B12 Solipsism

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Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

Coverage of environmental issues may include climate change, pollution, environmental degradation, and resource depletion etc.

Trump Inadvertently Cripples U.S. Coal Exports

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Everything If You Want Things

Everything If You Want Things

The Cheeto-in-Chief’s shoot from the hip governing style has struck again, this time screwing his big time buddies, the US coal industry. I giggled.

On Monday, at the urging of the U.S. timber industry, Trump imposed tariffs of up to 24 percent on imports of Canadian softwood lumber. The issue of Canadian lumber imports has been vexed for years, but this latest hardball from Trump—especially at a time when he is threatening to pull the United States out of NAFTA—hit a nerve with Canada. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to stand up for Canada’s lumber industry, warning, “You cannot thicken this border without hurting people on both sides of it.”

Today, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark dropped a bombshell tweet, saying, “It’s time to ban thermal coal from BC ports.” In a letter to Trudeau, she wrote:

For many years, a high volume of U.S. thermal coal has been shipped through BC on its way to Asia. It’s not good for the environment, but friends and trading partners cooperate. So we haven’t pressed the issue with the federal government that regulates the port.

Clearly, the United States is taking a different approach. So, I am writing you today to ban the shipment of thermal coal from BC ports.

Clark goes on to note the success of the Beyond Coal movement in shutting down coal terminals on the U.S. Pacific Coast:

As you may know, over the past five years, every proposed coal export facility on the West Coast of the United States has been rejected or withdrawn, typically as a result of ecological or environmental concerns. . . . Oregon, Washington, and California have all made significant commitments to eliminate the use of coal as a source of electricity for their citizens. In fact, in August 2016, Governor Jerry Brown of California signed Bill 1279 that banned the provision of any state transportation funding for new coal export terminals.

Due to the lack of U.S. terminals, Clark says, U.S. exports through Canada have been increasing. Last year, she says, 6.2 million tons of U.S. thermal coal moved through the Port of Vancouver, and the number was expected to increase in the future.

(click here to continue reading D’oh! Donald Trump Inadvertently Cripples U.S. Coal Exports | Sierra Club.)

Maybe If You Slowed Down
Maybe If You Slowed Down

a little background about the lumber dispute which led to the imposition of tariffs: doesn’t seem like it is that clear of a “win”.

The average American’s stake in all of this — or the average Canadian’s, for that matter — is considerably less clear than the Trump administration’s rhetoric would imply.

As a lumber producer, Canada enjoys a basic advantage over the United States: a timber inventory that’s 13 times greater, per capita, according to Daowei Zhang, a professor of forest economics and policy at Auburn University who has made a career of his own studying this never-ending kerfuffle. Canada’s resource endowment, plus exchange rates and many other economic factors, helps explain the rise of Canadian softwood-lumber imports from a mere 7 percent of the U.S. market during the Korean War to 30 percent or so in recent years.

U.S. producers emphasize the fact that Canada’s forests are government-owned, whereas most U.S. timber stands are on private land. Provincial agencies set the price loggers must pay — delightfully known as the “stumpage fee” — for cutting down pines and other conifers, a.k.a., “soft” wood. U.S. producers say that this results in below-market stumpage fees for Canadian loggers — or, as the U.S. industry contends, a subsidy.

A 2105 Congressional Research Service report called evidence on this point “widespread, but inconclusive.” The U.S. side has not fared well in international arbitration. Even so, Canada has agreed to a series of temporary market-sharing agreements, the most recent of which expired in the waning days of the Obama administration, thus freeing the Trump team to take its new position, whether in earnest or as posturing ahead of a NAFTA renegotiation remains to be seen.

The best thing for the public, in both countries, would be to use market mechanisms to allocate timber resources to the maximum extent feasible, then allow free cross-border trade in lumber as in (almost) everything else. May the most efficient producer win!

Certainly, limiting imports of Canadian lumber, whether through tariffs or by negotiated agreement, will make U.S. housing more expensive, since Canada supplied roughly 31 percent of the U.S. market for softwood lumber in 2016 and softwood lumber accounts for about 7 percent of the construction cost of a home, according to the Washington-based National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

The NAHB, another D.C. lobby that the softwood-lumber dispute periodically activates, estimates that the jobs that Trump’s latest move saves in American saw mills would be offset elsewhere, resulting in a net loss of 8,241 U.S. jobs, $498.3 million in wages and salaries, and $350.2 million in taxes and other government revenue.

No doubt the housing lobby is a dubious proxy for the public, given its own dependence on government market manipulation and subsidies. Yet, in this case, the NAHB study illustrates a valid point: The Trump administration is not proposing to protect America from Canada; it’s proposing to protect certain American special interests from certain Canadian special interests.

(click here to continue reading Trump has set out to protect lumber workers. Instead, he’s helping lobbyists. – The Washington Post.)

So Trump purses his lip, imposes a tariff on Canadian lumber to show how “tough” he is against those meanie Canadians, and ends up screwing his coal producing buddies. Doh! Coal is a dirty, dying business, and shouldn’t be propped up in any circumstance.

Oh, and since I had to look it up: thermal coal is coal used for power generation, as opposed to metallurgical coal used mostly for steel production.

Written by Seth Anderson

April 27th, 2017 at 9:02 am

Posted in Business,environment,politics

Tagged with ,

Whale Oil, Horse & Buggies Will Never Again Be The Driver of US Economy

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Tourist Trolley Ketchikan

Coal mining, lumber, whale oil extraction: none of these industries are going to be resurrected to save the working classes of the United States, those eras are over, and are not returning. No amount of new regulation or removal of existing regulation is ever going to bring those jobs back.

Sadly for all of us, many Trump voters expect him to be able to magically recommission steel plants, to make coal a cost efficient means to create energy, and so on.

To see where things get more tangled, head into the damp woods of the Cascade Range in central Oregon, and the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, where a long economic decline began in the late 1980s as international trade shifted timber markets to places like Canada, and automated mills eliminated tens of thousands of jobs. Those computer-run mills are not going away even if more logs start arriving.

“We really don’t have a clear and easy path to go back to the good old days when natural resource extraction was driving our economy,” said Sean Stevens, the executive director of Oregon Wild, a conservation group. “It is not as easy as just logging more,” he said.

But the hopes, and the fears, about how that system might now change are boundless.

“My big hope is that people would be able to go back to work in San Juan County and these rural areas,” said Phil Lyman, a county commissioner in southern Utah, where antigovernment feelings run as deep as the slot canyons. “You just feel like everything has been stifled with regulations.”

Robot, living in the future
Robot, living in the future

Republicans in Congress have proposed bills weakening federal laws that protect wilderness, water quality, endangered species or that allow presidents to unilaterally name new national monuments. Some conservatives hope Mr. Trump will support their efforts to hand federal land over to states, which could sell it off or speed up drilling approvals.

Uranium mines around the Grand Canyon. Oil drilling rigs studding the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. New coal and timber leases in the national forests. States divvying up millions of acres of federal land to dispose of as they wish.

To environmental groups, it would be a nightmare. To miners, loggers, ranchers and conservative politicians in resource-dependent areas, it would be about time. Either way, Donald J. Trump’s election presages huge potential change on America’s 640 million acres of federal public lands, from the deep seas east of Maine to the volcanic coasts of Hawaii.

(click here to continue reading Battle Lines Over Trump’s Lands Policy Stretch Across 640 Million Acres – The New York Times.)

