Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy


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Gulf Coast Oil Spill: Worse and Worse and Worse

In light of the fact that BP was not sufficiently prepared to be doing the kind of work they were doing (at immense and obscene profits), the news yesterday that the rate at which oil is leaking from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico where BP was drilling has likely increased day by day for 10 days now is shocking and damning.

Instead of the original 1,000 barrels per day (42,000 gallons) of oil leaking, pro-environmental groups examining satellite data helped convince the government and BP to revise that estimate upwards dramatically – to 5,000 barrels per day (~200,000 gallons).  Further examination indicates that a worst-case scenario is developing that far outpaces that 5,000 barrel per day estimate.

A Florida State University professor has come out with an 8 million to 9 million gallons of oil already leaked estimate.  The Exxon Valdez oil spill back in 1989 totaled 11 million gallons of oil.  This newest spill could easily become the largest oil spill disaster in American history.  That well head isn’t expected to be capped for weeks to months.  How much environmental damage will occur in the meantime as oil sloshes around the Gulf of Mexico?  How many small businesses will be shut down that depend on Gulf wildlife in their jobs?

Oil is dirty.  Oil drilling is dirty.  It’s that simple.  Instead of expanding off-shore drilling, as President Obama outlined earlier this year, drilling should have been placed under more common-sense regulations and problems that have been festering for years should have been taken care of.  As I wrote above, the oil industry’s profits are obscene.  It’s not like they don’t have the money to invest in a little safety.

As I wrote yesterday, wind and solar energy are called “clean” for good reasons.  Oil, coal and natural gas are called “dirty” for good reasons.  Note the dirty energy industry’s attempts to relabel itself as “clean” on dozens of commercials per day.  They’re spending a lot of money in a re-brand attempt.  We need to end our addiction to dirty energy.  Clean energy resources exist in such abundance that the world’s energy needs today are dwarfed by the supply.  We don’t need to suffer through mine explosions, oil spills and environmental disasters that grow worse by the year.


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Off-Shore Drilling Rig Exposion Leads To Growing Environmental Disaster

If this happened under the Bush Regime, you could have filed this under, “Nobody ever could have foreseen …”.  Iraq, Katrina, Great Depression II are all examples of disasters that received that ridiculous verbal hand-waving in pointless attempts to deflect responsibility.  The Deep Horizon oil well disaster would have fit in perfectly.  Everybody knows that the Dirty Energy industry is called “dirty” for very good reasons.  Oil spills happen more when people drill for that dirty fluid.  It’s going to happen.  The only question is, how often and how much?

In the immediate aftermath of the Deep Horizon oil well explosion last Tuesday, the giant dirty energy corporation BP assured everyone that they were going to cap the well at the bottom of the ocean and the threat to the environment would be minimized.  Because drilling is much cleaner than the stupid public has been led to believe?  Hardly, as it turns out.  As events have unfolded, it appears that the well head at the ocean bottom is leaking out at the rate of 42,000 gallons per day.  And if you think that volume isn’t noteworthy, I challenge you to dump 42,000 gallons of oil on your front yard and tell me what you think afterward.

In reality, the oil spill stretches across more than 1,800 square miles of Gulf of Mexico waters.  As a result, the Coast Guard is trying to come up with plans to protect shorelines (if they can) and clean the oil slick up with BP’s help.  BP is planning on lowering a dome to capture the oil on the ocean bottom.  Unsurprisingly, it’s never been tested for the depth at which the leak is occurring – 5,000ft below the sea surface.  Haven’t we all heard the virtues of mega-corporations, who altruistically ensure all their operations are completely safe?

Why would corporations need restrictive things like regulations, after all?  In another unsurprising piece of news, BP was among a list of corporations that vigorously attacked a proposed rule issued by the Interior Department’s Minerals and Management Service that would have changed, get this, voluntary safety program audits to required audits once every three years.  Gasp!  The horror that a safety audit every three years might be drastically imposed on the poor, suffering drilling industry!  What kind of socialists would even dream up such a business-killing proposition anyway?

The same folks who have noted that “there were 41 deaths and 302 injuries out of 1,443 incidents from 2001 to 2007″.  The same folks who “issued 150 reports over incidents of non-compliant production and drilling operations and determined there was ‘no discernible improvement by industry over the past 7 years.’”  Yeah, voluntary safety audits are sure taking care of all the problems, aren’t they?

