Climate Corner: Jobs, the Economy & Renewable Energy – George Banziger

When I was vacationing in northern Minnesota in summer 2019, I took a boat tour of the Port of Duluth. The tour guide pointed out a large number of wind turbines that had just arrived from Germany and were bound for Kansas. I asked myself, “Why aren’t these wind turbines (which are usually made of fiberglass) being manufactured and shipped from manufacturers in the U.S–or more specifically from eastern Ohio where I live. Ohio has a strong manufacturing base and our region has a long tradition of glass making   Besides manufacturing infrastructure we need human-resource development for renewables. It struck me that educational institutions need to strengthen their programs in engineering and technician training for the rapidly growing economy of renewable energy including the manufacture of wind turbines, wind-turbine towers (80-foot structures made of steel), and solar panels.

     The future of the energy economy and jobs in the U..S. clearly lies in renewables, especially wind and solar power. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (U.S. Department of Labor) predicts that the fastest employment growth from 2016-2026 is expected to be in the occupations of solar photovoltaic installers (105% increase) and wind turbine service technicians (96% increase).  Also projected to grow are the occupations of environmental engineers, conservation scientists, hazardous materials removal workers, and wind and solar technicians. All of these occupations are predicted to result in median annual salaries higher than the median salary for all jobs in the U.S; for example, environmental engineers are predicted to make $86,000/year, and technicians $50,230/year. The predicted growth in these occupations is faster than the average growth of all occupations in the U.S. and reflects rapid increase in jobs in renewable energy. There are currently 360,000  jobs in the solar energy sector (more than the number of jobs in the coal and nuclear energy sectors combined). And there are another 102,000 jobs in wind energy (the generation of wind energy tripled from 2008-2016).

     In 1979 there were 225,000 jobs in the coal industry; now there are about 53,000 (NBC News, 2019). Utility companies are shutting down coal-fired power plants as the energy market shifts toward renewables and natural gas.  These are market forces at work. Of course, we should not abandon coal workers to poverty and neglect—we should support them with vocational training, health-care benefits, and other assistance to help them and their communities through this transition toward renewable energy.  While the market forces forces in the energy economy make this transition, it is in the national interest to support former coal workers but also to support the advancing economy of renewable energy. It is renewable energy that will address the urgent need to confront climate change and reduce carbon emissions, which should be strong national and international objectives.

     Not only do renewable energy sources reduce carbon emissions in the generation of electrical power, but they are also less expensive than most other sources. The cost of wind and solar energy per megawatt hour are $50 and $58 respectively, while the cost of coal is $100 and nuclear $110 (Lazard’s Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis, 2018).  

     Electrical generation from renewables has tripled since 2001 (Energy Information Administration, 2019), mostly due to the rapid growth of wind energy. It is estimated that half of the world’s  power will be delivered  from solar and wind sources by 2050. We have seen some of this growth in our region in the new AEP-Ohio solar hub in Highland County.

       There has been much discussion and promotion of natural (shale) gas in our region. Natural gas is an important resource to bridge the transition from coal to renewables, but at the current cost of $1.79 per 1,000 cubic feet (March 2020 spot price according to the Energy Information Administration– that price was over $9 in 2000), profitability is in question. It is hard to imagine that many companies can operate profitably at that price, much less provide sustainable jobs to support the economy long term. One recent sign of the impact of this price decline of natural gas is the declaration of bankruptcy by Chesapeake Energy, a pioneer in hydraulic fracturing of shale gas. 

Recommended readings for April

March 2021 –  MOVCA Selected Media Postings

Compiled by Cindy Taylor

Appearing on-line in the Charleston Gazette-Mail:

Wednesday, March 10, 2021 Opinion Column by Rev. Robin Blakeman, project coordinator for  OVEC

“Robin Blakeman: Encouraging to see Manchin back Haaland’s appointment”

https://www.wvgazettemail.com/opinion/op_ed_commentaries/robin-blakeman-encouraging-to-see-manchin-back-haalands-appointment-opinion/article_6709d2ae-5bb4-506b-bbfd-27ec18fc93b9.html

Tuesday March 9, 2021 Od/Ed by John McFerrin, Gazette-Mail contributing columnist

“John McFerrin: Your move, Big Jim”

(Ferrin challenges Gov. Jim Justice to be a champion of legalizing on-site Power Purchase Agreements- Senate Bill 30)

https://www.wvgazettemail.com/opinion/columnists/john-mcferrin-your-move-big-jim-opinion/article_1cb9ea72-efd1-51af-bca3-eed61437e9cd.html

Monday, March 1, 2021  Energy & Environment News Article by Mike Tony, Staff writer

