Energy and Conservation

Two Bills Signed Into Law By Trump So Far

(1) Repeal of the “Disclosure of Payments by Resource Extraction Issuers” Rule.

The rule was that oil, gas and mineral companies had to disclose (to the Securities and Exchange Commission) any payments (taxes, royalties, fees, bonuses, etc) given to foreign governments relating to commercial development of oil, natural gas, or minerals. Designed to prevent companies from engaging in corruption with foreign governments, it has only been a rule since last September. It is gone now.

(2) Repeal of the “Stream Protection” Rule:

The rule, which has only been around since December, was a comprehensive regulatory environmental protection plan which governed the conditions in which a coal mining company can and cannot dump mining waste into streams and waterways. They would have had to monitor affected streams during mining, and the company had to develop a plan for restoring damaged waterways to something close to their natural state after mining is done. Except, no more. That rule is repealed under the reason that compliance would result in the loss of coal mining jobs. (In truth, the rule would only have taken about 120 jobs in the next 20 years, while the coal mining industry as a whole has lost 25,000 jobs since 2012, much of that due to continue automation and lower demand.)

Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been A Climate Change Scientist?

Now we’re into the naming names phase.  The Washington Post reports:

Global warming — “it’s a hoax.” Donald Trump has said that more than once. So it’s understandable that the request by the president-elect’s transition team for the names of individual Energy Department employees and contractors who worked on the issue makes them worry that the trick could be on them.

“There is major concern amongst my members,” said Jeff Eagan, president of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) chapter at the department’s headquarters building in Washington. He’s also a 17-year Energy employee, but was speaking in his union capacity. “I have received lots of calls, emails, messages expressing shock and dismay.”

The scientists and their colleagues at Energy know global warming is real. What they don’t know is what Trump might do to those whose work has been in line with the science and the Obama administration, which has spoken about “the urgent imperatives of climate change.”

Perhaps Trump’s crew will do nothing. Trump more recently has said he has an open mind about global warming, so maybe he’s discarding his flat-earth approach to the subject. Nonetheless, the transition team’s request to “provide a list of all Department of Energy employees or contractors who have attended” certain climate change meetings casts a shroud of apprehension over the workforce. The transition team ignored a request for comment.

Yeah, I would be nervous too.

Meanwhile, scientists race to copy climate data onto non-government servers out of fear it could disappear under Trump.

Lion Poaching Epidemic

The madness continues:

Cecil the lion’s brother Jericho has been shot dead by poachers in Zimbabwe, park officials have claimed.

The beloved animal was protecting Cecil’s lion cubs after he was killed by Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer earlier this month, sparking outrage around the world.

Where is that dentist guy?

UPDATE:

Conflicting information is emerging regarding the reported death of Jericho, the brother of Cecil the lion. Wildlife conservation organization Bhejane Trust, citing Hwange lion researcher Brent Staplekamp, called the report false and says Jericho was “alive and well” as of 8:30 p.m. local time, moving around with a female. The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force had previously confirmed that Jericho had been shot and killed this afternoon.

Confusing, indeed.

SCOTUS Round-up: Three More Five-To-Four Decisions Today

Today is the last day of the SCOTUS term, and so they issued the last of their opinions.  The two biggest cases — on Obamacare and sames-sex marriage — came out at the end of last week, so a lot fewer people were paying attention this morning.  Here’s what happened:

(1)  DEATH PENALTY – The 5-4 decision in Glossip v. Gross was a win for conservatives who support the death penalty and viewed the case’s technical dispute over one state’s lethal injection methods.  The Supreme Court ruled that Oklahoma’s “drug cocktail” is not cruel and unusual punishment, despite the fact that it has resulted in some botched execution.  Scalia was especially snarky in his concurrence, starting with “Welcome to Groundhog Day” as he noted repeated attempts to abolish the death penalty for good.  He also said that those who seek abolition of the death penalty “reject the Enlightenment”.  (Odd!)

(2)  ENVIRONMENT – The Supreme Court in Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency ruled 5-4 against EPA regulations to limit mercury emissions and other pollutants at power plants.  Substituting its judgment for the EPA’s the Supreme Court said the EPA’s decision to impose the regulations was not reasonable or necessary since it did not take into account the costs to utilities to make these changes.  Happy breathing, everybody!

CIrTeTxWEAEYP2U(3)  GERRYMANDERING – In a win for liberals (Kennedy siding with the liberal four), The Supreme Court in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission upheld Arizona congressional districts drawn by an independent commission and rejected a constitutional challenge from Republican lawmakers. The outcome preserves efforts in 13 states to limit partisan influence in redistricting. Most notably, California uses an independent commission to draw electoral boundaries for its largest-in-the-nation congressional delegation.

The Arizona case stemmed from voter approval of an independent commission in 2000. The legislature’s Republican leaders filed their lawsuit after the commission’s U.S. House map in 2012 produced four safe districts for Republicans, two for Democrats and made the other three seats competitive. Democrats won them all in 2012, but the Republicans recaptured one last year.

CIrN-hRWcAE46YlJustice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the court that there is “no constitutional barrier to a state’s empowerment of its people by embracing that form of lawmaking.” In dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts accused the majority of approving a “deliberate constitutional evasion.”  The justices have been unwilling to limit excessive partisanship in redistricting, known as gerrymandering. A gerrymander is a district that is intentionally drawn, and sometimes oddly shaped, to favor one political party.

Republicans employed an enormously successful strategy to take advantage of the 2010 census, first by winning state legislatures and then using that control to draw House districts to maximize their power. One measure of their success: In 2012, Republicans achieved a 33-seat majority in the House, even though GOP candidates as a group got 1.4 million fewer votes than their Democratic opponents.

Chief Justice got a little snippy by inserting “what chumps” into the opinion (see right).

UPDATE – LATE IN THE DAY 5-4 RULING is good for pro-choice advocates:

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday afternoon to put a hold on court rulings that have reduced the number of abortion clinics in Texas.

Four of the court’s conservatives — Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — dissented.