Who’s going to get to pay the bill for this containment and clean up effort?  Financially, the U.S. taxpayers, followed by local small businesses and tourism; physically, the environment.  Wildlife Refuges, barrier islands and other coastal locations are under direct threat of this disaster.  Ads run by BP continue to tout their “clean” way of conducting business.


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Around the Blogosphere 10/21/08

Matt Stoller did an analysis of League of Conseration Voters endorsement patterns of incumbent Democrats and Republicans.  The result: it looks as though Democrats must reach a higher lifetime LCV score to receive an endorsement than Republicans.  Does LCV include Republicans, even though their voting patterns aren’t as strong as Democrats, just to appear bipartisan?  Is there a similar trend with other single-issue advocacy groups?  CONservative groups aren’t shy about discriminating against Democrats.  Think of the NRA.  A Democrat would have to be very conservative before the NRA endorsed them in a race.  Now think of NARAL.  They continually endorse Republicans that are anti-choice.  The progressive movement needs to do some serious self-examination moving forward.  A progressive agenda cannot be fought for and enacted when advocacy groups get behind people who don’t believe in that agenda.  LCV asks activists for money.  Activists would do well to keep track of how LCV operates when deciding whether or not to donate.  A table of Colorado officials can be found after the fold.  The LCV Scorecard can be found here.

Sarah Palin is a super-socialist.  She’s touring the country trying to scare voters into believing Barack Obama is a socialist because of his tax policy.  What kind of tax policy does Sarah Palin believe in?  A policy that dispenses tax money from oil and gas drilling to Alaskan citizens.  Is that oil and gas exclusively sold to Americans?  No, it’s sold overseas.  The rest of America then pays more for oil and gas that we buy from overseas.  So mainland U.S. consumers are paying more at the pump to give every Alaskan a $3,200 check every year.  There’s no way I’m voting for this hypocrite.

I’m voting for Barack Obama in spite of Colin Powell.  Powell continues to demonstrate he’s more interested in power than standing up for what he believes.  If Obama was behind in the polls, I doubt very seriously Powell would have endorsed him.  Powell wants Obama’s ear.  I hope Obama doesn’t give it to him.

Vote for McCain.  The last 10 seconds are hilarious!

Talk to your parents about McCain.  Some really clever videos are being produced this election cycle.

Proponents of “drill or bust” purposefully leave out an important part of reality.  In ten years time, off-shore drilling, for instance, will produce ~200,000 barrels of oil per day.  OPEC is holding an emergency meeting this Friday (three days from now) and they’re proposing to cut current production by 2,000,000 barrels per day.  OPEC wants oil to cost $70-$90 per barrel, which this year meant $3.00-$4.50 gas in America.  Any gain in supply from the U.S. will be met with cuts in supply from OPEC.  There will be no cut in oil or gas prices if we drill more.

Do you enjoy “Are You Smarter Than a 5th-Grader?”  Sarah Palin shows she can’t answer a 3rd graders’ question.

How “green” is your bathroom?

How the Banksters Made a Complete Killing Off the Bailout is a good article.  Much was made in the corporate media about how strong the oversight over the Bailout was going to be.  I didn’t trust that it would be there and the details in this article validate that view.  The Democratic-led Congress is going to own the fallout from the financial crisis.  I really hoped they would make a hard push for tough oversight.  They still can…

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Friday Goodies – 10/10/08

In a Sinking Economy.

I know this is going to come up again someday, so I’m going to get ahead of it.  Sarah Palin has said in the past she was responsible for bringing a pipeline to Alaska that would deliver natural gas to the lower 48.  The cowardly John McCain told his Faux Noise extremist buddy Sean Hannity the same thing.  The problem?  Both Sarah and John are lying.  Again.  No part of the pipeline has been built.  Federal approval is still years away and, just like the rest of the pro-drilling idiot crowd, no natural gas will make its way to the lower 48 for at least 10 years.  So here’s a major difference between Obama and McCain: in 10 years, Obama’s energy policies will put us well on the way toward making renewables our primary source of energy.  McCain and Palin will still be waiting for oil to be drilled off-shore, for natural gas to be sent from Alaska and for oil to be drilled out of oil shale.  Obama will have taken meaningful steps towards mitigating human forced climate change.  McCain and Palin will still be burning every fossil fuel they can.  Obama offers change, pure and simple.

