Archive for the ‘environment’ Category
Coverage of environmental issues may include climate change, pollution, environmental degradation, and resource depletion etc.
Water is scarce already, especially in arid places like South Texas and North Dakota. But hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking, slurps up a lot of water.
CARRIZO SPRINGS, Texas—Water has always been a concern for 65-year-old Joe Parker, who manages a 19,000-acre cattle ranch here in South Texas. “Water is scarce in our area,” he says, and a scorching yearlong drought has made it even scarcer.
What has Mr. Parker especially concerned are the drilling rigs that now dot the flat, brushy landscape. Each oil well in the area, using the technique known as hydraulic fracturing, requires about six million gallons of water to break open rocks far below the surface and release oil and natural gas. Mr. Parker says he worries about whether the underground water can support both ranching and energy exploration.
Darrell Brownlow, another cattle rancher, says that if the economically depressed region has to choose between the two, the choice should be simple.
Mr. Brownlow, who has a Ph.D. in geochemistry, says it takes 407 million gallons to irrigate 640 acres and grow about $200,000 worth of corn on the arid land. The same amount of water, he says, could be used to frack enough wells to generate $2.5 billion worth of oil. “No water, no frack, no wealth,” says Mr. Brownlow, who has leased his cattle ranch for oil exploration.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has revived prospects for oil-and-gas production in the U.S. and provided a welcome jolt to many local economies. Less than three years after its discovery, the Eagle Ford oil field here already accounts for 6% of South Texas’s economic output and supports 12,000 full-time jobs, according to a study by the University of Texas at San Antonio earlier this year, which was funded by an industry-backed group.
But fracking also is forcing communities to grapple with how to balance the economic benefits with potential costs. To date, criticism of fracking has focused mainly on concerns that the chemicals energy companies are mixing with the water could contaminate underground aquifers. Oil industry officials regard that issue as manageable. The biggest challenge to future development, they say, is simply getting access to sufficient water.
The issue isn’t just rearing its head in parched regions like South Texas. North Dakota, another big source of oil from fracked wells, is concerned about the industry depleting aquifers and has threatened to sue the federal government to free up water held by an Army Corps of Engineers dam. Oklahoma, too, is struggling to cope with the industry’s thirst.
(click here to continue reading Focus on Fracking: Oil’s Growing Thirst for Water for Hydraulic Fracturing – WSJ.com.)
So, either short term profits or long term ability to live in an area. Hmm, I know what Darrell Brownlow has chosen, but what about the rest of the people in his community? Are they willing to destroy the local water supply so that he can get rich?
In addition to tapping underground aquifers, oil companies are interested in water from Texas rivers. They have acquired—or are currently seeking to acquire—from local irrigation authorities the rights to nearly 40,000 acre-feet of water a year. That is enough to supply nearly a quarter-million people for a year.
One source has been the Rio Grande. Cities along the river, which are among the fastest growing in the state, draw from it to supply water to residents.
“This is a major concern for us,” says Juan Hinojosa, a Democratic state senator from McAllen who represents the area. “The oil companies have a lot more money than we do to buy water rights.”
The intense drought over the summer exacerbated the water concerns of cities. More than 964 public water systems, covering 14.7 million Texans, have imposed voluntary or mandatory restrictions, according to the state.
This summer, the city of Grand Prairie, near Fort Worth, stopped selling water to oil companies as part of its drought-contingency measures, which also included lawn-watering restrictions.
Oil companies have long been exempt from most Texas state water rules and permitting requirements, but the state has begun to take a fresh look at the industry’s ability to drill water wells wherever they have acquired rights to extract oil and gas.
Speaking of propaganda: Before I get to solar, let’s talk briefly about hydraulic fracturing, a k a fracking.
Fracking — injecting high-pressure fluid into rocks deep underground, inducing the release of fossil fuels — is an impressive technology. But it’s also a technology that imposes large costs on the public. We know that it produces toxic (and radioactive) wastewater that contaminates drinking water; there is reason to suspect, despite industry denials, that it also contaminates groundwater; and the heavy trucking required for fracking inflicts major damage on roads.
Economics 101 tells us that an industry imposing large costs on third parties should be required to “internalize” those costs — that is, to pay for the damage it inflicts, treating that damage as a cost of production. Fracking might still be worth doing given those costs. But no industry should be held harmless from its impacts on the environment and the nation’s infrastructure.
Yet what the industry and its defenders demand is, of course, precisely that it be let off the hook for the damage it causes. Why? Because we need that energy! For example, the industry-backed organization energyfromshale.org declares that “there are only two sides in the debate: those who want our oil and natural resources developed in a safe and responsible way; and those who don’t want our oil and natural gas resources developed at all.”
