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.

Researchers say air pollution may increase risk of autism

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Go Back To Where You Have Been Again

George Citroner reports:

Researchers say air pollution may increase risk of autism. Two studies concluded there may be a link, but more research is needed.

Two new studies have found an association between relatively low levels of air pollution and children’s risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

One study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, studied 132,000 births in Vancouver, Canada, from 2004 to 2009. Researchers concluded there was a link between exposure to nitric oxide from car exhaust during pregnancy and greater incidence of childhood ASD.

The second study, published in Environmental Epidemiology, observed more than 15,000 infants born in Denmark between 1989 and 2013. It found that air pollution exposure during the first months of life and later was also associated with ASD.

“The study showed a small increase in autism for infants exposed before birth to one of the pollutants: nitric oxide. While it’s a small increase, if large populations are exposed, it could still affect many children,” Lynn Singer, PhD, professor of population and quantitative health sciences, pediatrics, psychiatry, and psychology at the School of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, told Healthline.

(click here to continue reading Researchers say air pollution may increase risk of autism | Healthline.)

If the Democrats were smart, they would hammer this talking point over and over, despite it not being scientifically proven (yet). Take a page from the GOP/NRA playbook, and link the EPA’s (original) mission of clean air for everyone vs. pollution created by coal/chemical plants being encouraged to pollute so as to make more profits. Say it a million times, say it unprompted. Say the Trump admin is knowingly causing autism by their deregulatory fever, etc.

Written by Seth Anderson

December 11th, 2018 at 2:59 pm

Posted in environment,health,science

Tagged with ,

In China, Salmon is Salmon, Even if It’s Trout

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Fish Monger - Metra Market

The New York Times reports:

At issue for many is where the two fish swim. Most Asian salmon spend the bulk of their lives in saltwater. Rainbow trout are often cultivated in water tanks or ponds, which could expose them to freshwater parasites that could infect humans if the fish is eaten raw. The United States Food and Drug Administration warns of potential parasite hazards from eating freshwater fish. In Hong Kong, a Chinese city that operates under its own laws, serving freshwater fish raw is illegal.

“It’s not only the issue of rainbow trout being substituted for salmon, but whether freshwater fish should be used for sashimi at all,” Dr. Kevin Kwok, an assistant professor in the department of applied biology and chemical technology at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said.

Fish is often mislabeled around the world in order to fetch higher prices, such as labeling yellowtail as mahi mahi or sea bass as halibut. Regulators in the United States label these substitutions as economic deception.

That goes for salmon, too. Officials in the United States forbid fish sellers from labeling steelhead trout — essentially, rainbow trout that swim in saltwater — as salmon. Generally, salmon spawn in freshwater but return to the sea.

(click here to continue reading In China, Salmon is Salmon, Even if It’s Trout – The New York Times.)

I wouldn’t be surprised if this and similar substitution happens frequently in the US as well. Budgets of regulatory agencies have been sliced over the last decade, so who really monitors what kind of fish gets delivered to restaurants?

Salmon House Caretakers Residence

Written by Seth Anderson

August 26th, 2018 at 2:12 pm

Kroger to Ditch Plastic Bags by 2025

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Bag Gyre
Bag Gyre

WSJ reports:

Kroger Co. plans to eliminate plastic shopping bags from its supermarkets, the latest retailer to address customer backlash against disposable packaging and utensils.

The largest U.S. grocery chain by stores and sales said Thursday that it would remove single-use plastic bags from its 63-store QFC chain in the Pacific Northwest next year and eliminate them from all 2,800 Kroger-owned stores by 2025.

“This is the way things are headed and we figured we should be in front of that,” said Jessica Adelman, Kroger’s group vice president for corporate affairs.

(click here to continue reading Kroger to Ditch Plastic Bags by 2025 – WSJ.)