A state law passed in 2013 required clinics providing abortion services to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers, and it required doctors providing the services to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

Women’s groups asked the Supreme Court to put an emergency hold on the effect of the law while they prepare an appeal to challenge its constitutionality. They say the law, which takes effect Wednesday, would force all but nine abortion clinics in the state to close.

“Overall, there would be a net reduction in abortion facilities of more than 75% in a two-year period,” they argue in their court filings. And the clinics that remain open would find it hard to expand their services.

So for now, enforcement of the Texas law is on hold and will remain so until the court decides whether to hear the full appeal.

UPDATE – EVEN LATER IN THE DAY 5-4 RULING is good for pro-choice advocates in North Carolina:

RALEIGH — A federal appeals court must reconsider whether North Carolina can issue “Choose Life” license plates.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ordered the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its ruling last year that the state could not issue a license plate with an anti-abortion slogan unless it also issued a plate with the opposite point of view.

The order to rehear the case came after the justices ruled 5-4 last week that Texas could refuse to issue Confederate battle flag plates. In that ruling, the Supreme Court said plates are government property and don’t have to offer both sides of the debate.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued when lawmakers voted to offer the “Choose Life” plates in 2011. The appeals court said governments must offer both sides of the debate.

The ACLU said it was disappointed in the Supreme Court’s ruling and again asked the North Carolina General Assembly to offer a plate with a message supporting abortion rights.

“This case has always been about more than specialty license plates; it asks whether the government should be allowed to provide a platform to one side of a controversial issue while silencing the other,” ACLU of North Carolina Legal Director Chris Brook said in a statement.

Obama Administration Approves Arctic Drilling

The Obama Administration has now approved drilling in the Arctic Ocean. The concession was given to Royal Dutch Shell and the approval came from the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) with a five page stipulation regarding protecting wildlife, the ocean, and human inhabitants of the area.

You may want to think, “well, okay — at least they are protecting the wildlife up there.  As an environmentalist, I’m okay now.”

Sure, but…. but no:

Green groups have been working on various fronts to block Shell’s drilling plan, saying the unique, treacherous conditions of the Arctic make drilling too risky. They also argue that Shell has a poor track record in the area.

“Once again, our government has rushed to approve risky and ill-conceived exploration in one of the most remote and important places on Earth,” Susan Murray, deputy vice president for the Pacific at the group Oceana, said in a statement.

“Shell has not shown that it is prepared to operate responsibly in the Arctic Ocean, and neither the company nor our government has been willing to fully and fairly evaluate the risks of Shell’s proposal,” she added.

“We can’t trust Shell with America’s Arctic,” added Cindy Shogan, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League.

“As we all remember, Shell’s mishaps in 2012 culminated with its drilling rig running aground near Sitkalidak Island, Alaska. Events such as these demonstrated to the nation that drilling in the Arctic is reckless and irresponsible and that no oil company should develop there,” she said.

The remoteness of the location also means if Shell runs into any problems – say an oil spill or emergency malfunction – it will take considerable time for adequate resources to arrive in the area. It is not an accident that it has taken this long to open up drilling in the Arctic, the terrain is exceedingly difficult and hard to navigate.

Oil drilling in risky areas where access to oil leaks is difficult.  What could go wrong, right?  Besides, when they say nothing can go wrong in Alaska when it comes to oil, they know what they’re talking about.

How Much Fossil Fuel Has Costa Rica Burned So Far This Year?

Answer:  Zero

Yes, you read that right:

For the last 82 days, Costa Rica has powered itself using only renewable energy sources.

That means the Latin American country hasn’t had to use fossil fuels at all so far in 2015.

Last week, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) announced that 100 percent of the country’s electricity came from renewables for the first 75 days of the year, as heavy rains boosted the country’s hydroelectric power plants.

Wind, solar, biomass and geothermal energy have also helped power the country.

Granted, Costa Rica has an abundance of rivers, waterfalls, wind, and geothermal… uh… volcanoes — all of which can serve as clean energy.

But it certainly is possible.  (In the United States, about 67% of the electricity generated is from fossil fuel [coal, natural gas, and petroleum])

Michelle Celebrates Gasoline Under $2 Which She Promised

Michele Bachmann Gave You Your  2 Gas

Retiring Congressdipshit Michele Bachmann has been doing a peculiar version of the Minnesota Long Goodbye, except instead of the usual arrangement, where a host follows a departing guest out to the car asking if they’re really sure they don’t want to take a little hot dish home with them, Ms. Bachmann has it a little backwards.

Having given a farewell speech and received a loving farewell tongue-bath from WND, and packed up the U-Haul with all her Furry paraphernalia, she now keeps coming back from her idling getaway car to knock on the door and ask us if maybe we’d like to make her another pot of coffee and look at slides from her trip to Bemidji all night.

Like this twitter picture.  Yup. Gas prices are below $2, just like she promised in August 2011 when she was running for President:

“The day that the president became president gasoline was $1.79 a gallon. Look at what it is today,” she said at an event in Greenville, South Carolina. “Under President Bachmann, you will see gasoline come down below $2 a gallon again. That will happen.”

I’m not sure if this tweet means she’s taking a victory lap or not.  If so, it’s pretty hard to see how anything she did contributed to low gas prices.  I guess she was reminded of that fact when her picture was retweeted hundreds of times with the hashtag #thanksObama.

It Took A Spill, But NC Voters Finally Came Around

Good news:

The Sierra Club on Tuesday released the results of a poll it commissioned from Hart Research Associates that shows broad bipartisan support for regulation of coal ash among voters in North Carolina.

Hart polled 600 North Carolina voters earlier this month, and found that 83 percent of respondents want coal ash regulated as a hazardous substance and 90 percent think that Duke should clean up all coal ash sites in the state. Seventy percent of those polled thought Duke Energy was at least mostly at fault for the Dan River spill and 57 percent think that stronger regulations could have prevented the spill.