So it’s worth pointing out that special treatment for fracking makes a mockery of free-market principles. Pro-fracking politicians claim to be against subsidies, yet letting an industry impose costs without paying compensation is in effect a huge subsidy. They say they oppose having the government “pick winners,” yet they demand special treatment for this industry precisely because they claim it will be a winner.
…Let’s face it: a large part of our political class, including essentially the entire G.O.P., is deeply invested in an energy sector dominated by fossil fuels, and actively hostile to alternatives. This political class will do everything it can to ensure subsidies for the extraction and use of fossil fuels, directly with taxpayers’ money and indirectly by letting the industry off the hook for environmental costs, while ridiculing technologies like solar.
(click here to continue reading Here Comes Solar Energy – NYTimes.com.)
Paul Krugman makes a joke, and Paul Ryan is one…
The Truth Has A Well-Known, Well, You Know
Greg Sargent takes us to Paul Ryan’s latest speech, in which Ryan expresses outrage over what President Obama is saying:
Just last week, the President told a crowd in North Carolina that Republicans are in favor of, quote, “dirtier air, dirtier water, and less people with health insurance.” Can you think of a pettier way to describe sincere disagreements between the two parties on regulation and health care?
Just for the record: why is this petty? Why is it anything but a literal description of GOP proposals to weaken environmental regulation and repeal the Affordable Care Act?
I mean, to the extent that the GOP has a coherent case on environmental regulation, it is that the economic payoff from weaker regulation would more than compensate for the dirtier air and water. Is anyone really claiming that less regulation won’t mean more pollution?
So Ryan is outraged, outraged, that Obama is offering a wholly accurate description of his party’s platform.
Let me add that this illustrates a point that many commenters here don’t seem to get: criticism of policy proposals is not the same thing as ad hominem attacks. If I say that Paul Ryan’s mother was a hamster and his father smelt of elderberries, that’s ad hominem. If I say that his plan would hurt millions of people and that he’s not being honest about the numbers, that’s harsh, but not ad hominem.
(click here to continue reading The Truth Has A Well-Known, Well, You Know – NYTimes.com.)
Surprised this factoid has not become common knowledge yet1- simple enough to close (both) lids of the toilet before flushing, otherwise all sorts of fecal matter float around in your bathroom. A few years ago, saw an exhibit at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum that actually demonstrated this with black lights and a model bathroom. I’ve closed the lid ever since.
Cecil Adams of the Straight Dope wrote:
I read somewhere years ago that when you flush the toilet with the lid open, a plume of contaminated water droplets is ejected into the air and lands on everything in the bathroom, including (yuck) your toothbrush. Women I mention this to nod knowingly, but among men it is met with scorn, the common view being that this is another female scare story intended to “get us to put the top down.” Knowing your ability to rise above petty considerations of gender, I turn to you.
— Katie Wolf, Toledo, Ohio
Opinions on this topic do seem to break down along male-female lines. “Toilet water on your toothbrush!” my assistant Jane howled. “That’s gross! That’s disgusting!” “Yeah,” said Little Ed, “it’s got Straight Dope written all over it.”
You remembered right about toilet plume, although I think toilet “aerosol” is probably the more accurate term. No doubt you saw something about Charles Gerba, a professor at the University of Arizona who specializes in environmental microbiology. For those of you with a romanticized picture of the academic life, I should tell you this means he spends a lot of time crawling around public toilets and has had the cops called on him twice.
In 1975 Professor Gerba published a scientific article describing the little-known phenomenon of bacterial and viral aerosols due to toilet flushing. The more you learn about it, the scarier it sounds. According to Gerba, close-up photos of the germy ejecta look like “Baghdad at night during a U.S. air attack.” The article ominously depicts a “floor plan of experimental bathroom with location of gauze pads for viral fallout experiments.” A lot of virus fell on those gauze pads, Gerba found, and a lot of bacteria too. In fact, significant quantities of microbes floated around the bathroom for at least two hours after each flush.
(click here to continue reading The Straight Dope: Does flushing the toilet cause dirty water to be spewed around the bathroom?.)
- like I’ve noticed that sneezing into one’s sleeve instead of one’s hand has become more common practice recently [↩]
A little insight into how Washington corruption works – not necessarily with a suitcase of cash, though that is implied, but rather with government officials having a cozy relationship with industry. The Obama administration is better than the prior regime, but not by much…
A State Department official provided Fourth of July party invitations, subtle coaching and cheerleading, and inside information about Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton’s meetings to a Washington lobbyist for a Canadian company seeking permission from the department to build a pipeline that would carry crude from the oil sands of Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
E-mails released Monday in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the environmental group Friends of the Earth paint a picture of a sometimes warm and collaborative relationship between the lobbyist for the pipeline company, Trans-Canada, and officials in the State Department, the agency responsible for evaluating and approving the billion-dollar project.
