correlates well with mean annual temperature. There are (at least) two direct temperature effects (and likely several other indirect ones) on beetle population processes. In the warm season, warmer temperatures accelerate development through several larval stages and pupation, and in the cold season they can reduce the kill of over-wintering larvae. In the MPB, two (or more) generations can be produced per year in warmer climates (“multivoltine” reproduction) while only one half generation per year may occur in more northerly or higher elevation populations."

And while you are in the flattops, take along Lester Brown's book and ponder how my response to you didn't have to reciprocate to your calling us dupes, charlatans, and your other pejoratives because what we wrote in our column stands on merit alone.

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Robert Huron 2 years, 5 months ago

Jeff you are correct in that oil is traded in dollars and as our currency is deflated the price of oil goes up. Since the 1980's it has been gov't policy to devalue the dollar with the theory that our products would be cheaper and in turn US companies would benefit. Unfortunately most of our manufacturing has been outsourced to Asia/India. When the Euro came into existence a decade ago 1 Euro cost 89 cents US and today it costs $1.32. The true cost of a gallon of gas in the US is about $11.50 a gallon. We pay $3.50 at the pump plus about $8 a gallon in military/security costs defending the Middle East etc. and about $2 a gallon in environmental cost. It is time to look beyond just oil.

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Fred Duckels 2 years, 5 months ago

This discussion reminds me of the pre Copenhagen/East Anglia period when Jim Hansen, the UN and the good socialists roamed the earth spewing propaganda. In this conversation we have a plethora of questionable "facts" similar to that period. Investigation has debunked much of that hoax and today 70% of the folks are suspect. Al Gore is running the backstreets but the faithful are successfully pedaling their snake oil daily. How much of our energy comes from alternatives? Don't quit your day job.

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George Hresko 2 years, 5 months ago

Brent Boyer / Scott Stanford-

Over the course of several past months you led a discussion on the pros and cons of online anonymity and decided that the SP&T blogs would continue without anonymous contributors. I am personally hopeful that the tenor of discussions will improve and especially that ad hominem attacks will disappear completely. There is another improvement / change which will in my opinion improve the quality of dialog in our small community, and that is forcing contributors to substantiate their numerical claims. It is well known by compliance practitioners (lawyers, salespeople, ministers, politicians, among others) that once a numerical claim is made it will remain in the audience's mind regardless of later warnings. Our community doesn't benefit from this . Some examples. The letter says that the Keystone Pipeline could result in a 10-20cpg increase in the price of gasoline. In the blog, Mr. Doty claims that wind power is about 2cpkwh cheaper than coal power and Mr. Huron claims that the 'true' cost of gasoline should include $8.00 per gallon in military / security costs and $2 per gallon in environmental costs. How would the average one of us know the basis for these claims? I suggest that the folks making such claims should be required to show their calculations before being allowed to inflict them upon the general population. With the explosion of information in our world we can easily be victimized by claims outside our areas of knowledge. I believe we deserve to see the calculations behind these claims. We should at least be reassured of their veracity before trying to decide if they add to our knowledge!

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Fred Duckels 2 years, 5 months ago

Amen George, It is difficult to have a discussion when you know many "facts' to be false and haven't the time to check the rest for accuracy. I don't know what Brett can do but time usually wounds all heels.

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mark hartless 2 years, 5 months ago

There are 2 types of lies. Lies of commission and lies of omission.

The suggestion that, without the Keystone pipeline, tar-sands oil would remain under the ground and therefore not contribute to global warming is not realistic. In fact, it goes beyond naivete and aproaches lying. Anyone with an ounce of brains knows that tar-sands oil WILL come out of Canada and it WILL be burned somewhere on Mother Earth. Whether the oil is carried south or west before it is burned is irrelevant.

Secondly, if temperatures rise it might be true that crops in established agricultural zones may be negatively effected. The lie of ommisson here is that other locations which are now unfavorable for food production will become more favorable. The authors have no way of knowing whether the net change might be less world food production. Many other "experts" argue that the net result would be a huge gain in food production.

Thirdly, arguing the potential health costs of burning fossil fuel while ignoring it's life-saving benifits is probably the biggest example of omission. Every day people are taken to hospitals in oil-burning planes, helicopters and ambulances. Those hospitals are heated by fossil fuel, lighted by fossil fuels and staffed by people who were transported there by fossil fuels. Even the plastic in their iv tubes, heart monitors and dialysis machines were all made from fossil fuels. I wonder if the authors care to comment on the health benefits of living in un-heated homes, eating un-refridgerated food, or drinking water which has not been treated and pumped into their faucet?

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Stan Zuber 2 years, 5 months ago

I believe people do not realize that they are paying for two systems. When they wind doesn't blow or blow to much ( they do shut down at a certain speed) or the sun doesn't shine, you need back up. For every megawatt of alternative energy you need megawatt of back up. That's a fact. I'm all for alternative energy, but on a individual base. I don't know if big wind farms are in the best interest of the consumer or rate payers. Time will tell.

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jerry carlton 2 years, 5 months ago

We have to keep oil obviously, but we need to be developing all the sources of alternative energy we can. We really need to break the energy dependence that we have on the middle east. We have done very little to do that since the gasoline lines on the 1970's or 1980's whenever it was. Suppopse Iran does develop a Nuke and I see no reason why they will not. They put one on a short range missle and send it at Israel . Hopefully Israel would have time to send one back at Iran. Either way there will not be much oil flowing out of the middle east for quite a while. Another scenario. Iran puts one in the hold of a cargo ship and sends it into Los Angeles or New York harbour and detonates it. What will our response be? Whatever it is, it will shut down oil flow in the middle east and cripple the US and world economy for years.

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mark hartless 2 years, 5 months ago

"Lucky for us we have a pipeline comming from a peaceful, stable country so that we can at least get some energy when the middle east blows up."

Who spoke those words? I don't know because I don't speak mandarin Chinese.

What will Americans say? "Gee, It sure would have been nice to have "a 1,711 mile long, yard wide pipeline [from] Alberta's boreal forest to refineries in Ok and TX."

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

Mark: Did you read our article? We wrote: "TransCanada, Keystone’s developer, indicates that some oil now refined for domestic production will be diverted to the pipeline for export to more lucrative markets overseas." That's not us talking--that's TransCanada.

And it will not be nice. As we wrote because of the KXL pipeline, according to the Global Labor Institute at Cornell U, "15 Midwestern states will experience a 10- to 20-cent per-gallon increase in gasoline prices." See "Pipe Dreams" page 27 www.ilr.cornell.edu/globallaborinstit...

So if the price of gas is already high because of hedge fund speculators, etc. we oppose driving it even higher with a pipeline that is going to send oil overseas?

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

Stan: I liked your comments on individual ownership of renewable energy. Everybody should get the benefit of the clean energy boom.

May I offer another perspective on your comments that we need a duplicative backup if wind is on the system? The fact that wind was on the system helped ride through and minimize outages recently in large areas of the mid and south west when ice storms caused natural gas turbines and coal plants to go down while the wind turbines kept on spinning.

So every form of power (renewable or fossil fuel) needs backup. And we don't need a megawatt of backup for every megawatt of wind or fossil fuel on a system. The requirements vary with the system and the degree of transmission interconnection and load fluxuations.

Reserve requirements are generally estimated at around 15%. See my testimony on the subject submitted to the Montana Public Service Commission with extensive footnotes to National Renewable Energy lab studies at www.newworldwindpower.com/doty%20comm...

Further, the costs of integrating wind into the system are calculated in the rates paid to power producers, that is the rates to the power producers are reduced to cover the cost of wind integration. My footnoted testimony addresses that at www.newworldwindpower.com/doty%20comm...

The variability of the wind actually enhances (flattens) the power curve. That is it helps the system. See www.newworldwindpower.com/doty%20comm...

