Archive for the ‘Ecology’ Category
Hello Widdershins! Today, I thought I’d do some follow-up on some of our recent Activist Wednesday stories.
TARMAGEDDON, otherwise known as the Keystone XL Pipeline:
Last Friday, the State Department put out a draft report which states that there will not be any major environmental impact from TARMAGEDDON. In related news, I hear that nuclear waste makes great shampoo. Mmm, radiation!
On at least one main point though — that the $5.3 billion project won’t worsen the risks of global warming because Alberta’s oil sands would be developed anyway — the analysis represents a clear win for the oil lobbyists and a loss for environmentalists who applauded Obama’s pledge to fight climate change in his second inaugural and State of the Union.
“The fact that they came out and said, ‘Eh, it doesn’t really effect the oil sands development,’ to me this is a prelude to approval,” said Sarah Emerson, president of Energy Security Analysis Inc. in Wakefield, Massachusetts.
Environmentalists view the Keystone decision as a test of Obama’s sincerity about making climate change a priority in his second term after failing to advance legislation to cap carbon dioxide in his first. The administration is also scheduled to release final rules that for the first time will restrict greenhouse gases on new power plants, and the EPA will then face legal and political pressure to issue related standards for existing plants. It is also considering regulations for a drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that has boosted the nation’s energy production but raised concerns about air and water pollution. [MB: "Raised concerns?" Lord have mercy.]
Here’s an interesting fact about John Kerry, our new Secretary of State….he is what they call a climate hawk. This means that he is a vocal proponent of taking action to stop climate change. His previous statements would seem to indicate that he would not support the pipeline. However, it was under his leadership that this very favorable review was written. Et tu, Johnny?
Looks like there is more yelling to be done on this issue…
As Uppity Woman would say (albeit about our reproductive rights, but it still applies)…
It’s like someone somewhere says, “Hey, I have an idea that would cause environmental disaster and only temporarily make a few people wealthy. What could possibly go wrong?” And then, when someone demonstrates again and again and AGAIN that it is the Worst F*cking Idea Ever, the Idea People go scuttle into a dark corner somewhere. Now, I have no problem with them going and hiding in that corner, if only they would JUST STAY THERE!!!
What the hell is our allegedly Democratic Presnit doing playing footsie with these XL shysters? Every other civilized country is starting to realize that hey, we can’t drill, baby, drill our way out of our energy crisis. No matter what, we are going to run out of fossil fuels. So why go to the devastating extreme of fracking, or blowing the tops off mountains to get to coal and shale, or, as the pipeline proposition would do, build a thousands-of-miles-long conveyor system to carry toxic waste throughout the country?
Well, we know Obama was the only Democrat to vote for Cheney’s energy bill, so I guess it’s not surprising he just can’t seem to say no to this Really, Really Bad Idea. Maybe the protests this weekend will stiffen his resolve.
Thousands of environmental activists flocked to the national mall on Sunday to protest proposed legislation for the Keystone XL pipeline project. If passed, a roughly 1,700 mile pipeline would be built from Alberta, Canada, across the American border into the U.S. Midwest. The pipeline would transport thousands of gallons of tar sands to refineries in Oklahoma and Texas, providing needed energy to the nation. However, the project has sparked a firestorm among environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, and other groups which claim the pipeline could hurt the ecosystem along which it would travel. The climate rally was among the largest of its kind in history, and may highlight growing public pressure against the pipeline which would force President Barack Obama to drop support for the project.
Now that the pipeline project may be on the verge of being green-lighted, thousands flocked to the Capitol in protest. The Sierra Club launched their rally “Forward on Climate” on Sunday and amassed an estimated 40,000 people. The term “forward” was strategic in that Obama helped coin the word in both his presidential campaigns.
The main outrage sparked by the pipeline plan is that it promotes the continuation of excess fossil fuel consumption. In an age where climate change is starting to dominate the national conversation, and with the Sierra Club being one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington, environmentalists may be successful in their anti-pipeline push.