The exchanges provide a rare glimpse into how Washington works and the access familiarity can bring. The 200 pages are the second batch of documents and e-mails released so far.
They also offer insight into the company’s strategy, not revealed publicly before. TransCanada lobbyists exchanged e-mails with State Department officials in July about their intention to drop their request to operate the Keystone XL pipeline at higher pressures than normally allowed in the United States to win political support, but then suggested they would reapply for the exception once the project had been cleared.
“You see officials who see it as their business not to be an oversight agency but as a facilitator of TransCanada’s plans,” said Damon Moglen, the director of the climate and energy project for Friends of the Earth. While the e-mails refer to multiple meetings between TransCanada officials and assistant secretaries of state, he said, such access was denied to environmentalists seeking input, who had only one group meeting at that level.
Environmental groups argue that the 1,700-mile pipeline, which could carry 700,000 barrels a day from Alberta to the Gulf Coast of Texas, would result in unacceptably high emissions and disrupt pristine ecosystems.
(click here to continue reading Pipeline Foes See Bias in U.S.-TransCanada E-Mail – NYTimes.com.)
From the Friends of the Earth website:
We have received a new round of documents from the State Department in response to our Freedom of Information Act request. These documents are deeply disturbing in that they provide definitive evidence of pro-pipeline bias and complicity at the State Department — including one “smoking gun” email (PDF) in which State Department employee Marja Verloop literally cheers “Go Paul!” for pipeline lobbyist Paul Elliott after he announces TransCanada has secured Senator Max Baucus’ support for the pipeline.
The most interesting emails in this tranche are between Elliott and Verloop, a member of the senior diplomatic staff at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, with responsibility for energy and environment issues. In one back and forth, Elliott and Verloop discuss TransCanada’s July 2010 decision to abandon its efforts to obtain special permission to pump oil through the Keystone XL at higher-than-usual pressures. The same exchange contains a reference to reassurances from the State side that the 90-day review would “delay…State’s recommendation of a presidential permit but such a delay won’t be as long as the one advocated for by the EPA.” (PDF)
The exchange indicates an understanding between the State Department and TransCanada that TransCanada would be in a position to apply for a pressure increase after getting the permit. The tacit understanding on the permit and NID timing was even relayed by Verloop to her boss, U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson, in an email where she says to him: “TransCanada is comfortable and on board.” The revelation of the understanding between State and TransCanada on the pipeline pressure issue could be unwelcome to Senator Jon Tester, who announced his support for the pipeline only after he was reassured by TransCanada’s decision to lower the pressure.
(click here to continue reading New FOIA docs reveal smoking gun regarding State Department bias | Friends of the Earth.)
Homage to George L. Kelling
Speaking of green jobs, and of the moronic statement that EPA regulations will “cost jobs” that is the GOP mantra so compelling even Obama chants it in unison with the Koch Brothers and their Republican Party employees, Paul Krugman writes:
As some of us keep trying to point out, the United States is in a liquidity trap: private spending is inadequate to achieve full employment, and with short-term interest rates close to zero, conventional monetary policy is exhausted.
This puts us in a world of topsy-turvy, in which many of the usual rules of economics cease to hold. Thrift leads to lower investment; wage cuts reduce employment; even higher productivity can be a bad thing. And the broken windows fallacy ceases to be a fallacy: something that forces firms to replace capital, even if that something seemingly makes them poorer, can stimulate spending and raise employment. Indeed, in the absence of effective policy, that’s how recovery eventually happens: as Keynes put it, a slump goes on until “the shortage of capital through use, decay and obsolescence” gets firms spending again to replace their plant and equipment.
And now you can see why tighter ozone regulation would actually have created jobs: it would have forced firms to spend on upgrading or replacing equipment, helping to boost demand. Yes, it would have cost money — but that’s the point! And with corporations sitting on lots of idle cash, the money spent would not, to any significant extent, come at the expense of other investment.
More broadly, if you’re going to do environmental investments — things that are worth doing even in flush times — it’s hard to think of a better time to do them than when the resources needed to make those investments would otherwise have been idle.
(click here to continue reading Broken Windows, Ozone, and Jobs – NYTimes.com.)
