Environment

Fracking fight headed for the ballot in Colorado

Grist.org - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 10:40

Colorado voters will likely get a chance to weigh in on fracking in November — and that puts Democrats on the ballot in a tight spot.

The fracking boom has bolstered Colorado’s economy, and twisted its politics. Even many Democrats advocate for oil and gas interests, including Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Mark Udall, both of whom are up for reelection this year. But many people living near the wells complain of contaminated air and water, noise, health problems, and other adverse effects.

As Colorado cities have begun trying to ban fracking, the state government has sued them, arguing that only the state has that authority. Rep. Jared Polis (D), whose congressional district includes many of those communities north of Denver, is spending his own money to promote a ballot initiative to outlaw fracking less than 2,000 feet from a residence, up from the currently allowed 500 feet. The gas industry says that would amount to a fracking ban in many areas. Polis is also supporting an initiative that would make more stringent local environmental regulations override conflicting weaker state rules, which could allow communities to outlaw fracking.

Hickenlooper and other state lawmakers were trying to broker a legislative compromise that would keep the initiatives off the ballot. The governor’s proposal would have placed some additional restrictions on fracking but made it clear that localities couldn’t ban it altogether. But last week, the negotiations fell apart and Hickenlooper announced that there would be no special summer legislative session to pass a fracking bill. Polis then declared that he will move forward with collecting the signatures needed to place his proposals on the ballot.

Environmental activists expressed relief that no deal was reached in the legislature, saying that the proposal under consideration would not have allowed for enough local control. “I have no idea why Polis thought the proposed legislation was an acceptable ‘compromise,’” says Lauren Swain, a Coloradan who works with the Rocky Mountain chapter of the Sierra Club. “It made all the community rights to self-protection that it granted subject to operational conflict with the state and to the interests of the industry. It gave and it tooketh away, subjecting every local regulation or moratorium to more lawsuits.”

Perhaps the reason Polis was open to such a bill is because he, like most other Colorado Democrats, supports fracking in principle. In his statement Wednesday, Polis said, “My one goal is to find a solution that will allow my constituents to live safely in their homes, free from the fear of declining property values or unnecessary health risks, but also that will allow our state to continue to benefit from the oil and gas boom that brings jobs and increased energy security.”

Hickenlooper opposes both initiatives, as does Udall, who issued the following statement: “I oppose these one-size-fits-all restrictions and will continue working with all parties — including property owners, energy producers, and lawmakers — to find common ground.”

The presence of the initiatives on the ballot is generally seen as disadvantageous for Democrats up for election like Hickenlooper and Udall — not because most Coloradans disagree with the Democrats’ positions on the issue, but because it would spur the oil and gas industries to reach into their deep pockets and run ads to mobilize Republican-leaning, pro–fossil fuel voters. Industry groups could dump $50 million into the state to kill the initiatives.

Colorado Republicans are also eager to capitalize on fracking as a potential wedge issue. Whereas Hickenlooper and Udall speak of the need for balance between the economic upsides of oil and gas drilling and the environmental and community-level downsides, their Republican opponents are unmitigated fans of fossil fuels. Rep. Cory Gardner, who is challenging Udall for his Senate seat, complains that Udall hasn’t come out for the Keystone XL pipeline. But Udall hasn’t come out against it either — he’s just supported the Obama administration’s process of conducting a thorough review before making a decision, and he voted against a Republican measure to override the president’s authority and force the pipeline’s approval. Since Keystone XL wouldn’t even go through Colorado, it’s an especially odd attack on Udall, but Gardner clearly believes that anything short of a full-throated “Drill, baby, drill!” is a potential liability for Udall.

If enthusiastic pro-fracking voters do swarm to the polls and help defeat Udall, that could have national repercussions. Democrats are in danger of losing the U.S. Senate, and Udall’s seat is one of 10 most vulnerable Democratic Senate seats up for reelection this year, along with others in red states like West Virginia and Alaska. The Democrats need to limit their losses to five seats to retain control.

But Colorado politicians and their campaign consultants could be wrong in thinking the initiatives would benefit Republicans. A week ago, The Denver Post published the results of a poll that found the Polis-backed ballot measures would pass easily. Roughly 30,000 Coloradans work in the oil and gas industry, and many more collect royalty checks, but the state’s electorate has long been distinguished by its concern for quality of life. The oil industry’s anti-initiative ads could bring more right-wingers to the polls, but the chance to curb fracking could bring out a lot of liberal-leaning Coloradans.

It’s not often that a fossil fuel industry with such local economic clout finds itself on the defensive. (Just look at King Coal, which controls the politics in West Virginia.) But this fall, Colorado might be one of the few states to put the fossil fuel industry in check.


Filed under: Business & Technology, Climate & Energy, Politics
Categories: Environment

California’s next oil rush is tastier than you might expect

Grist.org - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 10:18

Olives trees have a lot to offer the United States. One of those things is water — and this year, as California dries to a shriveled crisp, water is looking especially important.

Most olives grown around the world have no irrigation. The trees are built for drought: They have narrow, waxy, abstemious leaves. They’ve evolved biological tricks for going dormant when things get too dry; they hunker down and then spring back when the rains come. These skills are appealing to farmers, especially ones who have recently ripped out a drought-ravaged orchard, thereby walking away from a 20-year investment.

It’s nearly impossible to say whether California’s drought is linked to climate change. Current models suggest that the state could actually get a little wetter, but they also suggest hotter summers and greater extremes. When the droughts do come, they are going to be serious.