This Tree Is Older Than You

This Tree Is Older Than You

and on that topic from D Watkins:

A common theme that’s being tossed around is that Trump’s election was the white working class’ chance way to say “F**k you!” to the political elites who forgot about them, sucked up their factory jobs and left them out to dry. I take issue with this for a number of reasons.

The first and most obvious reason is this: How do you buck a system ruled by elites by electing a billionaire who was born rich, employed the Mexicans he blamed for taking jobs away and could never possibly understand someone else’s struggle? Next, I don’t fully understand the term “hard-working whites.” I come from the blackest community in one of the blackest cities, and I don’t know how not to have 10 jobs. Everybody I know has 10 jobs, even the infants. Black people, Asians and Mexicans alike work their asses off, so why is the “hard-working white” class even a voting bloc?

What’s sad is that these angry, hard-working white people don’t understand that they saw more economic gains under President Obama than they did under George W. Bush. Unemployment went down across the board except among African-Americans — the rate actually doubled for us — so those folks should be praising Obama, not championing Trump or subscribing to all this alt-right B.S.

Then there’s the myth of returning factory jobs. It’s not a real thing! And trust me, I used to subscribe to the same ideas, all caught up in the nostalgia of the old dudes from my neighborhood. My friend Al’s grandpa used to park his Cadillac on Ashland Avenue, hop out and roll up on us nine-year-olds like, “Finish high school, get a job at Bethlehem Steel and your future is set!” He’d spin his Kangol around backwards, pull out a fistful of dollars, give us each a couple and continue, “I made so much money at the steel factory, my lady ain’t worked a day in her life! I bought a house that I paid off and that shiny car right there! Yes sir, life is good!”

Those jobs were long gone by the time we came of age, at Bethlehem Steel and almost every place like it across the country. They weren’t taken by Mexicans or sent overseas — industries changed, new products were made and robots were invented that could do the job of 10 men and work all night without complaining. Those beautiful factory positions for uneducated hard-working whites (or anybody else) aren’t coming back, and I don’t care what Trump says. What’s even weirder is that we have created a generation of people complaining about jobs that they have never had and will not see in their lifetime — and again, for what?

(click here to continue reading Dear hard-working white people: Congratulations, you played yourself – Salon.com.)

Satanic Gift
Satanic Gift

Written by Seth Anderson

November 22nd, 2016 at 11:05 am

Posted in Business,environment

Tagged with , , ,

Brexit buzz Re the fate of England’s honeybees

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Bee Cee Honey
Bee Cee Honey

As a brief follow-up to yesterday’s question about future food crops in England post-Brexit: the honeybees are also in the divorce negotiation apparently.

SURBITON, England — The honeybees buzzing inside the hives in this community garden outside of London appear blissfully oblivious of the follies of man. But the political drama that has engulfed their human keepers since Britain voted to leave the European Union could ensnare them as well.

Few have bothered to consider what the country’s historic decision to end its four-decade alliance with the continent will mean for the humble arthropod. Gaining far more attention have been the passionate debates over the merits of immigration and the limits of globalization that fueled the nation’s desire to quit the E.U.

But unraveling any marriage is a complicated affair, and the fate of Apis mellifera highlights how entangled Britain has become with the 27 countries beyond the English Channel. At stake are the future of European regulations of pesticides that could threaten the 250,000 hives on this island nation; medicines that can be used to treat honeybee ailments; and funding for inspectors responsible for ensuring the health of Britain’s bees.

The honeybee falls under the jurisdiction of the European Food Safety Authority. The E.U. produces more than 200,000 tons of honey for human consumption each year, but officials’ interest is not merely culinary. Bees are a critical pollinator of Europe’s farm crops, and their indirect impact on agriculture is estimated to be 22 billion euros, dwarfing the sales of honey. Beekeepers hope that means their interests would not be ignored in any future discussions.

Beekeepers are divided over what Britain’s departure from the E.U. will mean for their hives. Generating the most buzz is a temporary ban on pesticides, known as neonicotinoids, used by farmers. Environmentalists and bee enthusiasts had lobbied for the moratorium after noticing that bees exposed to the chemical appeared to act drunk — becoming disoriented and getting lost.

Now the question is whether Britain will keep the ban or roll it back.

“Environmental issues cross political boundaries. In order to tackle them, you have to work together,” said Norman Carreck, science director at the International Bee Research Association. “If the U.K. leaves, everything is open to negotiation.”

To those who supported remaining in the E.U., the moratorium is exactly the type of regulatory minutiae that the alliance is supposed to alleviate. A centralized bureaucracy helps Britain compete in an increasingly interconnected world. Rather than negotiate with 28 agencies over pesticide use across Europe, beekeepers need only deal with one. A unified bloc also gives Britain greater leverage in negotiations with other world leaders. Collectively, the E.U. is the largest economy in the world — bigger than the United States. Alone, the United Kingdom is a distant fifth.

(click here to continue reading The latest Brexit buzz is about the fate of England’s honeybees – The Washington Post.)

Gee, Dad, What’s That?
Gee, Dad, What’s That?

Written by Seth Anderson

August 20th, 2016 at 9:43 am

Thursday Leftovers – Plate 5

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Some snacks while you wait…

Exiled and Wandering
Exiled and Wandering

Road innovation, what’s not to love?

Founded in 2008, in Chicago, IL, LANDLOCK® Natural Paving, Inc has set out to solve the world’s infrastructure needs, both in road building and dust suppression.   Our reach is global, and we’re proud to be the industry leader in our field.

Unpaved and poorly paved roads have been identified as infrastructure barriers to profitable development: by individual nations, businesses, city planners and supranational organizations (the World Bank and the United Nations) alike.

The United States alone has over 1.5 million miles of unpaved roadways, leading to transportation inefficiency, destructive airborne pollution and unsafe transportation.

Asphalt, as a primary paving solution, has increasingly proven expensive and environmentally irresponsible because of its reliance on crude oil, poor durability, need for maintenance and pollution.

To respond to this need for a reliable, cost-effective and durable paving solution, LANDLOCK® has emerged as a respected, reliable international distributor of a patented paving technology that is among the most cost-effective, durable, strong, sustainable and easy to build. Most of all, it is superior to asphalt: less expensive, more durable, easier to install and more sustainable.

Environmentally, asphalt incurs a high cost because of the toxic footprint of the fuel-inefficient trucks that must drive back and forth to the plant; and because of the petroleum in asphalt that leaches into the groundwater and, when hot, pollutes the air, proving toxic for the workers laying the asphalt. Finally, the added cost of maintenance comes into play when inevitable erosion and potholes arise with time and changing climate patterns, necessitating frequent repeats to the whole expensive process.

 

(click here to continue reading About Us | LANDLOCK® Natural Paving | The Future of Road Building is Here….)

The Waiting is The Hardest Part
The Waiting is The Hardest Part

I think we can all agree that the TSA should be abolished, sooner than later:

The TSA is hard to evaluate largely because it’s attempting to solve a non-problem. Despite some very notable cases, airplane hijackings and bombings are quite rare. There aren’t that many attempts, and there are even fewer successes. That makes it hard to judge if the TSA is working properly — if no one tries to do a liquid-based attack, then we don’t know if the 3-ounce liquid rule prevents such attacks.

So Homeland Security officials looking to evaluate the agency had a clever idea: They pretended to be terrorists, and tried to smuggle guns and bombs onto planes 70 different times. And 67 of those times, the Red Team succeeded. Their weapons and bombs were not confiscated, despite the TSA’s lengthy screening process. That’s a success rate of more than 95 percent.