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Fred Duckels 2 years, 5 months ago

Russ, If the Cornell reference is the response to those questioning your "facts" God help you. Won't the KXL oil sell to the highest bidder? We import and export some oil because of or refinery capacity. The left has used this to come up with a talking point that we are oil exporters, I would like to see data with more credibility than this Cornell one sided report. It took two seconds to spot the obvious bias here, which would relegate any report on any subject to the trash can. Importing oil may be the biggest problem that we face today.

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

Fred: You ask how much energy is coming from alternatives? It is why I quoted figures from Spain above. The percentage is over 28% in Denmark which banned new nuclear power after Chernobyl. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_Denmark

In 2006, 98% of the electric-utility industry conceeded that 20% renewables on the grid would be no problem. So we've been moving in that direction and beyond with several states mandating more. A recent poll in Montana showed 75% of the electorate favored 25% renewables by 2025. www.aeromt.org/wordpress/wp-content/u...

The percentage of energy coming from non-hydro renewables is rapidly increasing. In 2004 the western governor's association calculated its 19 member states would need 43,500 megawatts of new generation by 2015. Wind now produces 65% of that number with three years to go. Solar, geothermal and increased efficiency at hydro facilities are coming on strong. [Numbers compiled by me from American Wind energy Association, and US government WindPowering America data] It is part of the reason why closure of 106 coal-fired generating stations have been announced since january 2010 and 166 new coal-fired stations have been defeated since 2002. www.truth-out.org/nine-more-dirty-agi...

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mark hartless 2 years, 5 months ago

Russ, Yes. I have read it several times.

Let us say I have an irrigation ditch crossing my property but I currently have no adjudicated water rights from it.

In the event of an extreme drought or some other emergency like a fire don't you think I would be MORE able to beg, borrow or steal water from that ditch since it is crossing my property than if the irrigation ditch had been built miles away from my property? Of course I would... ditto for an oil pipeline.

As economically foolish as rejecting an oil pipeline across your nation is, it pales in comparison to it's strategic foolishness which is compounded only by the likelihood that the "ditch" will instead be routed to a nation which proves itself almost daily to be a serious future potential military rival.

In other words, even if we developed enough renewable energy to meet ALL our needs forever, it would still be of strategic value to have our hand close to the faucet of the pipeline that feeds our enemies tanks, planes and aircraft carriers.

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

George: I agree with you on the need to add credibility by citing sources. That is why we have tried to do so in many instances. On the 2 cent kwh differential you wanted, try this article. missoulian.com/news/opinion/columnists/article_90fc5a02-dd1b-11df-bc6d-001cc4c03286.html The quest does not end there however. Ben's numbers in that article were challenged and he referred them to numbers from NorthWestern Energy testimony before the Public Service Commission. I've been involved in proceedings before the PSC since 2005 and have watched the wind costs there, so I generally know Ben's numbers are right. The actual spread between prices changes from month to month depending mostly on the price of natural gas used for electric generation. The spread has been greater than 2 cents kwh at times. When turbines are fully paid for in 7 to 10 years, that spread should increase if contracts have been properly negotiated for the consumer.

It is a bit frustrating to quote credible sources only to have the detractors on this blog, trash them with little or no effort to consult them and with no facts of their own. Lester Brown's web site that I referred you to has many footnoted citations to sources for information as well. For example, if Mr. Hartless had read them, and consulted the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) maps on where dryness will occur, he would know enough to seriously doubt his unsubstantiated claim that "Many other 'experts' argue that the net result [of climate change] would be a huge gain in food production."

Some areas may increase in food production with climate change. However, I have not seen reports indicating there would be a net increase. Check out www.realclimate.org/index.php/archive... . The issue for Colorado is that it will become dryer here so food production here will face problems because of anything that makes climate change worse (as increased production from the tar sands will).

In making its report, the IPCC reviewed 18,000 papers on various aspects of climate change -- the vast majority of them were peer reviewed. Fred appears to write all these off to "socialists" roaming the earth spewing propaganda. Sorry Fred the 98%+ of climate scientists who believe our over use of fossil fuel is having an adverse global warming effect and those who contributed to the 18,000 papers are not socialist propagandists.

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

Mark: The best way to keep our hand on the faucet so our enemies do not get oil from Canada is to not refine if for them for shipment to them. We already have our hand on the spigot and contrary to your assumption, that oil may not get out. The Canadian aboriginals oppose the pipeline across their land to the West coast partially because they are good stewards of the land and see the effects of climate change in villages of their brothers in Shismaref. You can see it too at www.newworldwindpower.com/LEDPowerPTs...

Tar sands oil is already reaching the US via other pipelines. That oil will be diverted overseas to more lucrative markets if kxl is built. That will drive the price of gas up. If you think driving the price of gas up in 15 states is strategically a good idea so we can ship gas to foreign countries just so maybe we might be able to cut the flow off in event of some future conflict by all means continue to support kxl. But before you adopt that position for good, know too that you are committing humans to conflict over scarcer land, food, and water resources. That's why the groups that look after US national security which I cited are concerned about climate change.

If you don't want to set our house on fire to keep temproarily warm by creating a few short term jobs to build a pipeline that will cause us untold economic harm in the future, then we'd be honored to have your support.

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George Hresko 2 years, 5 months ago

Russ-

Thank you for your response to me. I will leave both Fred and Mark to their own issues, but, as you will recall I did not request citations but suggested that calculations be required for numerical claims--so no cigar! I am going to assume good intentions on your part and give an example of what I expect.

The 2 cents per kwh is based on the following assumptions: Natural Gas at x $pmcf in a peaking gas turbine, fully costed (''xx' fixed and 'yy' variable costs, taxed at 'zz' cpkwh) at y% thermal efficiency and z hours per year on-line vs a wind farm incremental cost only based on 'a' fixed costs (including ''aa' federal subsidies)and 'b' hours per year performance at 'c' % maximum output. I accept that I am probably a bit more numerate than others, but I believe that my example is what is necessary if we are having numerical claims placed on us.

Cheers!

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Fred Duckels 2 years, 5 months ago

Mandating utilities to use a certain percentage of renewables is misleading. First they will always be aware of the PC factor, second they are guaranteed a profit and woiuld agree to burning peanut shells is that was expected. How much of the alternative power that they purchase is "peak production" as in wind where there is likely little value as the conventional plant is already in operation? I suspect that this method of purchasing is common in order to maintain the renewable quota. In the long run the consumer is subsidizing the windmill and the ideologues get the bragging rights.

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mark hartless 2 years, 5 months ago

I hardly think the best way to prevent our enemies from getting oil from Canada is to ensure there's a pipeline to their waiting ships on the west coast.

Nor do I think it is accomplished by us having no pipeline to the gulf.

Nor do I think you are concerned over "driving up the price of gas"

Nor do I think that less oil flowing into my country will cause the price of oil to drop.

Nor do I believe that using oil in America instead of in China will cause any differing rates of global warming.

Nor do I think that most sane people believe any of that either.

Neither would I believe anything that comes out of the mouth of a body called the "Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Nor do I believe many of the other groups you reference are without bias.

However, I do believe that YOU really believe it. You defend your religion with much zeal. Good for you.

However, with all due respect, you will never have my support. Not even when Colorado is submerged in salt-water. Why? Because I would rather drown in a rising sea than live under coercion.