Oh man, I wish I could have been there. I am so proud and excited to be a part of this era, when people are rediscovering the power of feet on the street once again. Viva activism, and viva those protesters who braved the chilly weather to show up on Obama’s front lawn and shout, “NO TO KEYSTONE XL!”
I didn’t want to end this Activist Wednesday without mentioning another extremely important development: FLOTUS got bangs! Discuss. (Now you know I’m not a fan, but I think she looks pretty fabulous.)
This is an open thread.
Hello Widdershin friends! My goodness, I have been so crazy busy. I have been missing you all very much. I’m in lovely Fort Lauderdale, but am so overbooked with meetings that I barely have a second to enjoy the weather, or the view of the InterCoastal from my hotel room. Can’t wait to go to Chicago next week – only four days of work and then some vacation time with the hubby. Woot Woot!
Anywho, enough of that personal stuff. On to the Mailbox!
Ratify the ERA!
Believe it or not, the languid ladies of NOW have roused themselves to create a petition in support of the ERA on the WhiteHouse.Gov site. The petition already has over 23,000 signatures as of this writing, but needs about 2,000 more to reach its goal of 25,000 by Sunday, February 10th. Here’s the full text of the petition – short, sweet and to the point:
We petition the Obama Administration to:
Vigorously support women’s rights by fully engaging in efforts to ratify the 1972 Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
There are currently 35 states that have ratified the ERA and legal analysis suggests we may need just three more states for women to have equal rights under our Constitution. We ask you to support our efforts nationwide, particularly in the states that have not yet ratified the ERA: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, N. Carolina, Oklahoma, S. Carolina, Utah, and Virginia. We also ask you to place your full support behind Congressional legislation to eliminate deadlines on the original 1972 ERA. It is time our Constitution protects the rights of women, and women need and deserve active participation in ERA advocacy from the White House.
Pass the VAWA!
Do you all remember last year, how the Tea Party morons used all kinds of excuses not to pass the Violence Against Women Act? Here, let me refresh your memory.
While a few Senate Republicans did vote for the Act, there were some new provisions that made the more racist, homophobic members of the Grand Old Patriarchy a tad…uncomfortable.
Senate Democrats added provisions to VAWA that would help gays and lesbians receive domestic-abuse protections, make more temporary visas available for battered women in the United States illegally, and offer native American women more protection.
“A victim is a victim is a victim,” thundered Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) of Vermont, one of the bill’s lead sponsors, on the Senate floor Thursday. “You don’t say we can help you if you fit in this category, but sorry battered woman, you’re on your own, because you’re in the wrong category. That’s not America.”
Senate Republicans complained, among other things, that this expansion gets into controversial social issues meant to embarrass the GOP more than help women. [Heavens, why would the GOP be embarrassed by the Democrats pointing out their racism and homophobia?]
The Republicans were not content to vote against the VAWA, however…they are drafting their own version in the House.
In the lower chamber, Republicans led by Reps. Sandy Adams of Florida and Kristi Noem of South Dakota offered the outline of their VAWA bill Wednesday. While still being drafted, the bill will all but certainly not contain the Senate’s trio of controversial provisions.
“I can assure you that the House is not opening up the bill in controversial ways like the Senate bill does,” said Adams spokeswoman Lisa Boothe in an e-mail. “This is a bipartisan issue and should not be used for political fodder.”
Ah yes, the GOP is always happy to claim that Democrats are politicizing an issue. As we know, this simply means that the Democrats are using politics to try to get something done which, most likely, benefits people who are neither white, nor male, nor (gasp!) straight.
But I digress! In the same post, I predicted that the VAWA would pass the House, but without the “controversial” provisions intact. Sadly, those assholes couldn’t even get that vote accomplished. Now, the VAWA is up for a vote again. Are House Republicans sufficiently scared by their losses in 2012 to vote in their own self-interest? I dunno, but a little encouragement couldn’t hurt.