It’s easy to make too much of high failure rates like that. As security expert Bruce Schneier likes to note, such screenings don’t have to be perfect; they just have to be good enough to make terrorists change their plans: “No terrorist is going to base his plot on getting a gun through airport security if there’s a decent chance of getting caught, because the consequences of getting caught are too great.”

But even Schneier says 95 percent was embarrassingly high, and probably not “good enough” for those purposes. If you’re a prospective terrorist looking at that stat, you might think smuggling a gun onto a plane is worth a shot.

Schneier isn’t a TSA defender by any means. He likes to note that there’s basically zero evidence the agency has prevented any attacks. The TSA claims it won’t provide examples of such cases due to national security, but given its history of bragging about lesser successes, that’s a little tough to believe. For instance, the agency bragged plenty about catching Kevin Brown, an Army vet who tried to check pipe bomb-making materials. Brown wasn’t going to blow up the plane — the unfinished materials were in his checked luggage — but if the TSA publicized that, why wouldn’t it publicize catching someone who was trying to blow up the plane?

(click here to continue reading The TSA is a waste of money that doesn’t save lives and might actually cost them – Vox.)

Chicago Sun-Times News Shack
Chicago Sun-Times News Shack

People like Peter Thiel would be better served if they left the United States and started their own country somewhere else, leaving the rest of us normals alone:

Peter Thiel, foremost among Silicon Valley’s loopy libertarians and the first outside investor in Facebook, has written an essay declaring that the country went to hell as soon as women won the right to vote.

Thiel is the former CEO of PayPal who now runs the $2 billion hedge fund Clarium Capital and a venture-capital firm called the Founders Fund. His best-returning investment to date, though, has been Facebook. His $500,000 investment is now worth north of $100 million even by the most conservative valuations of the social network.

On the side, though, his pet passion is libertarianism and the fantasy that everything would be better in the world if government just quit nagging everybody. But, now he’s given up hope on achieving his vision through political means because, as he writes in Cato Unbound, a website run by the Cato Institute, all those voting females have wrecked things

(click here to continue reading Facebook Backer Wishes Women Couldn’t Vote.)

I’d be very leery of doing business with Mr. Thiel, he seems like he could fly off the handle very easily, and hold a grudge about it for years. But you might never hear about it, because the media that covers Silicon Valley is more like a PR machine than journalistic:

I would like to think that I would know more about whether this sort of thing is typical of Thiel’s behavior because there would be enough evidence of it one way or the other in tech press. But I don’t think there would be. A lot of self-censoring happens in the tech industry because people fear blowback — and in a way that I haven’t experienced in finance or publishing. Entrepreneurs genuinely worry that capital markets won’t be accessible to them if they express any kind of criticism, or talk about the bad things that happen in the industry. (I am not of that opinion, obviously, but as the former CTO of a big tech co told me a couple of weeks ago with a bit of an eyeroll, “you’re not normal anyway, Spiers.”)

Another factor: I think Thiel aside, tech press is largely fawning toward successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, and mostly unintentionally. Journalists who haven’t worked in tech themselves are sometimes genuinely and sincerely enamored with the promise of what they’re looking at and are so dazzled that they fail to ask the questions they should. Some of them are lazy and it’s always easier as a journalist to write the glowing lightweight story, where no one’s going to press you to nail down the facts and you won’t get any blowback from sources or subjects. Ultimately, this has created a sense of entitlement in the industry where denizens of Silicon Valley expect the media to actively support them and any negative portrayals are met with real anger and resentment, even when they’re 100% accurate. And it’s never the media’s job to support the industry — that’s PR. It’s the media’s job to cover it, the good and the bad. But if you’re not used to being covered, and that would describe 99% of the tech industry, the scrutiny can be uncomfortable.

(click here to continue reading On Peter Thiel and Gawker : Elizabeth Spiers.)

Trump Stamp
Trump Stamp

Does Donald Trump have a long history with the mob? David Jay Johnston thinks Trump might:

6. Trump Tower is not a steel girder high rise, but 58 stories of concrete.

Why did you use concrete instead of traditional steel girders?

7. Trump Tower was built by S&A Concrete, whose owners were “Fat” Tony Salerno, head of the Genovese crime family, and Paul “Big Paul” Castellano, head of the Gambinos, another well-known crime family.

If you did not know of their ownership, what does that tell voters about your management skills?

8. You later used S&A Concrete on other Manhattan buildings bearing your name.

Why?

9. In demolishing the Bonwit Teller building to make way for Trump Tower, you had no labor troubles, even though only about 15 unionists worked at the site alongside 150 Polish men, most of whom entered the country illegally, lacked hard hats, and slept on the site.

How did you manage to avoid labor troubles, like picketing and strikes, and job safety inspections while using mostly non-union labor at a union worksite — without hard hats for the Polish workers?

10. A federal judge later found you conspired to cheat both the Polish workers, who were paid less than $5 an hour cash with no benefits, and the union health and welfare fund. You testified that you did not notice the Polish workers, whom the judge noted were easy to spot because they were the only ones on the work site without hard hats.

What should voters make of your failure or inability to notice 150 men demolishing a multi-story building without hard hats?

11. You sent your top lieutenant, lawyer Harvey I. Freeman, to negotiate with Ken Shapiro, the “investment banker” for Nicky Scarfo, the especially vicious killer who was Atlantic City’s mob boss, according to federal prosecutors and the New Jersey State Commission on Investigation.

Since you emphasize your negotiating skills, why didn’t you negotiate yourself?

12. You later paid a Scarfo associate twice the value of a lot, officials determined.

Since you boast that you always negotiate the best prices, why did you pay double the value of this real estate?

(click here to continue reading 21 Questions for Donald Trump.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 26th, 2016 at 8:11 am

In Novel Tactic on Climate Change, Citizens Sue Their Governments

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Is this weird or what?

No One Knows What We Are Thinking Unless We Tell
No One Knows What We Are Thinking Unless We Tell

The governments of the world are dragging their feet, so good for these citizen activists. 

Global warming is already disrupting the planet’s weather. Now it is having an impact on the courts, as well, as adults and children around the world try to enlist the judiciary in their efforts to blunt climate change.

In the United States, an environmental law nonprofit is suing the federal government on behalf of 21 young plaintiffs. Individuals in Pakistan and New Zealand have sued to force their governments to take stronger action to fight climate change. A farmer in Peru has sued a giant German energy utility over its part in causing global warming.

And while the arguments can be unconventional and surprising, some of the suits are making progress.

Last month, a federal magistrate judge in Oregon startled many legal experts by allowing the lawsuit filed on behalf of 21 teenagers and children to go forward, despite motions from the Obama administration and fossil fuel companies to dismiss it; the suit would force the government to take more aggressive action against climate change. The ruling by the magistrate judge, Thomas M. Coffin, now goes to Federal District Court to be accepted or rejected.

(click here to continue reading In Novel Tactic on Climate Change, Citizens Sue Their Governments – The New York Times.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 11th, 2016 at 8:42 am

At Energy-Minded U.S. Hotels, They’ll Turn the Lights Off for You

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Rooms 75 cents
Hotel Rooms 75 cents…

Technology used to reduce energy use – seems like a good idea. Why isn’t this technique being used everywhere?

American hotels have long resisted key cards or other energy-saving systems. Energy was cheap, and hoteliers feared that guests, who routinely left their rooms with the lights and air-conditioner on, would see any check on their energy use as an inconvenience.

