Category Archives: Environment

TransCanada Quietly Reapplies, Keystone XL Pipeline Planned On Original Schedule

We live in an age of zombie environmental nightmares, and the Keystone XL pipeline, slated to transport tar sands, the dirtiest of fossil fuels, from Canada to Texas, has just risen from the dead to resume its glazed-eyed walk across our landscape, defying tradition by crossing and endangering an estimated 101 bodies of water. Here are a few details from MarketWatch:

TORONTO -(MarketWatch)- TransCanada Corp. TRP -1.29% said Friday that it resubmitted an application for a U.S. permit for its controversial Keystone XL oil-pipeline expansion, rejected by the White House earlier this year after it became a political flashpoint ahead of this year’s presidential election.

The Calgary-based pipeline company said it will supplement its application, which was submitted to the U.S. Department of State, with a proposed, alternative route in Nebraska as soon as that route is selected. Nebraska became the focal point of some of the most vocal opposition to the line.

TransCanada has long maintained it planned to resubmit its application. U.S. President Barack Obama rejected the line after Republican lawmakers imposed an early deadline on the decision, part of a broader tax compromise with the president.

The reapplication doesn’t likely change the timing of an ultimate decision on the project. The White House said it would welcome a resubmission, but because of the time required to process and review a new application, a decision isn’t expected until after the November presidential elections.

Read the rest, if you have the stomach. Remember, this is from an investment web site; don’t expect much in the way of politics, either pro‑environment or pro‑fossil‑fuels. I chose it specifically for that reason.

Whatever Obama’s virtues… the primary one being that he is not Mitt Romney, and one of the two of them will be president next year… he’s always been a lover of fossil fuels. Remember how easily BP got off from the Deepwater Horizon disaster that effectively wrecked the Gulf Coast… Obama seems ready to let drilling companies go at it again. (There are a few conspiracy theories on the web that I do not believe: Obama, not a creature of malice, is simply a pro-business Republican-style president who isn’t going to let a massive Gulf-destroying oil spill get in the way of further drilling. Back in the day, his biggest sin was regulatory negligence.)

But Obama has another flaw… or virtue, depending on how you look at it: like most other politicians, he loves to look good to the public. Our task is to keep the pressure on him to do what he’s disinclined to do… reject Keystone XL’s permit application… especially after the election if Obama wins. (I consider the matter hopeless if Rmoney wins… there’s no pro-environment Richard Nixon in that man!)

What can you do? Try writing EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson (email: jackson.lisap@epa.gov). Find a petition and sign it; e.g., CREDO has one going here. Lather Reince; repeat… um, I mean, lather, rinse, repeat, several times between now and elections… and again, louder, after elections, if Obama wins.

Senate Defeats Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline

CNN just issued a truly bare-bones announcement of the defeat of the Republican amendment that would have “bypassed the Obama administration’s current objections to the Keystone XL pipeline,” apparently late this afternoon.

It’s a start, but these things are like vampires, and the Obama administration isn’t very good with stakes. Expect another attempt to pass the odious (if not odorous) thing.

Meanwhile, even this time, TransCanada has decided to go ahead with the portion of the pipeline that would run from Oklahoma to Texas, which apparently does not require further approval.

In other environmental news today, Sierra Club reports that the transportation bill contained several other anti-environment amendments, some of which, like the pipeline, were defeated by the Senate. It is not clear from the linked press release whether all the amendments have been dealt with, or whether further votes are forthcoming.

Dean Baker: More Offshore Drilling Would Have Minimal Effect On Gas Prices

Dean Baker accuses the NYT of dishonesty by omission:

The NYT should have also told readers that there is almost no disagreement among economists that drilling everywhere all the time offshore will have almost no impact on the price of gas in the United States. The reason is that we have a world market for oil. The additional oil that might come from offshore drilling is a drop in the bucket in a world oil market of almost 90 million barrels a day.

It is unlikely that drivers would even notice the difference between a policy where we told the oil industry that it could drill wherever it wants and pay no attention to the number of people it kills in the process or the resulting damage to the environment and local economies and a policy where we banned all new offshore drilling. Over the next 2 years the difference would be virtually non-existent and even after 10 years it is unlikely to change the price of gas by more than 2-3 percent.