Voters also indicated that they were prepared to let politicians know where they stand on this issue at the ballot box with 70 percent of respondents saying they would be more likely to support a candidate who “favors strong regulations and enforcement…to prevent future spills.” Just 17 percent of voters would be more likely to support a candidate who says that having more regulations and enforcement will hurt jobs and the state’s economy.

“You can throw the coal industry’s conventional wisdom out the window,” said Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, in a release. “As we saw in West Virginia, this North Carolina coal spill has been a wake up call for voters about the need to protect our water from toxic coal pollution. This poll is yet another indication that Republicans, Democrats, and Independents in coal states want leaders who will stand up to big coal companies and enact common-sense initiatives to protect our air, our water, and our families from toxic coal ash and pollution.”

Where’s Cable News?

Today, Obama made a very major environmental speech.  Here are the bullet points:

Curbing carbon pollution

• Directs the EPA to establish carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants.

• Promises $8 billion in loan guarantees for fossil fuel projects.

• Directs the Interior Department to permit 10 gigawatts of wind and solar projects on public lands by 2020.

• Expands the president’s Better Building Challenge, helping buildings cut waste to become at least 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020.

• Sets a goal to reduce carbon pollution by at least 3 billion metric tons cumulatively by 2030 through efficiency standards set for appliances and federal buildings.

• Commits to developing fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles.

• Aims to reduce hydrofluorocarbons, highly potent greenhouse gases.

• Directs agencies to develop a comprehensive methane strategy.

• Commits to forests and other landscape protection.

Preparing for climate change

• Directs agencies to support local investment to help vulnerable communities become more resilient to the effects of global warming.

• Establishment of flood-risk reduction standards in the Hurricane Sandy-affected region.

• Will work with the health-care industry to create sustainable, resilient hospitals.

• Distribution of science-based information for farmers, ranchers and landowners.

• Establishment of the National Drought Resilience Partnership to make rangelands less vulnerable to catastrophic fires.

• Climate Data Initiative will provide information for state, local and private-sector leaders.

Leading global efforts to address climate change

• Commits to expanding new and existing initiatives, including those with China, India and other major emitting countries.

• Calls for the end of U.S. government support for public financing of new coal-fired power plants overseas.*

• Expands government capacity for planning and response.

*Except for efficient coal plants in the poorest countries, or for plants using carbon capture.

All of the three major news networks spent mere minutes on the speech — which ran in total 49 minutes.

MSNBC: 41 seconds

FOX News: 4 minutes and 37 seconds

CNN: 8 minutes and 5 seconds

The Weather Channel: 49 minutes

While the lack of coverage is shocking enough, perhaps the most astounding media failure of the day was by FOX News, who broke from Obama’s climate speech to interview climate denier Chris Horner. Horner works for the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, and is largely funded by the oil money, including the Koch Brothers and Exxon-Mobil.

 

Hitting The Wrong Button: Fracking Is Now Legal In NC

First, a little background on "fracking".

Fracking is media term applied to a process known as Hydraulic Fracturing. It is a process that creates fractures in rocks to force natural gas, water, and oil reserves trapped 5,000 to 20,000 feet below the earth up to the surface. Hydraulic fractures may occur naturally, via volcanic dikes, sills, ice; or they can be man-made by injecting a proppant (like crains of sand, ceramic, or other particulates) or fracturing fluid, into a borehole deep underground in formation rock, to increase pressure enough to fracture the formation rock.

Fracking is a process used to harvest and extract water, natural gas, and oil reserves in targeted formations deep within the earth. The fracture is then “propped” by sand higher in permeability than the surrrounding rock, and formation fluids are then pumped to the surface. Fracking is also often used to dispose toxic waste into underground formations.

Fracking_explained

Fracking is highly controversial due to significant environmental, safety, and health risks. The biggest risks of fracking involve: the potential contamination of groundwater aquifers with fracturing chemicals or waste fluids and the migration of gasses and fracturing chemicals.  If these chemicals migrate to water supplies, it can contaminate huge populations, as well as farming areas, and nature.

So naturally, many people are against (except Republicans who deny there is any problem).

Here in North Carolina, a bill passed the legislature which permitted fracking.

Fortunately, the governor vetoed the bill.  It was therefore necessary, if the law was going to be valid, that the NC legislature override the veto by 2/3rds majority.

The vote to override the veto was last night, and it was close.

And then the unthinkable: Rep. Becky Carney, who opposes fracking, hit the wrong button when voting.  Instead of sustaining the governor's veto, she voted to overturn the governor's veto:

The vote was 72-47, exactly the number needed for an override. Without Carney's vote, the veto would have been sustained. 

Carney characterized her vote as "very accidental."

"It is late. Here we are rushing to make these kind of decisions this time of night," she said.

Carney pointed out that she has voted against fracking in the past, and said she spent the day lobbying other Democrats to uphold the veto of Senate Bill 820.

"And then I push the green button," she said.

Just after the vote, Carney's voice could be heard on her microphone, saying "Oh my gosh. I pushed green."

Carney said she turned her light on, but Speaker Thom Tillis would not recognize her, so she went to the front to speak to him.

"I made a mistake, and I tried to get recognized to change it, as people have been doing all night on other bills, and it was too late," Carney said. "Because it would have changed the outcome of the vote."

So fracking is now NC law.

Adventures in Bad Marketing Ideas

UPDATE: Grrrrrr….. it's a hoax!  But a good one!  Go play!

Some idiot at Shell Oil's ad agency is probably looking for a job right now.

The problem?  Shell Oil wants to open up the Artic and tap its untapped resources.  But how do we get the public behind that, in an environmentally-conscious world?

The bone-headed solution?  Crowd-source the marketing!  That's right.  Create a website where people can create their own Shell Oil public image ads.  Provide the pictures — all the people have to do is ad the slogan.  Slap on the catchphrase "Let's Go" and add the Shell logo.  Voila!  Then pick the best ad!  

It's so 2010's.  It's hip!  It's now!  It's all Internet-y and social-y stuff!  The kids'll love it!!

Let's see how it's going for Shell by looking at the some of the most popular ads people have come up with

'

and my favorite….