Kudos to Kroger. My understanding is that Kroger was the first supermarket chain in the US to give away plastic bags instead of paper, back in the 1970s1

Footnotes:
  1. or 1960s, I forget the details []

Written by Seth Anderson

August 23rd, 2018 at 10:47 am

Posted in Business,environment

Tagged with

Seattle’s air quality is as bad as smoking 7 cigarettes. Blame climate change deniers

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Everyone Is Looking For Someone To Blame
Everyone Is Looking For Someone To Blame

Vox reports:

Ash and smoke are choking Seattle’s air for the second week in a row, as wildfires smolder in the Cascades and in British Columbia. The air quality in Seattle this week has been worse than in Beijing, one of the world’s most notoriously polluted cities.

As of Wednesday morning, the Air Quality Index in Seattle was at 190, a rating classified as “unhealthy.” In parts of the city, the index rose as high as 220, which is “very unhealthy.” Other parts of Puget Sound, like Port Angeles, Washington — 80 miles from Seattle — saw the AQI rise to 205 this week.

To put it in perspective, an AQI of 150 is roughly equal to smoking seven cigarettes in a day. People breathing air this unhealthy should avoid being outside and exerting themselves, particularly people with heart and lung problems, the elderly, and children.

(click here to continue reading Seattle’s air quality is as bad as smoking 7 cigarettes. Blame wildfires. – Vox.)

And yet one of the two major political parties in the US is adamant that nothing can or even should be done to ameliorate the effects of climate change. A vote for the GOP is a vote for this kind of apocalyptic condition to worsen.

Clouds over Seattle- Kodak HIE

Fires are a natural occurrence in many woodlands and are essential to a healthy ecosystem. But the growing scale and destruction from these fires stems from human activity.

What kinds of human activity? According to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, environmental terrorists.

“[Fires] have been getting worse,” Zinke said in an interview with Breitbart News Saturday. “We have longer seasons, hotter conditions, but what’s driving it is the fuel load. And we have been held hostage by these environmental terrorist groups that have not allowed public access, that refuse to allow the harvest of timber.”

I asked the Interior Department who these terrorists are and they pointed me toward Zinke’s August 8 editorial in USA Today, where he said that radical environmentalists “make outdated and unscientific arguments, void of facts, because they cannot defend the merits of their policy preferences year after year as our forests and homes burn to the ground.”

Environmentalism is a recurring scapegoat in the Trump administration. Earlier this month, Trump blamed “bad environmental laws” for amplifying wildfires.

But researchers say this ire is pointed in the wrong direction. And in Zinke’s zeal to blame conservationists for deadly fires, he conspicuously sidestepped larger human-caused factors driving the current rash of wildfires, including climate change.

(click here to continue reading Ryan Zinke’s “environmental terrorists” claim for wildfires, explained – Vox.)

Written by Seth Anderson

August 22nd, 2018 at 9:55 am

EPA blocks warnings on cancer-causing chemical – formaldehyde

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V O T E
V O T E

Politico reports on why elections matter, part the 567,543,566th:

The Trump administration is suppressing an Environmental Protection Agency report that warns that most Americans inhale enough formaldehyde vapor in the course of daily life to put them at risk of developing leukemia and other ailments, a current and a former agency official told POLITICO.

The warnings are contained in a draft health assessment EPA scientists completed just before Donald Trump became president, according to the officials. They said top advisers to departing Administrator Scott Pruitt are delaying its release as part of a campaign to undermine the agency’s independent research into the health risks of toxic chemicals.

Andrew Wheeler, the No. 2 official at EPA who will be the agency’s new acting chief as of Monday, also has a history with the chemical. He was staff director for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in 2004, when his boss, then-Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), sought to delay an earlier iteration of the formaldehyde assessment.

Formaldehyde is one of the most commonly used chemicals in the country. Americans are exposed to it through wood composites in cabinets and furniture, as well as air pollution from major refineries. The new assessment would give greater weight to warnings about the chemical’s risks and could lead to stricter regulations from the EPA or class-action lawsuits targeting its manufacturers, as frequently occurs after these types of studies are released.

