I sometimes think that many of us have a deep seated mania that causes us to believe that for a substance to be an effective source of energy it must be something that can be burned. Not only must it be combustible, the substance must be hard to get. This manic belief requires that the energy source must be searched out and dug up or clawed from the earth at great trouble and expense.
What’s more, to be a credible source the fuel must be retrieved from the bowels of the earth or the deepest depths of the ocean in an odyssey by intrepid explorers with fedoras and a five day growth of manly stubble, all else is considered to be alchemy.
“We know that renewable energies like solar and wind at this point in time are not capable of addressing the world’s total energy demands.” The Remarkable Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate from Clean Technica by Glenn Meyers
Not to single out a fellow writer here at Clean Technica, I’ve heard and read similar statements many times but the fact that they grossly distort the reality of the potential energy sources all around us does make them nettlesome. Actually we “know” no such thing.
I don’t know where this belief comes from or how it got started, maybe it’s primal. It could be an archetype, lodged early in the human mind, left over from the terror, fascination, even trauma, when some guy with a five day stubble first dragged a burning branch from a lightning struck tree back to the cave for a mastodon roast.
Reading” Looking for Gas in All the Wrong Places” a piece in Monday’s NYT by Stanley Fish I found a calm, collected, depiction of an equally calm and collected town meeting in Andes, N.Y. where the subject on the agenda was “fracking” or hydraulic fracturing of shale gas deposits.
Calm, rational, and civil aren’t normally descriptive of a gathering when fracking, the subject that is bitterly dividing communities from North Texas and Colorado to Pennsylvania, and from West Virginia to New York is under discussion. Fracking is a national and local hot potato.
This contentious issue has the oil and gas industries, development interests, and cash strapped landowners looking to make some quick lease money, on one side, facing down environmentalists, agricultural, tourism interests and other landowners, looking to protect the nature of their land and water from what they see as polluters and wastrels, on the other.
In the middle is water, the use and abuse of billions of gallons of it and the potential pollution, and ruination of billions, trillions… or some impossibly larger quantity, more.
There are about 4000 active oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, a fact I bumped into while researching an article on BP’s Macondo field Deepwater Horizon disaster last year.
In addition, there are more than 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells that dot the Gulf, actually it’s much more like a blanket.
Watching the brief video is a bit ominous as the rigs spread east and west along the Gulf coast and retreat farther from shore and into ever deeper water over a time span from 1942 through 2005.
I had oil on my mind over coffee this morning because the first item in my Email was a NYT article “U.S. to Offer Oil Leases in the Gulf.” Times writer John M. Broder reveals the administration’s new lease plans and he stopped me cold with this statement:
The lease offering includes parcels from nine to 250 miles offshore and in water depths from 16 to nearly 11,000 feet. The Interior Department estimates that the tract could produce 222 million to 423 million barrels of oil and 1.49 trillion to 2.65 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. “ U.S. to Offer Oil Leases in the Gulf.” John M. Broder NYT
Please note that many of these wells will be more than five times as far from the coast and in more than twice the water depth as BPs colossal failure of last year, greatly increasing the technological problems and challenges while making recovery and mitigation of a spill vastly more problematic.
Originally posted at Clean Technica: More Drilling In The Gulf, The Death Of A Thousand Cuts
The guy is standing on the beach, back to the driving rain, hoodie and trousers flapping crazily, shouting into a microphone, like Ahab standing in the bow of the Pequod screaming at the fates.
They cut to a woman reporter at another location wearing the obligatory hoodie and speaking more reservedly into a microphone, slightly sheltered on the boardwalk above the seawall but sill being pelted by stinging rain and buffeted by the cyclonic wind.
And so it goes, hour after hour, on every cable news outlet, in every storm, the weather critters offer their graphic demonstrations of wind or rain, if it’s snowing they’ll seize a handful and hold it up for the camera as if it was an alien substance found in a meteorite.
In a flood they don waders and plunge in to their thighs to prove beyond doubt that the water is really stacking up out there. A good flood or snowstorm in a city calls for boat rentals to truly show that the water is deep enough to… row a boat or ski rentals to demonstrate… ad nauseum.
If you watch for awhile or you’ll notice that from channel to channel they all perform the same schtick, the dialog is numbingly similar and I’m sure that there are specialized courses of study for weather critters, Severe Weather Coverage 101, or Advanced Weather Drama 201, Theory of Disaster Props and Costumes and so on.
Meanwhile the camera cuts back and forth between our hardy hero braving the elements and the anchor person seated cozily at the anchor desk, with a sheaf of anchor papers and a mouthful of stupid anchor questions to fill another five minutes between Enzyte or Geico commercials.
