With so many questions and challenges concerning our energy future and climate change, domestic natural gas has taken off as a “greener” alternative to burning oil and coal. Recent advancements in drilling have vastly expanded the size of the natural gas market. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking (also, frac’ing) as it is often referred, is the process of stimulating wells to extract natural gas (and oil). It involves breaking shale several thousand feet below the surface of the earth by injecting water, sand and chemicals at high pressures to shatter the rock and release the valuable resources. EPA projects that 20% of domestic natural gas will come from shale by 2020. However, as more and more fracking operations crop up from coast to coast, questions of their real environmental costs are also growing.
Fracking has been going on in the United States for more than 50 years, but recent advancements in horizontal fracturing technology have created an explosion in the number of wells and have brought fracking east to states like New York and Pennsylvania. In a sense, fracking has created a modern day gold rush. And because local and state economies have been under extreme economic pressure due to the recession, many officials and locals have-- until recently--welcomed the added revenue from permits and taxes that move in with the drilling companies, not to mention job creation.
A new source of clean energy right in our own back yards, just waiting to be released? Like most things that sound too good to be true, fracking has some serious side effects. Here is my non-scientific summary of the risks.
The chemicals used in the water mixture that is injected into the wells is toxic, but most drilling companies will not disclose the actual make up of their concoctions, labeling them trade secrets. There are concerns about how these chemicals are handled, the impacts they are having underground, and the potential for spills on the ground when they are eventually transported to waste treatment plants. There have been many complaints about fracking chemicals being released into drinking water supplies and because there are convenient Bush-era exclusion to water-safety regulations in the 2005 Energy Bill, fracking companies are not taking all of the precautions they could. (Note that Halliburton is heavily involved in fracking.)
Fracking is a very water intensive process and in areas where water supply is low, residents are concerned that operations can cause scarcity issues.
Manmade retention ponds or pits are used to hold the water/chemical/sand mixture that break the shale, creating giant pools containing toxins like chloride, barium and strontium in the middle of rural lands and forests. There have been reports of wildlife mistaking these ponds as natural bodies of water and being poisoned. In one recent story, cattle were quarantined based on concerns of sending contaminated meat to market after the animals were thought to have been drinking water from a leaking pit adjacent to the farm.
Creation of new underground pathways
There are concerns that new underground pathways will transport not only the chemicals involved in fracking process itself, but also any other spills or plumes that happen to intersect them.
Methane gas leaks
Methane is one of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Scientists have documented that methane from fracking can leak and traveled through underground pathways and eventually be released into the atmosphere. .
Fracking Studies Underway
A 2004 study by EPA showed that fracking was not a risk to groundwater, but with the swath of complaints that have arisen lately, EPA announced in late 2009 that it will revisit this finding. EPA is currently in the process of further defining the study that is set to take place starting this fall and into 2012 by holding public meetings in impacted areas. As Pat Coyne mentioned, one meeting that was supposed to take place in upstate New York last week was canceled when 8,000 people were expected to attend. Organizers are now working to find a larger venue for the meeting.
The growing cases related to fracking operations are quite troubling. When I think about it, I get concerned about whether there will ever be clean, safe energy! It is quite depressing and overwhelming if you let your mind wander… It will be interesting to see where this goes. With any new technology, there are unforeseen risks and it seems like we are just cracking the surface on those involved in fracking …no pun intended. Okay, I realized the pun and left it in so maybe it is intended.
What do you think? Is fracking the next big environmental issue?
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to experience South by Southwest, known to the social media crowd and those like me who use Twitter religously as #SXSW, in Austin Texas. The one word that comes to mind to describe it is "wow". The new technologies and ways to connect, communicate, and market our companies with customers available now and in the not too distant future are mind numbing. And, the venture capital being put behind these new technologies confirms that investors believe in them.
A group of us with about 40+ years of social media and online community experience presented on a panel about Lurkers on Social Media sites. As a follow up to my last post titled Social Media Lurkers: Are They The Most Important Community Members, which has received a number of comments, I thought I would share one of the key data points.
We determined throughout a group exercise that all of us, without exception, either lurk in communities or have at one point. Why is this important? Over the years, the vast majority of people I know, from environmental consultants to stay-at-home parents to college students, tell me that they are not comfortable with posting. However, they now are on social media sites regularly and feel like they don't add any value. That could not be further from the truth. Have you ever shared something you found valuable with your networks, perhaps over coffee, or maybe recommended a product you read about, or perhaps shared some insight on how to handle a problem? Then, you have added value to your communities.