“They’re stonewalling every step of the way,” the current official said, accusing political appointees of interfering with the formaldehyde assessment and other reports on toxic chemicals produced by EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System. Industry has long faulted the IRIS program, the agency’s only independent scientific division evaluating the health risks of toxic chemicals, whose assessments often form the basis for federal and state regulations.

Interfering with the formaldehyde study is one of several steps Trump’s EPA has taken to side with the businesses the agency is supposed to regulate and undermine the agency’s approach to science, critics say. Public health advocates also expressed alarm after Pruitt replaced academic scientists with industry advocates on the agency’s influential science advisory boards and sought to limitthe types of human health research the EPA can rely on in rulemakings.

The officials said Trump appointees have required that career officials receive their permission before beginning the required internal review of the formaldehyde study and have canceled key briefings that would have advanced it. That interference came after EPA career scientists revised the study once already last year to insulate it from political controversy, they said.

(click here to continue reading Sources: EPA blocks warnings on cancer-causing chemical – POLITICO.)

So, scientists at the EPA are leaking to Politico because they don’t want to be hauled in to defend themselves in a class action law suit in a few years…

Tomorrow We Vote
Tomorrow We Vote

Just out of morbid curiosity, I googled formaldehyde manufacturers, and one of the first to come up is Georgia Pacific. You may recall their owner: Koch Industries. The EPA stonewalling makes a lot more sense now, doesn’t it?

And this isn’t a new story, as it was discussed back in 2010, for instance

Kevin Grandia reported:

Our research has uncovered very strong ties between Georgia-Pacific, a company co-owned by David Koch through Koch Industries, and a political lobby group called the Formaldehyde Council that is involved in efforts to downplay the dangers posed by formaldehyde to human health.

Formaldehyde is classified as a “Group 1 Carcinogen” which is defined as an agent that “is definitely carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and “a complete carcinogen” in the words of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The National Toxicology Program also recently revised its characterization of formaldehyde to that of “known human carcinogen.”

But this determination by top scientists and researchers has not stopped Formaldehyde Council Inc. from trying to convince lawmakers on Capitol Hill that the links between Formaldehyde and cancer are highly overstated.

According to IRS filings [pdf], the Formaldehyde Council was formed in 1995 with the mission to,

“encourage accurate scientific evaluation of Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde-based materials and to communicate sound scientific information relating to the uses, benefits and sustainability of these products.”
The Council’s operating budget in 2008 was $2.7 million and it reported $2 million in “membership dues and assessments.”

David Koch’s company, Georgia-Pacific, one of the largest manufacturers of Formaldehyde in the United States, is listed on the Formaldehyde Council’s website as a “member” since at least 2004.

(click here to continue reading Koch Industries Funds Attack on Science Linking Formaldehyde and Cancer | HuffPost.)

We need to have leaders in the EPA who actually care about protecting the environment, and our health, and not the profits of polluters like the Koch family.

Written by Seth Anderson

July 14th, 2018 at 9:34 am

Posted in environment,politics,science

Tagged with , ,

Three Reporters Are Turned Away From an E.P.A. Event

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Fiji Over Lake Michigan
Fiji Over Lake Michigan

The NYT reports in disgust:

The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday barred reporters from three news organizations from an event on the impact of toxic chemicals on drinking water at the agency’s headquarters.

The event, during which the E.P.A. administrator Scott Pruitt declared that addressing the impact of a class of man-made chemicals was a “national priority,” came at a time when Mr. Pruitt is the subject of at least 12 federal investigations.

Among those denied entry from the morning session of the planned two-day event was a reporter from The Associated Press, Ellen Knickmeyer. When she requested to speak to an E.P.A. public affairs official, she was “grabbed by the shoulders and shoved out of the building by a security guard,” according to a report from the wire service.