Coal provides jobs. The jobs are dirty, they produce a product that’s harmful to the planet, hazardous to the health and welfare of the workers and their neighbors, but… hey, they’re jobs.
Besides, some of those jobs involve improving our mountains. They blow the tops off them, and haul away the coal, leaving flat tops, suitable for landing pads, parking lots, Nascar racing, or Appalachian soccer matches.
Where once was a vista of jagged, irregular, disorganized peaks we now have a neat, orderly range of mountains that looks like a platoon of Bob Haldemans.
They also leave behind some pretty ugly mountains.
Originally posted at Clean Technica: Big Coal: Making Mountains Even Better
What we are getting is alarming and according to an Al Jazeera story yesterday Japanese scientists and doctors are sounding the alarm.
There is a spreading feeling that the government and TEPCO are under-reporting the severity of the situation, the radiation levels and the extent of the affected areas.
There are a number statements that jump off the page in the Al Jazeera piece:
“… the total amount of radiation released over a period of more than five months from the ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster is the equivalent to more than 29 “Hiroshima-type atomic bombs” and the amount of uranium released “is equivalent to 20″ Hiroshima bombs.” Dr Tatsuhiko Kodama, a professor at the Research Centre for Advanced Science and Technology and Director of the University of Tokyo’s Radioisotope Centre quoted in Al Jazeera.
Or this one:
When on August 2nd readings of 10,000 millisieverts (10 sieverts) of radioactivity per hour were detected at the plant, Japan’s science ministry said that level of dose is fatal to humans, and is enough radiation to kill a person within one to two weeks after the exposure. 10,000 millisieverts (mSv) is the equivalent of approximately 100,000 chest x-rays.
Originally posted at Clean Technica: Fukushima To Do List: Take a Walk, Lunch,100k Chest X Rays, Pick Up Kids
Another oil spill, the worst in the North Sea in a decade according to several media sources. I didn’t bother to call Donald Trump when news of Shell’s North Sea oil spill broke on this side of the pond. He’s not taking my calls.
I would have asked him if he found it ironic that a week after publicly berating Scotland for wanting to site a wind farm off the coast of his golf development near Aberdeen, Shell dumped more than 55,000 gallons of oil into the North Sea out beyond where the wind farm would stand.
Big oil seems to work night and day adding layers of tarnish to their negative image.
I don’t know how expensive or difficult it is to properly maintain oil fields and pipelines in a safe and responsible fashion, I’m not in the oil business. The difficulties must be extreme and the costs prohibitive though, because some of the largest, wealthiest and most powerful corporations on earth are unable to keep this poisonous beast it its cage.
Every few weeks bring news of another escape, another ugly load of toxic crude oil in some greater or lesser quantity is added to the already overtaxed, over fished and slowly over heating ocean on which all of the life on earth ultimately depends.
Originally posted at Clean Technica: An Ocean of Oil, A Toxic Brew
Weekly Reads From Common Dreams
Donald Trump is upset with the possibility of the construction of a wind farm off the coast of Aberdeen, Scotland where he is in the process of building another of his splashy monuments to ostentation.
“When I saw this piece of land I was overwhelmed by the imposing dunes and rugged Aberdeenshire coastline. I knew that this was the perfect site for Trump International – Scotland. I have never seen such an unspoiled and dramatic sea side landscape and the location makes it perfect for our development. Our site is close to two of the world’s most famous courses and is just 15 minutes by car from Aberdeen Airport.” Donald Trump from the Trump International National Golf Links Website
I’ve seen unspoiled coastlines from the Carolinas to California’s Big Sur, from Mendocino to Puerto Rico. I’ve walked pristine beaches in Mexico and Vietnam but nowhere while strolling the clean wet sand of a peaceful tide line or hiking the powdery dunes, enjoying an onshore breeze, have I ever had a lustful vision of development, of neon and glitz, and billboards with my name in six foot letters.
Originally posted at Clean Technica: An Ill Wind From Aberdeen Blows Donald Trump No Good
I got an email this morning inviting me to host a screening for a documentary film titled “Into Eternity.” It’s the story of Onkalo which means hiding place or cave, a nuclear waste repository being constructed in Finland, The film delves into the ethical questions of storing nuclear waste for centuries and the building of a facility to last 100,000 years when no structure that we know of has lasted a tenth that long.
I’ve been against the continued development of nuclear power and weapons since grade school when they used to send us to the basement to prepare for a Russian nuclear attack by crouching in the boiler room, covering our heads with our arms and kissing our little butts goodbye.