In the last month, not a day goes by when a commonground member who was skeptical at first admits they are receiving tremendous value from many social media sites. The majority still prefer to read vs participate, but two years ago we were thrilled to have 2-3 comments in a day. Today, we have 35-50/day regularly. For our most scenic photo contest:
To our first time posters, thank you. For those of you who have never posted and think about whether you should, it is time to stop overanalyzing it. Everyone I know does the same thing to a certain extent and 100% of the people in Texas, arguably the group who use social media collectively more than any group out there, are all lurkers too - without exception!
Moving forward, let's think of ourselves as "learners" consuming information in the ways that work for us. When the time or topic is right, we just might jump into the conversation, check in on Foursquare, or sign up for Twitter account.
For now, know that you are in good company so join the conversation when or if the time is right. For those of you who recently have, we look forward to learning from you.
Social Media Clubhouse – What I learned lurking around the sxswlurkers hashtag
Urban Life Digital Magazine – Learning at SXSW
Corporate Executive Board – Are you neglecting your most important community members
Last week I blogged about how Gen Y is putting off homeownership along with the commitment and expense that comes with it. By renting, twenty-somethings are able to spend money on things like electronics, travel, and grad school instead of being weighed down by mortgages, maintenance and taxes. I came across a great post to the Green Shoots Blog on NREI.com (consistently great reading) noting that young renters don't seem to consider the environment before signing their leases. Commercial real estate analysts are very interested in how competitive LEED certified and other "green" building will compete with the clunkier supply of real estate already on the market. While there is not a lot of data yet-mostly because so few green buildings have been resold to date-there is anecdotal evidence that office and retail tenants are willing to pay more for and are more attracted to energy-efficient buildings for reasons like energy savings, employee satisfaction, and PR. However, the apartment market may be a little different, especially with young renters on tight budgets.
I thought this graph was super intriguing. But, it begs the question: is Gen Y unwilling or unable to spend the money for energy-efficient digs? It also made me realize that I hadn't thought about this myself in my recent apartment-hunting activities, despite the fact that I follow LEED as part of my job. Maybe it is an awareness issue? LEED certified buildings have a lot to offer tenants outside of the warm-fuzzy feeling from saving the planet. The air quality is usually better due to the incorporation of indoor gardens and the use of low-VOC paints and other healthy construction materials. They often integrate lots of handy features like bike racks, preferential parking for hybrids, and on demand water heaters. Maybe the way to push green living to Gen-Y is by appealing to its selfish side?
While watching the local news last week a saw a short segment about how qualified job-seekers are submitting thousands of resumes and never being called back. The segment included an interview with a “highly qualified” woman who claimed to have submitted her resume to dozens of websites and hasn’t gone on an interview in months. The reason: her resume is being overlooked by search engines that scan resumes for specific keywords related to the jobs companies are trying to fill. My first reaction: “Umm, duh? Get with it local news!” But upon further consideration, I thought about how keyword optimization can be challenging for job seekers, especially those who are looking to change roles and industries or for those not familiar with the concept of keywords.
In today’s day of 9% unemployment (i.e. lots of resumes out there!), short-staffed HR departments and advanced search technology, almost all resumes submitted online are stored in a bank and are only pulled for human review when keywords associated with a particular job opening are matched. So if your resume does not include the right keywords and you don’t know someone who will physically pass on your resume to HR or a recruiter, it may never get looked at, even if you are the perfect candidate for the job.
Here are a few tips and tricks to optimizing your resume for search engines.
With a little bit of research and forward thinking, you’ll be able to create a resume that not only represents your experience and goals, but is also easy for search engines to pick out. For more reading on this subject, sites like Monster and CareerBuilder have dozens of articles and even tools that help you analyze your resume. Good luck with your job search! And if you’re looking for an environmental job, be sure to check out the commonground job board. We’ve had a lot of new jobs listings posted in the past few weeks!
While working your “day job” may already be taking up too much of your time, getting involved in industry organizations may be just the thing you need to advance your career. Here are my top five reasons why.
So get out there! Influence others, learn new things, and have fun.
What groups do you find most valuable to expanding your reach and knowledge?
Maybe it is just the summer, but lately I’ve been thinking that a four-day workweek would totally rock! The concept is that employees start work an hour earlier and leave an hour later Monday-Thursday and then begin the weekend on Friday, maintaining the 40 hour workweek. There are many reasons why employers have switched to four day workweeks, reducing environmental impact, energy savings and cost cutting, topping the lists. However, employee satisfaction is also a major reason to implement a four day workweek. But there are some draw backs to this schedule, however sweet free-Fridays sound.