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

Fred: Utilities don't agree to any type of renewable power production. The renewable portfolio standard was originally voted on in Colorado and the utilities spent more than a million to defeat it. So lose the contempt for politicians on this issue--they are giving us what we want. The Political correctness factor comes in because folks have demonstrated a preference for renewables. In the long run the consumers have subsidized generating technologies that give us fuel and pollution control costs, three-mile island, chernoybl and Fukushima type clean-ups. Long after the coal companies are gone from Montana, we'll be left with cleanups like trying to deal with the Berkley Copper Mining pit in Butte--only 8% of the coal strip mined land has been reclaimed in Colstrip. Nobody gets the bragging rights for that, but you'd never know it from the misleading "clean coal" ads on TV. Consumers are tired of this fossil fuel/nuke risk/subsidy. Time to switch.

And in southern Colorado after extensive hearings several years ago, the PSC required wind turbines precisely because the cost was cheaper. For cost comparisons by region in 2006, see www.windpoweringamerica.gov/newenglan...

An indication of amazing improvements in turbine costs and productivity see this just issued report: eetd.lbl.gov/ea/ems/reports/wind-energy-costs-2-2012.pdf

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

George: Since you appreciate the complexity of the wind cost discussion try the newest report on it at http://eetd.lbl.gov/ea/ems/reports/wind-energy-costs-2-2012.pdf

The citation I gave is to numbers you can use for the calculation. Ben's numbers from the utility are supposed to be fully costed. Colstrip Unit 4 (coal): $56.05 per megawatt hour; (that is 5.6 cents kwh) vs. Judith Gap (wind): $29.25 per MWh, plus $8-13 per MWh for "integration" costs; (That is $37.25 to $42.25 per MWh) (i.e., 3.7 to 4.2 cents per kwh. the difference between 5.6 and 3.7 cents is 1.9 cents per kwh. 1.9 cents is close to covering the tax credit. The tax credit will last for 10 years (4 years left) at that time the tax credit goes away but the costs either go down (because the infrastructure is paid for) or costs stay the same and wind remains cheaper than coal depending on the power purchase contract. I have tracked the costs numbers and at times the spread is greater than 2 cents at times less. Ben's numbers are averages. As the price of gas used for electric generation increases, the spread increases. Also there are some savings in avoided cost of natural gas not necessary to produce electricity at times when the wind is contributing to the system. It is difficult to give you exact calculations because the utility usually does not give the kind of data you seek even in the context of rate cases. And when they do give the data, they often make you sign a non-disclosure agreement so participants in a rate case cannot talk about protected data outside of the rate case.

The differences in costs also depend on areas of the country where coal generation is more because the coal has to be transmitted so far and the cost of turbines is also affected by what the market will bear because of the higher costs of fuel in those areas.

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

Mark: The coersion comes from TransCanada exercising the right to eminent domain to take land for its pipe before the project is even approved, from farmers who do not want it going across their land; from farmers who want thicker pipe so oil doesn't spill on their land like the leaks in kxl # 1 in Kalamazoo, MI.

So you would not accept a report done by the IPCC. Would it make a difference if you knew its summary reports got through several iterations and are approved line by line in plenary session by more than 99 governments participating in the plenary session? Sounds like your complaint about errors of omission applies to you, failure to consider all the facts.

You still don't get it that the oil flowing through the US in the kxl will detract from oil flowing to the US. The net oil flow to us will be less not more if we build kxl and the oil flowing through will be greater. Still a sanity issue for you?

And why would I not care about rising gas prices? Pretty arrogant of you to think that. And nobody said Colorado would be submerged with salt water. It's troubling that whenever you right wingers are losing an argument, you change the subject or try to attribute things to the person you are dealing with that have no basis in reality and then shoot them down. That straw man tactic won't work here.

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mark hartless 2 years, 5 months ago

When Colorado is submerged in salt water I still won't buy what you're selling, Russ.

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George Hresko 2 years, 5 months ago

Russ-

Closer, but still not what I think we really are owed if we are to intelligently debate wind power vs alternatives. I am not sure I am interpreting the slide show correctly, but it seems that without incentives the cost is roughly 10 cents per kwh? I also do not know how to interpret levelized cost of energy--what does that mean? Since you used the 2 cents I think you owe us the courtesy of explaining in sufficient detail so we can (a) understand and (b) arrive at our own conclusions.

Cheers!

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

Fair enough, I'll give it another shot George. The National Renewable Energy Lab document I referred you to deals in levelized costs of wind so accurate comparisons can be made. It is different from the kwh analysis I did specific to one existing wind site in Montana at one point in time.

All analysis can vary with the capability of a site to produce wind, the diameter of the sweep of the blades, the height of the tower, the sophistication of the power dispatchers in integrating the electricity generated into the grid, the ability of the grid to disperse power generated over the area where the power is needed, the robustness of the turbine and the generating unit attached to it, etc. Thus, at some poor wind sites (onshore in the southeastern US, lower level areas in the west), wind turbines are not as competitive as in higher wind speed areas. Generally, it is possible to make comparisons between technologies if the cost of energy is levelized.

Because of recent improvements in a variety of factors, power from turbines in lower wind speed areas is more cost competitive. However, when you add turbines from lower wind speed areas to the average, as a group it will give higher levelized cost averages that appear to be closer for wind technology as a group to the costs of coal as a group.

The definition of what is generally included in levelized costs is found in a Union of Concerned Scientists post at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_...

It "is a calculation of the cost of generating electricity at the point of connection to a load or electricity grid. It includes the initial capital, return on investment, as well as the costs of continuous operation, fuel, and maintenance. The cost is normally stated in units of local currency per unit of electricity, for example cents-per-kilowatt-hour for small numbers, or dollars-per-megawatt-hour for larger quantities. The calculation does not include wider system costs associated with each type of plant, such as long distance connections to grids, balancing and reserve costs, and does not include externalities such as health damage by coal plants, decommissioning costs of nuclear plant. These type of items can be explicitly added if necessary. It has little relation to actual price of power, and is widely used to assist policy makers and others to guide discussions and decision making." The formula is in the link. More in my next post.

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

We are going to talk about the costs of new electric generating plants. If plants are old and depreciated, the costs of coal may very well be less until pollution control equipment is added and carbon capture is added.

Take a look at the levelized calculations below the Union of Concerned Scientists explanation of levelized costs. You will see US Energy Information Agency levelized estimates of what costs will be in 2016. Tax credits for all forms of energy are eliminated from the calculations. Note in Table 2 the range of levelized costs for wind is $81.9/MwHr to $115/MwHr. Compare that with the cost of advanced coal plants with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) at $126.3/MwHr. to $154.5/MwHr.

You will note that I picked the comparison with Carbon Capture and Storage. Why? because with wind generation, you do not need to capture and store carbon. Therefore, the comparison is closer. I also picked the comparson with advanced coal technology generating plants. Why? Because presumably they contain pollution better and because they can be cycled off with less damage to boilers that is a drawback of conventional coal technology. This ability to cut back helps at night for example when many cities are cutting nighttime energy use in half by converting to LED street lighting. Again with wind you don't have to worry about scrubbing SO2, NOx and Hg, etc. from stack gases and disposing of the resulting slug in ways that will not eventually reach water supplies as has happened in Appalachia and Colstrip, Mt. So the comparison is closer.

If you were comparing wind to the levelized costs of conventional coal, the cost range for coal would be $85.5/Mwh to $110.8/Mwh. So if you are comparing costs of wind at the low end of its range ($81.9/MwHr) with conventional coal at the low end of its range ($85.5/Mwh), you still get a comparison where wind costs less on average. Converting that to kWh you get an estimated 2016 differential without tax breaks of wind being $0.0052/kWh cheaper. ($85.5 - $81.9 = $3.6/1000). If you compare the cost of wind at the low end of the range with conventional coal at the high end of the range, you get a differential of wind being $0.0289/kWh cheaper. ($110.8 - $81.9 = $28.9/1000). The close-to-2 cent/kwh differential comparison I gave you was for one windfarm averaged over one year. The cost differential will vary for that example as the price of natural gas changes and the production tax credit goes away at year 10 and the infrastructure is paid for at year 10. I can't tell you by how much because the utility and the wind developer have not released those details.