Educate Yourself About Food and Fracking.
Check out this article from Mother Jones. As you know, I am very passionate about exposing the evils of fracking, so I’m always looking for anti-fracking arguments. This is a good one!
But there’s another, emerging food/fracking connection that few are aware of. US agriculture is highly reliant on synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, and nitrogen fertilizer is synthesized in a process fueled by natural gas. As more and more of the US natural gas supply comes from fracking, more and more of the nitrogen fertilizer farmers use will come from fracked natural gas. If Big Ag becomes hooked on cheap fracked gas to meet its fertilizer needs, then the fossil fuel industry will have gained a powerful ally in its effort to steamroll regulation and fight back opposition to fracking projects.
Well, frack me! Not only do we have to fight back against corporate flunkies in state governments who are in the pockets of Big Oil & Gas; we also have to worry about Big Ag?! My Goddess, they really know how to pile on the corruption.
Not surprisingly, as Kay McDonald of the excellent blog Big Picture Agriculture shows, the industry is starting to move back to the United States to take advantage of the fracking boom. McDonald points to a $1.4 billion project announced in September by the Egyptian company Orascom Construction Industries to build a large new nitrogen fertilizer plant in Iowa close to a natural gas pipeline. According to the Wall Street Journal, “cheap U.S. natural-gas supplies and the nation’s role as the world’s most important food exporter” drew the Egyptian giant into the US market.
And unbelievably, the federal government is subsidizing this sh*t with money that was supposed to help farmers whose business was hurt by the flooding in 2008. If only they used their powers for good instead of eeeevil!
Rather than prop up nitrogen use by subsidizing new megaprojects, public policy could be seeking encouraging farming practices that demand less nitrogen. One obvious strategy is diversification. The most prolific US crop, corn, is also the most nitrogen-intensive among major field crops. In a 2012 paper, researchers from Iowa State University’s Leopold Center showed that by extending the typical Midwestern corn-soy crop rotation by adding a “small grain” (e.g., oats or wheat) plus nitrogen-fixing cover crops, farmers can reduce their nitrogen needs by upwards of 80 percent. Investing in policies that encourage such changes would likely, in the long run, be much smarter than subsidizing the fertilizer industry’s move toward relying on fracked gas.
I am telling you, fracking could be the new cause of a disaster like the Dust Bowl. We owe it to ourselves to stay educated and fight back whenever we can!
That’s it for my Mailbox this week. Happy Wednesday – this is an open thread.
Happy New Year, Widdershins! I hope the holidays were good to you. I think we did get a nice collective present when Obama only partially caved on taxing the wealthy, and staved off some of the worst aspects of the fiscal cliff. I know that “progressives” are livid that the tax raise only went to those who were making $400,000 or more as individuals and $450,000 as a family, but I am pleasantly surprised that he finally did what he had been promising since 2008. Admittedly, it was in a half-assed Barackian way, but what else would you ever expect from him?
I said a while back that I would tell you who my top activists were in the year that is now past. Unlike most politicians, I do keep my promises. Without further ado, here they are!
Top activists of 2012: Environmentalists.
Whether it was stopping the XL Pipeline from being built, getting even the World Bank to understand the urgency of global warming, or fighting fracking in New York, environmentalists truly made an impact in 2012. Congratulations, you tree-hugging, chardonnay-sipping commie pinko hippies! You have my respect, admiration, and encouragement for 2013, when you start pressuring Obama to lead on this issue.
After mixed results in Obama’s first four years, environmental groups appear to have come to the conclusion they need to be more vocal about demanding action from the White House, to keep climate change from slipping off the president’s second term agenda.
The letter urged Obama to set new pollution controls for existing power plants. A report released last month by the Natural Resources Defense Council set out a plan for cutting carbon emissions from power plants 26% by the end of the decade.