Hotel guests “have a feeling that they paid for the space and they can use it freely, and there’s a natural tendency not to be too conscious of their energy use,” said Brian Carberry, a director of product management for Leviton Manufacturing Company, of Melville, N.Y., which makes key card switches and other energy-saving devices for hotels.

But the aversion of hoteliers in the United States is slowly shifting as Americans have become more energy conscious and more states and municipalities have adopted rigorous building codes for energy use.

In 2014, the latest year for which figures are available, 29 percent of hotels surveyed by the American Hotel and Lodging Association had a sensor system in guest rooms to control the temperature, compared with less than 20 percent in 2004; and more than 75 percent had switched to LED lighting, up from less than 20 percent. Other energy-saving measures had also been more widely adopted.

Energy costs typically represent 4 to 6 percent of a hotel’s overall operating expenses, with the largest share for heating and air-conditioning.

 …

Many major hotels in the United States have digitally controlled thermostats to monitor the temperature in guest rooms, said Pat Maher, a retired Marriott executive who is a consultant to hotels on energy management.

And a growing number, he said, have installed sophisticated systems that sense when a room is occupied. When a hotel guest enters a room, the device allows the temperature to be manually controlled within a certain range — from 60 to 80 degrees, for example — and then sets it back into an energy-saving mode when the room is vacant again.

Mr. Maher said such a system could save a hotel 20 percent or more in energy costs. And many utility companies, he noted, now offer rebates to hotels that have installed digital thermostats and other energy management devices.

(click here to continue reading At Energy-Minded U.S. Hotels, They’ll Turn the Lights Off for You – The New York Times.)

I fail to see the downside to this idea, other than the hotel’s investment in the new technology, but even that seems like it would be recouped sooner than later. Would you really care if the lights were off when you entered your hotel room? And the air-conditioning wasn’t cranked to 63ºF? I wouldn’t. 

Written by Seth Anderson

May 10th, 2016 at 7:47 am

Clinton And West Virginia Clash Over Coal and Math

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While this topic is not strictly technology as defined by my editor, energy sources and methods are certainly technology related.

Everything If You Want Things
Everything If You Want Things

Anyway, this is the part of Hillary Clinton’s mind that irks me and many others who want to be able to vote for her in the general election. Rather than tell West Virginians the truth that coal is the energy source of the past, not the future, Ms. Clinton apologized for speaking the truth in front of a different audience.

Voters in Appalachian coal country will not soon forget that Democrat Hillary Clinton told an Ohio audience in March that she would “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”

“It was a devastating thing for her to say,” said Betty Dolan, whose diner in this mountain hamlet offers daily testament to the ravages that mining’s demise has visited upon families whose livelihood depends on coal.

Mine closures, bankruptcies and layoffs are staples of lunchtime conversation for those who have not fled town in search of work. Like many fellow Democrats in the region, Dolan, 73, favors Republican Donald Trump for president, however rude he might seem to the proprietor of a no-frills restaurant known for its graham cracker pie.

“I’m going to go for the person who wants coal,” she said.

(click here to continue reading Clash between Trump and Clinton over coal foreshadows a tough fight for her in battleground states – Chicago Tribune.)

and even went so far as to apologize! Come on…

front-running Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton in West Virginia, where a pledge the former U.S. secretary of state made two months ago to kill coal miners’ jobs in favor of renewable energy continues to haunt her.…She had added that she doesn’t intend to abandon workers “who did the best they could to produce the energy we relied on” and apologized directly last week to an out-of-work foreman who confronted her in Williamson, West Virginia, but the general sentiment hasn’t played well in coal country.

“That was really a devastating comment,” said Robert DiClerico, a professor emeritus of political science at West Virginia University. He said he believes Clinton’s remark more than any other factor has boosted Sanders.

(click here to continue reading Hillary Clinton faces primary challenge in West Virginia coal country – Chicago Tribune.)

Solar Panels - Chicago Center for Green Technology
Solar Panels – Chicago Center for Green Technology

Mining coal is not even that big of a part of the Appalachian economy! 5% or something close to that per Wikipedia – $3.5 billion / $63.34 billion = approximately 5.5%

[West Virginia] has a projected nominal GDP of $63.34 billion in 2009 according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis report of November 2010…Coal is one of the state’s primary economic resources, first discovered in the state in 1742. The industry employs 30,000 West Virginians directly, resulting in $2 billion in wages and a $3.5 billion economic impact

(click here to continue reading Economy of West Virginia – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

In other words, coal is not that big of a slice of West Virginia’s current economy, more important for intangible reasons, like “optics”, and “tradition”, and “tradition” and other empty words. Ms. Clinton shouldn’t worry about putting coal miners out of business, she ought to suggest re-education programs to train coal extraction employees to work in solar and wind and other alternative energy fields instead! They get to keep being productive members of the 21st Century, and we make advances towards ameliorating global climate change.

Instead, she said this:

The exchange during a visit to a health center in Williamson, West Virginia, highlighted the challenge Democrats will face in November winning over working-class voters in states where that have lost jobs in manufacturing and mining.

“I don’t mind anybody being upset or angry” about the struggles of the industry, its workers and their families, Clinton said. “That’s a perfect right for people to feel that way. I do feel a little bit sad and sorry that I gave folks the reason and the excuse to be so upset with me because that is not what I intended at all.”

“I don’t know how to explain it other than what I said was totally out of context from what I meant because I have been talking about helping coal country for a very long time,” she responded at the start of several minutes of back-and-forth with Copley. “I understand the anger and I understand the fear and I understand the disappointment that is being expressed.”

(click here to continue reading Clinton walks back coal remarks after confrontation in West Virginia – Chicago Tribune.)

and also, most maddening, Hillary Clinton’s pandering is not even necessary – West Virginia is not going to suddenly vote for a Democrat in the general election! They are a reliable Republican state!

David Myers, an out-of-work miner, echoed the profanity Trump has repeatedly used on Twitter to repudiate global warming. Like Trump, Myers and others in coal country say misguided plans to stop it are costing jobs.

“A man of my caliber should be able to get a job in a blink of an eye, but there’s no jobs to be had,” said Myers, 49, who wore miner coveralls to Trump’s rally.

Trump has dismissed global warming as a “canard,” “hoax” and “total con job,” citing cold weather snaps as evidence.

On the day of Obama’s 2012 reelection, Trump tweeted: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” In September, he told CNN, “I don’t believe in climate change.”

(click here to continue reading Clash between Trump and Clinton over coal foreshadows a tough fight for her in battleground states – Chicago Tribune.)

It's Not Just A Job. it's An Adventure. Navy.
It’s Not Just A Job. it’s An Adventure. Navy.

update: both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton already have retraining proposals, fwiw:

“We just don’t want to be forgotten,” said Betty Dolin, who co-owns a restaurant in Danville, about 20 miles southwest of Charleston, where customers tucked into hearty meals like meatloaf and country fried steak with gravy.

She pointed out the empty tables that would once have been filled. “We can’t have coal? Bring us something else,” she said. “And I don’t mean job training. A lot of these men are too old to train for another job.”

Presidential primaries tend to bring attention to local issues as candidates move from state to state, and as the candidates have come to West Virginia to campaign, coal has been no exception.

“These communities need help,” Mr. Sanders said last week at a food bank in McDowell County. “It is not the coal miners’ fault in terms of what’s happening in this world.”