If you do the comparison of wind at the low end of its range ($81.9/Mwhr) with Advanced Coal with Carbon Capture and Storage ($126.3/Mwh) you get a differential of wind being $0.039kWh cheaper than advanced coal with CCS ($126.3 - $87.1 = $39.2/Mwh/1000).

more in next post

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

Using the UCS table, you can also construct comparisons where wind at the medium and high end of the range is more expensive in levelized costs than conventional coal throughout its range. However, remember you are getting more value from wind because you have eliminated pollution and CO2. Also, if you go to the newest NREL data that I referred you to, you will see that because financing, turbine, and operating costs have subsided, the levelized costs for wind electric generation without tax credits are projected (slide 27) to be $62 to $72/Mwh in 2012. That is lower than the $81.9/MwHr to $115/MwHr EIA levelized costs for 2016.

You don't have to take my word for the advantages of wind. NREL has summarized on slide 16 the views of various enlightened utility executives: BNEF 2011: "The cost of wind generation has been driven to record lows by declines in turbine prices and the cash grant, which eliminates the cost of securing tax equity financing.” “Austin Energy officials say those wind contracts are among the cheapest deals available, when the cost of building power plants is taken into account, and comparable to what the historically volatile natural gas market has been offering recently.” (Statesman.com article) “Our contract with NextEra Energy Resources is one of the lowest we’ve ever seen and results in a savings of nearly 40 percent for our customers,” said David Eves, president and CEO of Public Service Company of Colorado. “The addition of this 200-megawatt wind farm demonstrates that renewable energy can compete on an economic basis with more traditional forms of generation fuel, like natural gas, and allows us to meet the state’s Renewable Energy Standard at a very reasonable cost to our customers.” (Reuters article) Consumers Energy, Michigan: "Lower wind power costs mean $54m saving for ConsumersEnergy.“ (newspaper article) Westar, Kansas: Signed more wind contract than needed "...because pricing is so attractive now and to minimize tax risk to our investors" (Westar Q4 earnings call)

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Fred Duckels 2 years, 5 months ago

Russ, Your obvious disdain for right wingers certainly clouds your presentation. If this wind power was so great there would be a huge clamor to get in on it. Instead you appear to be a huckster seeking public funds, as is all too common with the "green economy". You need to be schmoozing your lefty counterparts like the rest and get in on the crony angle. I seek the truth wherever it lies and I don't know about GW. However the greenhouse theory seems to be the trump card for a very tidy package that seeks to dictate our lives and always ends up with income redistribution as the answer for all that ails us. Who is the ultimate validator of this "incontrovertable" phenomenon? Why it is the leftist academia of course who obviously knows where it's bread is buttered. I seek truth, but it is going to take a better salesman than I have seen to date.

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

Well you are safe there Mark, you won't ever have to buy anything I say because nobody I know of contends Colorado will be innundated by salt water because of climate change. And it's not necessarily me that's selling anything. As Holly said in the PowerPoint she narrated that I gave you the link to above, the World Bank provided the map of a few low lying areas that will be swamped by sea level rises that will displace 500 million people worldwide. Then again, I don't suppose you'd want to buy what the World Bank says either.

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

Interesting you should mention seeking public funds, Fred. Your construction and transportation companies ever do business with the public sector? Did the public sector ever redistribute wealth in your direction?

Before you persist in your incessant rude, offensive, bullying name-calling, let's check out your record. Perhaps if you were more concerned about malfunctioning pipelines and malfunctioning compressed air equipment, OSHA would not have fined you when one of your employees died as a result of your compressed air equipment blowing out. Now there's a truth worth seeking! Might even prevent another death.

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 5 months ago

The National Review link keeps stating fracking causes no problems? Oil and gas wells caused over a thousand contamination cases in Colorado, and this has a LOT to do with fracking, because fracking is the only technology that can economically justify the majority, 90% or so, of these oil and gas wells. Colorado State records show over 1,500 contamination reports.

The linked article has some honesty amidst its 4,000 words of slant:

"The problem with fracking mostly isn’t what goes down the pipe, but what comes up, ... then there’s other stuff that comes up, too, substances you’d just as soon see remain buried in the depths of the earth: arsenic, for one thing, and the darkly whispered-about entity known in drilling circles as NORM — Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material — and various other kinds of Very Bad Stuff. Of particular concern is the presence of bromides, which, when combined with the chlorine used in water-treatment facilities, have a worrisome tendency to turn into the SEAL Team Six of volatile organic compounds, basically a big flashing neon sign reading “Cancer.” "

The Duke and Garlield studies ignored by the National Review, and the Colorado records ignored by the National Review, make this article a joke.

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kathy foos 2 years, 5 months ago

What about the bad ethics of the Keystone Pipeline in general?It is not an oil, its is a mucky product that would be processed in Oklahoma and Texas I believe,that would create nasty pollution's and then it gets shipped to whatever country Canada say's.They would own it ,we would not control it,another country would,a British Company.They have two coast lines same as we do,let them build it there if it is so great.Something is up if you ask me and it's not all clear.So after it gets done then these American country's would want to use it for the USA?Could they use it?Once they get one will it turn to two or three?Maybe branch out like the old railroad did?East west ?Is that why American oil company's want it so bad?They would frack up America and shove in in that pipeline too?I wonder what our founding fathers and the patriots who fought would think about the imminent domain policy by a British company for a business enterprise ,commercial benefit.America is not for sale people,not even to the oil company's People have fought and died to make it free and business interest should not be allowed to pollute air, land water and sea ...in our own turf,Every American's basic right .More right's should be for the public and citizen's for clean air and water to be protected for future generation's survival.Oil is running out or they wouldn't want to be scraping the bottom to get this fracking product out,exposing nature and water and air to pollution's .Get the oil in conventional clean ways and get off it and save the rest as best you can as it will be needed in the future and it is not an endless supply.Save a little for later,I am sure the future generations would like just a little bit ?

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mark hartless 2 years, 5 months ago

Haven't you heard, Kathy? We are just days or weeks from finding technology that will let wind and solar power give us all the free electricity we need.

So we can burn all the oil now, no problem!

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

There you go again Mark, attempting to maintain the fiction that we are unreasonable by sarcastically misstating the situation and the position of folks who differ with you.

Kathy has a good point. Why not acknowledge it? We are going to need the last hours of ancient sunlight to produce plastics and fertilizer as well as for other needs. It makes sense to conserve the fossil fuel feedstock as long as possible expecially since the overuse of fossil fuel for power generation and transportation is creating adverse long term effects that will make it tougher for future generations to cope.

Contrary to your facitious assertion, renewable power is not free electricity. It is electricity free from the added cost of fuel and pollution control which in most cases will be cheaper than the burning of fossil fuel and which carries with it fewer adverse effects.

Also contrary to your facitious notion, renewable energy technology is already here and it is getting better all the time as indicated by the charts in the link to wind markets I gave above which indicate marked increases in capacity factors of turbines and wind farms. If you follow it, you know similar productivity increases and cost decreases have occurred in the solar field so that with current incentives in some areas that put renewables on equal footing with incentives long provided to fossil fuel, firms like SunPower and Solar City offer solar PV installations for what you would otherwise pay the local utility for power.

At least give us the courtesy of seeing our points fairly without slanting them. If you can't convince without creating fantasy, then you should be shaming yourself instead of the Steamboat Today (which in a separate opinion column you've "shamed" because it is making us post opinions using our own names).

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mark hartless 2 years, 5 months ago

So you do acknowledge that we are nowhere near being able to get away from fossil fuels, Russ? That's good... baby steps, atta-boy!

I looked at a wind turbine manufacturers site this weekend because, contrary to what you might think, I am interested.

