Bob Higgins

Fracking for Treasure in Trinidad and Tobago

Posted in Environment, Politics by Bob Higgins on February 9, 2012
Trinidad and Tobago Fish Kills

Trinidad and Tobago Fish Kills

Cross posted at Film Annex

“Chevron oil rig on fire in Niger Delta,” “BP’s Deepwater Horizon sinks in Gulf of Mexico,” “Shell confirms oil leak in North Sea,” “Massive fish kill in Trinidad and Tobago.” The headlines have become as familiar as announcements of freeway pile ups and severe thunderstorms.

From Nigeria to the North Sea, from the icy chill of Alaska’s Beaufort Sea to the azure bathwater of the Southern Caribbean the scripts are eerily similar.  They tell stories of thousands of oil or gas rigs, tens, hundreds of thousand of abandoned wells and the extraction of fossil fuels from the earth. Tales of pirates hunting treasure, not cargoes of gold on sunken galleons but poisonous black sludge buried millions of years ago under thousands of feet of rock, under miles of ocean.

The stories begin in sweat and toil, hard labor and mind numbing tedium, stories of men drilling holes in the Earth. Then the special effects begin and the drama unfolds.

Read more at Film Annex

More Oil From Macondo?

Posted in Environment, Politics by Bob Higgins on September 12, 2011
Bookmark and Share
Oil Spill From BP's Deepwater Horizon Macondo Field Disaster

Oil Spill From BP's Deepwater Horizon Macondo Field Disaster

The Macondo Prospect, where British Petroleum’s ill fated offshore drill rig exploded and sank last year killing eleven men is a reservoir of oil in the Mississippi Canyon area of the northern Gulf of Mexico about 40 miles off the Louisiana coast.

The rig was actually owned by Transocean, built by South Korean giant Hyundai and under lease to BP at the time of its catastrophic demise. In the high stakes world of oil poker, details of ownership and registry are kept deliberately muddied and overly complex, the better to avoid taxes, laws and other liability and responsibilities.

The prospect which BP bid on in 2008 was estimated to contain 50 million barrels of oil which sounds like quite a lot. Sold at current prices that amount of oil would bring bring in gross revenue of 5 billion dollars and that’s just the cost of the crude. Major oil companies also own the pipelines, refineries and the gas pumps where we go to fill our tanks and pick up a six pack so in addition to the profits at the well they make great chunks of money all the way downstream to our front door and beyond.

50 million barrels of oil is about what we use in this country every 60 hours. That’s right, we use about twenty million barrels every day. The eleven dead, the despoliation of 500 miles of the Gulf’s coast, the crippling of the fishing and tourist industries, the physical destruction of people and wildlife, the damage to their lives and their future well being was all about keeping us cruising the roads and cursing at bubble packaging for a long weekend.

A year ago the NOAA, the Coast Guard, the administration and, of course, BP was telling us that the oil was 70% gone and they were working very hard to make things right. I don’t have to crawl very far out on the limb to say that they were lying then and they continue to lie today.

In the world of business, they’ve grown so accustomed to lying that the truth is no longer necessary.

The oil, BP’s crude gate crasher, appears to be back. In addition to the continual beaching of tarballs from the missing oil at the roiled bottom of the Gulf, expected with the onset of another season of warming waters, tropical storms, and hurricane activity it appears that something is leaking large in the vicinity of the Deepwater Horizon well.

According to an article in Al Jazeera “The return of the BP disaster? “on Thursday, reporting on animal rescue organization Wings of Care and in another piece this morning “Oil Still Gushing From BP Well In Gulf,” September, the most active month of hurricane season is likely to begin uncovering the ugly truth.

It is entirely possible that the coalition of irresponsible and incompetent corporations who gave us the tragic deaths of eleven men and the worst oil spill in our history are no more capable of safely capping a well than they are of safely drilling one, transporting its products, or refining them. They are after all, to be found spilling, gushing, leaking, spraying and otherwise carelessly spewing crude oil all over the Earth.

The reports come at us every month, from the Gulf, Alaska, the North Sea, small towns in Texas, Colorado, Pennsylvania and from the Yellowstone River. There is no place on earth that these greaseheads will not despoil and are not actively and zealously engaged in destroying. Make a note that these are only the events that get reported or otherwise discovered.

Following the reports linked above, BP is already making noises about “natural oil seeps,” the expression being a large part of the literature that comprises their canned media response.

It’s likely that 60-70 percent of the oil from last year’s spill, rather than conveniently disappearing is laying on the bottom of the Northern Gulf mixed with toxic Corexit. Just laying in wait for a direct hit by something on the scale of last month’s Irene, to spread its filthy fingers all over the southern coast.