“Manchin promotes tax credit bill designed to build clean energy manufacturing”

https://www.wvgazettemail.com/news/energy_and_environment/manchin-promotes-tax-credit-bill-designed-to-build-clean-energy-manufacturing/article_632aa701-d6ee-5a61-a48c-96083999bf2c.html

Appearing on-line on Ohio River Valley Institute (an independent, nonprofit research and communications center – “Sound research for a more sustainable, equitable, democratic, and prosperous Appalachia”:

March 23, 2021  Eric de Place’s summary of ORVI ‘s new REPORT and link to download:

“Risks for New Natural Gas Development in Appalachia” – Groundbreaking new analysis shows future Appalachian shale gas drilling unprofitable and petrochemical buildout unlikely

Ohio River Valley Institute March 2021 REPORT:

Risks for New Natural Gas Developments in Appalachia by Peter Erickson and Ploy Achakulwisut  of Stockholm Environment Institute U.S.    Link to download pdf.

March 18, 2021 Article by Eric Dixon

“The true cost of cleaning up historic damage from the coal Industry”

March 16, 2021 Article by Ted Boettner

“A federal solution is needed to address hazardous abandoned wells”

March 10, 2021  Feature by Sean O’Leary

“Misdirection: How we’re misled about natural gas boom’s economic impacts”

March 4, 2021  Post by Ben Hunkler

“Critical Condition: “ ‘The Shale Crescent’ and the Dream of an Appalachian Petrochemical Boom”

    Article includes link to recording of February 3, 2020 Forum on this topic: https://youtu.be/HRnCDDp44Lo

See also these REPORTS  drawing much attention in March: (info also included in Feb. media report):

Available on-line on ReImagine Appalachia and Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), Amherst, MA: 

February 2021   ReImagine Appalachia shares Summary of results from PERI economic recovery program analysis:

“West Virginia Job Impact Brief” – ReImagine Appalachia blueprint creates 41,000 Jobs in West Virginia

February  2021 Report by Department of Economics and Political Economy Research Institution (PERI) authored by Robert Pollin, Jeannette Wicks-Lim, Shouvik Chakraborty, and Gregor Semieniuk

Impacts of the ReImagine Appalachia & Clean Energy Transition Programs for West Virginia: Job Creation, Economic Recovery, and Long-Term Sustainability.  Download available at this site:

Thursday, February 25, 2021  Zoom Meeting of Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) presenting study:

Overview of the ReImagine Appalachia Climate Infrastructure Plan which would create 41,100 family-sustaining jobs in West Virginia. Angie Rosser, Robert Pollin (lead author of report), Delegate Evan Hansen, Quenton King, Mayor Steve Williams and Josh Sword.  38-minute Recording available: https://m.facebook.com/PERIatUMass/?ref=page_internal&mt_nav=0

Appearing on-line in WV Public Broadcasting and WOUB (PBS):

March 23, 2021 Energy & Environment Article by Emily Allen

“Bill For Air, Water Quality Rules Clears Senate Judiciary Committee”

https://www.wvpublic.org/energy-environment/2021-03-23/bill-for-air-water-quality-rules-clears-senate-judiciary-committee

March 11, 2021 Energy & Environment Article by Eric Douglas with audio interview with Kevin Law (Marshall U.)

“Meteorology Professor: Region Should Prepare For More Weather Swings”

https://www.wvpublic.org/energy-environment/2021-03-11/meteorology-professor-region-should-prepare-for-more-weather-swings

 March 10, 2021 Energy & Environment News Article by Emily Allen

“House Passes Bill to Exempt Oil, Gas Operators From Aboveground Storage Tank Act”

https://www.wvpublic.org/energy-environment/2021-03-10/house-passes-bill-to-exempt-oil-gas-operators-from-aboveground-storage-tank-act

Appearing on-line on The New Republic:

March 25, 2021  Article by Nick Martin, staff writer at The New Republic

“The Fracking Shill Local Newspapers Love to Publish”

https://newrepublic.com/article/161712/fracking-shill-local-newspapers

   Martin mentions articles by Eric Engle, Jean Ambrose, & Randi Pokladnik responding to Greg Kozera’s weekly column

Appearing on-line on Natural Gas Intelligence:

March 11, 2021 Article by Jamison Cocklin

“Federal Judge Deals Another Setback to Oil, Natural Gas Development in Ohio Natural Forest”

Appearing on-line on The American Prospect:

March 9, 2021  Text and Audio. Robert Kuttner in conversation with Robert Pollin, lead author of PERI report

“A Green Transition for West Virginia”

https://prospect.org/environment/green-transition-west-virginia-robert-pollin-interview/

EVENTS:

Friday, March 26, 2021, 2pm  webinar by Green Peace’s project,  Fire Drill Fridays with Jane Fonda

Dr. Sandra Steingraber discusses how fracking is a danger to our climate, communities, & health, and what we can do about it. (MOVCA is mentioned by Dr. Sandra Steingraber!)