Originally posted at Clean Technica: A Legacy: The Eternal Nuclear Dump
Rebels Advance, Surround Tripoli, as Qaddafi Totters
The long slow slog of the Libyan struggle to throw off the rule of Muammar Qaddafi, accelerated this weekend, possibly decisively, with rebel forces making major advances. Tripoli was said to be ready to embrace the rebel youth when they came into the capital.
Free Libya forces made substantial advances over the weekend, coming up from Zintan to take much of Zawiya on the coast, with the help of the majority in the city that opposes dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Zawiya was the site of among the first and biggest anti-Qaddafi demonstrations, and was brutally repressed with tank and artillery fire on unarmed noncombatants by Qaddafi brigades. Since March it has been under secret police rule, but that was thrown off jointly by locals and by their allies from the Western Mountain region to the south.
When I was a kid my parents were big on educational toys. Most Christmases, in addition to a new bike or other barely affordable extravagance, I could expect to find, surrounded by a detestable pile of new socks and underwear, an erector set or a chemistry set, a microscope perhaps and a couple of dime store curiosities like the device pictured at left.
I don’t remember much about that long ago Christmas morning when I unwrapped the Crookes radiometer. I do remember that I was fascinated by it and still am today. It sat on my desk or window sill for a year or so until shattered by one of my brothers. Which brother was the culprit has never been determined but I’m still on the case.
At the time it was a quiet, inexpensive, solitary treat for a geeky 8 year old. To watch the gizmo respond when I switched a desk lamp on and off or spin wildly when I placed it in direct sunlight and wondered about light and heat, atoms and the mysterious forces that surrounded me was better than TV. These were the days of the Indian Chief test pattern, there wasn’t much on.
Thinking about it this morning I couldn’t remember what the gadget was called and had to search for solar powered toys and solar vanes until I discovered with amusement that the Crookes radiometer has its own Wikipedia page.
Originally posted at Clean Technica: Discovering Solar: It’s a Radiometer, I Wanted a Magic 8-Ball (more…)
In what is being described as a total repudiation of sanity, the red eyed followers of “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” have selected Michelle Bachmann as Corn Queen.
The corn is pleased.
I’ve just been notified by one of my senators, I have two, that the administration has announced a hike in CAFE standards to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. I heard the news several day ago but most of us have better sources than the Senate.
I had to sit down for a minute to let that shocking information sink in. I wondered for a second or two why they went for the fraction, what was it about the last 2640 feet per gallon that so tested their courage or was so beyond the range of their vision that they didn’t simply roll all the way to 55 mpg.
I was around in 73 when OPEC crashed the party and I can remember feeling that the oil pirates were probably doing us a favor and we would learn to conserve and begin to shift away from fossil fuels toward more sustainable and responsible alternatives. I was very young.
I was driving a car back then that got perhaps 16mpg and maybe 20 on the highway and with gas at 35 cents a gallon I could fill the tank for less than ten bucks, today, payday lenders are making extortionate fortunes loaning workers money to drive to work… the ones with jobs to drive to that is.
I can remember having conversations back in those days when many of us seriously contemplated seeing 75 or even a hundred mpg by the turn of the century. These weren’t pipe dreams driven by the Grateful Dead and Ganja, but by top engineers, physicists and techno visionaries of the time.
Today the standard for that car or today’s counterpart would be 27.5 mpg (there’s that chicken crap half mile again) and I’m bothered by the fact that over thirty six long years of oil wars, polluted air and water, acid rain and a litany of other negative products of our oil dependency that we’ve only gained a paltry 10 mpg to date and our vision for the future is so limited and calcified that it still fears overreaching by a half mile.
Originally posted at Clean Technica: Disappointing Policy, A Half Mile Short of Inspiration
- John Atcheson: The Beast Is Starved: Welcome to the Next Great Depression
- Linda McQuaig: Tycoons Laughing All the Way to the Bank
- Sarah Churchwell: The Willful Ignorance That Has Dragged the US to the Brink
- Ralph Nader: ‘Retreat, Surrender, Can He at Least Plead?
- Amy Goodman: War, Debt and the President
- Robert Reich: Ransom Paid
- Matthew Norman: The Unmaking of a President
- Jim Rigby: Five Scriptures You Won’t Hear at Rick Perry’s Prayer Event
- Nick Turse: A Secret War in 120 Countries: The Pentagon’s New Power Elite
- Ray McGovern: Obama Blows a Judas Kiss to the Poor
Honduran Police Burn Community to the Ground
Homes, churches, schools, and crops all destroyed as the post-coup government continues to side with wealthy plantation owners over the country’s organized farmers.
