World Oil: Turning Bakken Oil Well Waste Water Into Clean Geothermal Power

Oil fracking companies seeking to improve their image and pull in a little extra cash are turning their waste water into clean geothermal power.

For every barrel of oil produced from a well, there’s another seven of water, much of it boiling hot. Instead of letting it go to waste, some companies are planning to harness that heat to make electricity they can sell to the grid.

Companies such as Continental Resources Inc. and Hungary’s MOL Group are getting ready to test systems that pump scalding-hot water through equipment that uses the heat to turn electricity-generating turbines before forcing it back underground to coax out more crude.

Popular Science: MIT Invention Turns Salt Into Drinking Water Using Solar Power

A group from MIT and Jain Irrigation Systems came up with a method that uses solar panels to charge a bank of batteries. The batteries then power a system that removes salt from the water through electrodialysis. On the most basic level, that means that dissolved salt particles, which have a slight electric charge, are drawn out of the water when a small electrical current is applied. In addition to getting rid of salt (which makes water unusable for crops and for drinking), the team also applied UV light to disinfect some of the water as it passed through the system.

Bloomberg: Half of U.S. Fracking Companies Will Be Dead or Sold This Year

Half of the 41 fracking companies operating in the U.S. will be dead or sold by year-end because of slashed spending by oil companies, an executive with Weatherford International said.

There could be about 20 companies left that provide hydraulic fracturing services, Rob Fulks, pressure pumping marketing director at Weatherford, said in an interview Wednesday at the IHS CERAWeek conference in Houston. Demand for fracking, a production method that along with horizontal drilling spurred a boom in U.S. oil and natural gas output, has declined as customers leave wells uncompleted because of low prices.

SF Gate: If You Use Less Electricity in California, You May Start Paying More

In the next four years, Californians who use the least electricity may see their utility bills go up -- while those who use the most get a break.

State energy regulators on Tuesday proposed major changes to the way residents pay for electricity in the biggest overhaul of utility rates since California’s energy crisis more than a decade ago. The state’s big, investor-owned utility companies currently charge different prices for electricity based on four “tiers” of usage as a way to encourage conservation.

Washington Post: The Science of Why You Should Listen to Science and Experts

It’s no secret that Americans have trouble with scientific authority. We are, after all, a country nearly half composed of creationists who think humans have been around for only 10,000 years or less.

And experts don’t just suffer at the hands of religious and political ideologues -- they also get flak from their own presumed academic allies. A group of scholars sometimes dubbed “postmodernists” -- no longer trendy, but they were in the 1990s -- has delighted in pointing out that scientific experts themselves nourish all kinds of biases, and can be quite closed-minded in their own way.

But just as it was once academically fashionable to dis experts, the worm is now turning, and many are now standing up for them again.