The open letter also pressed Obama to put a stop to the Keystone XL pipeline project, designed to pump crude from the Alberta tar sands to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast.
Obama put a hold on final approval of the pipeline early last year, but industry and environmental groups expect a decision early in his second term.
“We should not pursue dirty fuels like tar sands,” the open letter said. “The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is not in our national interest because it would unlock vast amounts of additional carbon that we can’t afford to burn.”
Many of us have weighed in about the holidays and how we feel various degrees of excitement or “bah humbug” about them. Well, count me in on the thankfulness side, because I feel like this has been a banner year for activism!
I’ll do more of a summary before the New Year, but let me just use one example: Fracking in New York has been stopped again! Our water is safe for now.
New York started 2012 promising to open vast areas of countryside in five Southern Tier counties to industrial gas drilling. In the face of unprecedented opposition—including a record 66,000 comments sent by people like you—New York ended the year in retreat. Fracking regulations for the Delaware River Basin were not finalized and New York has agreed to review fracking’s impact on public health, a key Riverkeeper concern.
There’s a lot going on with fracking. Matt Damon is making a movie about it that is freaking frackers out.
The premiere of a Hollywood film featuring hydraulic fracturing is months away, but the energy industry already is preparing for battle.
“Promised Land” stars Matt Damon as a gas-company salesman trying to lease natural-gas drilling rights in rural Pennsylvania, where fracking has become a widespread, though sometimes controversial, technique to release natural gas from shale deposits.
Worried that the movie will portray fracking in a negative light, the [energy] industry is working up responses that it says could include bombarding film reviewers with scientific studies, distributing leaflets to moviegoers and mounting a “truth-squad” effort on Twitter and FaceBook.
“We’ve been surprised at the emergence of what looks like a concerted campaign targeting the film even before anyone’s seen it,” said James Schamus, chief executive of Focus Features, a unit of Comcast Corp.’s Universal that produced and will distribute “Promised Land” in collaboration with Participant Media LLC. The film was written by Mr. Damon and actor John Krasinski and directed by Gus Van Sant.
Mr. Schamus might find it surprising that the oil and gas industry would be so threatened by the movie, but I don’t. Given the fact that it has spent untold millions (perhaps billions) on obscuring the very real and toxic effects of consuming and creating oil and gas products, it seems to me that the oil and gas industry’s actions are quite predictable. The bullies are back in action, trying to stay in business just long enough to enjoy their private islands in the Caribbean before they’re washed away by rising ocean levels.
After the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, the issue of climate change is being raised anew. Now, I’m not a huge fan of many of the things the German government does (Austerity being one of them). But ya know, they sure seem to have the political will to deal with the undeniable reality of climate change.
Since 2000, Germany has converted 25 percent of its power grid to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and biomass. The architects of the clean energy movement Energiewende, which translates to “energy transformation,” estimate that from 80 percent to 100 percent of Germany’s electricity will come from renewable sources by 2050.
Germans are baffled that the United States has not taken the same path. Not only is the U.S. the wealthiest nation in the world, but it’s also credited with jump-starting Germany’s green movement 40 years ago.
“This is a very American idea,” Arne Jungjohann, a director at the Heinrich Boll Stiftung Foundation (HBSF), said at a press conference Tuesday morning in Washington, D.C. “We got this from Jimmy Carter.”
Poor, naive Germans! They don’t understand that Ronald Raygun was saving America when he ripped Jimmeh’s Commie pinko solar panels off the White House. Anyway, Lee Atwater told me that the Soviets were using those things to spy on the President! ZOMG!!!111!!!!
Somehow, they also must have avoided the floods of dark money that have propagandized the American people into doubting the very real, and obviously man-made, price of our addiction to petrochemicals. Must be nice to live in a place where corporations aren’t people. In fact, people end up producing their own energy – and getting paid for it.
In the end, ratepayers control the program, not the government. This adds consistency, Davidson says. If the government itself paid, it would be easy for a new finance minister to cut the program upon taking office. Funding is not at the whim of politicians as it is in the U.S.