As for the current leaks being from natural seeps, I don’t know, but I don’t buy it. There are 4000 active oil and gas platforms in the Gulf and 27,000 that have been plugged and abandoned by actors like BP.

In addition to BP’s giant screw up in the Macondo prospect, the Deepwater Horizon disaster, that’s a lot of unnatural holes.

Bob Higgins

Originally posted at Clean Technica: More Oil From Macondo?

Photo: Courtesy of the MODIS Rapid Response Team[see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons

The Creek’s Rising, Texas Is Aflame And My Lawn Chairs Just Passed Memphis

Posted in Environment, Politics by Bob Higgins on September 10, 2011
Bookmark and Share
US Temperature Map Shows Heat and Drought Stricken Southwest

US Temperature Map From Weather Underground

The wildfires continue in Texas. Much of the southwest still suffers under a drought as this summer’s brutal and record breaking heatwave continues.

There are areas of Texas that have gone without measurable rainfall for a year.

It’s the driest it’s been since 1895 when they started keeping records.

Texas Governor Rick “Goodhair” Perry, this month’s centerfold for “Science Denial Magazine” says that people may just have to get used to this toasty new climate.

Perry is on the record, in the recent GOPTP candidates debate he accused climate scientists of manipulating data to keep the research grants and the money rolling in.

I don’t know, a vast worldwide conspiracy of marginally paid climate science academics seems, somehow… unlikely.

His state, or a large part of it is on fire, over fourteen hundred homes have burned and there are at least four dead but his ideological certainties remain un-threatened by readily available evidence and unchanged in spite of the hot breezes causing the copious beads of prairie sweat that stain the Stetsons of his neighbors.

Fanned by winds that are carrying off precious Texas topsoil by the ton, a scene reminiscent of the Dust Bowl of 80 years ago,the fires are raging out of control through much of central Texas amidst an atmosphere of political certainty about the righteousness of Lilliputian government, of no taxes and no money to fight fires or train even volunteer firefighters. They have to shell out of their own pocket to buy gear and gas.

As Lucia Graves and Jason Cherkis at TheHufington Post report: Back in May, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) signed a budget presented by the state legislature that cut funding for the state agency in charge of combating such blazes.

The Texas Forest Service’s funding was sliced from $117.7 million to $83 million. More devastating cuts hit the assistance grants to volunteer fire departments around the state. Those grants were slashed 55 percent from $30 million per year in 2010 and 2011 to $13.5 million per year in 2012 and 2013. Those cuts are effective now.  Rick Perry’s Budget Leaves Texans In Bind Amidst Historic Wildfires

This is an atmosphere that unfortunately, is not confined to Texas, a political cult has developed that seriously believes that people should fight their own fires. This cult apparently believes that only socialists call the fire department or the police.  A truly self reliant follower of this line of Randian “reasoning” would get a bucket and bravely put out the blaze or get his trusty six gun and capture the bad guys himself. If one needs a road to drive on to reach the fire well by golly don’t be a socialist wimp,just bring a shovel and take care of that project while you’re there.

While you have your bucket out

Wildfire update – Sept. 8, 2011

Current situation:

· Yesterday Texas Forest Service responded to 20 new fires for 1,422 acres, including new large fires in Red River, Smith, and Cherokee/Rusk counties.

· In the past seven days Texas Forest Service has responded to 176 fires for 126,844 acres.

· A more comprehensive assessment has been completed on the Bastrop County Complex by FEMA and the State Operations Center. The total number of homes destroyed on that fire is now confirmed at 1,386. Approximately 240 additional homes have been reported lost on other fires since Sunday, for a total of approximately 1,626. From: Texas Forest Service

Speaking on climate  in Sydney, Australia Ban Ki Moon declared that  “…we are running out of time” and as reports roll in of drought and famine in the Horn of Africa, extreme weather events worldwide, massive flooding in Northern Australia, Moon said, “This is a global race to save the planet.”

There is no such sense of urgency among American politicians as  Obama reigns in the EPA, takes the leash off of Shell in the Beaufort Sea and speeds the process of drilling offshore. The State Department indicates that it is likely to give approval to the 1700 mile toxic bitumen pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, a project that will span the nation under spacious skies, climb purple mountain’s majesty, slice through amber waves of grain and cross our largest aquifer of freshwater  to provide greater security for oil company profits.

On the other side of the political food fight the republicans have no time for climate change, occupied as they are with fighting the twin scourges of Social Security and Medicare while defending the barricades against teachers, bus drivers, fire fighters and other enemies of the state and insuring that no woman gets an abortion and no child is exposed to science or gets a free lunch.