Also turned away were Corbin Hiar, a reporter for E & E News, and Rene Marsh, of CNN, along with a camera operator and a producer from the cable network.

(click here to continue reading Three Reporters Are Turned Away From an E.P.A. Event – The New York Times.)

How is that even acceptable behavior for a thug like Scott Pruitt? In a normal administration, Pruitt would have resigned in disgrace as soon as this despicable action became public, but then in a normal administration, Pruitt would have been fired long ago.

 

Pruitt

via
https://www.gocomics.com/nickanderson/2018/05/23

What was the topic that Pruitt wanted hidden? How polluted our national water supply is, specifically in this case by perfluorinated compounds (PFAS), used mostly in teflon and fire-fighting foam.

As Politico reported:

Scott Pruitt’s EPA and the White House sought to block publication of a federal health study on a nationwide water-contamination crisis, after one Trump administration aide warned it would cause a “public relations nightmare,” newly disclosed emails reveal.

The intervention early this year — not previously disclosed — came as HHS’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry was preparing to publish its assessment of a class of toxic chemicals that has contaminated water supplies near military bases, chemical plants and other sites from New York to Michigan to West Virginia.

The study would show that the chemicals endanger human health at a far lower level than EPA has previously called safe, according to the emails.

“The public, media, and Congressional reaction to these numbers is going to be huge,” one unidentified White House aide said in an email forwarded on Jan. 30 by James Herz, a political appointee who oversees environmental issues at the OMB. The email added: “The impact to EPA and [the Defense Department] is going to be extremely painful. We (DoD and EPA) cannot seem to get ATSDR to realize the potential public relations nightmare this is going to be.”

More than three months later, the draft study remains unpublished, and the HHS unit says it has no scheduled date to release it for public comment. Critics say the delay shows the Trump administration is placing politics ahead of an urgent public health concern — something they had feared would happen after agency leaders like Pruitt started placing industry advocates in charge of issues like chemical safety.

(click here to continue reading White House, EPA headed off chemical pollution study – POLITICO.)

MAGA, I guess. Probably good news for Nestlé ?

Written by Seth Anderson

May 23rd, 2018 at 9:39 am

Posted in environment,government

Tagged with , ,

Former Little Village coal plant to be demolished, replaced with warehouses

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Gain the Whole World and Lose
Gain the Whole World and Lose

Ryan Ori of the Tribune reports:

The former coal-fired power plant in Little Village is set to be demolished and replaced with a 21st-century use: warehouses to speed orders for online customers in Chicago.

Northbrook-based Hilco Redevelopment Partners has bought the former Crawford Power Generating Station as part of a $100 million-plus project to demolish the facility and replace it with up to 1 million square feet of warehouses along Interstate 55, Pulaski Road and the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. No tenant has been signed.

The facility was one of the last two coal plants in operation in Chicago until 2012, when power company Midwest Generation closed the facility and its Fisk generating station in Pilsen. The Crawford plant opened in the 1920s.

Roberto Perez, president and managing director of Hilco Redevelopment Partners, said “70 acres in a perfect rectangle is almost impossible to find in downtown Chicago.”

Hilco is working on a community benefits agreement with 22nd Ward Ald. Ricardo Munoz on the Crawford redevelopment. “No. 1, I want to see it cleaned up properly, and No. 2, I want to see jobs go to local residents,” Munoz said. “It’s great that they’re going to repurpose the site, put it back on the tax rolls and bring jobs back to the site.”

Site cleanup and demolition is expected to take 14 to 24 months. Hilco will talk with prospective tenants during that time.

Hilco has been buying and redeveloping similar sites in other parts of the country, including Boston and Baltimore, as online retailers and other companies seek “last mile” distribution centers close to residential areas. The company signed leases with Amazon, FedEx Ground and Under Armour on a former Bethlehem Steel plant it is redeveloping into distribution space in Baltimore.