Seems so obvious to me, and others, that I wonder what else is going on. Perhaps the rumors of Koch Brothers investing in Obama’s 2012 campaign are true, or maybe they’ve told him they’ll sit on the sideline instead of investing billions to defeat Obama. Or else Obama is just getting horrible, horrible advice from his staff…
Baby steps, yet they should be celebrated because the alternative is sitting on our hands as the planet fries…
THERE are many places in Illinois where you expect to find a prairie. The roof of City Hall in Chicago is not among them. Yet there it is—20,000 square feet (almost half an acre) of shrubs, vines and small trees, 11 storeys above LaSalle Avenue. Planted in 2000, City Hall’s “green roof” reduces the amount of energy needed to cool the building in the summer; captures water during rainstorms, thus reducing the amount of water flowing into Chicago’s already overtaxed sewers; and combats the urban “heat island” effect, which makes cities warmer than nearby rural areas. On average, air temperatures above City Hall are 10-15°F degrees lower than those above the adjacent black-tar roof of the Cook County Building; on hot summer days the difference can be as great as 50°F.
Large as it is, City Hall’s roof accounts for a small proportion of Chicago’s total green-roof space. And those roofs are just one part of Chicago’s Climate Action Plan (CCAP), which was launched in September 2008 and was preceded by years of green initiatives during the tenure of Richard Daley, who from 1989 until earlier this year was mayor of Chicago. CCAP aims to reduce Chicago’s greenhouse-gas emissions to 75% of their 1990 levels by 2020, and to just 20% of their 1990 levels by 2050. In the two years after CCAP’s launch public-transport ridership rose, millions of gallons of water were conserved, hundreds of hybrid buses were added to Chicago’s fleet and over 13,000 housing units and nearly 400 commercial buildings were retrofitted for energy efficiency.
These achievements have come not through sweeping social engineering, or by making Chicagoans dine on tofu, sprouts and recycled rainwater while sitting in the dark, but by simple tweaks. City buses inevitably need replacing; so why not replace them with hybrid models that are not only 60% lower in carbon emissions than standard diesel buses, but also 30% more fuel-efficient and will save an estimated $7m a year in fuel and upkeep? Alleys—Chicago has 1,900 miles of them—will inevitably need repaving; why not repave them with permeable, light-coloured surfaces rather than asphalt to reduce water run-off into sewers and reflect rather than retain the sun’s light and heat?
(click here to continue reading Cities and climate change: Greening the concrete jungle | The Economist.)
Daley’s plan has been criticized because implementation has been slow, but at least something is happening, in Chicago, and nine other American metropolitan areas that are leading this effort:
Chicago and New York are just two of the ten American cities—the others are Austin, Houston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle—who are members of the Large Cities Climate Leadership Group (mercifully renamed the C40), which now comprises 58 cities around the world. Roughly 297m people, less than 5% of the Earth’s total, live in the 40 charter-member C40 cities. But they account for 18% of the world’s GDP and 10% of its carbon emissions.
Jobs, green energy jobs could be a solution to our anemic economy; if we had a functional political class. Instead we have one party1 willing, and able, to sacrifice national prosperity on the alter of upcoming elections, and another party2 too mealy-mouthed to do much about it. Meanwhile, China and the rest of the industrialized world is lapping us in investing in future technologies.
The New York Times reported that “much of China’s clean energy success lies in aggressive government policies that help this crucial export industry in ways most other governments do not,” including “heavily subsidized land and loans.” Those subsidies are part of a comprehensive policy agenda set by the Chinese government, which “sends clear signals to investors,” according to a Brookings Institution report:
Critical to China’s success is its articulation of a comprehensive and long-term state clean energy build out policy that sends clear signals to investors. Through its 12th Five Year Plan, China has identified “new energy” as one among seven “strategic emerging industries” and will invest $760 billion over the next 10 years in this sector alone. A range of complementary policies will guide these investment decisions, including the Renewable Energy Law, national demand-side management regulations, and pilot carbon taxes, among others. China has swiftly made itself a clean energy power, in large part by ensuring the availability of copious, affordable capital at a time it has been short in the United States. And the Deutche Bank Climate Change Advisors said in a recent report that there’s a lot more the U.S. could do to create a policy framework that encourages clean energy investment:
Countries with more ‘TLC’ - transparency, longevity and certainty – in their climate policy frameworks will attract more investment and will build new, clean industries, technologies and jobs faster than their policy lagging counterparts. This is particularly evident in countries such as Germany and China, who have emerged as global leaders in low carbon technologies and investment in recent years. In stark contrast, a politically divided US Congress and vast budget deficit has resulted in very little significant regulation at the Federal level, with substantial implications for emerging clean technology industries in the US. This climate policy inertia has existed for some time in the US now, with activity on this front largely taking place at the state level. We have long argued that the states must continue to press ahead with climate legislation, but a negative effect of this trend is a patchwork of inconsistent state policies. The net effect is that while Congress stumbles, the US stands to fall behind.