In a column at the Huff Post last week environmentalist, actor and director, Robert Redford asked the question, “Is the Obama Administration Putting Corporate Profits Above Public Health?”The short answer is yes…wait, that’s also the long answer and probably the only answer.

The waters are rising, the dead ocean is in the living room,the sewage ridden river is lapping at the kitchen door and the lawn furniture just blew past Memphis but please get these scientists out of our classrooms.

Everyone is being sold out here, every plant, animal and microbe on the planet is being sacrificed to the greed of big oil, big coal, big gas and big corporate profit. No air worth breathing? No water fit to drink? Is your food poisoning your family?

The republicans say they have the answer, just get rid of the American government and let the corporations run this place like a business.

Maybe that’s the “credible threat” that Homeland Security is currently babbling about, the republicans are taking over and they’re goin to run this show like Enron, Lehman Brothers or Bank of America.

I don’t know how credible the threat is but it’s pretty scary.

Bob Higgins

Must read:
Perry Tales: Rick Is Not Who He Says He Is

Good Morning Irene

Posted in Bob Higgins at Clean Technica, Environment, Wind Power by Bob Higgins on September 4, 2011
Bookmark and Share

Hurricane Irene Beaufort, North Carolina Coordinates: 34°43′15″N 76°39′9″W

It’s 4AM on Saturday and I’m up early. When you cant go back to sleep in the 21st century you turn the on computer, then the news.

According to NOAA, and verified visually on Google Earth, Hurricane Irene is centered at 33.7N and 77.5W which puts it in position to munch Beaufort, North Carolina just a degree or so north and west at 4°43′15″N 76°39′9″W according to Wikipedia.

A degree of latitude is about 69 miles and NOAA tells me that the Lady is moving north at 12 knots which means landfall in a few  hours.

As you can see this is a monster of a storm stretching up the east coast from the Carolinas to New York and beyond.

Originally posted at Clean Technica: Good Morning Irene

(more…)

Fire, Water, Wind or Sunshine, a Watt is a Watt

Posted in Bob Higgins at Clean Technica, Environment, Politics by Bob Higgins on September 1, 2011
Bookmark and Share
Unicorn Tears, An Approved Hippie Energy Source

Unicorn Tears As An Energy Source?

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.

Originally posted at Clean Technica: Fire, Water, Wind or Sunshine, a Watt is a Watt
(more…)

WTF: What’s This Fracking?

Posted in Bob Higgins at Clean Technica, Environment, Politics by Bob Higgins on August 31, 2011
Bookmark and Share
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…)

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
Bookmark and Share
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

(more…)

You Don’t Need A Weatherman To Demonstrate The Obvious

Posted in Tidal / Wave Power, Wind Power by Bob Higgins on August 27, 2011
Bookmark and Share
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.

(more…)

Big Coal: Making Mountains Even Better

Posted in Bob Higgins at Clean Technica, Environment, Politics by Bob Higgins on August 27, 2011
Bookmark and Share
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

(more…)

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
Bookmark and Share

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

(more…)

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
Bookmark and Share
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

(more…)

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
Bookmark and Share
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

(more…)

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

(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

Class Warfare, Coming Soon to a Community Near You

Posted in Environment, Financial Crime, Politics, Uncategorized by Bob Higgins on July 31, 2011

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.

Bob Higgins

More on the rape of Rigores and related stories:

Weekly Reading List From Common Dreams

Posted in Citizens United, Environment, History, News, Politics by Bob Higgins on July 30, 2011

Tim DeChristopher? They’re Jailing the White Hats

Posted in Bob Higgins at Clean Technica, Environment, Politics by Bob Higgins on July 27, 2011
Keyhole Ruin Canyonlands National Park

Keyhole Ruin, in Canyonlands National Park Once a Home to Pre-Columbian Cliff Dwellers Photo David Hiser / Flickr Commons

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!

Bob Higgins

Originally posted at Clean Technica: Tim DeChristopher? They’re Jailing the White Hats

Population? Stack’em Up, The More The Merrier

Posted in Environment, Labor Health and Safety, Politics by Bob Higgins on July 20, 2011
Slum in Jakarta swamp

Slums built on swamp land near a garbage dump in East Cipinang, Jakarta Indonesia. Picture taken by Jonathan McIntosh, 2004

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.