(click here to continue reading Former Little Village coal plant to be demolished, replaced with distribution center – Chicago Tribune.)

Good news, I guess, though I hope they use permeable pavement. Would have been nicer if that area had become a beautiful parkland instead of warehouses. But, still better than a heavy metal spewing power plant, especially if the site is cleaned thoroughly.

The Dark Doesn t Hide It
The Dark Doesn’t Hide It

West Wind Blowing Ill
West Wind Blowing Ill

Go Back To Where You Have Been Again
Go Back To Where You Have Been Again

West Wind Blowing Ill  Redux
West Wind Blowing Ill – Redux

Tales of the Towering Dead
Tales of the Towering Dead

Everything If You Want Things
Everything If You Want Things

Withered and Died
Withered and Died

Fisk Station
Fisk Station

Satanic Gift
Satanic Gift

Stack for Fisk Generating Station
Stack for Fisk Generating Station

Written by Seth Anderson

May 7th, 2018 at 8:21 am

Michigan OKs Nestlé Water Extraction, Despite 80K+ Public Comments Against It

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No Information Left Of Any Kind
No Information Left Of Any Kind

NPR reports:

In a much-watched case, a Michigan agency has approved Nestlé’s plan to boost the amount of water it takes from the state. The request attracted a record number of public comments — with 80,945 against and 75 in favor.

Nestlé’s request to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to pump 576,000 gallons of water each day from the White Pine Springs well in the Great Lakes Basin was “highly controversial,” member station Michigan Radio reports. But despite deep public opposition, the agency concluded that the company’s plan met with legal standards.

Under the plan, Nestlé will be approved to pump up to 400 gallons of water per minute from the well, rather than the 250 gallons per minute it had been extracting. The company first applied for the new permit in July 2016.

Water is a complicated and sore subject in many areas, but in few places more so than in Michigan, where a crisis has raged for years over high levels of lead and other dangerous heavy metals in the water in Flint. And back in 2014, Detroit resorted to shutting off water to thousands of customers as it fought bankruptcy.

With that recent history as a backdrop, Nestlé’s plan to boost the amount of water it takes from the Great Lakes State drew attention and added another dimension to a debate over whether water should be seen as a commodity, a commercial product — or a human right.

Nestlé’s well is in western Michigan, near the town of Evart…The company bottles the water for sale under its Ice Mountain label.

(click here to continue reading Michigan OKs Nestlé Water Extraction, Despite 80K+ Public Comments Against It : The Two-Way : NPR.)

Disgusting, really that Nestlé gets to sell, for profit, water that is taken from the public at a rate of 400 gallons a minute. By my quick math: 400 gallons x 60 minutes x 24 hours x 365 days=  approximately 210,240,000 gallons a year; roughly 1,681,920,000 Iron Mountain 16 ml bottles that are sold for $3.99 in airports, or cheaper at, for instance, Target). Even accounting for the costs of “extraction”, plastic bottles, shipping, labeling, and so on, that’s a damn nice profit margin. Almost 2 billion 16 ml bottles a year, for basically free!

Thirsty Side view
Thirsty? Side view of discarded plastic water bottles

Especially because of this:

in Mecosta County, Nestlé is not required to pay anything to extract the water, besides a small permitting fee to the state and the cost of leases to a private landowner. In fact, the company received $13 million in tax breaks from the state to locate the plant in Michigan. The spokesperson for Nestlé in Michigan is Deborah Muchmore. She’s the wife of Dennis Muchmore—Governor Rick Snyder’s chief of staff, who just retired and registered to be a lobbyist.

 

(click here to continue reading Michigan’s Water Wars: Nestlé Pumps Millions of Gallons for Free While Flint Pays for Poisoned Water | Democracy Now!.)

Private profits from public resources, despicable. And the Republican assholes currently running the State of Michigan are happy to do it.

Thirsty
Thirsty?