Bergy tells me that their 10kw turbine with tower and ancillary equipment will cost me between $50,000 and $60,000. If my electric bill for the next 50 year was to average $250/ month, which is 3 times what it is today, then my recovery time for that investment would be about 18 years. Now that's if the wind blew EVERY SINGLE DAY and that's if there were ZERO need for maintenance to this wind turbine for 18 years; both highly unlikely.

Realistically, the payback on this would be over 50 years and I would still need fossil fuels on the 70% of days there was no wind.

Of course, with your apparent messianic ability to predict global weather 50 years in advance, perhaps you could enlighten me as to how much air (hot or otherwise) might be a-blowin' in our little slice of heaven. There certainly does seem to be more of it every year.

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

Mark: I can't speak for everyone that welcomes the current transition away from fossil fuels. However, most realize there will be a transition period. We also realize that if we invest in renewable infrastructure it will come about a lot faster than if we waste limited financial resources on outdated technology. And many believe the transition should and could happen a lot faster than it is happening for a variety of reasons discussed above. Some realize that the rest of the world will eat our lunch if our manufacturing costs have to include power that is burden with a fuel and pollution control cost component. China installed 3 times the wind capacity of the US last year. It is not a matter of my acknowleging anything, it is a matter of you finally ceasing to assign positions to me that I never held so you could maintain the fiction that I am not reasonable.

Your economic assumptions do not include the output of a Bergey 10 kw in the wind area you are contemplating. What tower height are you assuming? As you go up, production increases by a cube-root--that's why commercial turbines and many small turbines are so high up. What is your current price of energy per kWh? What are you using to trend that cost forward?

Your 70% days with no wind figure is flat out wrong and likely illustrates your misunderstanding of "capacity factor." If you are in a wind area with a capacity factor of 40%, like Judith Gap and most other sites in Montana, the wind blows approximately 88% of the time. (read the link to my testimony before the Montana Public Service Commission on capacity factor). And you still have to match that production to load so you may or may not need backup power some of that time. Small turbines like the one you are comparing often are hooked to the grid so you will be feeding power to the grid at times when you are not using it and when the wind is blowing and you will be taking power from the grid at other times. It you are interested in small wind, check out Paul Gipe's books and website and the American Distributed Wind Energy Association web site.

You are comparing small turbine economics to utility scale turbine economics. I've been talking about the economics of utility scale turbines. The two are very different. And the economics within each group are very different depending on your wind site, the turbine chosen, the tower height and the cost of electricity in your area. In Red Lodge, Montana for example, folks are paying 19 cents/kWh for electricity (including distribution, transmission and other costs)and that makes small wind competitive if the pricing allows you to offset those costs (sometimes monopoly pricing does not allow such offsets but that is too complicated for this discussion).

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

Finally Mark: If you want to engage in a civil discussion, curb your urge to insult me. I don't cotton much to cyber bullies. The Steamboat Today's policy of requiring us to post under our own names apparently hasn't taught you and manners.

Nobody claims messianic ability to predict global weather. However, some very good and sincere scientists have done well in honing their predictive ability and in advocating renewable energy. One of them is the Republican former Dean of Technology whom I recruited to be on our Board. If we are to avoid the fossil fuel fratricide that will result if we fry large parts of the earth, we would do well to give them their due.

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mark hartless 2 years, 5 months ago

I have read Paul Gipe, Russ. Surprised? I know about intertie. I understand the difference between small and utility scale wind production.

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mark hartless 2 years, 5 months ago

Russ, I'm not upset with you because you want renewable energy. Nor am I bullying you for any reason, least of all for wanting a clean, sustainable world. However, I will say if you are going to advocate for controversial things you need to grow thicker skin. I will compliment you for showing bit of patience in trying to explain things.

Some of what leaves me wanting to scream is how so much of what you emphasise is one-sided. For example, when you say China is putting on 3 times more windpower than we did last year you are not telling the whole story. Namely that China's growth rate in ALL things is 3-5 times what our growth rate is. This means China built more hydroelectric capacity than we did, more coal-fired power plants, more supermarkets, more aircraft carriers, more everything. And they are all around the globe securing long-term contracts for fossil fuels of every kind, raw materials from every mined, grown, or milled substance known to man. You know this, don't you? You know that but you act like China's only concern is surpassing us in renewables and that this is the only area we need to catch up. By that standard we would also need to put one coal-fired power plant online every other week for the rest of our lives. You certainly don't advocate that though! That, I believe, is disingenious.

We also both know that horizontal-axis wind turbines have a reputation of being bird-blenders, especially true for raptors which, for the same reasons tend toward the same ridgeline locations where wind farms are sited. We both know there are considerable issues about noise pollution- called blade thump from big turbines with tip-speeds in excess of 120 mph. We also know that wind power will not reduce our dependance on foreign oil because less than 3% of our electricity comes from oil. WE know electricity is notoriously difficult to store which is a must with unpredictable and intermittent power sources. We can look at the landscapes in the California desert and know that we sure don't want that look everywhere. If all those windmills were electric transmission lines environmentalisit would be screaming. We know Denmark has almost 20% wind capacity yet not one of its conventional plants have been able to shut down due to the intermittent nature of wind. We know that, throughout Europe, wind turbines produce only about 20% of their rated capacity. We know that salt and bug buildup on blades reduces efficiency by up to 25% or more. WE know that ice build-up on the still blades can be flung up to 1,500 feet when the blades start up again. We know that each turbine requires many cubic yards of concrete and gravel and roadways and fencing, etc.

I could go on but my point is you are giving your opinion in a brochure, like a brochure for a new Corvette. The brochure is for selling the car, not to list its true cost or show more reliable or practical modes of transportation.

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

Ok Mark: You think it is disingenuous when someone doesn't agree with your facts. So prove your facts. Footnote your sources for the "we both know" and "we know "statements you accept as truth.

And prove your statement about how many coal plants are going up in China, because it has changed recently and you sound a bit behind the times.

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

When you are documenting what we know Mark, skip the documentation on the concrete and gravel required for turbines, because your comment on that is an immaterial non sequitur and has very little to do with what you would claim as being disingenuous if I didn't happen to mention it in discussing wind energy. And besides some small turbines have re-engineered bases that do not use a lot of concrete or require additional roads, while utility scale turbined do.

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mark hartless 2 years, 5 months ago

I am certainly behind the times, Russ. No doubt about it.

However, it is frankly beneath someone of your superior education to ask someone of my limited intelligence for "proof" of something as readily apparent as China's growth rate. Of all the things we are expected to assume as "settled" I would think China's superior growth rate would rank right up there.

I am going to tip my hat to you at this point. While I might not agree with your views I salute your tennacity. Not many people have the patience to keep comming back for dose after dose of my insolence. Your depth of knowledge enabled you to do that.

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jerry carlton 2 years, 5 months ago

China has aircraft carriers? I did not know that. I hope they do not decide to use them as Japan did in WWII.

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Brian Kotowski 2 years, 5 months ago

Late to the party -

Robert Huron asserts the US has 3% of the world’s oil reserves. The President recently put that figure at 2%. Both numbers are flat out lies, gentlemen. There’s no other way to put it.

Unlike almost anywhere else in the world, the term “reserves” in this country is narrowly and disingenuously defined by securities law. Domestic deposits made inaccessible by current rules & regs don’t count toward our “reserves.” We could instantly increase our “reserves” by opening up ANWR, for example. But the Energy Information Administration (EIA) only acknowledges what we are currently drilling for in existing fields, when calculating our “reserves.”

The government’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management estimates 86 billion barrels in the Outer Continental Shelf. 24 billion in shale in the lower 48, according to the EIA. 19 billion in Utah. 12 billion in crude at ANWR. A drop in the bucket, compared to the Green River formation in Wyoming: 1.3 TRILLION in oil shale, 800 billion of which is deemed “technically recoverable.” That is, extractable using existing technology. That’s more than triple the reserves in Saudi Arabia.