(click here to continue reading Conservative Media Declare That Solar Power “Doesn’t Work” | Media Matters for America.)
Such a cynical strategy: screw the liberals, because when it gets down to two candidates, and one is a Tea Bagger Know-Nothing, who are liberals going to vote for? Of course, that was Al Gore’s strategy too, and he lost1
Obama better be careful, if all the liberal enthusiasm is drained away, voter turnout will be anemic, and he won’t be reelected.
WASHINGTON — President Obama abandoned a contentious new air pollution rule on Friday, buoying business interests that had lobbied heavily against it, angering environmentalists who called the move a betrayal and unnerving his own top environmental regulators.
The president rejected a proposed rule from the Environmental Protection Agency that would have significantly reduced emissions of smog-causing chemicals, saying that it would impose too severe a burden on industry and local governments at a time of economic distress.
Business groups and Republicans in Congress had complained that meeting the new standard, which governs emissions of so-called ground-level ozone, would cost billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs.
(click here to continue reading Obama Administration Abandons Plan to Tighten Air-Quality Rules – NYTimes.com.)
And I know Obama was never a very strong supporter of the environment2, but I reject this argument. Pollution controls are not going to cost jobs any more than lowering taxes on the rich is going to create jobs.
If the US Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute is applauding your actions, you are doing it wrong.
Reaction from environmental advocates ranged from disappointment to fury, with several noting that in just the past month the administration had tentatively approved drilling in the Arctic, given an environmental green light to the 1,700-mile Keystone XL oil pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to Texas and opened 20 million more acres of the Gulf of Mexico to drilling.
Daniel J. Weiss, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said, “Today’s announcement from the White House that they will retreat from implementing the much-needed — and long-overdue — ozone pollution standard is deeply disappointing and grants an item on Big Oil’s wish list at the expense of the health of children, seniors and the infirm.” The center is a liberal research group with close ties to the White House.
Bill McKibben, an activist leading a two-week White House protest against the pipeline project which has resulted in more than 1,000 arrests, said that the latest move was “flabbergasting.”
“Somehow we need to get back the president we thought we elected in 2008,” he said.
Cass R. Sunstein, who leads the White House office that reviews all major regulations, said he was carefully scrutinizing proposed rules across the government to ensure that they are cost efficient and based on the best current science. He said in a letter to Ms. Jackson that the studies on which the E.P.A.’s proposed rule is based were completed in 2006 and that new assessments were already under way.
The issue had become a flashpoint between the administration and Republicans in Congress, who held up the proposed ozone rule as a test of the White House’s commitment to regulatory reform and job creation. Imposing the new rule before the 2012 election would have created political problems for the administration and for Democrats nationwide seeking election in a brittle economy.
Leaders of major business groups — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Petroleum Institute and the Business Roundtable — met with Ms. Jackson and with top White House officials this summer seeking to moderate, delay or kill the rule. They told William M. Daley, the White House chief of staff, that the rule would be very costly to industry and would hurt Mr. Obama’s chances for a second term.
Environmental activists can barely contain their fury at Obama’s craven actions:
John D. Walke, clean air director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group based in New York, likened the ozone decision to a “bomb being dropped.”
Mr. Walke and representatives of other environmental groups saw the president’s actions as brazen political sellouts to business interests and the Republican Party, which regards environmental regulations as job killers and a brick wall to economic recovery.
…the president could face political repercussions in subtler but nevertheless corrosive ways: from losing volunteer enthusiasm to tying up his allies in fights with him instead of with his enemies. “Energy from part of the base will now be directed at communicating with the White House and not with the public about the administration’s record,” said Daniel J. Weiss, director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress, a liberal research group with close ties to the White House.
Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, who does extensive work on public perception and the environment, said the real threat to the president’s reputation stemming from the ozone decision went far beyond environmentalists.
“It could play into an emerging narrative in his own party that he is caving too quickly to Republican pressure,” Dr. Leiserowitz said. “It is a dangerous narrative in your own base because it cuts down on enthusiasm and it is a narrative that his opponents will pick up on.”
In fact, it is a lesson that some environmental groups have already learned, and they are preparing to act accordingly.
“I think that two-plus years into Obama’s presidency is more than enough time for him to have established a clear weak record,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, which has been battling the president on endangered species.
“The environmental movement needs to keep piling the pressure on and realizing playing nicey-nice won’t work,” Mr. Suckling said, adding that more public actions and lawsuits are the way to get Mr. Obama’s attention.