Written by Seth Anderson

May 6th, 2018 at 7:53 pm

Scott Pruitt Is Ridiculous

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What I Need I Just Don t Have
What I Need I Just Don’t Have.

The New York Times writes:

Despite stiff competition, Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, is by common consensus the worst of the ideologues and mediocrities President Trump chose to populate his cabinet. Policies aside — and they’re terrible, from an environmental perspective — Mr. Pruitt’s self-aggrandizing and borderline thuggish behavior has disgraced his office and demoralized his employees. We opposed his nomination because he had spent his career as attorney general of Oklahoma suing the federal department he was being asked to lead on behalf of industries he was being asked to regulate. As it turns out, Mr. Pruitt is not just an industry lap dog but also an arrogant and vengeful bully and small-time grifter, bent on chiseling the taxpayer to suit his lifestyle and warm his ego.

Any other president would have fired him. Mr. Trump praises him.

One frequently overlooked truth about Mr. Pruitt amid these complaints is that for all his swagger he has actually accomplished very little in terms of actual policy — a wholly desirable outcome, from our standpoint. While hailed as the administration’s foremost champion of deregulation, he has yet to kill or even roll back any significant regulations that were in place when Mr. Trump came to office. (The Obama administration’s important Clean Power Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants had already been blocked by the courts.) He has delayed a few rules, but even these delays have been overturned or challenged. Most of his actions are in the proposal stage, and many will not be finalized for years, if ever.

(click here to continue reading Opinion | Scott Pruitt Has Become Ridiculous – The New York Times.)

Tough competition, indeed, but Pruitt is easily in the competition for worst Cabinet member.

One more snippet from a scathing editorial:

By endless repetition, he has reinforced in the public mind the lie that Republicans have peddled for years and Mr. Trump’s minions peddle now, that environmental rules kill jobs, that limiting carbon dioxide emissions will damage the economy, that the way forward lies not in technology and renewable energy but in digging more coal and punching more holes in the ground in search of oil. And, on the human level, he has been in the forefront of the administration’s shameless effort to delude the nation’s frightened coal miners into thinking coal is coming back, when any comeback is unlikely not because of regulation but because of strong market forces favoring natural gas and renewables.

Parenthetical note. I never noticed this byline before:

The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

Was that in doubt? Confusing, isn’t all the content published by the NYT related?

Written by Seth Anderson

April 17th, 2018 at 8:28 pm

Posted in environment,politics

Tagged with ,

Hurricane Harvey’s Toxic Impact Deeper Than Public Told

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No Chemicals
No Chemicals…

Surprising nobody, the EPA and Texas governor are sweeping any discussion of toxicity under the concrete. 

A toxic onslaught from the nation’s petrochemical hub was largely overshadowed by the record-shattering deluge of Hurricane Harvey as residents and first responders struggled to save lives and property.

More than a half-year after floodwaters swamped America’s fourth-largest city, the extent of this environmental assault is beginning to surface, while questions about the long-term consequences for human health remain unanswered.

County, state and federal records pieced together by The Associated Press and The Houston Chronicle reveal a far more widespread toxic impact than authorities publicly reported after the storm slammed into the Texas coast in late August and then stalled over the Houston area.

Some 500 chemical plants, 10 refineries and more than 6,670 miles of intertwined oil, gas and chemical pipelines line the nation’s largest energy corridor.

Nearly half a billion gallons of industrial wastewater mixed with storm water surged out of just one chemical plant in Baytown, east of Houston on the upper shores of Galveston Bay.

Benzene, vinyl chloride, butadiene and other known human carcinogens were among the dozens of tons of industrial toxins released into surrounding neighborhoods and waterways following Harvey’s torrential rains.

In all, reporters catalogued more than 100 Harvey-related toxic releases — on land, in water and in the air. Most were never publicized, and in the case of two of the biggest ones, the extent or potential toxicity of the releases was initially understated.

