The Widdershins

Posts Tagged ‘environment

Hello Widdershins!

Another week, more shenanigans from Sinenchin. AZ Senator who caucuses with Democrats went to fundraise in Europe while steadfastly insisting the filibuster is saving democracy and Manchin finally drew one red line on what he is willing to support: transitioning from coal to sustainable energy. We all thought Manchin objected to the cost of Biden’s BBB bill, but that ain’t it. It’s the pretty cheap part of the bill that transitions his state from coal. Manchin can’t have that. Coal must flow!!!! Even though it is a tiny part of the state’s industry (Arby’s employs more people than the coal industry). But Manchin looooooves coal. So.

Also Bernie Sanders released a blistering statement criticizing how the media is obsessed with the price tag of the bill, while the public has no idea what’s in the bill. Bernie is right (someone check hell, it must be freezing.) The press only talks about the $3.5 trillion price tag and the negotiations. They barely mention what’s actually in the bill. Naturally this sent the press (people like Magga Haberman!) into a tail spin of “This isn’t our fault, it’s your fault! It’s never our fault!” social media posts. Fact check: It is the media’s fault. 3.5 trillion % the media’s fault. The same media still insists their coverage of 2016 election was perfect. But I keep going back to Harvard’s Shorenstein Media Center’s study that ABC, NBC & CBS Nightly News shows – the most watched news programs in the country – spent 100 mins of 2016 discussing Hillary’s email. 30 mins discussing all political issues combined. And 0 of those minutes were on climate change. And yet, the media continues to insist their coverage is above criticism. Trump was right about one thing, if for the wrong reasons: media is the enemy of the people.

Good afternoon Widdershin friends.  A word of caution, I’m free-stylin’ today so logical congruity will be tenuous at best.  Keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times.

Who knew?  While trying to educate myself about the economic alchemy known as fracking, I came upon a Fracking Diagram 2surprising bit of trivia.  Who knew the burly, macho roughneck oil riggers were Alice in Wonderland aficionados?  But I digress.

Currently, the U.S. is producing 7.8 million barrels of oil a day, more than it has produced in a quarter-century.  There are accounts in the media that the U.S. will overtake Saudi Arabia by 2020 as the world’s largest oil producer.

That’s all well and good if you overlook the needed 50,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid to dissolve the limestone, the 1,000 gallons of antibacterial solution to kill microorganisms that chew up the pipes, the soapy surfactants to reduce friction, the scale inhibitor to prevent lime buildup, and the 2 million pounds of sand to prop open the fractures so the oil and gas can flow freely.  For the average well, these ingredients plus the regular costs bring the cost per well to about $3.7 million.

This means to be economically viable, the cost of oil must remain high — above $70 a barrel.

Still all well and good if you don’t mind sacrificing at the pump so big oil can wring the last drop of oil from what was once the shallow seas covering a large part of the Midwest.  But herein lies the rub and where our literary friend Alice comes into play.

You see these fracking wells don’t produce in perpetuity.  In fact, their production numbers are quite anemic.  For instance, a well near Oklahoma City came in as a gusher in 2009, pumping more than 1,200 barrels of oil a day.  Now that same well produces less than 100 barrels a day.  The dirty little fracking secret:  Shale wells start strong and fade fast.  Therefore, the fracking producers are drilling at a breakneck pace to just hold output steady.

The ThinkerThis incessant need to drill is known as the Red Queen syndrome, after the character in Through the Looking-Glass who tells Alice, “It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”

David Hughes, a geoscientist and president of Global Sustainability Research, has examined the life span of shale wells.  He says, “The Red Queen syndrome just gets worse and worse and worse.  The higher production goes, the more wells you need to offset the decline.”  What’s more, Hughes estimates the U.S. needs to drill 6,000 new wells per year at a cost of $35 billion to maintain current production.  His research also shows that the newest wells aren’t as productive as those drilled in the first years of the boom, a sign that oil companies have already tapped the sweetest spots.

The most sobering forecast prediction:  All this environmental carnage for oil recovery will peak in 2018.  What’s more, it will fall back to 2012 production levels by 2020.  So through our tithing at the altar of the pump, we are potentially harming the environment so that we may continue paying high prices in order to continue enriching the wealthiest corporations in the history of mankind for another five years.  Fracking unbelievable!

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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.  🙄

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.



What does “security” mean to you?

On Saturday, May 1st at approximately 6:30 pm, a bomb was discovered in an SUV in Times Square. Two street vendors, both disabled Vietnam vets, alerted the cops, who responded immediately. The bomb squad was called in, the firefighters came, and the area was evacuated. The bomb failed to detonate, everything is back to normal in Times Square, and the two vendors are heroes.

Shortly before 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, the vendors — Lance Orton and Duane Jackson, who both served during the Vietnam War and now rely on special sidewalk vending privileges for disabled veterans — alerted nearby officers about the Pathfinder, which had begun filling with smoke and then emitted sparks and popping sounds.

Over the next several hours, numerous firefighters and officers — from patrol officers to those in specialized units — all did their part in minimizing the potential damage and handling a volatile situation.

