Bob Higgins

WTF: What’s This Fracking?

Posted in Bob Higgins at Clean Technica, Environment, Politics by Bob Higgins on August 31, 2011
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Hydraulic Fracturing of Shale Gas Deposits

Hydraulic Fracturing of Shale Gas Deposits in US / Source: Energy Information Administration Click for larger image

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.

Originally posted at Clean Technica: WTF: What’s This Fracking?

More Drilling In The Gulf, The Death Of A Thousand Cuts

Posted in Bob Higgins at Clean Technica, Environment, Politics by Bob Higgins on August 29, 2011
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Map of the northern Gulf of Mexico showing the nearly 4,000 active oil and gas platforms. NOAA Photo

Map of the northern Gulf of Mexico showing the nearly 4,000 active oil and gas platforms. NOAA Photo

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.

This morning I ran across a map and a video by tsinn at The Sword Press in which he plots these wells by time and position as well as location as in the NOAA map above.

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


You Don’t Need A Weatherman To Demonstrate The Obvious

Posted in Tidal / Wave Power, Wind Power by Bob Higgins on August 27, 2011
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Weatherman Braced For Hurricane

Weatherman Braced For Hurricane

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.


Big Coal: Making Mountains Even Better

Posted in Bob Higgins at Clean Technica, Environment, Politics by Bob Higgins on August 27, 2011
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MountanTop Removal

Making Mountains Better

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.

CNN ran a documentary Sunday night by anchor Soledad O’Brien titled “Battle for Blair Mountain” which should have carried a warning that it was an advertisement for Big Coal.

Bob Higgins

Originally posted at Clean Technica: Big Coal: Making Mountains Even Better


Fukushima To Do List: Take a Walk, Lunch, 100k Chest X Rays, Pick Up Kids

Posted in Bob Higgins at Clean Technica, Environment, Nuclear Power, Politics by Bob Higgins on August 26, 2011
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Residents of Ohkuma-cho attend a memorial service for the victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami on 24 July 2011 in Ohkuma-cho, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, 20 km from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant [EPA Photo]

Residents of Ohkuma-cho attend a memorial service

There’s not a lot of information coming out of Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) or the Japanese government regarding the severity of the ongoing meltdown at the Fukushima Daichi nuclear facility.

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


Evacuate Fukushima

Posted in Bob Higgins at Clean Technica, Politics by Bob Higgins on August 23, 2011
Evacuate Fukushima Save the children of Japan

Evacuate Fukushima Save the children of Japan

Please Watch The Video And Sign The Petition

  • We are demanding that all residents living within 80km (50 miles) radius around Fukushima Daiichi Power plant be evacuated at once.
  • We are demanding that the Japanese Government assists ALL refugees with proper subventions for their relocation and other allowances.
  • We are demanding that all schools be shut down immediately without conditions within this 80km evacuation zone. All children must be transferred to other schools around Japan and great efforts must be provided by the government to integrate these children into their new environment.
  • We are demanding that across the land of Japan, the “safe” legal limit in radiation exposure be reset to the default of 1 milisievert per year!

Please Sign The Petition

An Ocean of Oil, A Toxic Brew

Posted in Bob Higgins at Clean Technica, Environment, Politics, Wind Power by Bob Higgins on August 23, 2011
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North Sea Oil

An older oil rig in the North Sea

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.

Bob Higgins

Originally posted at Clean Technica: An Ocean of Oil, A Toxic Brew


Weekly Reads From Common Dreams

Posted in Environment, Politics by Bob Higgins on August 20, 2011

An Ill Wind From Aberdeen Blows Donald Trump No Good

Posted in Bob Higgins at Clean Technica, Environment, Politics, Wind Power by Bob Higgins on August 20, 2011
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Aberdeen Coast

A Great Spot For The Condos

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


A Legacy: The Eternal Nuclear Dump

Posted in Bob Higgins at Clean Technica, Environment, Nuclear Power, Politics by Bob Higgins on August 17, 2011

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


Tripoli: Rebels Stand Ready to Welcome Advance

Posted in Juan Cole, News, Politics by Bob Higgins on August 15, 2011

Rebels Advance, Surround Tripoli, as Qaddafi Totters

Rebels Advance, Surround Tripoli, as Qaddafi Totters By Juan Cole /Informed Comment

Rebels Advance, Surround Tripoli, as Qaddafi Totters

By Juan Cole / Informed Comment

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.

Read more:  Rebels Advance, Surround Tripoli, as Qaddafi Totters | Informed Comment.

Discovering Solar: It’s a Radiometer, I Wanted a Magic 8-Ball

Posted in Bob Higgins at Clean Technica, Humor, Science by Bob Higgins on August 14, 2011
Crooke radiometer / Solar Powered Toy

One year they gave me a Crookes Radiometer I wanted a Magic 8-Ball

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…)

Children of the Corn Back Bachmann in Iowa

Posted in Politics by Bob Higgins on August 13, 2011
Bachmann wins Iowa Straw Pole

The Corn is Pleased

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.

Congress Searches Universe for Grand Unified Theory

Posted in Financial Crime, Politics by Bob Higgins on August 12, 2011
Super Committee's Solution, Un-Debateably Pretty

Super Committee's Solution, Un-Debateably Pretty

Superman, Super bowl, super size, super model.

Put the word super in front of another noun and it supposedly becomes larger than life itself. A marketing gimmick used by everyone from defense contractors to hamburger hucksters, super has become a super cliché.

Now the appellation is used as a modifier to name a congressional committee that we are to believe will go where no committee has gone before, to the far edges of the deficit universe in search of the dark matter of budget reform. The committee and the discoveries and conclusions it returns to the mother ship, will be immune, we’re told, from partisan bickering, from argument, from filibuster and amendment.

The committee of twelve has been stacked with 6 republicans and Max Baucus and its conclusions must be voted up or down by the full congress without further discussion or amendment. It would be lovely to test the constitutionality of this super legal committee in the SCOTUS but more than half of the court’s super annuated members have been super politicized by super PAC super dollars.

This “super committee” is yet another misdirection play, a sleight of hand to distract the public from the fact that the deal has already been done in the boardrooms and executive suites of our self-serving corporations. The marching orders have already been written, the lobby lizards are working the aisles and congress is drooling over the checks that are about to hit their campaign accounts. (more…)

Disappointing Policy, A Half Mile Short of Inspiration

Posted in Bob Higgins at Clean Technica, Environment, Politics by Bob Higgins on August 11, 2011
Oil Embargo, Oregon 73

Imported Gasoline Was Available in Oregon During the Fuel Crisis of 1973-74 at Double the Cost of the Domestic Fuel. Photo: David Falconer /National archives

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.

Bob Higgins

Originally posted at Clean Technica: Disappointing Policy, A Half Mile Short of Inspiration

Weekly Reads from Common Dreams

Posted in Uncategorized by Bob Higgins on August 6, 2011