Since last summer, 80% of the employees of the State of Utah have worked 10-hour days Monday through Thursday, allowing the city to close buildings that house its non-essential services on Friday. Work4Utah's goal was to save about $2 million a year from the $11 billion budget and to cut CO2 emissions by 3,000 metric tons. However, recent reports noted that the program was not as successful as the state had hoped. It turns out the state could not keep some employees away on Friday! The state was unable to close about 100 of the 1,000 buildings it had originally marked to participate in the program, and was only able to reduced energy usage by 13%, missing its goal of 20%. Reports noted that the state is still working out the kinks in how to most effectively close buildings to reap the highest energy savings. State employees had mixed reactions to their newly-imposed schedules last summer, but more recent survey data shows that 70% of employees prefer the condensed schedule to a traditional five day workweek. Employees report that they are able to do things like spend time with family, volunteer, and travel during their three day weekends. But others find the long work day daunting. A common complaint is that waking up early to be into work by 7 am and not leaving until 6 pm renders you exhausted and unable to maintain normal life activities after office hours, leaving the weekends packed with errands and chores that are usually done on weekday evenings. Parents are challenged by coordinating transportation and supervision for their children in the evening hours and find themselves missing out on soccer games and homework time. While there is definitely a big adjustment to be made, the benefits seem to outweigh the challenges.
I am a proponent of the four day workweek. Especially for workers with office jobs, I think a condensed schedule makes perfect sense. Outside of Utah’s 13% energy savings is the energy saved from employees not having to drive to and from work on Friday. Some employers are switching to the four day workweek in the recession in lieu of raises, because not have to commute on the 5th day results in a significant savings for employees. Having fewer people on the road as often could also decrease car accidents, save on road construction, and reduce traffic.
Besides these financial benefits, I personally love the idea of reclaiming 50 days a year to use as I see fit! Most of you reading this probably agree that no matter how you try, you end up working 10 hours a day even with a five day schedule! After office hours, many of us end up doing the inevitable hour or so of “catching up” on things we didn’t get to do in the office as we unwind at home. With all the meetings that we attend each day, it seems like we need more time in the workday to handle our actual tasks.
If we all arrived at work an hour earlier and stayed an hour later, there would be more productive hours in our weeks. Here is how I figure: we waste time regrouping on everything we worked on in the previous days that we didn’t have time to finish. Every morning we spend a large chunk of time going through emails and checking in with our bosses and coworkers on the day’s projects. Unexpected things come up, meetings run late and before you know it, it is 5:00 and all your coworkers are filtering out of the office, leaving you without the support you may need to finish your tasks.
Cost reduction, energy savings, happier employees, cleaner environment, safer roads, wow, this four-day-workweek-thing is looking better and better! Okay, I’ve sold myself, how ‘bout you, management?
One of the reasons why I am very passionate about social networking is that in the business world, it is still considered a new and emerging trend although it really has been around for many years. With any "new" trend, there are so many challenging questions to answer and try to figure out that it never gets boring or dull to me.
One topic in particular that is constantly scrutinized and debated is "participation".
For any of the social networking experts and newbie's, we often struggle with participation metrics. What is good? What is bad? How come only a limited number of members seem to actually participate and so many seem to lurk? Why is it that someone will email me a question and not actually post it within the community? It becomes this heated debate with a lot of great viewpoints and questions about the viability of a network, what the resulting hesitancy means, and ultimately whether the the members are receiving enough value.
Anyone who reads my blogs regularly, likely notices that often times I mention that I "recently had a conversation", or "was attending an event", or "was meeting with friends, coworkers, or relatives", and a topic of conversation intrigued me.
When you consider your family functions, your teams, your office - any situation where there is a group of people with a common bond having a conversation - whether it is a serious one or one at a bar over beers. Did you ever notice that only a few folks talk 90% of the time and the vast majority listen? Some members listen for a bit and walk away. Some stay the whole time and do not say a word. And some can stand around as part of the group the whole time and never say a word - ever. The two or three folks who talk tend to control the conversation and command the attention.
What is my point?
We are all wound a bit differently. My personality is such where I am a very transparent person who is very social and far from "shy". I also like to both listen and participate. You might be like me, but you also could be the type who would prefers to remain quiet. It is just who we are. Therefore, my advice is to consider these very basic fundamentals when thinking about quantifying the success of your social networking success. Don't look at situations and think that everyone should be participating - realize that some people never will, but they will get significant value regardless of whether they ever say a word or not if the content of the discussion is intriguing and deemed valuable. Therefore, focus on generating compelling content if you truly want to improve participation and not on overanalyzing participation patterns.
Each year the same family members attend family functions, each week that team shows up for their weekly hockey game, and each day those coworkers come to work - even the ones who don't talk as much as I do.
There is no reason why you should expect the online channel to be any different....
For the past two days, I attended the Inbound Marketing Summit at Gillette Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots - the best NFL team of the ERA. Sorry Larry and other non - Boston sports fans. I had to add that.
The event talked about ways to help improve marketing effectiveness and ultimately sell more. Over the course of the next week, I intend to share some nuggets that I found were very valuable during the two days.
