A few items of interest in the news today:
- Associated Press, Oil Pipeline Opponents Pin Hopes on Nebraska – Fears of contaminating the Ogallala Aquifer have led agriculture-dependent Nebraska to be way of the pipeline and the potential for spills. No matter that any break in the pipe would only result in very localized damage and won’t be able to magically leap tens or hundreds of feet underground to reach the underground water supply.
University of Nebraska hydrologist Jim Goeke, a retired professor who has studied the pipeline proposal for years, believes it’s safe. He says the aquifer is composed of layers of loose sand, sandstone, soot and gravel that would impede the spread of an oil leak.
Goeke, who has no formal role in the project, said he expects pipeline opponents to make an impassioned case that the aquifer would be endangered, but he doesn’t buy it.
“I’d be comfortable if the pipeline was defeated on the basis of good, sound science and not emotion,” Goeke said. “I think it’s a reflection of the pride and love Nebraskans have for the Ogallala Aquifer. A lot of people love and treasure the aquifer, and they’re concerned the entire aquifer is at risk. And that just isn’t factual.”
- Wall Street Journal, Drillers Face Methane Concern: Contamination of Water Supply Near Gas-Drilling Operations Prompts Industry Focus on Design of Wells – This isn’t some cooked up story by a filmmaker, and so the photo of flaming water from the kitchen sink is accompanied by discussion of what the industry is trying to do about the issue. The problem is rightly linked to drilling, not to fracking operations per se. The industry knows that every single mistake in places where development is allowed will produce additional regulations, delays and expenses elsewhere. That makes for a pretty big incentive to the industry to keep it clean (though of course individual companies still have incentives to cut corners to keep their costs low).
- Student Eden Full devises simple sun-tracking device for solar panels, essentially working on the same principle as a thermostat’s coil. Motorized mechanical tracking systems are expensive and require trained technicians to maintain. Full says her device is so simple that she can explain to kids how to fix it if it breaks.