In some ways, Mr. Sanders is not a natural candidate to be courting the votes of coal miners: He is outspoken on climate change and advocates moving away from fossil fuels. But his message of economic fairness has been embraced by white, working-class voters.

Mr. Sanders has proposed legislation that would provide $41 billion to help coal and other fossil fuel workers and their communities, offering support like financial assistance and job training.

Mrs. Clinton has her own $30 billion plan to help coal miners and their communities, including a program to provide funding to local school districts to help make up for lost revenue.

(click here to continue reading Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton Court West Virginians Hit Hard by Coal’s Decline – The New York Times.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 10th, 2016 at 7:29 am

Oil Industry Begs Court to Block Rail Transport Safety Rules Because of Cost

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All That Meat and No Potatoes
All That Meat and No Potatoes…

Shocking, I know, but Exxon Mobil and Chevron, et al, don’t want to alter their profit streams, asking to be able to continue sending bomb trains throughout the country. The reason? Updating the safety equipment would cost money. What a compelling argument, worthy of a 6th grade debate team. 

The American Petroleum Institute, the industry’s main trade group, petitioned the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to block key provisions of the rules, which were unveiled this month by Anthony Foxx, the transportation secretary. The petition was filed on Monday.

The trade group, which represents companies like Exxon Mobil and Chevron, has long argued that forcing oil producers and shippers to use newer tank cars and replace older models would impose high costs on the industry and lead to a shortfall in tank car capacity.

The petition seeks to block a requirement that older tank cars be retrofitted with new safety features designed to prevent them from spilling oil or rupturing in a derailment. It also challenges a requirement that tank cars be equipped with new electronic braking systems or face operational restrictions.

 

(click here to continue reading Oil Industry Asks Court to Block Rail Transport Safety Rules – NYTimes.com.)

If Exxon Mobil were forced to spend $100,000,000 updating the bomb cars,  ((a number I just pulled out of the air, and probably a lot more than they would actually pay)) would it be a large enough number to reduce their annual profits measurably? In 2014 alone, ExxonMobil reported revenue of $394,105,000,000. Chevron’s reported revenue for 2014 was $211,970, 000,000 by the way. I would hazard a guess their accountants are top notch, and most of the costs of updating bomb trains would be written off as operating expense, right? The oil industry has been making immense, unimaginable profits for decades, or more.

In other words, protesting that updating the rail cars so that they don’t blow up communities and cause fires that last for weeks because updating the rail cars would cost too much is a lame argument. Cries pleading poverty from corporations as wealthy as Chevron is laughable. 

Love Is Letting Go
Love Is Letting Go

Not that the Transportation Department and Barack Obama will listen to me, but my negotiation points would include the tax subsidies the oil and gas industry currently enjoy: fix the bomb trains and you get to keep half of your tax subsidies. 

The oil industry’s lobbyists like to argue that its array of tax write-offs (which allow companies to deduct everything from drilling costs to the declining value of their wells) aren’t any different than other deductions for less publicly reviled companies. Cutting them will discourage new exploration and put jobs at risk, they claim.

Yet, some of the breaks are anachronisms that date back almost to the days of John D. Rockefeller. And in a world of permanently high crude prices, there’s very little rationale for subsidizing the bottom lines of companies like ExxonMobil and BP.   

Make no mistake, either: Those profits are perfectly healthy. Between drilling and refining, Exxon’s U.S. operations alone earned $7.5 billion after taxes in 2012. California-based Occidental Petroleum Corporation, one of the so-called “independent” oil companies and the top oil driller in Texas, raked in $7.1 billion via its oil and gas division. 

(click here to continue reading America’s Most Obvious Tax Reform Idea: Kill the Oil and Gas Subsidies – The Atlantic.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 13th, 2015 at 9:20 am

Apple Response To National Center for Public Policy Research Re Climate Change

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Apple Store with Tree
Apple Store with Tree

From Apple, Inc.’s 2015 Proxy Statement is this proposal from conservative think tank, The National Center for Public Policy Research. We’re quoting the proposal, and Apple’s response to it (which boils down to a long-winded no, are you crazy?, for many reasons). This think tank exists mostly for the task of “dispelling the myths of global warming by exposing flawed economic, scientific, and risk analysis”, and to publicly scold corporations that drop support for ALEC, so you can imagine why they are pressuring Apple. For the lolz, of course. And to support their corporate masters…

On page 62 of the Proxy Statement:

Proposal No. 5 – Shareholder Proposal The Company has been advised that The National Center for Public Policy Research, 501 Capitol Court, N.E., Suite 200, Washington, D.C 20002 (the “NCPPR”), which has indicated it is a beneficial owner of at least $2,000 in market value of the Company’s common stock, intends to submit the following proposal at the Annual Meeting: Risk Report

and the proposal:

WHEREAS, The Securities and Exchange Commission has recognized that climate change regulations, policy and legislation pose a business risk to companies. One risk is that federal, state and/or local government policies, adopted in whole or in part due to climate change concerns, that subsidize renewable energy and upon which company business plans rely may be repealed or altered. These changes in policy may be significant, and may come with little advance notice to the company.

RESOLVED: Shareholders request that the Board of Directors authorize the preparation of a report, to be issued by December 2015, at a reasonable cost and excluding proprietary information, disclosing the risk to the company posed by possible changes in federal, state or local government policies in the United States relating to climate change and/or renewable energy.

concluding with

Apple Inc. has made renewable energy a priority. The Wall Street Journal reported on September 17, 2013, “Apple Inc. now gets 16% of its electricity from solar panels and fuel cells that run on biogas.” One state in which Apple has significant renewable energy investments is North Carolina, which may soon repeal its law providing advantages for renewable energy production, following a report by two think-tanks concluding that this law will cost state consumers $1.845 billion between 2008 and 2021. Subsidies and policies favorable to renewable energy also are being challenged in other states and also at the federal level, where renewal of the approximately $12 billion wind production tax credit (PTC) is challenged annually and in the past has only been renewed at the very last minute, following closed-door negotiations by lawmakers. The PTC’s future is impossible to predict. 

Apple Logos
Apple Logos

Apple’s response:

The Company’s Statement in Opposition to Proposal No. 5 The Board recommends a vote AGAINST Proposal No. 5. This proposal would result in the production of a narrowly focused report that would yield an incomplete and therefore inaccurate analysis of the Company’s exposure to risks associated with changes in government policies with respect to climate change and renewable energy. In effect, the proponent is asking the Company to spend valuable time and limited resources analyzing hypothetical changes in U.S. federal, state or local governmental policies. The Company has already presented an analysis of the risks and opportunities associated with climate change on its website at www.apple.com/environment/climate- change and in its public filings with the SEC, as well as in a shareholder-requested and industry- recognized reporting tool, the CDP questionnaire.

and continues:

The additional report would therefore provide little to no additional value. As explained on its website, the Company believes climate change caused by emissions from burning fossil fuels is a real problem, and has committed to reducing the Company’s carbon footprint.

The Company also provides detailed information on its renewable energy and sustainability efforts in its annual Environmental Responsibility Report, available online at www.apple.com/environment/reports.
In 2014, the Company also provided detailed responses to the CDP questionnaire. Those responses, requested by shareholders, outline the Company’s views on the risks and opportunities of dealing with climate change. The report requested by the proponent would focus on one domestic aspect of climate change potential risk.

This approach distorts the global realities of climate change risk for the Company and its shareholders. The Company continually evaluates its reliance on both traditional and alternative energy sources and regularly makes decisions to mitigate the Company’s exposure to potential price increases, supply shortages and changes to federal, state and local government policies related to the environment. The Company’s public filings and reports already provide substantial disclosure regarding the Company’s approach to renewable energy and sustainability.

