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Equation for disaster

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By Nadia Steinzor

March 17, 2011

Risk is often defined as a product of two factors: probability and impact. Yet when it comes to the endless quest for fossil fuel energy, it s become all too easy to minimize the latter.

An oil spill on the scale of what happened last year in the Gulf of Mexico was considered so unlikely that BP s drilling operations in the region were exempted from full environmental review. But now there s enough concern about the lasting impacts of what happened that the National Institutes of Health recently launched a major new study to track how residents who assisted with the clean up are faring.

Building nuclear power plants along the coast in a seismically active part of the world may have seemed like a risk worth taking to satisfy Japan s energy needs. Now that the plants are nearing meltdown after a major earthquake and tsunami, this calculation is questionable perhaps particularly from the perspective of the 140,000 people ordered not to go outdoors because of radiation and the plant workers whose lives hang in the balance as they try to prevent further disaster.

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Tagged with: drilling, natural gas, dirty energy, risk


Students teach officials a dirty energy lesson

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By Nadia Steinzor

February 10, 2011

There s nothing like a long, frigid winter to prove what a great idea it is to have well-insulated, energy efficient buildings. President Obama spotlighted research underway at Penn State to develop more such structures during a visit to the campus last week and while there chose not to focus on the university s less laudable energy-related activities.

Maybe that s because in the recent State of the Union address, the President put natural gas in the same category as clean energy sources like wind and solar. This approach jibed with that taken by the Penn State s Board of Trustees, which voted in late January to get the school s steam plant off of coal and onto natural gas.

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Tagged with: natural gas, marcellus shale, pennsylvania, dirty energy, penn state, renewables


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