The Energy Dept. says we have 400 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil. Factor in the shale deposits, and number jumps to 1.4 trillion. According to the EIA, that’s enough to keep us supplied for 200 years, without importing a drop from anyone.

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

Mark: Your sarcastic reference to my intellect will not get you off the hook for documenting the alleged windpower “facts” you claim I should explore to avoid the lies of omission faux pas you accuse me of. It took me less than a minute to google “list of countries by electricity production.” //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_electricity_production

It indicated the US, produced 119,400 gigawatts more electricity than China in 2010—not the other way around that you asked us to assume. Therefore, China’s size is largely irrelevant to my observation that industries in countries rapidly migrating to fuel sources that do not have fossil fuel and pollution control costs associated with their energy generation will outpace countries with their heads stuck in the tar sands; China being an example having installed three times the wind generating capacity as the US last year.

Your intellect did not prevent you from documenting facts you assumed we could agree to. One does not need to explore the myriad of avenues you and the fossil fuel lobby send us down to validate what the world already knows, namely in many circumstances renewable energy – even with some limitations – has a decided advantage over fossil fuel and its limitations, and that advantage gets bigger every day.

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

Mark:

Cyber-bullies accuse others of being disingenuous or of lying by omission (like you have), when you yourself throw out so-called facts (like windmills are bird blenders) without also including reference to tall buildings, house windows, cars, cats, etc. which all kill far more birds than wind turbines. Were you guilty of an error of omission by failing to point out what fossil fuel driven climate change has done to drastically reduce the numbers of adelie penguins, and sooty shearwater, for example, or fossil fuel's occasional propensity to "tar the feathers" of various shore birds? Please tell us why you didn't expand the discussion to include mention of the fact that the wind turbine industry has worked diligently to successfully limit avian fatalities by changing siting, lighting and tower types?

Cyber bullies don't fairly acknowledge proven facts already stated in the discussion while accusing others of misstating fact. That is, as already cited to above, Denmark produces 28% of its electricity from wind turbines, not the 20% you want me to assume.

Cyber bullies throw the discussion far off topic. You’ve expanded discussion of the kxl pipeline yet again, this time to Chinese aircraft carriers. Yes you’ve proven the Chinese have an aircraft carrier. I doubt if that means we should allow a 1700 mile pipeline across the US to help fuel it.

Cyber-bullies accuse others of not being able to back up their facts, while citing facts they can't or won't support. Sound familiar? Since you refuse to footnote where you get the claims you made, so we can check them out, the reader can disregard them. And I’m not going to take time to debunk the rest of them, either. So I’m leaving the discussion. Yes, we both need to move on to other things. Best to you. Try to not lead us to societal collapse. I’ll do the same.

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mark hartless 2 years, 5 months ago

And what do environmental extremists do?

They seek to use force whenever possible. They chain themselves to trees. They spike trees. They scream and shout at rallies and disrupt public meetings. They seek to force others into using the energy sources THEY wish. They force others to use the light bulbs THEY wish. They force companys to build the automobiles THEY wish. They force us to use ethanol which depletes the aquifers they claim to protect. They seek to force stores into using the kind of grocery bags THEY wish. They steer us toward the recreation choices THEY wish. They want us to stop eating beef. They want to stop logging, and stop mining. They want us to blow up hydro-electric generation dams. They want us to reduce our energy consumption which directly coresponds to to a reduced standard of living for everyone. Hell, they even oppose solar, wind and nuclear projects with pavlovian regularity.

Then, when they get some opposition they have the nerve to call their detractors the "bullies". When their religion is not embraced without question, and it IS a religion, they accuse us heritics of wanting to cause some fossil-fuel induced Armageddon.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 5 months ago

And so Mark, probably unintentionally, further demonstrates the faulty reasoning behind banning semi-anonymous posters.

Putting a name behind a post does not improve the dialogue.

Requiring a name behind a post just denies many people from posting.

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Fred Duckels 2 years, 5 months ago

This is one wierd discussion,a mostly self aggrandizing attempt to intimidate and let us know that it would not be wise to trifle with such an important matter. Out here in the sticks this is not our first rodeo, as I have experienced similar displays for decades. To gain credibility, it takes time, and we are not impressed by the " big hat" we need to see the cattle.

Mark, you have a keen sense of smell, but there are some that win all arguments.

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mark hartless 2 years, 5 months ago

Scott and Fred, You are both right. I should've quit a while back. My apologies.

Jeff, Very interesting. Explains a lot.

I'm out. Cheers,

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 5 months ago

And now Jeff Kibler does the sort of opposition research into a poster's personal life that perfectly explains why it is a reasonable decision for intelligent people to prefer to use a semi-anonymous handle instead of their real name when posting online.

This thread, the most active thread in a discussion forum so dead that it makes a morgue look as active as Times Square, is now a lengthy and detailed example that banning semi-anonymous posters does not change the tone of the forums and why reasonable people would rather not post under their real names.

It should be obvious to any observer that the paper's decision to ban semi-anonymous posters has been an abject failure. The activity of the forums has plummeted and it now appears the online community lacks the critical mass to have a discussion with multiple viewpoints. The tone of the forums has not improved and may actually be worse.

If the only active forum discussion degenerates to be this bad and distasteful then paper might as well take the next step and simply shut down the online forums. Personally, I thought the semi-anonymous forums were basically fine. If the tone was something they wished to change then they needed to simply enforce their guidelines with a little punishment such as 48 hours suspension of ability to post comments so that people would be discouraged from even risking violating the forum's rules.

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 5 months ago

The above veered into the personal. I never like that either. But the website has new contributors with expertise replacing the old fountains of incessant talking points. I will definitely be sticking around.

Getting back to the topic...

Sep, I have read the estimate of natural gas reserves in the U.S., "100 years supply", is based on utilizing all reserves, protected or not. The estimate also is based on today's NG demand remaining constant over 100 years. Surely the foreign investment in U.S. NG is expecting NG exports to grow significantly.

http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/blogs/100-years-of-natural-gas/

"But the claim that the U.S. has 100 years of natural gas doesn’t just assume drilling and fracking for shale gas, tight sands gas and coalbed methane anywhere and everywhere it can be found. It also assumes unrestricted drilling and fracking throughout Alaska, up and down the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, and all along the Gulf coast."

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Phoebe Hackman 2 years, 5 months ago

Scott, I agree; however, instead of singling out Jeff, you should have mentioned Doty's comment at 2:22 p.m. Really hitting below the belt and completely uncalled for. And then throws out a ridiculous accusation of cyber-bullying. From www.stopcyberbullying.org:

"Cyberbullying" is when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones. It has to have a minor on both sides, or at least have been instigated by a minor against another minor. Once adults become involved, it is plain and simple cyber-harassment or cyberstalking. Adult cyber-harassment or cyberstalking is NEVER called cyberbullying."

Good grief, Doty, put your big boy pants on.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 5 months ago

Phoebe, I was not reading this thread closely enough to have noticed that vile portion of Doty's comment regarding Fred. Still more justification that at least some reasonable people would not want to post here under their real names.

I agree the cyberbullying claim was unfounded, but I didn't see that claim being offensive.

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

Jeff: Thanks for the links to my activities. As you know, they show I've spent my postal pension attempting to cut energy costs. I wanted to give back to the state I grew up in. The last link to our win in the Montana Supreme Court puts us back before the Public Service Commission to hopefully eliminate a $2.1 million/year street lighting overcharge. The petitioners in the case are hoping to use that rate reduction to fund the purchase of LED street lights (like the ones in LA, Seattle and 1050 other cities worldwide) that generally cut nighttime energy use in half. Lest you think we are the only ones wanting to force the use of up-to-date solid state lighting technology (that reduces the need for you to pay for more energy generation and eventually the street lighting bill (after overcharge and excess energy elimination) by about 82%, you should know that the utility forced a transition to high pressure sodium lights in 1982.