Tuesday, March 23, 2021, 6pm  MOVCA supports Declaration for American Democracy (DFAD) Zoom webinar

“For the People Activist Training: Our Chance To Transform Our Democracy”

https://www.facebook.com/DFADCoalition/videos/887493735126323/?fref=tag

 Join U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and movement leaders for an activist call to discuss our path to reforming our democracy through urging the Senate to pass the For the People Act and for a training on actions all of us can take during the April Congressional recess.

Thursday, March 18, 2021, 1pm. Discussion hosted by ReImagine Appalachia and the Ohio River Valley Institute

“Community Listening Session on Repairing the Damage from Hazardous Abandoned Oil & Gas Wells”

https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJIpcuGrpjspG9TJKsGlJc471d-oNchgPPey

Tuesday March 16, 2021, 3pm Webinar hosted by RECLAIM Act Coalition including ReImagine Appalachia

“Abandoned Mine Land Webinar”  – Learn how you can support investments to revitalize coal communities

https://www.facebook.com/ReImagineAppalachia/videos/854879298392887/

Sunday March 14, 7pm Zoom Meeting to discuss ideas for MOVCA’s  New Jobs Appalachia committee

March 10, 2021 6:00 PM  Virtual Event hosted by West Virginia Environmental Council (https://wvecouncil.org)

“ WV E-DAY 2021” – Live performances, live auction, legislative updates, news from member groups.  See:

https://www.facebook.com/events/154700499623977/

Monday, March 1, 2021, 9am  Virtual Public Hearing before House Judiciary Committee promoted by WV Citizen Action Group. Registration is by 2/26/21 required.

People’s Public Hearing on Water Quality Standards Rule HB 2389

Iafrate joins team at Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Actionv

Mar 27, 2021

Staff Reports

editorial@newsandsentinel.com

Angela Iafrate

PARKERSBURG — Angela Iafrate has accepted a parttime position as engagement and program coordinator with the not-for-profit volunteer group Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action.

“Angie will work with MOVCA leadership team to design, organize and promote among youth and young adults up to four contests in 2021 with themes drawn from the T.H.R.I.V.E. agendas,” Giulia Mannarino, Climate Action vice-chair said. “With her previous experience in teaching and working with youth, she is well-suited for helping us organize a youth group drawn from students who participate in the contests.”

Iafrate also will assist with maintaining the group’s membership records and lists.

Iafrate said she is “a teacher by training and an advocate at heart, most energized when working at the grassroots towards a more just and sustainable society.”

She has a bachelor’s in Spanish and a master’s in secondary education/Spanish from West Virginia University, including nine graduate hours in nonprofit management. Over a six-year period, she taught Spanish language classes at Parkersburg Catholic High School and at Charleston Catholic High School where she also was faculty adviser to the Environmental Club.

Iafrate has been involved in community activities and advocacy as a volunteer, including a year of AmeriCorps service and serving two-year terms on the boards of the Mid-Ohio Valley Multicultural Festival and the Appalachian Prison Book Project.

She is training in software development at Mountwest Technical and Community College and is the program assistant for West Virginia Interfaith Power and Light where she maintains a database of supporters, composes communications for email lists and copy for website and networks with environmental organizations.

“We are fortunate to have found such a capable and experienced person to work with us,” said Eric Engle, Climate Action chair. “As we come out of the restrictions of the pandemic, we’re excited to have Angie guiding our engagement with students and teachers in the MOV.” Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action focuses on raising awareness of the science establishing the danger of the climate crisis and the urgency of dealing with it. For more information, go to http://main.movclimateaction.org.

The real cost of plastics

Mar 27, 2021

Randi Pokladnik

editorial@newsandsentinel.com

Plastic manufacturers want us to believe that our lives would not be complete without plastics. While there are beneficial applications for plastics, our reliance on single-use plastics, which make up 40 percent of all plastics produced, has created a global crisis. Our planet is drowning in plastic waste and our health is being affected by exposures to the toxic compounds used to make plastics.

Studies show plastics and microplastics are now found in our oceans, rivers, tap water, beer, foods, air, soils, and even our bodies. In one week, it is estimated that we ingest 2,000 tiny plastic particles, or the equivalent to a credit card’s weight worth of plastic. Plastics have permeated every aspect of our lives so it is not surprising that the U.S. throws out enough plastic every 16 hours to fill the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium. Every year we generate over 35 million tons of plastic waste. Of that waste, less than 9 percent is recycled. The remaining 90 percent is landfilled, incinerated, or discarded into our ecosystems.