Watch this video from: The Real News and know this: If these hideous crimes against working people can be committed in Honduras by police and military units likely trained and supported by US dollars they can be committed here.
Economic collapse, debt crisis, gas and food prices through the roof, no jobs, terror in the streets, endless wars and the destruction of all societal safety mechanisms? These are the gifts being offered by the ever expanding modern industrial society.
But there’s more. After the capitalist class has gambled away the wealth of the country and squandered another generation of our youth in their wars for resources and empire they will force you to pay the bill.
They’re working on it now, night and day wrangling over the republican manufactured debt crisis, they are preparing the complete destruction of the middle class and the total privatization of all government functions where everything will be paid for at the company store at several times the price.
You will be called on to tighten your belt, to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, to make a greater sacrifice for your country except that your country will have become a wholly owned subsidiary of a consortium of stateless and soulless corporations.
They will come for your land, your homes, your meager wealth, using the tools, the police, even the army of the government that they bought, co-opted and finally seized. And finally having taken everything they want they will simply dispose of you, disappeared, dead, it doesn’t matter, as long as you are gone and they have room to ride their horses and cruise their yachts.
They will keep those who are acceptably docile to work in their mills and fields and to guard the remainder who show signs of resistance in their camps and prisons and maintain continued docility among a slave labor class.
Watch the video, prepare for the future.
More on the rape of Rigores and related stories:
You can’t go wrong with any of these:
- Tim DeChristopher: I Do Not Want Mercy, I Want You To Join Me
- Jeff Cohen: Obama is NOT “Caving” to Corporate Interests
- Paul Buchheit: The Question Conservatives Can’t Answer
- Paul Krugman: ‘Centrism’: The Cult That Is Destroying America
- Christopher Brauchli: The Tax Burden of the Very Rich
- Robert Reich: Why Washington is About to Make the Jobs Crisis Worse
- Robert Scheer: Debt Madness Was Always About Killing Social Security
- Holly Sklar: CEOs to Workers: More for Me, Less for You
- Glenn Greenwald: On Not Freaking Out With Fear: An Un-American Response to Oslo
- Tom Tresser: None Dare Call it Privatization
A few decades ago I lived across the river from Arches National Park in Southern Utah. Arches and nearby Canyonlands National Park are spectacular in their beauty but much of the entire “Four Corners” area is awe inspiring and filled to overflowing with stunning images, stark desert tranquility and a serene, almost mystical timelessness.
People from all over the world who have never visited the area are familiar with these canyons and mesas, haunting red rock vistas, from the movies of John Ford, from Marlboro Man ads and from more car and truck commercials than I can count.
It sometimes seems as if these towering mesas were created for the sole purpose of serving as pedestals for shiny pickups lowered from helicopters by Los Angeles ad agencies.
In my younger days I backpacked and camped in winter and summer through the west, from the mountains of the Cascades to the thermal pools of Yellowstone, I’ve witnessed up close the depths of the Grand Canyon and the stirring heights of Yosemite. I have never been more moved and inspired by the unadorned and unmolested beauty of the Earth than I was in the desert canyons and mountains of Southern Utah.
Yesterday a young man named Tim DeChristopher was sentenced to two years in federal prison for impeding the process of granting federal oil leases at nearly two dozen sites in close proximity to Arches and Canyonlands, both pristine and protected areas.
I cannot imagine looking over the rim of Bryce or the Grand Canyon and seeing a field of oil derricks, monster trucks hauling ore from a giant strip mine, or ascending a quiet fern-covered hill to discover boom trucks loaded with redwoods being hauled from the ancient rainforest framed by the swirling dust and diesel fumes of a backwoods logging rape.
Those visions are what Tim DeChristopher sought to prevent, or at least to forestall by his courageous and solitary act of defiance.
I cringe at the fact that we allow the people and interests involved in stealing the tops of our mountains, fouling our oceans and waterways with their industrial sludge and turning our atmosphere into an un-breathable, poisonous gas to walk free among us.
That we allow them to continue to exert their influence in state capitols and the halls of congress while this decent, justifiably concerned and creatively bold young person languishes in prison is a travesty and sets exactly the wrong example.
That DeChristopher committed a crime under the “law” is beyond dispute, but the fact that his actions were taken to prevent much greater crimes must be understood and recognized by the courts and fact that they are not points directly to the degree of control that money and corporate influence have over our courts.