Scott: Contrary to what you seem to imply, research into my life doesn't at all keep me from posting under my own name. I have always used my own name because I believe the reader deserves to know who is behind the views expressed. We got into trouble in this country when people could hide under white sheets. Bravo for the Steamboat Today's changed policy.

Scott, Pheobe, Fred, Rob & Mark: Read the thread. At the start, you or your friends heaped pejorative descriptions and defamation on me. When I asked for civility, you thought I should have a "thicker skin" and persisted. That was not the "good manners" response that would have been appropriate. So I put you under the microscope. Now you respond that it's ok for you guys to pound away at me, but "unfounded" for me to label your inconsistencies and incessant barrage of falsehoods as "cyber bullying." Perhaps, "adult-cyber bullying" would have been a better choice of words. If folks posting under their own name here don't want to be "outed" for their inconsistencies, and want to eliminate the name-calling, they can start by cleaning up their act.

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

Mark: I'm "guilty" of a few environmentalist "faults" you mention, but certainly not bombing dams and spiking trees, etc. We’ve already discussed your propensity to invent false (i.e. strawman) attributes that you can easily discredit, so I’ll not elaborate on that again. You’ve just demonstrated that you won’t change anyway.

Let's talk about one "fault" you decry. You have contempt for environmentalists who "seek to force others into using the energy sources THEY wish."

The inconsistency I've experienced in that statement is that you are exhibiting the sin of omission you find reprehensible in me. You fail to talk about how utilities now are forcing a lot of folks to use energy sources they would not choose. Again harken back to the survey indicating 75% of Montanans want 25% of their energy to come from renewables. In some polls (e.g., Fort Collins, the Nebraska Public Power Association) the percentage is much higher.

If you don't want to use the cheapest, cleanest form of new electric generation, be my guest. Petition the PUC or you local co-op to allow you to pay the cost of strictly new fossil fuel generation, just like (I and) the approximately 60,000 folks in Xcel's service area who in the past have paid for clean energy.

One point of our guest opinion piece is that we live in an interdependent world, where we hopefully learned as youngsters that we don’t always get to do what we want, especially if what we do harms others.

The kxl pipeline creates winners and losers. Let's hope you don't turn into one of the losers and Colorado gas prices don’t rise like they will east of here because of it. However, neither can we stand by and condone our own excess use of fossil fuel when it will displace millions elsewhere according not to environmentalists, but to the World Bank. As our health-effects, etc. climate change discussion illustrates, disease, adverse weather, or food-shortage may not be far from our door. And what we dump in the collection plate for missions work doesn't come close to covering the cost of devastation enhanced by our profligate use of fossil fuel. The only way you can justify continuing on that course is to deny we are any part of causing it; to deny what 18,000 scientific papers and 18 scientific organizations, etc. have to say about climate change. My hope for you is that you'll broaden your reading list, the scope of your radio/TV listening, and your understanding. You might start with the web sites of these religious leaders (including the Rev. Dr. Rick Warren (A Purpose Driven Life) http://christiansandclimate.org/

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Jeff_Kibler 2 years, 5 months ago

Russell, Good on you. You get it. I figured you wouldn't mind the attention, either. It wasn't lost on me that the last link, whereas the Montana Supreme Court reinstates your case, portends good news for you and your cause.

To the rest of this motley crew: Other than my snarky editorializing, I posted links to letters, stories and legal actions as an overview of his wide-ranging activism. Nothing personal was proffered that Russell himself didn't publish on his own website or comment on some blog. The opposition research took all of ten minutes.

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

Thanks Jeff: And thank you also for your earlier comments on BPA's proposal to pay wind developers to curtail their generation during time periods of excess power. You got me to thinking about a new project to use excess power (which BPA now gives free to the fossil fuel industry if they curtail) for a public purpose that will benefit taxpayers without harming wind generator revenues.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 5 months ago

Russel, Just because you do not mind research into your life being posted does not mean that it would not bother others. To those that mostly read and might consider posting then they see that their personal life becomes open for inspection on the forums. That would discourage many people from considering posting.

Your understanding of history is abysmal if you think that "people could hide under white sheets" is what caused problems in this country. It wasn't the hiding of identity that caused the problems, but the organized criminal activity that was politically acceptable to local voters. The KKK was not reigned in by preventing anonymity, but by federal prosecution of the criminal activity.

The Federalist Papers that encouraged ratification of the US Constitution were written anonymously.

I never said you should have "thicker skin".

It makes no more sense to say that others that offended you are "my friends" than to say that they are "your friends".

Your cyber bullying claims truly escapes me. Cyber bullying means deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior that is intended to harm others. Sure there is deliberate and repeated behavior, but I see no evidence it is to harm you. Or are you claiming that refusing to agree with you is the same as harming you?

The foul tone of this thread is the direct result of what the paper allows to be posted.

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

Scott: You are right. When addressing several of you as a group, my wording in artfully and incorrectly attributed Fred's comment that I should have thicker skin to all of you. I also apparently incorrectly implied that you were all "friends." That shows I too have banded you together in ways you object to in the same way that some on this thread have tried to associate me with attributes far from my actions, motives, or beliefs. In saying that I realize that the fact that others have the same transgressions as mine is no justification for my stereotyping, so I apologize to you.

I acknowledge that not only when the Federalist Papers were published, but also at other times in our history, anonymity has been useful. I expect you to concede that there have been times when anonymity has been harmful, e.g., anonymity made it harder for the feds to prosecute organized KKK criminal activity and for decades helped foster a reign of terror in many communities. Also, if you want what you call the foul tone of discussion to rise, you could have made your point without taking a contempt-filled shot at my "abysmal understanding of history." I was not the best history teacher, but I do have some knowledge of it and of criminal prosecutions.

I also realize that having to post under our own names may chill some speech. Ironically, allowing persons to post anonymously also chills speech because (politely stated) it brings out less than elevated dialogue that drives many away from the discussion. I also realize that some, like a few in this thread are not deterred from lowering the dialogue that drives us away. I, for example, hesitate to post because of all the false and sometimes defamatory claims I eventually have to address. It is worse in sites where folks do not use their own name.

The goal is to strike a balance so that lifting the cloak of secrecy causes posters to think twice before abusing our right to free speech by lashing out with untrue, hurtful dialogue. Openness also prevents corporate money from driving the discussion by multiple posts from paid shills using several pseudonyms.

As a practical matter this paper does not have staff to police every inane comment to prevent it from being joined in a libel suit just so those who play fast and loose with the facts can spread their venom. And posters who are the target of such venom don't have the resources to sue for defamation either. The self-policing mechanism then becomes openness. That is, if the poster wants to post, his or her ideas may still be raised, but without the pejorative invective. Simply exhibiting manners and documenting facts tends to raise the level of discussion and contribute to our collective knowledge.

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Russell Doty 2 years, 5 months ago

Scott: It should be obvious to you from my posts that I don't believe that folks refusing to agree with me harms me. I have stated that defaming me personally by insinuating lying on my part is harmful. Also, knowingly or carelessly posting untrue statements repeatedly after they have been credibility addressed can and often does harm not only our political and decision-making process but exhibits bullying because these hostile, false claims have to be dealt with over and over. I have defined some of the attributes of adult cyber bullying above at my March 17, 8:57 AM post.

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rhys jones 2 years, 5 months ago

I see the lack of anonymity has not reduced petty sniping. I count about 5 people who have made this topic their playground, while I assume the remainder don't even waste their time on the volumes of tripe. I think someone needs a real life, and I fear it's ME.