At The Pump

Can we get one thing straight?

The Republican candidates are hoping to make it Obama's fault that gas prices are on the rise.  It's ridiculous.  Gas prices are on the rise because of the unsettled Middle East.  And while Obama hasn't resolved the Middle East conflicts, nobody has in… well, centuries.

The other thing the GOp candidates say is that gas prices are high because Obama doesn't like to drill.

Nice argument, except for two things: (1)  there are more domestic oil rigs pumping oil now (under Obama) than at any time in previous American history and (2) the gas prices are going up nonetheless.

Here's the chart that tells it all:

Drilling_gas_prices_chart1

Short Takes

*  Britney Spears – who used to be famous – is engaged.  Uh, to be married.  Uh, again.  She's 16 years old still.

* Naughty Republicans — the mayor of Grandaven, Mississippi for 14 years — a guy named Greg Davis — re-ran for mayor in 2008 on a family values platform.  You know where this is going, right?  He's in trouble now for using thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on liquor, expensive dinners at a local restaurant, and a visit to an adult store catering to gay men.  The latter revelation forced him to admit that he is gay.

* Naughty Tebaggers – Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler was taken into custody Thursday morning after he tried to check in for a Delta flight to Detroit with a locked gun box containing a Glock pistol and 19 cartridges of ammunition, Queens prosecutors said. [CBS News]

*  The Florida Family Association can suck it.  Seriously.  The new show on TLC, called American Muslim, portrays Muslims in America as normal everyday Americans with normal everyday American problems.  The Florida Family Association objects to the show… because it portrays Muslims in America as normal everyday Americans with normal everyday American problems.  Apparently, you can now protest stuff because it ain't bigotted enough for you.  Oh, and screw you Loew's.

*  Every once in a while, Congress will do something good — like ban traditional incandescent light bulbs (which are inefficient and hurt the environment).  Unfortunately, the good die young.

“The Well-Lubricated Weather Vane”

That's what GOP presidential contender Jim Huntsman says of Mitt Romney, who is becoming famous for brash flip-flops.  I mean, it's one thing to have an evolution of your ideas over the span of several decades, but Romney just does complete 180-degree turns in months, even weeks.  It's really hurting his campaign and credibility, and yet, here he is today, doing it again.

Here's Romney in June 2011, just five months ago, in Manchester NH:

"I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that," he told a crowd of about 200 at a town hall meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire.

"It's important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may be significant contributors."

And here's Romney yesterday, speaking at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pa.:

"My view is that we don't know what's causing climate change on this planet… And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us."

Look, I know how we can provide plenty of clean energy for all, while reducing our reliance on foreign oil, AND keep the panet green: Hook an electric generator up to Mitt Romney and harness the energy that comes from his flipping and flopping back and forth.  (Note to television and radio commenter and pundits:  Go ahead.  Use it.  It's what I'm here for.)

Climate Change Skeptic Scientist Walks It Back Bigtime

Eugeine Robinson at WaPo tells us:

Richard Muller, a respected physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, used to dismiss alarmist climate research as being “polluted by political and activist frenzy.” Frustrated at what he considered shoddy science, Muller launched his own comprehensive study to set the record straight. Instead, the record set him straight.

“Global warming is real,” Muller wrote last week in The Wall Street Journal.

Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and the rest of the neo-Luddites who are turning the GOP into the anti-science party should pay attention.

“When we began our study, we felt that skeptics had raised legitimate issues, and we didn’t know what we’d find,” Muller wrote. “Our results turned out to be close to those published by prior groups. We think that means that those groups had truly been careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some skeptics of that.”

In other words, the deniers’ claims about the alleged sloppiness or fraudulence of climate science are wrong. Muller’s team, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, rigorously explored the specific objections raised by skeptics — and found them groundless.

Muller and his fellow researchers examined an enormous data set of observed temperatures from monitoring stations around the world and concluded that the average land temperature has risen 1 degree Celsius — or about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit — since the mid-1950s.

This agrees with the increase estimated by the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Muller’s figures also conform with the estimates of those British and American researchers whose catty e-mails were the basis for the alleged “Climategate” scandal, which was never a scandal in the first place.

The Berkeley group’s research even confirms the infamous “hockey stick” graph— showing a sharp recent temperature rise — that Muller once snarkily called “the poster child of the global warming community.” Muller’s new graph isn’t just similar, it’s identical.

Welcome to the real world, Professor Muller.

Here We Go Again? — Breaking News: Another Oil Rig Explosion

Lovely:

An oil rig has exploded 80 miles off the coast of Louisiana, with 12 people overboard and one missing, the Coast Guard said Thursday morning.

UPDATE:  The rig is owned by Mariner Energy.  And leased to….???  Well, we don't know yet.

UPDATE #2:  It bears mentioning that this is NOT a deep-sea oil well, unlike BP's Deepwater Horizon, and reports are that this was a production platform (again unlike BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling platform).  So that's all good news.  On the other hand, it exploded…. so, not so good.

UPDATE #3:  Local news is reporting that Coast Guard has spotted mile-long "oil sheen" emanating from the platform.

Where Did The Spilled Gulf Oil Go?

Now that the well is capped, there seems to be relatively little effect on the environment — at least as not as much as anticipated.

I'm not complaining, of course…. but one wonders why the environmental effects aren't devastating.

The answer, possibly, is this:

A newly discovered type of oil-eating microbe suddenly is flourishing in the Gulf of Mexico and  gobbling up the BP spill at a much faster rate than expected, scientists reported Tuesday.

Scientists discovered the new microbe while studying the underwater dispersion of millions of gallons of oil spilled since the explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.

Also, the microbe works without significantly depleting oxygen in the water, researchers reported in the online journal Sciencexpress.

"Our findings … suggest that a great potential for intrinsic bioremediation of oil plumes exists in the deep-sea," lead researcher Terry Hazen, a microbial ecologist at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in Berkeley, California, said in a statement.