For example, with respect to regulatory risks, the Annual Report included a risk factor entitled “The Company is subject to laws and regulations worldwide, changes to which could increase the Company’s costs and individually or in the aggregate adversely affect the Company’s business.” This risk factor specifically addresses potential changes in laws and regulations, which could “make the Company’s products and services less attractive to the Company’s customers, delay the introduction of new products in one or more regions, or cause the Company to change or limit its business practices.”

The report requested by the proposal would not, in substance, provide any more meaningful detail than the Company’s existing disclosures nor would it justify the use of significant resources associated with preparing such a report. The Company believes that the fulsome disclosure already publicly available in the Company’s public filings and on the Company’s website are more than adequate to address the underlying issues outlined in the proposal. The Company also believes that producing the report requested by the proposal would not be an efficient use of Company resources nor an effective way to protect shareholder value.

Let’s hope this proposal fails. I voted against it1

Footnotes:
  1. I once bought 11 shares of Apple with some extra money I made, I only regret I didn’t purchase more, especially as these shares have risen dramatically in value, and then split seven-for-one in 2013. If I had bought more Apple shares when they were $85 instead of paying health insurance, for instance, maybe I could have some money in the bank… []

Written by Seth Anderson

January 28th, 2015 at 9:26 am

Keystone XL Pipeline and Carbon Keynesianism

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Twists and Turns
Twists and Turns.

During the very first week of the 114th Congress, the new agenda was made clear: Bills to end the Affordable Care Act, to restrict abortion rights, to stop Obama’s immigration plan, and a bill to build the Keystone XL pipeline.

New Approved Keystone XL Pipeline Route

New Approved Keystone XL Pipeline Route

Paul Krugman laughs, and points out the absurdity of the GOP’s Carbon Keynesianism…

It should come as no surprise that the very first move of the new Republican Senate is an attempt to push President Obama into approving the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from Canadian tar sands. After all, debts must be paid, and the oil and gas industry — which gave 87 percent of its 2014 campaign contributions to the G.O.P. — expects to be rewarded for its support.

Building Keystone XL could slightly increase U.S. employment. In fact, it might replace almost 5 percent of the jobs America has lost because of destructive cuts in federal spending, which were in turn the direct result of Republican blackmail over the debt ceiling.

Oh, and don’t tell me that the cases are completely different. You can’t consistently claim that pipeline spending creates jobs while government spending doesn’t.

Consider, for example, the case of military spending. When it comes to possible cuts in defense contracts, politicians who loudly proclaim that every dollar the government spends comes at the expense of the private sector suddenly begin talking about all the jobs that will be destroyed. They even begin talking about the multiplier effect, as reduced spending by defense workers leads to job losses in other industries. This is the phenomenon former Representative Barney Frank dubbed “weaponized Keynesianism.”

And the argument being made for Keystone XL is very similar; call it “carbonized Keynesianism.” Yes, approving the pipeline would mobilize some money that would otherwise have sat idle, and in so doing create some jobs — 42,000 during the construction phase, according to the most widely cited estimate. (Once completed, the pipeline would employ only a few dozen workers.) But government spending on roads, bridges and schools would do the same thing.

And the job gains from the pipeline would, as I said, be only a tiny fraction — less than 5 percent — of the job losses from sequestration, which in turn are only part of the damage done by spending cuts in general. If Mr. McConnell and company really believe that we need more spending to create jobs, why not support a push to upgrade America’s crumbling infrastructure?

So what should be done about Keystone XL? If you believe that it would be environmentally damaging — which I do — then you should be against it, and you should ignore the claims about job creation. The numbers being thrown around are tiny compared with the country’s overall work force.

(click here to continue reading For the Love of Carbon – NYTimes.com.)

The worship of Mammon.jpg
The worship of Mammon” by Evelyn De Morgan[1]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Infrastructure improvement? Blasphemy! Spending money to fix bridges, roads, water supply pipes, commuter rails – that’s Socialism! But building a massive pipeline to ship oil from Canada to China via the Gulf of Mexico is God’s commandment. If you consider Mammon a God that is…

Written by Seth Anderson

January 12th, 2015 at 9:27 am

A Pacific Isle, Radioactive and Forgotten

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Marshall Islands On My Globe

The United States military and civilian government both really screwed over the Marshall Islands. Horrifying.

THERE is no consistent air service to the coral atoll of Enewetak in the Marshall Islands, where the United States tested 67 nuclear weapons between 1946 and 1958. On my first trip to the capital, Majuro, in 2010, to study the danger posed there by the rising ocean, I managed to get on a special flight taking dignitaries to Enewetak for the dedication of a school. From there, I boarded a small boat to visit a nuclear waste dump that the world had all but forgotten.

The Marshall Islands are only about six feet above sea level. Its survival and that of other island nations are on the minds of negotiators gathering this week in Lima, Peru, for a United Nations climate change conference.

This place stands out for its misfortunes: ravaged first by radioactivity from tests conducted after World War II and, now, by the rising seas that threaten to swallow it.

(click here to continue reading A Pacific Isle, Radioactive and Forgotten – NYTimes.com.)

All Your Dreams Won't Protect You
All Your Dreams Won’t Protect You

Detonated an insane amount of nuclear weaponry, then split the scene like a bad morning-after date…

Bikini was so radioactive that there was little hope of allowing its displaced population ever to return home. But the military studied how to clean up Enewetak so that at least some land could become habitable again. The Defense Department concluded that there was so much soil contaminated with cesium-137 and strontium-90 that the safest approach was to leave it alone and let it decay naturally. Both have half-lives of about 30 years.

But also left behind by the blasts was plutonium-239, which has a half-life of 24,000 years. With enough plutonium-239 in the right form, a bomb could be made. That is why the United States participated in a $150 million operation, completed in 2012, to secure and clean up the plutonium at a Soviet-era nuclear test site in Kazakhstan.

At Enewetak, the United States decided in the late 1970s to dump as much plutonium-contaminated soil as it could gather into a 33-foot-deep crater on Runit that had been carved out in 1958 by a bomb roughly the size of the one detonated over Hiroshima.

In addition to the contaminated soil, crews filled 437 plastic bags with plutonium chunks they had picked up from the ground, left behind when one bomb misfired. These also went into the crater, which was then covered with an 18-inch-thick concrete cap. Most of the rest of the radioactive waste, with too little plutonium to trouble with, was bulldozed into the lagoon, over the objections of the Environmental Protection Agency and the displaced people of Enewetak. American officials also chose to leave radiation on the land at levels far higher than would be allowed after a similar cleanup in the United States.

Northern Mariana Islands
Northern Mariana Islands

and with typical American nonchalance for the future, the US didn’t really plan for what would happen to the nuclear waste beyond a few years:

Longevity was not among the design criteria for the Runit dome (unlike Yucca Mountain in Nevada, where, until recently, the federal government planned to deposit its spent nuclear fuel deep underground in facilities designed to be safe for at least one million years). In fact the dome does not meet American standards for landfills for household trash.

A task force of the federal government’s National Research Council warned in 1982 that the dome might be breached by a severe typhoon. But a 2013 report sponsored by the Department of Energy saw no reason to worry. “Catastrophic failure of the concrete dome,” it said, “and instantaneous release of all its contents into the lagoon will not necessarily lead to any significant change in the radiation dose delivered to the local resident population.”

