New High-Tech Imaging Protecting the Planet and Saving Lives

A revolutionary new technology is not only helping to protect the environment, but is now being used to save lives.  Increasingly, thermal or optical gas imaging cameras are being used to detect dangerous fugitive emissions from refineries and other industrial facilities.   An article in today’s WSJ, Making Drilling Rigs Safer, tells the story of a new startup, Rebellion Photonics, started by Allison Lami Sawyer and Robert Kester, who are using thermal imaging to save the lives of those who work in jobs, such as the oil and gas industry, where explosive emissions can kill.  Given the revolutionary potential of this technology, Rebellion Photonics was one of three finalists for “WSJ Startup of the Year.” 

The science behind these new camers is fairly straightforward, enabling us to see infrared wavelengths absorbed by gases not visible to the naked eye.  Here’s the technology being used to find a potentially deadly natural gas leak. 

This technology is transformational on so many levels and, I predict, will revolutionize industry.  Not only because of its huge benefits, but its small price, relative to the adverse impacts from undetected fugitive gases.   These new tools are also now being deployed by EPA enforcement to catch the unwary who, in many cases, are violating environmental laws by not finding and fixing gas leaks in the course production.   It’s not at all uncommon these days to spot EPA enforcement officials, in unmarked cars, siting outside the fence-line with a thermal imaging camera in hand, collecting all the evidence they need.  Feeling somewhat exposed, companies are feeling compelled to install these technologies at their own fence-lines to proactively detect leaks before the regulators do.  Given that the ready availability of this technology is driving enforcement and exposing companies to greater enforcement risks, it will continue to blossom into big business, as reflected in the upcoming annual LDAR-Fugitive Emission Symposium, slated for New Orleans in May 2014.

Tea Partiers Aren’t as Scientifically Stupid as Believed – Concludes One Smart Liberal

Those that read this blog know that I’m a fan of Dan Kahan, although I don’t know him personally and he and I don’t hang together in the same political spheres.  Kahan has conducted some interesting research on cultural cognition as it relates to climate change and other controversial topics, like vaccines, that require an intellectual capacity (and willingness) to understand scientifically complex issues.  But before delving into Kahan’s interesting results, a brief refresher on linear regression analysis.  The higher the r-value, ranging from 1.0 to -1.0, the stronger the correlation between two variables.  When doing linear regression, you can have both negative and positive correlations.  It should come, therefore, as no surprise to learn that those who are more highly educated tend to have higher scientific literacy and comprehension than those less educated, r-value of 0.36, as shown by the histogram below.  Full post over on Kahan’s blog here

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Rupert Murdoch, Fox News, and Climate Change

Linking to an interesting NPR interview this morning with David Folkenflik, author of the book, Murdoch’s World, and not surprisingly the storyline that tends to portray the strong influence exerted by Murdoch over his news outlets, such as News Corp, i.e., the Wall Street Journal and Fox News, on stories such as climate change.  I heard the interview this morning on my commute into DC.  Interesting, it just so happens that, although Murdoch’s outlets convey strong skepticism of anthropogenic global warming, he himself believes the matter serious enough that, in 2007, he declared News Corp would become “carbon neutral” in five years.   Continue reading

Dr. Michael Mann – living in a glass house (with greenhouse gases)

As folks know, Dr. Michael Mann, the climatologist who’s best known for his climate change hockey stick graph, has sued the National Review and Mark Steyn for defamation for poking fun at Mann’s work as academic fraud.  So, here Mann is pressing his legal case, arguing that someone has legally injured him by knowingly spreading falsehoods.  You’d think Mann would understand the seriousness of defamation, and of course the legal elements to establish a defensable claim.  You’d think.  But this week, Mann couldn’t help himself, and tweeted out what appears to be libelous claims about Anthony Watts, whose blog, Watts Up With That, presents skeptical arguments about manmade climate change.

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Happy National Ethical Investment Week

If you’re not familiar with it, it may sound a bit hoakie.  But it’s legit, and that’s what they are celebrating in the UK this week.  And although the UK is leading the charge on using private finance to leverage social good, the concept of ethical investing continues to gain greater traction here in the U.S..  Now, one might argue that the only social good a company need provide is a good job and decent rate of return for its investors.  And 30 years ago, you would have been right.  But these days, companies are being asked to deliver much much more.  Continue reading

Obduracy of Climate Politics Creates Real Risks

Michael Gerson, a conservative and former speech writer for Bush 43, has a very thoughtful article this week on the climate change debate.  I have grown increasingly frustrated by those voices within the Republican party who, for whatever reason, refuse to  consider the possibility that human activities are contributing to climate change.  Yes, I know, environmentalists have overplayed their hand, made predictions that haven’t materialized, and have exploited fear to leverage action.  The consequences have been greater cynism and, what I refer to as, a crisis of credibility.  However, this crisis of credibility doesn’t diminish the very real possibility that climate change, caused in part by human activity, is occurring.  However, as Gerson argues over in WashPo, politics is poorly suited to address global warming. Continue reading

Environmentalists Debate the Costs and Benefits of Gas v. Coal

Thought it worth posting this thoughtful and civil discussion between Kate Sinding of NRDC and Michael Shellenberger of The Breakthrough Institute on the debate over energy policy and fracking in the U.S..  Some agreement, but mostly disagreement.  As you’ll gather from the interview, NRDC is opposed to fracking primarily because the natural gas boom keeps the U.S. economy hooked on a carbon-based fuel source, an obstacle to more renewable energies.  Shellenberger takes the more balanced approach, arguing that natural gas is better than coal in all respects, including environment impacts, worker safety, and the economic benefits.  Sinding argues “better is not good enough.”  Interesting exchange beginning about 26:05 where Shellenberger points out NRDC’s about position on fracking nearly five years, having previously strongly supported natural gas.  He notes politics and Hollywood hypocrites, rather than environmental concerns, have inflamed the fracking debate.  Good primer for those who haven’t followed the complex and nuanced political debate.