“Everyone has skin in the game,” says writer Osha Gray Davidson. “The movement is decentralized and democratized, and that’s why it works. Anybody in Germany can be a utility.”
THIS being…well this:
It is totally unacceptable at least to me and the Louisiana Bucket Brigade that this number of “accidents” occurred during Tropical Storm/Hurricane Isaac. These industries; oil and gas, chemical and the like are “long-term residents” of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. They are not unfamiliar with hurricanes and tropical storms and they know how to prepare for their effects. There were at least 93 “incidents” during the storm according to the Bucket Brigade. Of those incidents Jill Mastrototero had this to say:
The 93 industry accidents that have been reported to the Coast Guard’s National Response Center demonstrates that we have lax enforcement by regulators and self-regulation by industries just doesn’t work,” she said. “Industries need to make real investments in equipment, in planning, in training their workers to prevent and respond to future actions.” Jill also stated:
“Its completely shameful and irresponsible and inexcusable that seven years after Katrina and Rita, the lessons of those storms, the lessons we were taught by the BP oil disaster, that we have industry’s continued business-as-usual approach to showcase the fact that their inaction and their ill preparedness has proven to be dangerous and deadly and unacceptable to the health of our communities, our families and our workers…”
Jill mentioned the lessons (supposedly learned) from the BP Macondo oil spill and guess what reared its ugly head once again? Oil from the BP spill in the form of tar balls.
Laboratory tests show that globs of oil found on two Louisiana beaches after Hurricane Isaac came from the 2010 BP spill. Tests run by Louisiana State University for state wildlife officials confirmed that oil found on Elmer’s Island and Grand Isle matched the biological fingerprint of the hundreds of millions of gallons of oil that spewed from BP’s Macondo well.
Ed Overton, the LSU chemist who did the state tests, said the oil found on Elmer’s Island had not degraded much while oil at Grand Isle had.
“Both were good solid matches on Macondo oil,” Overton said.
Experts expected that hurricane waves would stir up oil buried along the Gulf Coast and that Isaac, which made landfall on Aug. 28 and soaked the region in the days afterward, apparently did just that. Reports of tar balls washing up on beaches after the storm were reported in Alabama and Louisiana, two states that got hit hard by BP’s massive offshore oil spill.
Mr. Overton, the chemist from LSU says that more oil is likely buried along the Gulf Coast beaches perhaps buried as deep as three feet. I’m glad that oil apparently has a DNA of its own which can be identified. We can just add this to the bills that BP is going to have to pay. Of course BP, being a good corporate citizen chose to look at the brighter side of things:
“If there’s something good about this storm, it made it visible where we can clean it up,” BP spokesman Ray Melick said.
And to think, they pay the man to utter words like that. :roll:
Going back to the current pollution incidents, the Louisiana Dept. of Environmental Quality – DEQ (a misnomer if ever there was one) said:
“The impact to human health and the environment has been minimal, especially considering the size and duration of the storm,” the statement said.
Sure, that’s right. Except that one refinery in Chalmette (Fredster’s home town) had releases of:
277 tons of sulfur dioxide, 1,200 pounds of hydrogen sulfide and 100 pounds of benzene at Chalmette Refining in St. Bernard.
That’s correct: Benzene. It is used in oil refining and it is a known carcinogen. But the DEQ says it was just a little tiny bit and its impact on us humans “has been minimal”. Uh-huh. Chalmette Refining will have to file an incident report with the E.P.A. and or the National Response Center and that report will probably state that the release was unavoidable due to power outages or something similar even though these industries had weeks to follow Mr. Isaac on his trek across the Atlantic and into the Gulf; plenty of time to have prepared for it.
I think one of the saddest things I saw was this:
As the gentleman said in the video, this is our state bird. Perhaps we should change it to an image of an oiled pelican.
This is an open thread.