The reason, according to the report, was that the radiation inside the dome was “dwarfed” by the radiation in the sediments in the lagoon. Thus a leak from the dome would be no added threat because it is dirtier on the outside than the inside. Plutonium isotopes recently discovered in the South China Sea have been traced to the Marshall Islands, some 2,800 miles away.

An inspection last year found that the dome was deteriorating, and the radioactive groundwater below rises and falls with the tides. Storms wash sand onto the dome; vines grow in the cracks.

Oh, joy…

Wasted Youth - Guam 1998
Wasted Youth Wanna Make Fight – Guam 1998

You should click through and read the rest of Michael B. Gerrard’s article, you’ll be amazed and terrified. And as the Pacific Ocean rises, all of this nuclear waste is going to sent right into all of our food supplies. Guam may be a thousand miles away or so, but that’s too close for my comfort. We all still live on the same planet…

Written by Seth Anderson

December 7th, 2014 at 5:15 pm

Los Angeles, City of Water

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A Vacuous Dream
A Vacuous Dream, Manhattan Beach, CA.

Wild! So there is hope that our upcoming Water War won’t be as dire. Well, maybe the Water War will get delayed long enough for the rising ocean to make it moot anyway…

LOS ANGELES is the nation’s water archvillain, according to public perception, notorious for its usurpation of water hundreds of miles away to slake the thirst of its ever-expanding population. As a character in “Chinatown,” the noirish 1974 film starring Jack Nicholson that churns through the city’s water history, puts it, “Either you bring the water to L.A., or you bring L.A. to the water.”

Recently, however, Los Angeles has reduced its reliance on outside sources of water. It has become, of all things, a leader in sustainable water management, a pioneer in big-city use of cost-effective, environmentally beneficial water conservation, collection and reuse technologies. Some combination of these techniques is the most plausible path to survival for all the cities of the water-depleted West.

One sign of Los Angeles’s earnestness is its success in conservation: The city now consumes less water than it did in 1970, while its population has grown by more than a third, to 3.9 million people from 2.8 million. Two projects — a nine-acre water-treating wetland constructed in a former bus maintenance yard and a water management plan devised for a flood-prone district of 80,000 people — won awards this year from the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure. The city itself won one of the first water sustainability awards given by the U.S. Water Alliance, in 2011.

(click here to continue reading Los Angeles, City of Water – NYTimes.com.)

We're Going To Find Out
We’re Going To Find Out…

Written by Seth Anderson

December 7th, 2014 at 4:42 pm

Energy Firms in Secretive Alliance With Republican Attorneys General

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The Dark Doesn't Hide It
The Dark Doesn’t Hide It.

Here are real world consequences of removing all vestiges of restraint of corporate purchase of elected officials, only partially hidden corruption. We are getting the best politicians money can buy, in other words, with the obvious point being it isn’t our money, but corporate dollars that have all the buying power.

The letter to the Environmental Protection Agency from Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma carried a blunt accusation: Federal regulators were grossly overestimating the amount of air pollution caused by energy companies drilling new natural gas wells in his state.

But Mr. Pruitt left out one critical point. The three-page letter was written by lawyers for Devon Energy, one of Oklahoma’s biggest oil and gas companies, and was delivered to him by Devon’s chief of lobbying.

The email exchange from October 2011, obtained through an open-records request, offers a hint of the unprecedented, secretive alliance that Mr. Pruitt and other Republican attorneys general have formed with some of the nation’s top energy producers to push back against the Obama regulatory agenda, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

Attorneys general in at least a dozen states are working with energy companies and other corporate interests, which in turn are providing them with record amounts of money for their political campaigns, including at least $16 million this year.

(click here to continue reading Energy Firms in Secretive Alliance With Attorneys General – NYTimes.com.)

Cheap for corporations, $16,000,000 isn’t very much when gutting environmental law is the end result. Remember your high school history books and how indignant the outrage was when discussing the Teapot Dome Scandal? Well, this is a gazillion or two times worse…

Unconventional Solutions
Unconventional Solutions…

Here’s a brief refresher of the Teapot Dome Scandal via Wikipedia:

In the early 20th century, the U.S. Navy largely converted from coal to oil fuel. To ensure the Navy would always have enough fuel available, several oil-producing areas were designated as Naval Oil Reserves by President Taft. In 1921, President Harding issued an executive order that transferred control of Teapot Dome Oil Field in Natrona County, Wyoming, and the Elk Hills and Buena Vista Oil Fields in Kern County, California from the Navy Department to the Department of the Interior. This was not implemented until 1922, when Interior Secretary Fall persuaded Navy Secretary Edwin C. Denby to transfer control.

Later in 1922, Albert Fall leased the oil production rights at Teapot Dome to Harry F. Sinclair of Mammoth Oil, a subsidiary of Sinclair Oil Corporation. He also leased the Elk Hills reserve to Edward L. Doheny of Pan American Petroleum and Transport Company. Both leases were issued without competitive bidding. This manner of leasing was legal under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920.

The lease terms were very favorable to the oil companies, which secretly made Fall a rich man. Fall had received a no-interest loan from Doheny of $100,000 (about $1.32 million today) in November 1921. He received other gifts from Doheny and Sinclair totaling about $404,000 (about $5.34 million today). It was this money changing hands that was illegal, not the leases. Fall attempted to keep his actions secret, but the sudden improvement in his standard of living prompted speculation.

(click here to continue reading Teapot Dome scandal – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

Discarded Cautions
Discarded Cautions.

Sound familiar? Except in this case, the public isn’t outraged, or even well informed that elected officials are getting paid off in such a brazen manner. 

Out of public view, corporate representatives and attorneys general are coordinating legal strategy and other efforts to fight federal regulations, according to a review of thousands of emails and court documents and dozens of interviews.

“When you use a public office, pretty shamelessly, to vouch for a private party with substantial financial interest without the disclosure of the true authorship, that is a dangerous practice,” said David B. Frohnmayer, a Republican who served a decade as attorney general in Oregon. “The puppeteer behind the stage is pulling strings, and you can’t see. I don’t like that. And when it is exposed, it makes you feel used.”

For Mr. Pruitt, the benefits have been clear. Lobbyists and company officials have been notably solicitous, helping him raise his profile as president for two years of the Republican Attorneys General Association, a post he used to help start what he and allies called the Rule of Law campaign, which was intended to push back against Washington.

(click here to continue reading Energy Firms in Secretive Alliance With Attorneys General – NYTimes.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

December 7th, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Oil Trains Hide in Plain Sight Waiting To Kill Us By Exploding

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You Go Your Way And I'll Go Mine
You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine.

Big Government, saving you from an oil tanker blowing up in your neighborhood. What a travesty! Shut it down!

While the existence of this virtual pipeline is obvious to its neighbors—trains are visible from homes, the local commuter rail station, a park and a popular jogging trail—it is officially secret. Delaware Safety and Homeland Security officials contend that publicizing any information about the oil trains parked there would “reveal the State’s vulnerability to terrorist attacks,” according to a letter to The Wall Street Journal.

Finding the locations of oil-filled trains remains difficult, even in states that don’t consider the information top secret. There are no federal or state rules requiring public notice despite several fiery accidents involving oil trains, including one in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, that killed 47 people.

The desire for secrecy seems wrongheaded to some experts. “If you don’t share this information, how are people supposed to know what they are supposed to do when another Lac-Mégantic happens?” asked Denise Krepp, a consultant and former senior counsel to the congressional Homeland Security Committee.