Companies that make and sell disposable plastic products push the responsibility for these wastes onto consumers, claiming recycling is the answer. However, fifty years after the industry-backed “Keep America Beautiful” anti-litter campaign, the USA’s recycling rate is an abysmal 8.7 percent. Even if recycling worked, plastics can only be recycled one or two times before the quality degrades. Glass and metals can be recycled over and over with the same quality integrity.

Citizens pay the increased costs for municipal solid waste landfills as the amount of plastic waste has increased from 390,000 tons in 1960 to over 27 million tons in 2018. Additionally, incineration of plastic wastes produces toxic air emissions like dioxin and furans, which rain down on the communities where these facilities are located.

People all over the world are paying the cleanup costs to pick up discarded drink bottles, Styrofoam trays, plastic bags, and other single-use plastics. According to ODOT, Ohio’s residents pay $4 million dollars a year for litter clean-up and about fifty percent of that litter is single-use wastes from fast-food establishments.

Because plastics have become so prevalent in our lives, we are constantly being exposed to plastic polymers, plasticizers, and heavy metals used in their production. Countless studies show that plasticizers such as bis-phenol A and S, phthalates, and flame retardants in plastic polymers leach into foods stored and cooked in plastic containers. Microplastics that are found in our tap water and food webs can absorb man-made chemical toxins from the environment. They act as tiny sponges and when we drink or eat foods such as fish, we also eat these toxin-laced particles.

Along with contributing to diabetes, obesity, cancer, and impaired immunity, plastic compounds are affecting our fertility in profound ways. “Like dissolves like” and because a majority of plastics and petrochemicals are carbon based, exposures to such compounds results in them being stored in our body fats. The molecular structure of many of these compounds mimics the structures of estrogen and testosterone.

The body is unable to distinguish between a plasticizer and a hormone. When this happens, the endocrine system receives incorrect messages. A plethora of scientific studies show a drastic decline in fertility rates, an increase in miscarriages, and countless other reproductive problems that can be directly attributed to increased exposures to man-made chemicals used in plastics.

Is the convenience of single-use plastics worth the price we truly pay for them? The $20 billion subsidy fossil fuels are given each year would be better used developing bioplastics using hemp, seaweed, corn, and other plant fibers.

***

Randi Pokladnik, Ph.D., of Uhrichsville, is a retired research chemist who volunteers with Mid Ohio Valley Climate Action. She has a doctorate degree in Environmental Studies and is certified in Hazardous Materials Regulations.

Future Appalachian Shale Gas Drilling Unprofitable and Petrochemical Buildout Unlikely

Appearing on-line on Ohio River Valley Institute (an independent, nonprofit research and communications center – “Sound research for a more sustainable, equitable, democratic, and prosperous Appalachia”:

March 23, 2021  Article by Eric de Place, research fellow, about new report

Higher prices needed to save Appalachian natural gas, but industry faces pressure from decarbonization and uncertain petrochemical markets.

by Eric de Place

Mar 23, 2021 | Blog Posts, Clean Energy, Research

JOHNSTOWN, Pennsylvania, March 23, 2021 – New gas field developments in Appalachia are unlikely to be profitable as the US energy system undergoes rapid decarbonization, according to a new report from the Stockholm Environment Institute’s US Center (SEI) and the Ohio River Valley Institute. Rosy industry projections of a gas-fueled petrochemical buildout led many Appalachian communities to bank on job growth that never arrived and now may never materialize.

The report, “Risks for New Natural Gas Development in Appalachia” is the first quantitative assessment of how Appalachia’s gas industry would fare in a low carbon future, and it spells trouble for an already troubled industry. The report is also the most detailed publicly-available analysis of the future prospects for natural gas development in the region. The authors analyzed 200 prospective gas projects in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, using data from Rystad Energy, a leading energy research and business intelligence agency. By assessing each field’s capital and operating costs — as well as the gas prices necessary to keep such fields profitable — the authors found that the gas industry in Appalachia is vulnerable to sustained, low prices of domestic gas and natural gas liquids.

“Our analysis shows that gas expansion in Appalachia is a risky investment,” said the report’s lead author, Peter Erickson, a senior scientist and Climate Policy Program Director with SEI. “The calculations show that new gas developments face an array of serious financial risks that could render extraction from Marcellus gas fields unprofitable in the coming years.”

