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energy

Each person in the U.S. uses 20 pounds of coal every day. Since 1986, about 40 percent of America’s coal continues to come from Wyoming. It’s a lot of coal, especially considering that some label the United States as the “Saudi Arabia of coal.”

As a Republican dominated Congress settles into Washington, they are taking over key Senate committees dealing with energy.

Chad Igo owns Pecan Creek Catering in New Cordell, Okla., which delievers food to workers in the oil patch.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The sign on the front door says “closed,” but Pecan Creek Catering in New Cordell, Okla., is open for business. Out back, a tractor-trailer is being unloaded. Giant cans of green beans, tomatoes and mushrooms are hauled inside, where they’re sorted and stacked on metal shelves.

In the kitchen, Jennifer Etris pours a carton of buttermilk into a giant bowl and stirs.

“I cheat,” she says. “I use two of these ranch dressing mixes instead of one. It is known all over the world, my ranch dressing.”

Oklahoma had a fivefold surge in earthquakes last year, making it by far the most seismically active state in the Lower 48, EnergyWire reports:

Demonstrators outside the Norman City Hall before a city council committee met to discuss changes to oil and gas drilling rules.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

About 60 demonstrators gathered in front of the Norman City Hall Wednesday evening before the city council’s oversight committee met to discuss changes to the Norman’s oil and gas drilling regulations.

The Central Oklahoma Clean Water Coalition hosted the rally. Organizer Casey Holcolm says the current ordinances were written before fracking became so widespread.

A representative for Pedestal Oil Company explains the Lake Hefner drilling proposal to a crowd gathered in the Ed Lycan Conservatory at Will Rogers Gardens.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A rowdy crowd of concerned residents shouted at city officials and questioned representatives of an oil company at a Thursday night meeting about a proposal to drill near Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City.

Drive down gravel Road 22 in Nebraska's York County, past weathered farmhouses and corn cut to stubble in rich, black loam soil, and you'll find a small barn by the side of the road.

Built of native ponderosa pine, the barn is topped with solar panels. A windmill spins furiously out front.

Known as the Energy Barn, it's a symbol of renewable energy, standing smack on the proposed route of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline — a project of the energy giant TransCanada.

NextEra Renewable Energy Resources' wind farm near Elk City, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The 2015 session is still months away, but the newly elected Oklahoma Legislature has already started talking about how to divvy up roughly $7 billion in state appropriations.

Some prominent lawmakers are promising to re-examine tax credits and economic incentives worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Some of those incentives are used for wind energy, which the industry says are working.

Big Wind

Ozone is a major contributor to smog, seen here blanketing Los Angeles.
Pieter Edelman / Flickr

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal for stricter ozone standards has been praised by environmentalists as a step in the right direction and derided by industry groups, which argue the rules will cost jobs and lead to higher prices for electricity and natural gas.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

The cost of producing and providing electricity generated by solar panels and wind turbines has plunged in recent years, and are on track to meet — and in some markets are already beating — the generation costs of conventional sources like coal and natural gas.

Ed Schipul / Flickr.com

The lowest holiday gasoline prices in five years are expected to result in an increased number of Oklahomans traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

AAA Oklahoma estimates nearly 602,000 Oklahomans will travel this year during the holiday — the highest volume since 2007 and a nearly 5 percent increase over 2013.

The agency estimates 90 percent of the travelers — 542,000 people —will get to Thanksgiving destinations by car, pickup or RV — 4.8 percent more than last year. Another 49,000 residents will fly — a 3.4 percent jump.

A panel of state geological surveys and oil and gas regulators at the National Seismic Hazard Workshop on Induced Seismicity, held in November at a conference center in Midwest City, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Scientists, regulators and technical experts from the energy industry met in Oklahoma to discuss how earthquakes triggered by oil and gas operations should be accounted for on national seismic hazard maps, which are used by the construction and insurance industries and pubic safety planners.

The three-day workshop started Nov. 17 and was co-hosted by the Oklahoma Geological Survey and the U.S. Geological Survey.

A Frack Free Denton booth at the University of North Texas. On Nov. 4, voters approved a citywide ban on hydraulic fracturing.
Crystal J. Hollis / Flickr

Driven by water worries, safety questions and quality of life concerns, residents in Oklahoma and states around the country have pushed for citywide bans on hydraulic fracturing.

Many of those efforts have proved successful, but, in the end, fracking bans might be more about lawyers than voters.

A drilling rig in far northwest Oklahoma City.
Kool Cats Photography / Flickr Creative Commons

Crude oil prices have plummeted to the lowest level in three years, a slump analysts say is fueled by reduced demand due to stalling growth in Europe and China, andbooming supply from domestic production in the U.S.

In Oklahoma — a state where, historically, finances have risen and fallen with the fortunes of the energy industry — the tumbling oil price has been met with different reactions from oil and gas company executives, economists and state finance officials.

Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater, questions Secretary of Energy and Environment Michael Teague at an interim study and hearing about earthquakes and disposal well oversight held in October 2014.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s earthquake surge is unrelenting. The shaking is rattling residents and cracking the foundations of homes.

The quakes have also strained state agencies, which are struggling to keep up with the ongoing swarm while simultaneously developing a longer-term plan to analyze and address factors that might be triggering the earthquakes.

'Meaningful Action'

Gov. Mary Fallin and Secretary of Energy and Environment Michael Teague at the Governor's Energy Conference September 4, 2014 in Oklahoma CIty.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s earthquake surge and possible links to oil and gas activity have been studied in scientific papers, discussed at heated town-hall meetings and explored regulatory hearings.

The quakes are now triggering some rumblings at the state Capitol.

About 4,000 earthquakes have shaken Oklahoma this year, data from the Oklahoma Geological Survey show. Most of the quakes have been small — roughly 10 percent were 3.0-magnitude or greater, the threshold at which seismologists say the temblors are likely perceivable.

Monte Tucker, left, stands with his son and dad on the family's farm near Sweetwater, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

In the ongoing debate about Oklahoma’s wind industry and whether it needs stricter regulation, two types of property owners have been the most vocal: those who hate the idea of turbines next door, and those eager to lease land to a wind company.

But there’s a voice that’s been largely absent from the discussion so far: Landowners who have wind farms and like them.

Family, Factory

The solar power business is growing quickly in the U.S. More than 500,000 homeowners and businesses installed solar panels in just the first half of this year, according to a Solar Energy Industries Association report.

When people get electricity from the sun, they don't buy it from their local power company. But that utility still must have the generators and power lines to provide electricity when the sun is not shining. That's creating conflicts across the country.

Al Jazeera Plus produced a 10-minute video on Oklahoma’s earthquake swarm, which included interviews with worried residents and activists and explored some of the science that has linked the seismic surge to wastewater disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry. 

Oklahoma City attorney and legislative watchdog Jerry Fent, who has successfully challenged laws in the past, comes out of a hearing room at the State Supreme Court, where a referee heard his lawsuit over House Bill 2562.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

An Oklahoma City attorney who challenged the constitutionality of a bill that changed the effective tax rate levied on oil and gas drillers asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday to dismiss his lawsuit.

From The Oklahoman‘s Rick Green:

Joy Hampton / The Norman Transcript

The Lowry Room at the Norman Public Library filled to capacity Monday night, and a mass of people packed into the hallways to listen to a forum on hydraulic fracturing that included an OU scientist, an assistant city attorney, and a lawyer from upstate New York who’s helped communities there ban fracking.

StateImpact’s Logan Layden moderated the event as each panelist made a presentation, and read questions from the audience.

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