She said more firefighting equipment and training was needed urgently. “We are not prepared,” she said.

In May, federal regulators ordered railroads to tell states about the counties traversed by trains carrying combustible crude oil from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota so local first responders could be notified.

The Journal submitted open-records requests to all 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia and received at least some information from all but 14: Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and West Virginia.

Mapping data received from the disclosing states, the Journal found a lot of other cities in the same situation as Newark. On its way to refiners on the East Coast and along the Gulf of Mexico, oil often sits in tank cars in railroad yards outside Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, Penn., and passes through Cleveland, Chicago, Albany, Seattle and a dozen other cities.

(click here to continue reading Oil Trains Hide in Plain Sight – WSJ.)

I’ve been looking for a while to take a photo of one of these oil tankers in Illinois, but haven’t found one yet. Do you have a photo?

The Bakken crude contains a lot of butane, making it volatile but useful for mixing with heavier oils or as a refined byproduct, said refinery manager José Dominguez. On a recent afternoon, the refinery was running mostly Bakken oil, along with some diluted crude from Canadian oil sands and a ship’s worth of light sweet oil from Basra, Iraq.

When Norfolk Southern began routing crude trains through Newark, it didn’t notify the local emergency officials. Last March, a year after trains started turning up, Fire Chief A.J. Schall sat down with officials from the railroad and refinery to discuss the crude shipments.

“It shows a lack of communication,” he said. By the summer, Norfolk Southern and PBF paid for Mr. Schall and another local fire chief to fly to Colorado and attend a three-day class on crude-by-rail trains.

(click here to continue reading Oil Trains Hide in Plain Sight – WSJ.)

Ok, problem solved, just fly local officials to Colorado, and give them a cannabis stipend… 

Oh, and in case it isn’t clear, I’m a liberal who believes government is frequently the solution to our nation’s problems which puts me radically at odds to the flame throwers like Ted “Calgary” Cruz who want to shut the government down because they are opposed to some policy or other.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Seth Anderson

December 4th, 2014 at 12:38 am

Drought-hit Sao Paulo Has Sixty Days Of Water Left

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What Have We Done Wrong?
What Have We Done Wrong?

Wow, that’s crazy! Brazil is suffering through its worse drought in 80 years, but politics has impeded practical action being taken. Sound familiar? When are the water wars going to start getting violent in the US? Ten years? Five years? Twenty years?  

São Paulo, Brazil’s drought-hit megacity of 20 million, has about two months of guaranteed water supply remaining as it taps into the second of three emergency reserves, officials say.

The city began using its second so-called “technical reserve” 10 days ago to prevent a water crisis after reservoirs reached critically low levels last month.

This is the first time the state has resorted to using the reserves, experts say.

“If we take into account the same pattern of water extraction and rainfall that we’ve seen so far this month – and it’s been raining less than half of the average – we can say the (reserve) will last up to 60 days,” said Marussia Whately, a water resources specialist at environmental NGO Instituto Socioambiental.

But an expected increase in water usage during the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s holidays could easily reduce the time the reserve will last, she added.

After that period, there is no certainty over the water supply available to Brazil’s wealthiest city and financial center, Whately said.

A presidential election in October, which pitted the governing Workers Party (PT) against the opposition Social Democracy Party (PSDB), led São Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin of the PSDB to delay taking action on the water shortage – such as ordering mandatory rationing – for fear of losing votes during his reelection campaign, experts say.

 

(click here to continue reading Drought-hit Sao Paulo may ‘get water from mud’: TRFN | Reuters.)

I’ve been watching the planet’s upcoming water crisis for many years, even before this blog existed, and other than desalinization becoming cheaper, or the vast oil/gas pipeline network being repurposed to carry water, there haven’t been many solutions proferred.  The next century will be interesting, in the sense of the (pseudo) Chinese proverb, “May You  Live In Interesting Times1

Looking Down Katie's Well
Looking Down Katie’s Well.

Dom Phillips writes in the Washington Post:

But critics say the state government, which controls the water company, played down the crisis because of October’s elections, in which the state’s governor, Geraldo Alckmin, was reelected. Critics say SABESP has failed to keep the population properly informed and to introduce enough effective measures to reduce consumption.

“It is not just the lack of water, which is critical, it is also not knowing how to manage the crisis,” said Carlos de Oliveira of the Brazilian Consumer Defense Institute in São Paulo. The institute only recently received key maps outlining the worst-hit areas — but they did not feature streets, just gradients. “Instead of supplying information, SABESP blames the consumer,” he said.

The water company said there is no rationing or rotating of the water supply — just nightly reductions in pressure to cut losses. Nobody believes it.

“There is rationing,” said Paulo Santos, manager of the elegant Condomínio Louvre building in São Paulo’s center, which has 320 apartments and 45 shops. Water is cut off most nights, starting about 10 p.m., Santos said. He maintains supply by keeping a 12,000-gallon tank full and is installing tanks to capture rainfall on a roof. “The residents are worried. They keep asking about the water,” he said.

(click here to continue reading Taps run dry in São Paulo drought, but water company barely shrugs – The Washington Post.)

Can You Show Me A Dream That's Better Than Mine?
Can You Show Me A Dream That’s Better Than Mine?

And more details from Bloomberg:

Brazil’s Jaguari reservoir has fallen to its lowest level ever, laying bare measurement posts that jut from exposed earth like a line of dominoes. The nation’s two biggest cities are fighting for what little water is left.

Sao Paulo state leaders want to tap Jaguari, which feeds Rio de Janeiro’s main source. Rio state officials say they shouldn’t suffer for others’ mismanagement. Supreme Court judges have summoned the parties to Brasilia for a mediation session this week.

The standoff in a nation with more water resources than any other country in the world portends further conflicts as the planet grows increasingly urban. One in three of the world’s 100 biggest cities is under water stress, according to The Nature Conservancy, a U.S.-based nonprofit.

“It’s unusual in that it’s two very large cities facing what could be a new, permanent conflict over the allocation of water,” said Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, a research organization in Oakland, California. “It’s a wake-up call that even places we think of as water-rich have to learn to do a better job of managing what’s ultimately a scarce resource. Nature doesn’t always cooperate with us.”

While Rio has so far remained mostly unaffected by the country’s worst drought in eight decades, that’s not the case for its neighbor to the south. More than half the Paulistas in a Datafolha poll last month said they had been without water at least once in the previous 30 days.

(click here to continue reading Water War Amid Brazil Drought Leads to Fight Over Puddles – Bloomberg.)

As The Evening Sky Grew Dark
As The Evening Sky Grew Dark…

Man-made destruction is at least partly to blame, of course

Antonio Nobre, a researcher at Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research and its National Institute for Amazonian Research, wrote in an e-mail that deforestation might be connected to the drought.

In October, Nobre published a scientific assessment report, which argued that clear-cutting has altered the Amazon forest’s climate — as evidenced by droughts in 2005 and 2010. The forest functions as a “biotic pump,” it said, channeling moisture down to São Paulo via “aerial rivers” that bounce off the Andes wall.

(click here to continue reading Taps run dry in São Paulo drought, but water company barely shrugs – The Washington Post.)

Footnotes:
  1. The nearest related Chinese expression is “宁为太平犬,莫做乱世人” (níng wéi tàipíng quǎn, mò zuò luànshì rén) which conveys the sense that it is “better to live as a dog in an era of peace than a man in times of war.” []

Written by Seth Anderson

November 30th, 2014 at 1:31 pm