What should come as no surprise to anyone is that many environmental professionals are trying to figure out new and innovative ways to generate marketing exposure, leads, and sales. Our market has changed - as have most. However, as a whole, the environmental professional - consultants, lenders, attorneys, geologists, etc. are a little slower to adopt social media than other markets, such as the retail, travel, and technology industry. Why? Those industries are generally early adopters - and they are seeing the fruits of their labor and commitment. Once the b2c markets seem to find success, b2b markets seem to follow when it comes to advances in emerging technologies.
I had the pleasure of watching a presentation about Southwest Airlines. They have made a full commitment to social media. What does that mean? Paula Berg, a very intelligent and inspiring social media professional at Southwest shared that it is a directive that social media will be an integrated part of the customer experience at Southwest for all new initiatives. Seems like a pretty big commitment. Why would they do something like that?
First, Southwest Airlines has 750,000 twitter followers and on an average day add 7,000 new followers. Recently, they ran a short promotion and just used social media. What happened? Well, this promotional approach produced the biggest sales week in the 38 year history of Southwest Airlines.
The second thing that blew my mind was the Southwest Airlines rap video. I live on the web, but somehow I had not seen it. I have included the video below. A passenger on a Southwest flight ran a video of a flight attendant who decided to mix it up a bit from the same monotonous pre-flight speech we have heard hundreds of times.. Check it out for yourself.
This Youtube video has now been seen almost 2.5 million times, has been reviewed by over 10,000 fans/customers/critics, and has received a 5 star rating on a scale of 1 (low) - 5 (highest). The flight attendant and video has received coverage from all major media outlets and he was included recently on the Jay Leno show.
And, if that wasn't enough, there are over 7,000 customer submitted photos that have been added on the SouthWest Airlines Flickr site.
As a result of their success, Southwest has a social media team that consists of 6-7 dedicated individuals as it is quickly becoming core to all new and emerging business. Why? They realize that word of mouth and social media are changing marketing, sales, and ultimately customer relationships - and have now have no problem proving their case.
We should all learn from Paula Berg and her team. Even though most (or any) of our member firms don't have the budget of Southwest (that I am aware of), the beauty is that you don't need one to do similar things.
Imagine if just one thing you posted on a social networking site took off and you got that type of exposure - what would that do for your business?
Typically, I have a lot to say and try to provide insight to members about social media. After viewing this, I am speechless!
I encourage you to watch this video from Glenn Beck:
It is about seven minutes in length, but it is well worth your time.
Could this have really happened? Really? Look forward to your comments.
I remember when I was growing up (insert wise crack here), our family always took a summer vacation. Our parents would pack us up in the car, hit the road, and we would drive for what seemed like days. We would get lost, they would pull out maps which would evolve into a disagreement, and inevitably we would stop at the gas station for directions. When we arrived, no matter how we got there, the kids would have that renewed excitement and burst of energy, while our parents would tend to unwind and disconnect from the world. The only way someone could get in touch with them was to call the hotel phone number, which they would leave behind with a few friends or family members, in case of emergency only. Sound about right?
I am now a few days back from a week off which included a few days away. On the way out the door, my wife asked me if I had printed my hotel confirmation, directions, and all relevant information and I said no. She said don’t we need them and I answered nope. After all, it really wasn’t necessary - I manage my life from my iPhone. As I mentioned in my previous post, I always have it either attached to my ear, fingers, or hip.
Everyone told me I should disconnect; after all, I work in social networking which does not have a start and end time each day. Therefore, I left the laptop behind because rumor has it they don't like to be left in cars all day in the 100 degree sun. When I had a free moment, I did it - I read my work and personal emails, spent time on commonground, and used the other technology tools that are simply part of my work and personal life. I consume news stories on commonground all day long, subscribe to blogs, and discussions. Why? It interests me and is what I do, even though it is still part of my job. I wanted to know what was going on with the Gulf Oil Spill as we were planning coverage, and the discussions were picking up. I checked emails three or four times per day out of habit. Luckily, I only made and took a handful of work related calls and did everything possible to not jump into the fray.
What is my point?
Again, I found myself trying to compare the past and present, specifically how things used to be when my parents went on vacation, versus today. While I did, my kids sat in the back of the car watching movie after movie occasionally asking “how long til we get there?” between shows. We used our GPS navigation, cordless wireless head phones, separate sound systems for the front seat and back, and our air conditioned car seats. People who needed to reach me could, I could search the web anytime I needed to (think about how many times you do each week), and I made a couple of purchases from my phone saving me time and getting me things I wanted. We could share what was happening with people who were interested when it was happening versus after we got home.
I kept coming back to whe n I w a s y o u n , i f you wanted to turn on the AC , you rolled the window down and hoped not to sit in traffic. If t h e r e w a s t r a f f i c , you made a fan out of a piece of paper.
What is better? Depends on how you look at it.