According to a new report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, the last few years have seen the first drop in miles driven annually by Americans since World War II, in large part thanks to a reduction in driving by young people:
From World War II until just a few years ago, the number of miles driven annually on America’s roads steadily increased. Then, at the turn of the century, something changed: Americans began driving less. By 2011, the average American was driving 6 percent fewer miles per year than in 2004.
The trend away from driving has been led by young people. From 2001 to 2009, the average annual number of vehicle miles traveled by young people (16 to 34-year-olds) decreased from 10,300 miles to 7,900 miles per capita — a drop of 23 percent.
“America’s transportation preferences appear to be changing. Our elected officials need to make transportation decisions based on the real needs of Americans in the 21st century,” said Phineas Baxandall, Senior Transportation Analyst for U.S.PIRG Education Fund. However, it’s quite clear that House Republicans in Congress aren’t quite caught up to speed.
The House GOP has been squabbling for months over a bill to reauthorize the nation’s transportation funding, with more conservative members of the caucus wanting to gut funding and send it back to the states to deal with. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), in the transportation bill that he proposed, called for ending the government’s dedicated stream of funding for mass transit, and instead implementing a cockamamie scheme that the Congressional Budget Office said would cover just five percent of mass transit needs.
The New York Times called the GOP’s plan “uniquely terrible,” and as the research organization PolicyLink found, it would have a disproportionately negative impact on minorities, who depend upon mass transit in greater numbers. The Senate, meanwhile, has had none of these problems, passing a bipartisan transportation bill that the House GOP refuses to take up.
More than 3,000 people signed a petition urging Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) to veto legislation which would require public schools to teach the “controversy” surrounding topics like evolution and global warming. Opponents of the bill delivered the petition to Haslam’s office yesterday, where a spokesman said he would make sure the Governor received it. The bill passed the House last year and was approved by the Senate last month. Critics have called the legislation a “monkey bill” in reference to the Scopes “monkey trial” held in Tennessee in 1925, when a biology teacher was convicted for teaching evolution. The bill is also opposed by several newspapers and scientific organizations. Haslam has previously said he would “probably” sign the bill.
Shale Shocked: ‘Remarkable Increase’ In U.S. Earthquakes ‘Almost Certainly Manmade,’ USGS Scientists Report
A U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) team has found that a sharp jump in earthquakes in America’s heartland appears to be linked to oil and natural gas drilling operations.
As hydraulic fracturing has exploded onto the scene, it has increasingly been connected to earthquakes. Some quakes may be caused by the original fracking — that is, by injecting a fluid mixture into the earth to release natural gas (or oil). More appear to be caused by reinjecting the resulting brine deep underground.
Last August, a USGS report examined a cluster of earthquakes in Oklahoma and reported:
Our analysis showed that shortly after hydraulic fracturing began small earthquakes started occurring, and more than 50 were identified, of which 43 were large enough to be located. Most of these earthquakes occurred within a 24 hour period after hydraulic fracturing operations had ceased.
In November, a British shale gas developer found it was “highly probable” its fracturing operations caused minor quakes.
Then last month, Ohio oil and gas regulators said “A dozen earthquakes in northeastern Ohio were almost certainly induced by injection of gas-drilling wastewater into the earth.”
Now, in a paper to be deliver at the annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America, the USGS notes that “a remarkable increase in the rate of [magnitude 3.0] and greater earthquakes is currently in progress” in the U.S. midcontinent. The abstract is online. EnergyWire reports (subs. req’d) some of the findings:
The study found that the frequency of earthquakes started rising in 2001 across a broad swath of the country between Alabama and Montana. In 2009, there were 50 earthquakes greater than magnitude-3.0, the abstract states, then 87 quakes in 2010. The 134 earthquakes in the zone last year is a sixfold increase over 20th century levels.
The surge in the last few years corresponds to a nationwide surge in shale drilling, which requires disposal of millions of gallons of wastewater for each well. According to the federal Energy Information Administration, shale gas production grew, on average, nearly 50 percent a year from 2006 to 2010.
The USGS scientists point out that ”a naturally-occurring rate change of this magnitude is unprecedented outside of volcanic settings or in the absence of a main shock, of which there were neither in this region.” They conclude:
While the seismicity rate changes described here are almost certainly manmade, it remains to be determined how they are related to either changes in extraction methodologies or the rate of oil and gas production.
EnergyWire points out, “all of the potential causes they explore in the paper relate to drilling, or more specifically, deep underground injection of drilling waste.”
Last year, the Department of Energy set up a committee to examine the full range of environmental impacts of fracking. I testified to the members and, in addition to raising the issue about methane leakage and global warming, brought up the issue of earthquakes.
The committee said that they were indeed aware of this issue and ultimately the seven-member panel released a report of environmental guidelines for the natural gas industry, which included call on more research on “Understanding induced seismicity triggered by hydraulic fracturing and injection well disposal.”
It’s time go beyond mere research and start developing national standards to minimize these earthquakes.
Ethical Electric, a new venture by progressive activist Tom Matzzie, aims to transform how Americans get power. The company is electricity-delivery company that will provide 100-percent renewable electricity to its members, while also mobilizing them on progressive energy and climate action.
in an interview with Good’s Sarah Laskow, Matzzie describes how he began working on Ethical Electric when his father, who had spent his life downwind of a coal-fired power plant, died of cancer in 2010:
I’d been a supporter of addressing climate change and clean energy as a progressive, but it became much more personal. I didn’t want to spend any more of my money on dirty energy. I wanted to only support 100 percent clean energy.
Laskow explains that Ethical Electric will operate in deregulated electricity markets as a competitive retail electric provider in Pennsylvania in New Jersey, starting this year:
In deregulated electricity markets, delivering power—maintaining the power lines and the infrastructure that make up the grid—and selling power are two different businesses. If all goes as planned, Ethical Electric will sell power sourced from renewable energy projects to customers, starting this fall in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
As the Washington Director for MoveOn.org, Matzzie mobilized efforts against the Iraq war. He was also Director of Online Organizing for the Kerry-Edwards campaign in 2004 and the Online Mobilization Director at the AFL-CIO from 2000 to 2004.