The report finds that a rapidly decarbonizing economy — a specific policy aim of President Biden — would severely undermine the profitability of Appalachian gas development, resulting in reduced production. Lower gas production would in turn crimp the production of natural gas byproducts, like ethane, that serve as feedstocks for the region’s much-hyped petrochemical buildout, which is already facing stiff headwinds from competitor regions and an evolving market for consumer plastics.

“Communities in Appalachia know firsthand what happens when leaders fail to plan for markets that are moving away from fossil fuels,” said Joanne Kilgour, executive director of the Ohio River Valley Institute. “We already know that fracking has failed to deliver prosperity for the local communities that produce the gas. This report makes it clear that the region should plan for real economic development that can flourish in the 21st century.”

SEI’s analysis corroborates the views of Wall Street investors and credit ratings agencies that have soured on the gas industry based on its inability to generate reliable profits. And it reinforces concerns expressed by experts from finance, policymaking, and the oil and gas industry in a recent forum sponsored by the Ohio River Valley Institute.

“With the US government committing to deep decarbonization under the Paris Agreement — and signaling an increasing focus on policies to mitigate devastating climate impacts — we expect to see profound changes to oil and gas markets that would render new Appalachian gas fields unprofitable, on average,” said co-author and SEI Scientist Ploy Achakulwisut.

The full report can be found at the Ohio River Valley Institute website here.

Contact:
Eric de Place
Research Fellow
eric@OhioRiverValleyInstitute.org

Water is life, except in WV

Monday was World Water Day — a day recognized by 20 global water and related organizations to raise awareness of water crises globally and to recognize and celebrate what water means to us all.

In West Virginia, however, the majority party in our Legislature is acting like water is expendable and that extraction industry profits are far more important.

West Virginia has 46 named rivers, not counting major tributaries, branches, forks, creeks, drains, licks, runs, etc. These were formed by glaciers and should be some of the most pristine, clean, safe and wild bodies of water in the world.

Instead, we have sacrificed our most precious resource to the whims of industries that offer mostly temporary jobs and take our resource wealth out of state, then refuse to clean up their messes. Taxpayers, ratepayers, property owners and consumers always seem to get stuck with the bill after every industry boom and bust.

Two bills that have passed out of the House of Delegates and are now assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee are set to make these problems exponentially worse. House Bill 2598 would allow tanks that store 210 barrels (that’s nearly 9,000 gallons) or less of oil and gas waste in zones of critical concern for our drinking water intakes to go without regulation under the Aboveground Storage Tank Act.

That means that between 800 to 900 tanks near our surface drinking water intakes in West Virginia would become exempt from registration and certification and submittal of spill-prevention response plans under the ASTA. This is not just brine water being stored in these tanks; this also is “other fluids produced in connection with hydrocarbon production activities.”

To quote from the seventh edition of the Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking, a fully referenced 475-page compilation provided by Concerned Health Professionals of New York and Physicians for Social Responsibility: “The 2005 Energy Policy Act exempts hydraulic fracturing from key provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act. As a result, fracking chemicals have been protected from public scrutiny as ‘trade secrets.’ Companies are not compelled to fully disclose the identity of chemicals used in fracking fluid, their quantities, or their fate once injected underground. Of the more than 1,000 chemicals that are confirmed ingredients in fracking fluid, an estimated 100 are known endocrine disruptors, acting as reproductive and developmental toxicants, and at least 48 are potentially carcinogenic.”

Adding to this mix are heavy metals, radioactive elements, brine, and volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which occur naturally in deep geological formations and can be carried up from the fracking zone with the flowback fluid. A 2020 study identified 1,198 chemicals in oil and gas wastewater, of which 86% lack toxicity data sufficient to complete a risk assessment.”

One of the delegates in my three-delegate district, John Kelly, R-Wood, was the lead sponsor of this legislation. We live in Parkersburg, a community made famous in the documentary “The Devil We Know,” which was featured on Netflix, and the major motion picture, “Dark Waters,” for contamination in our water from the production of the DuPont/Chemours product Teflon and related nonstick products. Haven’t we suffered enough?

Another piece of legislation, House Bill 2382, a West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection rules bundle, includes revisions to water quality standards that would allow for more toxins in our water.

In 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommended 94 water quality standards updates for human health criteria. Later, the DEP decided that West Virginia should pursue 56 of those updates.

By the time these recommendations got to the Legislature and industry stepped in with its lobbyists, the can got kicked down the road and now this legislation is set to update only 24 of the standards and weaken 13 of them. One of those weakened is for a contaminant known as PCE (Tetrachloroethylene) that massively contaminated the water supply in Paden City.

Industry argues that science is on its side, but why would we ever want to weaken water protections? These bills are not safe, they’re not smart, and they’ll just worsen the exodus from our state.