The data is also the first ever on microbial activity from a deep-water dispersed oil plume, Hazen said.

Now, this is clearly good news, but it strikes me as a little oddly convenient.  There have been massive oil spills before — why hasn't this microbe appeared then?

Weird.

Oil Spill Gushes Faster and Claims Two More Lives

The BP oil spill has upped the ante.  This is breaking news….

Oil gushing at spill site after vent damaged

Cap removed after sub hits vent; 2 cleanup workers die in separate events
BREAKING NEWS
NBC News and news services
updated 12:53 p.m. ET, Wed., June 23, 2010

WASHINGTON – Oil was again gushing from the BP spill site on Wednesday after the company was forced to remove the containment cap when a robotic submarine hit a vent. The news came as officials also reported two deaths of people who had been hired for the response effort.

BP hoped to reinstall the cap later Wednesday after fixing the vent and checking for safety.

When the robot bumped the system, gas rose through the vent that carries warm water down to prevent ice-like crystals from forming in the cap, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said.

The cap was removed and crews were checking to see if crystals had formed before putting it back on. Allen did not say how long that might take.

"There's more coming up than there had been, but it's not a totally unconstrained discharge," Allen said.

In the meantime, a different system was still burning oil on the surface.

Before the problem with the containment cap, it had collected about 700,000 gallons of oil in the previous 24 hours. Another 438,000 gallons was burned.

The current worst-case estimate of what's spewing into the Gulf is about 2.5 million gallons a day. Anywhere from 67 million to 127 million gallons have spilled since the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 workers and blew out a well 5,000 feet underwater. BP PLC was leasing the rig from owner Transocean Ltd.

The deaths reported Wednesday were not tied to the containment operation. The Coast Guard said the workers had been involved in cleanup operations did that their deaths did not appear to be work related.

One death was a boat captain who died of a gunshot wound, a Coast Guard spokesman said. Further details were not immediately available.

A "gunshot wound"?  Is the oil spill armed now?

Obama Has Sharks With Lasers, Too

I miss Kaye Grogan.  She was a columnist for Renew America, a right-wing Christian/political website started by many-times presidential candidate Alan Keyes.  Kaye was crazy, and her columns had the added pleasure of being written in the worst English-torturing manner.  I mean, worse than my writing even.

Kaye's columns quietly disappeared from the Intertubes a year or so ago, and there's been a void.

I wish I could say that Renew America's Joan Swirsky can fill Kaye's shoes, but typically, she can't.  This week's Joan Swirsky column, however, is a rare gem worthy of calling "Grogan-esque".

Swirsky The Obama disaster machine: unfortunate coincidences or malevolently premeditated?

By Joan Swirsky

Is it only me, or do the multiple disasters that have struck both well before and ever since the disastrous election of Barack Obama seem fishy to you?

I won't discuss the stock market crash of September 2008 here, although if anything seemed suspiciously timed and deliberately manipulated, it was that! Even before that, we had the specter of a radical leftist of questionable birth origins and contempt for both capitalism and the U.S. Constitution being given a total pass by a strangely incurious media whose members had clearly been intimidated or threatened into a thundering silence.

That's a pretty hefty accusation that Joan throws out there.  Apparently, long before he became president, Obama manipulated the stock market crash and intimidated the entire United State press corps.

How did he manage to do that?  Well, look at him!  He's an intimidating black man!

In the months that followed Obama's "election," we saw literally trillions of dollars in "urgent" bailouts and stimulus packages, all of which brought us escalating unemployment and a skittish if not paranoid stock market.

Right.  It was the bailouts and stimulus package that caused a skittish stock market and unemployment — not the aforementioned stock market crash of September 2008.

We saw a nationally-loathed healthcare bill — gigantic in size and mysterious in content — rammed through Congress with bribes, threats, and intimidation.

"Mysterious in content" if you didn't bother to read it, or even read about it.  By the way, who in Congress was bribed, threatened and/or intimidated?

And we saw the attempts by Obama and his fellow leftists to jam an equally-detested cap-and-trade tax down our throats.

Uh…. cap-and-trade isn't a "tax".  It's a free market approach to controlling pollution by giving companies incentives not to pollute.  Aren't conservatives supposed to love the free market?

Mmmmm. Wasn't that just about the time the tragic West Virginia mine disaster happened, killing 29 of 31 miners? What a coincidence! A "president" who hates coal as an energy source being presented with a putative reason to destroy the coal industry!

Oh, wait.  Now Obama was behind the Upper Big Branch mine disaster last April too?!?

Kind of reminds you of the recent BP oil spill, doesn't it? A "president" still pushing the cap-and-trade scheme who reviles domestically-acquired oil — although not the windfall of money BP donated to his presidential campaign — being presented with an oh-so-convenient rationalization to cancel all domestic drilling! Again, what a coincidence!

So… BP donated money to Obama, after which he turned around and stabbed them in the back by causing the oil spill, and then establishing a moratorium on "all" domestic drilling.

Heh. Suckers.

These disasters benefit Obama's agenda, which is to destroy America's potential for energy independence at the same time imposing draconian taxes designed to obliterate the middle class and make the lower class abjectly and forever dependent on the largesse of big government. In short, galloping socialism on the way to freedom-annihilating Communism!

Yup.  She's onto him.

Cue full-on crazy…..

A Marxist-Inspired Disaster Central

The route to Obama's hate-America agenda is and always has been to create Alinsky-inspired widespread-and-sustained chaos, the better to keep people off balance, riddled with anxiety, and hoping for the redemption of big government. How else to explain the spate of unprecedented tragedies, catastrophes, and calamities that have struck our own country and around the world, for instance the three Muslim terrorist attacks in the U.S., including the attack at Fort Hood in Texas in which 13 were murdered and 30 injured; the wanton murder of police officers in Seattle; the explosion on New York's Madison Avenue (which authorities claimed was a burst pipe); the calamitous earthquakes in Haiti and Chile; the eruption of the volcano in Iceland that disrupted European air traffic; the airline crash in Russia that killed the president of Poland, on and on.