Only a handful of the industrial spills have been investigated by federal regulators, reporters found.

(click here to continue reading Hurricane Harvey’s Toxic Impact Deeper Than Public Told – The New York Times.)

Disturbing, and portent of massive human misery to come, especially if the GOP controls the environmental inspectors. Profits over people, always, is the Republican agenda.

Written by Seth Anderson

March 22nd, 2018 at 9:54 am

Posted in environment,government

Tagged with , ,

The Koch Brothers vs. God

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To blaspheme the earth is now the dreadfulest sin
To blaspheme the earth is now the dreadfulest sin

Fascinating story about a new line of anti-environmental attacks from the Kochs, and the ensuing counter-attack from religious people. We only have on Earth, let’s keep it habitable, and not exploit it for money for a few, leaving our planet despoiled.

At another rally focused on fossil fuels a year earlier in Richmond, religion was front and center.

In December 2016, gospel music stars descended on a local community center in Richmond’s East Highland Park neighborhood. Hundreds of residents from throughout the area had answered the call to attend a concert marketed as an opportunity for enlightenment, both spiritual and environmental.

As a sea of hands waved through the air as eyes closed in prayer, what many in the crowd didn’t know was that they were the target of a massive propaganda campaign. One of the event’s sponsors was a fossil-fuel advocacy group called Fueling U.S. Forward, an outfit supported by Koch Industries, the petrochemicals, paper, and wood product conglomerate founded by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch.

The gospel program was designed to highlight the benefits of oil and natural gas production and its essential role in the American way of life. During a break in the music, a panel discussion unfolded about skyrocketing utility costs. The lobbyists and businesspeople on the panel presented a greater reliance on fossil fuels — billed as cheap, reliable energy sources — as the fix. Later, a surprise giveaway netted four lucky attendees the opportunity to have their power bills paid for them.

The event was one big bait and switch, according to environmental experts and local activists. Come for the gospel music, then listen to us praise the everlasting goodness of oil and gas. Supporting this sort of pro-oil-and-gas agenda sprinkled over the songs of praise, they say, would only worsen the pollution and coastal flooding that come with climate change, hazards that usually hit Virginia’s black residents the hardest.

“The tactic was tasteless and racist, plain and simple,” says Kendyl Crawford, the Sierra Club of Richmond’s conservation program coordinator. “It’s exploiting the ignorance many communities have about climate change.”

Rev. Wilson likens that gospel concert to the Biblical story of Judas accepting 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus. Like many African Americans in Virginia, he initially didn’t connect environmental policy with what he calls the “institutional racism” — think racial profiling, lack of economic opportunity, etc. — that can plague black communities nationwide. Now he considers “the sea level rising or the air quality in the cities” another existential threat.

So in response to the Koch Brothers’ attempt to sway their flocks, Wilson and others affiliated with black churches in Virginia have channeled their outrage into a new calling: climate advocacy. For Wilson, environmentalism has become a biblical mission.

(click here to continue reading The Koch Brothers vs. God.)

Written by Seth Anderson

March 15th, 2018 at 9:15 am

Posted in Business,environment,religion

Tagged with ,

Foxconn wants to stick 7 million-gallon straw into Lake Michigan

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Foxconn 78B2
Foxconn 78B2. 

Foxconn, not content to slurp up all the cash in Wisconsin, is now seeking to drain Lake Michigan. Sure the Great Lakes have a lot of fresh water, but why allow it to privatized? And polluted?

Less than a year after Waukesha secured permission to withdraw more than 7 million gallons a day from the lake, Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group could end up winning access to a similar amount of fresh water for its new Wisconsin factory with merely a stroke of a pen from Gov. Scott Walker, the company’s chief political sponsor.

Foxconn’s bid for Lake Michigan water is the latest test of the decade-old Great Lakes Compact, an agreement among the region’s states intended to make it almost impossible to direct water outside the natural basin of the Great Lakes unless it is added to certain products, such as beer and soft drinks.