Eric Engle is chairman of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action, a board member for the West Virginia Rivers Coalition and co-chairman of Sierra Club of West Virginia’s executive committee.

Local environmental impacts should be discussed

Mar 17, 2021

George Banziger

I am pleased to see that the Marietta Times is concerned about the environmental impact of energy sources, as demonstrated by their editorial which appeared in the March 11, 2021 edition.

The editorial was referring to the Vineyard Wind Project off the coast of Massachusetts, which would involve the establishment of off-shore wind turbines to generate electricity for homes in New England. The Times was seeking as strict environmental review of this project as is done for projects involving extraction (fossil-fuel) industries. I wish that the Times were as concerned about environmental impacts in our own and their own backyard as it is about wind turbines in New England.

First of all, it should be noted that greenhouse gas emissions for coal are 888 tons per gigawatt hour, natural gas 499 tons, and wind 26 tons. Fossil fuels are the leaders of negative environmental impact. These figures are reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a collection of the foremost scientists from around the world. Their conclusion about establishing facilities for these different sources of energy: “Contrary to claims of some critics, today’s research shows the hidden emissions due to building wind turbines, solar panels, and nuclear plants are very low, in comparison to the savings from avoiding fossil fuels.”

Coal has virtually been abandoned as an affordable and environmentally sound source of electricity generation. The free market has priced it out of picture in competition with natural gas. Even the energy companies themselves are shutting down coal-fired power plants. The extraction, transport, and burning of coal are dangerous, costly, and the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions of any energy source.

But natural gas has its own problems of environmental impact. For example, in Appalachian Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, there are numerous abandoned oil & gas wells spewing methane (natural gas) into the air. Natural gas is at least 82 times more significant as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Close to home for us in southeast Ohio is the issue of Class II injection wells, where fracking waste is permanently stored in the ground. Washington County is among the Ohio counties with highest number of injection wells and the most number of barrels of fracking waste injected into its lands. Fracking waste comes not only from production wells in Ohio but from production wells in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, two states which have stricter rules about injecting fracking waste from their production facilities. Spills at these injection well sites are not uncommon. Last fall there was a spill at the Redbird #4 injection well, which is located in western Washington County, and in January there was a spill just outside Marietta at a site owned by Deep Rock Disposal of Marietta. Of course, natural gas companies are not required to inform the public of the contents of fracking waste, much of which is thought to contain toxic materials and much of which is radioactive. There was no reporting of either of these two recent spills by the Marietta Times. Neither has the Times investigated or questioned the incompetent and under-resourced monitoring of these injection wells by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Oil & Gas Resource Management.

I respectfully suggest that the Times direct its attention to environmental impacts closer to home and related to the extraction of coal and the shale-gas industry including the process of hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Readers of the Times are more interested in these stories than in attention to distant issues of the environmental impact of off-shore wind turbines in Massachusetts.

George Banziger

Marietta

A solution in search of a hero

Appearing on-line in the Charleston Gazette-Mail:

Tuesday, March 2, 2021 Opinion column by Jim Probst, state coordinator of West Virginia Citizens’ Climate Lobby

We have been through an awful lot in the past 12 months and, as we begin to see some light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, we are being reminded of the one overriding crisis that is not going away anytime soon — climate change.

But, after four years of inaction and denial from our leadership in D.C., our members of Congress and our new president at least appear to be coalescing around one thing: the need to do something.

Many that have studied the various approaches to tackling climate change believe that the most effective first step is to put a price on carbon and to include a dividend to be paid to the American public to offset increases in energy costs.

In a statement published in The Wall Street Journal in December, 2019, 28 Nobel laureate economists, four former chairs of the Federal Reserve and 15 former chairs of the Council of Economic Advisers came out in favor of just such an approach. Recently, The Business Roundtable, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have come out in support.

In Congress, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Republican of the fossil-fuel state of Alaska, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and our own Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., have expressed that they would consider supporting carbon pricing.

One thing about carbon pricing is that it has the potential to raise a lot of money. A bill like the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (House Resolution 763) that was introduced in the last Congress, would raise $3 trillion over the first 10 years.

Carving out just under 1% of those funds would provide $26 billion for coal miner and coal community support. Details for this approach have been laid out in a plan, A New Day for the Coalfields (Newday4.com). This approach not only serves to begin a rapid reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions, but also helps to ensure that states like West Virginia are not left behind as we continue the inevitable transition away from coal fired energy production.

There are other approaches in development that would address the needs of other fossil fuel workers and utility workers.

Now, what we need is for someone to take the lead on this.

