Robert B. Jackson, et al. (2014). “The Environmental Costs and Benefits of Fracking.” Annual Review of Environment and Resources 39 (online ahead of print). DOI: 10.1146/annurev-environ-031113-144051
Abstract: Unconventional oil and natural gas extraction enabled by horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is driving an economic boom, with consequences described from “revolutionary” to “disastrous.” Reality lies somewhere in between. Unconventional energy generates income and, done well, can reduce air pollution and even water use compared with other fossil fuels. Alternatively, it could slow the adoption of renewables and, done poorly, release toxic chemicals into water and air. Primary threats to water resources include surface spills, wastewater disposal, and drinking-water contamination through poor well integrity. An increase in volatile organic compounds and air toxics locally are potential health threats, but the switch from coal to natural gas for electricity generation will reduce sulfur, nitrogen, mercury, and particulate air pollution. Data gaps are particularly evident for human health studies, for the question of whether natural gas will displace coal compared with renewables, and for decadal-scale legacy issues of well leakage and plugging and abandonment practices. Critical topics for future research include data for (a) estimated ultimate recovery (EUR) of unconventional hydrocarbons, (b) the potential for further reductions of water requirements and chemical toxicity, (c) whether unconventional resource development alters the frequency of well integrity failures, (d) potential contamination of surface and ground waters from drilling and spills, (e) factors that could cause wastewater injection to generate large earthquakes, and (f) the consequences of greenhouse gases and air pollution on ecosystems and human health.
Read the full story in USA Today.
At least 150 major companies worldwide — including ExxonMobil, Google, Microsoft and 26 others in the United States — are already making business plans that assume they will be taxed on their carbon pollution, a report out today says.
Read the full story from Fast Company.
As if California’s current drought wasn’t bad enough, it could be just a foretaste of what’s to come. Many of the U.S.’s major watersheds are “stressed” , and, across the world, several important regions are set to run low on water.
With growing populations and deepening climate change, we’re going to need to find new ways to conserve and make better use of supplies. The days of using water casually, as if there’s always more to come, will be over for a good proportion of the planet, including much of the southwest and western United States.
How can we overcome our shortages? A new paper from researchers at McGill and Utrecht Universities identifies six strategies–or “wedges”–that could make a significant difference. Each could provide a reduction in water-stressed population of at least 2% by 2050.
Read the full story in Scientific American.
The global economy will pump $90 trillion into infrastructure development over the next 15 years, sparking a series of investment decisions that will make or break the Earth’s climate, a sweeping new study out today finds.
Harrington, Donna Ramirez (2013). “Effectiveness of State Pollution Prevention Programs and Policies.” Contemporary Economic Policy 31(2), 255–278. DOI: 10.1111/j.1465-7287.2011.00312.x
Abstract: States are using regulatory-, information-, and management-based policies to encourage the adoption of pollution prevention (P2) and reduce pollution. Using a sample of facilities of S&P 500 firms which report to the Toxic Releases Inventory from 1991 to 2001, this study employs dynamic panel data models to examine the effectiveness of state legislations and policies in increasing P2 and reducing toxic releases. I find that toxic waste legislations are effective in reducing toxic releases and in promoting P2, but the effect of policy instruments differ. Facilities in states with reporting requirement and mandatory planning adopt more P2 even in states that do not emphasize toxic waste reduction. The effectiveness of reporting is stronger among facilities with good environmental performance, while the potency of mandatory planning is greater among facilities with past P2 experience. In contrast, numerical goals reduce toxic pollution levels only among those which have been subjected to high levels of enforcement action. These suggest that reporting requirement and mandatory planning may be promoting the P2 practices which can improve public image and which benefit from enhanced technical know-how, but they are not causing meaningful pollution reductions, implying that the existing policies must be complemented by other approaches to achieve higher reductions in toxic pollution levels.
Read the full story at GreenBiz.
After an annual review, 46 companies were deleted from the 15-year-old Dow Jones Sustainability World index — the three biggest (by free-float market capitalization) to be booted were Bank of America, General Electric and Schlumberger.
The good news is that 32 were added, including Amgen, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and GlaxoSmithKline.
Even better news, 16 companies have been recognized every single year: Baxter, Bayer, BMW, BT, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Diageo, Intel, J Sainsbury, Novo Nordisk, RWE, SAP, Siemens, Storebrand, Unilever and UnitedHealth.