Pollution

Fracking has been with us for more than 60 years. It is evolving.
January 28, 2015 07:50 AM - U.S. Geological Survey

Two new U.S. Geological Survey publications that highlight historical hydraulic fracturing trends and data from 1947 to 2010 are now available.

Hydraulic fracturing is presently the primary stimulation technique for oil and gas production in unconventional resource reservoirs. Comprehensive, published, and publicly available information regarding the extent, location, and character of hydraulic fracturing in the United States is scarce. 

“These national-scale data and analyses will provide a basis for making comparisons of current-day hydraulic fracturing to historical applications,” said USGS scientist and lead author Tanya Gallegos.

Natural Breakdown of Petroleum May Lace Arsenic into Groundwater
January 26, 2015 04:09 PM - USGS Newsroom

In a long-term field study, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Virginia Tech scientists have found that changes in geochemistry from the natural breakdown of petroleum hydrocarbons underground can promote the chemical release (mobilization) of naturally occurring arsenic into groundwater. This geochemical change can result in potentially significant arsenic groundwater contamination. 

Effects of wood fuel burning have less of an impact on CO2 emissions than previously thought
January 26, 2015 08:36 AM - Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

The harvesting of wood to meet the heating and cooking demands for billions of people worldwide has less of an impact on global forest loss and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than previously believed, according to a new Yale-led study. Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, a team of researchers, including Prof. Robert Bailis of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES), concludes that only about 27 to 34 percent of wood fuel harvested worldwide would be considered “unsustainable.” According to the assessment, “sustainability” is based on whether or not annual harvesting exceeds incremental re-growth.

Electric range-extended trucks can double fuel economy
January 26, 2015 04:54 AM - Phil Covington , Triple Pundit

When it comes to electric vehicles, we hear plenty about electric cars being launched into the consumer market but not too much about commercial vehicles. Maybe that’s because not too many people have to concern themselves with what type of delivery or garbage truck they are going to buy next. Nevertheless, such considerations matter, since the electrification of commercial fleets promises considerably larger efficiency gains than cars.

Four-year-old California company Wrightspeed, started by Tesla co-founder Ian Wright, has developed a technology that zeros in on a specific niche of the commercial fleet market, bringing both fuel savings and emissions mitigation for commercial fleet operators.

Mystery Goo is Killing Seabirds in the San Francisco Bay
January 22, 2015 04:03 PM - Alicia Graef, Care2

Rescuers are working diligently to save birds who are being killed by a “mysterious goo” that has appeared in the San Francisco Bay, while officials remain perplexed about what the substance is and where it came from.

How do atmospheric rivers and aerosols impact California rainfall?
January 17, 2015 08:48 AM - Scripps Institution of Oceanography

In the midst of the California rainy season, scientists are embarking on a field campaign designed to improve the understanding of the natural and human-caused phenomena that determine when and how the state gets its precipitation. They will do so by studying atmospheric rivers, meteorological events that include the famous rainmaker known as the Pineapple Express.

CalWater 2015 is an interagency, interdisciplinary field campaign starting January 14, 2015. CalWater 2015 will entail four research aircraft flying through major storms while a ship outfitted with additional instruments cruises below. The research team includes scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, NOAA, and NASA and uses resources from the DOE’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility—a national scientific user facility.

Study Finds New Toxic Contaminants In Oil And Gas Wastewater
January 14, 2015 12:21 PM - Clickgreen Staff, ClickGreen

Scientists have discovered high levels of two potentially hazardous contaminants, ammonium and iodide, in wastewater being discharged or spilled into streams and rivers from oil and gas operations.

Levels of contamination were just as high in wastewater coming from conventional oil and gas wells as from hydraulically fractured shale gas wells.

Salting Roads takes a Toll on the Environment
January 14, 2015 10:49 AM - Kevin Mathews, Care2

The United States has a salt problem, and it extends well beyond the excessive sodium we consume in our diets. In the winter months, municipalities rely on dumping salt on the roads to minimize the effects of ice. Altogether, the U.S. uses ten times the amount of salt on roadways than it does in the processed foods we consume. While the salt may help to keep drivers safe, it does come at a cost:

1. It Increases Our Own Salt Consumption

You can throw salt down on roads, but you can’t force it to stay there. In due time, salt makes its ways into nearby waterways where it lingers. As a result, a lot of the water we wind up drinking has higher levels of salt than it would otherwise. Vox cites a study that finds 84% of city-adjacent streams have higher levels of chloride thanks specifically to these road-salting techniques. Apparently, during the months following salted roads, 29% of these streams have more salt than the federal “safety limits” for drinking water allow.

January Marks National Radon Action Month
January 8, 2015 03:56 PM - US EPA Newsroom

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has designated January as national Radon Action Month, a perfect time for you to protect your family by testing your home for radon. Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas, so testing is the only way to know if radon is present in your home or school. Test kits are available in home improvement centers, hardware stores and online. They cost approximately $20. The kits are simple to use with easy testing and mailing instructions. 

Lake Erie dead zone increased drastically by 2012 drought
January 7, 2015 08:19 AM - Carnegie Science

Lake Erie just can’t catch a break. The lake has experienced harmful algal blooms and severe oxygen-depleted “dead zones” for years, but now a team of researchers led by Carnegie’s Anna Michalak and Yuntao Zhou has shown that the widespread drought in 2012 was associated with the largest dead zone since at least the mid-1980s.

Until now, the size of the dead zone each summer and the factors explaining the variability from year to year have been elusive. Using 28 years of data collected in and around the lake, the team was able to “measure” the size of the dead zone each summer and identify factors that explain the year-to-year variability for the first time. They found that the 2012 drought, with extremely low water inflow from tributaries, was associated with a record-breaking dead zone in the lake, and that meteorological factors together with agricultural practices explain why these events vary annually. Previous studies have focused on phosphorous from agricultural runoff as the primary driver of the lake’s dead zones, but this analysis shows that the inflow of water from tributaries is actually the largest explanatory factor. The results are published in Environmental Science & Technology.

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