Also, I stubbed my toe on the coffee table this morning.  Damn you, Obama!

But really… Volcanoes?  Police shootings?  Earthquakes?  Plane crashes?  Seriously, one has to wonder if Joan is crazy to suggest that the Obama regime is responsible for all those domestic incidents and international natural disasters.

Crazy, you say, to suggest that the Obama regime is responsible for these domestic incidents and international "natural" disasters? Maybe…but consider HAARP. No, not the instrument that David played to King Saul to alleviate the old man's depression. That harp had only one "a" in it. This HAARP is an acronym for High Frequency Active Auroral Research Project. The project, controlled by the U.S. Army and Navy, is made up of a dense grouping of gigantic antennae in Alaska which has the ability to generate several billion watts of energy that can be directed at any target. "Any target" meaning an underground fault, an airplane in flight, a fulminating volcano, or a mid-ocean oil rig!

Okay.  This is like a bad James Bond movie now.

Drobama1 evil 

I tell you though… I think Obama and the U.S. Army and Navy need to do a better job about keeping HAARP secret.

But trust me…. we've only touched the surface of the crazy here.

And what another coincidence — the BP explosion took place just a day before Earth Day!

Also, if you scramble the letters in "Deepwater Horizon", you get "A Rezoned White Pro", which indicates that Obama is going to put all white people in concentration camps!

According to Mississippi resident and radio disk jockey Gina Miller, a number of culprits might be to blame for the disaster:

Oh, well then.  If a Mississippi deejay thinks it, it must be true……

      • Al Gore had previously encouraged environmental nut jobs to engage in civil disobedience against the construction of coal plants that don't have carbon capture technology. "Eco-terrorists" exist and have done millions of dollars worth of criminal damage.
      • A theory on a Russian website claims North Korea is behind this. The article claims that North Korea torpedoed the Deepwater Horizon, which was apparently built and financed by South Korea…two torpedoes launched from a submarine could cause those things to happen.
      • International "suspects"…range from Muslim terrorists to the Red Chinese, Venezuela and beyond. Remember that China and Russia are drilling out there, as well, and they would benefit from America cutting back on our own drilling.

"As soon as this happened," Miller wrote, "my gut told me it was no accident. This kind of thing rarely happens, and the timing was just too 'coincidental'…"

So, the BP oil explosion is a conspiracy involving Obama, Al Gore, Muslims, North Korea, Venezuela, and the Red Chinese, using an array of antennae located in Alaska.

Makes perfect sense.

At this date — late-June 2010 — Obama has not escaped plunging approval ratings and a complete erosion of public trust. To an accusation that his "cool" demeanor is inappropriate in the face of the catastrophic oil spill, he says he is suppressing his anger in the service of solving the problem. But Americans know better. By now, every statement emanating from the White House is simply not credible. In fact the truth is often exactly the opposite of what Obama and his henchmen say.

No, it's not anger — at BP, capitalist industry, George Bush, his own impotence — that Obama is suppressing. It is unvarnished glee!

With Sue Simmons!

Glee at the prospect that the industries the spill is destroying (fishing, manufacturing, tourist, et al) and the incalculably high cost of recovery, will force people to throw up their hands in despair and come running to the government for support, and just as important will allow him to nationalize the energy industry, ala Castro, Putin, Chavez, Morales, name your totalitarian!

"Peron, Peron, Peron, Peron, Peron…."

Obama Spits on Every Genuine Solution

Why is Obama still obdurately refusing to use the many technologies that have proven effective in stemming and solving oil spills over the years?

In a riveting article in the San Francisco Chronicle, Yobie Benjamin details the futility of the "cap the gusher" strategy being used, and the perils, both environmental and to human health, of the toxic dispersants being used ("all they do is hide the oil from the surface").

"In 1993," Benjamin writes, "a massive 800-million-gallon oil spill happened in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Aramco successfully cleaned up that spill. The lead engineer that cleaned that spill was an American engineer who worked for Aramco. His name is Nick Pozzi who is currently based in Houston. Pozzi offered his solution to BP and the Coast Guard and they promptly dismissed his solution. Pozzi reported that in Saudi Arabia he successfully used flour (yes, flour for baking) and straw (yes, the one you feed to livestock) to absorb oil. The congealed oil was then mechanically collected and properly disposed of. In the Saudi disaster, Pozzi claimed 85% of the oil was recovered and was still usable."

Well, this is a little different.  This is a deep-water oil spill.  Most of the spilled oil is underwater, floating in plumes.  You can't skim most of it up.  But let's not let facts get in the way.

And what about the Florida man who is all over TV right now, demonstrating the stunning efficacy of using straw to absorb the oil and turn the water from jet-black murkiness to crystal-clear transparency?

I think she's referring to the Sham-Wow guy now.

BP hasn't gotten back to him, he said.

No, of course not.

Well, the article goes on, drilling new depths of crazy.  You can read the whole thing by clicking the link above.  Basically, Joan speculates that Obama, BP, Deep Water Horizon, Halliburton, Citigroup, Goldman-Sachs, the U.S. Government, Warren Buffet, George Soros, John Holdren, and "the convicted felon and Obama pal" Tony Rezko have financial involvement with NALCO, the company that manufactures the toxic dispersants being used to "clean up" the horrific oil spill.  Specifically, she writes:

…[E]vidence has also been uncovered that as soon as the oil rig blew, the masterminds of the big-government/big-corporation complex went to work to maximize the financial reward from the disaster — "never let a good crisis go to waste." Investors were advised to buy BP stock, and a major symposium was held involving several key players in the Obama Administration, which focused on modern technological advances in developing 'clean water.' NALCO is the major source for such 'technological advances.'

"Ahhhhh'" as Steve Martin said in The Jerk, "It's a profit deal!"

Well, color me skeptical, Joan.  I think if your theories catch on, the smart investment would be shares of tin foil.