(click here to continue reading Obama’s Retreat on Ozone Standards Angers Environmentalists – NYTimes.com.)Footnotes:
Gibson Guitar was raided by federal marshals for alleged violations of the Lacey Act of 19001 – the facts are not clear yet, but it seems as if the federal government suspects Gibson of using banned materials in their guitars.
NPR’s Craig Havighurst notes that not every guitar manufacturer is upset:
Chris Martin, Chairman and CEO of the C.F. Martin Guitar Co. in Nazareth, Pa., says that when he first heard guitars built from Madagascar rosewood, he dreamed it might be the long-sought substitute for Brazilian rosewood, whose trade was banned in the 1990s due to over-harvest. Then the situation in Madagascar changed.
“There was a coup,” Martin says. “What we heard was the international community has come to the conclusion that the coup created an illegitimate government. That’s when we said, ‘Okay, we can not buy any more of this wood.’”
And while some say the Lacey Act is burdensome, Martin supports it: “I think it’s a wonderful thing. I think illegal logging is appalling. It should stop. And if this is what it takes unfortunately to stop unscrupulous operators, I’m all for it. It’s tedious, but we’re getting through it.”
Others in the guitar world aren’t so upbeat. Attorney Ronald Bienstock says the Gibson raids have aroused the guitar builders he represents because the Lacey Act is retroactive. He says they’re worried they might be forced to prove the provenance of wood they acquired decades ago.
“There hasn’t been that moment where people have quote tested the case. ‘What is compliance? What is actual compliance? How have I complied?’ We’re lacking that.”
(click here to continue reading Why Gibson Guitar Was Raided By The Justice Department : The Record : NPR.)
Eric Felten of the WSJ reports:
It isn’t the first time that agents of the Fish and Wildlife Service have come knocking at the storied maker of such iconic instruments as the Les Paul electric guitar, the J-160E acoustic-electric John Lennon played, and essential jazz-boxes such as Charlie Christian’s ES-150. In 2009 the Feds seized several guitars and pallets of wood from a Gibson factory, and both sides have been wrangling over the goods in a case with the delightful name “United States of America v. Ebony Wood in Various Forms.”
The question in the first raid seemed to be whether Gibson had been buying illegally harvested hardwoods from protected forests, such as the Madagascar ebony that makes for such lovely fretboards. And if Gibson did knowingly import illegally harvested ebony from Madagascar, that wouldn’t be a negligible offense. Pete Lowry, ebony and rosewood expert at the Missouri Botanical Garden, calls the Madagascar wood trade the “equivalent of Africa’s blood diamonds.” But with the new raid, the government seems to be questioning whether some wood sourced from India met every regulatory jot and tittle.
It isn’t just Gibson that is sweating. Musicians who play vintage guitars and other instruments made of environmentally protected materials are worried the authorities may be coming for them next.
If you are the lucky owner of a 1920s Martin guitar, it may well be made, in part, of Brazilian rosewood. Cross an international border with an instrument made of that now-restricted wood, and you better have correct and complete documentation proving the age of the instrument. Otherwise, you could lose it to a zealous customs agent—not to mention face fines and prosecution.
John Thomas, a law professor at Quinnipiac University and a blues and ragtime guitarist, says “there’s a lot of anxiety, and it’s well justified.” Once upon a time, he would have taken one of his vintage guitars on his travels. Now, “I don’t go out of the country with a wooden guitar.”
The tangled intersection of international laws is enforced through a thicket of paperwork. Recent revisions to 1900′s Lacey Act require that anyone crossing the U.S. border declare every bit of flora or fauna being brought into the country. One is under “strict liability” to fill out the paperwork—and without any mistakes.
(click here to continue reading Guitar Frets: Environmental Enforcement Leaves Musicians in Fear | Postmodern Times – WSJ.com.)
Which is all well and good, but this last sentence with its slam towards tree-huggers is out of place in any newspaper, except for a Rupert Murdoch joint, of course. Read:
You could mark that up to hypocrisy—artsy do-gooders only too eager to tell others what kind of light bulbs they have to buy won’t make sacrifices when it comes to their own passions. Then again, maybe it isn’t hypocrisy to recognize that art makes claims significant enough to compete with environmentalists’ agendas.