More on the last point: whoever is elected in November has the opportunity to demonstrate the U.S.’s leadership on climate change to the world.  They can go to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poland in December.  They can commit to reducing GHG emissions.  They can commit to providing assitance to developing countries.  They can commit to a more prosperous 21st century.

I want to bring every reader’s attention to the comment by Marie, below.  For now, I have approved it so that I can point out the lack of facts in any of the points and clips.  I have also approved it to bring awareness of the larger message: when Republicans lose races across the country this year, they’re going to scream about Democrats stealing the election, with no factual basis.  It is obvious that this frame is being established now by CONServative leaders and all their extremist followers are following the tune, as usual.  Now, let’s get to some facts:

First, get the terminology correct.  ACORN can’t commit voter fraud.  Only voters can commit voter fraud.  You would still be incorrect about their intent if you called it registration fraud, but at least then it would be a credible criticism.

Second, Obama did give ACORN $800K – in the primaries.  He hasn’t given them anything since.  It’s incredible to me that CONServatives have the worldview that working hard to register people is somehow a bad thing.  Real people are being registered by ACORN and dozens of other entities.  You know why?  Democrats win when more people vote.  Republicans win when people are not allowed to vote.  That’s what this attack against ACORN is all about: preventing citizens from voting.  That’s disgusting and immoral.

Third, do you really think ACORN has that much power?  Seriously, CONServatives’ conspiracies would be laughable if they didn’t have so much control over the media.  How could ACORN possibly force any bank to give sub-prime mortgages to unqualified borrowers?  Banks were more than happy to do so – it kept their gambling habits stoked.  You only undermine your own credibility when such silly things are spread.

Fourth, Obama worked for ACORN a long time ago.  This is the same nonsense that McCain’s handlers want CONServatives to focus on: people that Obama had an association with that have nothing to do with his job today.  Is your point that Obama forced ACORN to force banks to give people with bad credit mansions?  Because that’s just ridiculous.  If it’s something else, just come out and say it.  And that’s what this boils down to: McCain and his CONservative supporters are all cowards.  They don’t have what it takes to just come out and say what they think about Obama.  They’re running around whispering rumors to each other and insinuating things about Obama.  Who happens to be a freaking sitting U.S. Senator.  If you really think he’s done all the bad things you’re insinuating, it should be easy to convince your DA or the DoJ that Obama should be jailed.  Otherwise, you’re all just a small fringe group.  Americans aren’t going to be scared by your b.s. this time around.  They’re seeing through your little acts and realize their lives are better when they’re working for the future and not piddling themselves underneath their beds.

Some additional ACORN facts: they’re required by law to turn in every completed application, even if they know it to be problematic.  ACORN flags incomplete or suspicious applications when they turn them in to county officials.  Election officials often ignore those flags when they’re turned in, causing themselves headaches down the road.  There has never been a single proven case of anyone, anywhere, casting an illegal vote as a result of a false registration.  Not surprisingly, none of the corporate media reports relayed any of this information.  Some investigation.  Stop the fear-mongering.  It’s pathetic.


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Additional Economic Figures: Fuels, Unemployment and Housing

As Congress works to pass an immoral bailout of corporatist gambling, activities continue across America.  Demand for fuels was down again in August by about 4% versus last year.  Of particular interest to me was the stockpiles of gasoline stockpiles: they’re down to the lowest level since 1990!  This has gotten no play in the corporate media while House Dems capitulated on off-shore drilling: refineries were operating at only 67% of capacity.  That’s correct: only fuel corporations have refineries operating at only 2/3s of their possible maximum.  What’s the price of gasoline again?  It’s still $3.50 a gallon?  I don’t wonder why.  Do you?  Or more accurately, why does anyone still think that doing nothing about global warming will cost less than doing something?  150 platforms were destroyed since Aug. 2005.  Here’s the ultimate laugher with respect to off-shore drilling: if platforms are being wrecked by moderately strong hurricanes, what incentive do fuel corporations have to build new ones?  Let me complete things here: lack of refining capacity is what has held product from the market, not lack of drilling space.  Even then, refineries aren’t operating where they should be.  Opening up areas off-shore will not decrease the price of gas.  Ever.