Why was that not mentioned? It is an important consideration, isn’t it?

We really need to spend some serious human energy, time and money developing vehicles that do not burn carbon-based fuels. The apparent commercial failure of the Chevy Volt is irrelevant; there were attempts at building and selling automobiles well before the Model T succeeded in finding a public market. We have to do this, or the whole world pays the price. Meanwhile, the price we pay for fossil fuels will not be lowered significantly by any amount of offshore drilling or drilling in ANWR. That should be abandoned altogether as a bad idea.

Right-Wing Funded Universities: Do Things Go Better With Koch?

Gaius Publius at AMERICAblog lists a few universities bought and paid for by right-wing funders… and the list may surprise you. Among the ones that surprised me is MIT, a school I seriously considered attending until Rice University made me a scholarship offer a poor kid couldn’t refuse; MIT, a school with a heretofore sterling reputation for integrity and quality engineering education.

So why is MIT’s Alfred P. Sloan professor of meteorology an outspoken climate change denialist? Could right-wing funding of the Heartland Institute, a major backer of university faculty members who deny global climate change, have anything to do with his position? I don’t know, and I’m not quite prepared to accept the worst about MIT yet. There was a time when climate change skepticism was appropriate for a serious scientist, but that time is a decade or two in the past now: climate change is real, and it is underway right now. That position from a distinguished faculty member at MIT is the last thing I would have expected.

As for American education in the sciences and engineering, if faculty positions are being filled by the choices of the Koch brothers (as happens at Florida State University, for example), America’s day in the sun in scientific and technological research is coming to a close. Science and technology do not follow the axioms of political hacks of any stripe, and those who insist on pretending they do are doomed to ignominious failure… no matter how many professorships they buy.

Al Gore: We Must Practice ‘Sustainable’ Capitalism

Let me say up front that I am an admirer of Al Gore, despite our manifest political differences. Notwithstanding specious accusations that he claimed to have “invented the Internet” (he didn’t claim that, but he was certainly the political attending physician at its birth), Gore is one of the brightest people to have participated in our government in recent decades. Compare, for example, the man who “beat” him (yeah, right) to become president… yes, Gore is a great deal smarter, though not so capable of betrayal of people who trust him.

After a brief bitter period following the 2000 selection, Gore moved on to other things, some environmentalist in nature, some more a synthesis of fields across his areas of expertise. This is one of those other things: “sustainable” capitalism:

Together with David Blood, senior partner of ‘green’ fund firm Generation Investment Management, the environmental activist has crafted a blueprint for “sustainable capitalism” he wants the financial industry to adopt to support lasting economic growth.

“While we believe that capitalism is fundamentally superior to any other system for organizing economic activity, it is also clear that some of the ways in which it is now practiced do not incorporate sufficient regard for its impact on people, society and the planet,” Gore said.

At a briefing ahead of Thursday’s launch, David Blood said capitalism has been blighted with short-termism and an obsession with instant investment results, which had ramped up market volatility, widened the gap between rich and poor and deflected attention from the deepening climate crisis.

Read the rest. It’s an intriguing idea. And surely it cannot be worse than current practices, which are unmistakably leading us over the cliff in a hurry.

Fox’s Ed Henry’s Source: State Dept. Will NOT Go Forward With Keystone Pipeline

(10:36 AM CST) Good news if true, but after all, the source is a Fox guy. Here’s the original tweet:

Breaking: A source tells colleague Wendell Goler State Dept will announce later this afternoon it is NOT going forward w/Keystone Pipeline

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: of course it was too good to be true. WaPo confirms the State Department rejection of TransCanada’s application, but adds the following:

However the administration will allow TransCanada to reapply after it develops an alternate route through the sensitive habitat of Nebraska’s Sandhills. …

It sounds like somebody made a political calculation that Nebraska wildlife is expendible.

TransCanada Inspector: Keystone Pipeline A ‘Lemon’

Yes, as Teddy Partridge of FDL reports, civil engineer Mike Klink really did say that. He really did use the word “lemon,” and Klink, who was not surprisingly fired from his job, is seeking Department of Labor whistleblower protection. From Klink’s statement, published last Saturday in the Nebraska JournalStar.com:

Despite its boosters’ advertising, this project is not about jobs or energy security. It is about money. And whenever my former employer Bechtel, working on behalf of TransCanada, had to choose between safety and saving money, they chose to save money.