A symbolic slap on the wrist, a suspended sentence or probation would have satisfied the “law” and sent the proper message to those who continue to wantonly assault our common resources, while destroying our environment and threatening our lives.
For more on this case and to take action please visit: Tim DeChristopher’s Imprisonment: Our Call to Action!
Originally posted at Clean Technica: Tim DeChristopher? They’re Jailing the White Hats
I arrived on the scene in 1944 when there were just over 2 billion people on this planet. According to infoplease.com we reached the 2 billion milestone in 1927 and passed 3 billion in 1950 so I’m approximating, after all, we’re not splitting a dinner check.
From what I read, we’re on the cusp of passing the 7 billion milestone in October of this year. (The lucky 7 billionth child gets free sandwiches from Subway for a full thirty days – less shipping and handling.)
What this means, aside from the brutally depressing fact that I am likely older than 5 billion people, or 65% of the population, I don’t know, but I’m fairly certain that continued growth at this rate will not usher in a golden age of plenty, abundant crops at lower prices, free rides for the kiddies, a wild explosion in the number of carpool lanes and cleaner air and water.
Not so, according to a column, “Population Boom” at the Boston Globe this morning. The writer set me off with his subhead, “More people leads to more prosperity.” That sounds like a slogan from the turn of the century Robber Barons celebrating the new industrial age, the rapid influx of cheap immigrant labor, and higher rents for fire trap tenement buildings.
The ability of technology and industrial society to conjure ways to feed, clothe, shelter and keep an ever growing, more densely concentrated population on a planet with diminishing resources from slitting each other’s throats is not discussed in the article. I think I’d avoid it as well.
If we’ve learned nothing from the mayhem of the last century with its constant conflict over resources, its terrible wars, droughts, famines, epidemics and economic depressions we should have learned that more people at the party will not reduce the noise level and no amount of religious or ideological wishful thinking will make it so.
We are on the brink of destroying the world’s oceans and waterways with the byproducts of the lifestyles we’ve developed since the dawn of the industrial age. We face the very real threat of massive water shortages, a more immediate threat of running out of the fuel that has driven this growth and the likelihood that our air will be so filled with pollutants from our own activities that it will require chewing rather than breathing.
The more the merrier may be a joyous concept to a mine owner looking for dirt cheap labor to strip away a mountaintop, and more people may mean prosperity and happy days for the few who benefit from the outstretched hands, parched throats and empty bellies of the impoverished but there comes a point when the party loses its glamor down in the hood.
While I can’t offer a solution to the problem of rapid population growth other than education and birth control, for the billion or so people who are already fighting for arable land and potable water, for adequate housing, light, heat, breathable air, a view of a horizon that includes gainful employment and human dignity, time is running out and the worship of expanding markets and easily exploitable labor is no help at all.
Originally posted at Clean Technica: Population? Stack’em Up, The More The Merrier
In a few minutes the ancient maple tree across the street from my open window will explode with light as the sun rises behind it. A few minutes later I’ll have to adjust the blinds to keep zillions of crazy excited photons out of my eyes and in an hour or so, the cat, who loves to sleep in the window at the back of my desk, will find it uncomfortably warm. He’ll get up, stretch, toss me a disdainful look and move lazily to the bed to continue his nap, allowing me to shut the window against the onset of July’s heat.
This is a moment of predictability that I share most summer mornings with the Sun and the cat, it’s become as regular as coffee, the maple ablaze with dawnlight, the disrespectful feline, the heat that moments ago left the sun and traveled through spacetime to annoy my cat and warm this meager room.
Something fascinates me about this time of my day and I suspect that the wonder is a product of its predictability. The sun does this every day, rising within a few degrees of latitude and as the seasons pass, discomfort with the heat turns to welcome. If I were Mayan perhaps I could chart the travels of the sun but I doubt that even the Mayans could chart the whims of this cat.
We spend untold billions of dollars, and human eons of time trying to produce what this predictable old sun scatters with chaotic abandon through my corner of the universe daily. Trillions, or some other more impressively nonsensical number of particles of light and energy with names as strange and whimsical as my languid cat, shoot through my window daily, at no charge and with no effort on my part. In summer, I try to shield myself from the sun’s onslaught, in winter I try to encourage and collect the warmth and comfort it offers.
But I can’t prevent it, any more than I can make this cat perform close order drill or fetch my coffee.
What is it in us that refuses to accept what the sun offers for free while we destroy mountains and oceans, rivers and forests, species and generations of humanity in a futile attempt to reproduce its products for sale?
Originally posted at Clean Technica: Here Comes the Sun, There Goes the Cat