I truly appreciate the actions that have been taken by our two senators. Capito has co-sponsored legislation to incentivize carbon capture and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was instrumental in working with Murkowski to pass what some have called the most significant climate legislation ever passed, the American Energy Innovation Act.

I applaud these first steps, but that’s just what they are, first steps. The climate emergency is going to require bold and dynamic leadership, and Capito and Manchin are uniquely positioned in the new Congress to influence what climate legislation is ultimately passed. I call on our senators to rise to the occasion and take the lead on ensuring that climate change is addressed in a significant and enduring fashion.

I call on them to be climate heroes.

Jim Probst is the state coordinator of the West Virginia Citizens Climate Lobby.

We can call a truce on the war against nature

Appearing on-line in The Bargain Hunter (Weekly news magazine serving Ohio Counties: Holmes, Tuscarawas, Wayne, and the surrounding area. Stark, Medina, Summit and Cuyahoga):

Friday, March 12, 2021 Column by Dr. Randi Pokladnik

Spring is just around the corner, and soon we will spend more time outdoors and preparing our gardens for planting. Sadly, some of us also will buy the toxic chemicals that line the shelves of most big-box hardware stores.

The petrochemical industry has done a good job of convincing people mankind should be at war with nature and we need their products to win that war.

The United Nations secretary general António Guterres said in a speech last year, “Humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal. Nature always strikes back, and it is already doing so with growing force and fury.”

Historian Edmund P. Russell III said, “In the first half of the 20th century, the science and technology of pest control sometimes became the science and technology of war.”

In 1962 Rachel Carson wrote “Silent Spring.” She used her expertise as a biologist to explain how our agricultural system had become controlled by the petrochemical industry and how our health was being affected.

Poisons once used in warfare now were being used on our crops. Carson said, “We still talk in terms of conquest. We still haven’t become mature enough to think of ourselves as only a tiny part of a vast and incredible universe. Man’s attitude toward nature today is critically important simply because we have now acquired a fateful power to alter and destroy nature.”

Evidence of this ongoing war can be seen each spring as homeowners mount a chemical assault on weeds and bugs. Today, mankind has an endless supply of poisons: fungicides to kill fungus, herbicides to kill weeds, insecticides to kill bugs and rodenticides to kill rodents.

Looking at the label of a product will tell you the active ingredient in the formulation because industries in the U.S. and E.U. are required to make that information public. However, companies are not required to reveal the identities of “inert” ingredients because they don’t contribute to the herbicidal activity of the formulation. But in many cases inert ingredients are as toxic or more toxic than the active ingredients.

The most widely used herbicide in the world is Roundup. The broad-spectrum herbicide was listed as a probable human carcinogen in 2017. The U.S. used 287 million pounds in 2016. Its main uses are as an herbicide and also as a desiccant or drying agent for crops preharvesting.

Roundup contains glyphosate as the active ingredient, but it also contains other “inert” ingredients as well. These substances can be used to help extend shelf life, as colorants, to help it dissolve in water, to help it stick to the plant surface and to stop wind drifting when it is sprayed.

We know from countless peer-reviewed studies that regardless of what Monsanto claims, Roundup is toxic. It is now the focus of over 2,000 lawsuits based on the increase of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma among people who used or were exposed to the product. Monsanto continues to deny the claims and has gone as far as paying researchers to “ghostwrite” scientific papers actually authored by Monsanto employees.

There are several categories of pesticides, and glyphosate falls into the category of organophosphates. These compounds are similar to the nerve gases developed for human warfare by Germany. They affect the nervous system by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase. Some of the “trade names” for these chemicals are Fallow Master, Touchdown, Rattler, Shackle and Roundup.

The lawn chemical, Diazinon, goes by the trade names, Dazzle or Knoxout. It is now banned for use in the U.S.

Malathion, another organophosphate, is a biocide and toxic to birds, bees, fish, amphibians, crustaceans and aquatic insects. It is still widely used and sold in the U.S.

Another category of pesticides are organochlorines; the most famous one in this group is the now banned DDT. These compounds are basically chlorinated hydrocarbons, and today most are banned due to health effects. They are long-lived in the environment and are very fat soluble. They have bioaccumulated in our food chains and can be found far away from agricultural applications. They have even been detected in the Arctic. They are mutagenic and carcinogenic.

If you drink coffee, you should be aware of an organochlorine called Endosulfan. It was widely used against coffee bean borers and was banned for use in the U.S. in 2010. It is still used in some countries (legally and illegally) on cotton, coffee and tea. Buying organic coffee or “bird-friendly coffee” and organic tea is a good idea.