There you have it, from the horse’s mouth. Please read the rest; it’s been a long day, and I don’t have time and energy to transcribe what can be learned much better from the original source.

(H/T Avedon Carol.)

Fracking: More Destructive Than You Ever Thought

David Dayen of FDL gives us this from CNN:

Fracking Linked to Earthquakes in Ohio; Wells Indefinitely Shut Down

Four fracking wells in northeastern Ohio have been shut down by the state, after an increase in seismic activity, which many believe has been caused by the fracking itself.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director James Zehringer had announced on Friday that one such well — which injects “fluid deep underground into porous rock formations, such as sandstone or limestone, or into or below the shallow soil layer,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency explains — was closed after a series of small earthquakes in and around Youngstown.

Then on Saturday, a magnitude 4.0 earthquake struck that released at least 40 times more energy than any of the previous 10 or more tremors that had rattled the region in 2011.

[Dayen again…] This is not the first time that fracking has been linked to earthquakes. Earlier this year, unusual earthquakes in Oklahoma were seen by many as helped along by fracking. The scientific consensus on that incident was that fracking can cause small tremors, but nothing of the scale as seen in Oklahoma, which did follow a natural fault line.

Ohio is not the first state that comes to mind when you think of earthquakes. And Dayen also points out

… The frequency of the quakes is definitely unusual; there have been 11 in the past eight months within two miles of the wells.

Eleven in eight months… in a state not known for earthquakes. How likely is that to be an innocent coincidence?

India Goes Solar

Grist has a story on the work in progress in India on building 20 gigawatts of solar power generating plants by 2020. Apparently they’re on track to accomplish that. India gets a lot of sun and needs a lot of jobs; the plants provide not only the hi-tech jobs one would expect, but also opportunities (?) for people to wield mops to clean the solar panels… as many as 36,000 of them in a single plant. Moreover, it’s good news for America as well: India is purchasing many of its solar panels from American companies.

Meanwhile, America’s fossil fuel industries continue to obstruct every effort to move to solar, or any other renewable energy source, here at home. Suck it up and breathe through a filter, folks… remember, you owe it to the 1%. U-S-A! U-S-A!

Pathetic Epithets: Republican Language

Those of you who were schooled in America in the days of my youth inevitably were taught at least some Greek mythology. And you surely learned about Homeric epithets, those canonical names for gods or mortals or things, adjectives so characteristic of them that they were always associated with them in Homeric verse. Familiar examples are “rosy-fingered Dawn,” “swift-footed Achilles,” “bright-eyed Athene,” and so on. You know the drill.

It occurred to me in reading a Krugman column, Springtime for Toxics, that today’s Republicans create epithets in their focus-group-tested campaign language. The one that started my train of thought was “job-killing regulations.” Does any GOPer ever speak of regulations without prefixing “job-killing”?

Krugman is writing about the EPA’s new regulations on mercury, one of the most toxic substances around, and a common emission from older coal-fired power plants. From its emission into the atmosphere, mercury finds its way into the water, where it is transformed by microbes into methylmercury, in which form it endangers children and fetuses and women of childbearing age. Mercury is really evil stuff; it can damage the nervous systems of young humans to a point of limiting their intellect.

So… are regulations on mercury emissions “job-killing regulations”? Do GOPers oppose them? Is the Pope Catholic? Do wild bears… you get the idea. The answer is emphatically Yes, Republicans want to kill these regulations.

But won’t it affect their children too? My best guess is that it would, but from the time a GOPer child is born, it is taught that water comes out of a small plastic bottle, after being filtered to within an inch of its life. Seriously… I really don’t know how GOPers think their own spawn will avoid the deleterious effects of environmental havoc which Republicans themselves wreak. But as Krugman points out, anti-environmentalism has become a new de facto required position of every Republican candidate for high office. And the Democrats, especially Obama, aren’t doing a damned thing to stop them from pursuing anti-environmental laws.

Will this regulation survive? I doubt it. Republican lobbyists’ money will whisper… nay, shout… in Mr. Obama’s ear, and he’ll fold like a wallet. Watch in the next few months and see if I’m not right.