Geothermal Projects and Earthquakes

Very interesting article by James Glanz in the NY Times about new geothermal initiatives and their known relation to earthquakes.

There are generally two kinds of geothermal energy to be tapped. The first, which many are familiar with, is from close-to-the-surface water– heated by hot rising gases, deeper magma or hot rocks. The second is much deeper in the earth, as much as 2 miles or more. To use this energy deep holes are drilled and water is forced down into the super hot rocks, generating steam which then is used at the surface.

The problem is, in both cases but more significantly in the deep drilling, earthquakes. It’s not the drilling itself which causes them but pumping water into the rock. As the water expands it pushes out on the rock along all the tiny fractures inherent in the material, eventually setting off small, and some say, large, earthquakes.

The Times has a marvelous graphic of this which will explain it in about a minute. Click the Start button, here.

The reason this method is attracting interest is clear:

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Hannah and Hansen: Doing What Comes Naturally

Marsh Fork Protest hansenjamesarrest

Darryl Hannah and James Hansen, two of our favorite eco-citizens, joined hundreds protesting mountain top removal in West Virgina — and were handcuffed for their trouble. Send them some love!

Actress Daryl Hannah was arrested this afternoon in West Virginia along with NASA climatologist James Hansen, local activist Michael Brune of Rainforest Action Network, Goldman Prize winner Judy Bonds, 94-year-old former U.S. Representative Ken Hechler and more than a dozen others.
Effects of mountaintop removal near Marsh Fork Elem.

Effects of mountaintop removal near Marsh Fork Elem.

They were protesting at an elementary school threatened by a 2.8-billion-gallon coal sludge impoundment where coal dust in the air exceeds acceptable limits. Protestors trespassed on land owned by coal giant Massey Energy.

The protest is part of a string of increasingly dramatic actions objecting to the Obama Administration’s announcement that the EPA will reform, but not abolish, mountaintop removal mining. Later this week, Congress will host a hearing titled, “The Impacts of Mountaintop Removal Mining on Water Quality in Appalachia.”

Thin Green Line

Check out Mountain Justice

Read Hansen’s Plea to President Obama:

The science is clear. Burning all fossil fuels will destroy the future of young people and the unborn. And the fossil fuel that we must stop burning is coal. Coal is the critical issue. Coal is the main cause of climate change. It is also the dirtiest fossil fuel — air pollution, arsenic, and mercury from coal have devastating effects on human health and cause birth defects.

Recently, the administration unveiled its new position on mountaintop coal mining and set out a number of new restrictions on the practice in six Appalachian states. These new rules will require tougher environmental review before blowing up mountains. But it’s a minimal step.

The Obama administration is being forced into a political compromise. It has sacrificed a strong position on mountaintop removal in order to ensure the support of coal-state legislators for a climate bill. The political pressures are very real. But this is an approach to coal that defeats the purpose of the administration’s larger efforts to fight climate change, a sad political bargain that will never get us the change we need on mountaintop removal, coal or the climate. Coal is the linchpin in mitigating global warming, and it’s senseless to allow cheap mountaintop-removal coal while the administration is simultaneously seeking policies to boost renewable energy.

Mountaintop removal, which provides a mere 7 percent of the nation’s coal, is done by clear-cutting forests, blowing the tops off of mountains, and then dumping the debris into streambeds — an undeniably catastrophic

We must make clear that we the people want a move toward a rapid phase-out of coal emissions now.

way of mining. This technique has buried more than 800 miles of Appalachian streams in mining debris and by 2012 will have serious damaged or destroyed an area larger than Delaware.

Peak Coal?

There has been for some time a notion of Peak Oil — that new finds of oil and new technologies to extract deeper and cheaper have peaked. Now, the Wall Street Journal puts in its front page a major story about worries in the coal industry that, as a graph is titled, there may be “Peak Coal.”

WSJ front-page shocker: “U.S. Foresees a Thinner Cushion of Coal,” warns rosy U.S. coal estimates “may be wildly overconfident”

Mining companies report they have to dig deeper and move more earth to extract coal from aging mines, driving up costs. Utilities have grown skittish about whether suppliers can ship promised coal on time. American Electric Power Co., the nation’s biggest coal buyer, says it has stepped up its due diligence to make sure its suppliers can make deliveries after some firms missed shipments last fall. It even bought a mine to lock down supplies.

“We are very much concerned, and it’s getting worse,” said Tim Light, senior vice president for AEP.

via Climate Progress

invest in solar now….

Supremes OK Environmental Catastrophe

“A mining company was given the go-ahead by the Supreme Court on Monday to dump waste from an Alaskan gold mine into a nearby 23-acre lake, although the material will kill all of the lake’s fish.

“The court said that the federal government acted legally in declaring the waste left after metals are extracted from the ore as “fill material” allowing a federal permit without meeting more stringent requirements from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act.

“Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin called the decision “great news for Alaska” and said it “is a green light for responsible resource development.” The Kensington gold mine 45 miles north of Juneau will produce as many as 370 jobs when it begins operation.

“But environmentalists feared the ruling could lead to a broader easing of requirements on how companies dispose of their mining waste.

Wastrels

Climate Change is Here

From the NY Times

“The impact of a changing climate is already being felt across the United States, like shifting migration patterns of butterflies in the West and heavier downpours in the Midwest and East, according to a government study to be released on Tuesday.

“Even if the nation takes significant steps to slow emissions of heat-trapping gases, the impact of global warming is expected to become more severe in coming years, the report says, affecting farms and forests, coastlines and floodplains, water and energy supplies, transportation and human health.

“… The study, overseen by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, will be posted at www.globalchange.gov/usimpacts.

“Some of the effects being seen today and cited in the report are familiar, like more powerful tropical storms and erosion of ocean coastlines caused by melting Arctic ice. The study also cites an increase in drought in the Southwest and more intense heat waves in the Northeast as a result of growing concentrations of carbon dioxide and other climate-altering gases in the atmosphere. “