Drilling Ban Lifted By Dead British Googly Eyed Comedian

Bloomberg:

A New Orleans federal judge lifted the six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling imposed by President Barack Obama following the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

Obama temporarily halted all drilling in waters deeper than 500 feet on May 27 to give a presidential commission time to study improvements in the safety of offshore operations. Government lawyers told U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman that the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig off the Louisiana coast in April was a "game changer’’ that exposed the risks of offshore oil exploration.

"We need to make sure deepwater drilling is as safe as we thought it was the day before this incident,’’ Brian Collins, a lawyer for the government, told Feldman in a court hearing June 21. "It is crucial to take the time because to fail to do so would be to gamble with the long-term future of this region.’’

More than a dozen Louisiana offshore service and supply companies sued U.S. regulators to lift the ban. State officials claim 20,000 Louisiana jobs are in jeopardy if the deepwater drilling suspension lasts 18 months.

Judicial activist.

UPDATE:  I've taken a gander at the opinion just handed down (it's here in PDF format) and I find it to be short on legal reasoning and high in snark.  For example, in a footnote it reads:

The Report [of the Secretary of the Interior] notes that the Deepwater Horizon disaster is "commanding the Department of Interior's resources."  A disturbing admission by this Administration.

WTF with the editorializing?  And why is it "distrubing" that the Department of Interior is working to the fullest extent on the Deepwater Horizon disaster?  Hasn't the criticism been that the Obama Administration hasn't been doing enough?!?  And now when we learn that the Department of Interior's resources are heavily involved in fighting the distaster, it is "disturbing"?  Really?

Anyway, the Court's reasoned that the decision to put a 6-month moratorium on deep sea drilling was "arbitrary and capricious".  Why was it arbitrary and capricious?  Because, according to the Court, just because one drill broke and failed doesn't mean they all will.

That's one way to look at it, I suppose.  Yet, when a part goes bad in a Boeing-made large passenger plane, don't they require ALL those planes to be rounded and inspected?  It's not unheard of.

Hmmmm.  Here’s some assorted information on Feldman:

CASE Summary

: Judge Feldman graduated from Tulane Law School in 1957, where he was a member of the Order of the Coif, and Assistant Editor of the Tulane Law Review. … His practice emphasized tax law and complex commercial litigation. … On October 12, 1983 he was appointed United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana by President Reagan, and presently serves as the Chairman of the Fifth Circuit’s Committee on Pattern Civil Jury Instructions. … Judge Feldman is a member of the Advisory Committee of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is Chair of the Board of Advisory Editors of the Tulane Law Review, … From 1994 to 2000 he was a lecturer in Constitutional Law and war powers at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Public Administration. … [H]as been a guest lecturer at Amherst College in constitutional interpretation and the philosophy of the Rule of Law.

This comment in the Robing Room seems to say it all: "Intelligent, Pompous, egotistical, pushy, arrogant, unfair, no empathy for poor people and workers who come before him, his heart is with business."

Apparently.  Well, an appeal is in the works.

UPDATE #2: Yyyyyeah.  Thought so.  From Think Progress:

Like many judges presiding in the Gulf region, Feldman owns lots of energy stocks, including Transocean, Halliburton, and two of BP’s largest U.S. private shareholders — BlackRock (7.1%) and JP Morgan Chase (28.3%). Here’s a list of Feldman’s income in 2008 (amounts listed unless under $1,000):

JP Morgan Chase, BlackRock ($12000- $36000)
Ocean Energy ($1000 – $2500)
NGP Capital Resources ($1000 – $2500)
Quicksilver Resources ($5000 – $15000)
Hercules Offshore ($6000 – $17500)
Provident Energy
Peabody Energy
PenGrowth Energy
RPC Inc
Atlas Energy Resources
Parker Drilling
TXCO Resources
EV Energy Partners
Rowan Companies
BPZ Resources
El Paso Corp
KBR Inc
Chesapeake Energy
ATP Oil & Gas

UPDATE #3:  Another news agency reports:

Judge Feldman held less than $15,000 worth of stock in Transocean, as well as similar amounts (federal rules only require that judges report a range of values ) in Hercules Offshore, ATP Oil and Gas, and Parker Drilling. All of those companies offer contract offshore drilling services and operate offshore rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Judge Feldman also owned between $15,000 and $50,000 in notes offered by Ocean Energy, Inc., a company that offers "concept design and manufacturing design of submersible drilling rigs".

Beepy Oil Spill: By The Numbers

Perspective is everything, and this article puts the oil spill in perspective.  And actually, it makes it sound not so bad.  Some highlights:

  • The Mississippi River pours as much water into the Gulf of Mexico in 38 seconds as the BP oil leak has done in two months.
  • For every gallon of oil that BP's well has gushed into the Gulf of Mexico, there is more than 5 billion gallons of water already in it.
  • The amount of oil spilled so far could only fill the cavernous New Orleans Superdome about one-seventh of the way up.
  • If you put the oil in gallon milk jugs and lined them up, they would stretch about 10,800 miles. That's a roundtrip from the Gulf to London.
  • BP has spent more than $54.8 million lobbying federal officials in Washington since 2000; that's about 44 cents for every gallon of oil it has spilled.
  • Take the 125 million gallons of oil spilled in the Gulf and convert it to gasoline, which is what Americans mostly use it for. That produces 58 million gallons of gas – the amount American drivers burn every three hours and 41 minutes. It's enough to fill up the gas tanks in 3.6 million cars — more than those in Louisiana and Mississippi combined.

But… it's bad.

Bachmann Quote Of The Day [Update: Rep. Barton (R-TX), Too!]

Wow.  Just wow.  Here is Rep. Michelle "Crazy As A Loon" Bachmann on the BP escrow fund to compensate Gulf shore residents for their losses:

The president just called for creating a fund that would be administered by outsiders, which would be more of a redistribution-of-wealth fund.  And now it appears like we’ll be looking at one more gateway for more government control, more money to government.  If there is a disaster, why is it that government is the one who always seems to benefit after a disaster, and that’s of course what cap-and-trade would be.