One projection is clear: There are going to be a lot more people sticking their straws into the communal cup. So, right about now, this tree that’s adapted for California’s Mediterranean climate, survives without irrigation, and produces food at the same time seems pretty cool.

In the midst of this drought wracking the country’s agricultural powerhouse (don’t forget that California is the biggest ag state), forecasts tend toward the dire. But there is real hope in olives. Done right, olive oil farming could be a boon for nutrition and the environment. And, as a bonus, if we developed a domestic olive oil industry, we’d have access — for the first time — to the good stuff. Right now, just about everything we call olive oil is rancid, or something else entirely.

“There’s 10 times more California-grown olive oil than we had 10 years ago,” said Dan Flynn, executive director of the UC Davis Olive Center. “And olive oil consumption in the United States has gone up maybe ten fold in the last thirty years.”

Human health and health of the land

Dom Sagolla

Olive oil hasn’t been a major part of American food traditions, but we’ve been incorporating it more and more. The market is growing 10 percent a year. Through all our spastic dietary fads, people have stood firm on one point: Olive oil is good stuff. The carb haters and the fat haters alike consider olive oil virtuous. And the FDA says we should maybe be replacing saturated fat with olive oil.

Americans currently consume an average of a liter of olive oil a year, but that’s nothing compared to the Spanish (10 liters) or the Italians (15 liters). “There’s a lot of room for growth in the U.S. if it took the space of other fats,” Flynn said.

It could also be good for the environment if olives took the place of animal fats, or of that other — much thirstier — Mediterranean tree, the almond. I love almonds: they seem to be healthier than meat, and exact less suffering. But almonds do require a lot of water. Even when farmers irrigate olives to insure a large crop, they use half the water that almond trees require.

The real trick, both for the environment and for human health, is to have olive oil take the place of something else. Americans seem to have a vague additive theory of nutrition: Instead of eating less of anything, we simply eat more of whatever is currently considered healthy — as if the vinaigrette on a salad will somehow cancel out the hamburger that comes next. It’s not entirely our fault: As Marion Nestle has been pointing out for years, government recommendations always tell us what to eat more of but shy away from telling us to eat less of anything.

The same additive logic goes for farming: So far, olive trees aren’t replacing almond groves or feedlots. A lot of the olives have gone in on marginal land that couldn’t support anything else, Flynn said. If olive oil production is going to be good for the environment, we’ll have to do better across the board.

Taste

Jill ClardyOlive grove in Filoli, Calif.

Perhaps the first thing people will notice from the growing domestic olive crop is the taste. Unlike most oils, it actually has a range of powerful flavors: It’s grassy, peppery, slightly astringent.

Currently, 97 percent of olive oil consumed in the U.S. is imported, and a lot of it is crappy. We get the oil rejected by other countries, and there are chances for fraud at every stop along the journey. When Flynn’s Olive Center tested oils, it found that a lot of the stuff labeled “extra virgin” was rancid.

The thing is, we Americans don’t know the difference. As Tom Mueller carefully documented in his book, Extra Virginity, the oil suppliers are simply catering to our ignorant taste buds. They know they are dealing with rampant fraud, Mueller writes, but essentially say, “‘Yeah, we know, but it’s cheap, and that’s what our customers want.’”

Mueller writes, “It’s rare to find authentic extra virgin olive oil in a restaurant in America, even in fine restaurants that ought to know better. It’s nearly impossible in some localities such as southern California, where large-scale counterfeiters pump out blends of low-grade olive oil and soybean oil dyed bright green…”

All this means that many American have never tasted good olive oil. “For a lot of people, it’s an entirely new flavor and quality experience,” Flynn said.

If we shortened the supply chain by making olive oil locally, there would be fewer opportunities for fraudsters to adulterate the mix. And a stronger olive industry might campaign for stricter regulation of imports. We have some of the loosest laws, and an even looser inspection regime for food oils. The U.S., Mueller says, “is an oil criminal’s dream.”

If American eaters stopped accepting the oil con, and started demanding real olive oil, they could support a more resilient crop for the uncertain future. Adapting to change may be hard, but it doesn’t have to leave a bad taste in our mouths.


Filed under: Article, Climate & Energy, Food
Categories: Environment

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PR Web - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 09:33

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(PRWeb July 21, 2014)

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PR Web - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 09:33

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PR Web - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 09:33

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PR Web - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 09:33

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(PRWeb July 21, 2014)

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PR Web - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 09:33

The outdoor fixture can be used to highlight design features of any landscape and provide security for the home.

(PRWeb July 21, 2014)

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PR Web - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 09:33

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PR Web - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 09:33

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(PRWeb July 20, 2014)

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(PRWeb July 20, 2014)

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PR Web - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 06:32

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PR Web - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 06:32

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(PRWeb July 20, 2014)

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PR Web - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 06:32

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(PRWeb July 20, 2014)

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PR Web - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 06:32

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PR Web - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 06:32

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Union of Concerned Scientists - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 05:00
UCS analysis finds that 10 U.S. states could provide abundant agricultural by-products for low-carbon fuel and electricity.
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PR Web - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 03:32

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PR Web - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 00:31

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PR Web - Sun, 07/20/2014 - 18:31

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(PRWeb July 20, 2014)

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PR Web - Sun, 07/20/2014 - 18:31

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Categories: Environment

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