Bob Higgins

Originally posted at Clean Technica: Population? Stack’em Up, The More The Merrier

Related stories:

Here Comes The Sun, There Goes The Cat

Posted in Environment, Politics by Bob Higgins on July 19, 2011
Sunrise, St Lawrence

Sunrise, St Lawrence

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?

Bob Higgins

Originally posted at Clean Technica: Here Comes the Sun, There Goes the Cat

Related Posts:

Solar Highways Turn Public Liabilities into Assets
Humpback Whales Inspire New Ocean Tidal Energy Turbine

The Light Bulb That Broke The Camel’s Back?

Posted in Environment, Labor Health and Safety by Bob Higgins on July 17, 2011
The CFLs That Broke The Camel's Back?

The CFLs That Broke The Camel's Back?

Editor’s note: In response to “How many lawmakers does it take to…,” by Jeff Jacoby in today’s Boston Globe.

I switched to CFLs in 2006. With the exception of one bulb which broke when I clumsily knocked over a lamp, every CFL that I bought five years ago is still in use today.

They have provided light and a small but significant savings of energy and money. I haven’t bought an additional bulb in a couple of years.

We have accepted limits on the flow rate of our faucets and the flush rate of our toilets in the interest of conserving precious water. We’ve accepted fuel efficiency standards for our vehicles as a measure of reducing pollution and conservation of petroleum resources.

Much of society, of civilization, is concerned with placing limits on human activities, on behavior, on consumption of resources.

In the interest of protecting what we hold and use in common we place restrictions on the production of poisons, pollution, weapons, incendiaries and even noise.

Now, Jeff Jacoby tells us that the same people who rolled over for the Patriot act, illegal wiretaps, and public body cavity searches of small children and grandmothers are headed for the barricades over being deprived of the use of incandescent light bulbs?

We do not occupy this planet alone, the universe does not revolve around us, society is about setting limits, so grow up, get over it.

Yes, your freedom is threatened but will you complaisantly watch your elections rigged by corporate interests, your right to privacy voided,  your children violated, and go to the ramparts over light bulbs?

Bob Higgins

Nuclear Power Reactors In The United States And A Few Words On A Way Out

Posted in Environment, History, Nuclear Power, Politics, Science by Bob Higgins on March 17, 2011
Bookmark and Share

We continue to throw great piles of money down the bottomless pit of energy subsidies for already obscenely flush corporatio­­ns in the oil, gas and nuclear industries­­; are we insane or just stupid?

Why don’t we take at least half of that, say 25 billion annually and start a crash program for the rapid developmen­­t and installati­­on of renewables like solar, wind, tidal, current, wave and other emerging technologi­­es like biofuels from non food and waste sources.

The Manhattan Project was completed in four years for 2 billion. Adjust that number for today’s dollars and take it back from the energy criminals that we’ve allowed to push us around for so long and make them pay for the technology that will put them out of business.

We simply need to stop making excuses for inaction, fossil fuels are killing us, nuclear is showing itself as enormously expensive and unmanageab­­le and likely to kill us even faster and the whole mess is killing the planet on which we should be relaxing and enjoying this little hayride around the Sun.

A Manhattan Project for making a major portion of the shift to clean renewable fuels could probably get us half way home in 5 to 10 years, perhaps faster.

We lack nothing but the will, something we had in 1942.

Bob Higgins

Related stories:
U.S. Nuclear Power Plants Had 14 ‘Near-Miss’ Problems In 2010: UCS Report (PHOTOS)
Questions about reactors in U.S. resonating louder
How vulnerable are U.S. nuclear plants?

The remaining material on this page is from the NRC website

Boiling Water Reactors

In a typical commercial boiling-water reactor, (1) the core inside the reactor vessel creates heat, (2) a steam-water mixture is produced when very pure water (reactor coolant) moves upward through the core, absorbing heat, (3) the steam-water mixture leaves the top of the core and enters the two stages of moisture separation where water droplets are removed before the steam is allowed to enter the steam line, and (4) the steam line directs the steam to the main turbine, causing it to turn the turbine generator, which produces electricity. The unused steam is exhausted in to the condenser where it condensed into water. The resulting water is pumped out of the condenser with a series of pumps, reheated and pumped back to the reactor vessel. The reactor’s core contains fuel assemblies that are cooled by water circulated using electrically powered pumps. These pumps and other operating systems in the plant receive their power from the electrical grid. If offsite power is lost emergency cooling water is supplied by other pumps, which can be powered by onsite diesel generators. Other safety systems, such as the containment cooling system, also need electric power. Boiling-water reactor’s contain between 370-800 fuel assemblies. See also our animated diagram and pdf file of generic diagrams that detail elements of the boiling-water reactors.

Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) (more…)