Emma Jacobs

Reporter, WRVO

Former WRVO/Central New York reporter for the Innovation Trail.

Emma Jacobs is a native of Boston. She studied history, so she went for more practical training in public radio at NPR member-stations WNYC and WBUR. She helped shape Wired's Haiti Rewired project, a 2010 Knight Batten Innovations in Journalism Awards notable initiative. 

She's contributed to NPR's National Desk, and to Living on Earth, The Environment Report, Only a Game, Voice of America, and Word of Mouth.  She now reports for WHYY in Philadelphia.



Thu November 10, 2011

High-profile failures "part of maturing" of green tech sector

Beacon Power, now filing for bankruptcy, set up shop to to store power from the grid using flywheels
Tom Ryan via Flickr

Federally subsidized energy projects have struggled recently.

First solar power firm Solyndra shut down, putting the Department of Energy on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in loans. Then Beacon power - another company that had benefited from the same program - filed for bankruptcy.

But Carol Murphy, executive director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York, says the local green energy sector has taken these high-profile failures in stride.  

"If you look nationally it's not just green energy companies," she argues. "People have been jumping on these stories now, but for any startup company there's a high rate of failure."

Read more


Mon October 17, 2011
Reporter's notebook: Road trip

Following New York's power lines to Canada

Here's the route the Innovation Trail will be taking to travel to where the power lines end: New York to Quebec, to Newfoundland & Labrador, and back.
Generated using Travelerspoint

You can’t really talk about power in New York State without talking about Canada.

In 2009, New York produced only 13 percent of what’s referred to as its “primary energy requirements.”  The rest of it - the gas in your car, the coal and natural gas that our power plants burn, the uranium for our nuclear reactors, the power we import directly into our grid - came from somewhere else.

That last part is where Canada fits in. Most of our imported electricity comes from Canadian hydroelectric dams. 

All in all, Canadian hydro accounts for just under six percent of power in New York’s grid [PDF]. In 2010, New York imported almost 3 million megawatt hours [PDF] from Canada, at a cost of about a half a billion dollars.

But that Canadian hydro isn’t without controversy. 

Here in the U.S., former governor Mario Cuomo canceled a huge contract with Hydro Quebec in the 1990s following pressure from Native American and environmental activists. And now there’s a new wave of plants set to come online, with $50 billion worth of construction slated for the provinces of Quebec, and Newfoundland & Labrador, alone.

Read more


Mon October 17, 2011
Marcellus Shale

Cortland clerk fights abusive gas leasing practices

Cortland County Clerk Elizabeth Larkin with a folder of gas drilling leases. Larkin has been turning away gas company documents she doesn't believe have been drafted correctly.
Emma Jacobs WRVO

Elizabeth Larkin's a stickler for the letter of the law. That's made her a bulwark against abusive land leasing practices.

Larkin is Cortland's county clerk, and like others across the state, is one of the few people who sees the contracts made between drilling companies and landowners. Leases are considered private contracts, and therefore aren't overseen by any agency at the state level.

As a result, Larkin says she sees companies try to record improper documents all the time, including adding five year extensions to leases that explicitly rule them out.

Read more


Tue October 11, 2011

'Utica Shale' could push gas drilling further north

An impoundment pond of water for drilling in northern Pennsylvania. The Utica Shale has driven interest in expanding drilling operations further north into central New York and the Finger Lakes.
Helen Slottje via Flickr

Since Chesapeake Energy announced last month that it saw great promise in test wells in Ohio, the public has become newly acquainted with the Utica Shale, the Marcellus Shale's northern sibling.

Monday the Syracuse Post-Standard reported that Norse Energy, which has substantial lease holdings in central New York, has applied for the first permit for a Utica Shale well.

The well, in Chenango County half an hour's drive from Syracuse, is on hold pending the state's regulatory review.

Read more


Fri October 7, 2011

Indian Point closure causes power dilemma for New York

Indian Point, in Westchester County, currently provides 25 percent of New York City's power. However, six percent of Americans live with a fifty-mile radius of its two aging nuclear reactors.
Sono Salvo via Flickr

Last month, Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters that he thinks the power produced by downstate's Indian Point nuclear plant could be replaced, if the plant were to be taken offline.

What Cuomo thinks is important, because he's led the charge to shutter Indian Point, when its reactor licenses expire in 2013 and 2015, for safety reasons.  Six percent of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of Indian Point - the same evacuation zone threshold that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recommended for the Fukushima Daiichi plant following the Japanese earthquake earlier this year.

Not surprisingly, momentum to close Indian Point has increased since March.

But the state now has to figure out how to replace it.

Read more