But in a city hungry for heroes, the spotlight quickly turned to the two vendors. Mr. Orton, a purveyor of cheap T-shirts, ran from the limelight early Sunday morning as he spurned reporters’ questions while gathering his merchandise on a table near where the Pathfinder was parked.

When asked if he was proud of his actions, Mr. Orton, who said he had been selling on the street for about 20 years, said: “Of course, man. I’m a veteran. What do you think?”

Mr. Jackson, on the other hand, embraced his newfound limelight, receiving an endless line of people congratulating him while he sold knockoff handbags, cheap watches and $5 pashmina scarves all day Sunday in a Times Square that seemed completely back to normal despite a ratcheted-up police presence and a swarm of news crews.

He told and retold his story to tourists, reporters and customers: how he heard the “pop, pop, pop” coming from the vehicle, and then detected “the smell of a cherry bomb or firecracker or something.”

The authorities would later say that three canisters of propane and two red five-gallon cans of gasoline were found in the vehicle, rigged with fireworks and timers.

“There are a bunch of us disabled vets selling here, and we’re used to being vigilant because we all know that freedom isn’t free,” said Mr. Jackson, 58, of Buchanan, N.Y.

“All of us vets here are the eyes and ears for the cops,” he said. “Whether it’s three-card monte games or thieves, we know the cops here by first name — we have their cell numbers,” said Mr. Jackson, who said he had vended on city streets for many years.

The vendors knew that they were part of a community that could be threatened at any time, so they paid attention and helped to protect their neighbors from a dangerous attack. In addition, law enforcement also knew that they were part of a community, so they responded with alacrity, expertise and an appropriate amount of caution.

Seems to me that real security comes from knowing that you and your neighbors are in this life together, not from repressive racial-profiling laws like the one just passed in Arizona, or from preventing people from carrying their shampoo onto an airplane unless it’s in a 3 oz. plastic see-through bottle.  Seems to me that if we all just pay a little bit of attention and take responsibility for ourselves and each other, then it will be a lot harder for the terrorists to harm us.

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Mother Nature does not seem to be in a very good mood.  Witness the events surrounding Earth Day 2010:  There was the Chinese tanker that took out part of the Great Barrier Reef.  Then there was the (latest) West Virginia mining explosion/disaster.  Then there was the oil platform that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico.  29 miners are dead, and 11 platform workers are still unaccounted for, so the human cost of these events is very dear.  My heart goes out to the families of these men. Oil-based disasters are associated not only with a human toll, but with immeasurable ecologic toll as well.

For example, the Exxon Valdez  occured in 1989.  Yes, it was considered to be the greatest of all ecologic diasters, and the effects are still being felt today.   Many species such as the cormorant, the harbor seal, the harlequin duck, and the killer whale have never fully recovered.  (I think that we all remember the pathetic pictures of baby seals and waterfowl being bathed by volunteers in dishwashing liquid.)  The salmon and the sea otter faired a bit better and appear to be on the road to recovery.  The clean-up from  the Valdez took 4 summers (remember, it was in Prince William Sound, so cleanup efforts were suspended in the fall of each year), and cost Exxon 2.1 Billion dollars.  Despite all of that, oily patches still exist twenty-odd years later.

It may taken another twenty years before all of the negative effects are known.  Part of the problem was major foot-dragging on Exxon’s part, although they were better about paying for the cleanup than they were about reimbursing the losses sustained by people in the PWS area.  Those cases have dragged on and on, and figure fairly high on the list of people in coastal areas who are suspicious of oil companies.

As I write this, the USCG is still searching for the 11 missing workers from the toppled oil rig, but hopes are growing dim.  The oil spill seeping from the now-uncapped well is approximately 2×8 miles in area (thus far).  Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has sent an emergency team to try to cap the well, and BP seems anxious to contain the spill:

Tony Hayward, BP Group’s chief executive, vowed to do everything possible to limit the spill.

“We are determined to do everything in our power to contain this oil spill and resolve the situation as rapidly, safely and effectively as possible,” Hayward said in a statement. “We have assembled and are now deploying world-class facilities, resources and expertise, and can call on more if needed. There should be no doubt of our resolve to limit the escape of oil and protect the marine and coastal environments from its effects.”

Rainey said it was uncertain whether 700,000 gallons of diesel fuel stored in barrels atop the structure were still intact or leaking into the gulf.

Senators  Mary Landrieu (D-La) and Bill Nelson (Fl) are calling for a full investigation.  Sen. Nelson has been a vocal critic of off-shore drilling, and he has now requested that Sec. Ken Salazar look into this a little more before we “drill,baby,drill” off of Florida’s coast.  Of course, the point may be moot once the slick starts washing up on the Gulf Coast of Florida, killing sea life and poisoning oyster beds as it goes.

Hopefully, clean-up will be quick and thorough.  I suppose that we should be grateful that BP is more responsive than Exxon was.   Now, in an effort to end a dark posting on a somewhat  lighter note, here is the Australian comedy team Clark and Dawe with their version of a post-oil spill interview for your amusement:

I’m off to a memorial service today, so please consider this to be an open thread.

Biden illustration: REBUILD WITH BIDEN

Nice picture of our gal

Madam Vice President

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