Archive for February 2013 | Monthly archive page

Across the US, hydraulic fracturing has been the source of a raging debate over domestic energy policy. While some tout “fracking” as a way to generate local power and provide jobs and money in a time of economic hardship, the act of  shattering shale to extract gas and petroleum have many worried. From exploding wells and flammable tap water to toxic chemicals contaminating aquifers and earthquakes, fracking has major consequences for the environment. California stands as the 4th largest gas and oil producing state, and even though new existing wells are already being exploited by fracking technology, the process is almost completely unregulated.

In response to the exploitation of land and natural resources, the Global Exchange has organized California Communities Rising Against Fracking, a speaking tour of the Golden State that exposes the realities of the extraction technology. The tour will largely target those areas that would most strongly impacted and stops include Sacramento, San Luis Obispo, Ventura, Culver City, and Los Angeles. Each stop will host a day of action preceded by a local media plan and outreach groups. Former Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania councilman Dough Shields will be scheduled to speak as one of the first to enact a “rights-based” ban on fracking in the nation.

The Global Exchange launched the Community Rights Program challenging corporate power five years ago to confront the unjust laws that value big business over the rights of citizens. The have partnered with organizations such as 350.org, Center for Biological Diversity, Food & Water Watch, Clean Water Action, EarthWorks, and Transition Towns to fight for the health and well-being of Americans through grassroots efforts. Currently, they are working towards banning fracking in San Luis Obispo county, following the examples of Pennsylvania, New York, and New Mexico who have outlawed the process.

For more information on the tour, contact Shannon Biggs, Community Rights Program Director for the Global Exchange at (415) 575-5540 and shannon@globalexhange.org.

Forget the need for the Keystone XL pipeline or Diablo Canyon’s nuclear reactors. San Luis Obispo’s very own Cal Poly is paving the way for a green energy future thanks to some hearty  microorganisms and the contents of a toilet bowl. A research team dubbed the Algae Technology Group (ATG) has recently been awarded a $1.3 million grant by the Department of Energy to develop biofuels made from municipal wastewater and algae. The tiny plants not only help to clean water efficiently and inexpensively, but also produce energy and sequester carbon. Local governments will soon have a new method to purify water and can even sell to algae feedstock to refineries for a little extra revenue.

The ATG began back in 2006 and has since been working with faculty and students to research water reclamation and energy production. Their current project will use nine large “raceway” style ponds that cover about half an acre at the San Luis Obispo Water Reclamation Facility on Prado Road. Algae will grow in the ponds, using little inputs other than wastewater and sunlight. Some electricity is needed to circulate the water and run related equipment, but engineers believe that much of that energy could come from renewable sources in the future.

While still an emerging technology, the ATG estimates that with only ten percent of the market share in California, algae biofuel could reduce rate payers’ bills by an accumulated $240 million a year. The U.S. Department of Energy predicts that the nation could produce 21 billion gallons of algae biofuel annually. So, between dirty and expensive fossil fuels or cheap energy made from microscopic plants, which alternative would you choose?

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