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rhys jones 2 years, 5 months ago

Yeah Jeff, what's up with this "inactive user?" Is that a form of protest? ex-pub manages to contribute, wherever he is these days. I think the way to fix the system is from within, hopefully not excessively offending the powers that be, but by showing them what a dry well the forums have become, through our selective participation, and letting runaway conversations like this one just slide by.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 5 months ago

Russell, I should have been less snide and not used the word abysmal. But the analogy to the KKK is still false because while the KKK did have anonymity that hindered law enforcement, these forums had been operating under semi-anonymity where the paper knew poster's read identities. So for the KKK analogy then that would mean that while KKK white sheets were anonymous to the public, that they had been registered with law enforcement whom knew the actual identity of every individual behind every sheet.

As for cyber bullying - your definition and description strikes me as awfully close to suggesting that someone repeatedly not agreeing with you is a cyber bully. And thus, Mark could also consider you to be a cyber bully by your refusal to accept his facts and his conclusions by your repeated responses.

I am a firm believer in the openness of facts and reverting to attributed sources when there are factual disputes. Presumably, we all recognize the folly of trying to convince others of the truthfulness of objective facts, but it is possible to cite well researched facts and leave others left to lunatic fringe sites to find citations.

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 5 months ago

Hi Scott, Just curious about the citing of lunatic fringe sites. Could you post some examples that? Feel free to review mine. I'd like the feedback.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 5 months ago

Steve, Well, I'd suggest that anything that has one source and that source has a vested interest in the result then it cannot be trusted.

I would not trust anything for which worldnetdaily or Sierra Club is the sole source.

I have severe doubts regarding the facts in that Sierra Club study on spills and groundwater contamination that your referenced. It does not appear to have tests confirming contaminated groundwater, nor was it academically peer reviewed, but appears to claim to know that something spilled will almost always end up in groundwater. And one of your sources made the rather odd claim of drillers regarding releasing methane as if methane wasn't the primary component of natural gas - the product which they wish to sell. It makes no sense to cite the number of spills without saying what counts as a spill. Likewise, it appears to be misleading by suggesting fracking fluids left in the ground should count as spills or contamination.

I wouldn't trust the New York Times if it was the sole source except in special situations because there is generally no reason that the facts should only be available to them and not be found elsewhere.

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 5 months ago

Scott, Thanks for the feedback. The Sierra Club letter reported numbers from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. I don't see where they have extrapolated any further conclusions that could. I'm sure with 1,000 reports, many spills were small. Seems a logical conclusion. I will try to find out about the "left in the ground" information.

What do you think of the governor's statement that we've had few spills from drilling and fracking?

Releasing methane is very damaging to air quality, particularly in the front range area. Yes we burn methane for energy. These are not the same thing.

I do trust the NY Times to report facts. Same for the Washington Post. The facts will originate from given sources or they will not. We can discern the difference, no?

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 5 months ago

Steve,

"An earlier detailed analysis by the Sierra Club and Clean Water Action revealed that more than 40 percent of the 1,000 spills/releases reported in Weld County between 2003 and 2012 contaminated groundwater"

That analysis appears unique to Sierra Club. It claims there were more than 400 incidents that contaminated groundwater in Weld County and yet a search for groundwater contamination in Weld County only finds one actual incident (of a broken well casing). But I can find that Weld County does have an issue with a herbicide contaminating groundwater.

And I listened to NOAA chemist Steven Brown and he says there is air pollution in Erie from oil and gas exploration from the production area to the northeast. Quick search reveals there are more than 5,000 oil and gas wells in Weld County. Steven Brown did not claim that it was fracking, but said "oil and gas exploration". And from EPA statement on their proposed regulations, it appears that much of the pollution is from basically rogue operators.

Well, the governor's statement appears to be false if you count every reported spill. The governor's statement appears to be true if you count measured environmental impact of spills.

Government rules now define failing to put wheel blocks on a parked pickup truck in a coal mine as a safety violation. Sure, adding wheel blocks adds safety in the rare case that the driver failed to put it in park or use the parking brake, but it is misleading to the public to cite a mine's safety violations without investigating how many violations presented a direct threat to worker safety. Twnetymile has had whatever number of safety violations over the past year, but a far lower rate injury rate than the local construction industry that has had far fewer safety citations. So number of spills reported in meaningless until it is correlated to measurable impacts of those spills.

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 5 months ago

Scott, Good feedback. Thanks. I did a search on their website for spills and looked at their categories. Then I talked with COGCC staff. They are very helpful btw. Got this info:

The spill incident threshold is 5 barrels of fluid (x 42 gallons per barrel) or 200 gallons as an incident threshold. Still think the governor was right?

For some reason they do not track well casing failures. This runs against common sense, imo, given this is said to be the main threat for aquifer contamination. (Other studies I looked at weeks ago listed a 2-4% well casing failure rate in a well field near Bakersfield, California. I've seen similar % numbers elsewhere. Higher % numbers for abandoned wells are implied in a NY opinion piece.)

When they have a spill reported, they will dig or drill down until they establish the spill extent. If they hit groundwater before they reach the spill extent, it becomes a COGCC groundwater contaminated entry.

From my search, there have been 1,000 spill incident reports since March 2010 in Colorado, with 178 reaching groundwater.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 5 months ago

Steve, There is still the question of how can there be so many spills classified as having reached groundwater and yet so few reported cases of groundwater being measured as contaminated. I think there needs to be further research into reported spills and learn what it actually means. It might be useful to physically look at some of these reported spills to see actually what happened. Some of the surface rights owners might appreciate further research into reported spills on their property.

Well casings may be an issue, but that may be a problem with old wells that have been in production for decades and not a problem with newly drilled fracking. Bakersfield wells go back to the 30s.

I still suggest that the lack of measured contaminated groundwater means the governor is not making an unreasonable statement.

You need to close the circle and show the connection between drilling and groundwater contamination. Weld County with more than 5,000 wells (Routt has 23) should have all sorts of contaminated wells. I'd guess that surface rights owners can drill shallow water wells at their own discretion so some cooperative property owners could find the contaminated groundwater that Sierra Club says is there. Maybe Sierra Club needs to finance some independent drillers to drill water wells and see what is in that water.

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 5 months ago

Scott, You put your finger on the point where Cheney's administration disconnected the industry from common sense, when his 2005 Energy Bill exempted parts of this industry from parts of the environment Acts. For instance as described last night at the CAYV forum, fluids x, y or z from every other industry are considered hazardous material. But when x,y or z are used in Oil and Gas production, they not considered hazardous material.

Similarly the government, without those Acts to apply, has largely been a bystander for subsurface complaints. Civil court cases are the course left.

Try proving in civil court your water well contamination came from Well 45. BTW, you don't know what fracking chemicals are in Well 45, so proving fracking fluid contamination is next to impossible. The anecdotal accounts suggest endless legal expenses until you decide to settle. Typically the settlements are sealed.

Recently the EPA engaged at Pavillion. Apparently they had to do it twice to respond to criticism and get it right. The report is now being peer reviewed. Suffice it to say the path to closing the "fracking contamination" circle goes over several mountains.

The path to proving groundwater contamination does not. You found the case of aquifer contamination. I'm surprised the contamination of groundwater in general, shown to be common, does not concern you. That connection is proven by hundreds of COGCC records.

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 5 months ago

I should have worded that middle paragraph better. The actual fracking fluid is rarely going to be the problem, in my opinion. I believe these civil cases are more about the rest of the soup, the produced water and the deep shale oil and gases being harvested.

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Fred Duckels 2 years, 5 months ago

Steve, If you think that fracking is messy do you remember Obamacare being rammed thru? Who cares what anyone thinks?

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