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.

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.

More Chicken Wings = More Environmental Challenges

chickensWe have a lot of chickens in Maryland.  And, in fact, we humans are outnumbered 1,000 to 1 along Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  Lots of chickens also means lots of chicken poop – something you probably don’t care to think about as you’re nibbling on that chicken wing.  And fact, most of the chicken manure (a/k/a chicken litter as it’s called locally) is land-applied, which is also what’s affecting the quality of water in the Chesapeake Bay.  More manure equals more algae, equals less oxygen for fish, crabs and other aquatic critters.  But, as a vital nutrient resource that keeps on giving, it can also be transformed into a renewable energy source as discussed below. Continue reading

James Hansen Rebuffs Environmental Groups

I have had harsh words previously for Jim Hansen, former NASA scientist and climate change alarmist who called for oil executives to be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature, but here we are in complete agreement.  Well worth the viewing.

Unfortunately, many environmental groups and one very powerful political figure, Harry Reid, continue to stand in the way of viable alternatives to fossil fuels, such as nuclear energy.

EPA’s Assault on State Sovereignty

Is the title of a stinging new report by the American Legislative Exchange Council.  For those who are unfamiliar with ALEC, it’s a non-profit composed of legislators, businesses, and foundations, and is strongly supportive of state rights, free-markets, and limited government.  It’s a good organization and on balance promotes thoughtful ideas and policies on more effective government.  The report itself was authored by William Yeatman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), whose tagline is “Free Markets and Limited Government” and leans notably libertarian.  So, right out of the start-gate, one can appreciate the underlying anti-EPA biases that may emanate from its pages. The raging battle is particularly acute with respect to national energy policies and air regulations (think climate change regulations), as reflected in a July 10 CEI report titled EPA’s Woeful Deadline Performance Raises Questions About Agency Competence, Climate Change Regulations, and “Sue and Settle”.  Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently weighed in with a report challenging EPA’s long-standing claim that more regulations yield more jobs.  Make no mistake, this reflects an all out insurrection against a powerful and oft tone-deft Agency by freedom-loving, large-government hating groups. Continue reading

China – A Growing Threat to the Earth

Listened to a sobering interview yesterday on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show, with Craig Simons, author of the new book, The Devouring Dragon, which chronicles imagesCACN1XEPChina’s insatiable appetite for natural resources – an emerging global threat to biodiversity and water and air pollution.  This story should make us all take pause.

China’s rise is assaulting the natural world at an alarming rate. In a few short years, China has become the planet’s largest market for endangered wildlife, its top importer of tropical trees, and its biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. Its rapid economic growth has driven up the world’s very metabolism: in Brazil, farmers clear large swaths of the Amazon to plant soybeans; Indian poachers hunt tigers and elephants to feed Chinese demand; in the United States, clouds of mercury and ozone drift earthward after trans-Pacific jet-stream journeys. Craig Simons’ The Devouring Dragon looks at how an ascending China has rapidly surpassed the U.S. and Europe as the planet’s worst-polluting superpower. It argues that China’s most important 21st-century legacy will be determined not by jobs, corporate profits, or political alliances, but by how quickly its growth degrades the global environment and whether it can stem the damage. Combining in-depth reporting with wide-ranging interviews and scientific research, The Devouring Dragon shines a spotlight on how China has put our planet’s forests, wildlife, oceans, and climate in jeopardy, multiplying the risks for everyone in our burgeoning, increasingly busy world. Continue reading

Oyster Fisheries and Families along Gulf Coast in Jeopardy

Thanks to my older brother, Scott, who forwarded the following story, A Fight Over Water, and to Save a Way of Life, by Lizette Alvarez this week in the NYT.   It’s a tale of too much water imagesCAE38NBGbeing used for human consumption, exacerbated by poor management of water and ocean resources and an unpredictable climate, that’s leading to the rapid destruction of a major commercial fishery and a way of life in the Gulf of Mexico.  Unfortunately, these type of water disputes are becoming common place, and are no longer isolated to the parched and water-starved western states.  We are witnessing this tragedy unfold in real-time in Florida – the consequence of a convergence of complex environmental and socio-economic factors, including poor governance, inter-jurisdictional feuding, and a public that is apathetic or insufficiently in tune with the negative consequences of collective harm being done.   Continue reading