More people filed for jobless benefits last week than any time since Sep 2001.  Unemployed people do not expand economies.  Is anyone delusional enough to think that the $700 billion bailout will propel corporations to hire more people?  They won’t.  People will remain jobless, people will continue to lose their homes, which means the bailout will fail.  That means our economy will be in terrible shape for quite some time to come.  And Republicans will be only too happy to point their fingers at everyone else.  Unfortunately, Democrats have left a golden opportunity to properly cast con-servative economic policies as immoral and insane.

Existing home sales fell again last month.  They were down 10.7% compared to a year earlier.  Banks are holding on to all their capital because every bank knows every other bank issued as much crappy debt as they did.  No money flowing between banks means no money in the system.  That brings the system to a screeching halt.  If Congress were to send any portion of the $700 billion they’re handing over to mega-corporations to the citizenry, the wheels of our economy would receive a much needed boost of grease.  Bush’s corporate cronies know they’re causing the system to collapse and they have the audacity to demand a bailout from Americans.  Simply disgusting.

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[Update]: MSNBC has an article up citing two of the above and adds a third: manufacturing orders plunged again last month.  The same article says existing home sales were expected to fall only by 1%.  That’s pretty damn far from the 10%+ actual drop.  Good thing economists are more trusted than weather forecasters.  I’d hate to see what would happen if economists were ever wrong…


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Drilling Ban to Expire in 5 Days

Congressional Democrats have capitulated on the off-shore drilling ban.  The House has voted to allow off-shore drilling, putting the ball to the Senate’s side.  That “capitulation” description was provided by Rep. Boehner of Ohio.  Normally, I stay away from Republican framing.  Working within it only reinforces it.  However, in this case, I’ve decided to do it.  In this case, I do want Americans to have the opinion that Democrats are spineless in the face of a little resistance.  Democrats dramatically misread the conditions surrounding off-shore drilling.  I don’t want a bunch of bought off fools making my energy policy, be they Democrats or Republicans.  One of my Senators had an interesting role to play in this failure and I’ll have more on that below.

In slightly better news, the Senate did vote for a $17 billion energy tax package that extends credits for wind, solar and energy efficiency projects.  Those provisions were sent to the House as part of a larger tax bill that also extends several business and personal tax breaks.  Unfortunately, it only provides a one-year extension for the Alternative Minimum Tax, something that should be taken up with seriousness and made permanent.  I know, that’s tough to do with ideological Republicans and spineless Democrats.  Perhaps next year, we always hear.  In any event, the energy tax package is definitely good news because it provides for multiple-year extensions.

The current House version of the energy tax package removed fossil fuel incentives: expansion of refineries to process oil sands and oil shale, as well as alternative fuel credits that could have been applied to coal-based fuels.  I’m going to write another post describing some updates on the global warming front.  Seen through that lens, the removal of fossil fuel incentives is indeed a good thing.  We’ll see how the final bill comes out of Congress.

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2008 Energy Bill: House Version & Initial Reaction

The House passed their initial version of the 2008 energy bill.  Two major focal points of this bill are the following: it would allow drilling 50 to 100 miles off-shore and it would repeal tax breaks (corporate welfare) for oil corporations.  Republicans have been pining for the former and screaming about the latter for months.  Americans generally support increased drilling as long as its coupled with renewable energy research funding increases.  A clear majority of Americans support rescinding the fossil fuel industry’s welfare.  Americans can pretty easily make the connection between $4.00 gas and news of record profits that corporations like Exxon enjoy every quarter.  They’re tired of that being the status quo.  So I say let Republicans continue to scream about stopping the corporate welfare.  They’ll continue to look like ideologues for it.

Republicans are also whining about no “litigation reform”.  But here’s the reality: if the off-shore areas end up going up for lease, which would require Senate passage of the same bill (unlikely this year) and no veto by Bush (not a guarantee in the off-chance Congress actually passes something), it’s not like they’ll drill on those new areas.  Why?  Because here’s the dirty secret Republicans want to keep out of the spotlight: fuel corporations currently hold leases on 68 million acres of land and they’re not drilling on them right now.  More than that, those corporations have no plans to begin drilling any time soon.  They’re enjoying the high fuel prices too much.  Increasing the supply would bring that price down.  That situation was true before demand for fuel started falling in the face of $4.00 gas and is even more true now.  With demand decreasing, they have absolutely no incentive to put more fuel into the market.  So no environmental lawsuits will be issued because no corporation will drill.

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