So even though the Lacey Act has been on the books since 1900, Eric Felten wants you to equate it with Michele Bachman’s anti-CFL lightbulb crusade. Whatever dude.Footnotes:
- Wikipedia; The Lacey Act of 1900, or more commonly The Lacey Act (16 U.S.C. §§ 3371–3378) is a conservation law introduced by Iowa Rep. John F. Lacey. Protecting both plants and wildlife by creating civil and criminal penalties for a wide array of violations, the Act most notably prohibits trade in wildlife, fish, and plants that have been illegally taken, transported or sold. The law was signed into law by President William McKinley on May 25, 1900, and is still in effect, although it has been amended several times [↩]
GOP assholes taking advantage of the distracted country to attempt to sneak in an eviseration of everything protecting the environment from corporate rape and pillage. A paint-by-the-numbers definition of what Naomi Klein called the Shock Doctrine, aka disaster capitalism…
With the nation’s attention diverted by the drama over the debt ceiling, Republicans in the House of Representatives are loading up an appropriations bill with 39 ways — and counting — to significantly curtail environmental regulation.
One would prevent the Bureau of Land Management from designating new wilderness areas for preservation. Another would severely restrict the Department of Interior’s ability to police mountaintop-removal mining. And then there is the call to allow new uranium prospecting near Grand Canyon National Park.
But Democrats argue that the policy prescriptions are proof that Republicans are determined to undo clean air and water protections established 40 years ago.
Many of these new restrictions, they point out, were proposed in the budget debate earlier this year and failed. They are back, the Democrats say, because Republicans are doing the bidding of industry and oil companies.
“The new Republican majority seems intent on restoring the robber-baron era where there were no controls on pollution from power plants, oil refineries and factories,” said Representative Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat, excoriating the proposal on the floor.
Environmental regulations and the E.P.A. have been the bane of Tea Party Republicans almost from the start. Although particularly outraged by efforts to monitor carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas linked to the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere, freshmen Republicans have tried to rein in the E.P.A. across the board — including proposals to take away its ability to decide if coal ash can be designated as a toxic material and to prevent it from clarifying rules enforcing the Clean Water Act.
Conservatives have been adding amendments at a furious pace. Earthjustice, an environmental advocacy group, counted more than 70 anti-environmental amendments filed as of Wednesday morning and was monitoring for more.
But Mr. Goldston of the Natural Resources Defense Council said that although most of the policy attachments would never become law, the Republican appropriations flurry was still unnerving — and could pose more reason for concern in coming months. ”We are then going to be in a situation again where the Senate and president face the question of whether they are willing to shut down the government or appease a motley group in the House over a spending bill,” he said. “No one knows how that plays out.”
(click here to continue reading House Republicans Try to Roll Back Environmental Rules – NYTimes.com.)
For a complete list of the proposed riders, click here
Intuitively, we knew there was a lot of rain this year, and especially this month, and we were right:
Two passing storms overnight dumped enough rain to make this July the wettest one in the city’s history. They also knocked out power to tens of thousands of area residents and raised fears of more flooding.
The wave of storms, which spurred tornado and flood watches across the area, raised this month’s rainfall total to 9.75 inches, drowning the previous record of 9.56 inches set in July 1889.
And with more rainy weather on the way, the record is expected to keep climbing, forecasters said.
“Ten inches isn’t out of the question,” said Andrew Krein, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
It could be even more.
A lot of rain wasn’t needed to smash the old July record.
As of early Wednesday afternoon, 9.05 inches had fallen this month at O’Hare International Airport, the official measuring station, about half an inch less than the record 9.56 inches that fell here in July 1889, according to the weather service. The city has averaged 3.51 inches of rain in July from 1871 through last year, weather service records show.
This July is now the ninth wettest month in Chicago history. The all-time monthly rainfall record is 17.1 inches, set in August 1987.
(click here to continue reading 122-year rainfall record for July falls, more storms coming – chicagotribune.com.)
Clarity of distressFootnotes:
- kidding, really, I am. Praying for rain has no relevance to actual weather patterns in the slightest. [↩]
Mendenhall Glacier Melt Off
Simply and unequivocally criminal. Disgustingly craven, and a lot more besides. We wrote about this travesty back in November, 2008.
The EPA’s controversial 2008 decision not to regulate a drinking water contaminant long connected to impaired brain development and decreased learning capability in infants had more to do with the interests of the Bush administration than with scientific findings regarding its safety, according to a report (146 page PDF) released Tuesday by a congressional watchdog agency, the LA Times reports.
Perchlorate is a toxin in rocket fuel and fireworks, is present in most states’ drinking water, lettuce and milk, and is found in high concentrations near current and former military bases as a byproduct of weapons testing. The E.P.A. currently says it could be contaminating the public wells supplying anywhere from 5 million to 17 million Americans. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) was asked to look into the EPA’s evaluation of the known thyroid-disturbant, and found that the path to the no-regulation decision “used a process and scientific analyses that were atypical, lacked transparency, and limited the agency’s independence in developing and communicating scientific findings.”
Instead of the EPA’s usual process—which begins with creating a work group of “professional staff with relevant expertise from across the agency”—the Agency placed a “less inclusive, small group of high-level officials” in charge of the deliberations.
