natural gas

When you flip on a light switch, odds are, you're burning coal. But as the fracking boom continues to unleash huge quantities of natural gas, the nation's electric grid is changing. Power plants are increasingly turning to this low-cost, cleaner-burning fossil fuel.

Bill Pentak stands in the middle of a construction site, looking up at his company's latest project towering overhead — a new natural gas power plant.

New York state's Seneca Lake is the heart of the Finger Lakes, a beautiful countryside of steep glacier-carved hills and long slivers of water with deep beds of salt. It's been mined on Seneca's shore for more than a century.

The Texas company Crestwood Midstream owns the mine now, and stores natural gas in the emptied-out caverns. It has federal approval to increase the amount, and it's seeking New York's OK to store 88 million gallons of propane as well.

There's a serious problem in the American economy: Big corporations are doing well, but real household income for average Americans has been falling over the past decade — down 9 percent, according to census data.

"That's not good for America," says Harvard economist Michael Porter. "That's not good for America's standard of living. That's not good for our ultimate vitality as a nation."

Residents of Denton, Texas, voted Tuesday to ban hydraulic fracturing in the city.

According to unofficial results posted on the city's website, 58.64 percent of voters supported banning the controversial drilling method that is also called fracking; 41.36 percent voted against the proposition. It's the first time a city in the energy-friendly state has voted to ban fracking.

The vote is expected to be challenged, but Mayor Chris Watts said he would defend the ban.

Think of California's Santa Barbara County and you might picture the area's famous beaches or resorts and wineries. But in the northern reaches of the vast county, oil production has been a major contributor to the economy for almost a century.

So it's no surprise that the oil industry there is feverishly organizing to fight a local ballot initiative — Measure P — that would ban controversial drilling methods such as hydraulic fracturing. What is turning heads, however, is the sheer volume of money flooding into this local race, mainly from large oil companies.

One of the more striking images during the September flood was of inundated oil and gas pads, washed out earthen berms and overturned storage tanks. In all, over 48,000 gallons of oil and condensate spilled.

While changes have been made in the industry to prepare for another flood, so far, they’re strictly voluntary.

Joshua M via Flickr (CC-BY)

It takes water to produce electricity, but how much water varies a lot depending on the fuel source and the power generating technology.

In Colorado, around half a percent of our total water usage is used to generate electricity.

It’s a small percentage, says Stacy Tellinghusen, water policy analyst for Western Resource Advocates, a non-profit conservation group, but adds that it’s not inconsequential. 

Headlines

  • Hickenlooper Says Oil and Gas Safety is a Top Priority after Flooding
  • Lyons One of Hardest-Hit Areas in Floods
  • iSeeChange - Signs of Floods to Come?
  • Floods Hurt One Grand Junction-area Business
  • Garfield County Gas Emissions Study Moves Forward 
Ali Lightfoot

This election season, some political opinions are being boldly expressed around the North Fork Valley. Yard signs read: “STOP THE WAR ON COAL—FIRE OBAMA.” Area coal miners demonstrated the same message on a rainy afternoon a few weeks ago. KVNF’s Ariana Brocious took a look at the economic realities behind the “war on coal” rhetoric.

In an effort to give the public more information on the impact of oil and gas drilling in their communities – the Colorado Department of Natural Resources is launching a new public database on water quality near drilling well sites. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.