If you have Sevin in your garden shed, you have a carbamate. Like organophosphates, they too affect the nervous system and can be toxic when absorbed through the skin, ingested or inhaled. Two inert ingredients in carbamates — crystalline silica and petroleum oil — are toxic. The former causes lung cancer, and the latter is a suspected carcinogen.

The horrible explosion of the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India in 1984 and the 1985 explosion of another Union Carbide plant in Institute, West Virginia involved methyl isocyanate or MIC. It is used in the manufacture of carbamate pesticides.

Regardless of the risk to health and the environment, the oil and gas industry is counting on expanding petrochemical production in the Ohio River Valley to make up for revenue losses in its energy sector.

Neonicotinoids are another class of pesticides that target insects’ nervous systems. They are systemic, which means they cannot be washed off a plant as they are incorporated into the plant tissues. This pesticide can accumulate in pollen and nectar, which is why they are so deadly to bees.

Pyrethroids are synthetic compounds based on pyrethrin, a compound extracted from chrysanthemum flowers. These man-made compounds have been shown to cause reproductive issues, immune-system disorders and respiratory problems.

All pesticides are toxic in varying degrees. They can be carcinogenic, mutagens (mutate cells), teratogens (mutates eggs and sperm resulting in birth defects), fetotoxic (poisons the fetus), neurotoxin (damages nerves) and cause organ damage.

Pesticides also affect nontarget organisms. When you spray your yard, you don’t just spray weeds, you spray everything else in contact with that yard: the water, air, beneficial organisms, soil, birds, amphibians, pets and you.

Most pesticide formulations are based on petrochemicals. This means that as we increase our use of these dangerous products, we also increase climate change and encourage more fossil fuel extraction. About 20% of oil is used for petrochemical production.

This spring call a truce on the war against nature and put the poisons away. After all, dandelions have many health benefits and contain three times more vitamin A and five times more vitamin K and vitamin E than spinach.

Climate myths and misconceptions

Mar 20, 2021

Aaron Dunbar

editorial@newsandsentinel.com

Several months ago I participated in a public outdoor event with Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action. At some point in the afternoon, a gentleman walking his very lovely dog through the area stopped by our display and confronted me with a rapid-fire barrage of questions about climate change.

The talking points he presented were hardly new to me, but I had a difficult time responding to them in the heat of the moment.

For some time I’ve wanted to offer this gentleman a more well-crafted reply than the one I managed to eke out on the spot. A lot of his arguments are actually pretty common mainstays among climate skeptics, and I thought it might be beneficial to readers to explore a few of them in detail.

The first argument this gentleman offered was that we shouldn’t be too worried about climate change because Earth’s climate is always changing.

It is absolutely true that our planet experiences natural cycles of cooling and heating. However, these natural cycles span over hundreds of thousands of years, whereas the changes we now see are taking place over mere decades, and correspond directly to the release of greenhouse gases by human industry.

He also mentioned the idea that Earth’s position in its orbital cycle (a.k.a., its Milankovitch cycle) is an explanation for why our planet is heating. But again, this possibility has been thoroughly debunked by climate scientists, with the primary onus placed once again on human activity.

Now, I do have to give him some credit for his next point, which was Al Gore’s statement in 2009 that the North Pole would likely be free of ice by 2013, a prediction which clearly hasn’t come to fruition.

The former Vice President did actually say this, and he was absolutely wrong about it. That said, Al Gore is by no means a scientist. Whatever impact his advocacy work has had on our response to the climate crisis, he nevertheless remains a flawed and fallible spokesperson. In this case, it appears as though he inadvertently misrepresented a piece of information once presented to him by an actual climate scientist, and simply got his numbers confused.

On the other hand, Earth has lost over 28 trillion tons (or 62,000,000,000,000,000 pounds) of ice since 1994, so we clearly do have significant cause for concern.

From here, I have to admit that the case this gentleman was making began to get very spacey, and I mean that quite literally.

He went on to argue that if climate change is in fact happening, we can surely depend on technology to save us. This is a fairly common argument, if one loaded with quite a bit of uncertainty. But from here, it quickly turned into an endorsement of grandiose scifi concepts like space colonization and mining other planets for resources, and finally the argument that the sun will burn out eventually (in about 5 billion years), so there’s really no point in worrying about relatively short-term issues like climate change.

It’s truly incredible to me the lengths that we’ll go to avoid confronting the truth about the climate crisis. We shouldn’t be reduced to a hope of cultivating life on dead planets when we can’t even maintain it on our own- an idea which some very powerful people in the world nevertheless pursue with a straight face. Nor should we be throwing up our hands in nihilistic surrender.

Our planet is as unique as it is fragile, and we owe it to ourselves and to future generations to preserve it while we still can.

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Aaron Dunbar is a member of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action.