These high-level members included officials who answered directly to the White House, from the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Department of Energy, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture. NASA and the Department of Defense were part of the board as well.
Not included in the work group was the Office of Children’s Health Protection, a bureau essentially created for this purpose, despite the EPA’s conclusion of the risk perchlorate poses to pregnant women and children. The chemical can inhibit iodide uptake, causing increased the risk of neurodevelopmental impairment in fetuses of pregnant women, and contribute to developmental delays and decreased learning capability in infants and children, according to the report.
“Everyone who’s paying attention knows that EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson is acutely tuned-in to the political signals coming from the White House – so tuned-in that his conversations with the executive branch have become a form of highly privileged state secret,” Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope told NBC in 2008.
The GAO report also found significant flaws in the actual testing process. The work group chose to use data from a 2005 National Academy of Sciences report, which was based primarily on the results of a single two-week clinical study which did not include infants or children younger than six years old.
(click here to continue reading Bush Administration, Not Science, Prevented Regulation of Toxin In Drinking Water | TPMMuckraker.)
Luckily, the Obama administration is a huge improvement in this area at least, and reversed this Bush era mistake last February.
According to retired brigadier general, Steven Anderson1, the Pentagon spends $20,000,000,000 annually on air conditioning. That’s a lot of simolians.
The amount the U.S. military spends annually on air conditioning in Iraq and Afghanistan: $20.2 billion.
That’s more than NASA’s budget. It’s more than BP has paid so far for damage during the Gulf oil spill. It’s what the G-8 has pledged to help foster new democracies in Egypt and Tunisia.
“When you consider the cost to deliver the fuel to some of the most isolated places in the world — escorting, command and control, medevac support — when you throw all that infrastructure in, we’re talking over $20 billion,” Steven Anderson tells weekends on All Things Considered guest host Rachel Martin. Anderson is a retired brigadier general who served as Gen. David Patreaus’ chief logistician in Iraq.
Why does it cost so much?
To power an air conditioner at a remote outpost in land-locked Afghanistan, a gallon of fuel has to be shipped into Karachi, Pakistan, then driven 800 miles over 18 days to Afghanistan on roads that are sometimes little more than “improved goat trails,” Anderson says. “And you’ve got risks that are associated with moving the fuel almost every mile of the way.”
Anderson calculates more than 1,000 troops have died in fuel convoys, which remain prime targets for attack. Free-standing tents equipped with air conditioners in 125 degree heat require a lot of fuel. Anderson says by making those structures more efficient, the military could save lives and dollars.
Still, his $20.2 billion figure raises stark questions about the ongoing war in Afghanistan. In the wake of President Obama’s announcement this week that about 30,000 American troops will soon return home, how much money does the U.S. stand to save?
(click here to continue reading Among The Costs Of War: $20B In Air Conditioning : NPR.)
- no relation that I know of [↩]
Lake Michigan Excursion
Occasionally people worry that the Great Lakes are in danger of being sold off to the highest bidder, leaving residents with dusty mouths…
Part of living in the Great Lakes, one of the richest sources of fresh water in the world, is living with a little undercurrent of worry that someone out West or around the world is coveting our water.
That fear isn’t based on nothing – there have been schemes floated out there to load water into tankers and ship it to Asia, and trial balloons floated over the years.
…But just how likely is Great Lakes water moving that far west?
Not very, according to Noah Hall, a law professor at Wayne State University who used to manage the Great Lakes Water Resources Program for the National Wildlife Federation.
For one thing, there’s an agreement between eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces that prohibits diversions outside the Great Lakes basin. Congress passed it and so did the president. As long as that compact stays in place, the Southwest and the rest of the world should be out of luck.
Hall says the cost of moving water that far west, and moving it uphill to boot, is too expensive to be possible anyway.
“As a general matter, the West is short of water because it’s a desert, and we’ve chosen to settle and live there as if it’s an eastern climate,” Hall said. “A large, thousand-mile diversion from the Great Lakes to another part of the country is the least affordable, practical and feasible way of meeting their water needs.”
He said the Southwest is already considering other more efficient, cheaper options like conservation, and recycling and reusing water. They’ll have to learn to live with what they have, he said, not look to the Great Lakes. That could mean people starting to move back to regions with more water, rather than trying to bring the water to them.
“The West is a dry region,” Hall said. “The reality is it’s never going to look as green as it is in Michigan. If you want green all around, you probably should live east of the 100 meridian.”
(click here to continue reading How likely is the fear the West could steal Great Lakes water? | WBEZ.)
So, no need to worry, yet