Chronicling Energy, Climate Change In Southwest

Ari Phillips is on a mission. He wants to travel around the American Southwest for about 50 days examining and reporting on climate change and energy with an eye to revealing the intricacy and reciprocity of the two.

Phillips, with the support of pledges from Kickstarter to pay travel costs like food, lodging and fuel, will be writing while traveling, focusing on locations and issues like Midland, Texas, the heart of the Permian Basin oil and gas play, and Clovis, N.M., the site of  the future Tres Amigas interconnect, which will  tie together the country’s three primary electric grids (WECC, or the Western Electricity Coordinating Council; SPP, the Southwest Power Pool; and ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas).

Dry lake in Southwestern U.S.

image via Kickstarter/Oscar Ricardo Silva

Issues of equal importance are gas fracking in the Permian Basin and the inevitable environmental degradation of critical habitat like the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard, which is already listed as endangered in New Mexico [PDF] and has been proposed for listing in Texas. Phillips also plans to tackle development of energy resources like coal, uranium, wind and solar on Navajo tribal lands. In all, Phillips has focused on nine critical subjects: gas fracking in the Permian; Navajo tribal land development; the impact of Tres Amigas on Clovis, N.M.; climate change in Tonto National Forest, Sedona, Ariz.; Biosphere 2, Tucson, Ariz.; the Mojave Desert; oil drilling off the coast of Santa Barbara, Calif.; Monterey and California state parks; Pacific sea level rise; and cap-and-trade, which we reported on at length in March.

Phillips—who grew up in Santa Fe, N.M., in the heart of the Southwest—is already a reporter of some skill, with work published in the likes of the Austin American-Statesman and Texas Observer.

Approaching his subjects from the viewpoint of accelerating (and eventually catastrophic?) climate change, Phillips plans to collect all his material when he is done and deliver one piece of long-form journalism (10,000 words) for publication in a journal or magazine. Given Phillips’s writing style—highly factual and carefully parsed for clarity—the end goal is clearly within reach.

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