At issue with both Waukesha and Foxconn is an exemption that allows limited diversions outside the basin for “a group of largely residential customers that may also serve industrial, commercial, and other institutional operators.”

Of the 7 million gallons of water withdrawn daily for Foxconn, 4.3 million gallons would be treated and returned to the lake and the rest would be lost, mostly from evaporation in the company’s cooling system, according to the application sent to Wisconsin officials.

That amount of lost water falls below a daily limit of 5 million gallons that would trigger a review by other Great Lakes states, including those that lost out on the factory.

(click here to continue reading Foxconn finds way to stick 7 million-gallon straw into Lake Michigan – Chicago Tribune.)

Treated, sure, but not returned to pristine state I’m guessing.

No Information Left Of Any Kind
No Information Left Of Any Kind

You Got To Try To See A Little Further
You Got To Try To See A Little Further

Lake Michigan in October
Lake Michigan in October

Written by Seth Anderson

March 8th, 2018 at 9:36 am

America’s Secret Ice Base in Greenland Won’t Stay Frozen Forever

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Don t Get Crazy
Don’t Get Crazy. 

Ok, here’s a pretty weird story. The US started, then abandoned a top-secret military base under the ice of Greenland, called Camp Century aka Project Iceworm. The original goal was to have thousands of miles of underground tunnels and rail, and 600 nuclear missiles ready to be deployed against Moscow if they ever attempted to hack our elections. Ok, not that last part. But the tunnels, and nuclear weapons, that was real. The US didn’t even bother to ask the Danish government if it was ok with them to have nuclear weapons stored here, but in the end it didn’t matter because the ice turned out to be too unstable and the project was cancelled.

The Pentagon did what it often has done, left behind all the waste and garbage, even though much of it is toxic. Fast forward a few decades, and factor in climate change, and we have a real problem as Sarah Laskow of Wired writes:

Under the thick ice of Greenland, a scant 800 miles from the North Pole, the U.S. military built a hidden base of ice tunnels, imagined as an extensive network of railway tracks, stretching over 2,500 miles, that would keep 600 nuclear missiles buried under the ice. Construction began in 1959, under cover of a scientific research project, and soon a small installation, powered by a nuclear reactor, nested in the ice sheet.

In the midst of the Cold War, Greenland seemed like a strategic point for the U.S. to stage weapons, ready to attack the U.S.S.R. The thick ice sheet, military planners imagined, would provide permanent protection for the base. But after the first tunnels were built, the military discovered that the ice sheet was not as stable as it needed to be: It moved and shifted, destabilizing the tunnels. Within a decade, Camp Century was abandoned.

By the time the base was abandoned in 1967, it had its own library and theater, an infirmary, kitchen and mess hall, a chapel, and two power plants (one nuclear, one run on diesel). When the base closed, key parts of the nuclear power plant were removed, but most of the base’s infrastructure was left behind—the buildings, the railways, the sewage, the diesel fuel, and the low-level radioactive waste. In the 2016 paper, which Colgan worked on as well, the researchers suggested that the radiological waste was less worrisome than the more extensive chemical waste, from diesel fuel and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) used to insulate fluids and paints.

Overall, the researchers estimated that 20,000 liters of chemical waste remain at the Camp Century site, along with 24 million liters of “biological waste associated with untreated sewage.” That’s just at Camp Century; the military closed down bases at three other sites in Greenland, too, and it’s unclear how much waste is left there. Over the next few decades, the researchers found, melt water from the ice sheets could mobilize these pollutants, exposing both the wildlife and humans living in Greenland.

(click here to continue reading America’s Secret Ice Base Won’t Stay Frozen Forever | WIRED.)

It s Symbolic Of Course
It’s Symbolic Of Course

Written by Seth Anderson

February 28th, 2018 at 11:01 am

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 , , ,