Renewable Energy and Endangered Species

by Alexander Birk

As climate change continues to draw more attention, so does renewable energy. Creating completely clean energy to avoid emitting greenhouse gases seems like an unbeatable solution. However renewable energy projects often run into problems with the Endangered Species Act. Robbins (2014) claims that all renewable energy projects have one thing in common, they all destroy natural habitats and play a part in killing wildlife. (Robbins 2014) Continue reading

Will Sage Grouses Stop Green Energy Development?

by Abigail Wang

The debate over the fate of the sage grouse, a bird known for its elaborate mating display, has been ongoing for over 15 years. Due to the species’ alarming population decline in the United States, the development of green energy in the West has slowed considerably. Environmental groups have thus become divided in answering the difficult question of wind and solar energy expansion versus wildlife protection. Continue reading

Fracking: Fix it or Forget It? Global Gas and Oil Prices Falling.

by Emil Morhardt

Daniel E. Klein, an energy industry consultant, writes an interesting piece about fracking problems in Natural Gas & Electricity, an industry newsletter. His approach is to look at the prognostications of the Energy Information Administration Annual Energy Outlook (AEO)—pretty much the bible of energy projections—as they have changed from 2000 to projections of where we will stand in 2040. For example, there wasn’t much shale gas until 2005 and in 2005 the AEO predicted that US natural gas imports would increase sharply in the near future. The 2014 projection, however shows the opposite: a steady increase in US exports, at least through 2024. Similarly, “peak oil” in the US has also been reversed by shale oil production, with the crude oil production in 2013 the highest in 25 years, and imports falling sharply, at least so far. Yesterday, the news was that OPEC was debating, on the one hand, decreasing oil production, so as to increase global oil prices and therefore revenues (four members wanted that), or letting production stand so as to lower prices even further to put price pressure on American fracking operations. The latter option won, at least until June when OPEC meets again, but in the short term oil prices will have little effect on American oil operations. Continue reading

Measuring Impacts of Solar Development on Mojave Desert Plants

by Emil Morhardt

The massive development of wind and solar generating facilities in California’s Mojave Desert puts California way out in front of the rest of the US in generation of renewable electricity, but at the same time the development drastically alters the desert ecosystem. Installation of photovoltaic arrays seems to require grading the land flat, removing all existing vegetation, and since there will be nothing to eat, all of the animals as well. To those who haven’t travelled this wild desert during a verdant spring—something that happens only every few years—it might seem barren. But I’ve camped out in the middle of it many times in the spring when it is lush, covered with desert flowers, and alive with birds and other animals; to me it is the epitome of virgin wilderness. (My wife and I even wrote a book about it and took a lot of plant pictures…see reference below.) So, one question to ask is Continue reading