Well, yes, I suppose the fund does involve redistribution-of-wealth…. in the same sense that when a guy smashes into my car, he has to pay me for the damages to it.  Problem?

And the notion that the government benefits from the fund — well, that's just bizarre.  As Bachmann herself acknowledges, the fund will be administered by outsiders, i.e., an independent panel.  How does government "benefit"?  It doesn't, except for the fact that the fund will prevent the government (and by extension, American taxpayers) from being fiscally responsible for BP’s actions.

UPDATE — she's not alone.  This happened 20 minutes ago….

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), ranking member of the House Energy committee, where BP's CEO is testifying today, just said "It is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, in this case a $20 billion shakedown."

He also apologized to BP for Obama's address yesterday and the $20 billion escrow.

What is wrong with these people?

Isn't the real "tragedy of the first proportion" that a private corporation can literally break the Gulf of Mexico — ruining wildlife, natural resources, and livelilhoods of those who depend on the Gulf — and have people like Rep. Barton think that's okay?

UPDATE #2 — TPM has a running list of Republicans who are taking issue with the escrow fund.  Jash Marshall adds:

Demonizing particular individuals can go way too far. And we're going to see a lot of it, just as we have in other calamities where the political breakdowns are different. But this almost literal groveling or knee-defense of BP executives is exactly what Democrats will want to show on a national level that Republicans are on the wrong side of this issue. And I suspect it will have a real effect, if only in strengthening a number of embattled incumbents.

Steve Benen echoes:

I find all of this rather bewildering. Given the nature of the crisis, it stood to reason that politicians would be tripping over each other to appear "tougher" on BP than the next guy. What elected official in his/her right mind would want to side with the oil giant responsible for the worst environmental catastrophe in American history? Apparently, we're getting a clearer picture of the answer.

I don't think Republicans have thought through the politics of this. If they don't want to praise the Obama White House for its success with BP yesterday, fine. But the GOP is approaching the point at which Dems will reasonably be able to argue that Republicans are siding with BP over the country

UPDATE #3 — And now the White House responds…

Statement by the Press Secretary on Congressman Joe Barton's Apology to BP

"What is shameful is that Joe Barton seems to have more concern for big corporations that caused this disaster than the fishermen, small business owners and communities whose lives have been devastated by the destruction. Congressman Barton may think that a fund to compensate these Americans is a 'tragedy', but most Americans know that the real tragedy is what the men and women of the Gulf Coast are going through right now. Members from both parties should repudiate his comments."

Yet Another In A Series Of Posts All Relating To “How Much Oil Is Being Spilled”?

…. and like all the other posts, the answer is "More than we've been led to believe".  Sigh:

The new estimate is 25,000 to 30,000 barrels of oil a day. That range, still preliminary, is far above the previous estimate of 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day.

These new calculations came as the public wrangling between BP and the White House was reaching new heights, with President Obama asking for a meeting with BP executives next week and his Congressional allies intensifying their pressure on the oil giant to withhold dividend payments to shareholders until it makes clear it can and will pay all its obligations from the spill.

The higher estimates will affect not only assessments of how much environmental damage the spill has done but also how much BP might eventually pay to clean up the mess — and it will most likely increase suspicion among skeptics about how honest and forthcoming the oil company has been throughout the catastrophe.

The new estimate is based on information that was gathered before BP cut a pipe called a riser on the ocean floor last week to install a new capture device, an operation that some scientists have said may have sharply increased the rate of flow. The government panel, called the Flow Rate Technical Group, is preparing yet another estimate that will cover the period after the riser was cut.

The new estimate appears to be a far better match than earlier ones for the reality that Americans can see every day on their televisions. Even though the new capture device is funneling 15,000 barrels of oil a day to a ship at the surface, a robust flow of oil is still gushing from the well a mile beneath the waves.

UPDATE:  BBC writes

As many as 40,000 barrels (1.7 million gallons) of oil a day may have been gushing out from a blown-out Gulf of Mexico well, doubling many estimates.

Should Taxpayers Pay For The Oil Spill?

Republican leaders think so.

This is tremendously stupid politics.  The public — particularly Republicans — are weary of taxpayer bailouts already.  Now we want more?

Oh, sure — count on Republicans to say, "Well, we bailed out the banks.  So why not BP?"

But that argument falls flat.  The bailout of the banks was necessary to stem the economic downflow.  It was designed to make sure that the entire banking system stayed afloat.  (And remember, we did let Sheasron Lehman die first).

This is not the same situation.  BP messed up.  While the oil spill may wreak havoc with BP's bottom dollar, it doesn't send the entire oil industry into turmoil and collapse, unlike the financial sector bailout.  Plus, the oil and gas companies get huge tax breaks already.

Also, BP is, you know, British.  Let the Brits bail them out.

Democrats need to jump on this one.  Politically, it's a huge gamechanger.  The 30 second ads write themselves: "Democrats want BP to pay for its spill; Republicans want you to pay for BP's spill."

P.S.  Although I agreed with it at the time, and still do, voters might want to be reminded that the bailout of the banks was done when Bush was president.

UPDATE from Josh Marshall, noting that Boehner is backtracking:

Okay, it seems like we know what Boehner meant. It seems he thinks BP should be on the line for everything. But only up to $75 million once the oil itself if cleaned up.

UPDATE:  Boehner steps into the ridiculous again

Washington (CNN) – House Republican Leader John Boehner mocked Congress for holding multiple hearings on the BP oil spill before experts have figured out how to halt oil still gushing into the Gulf. He sarcastically called the packed hearing schedule, "Congress at its best."

"You know, why don't we get the oil stopped, alright? Figure out what the hell went wrong, and then have the hearing and get the damn law fixed!" an exasperated Boehner told reporters at his weekly press conference on Capitol Hill.

I'm going to go out on a limb and speculate that figuring out how to cap the spill is in no way impeded by Congress looking into the root cause of the spill.  If it is an impediment, then we're in serious trouble.

Another Oil Spill In The Gulf

Lovely:

As if there wasn't enough oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico, satellite images have revealed a 10-mile-long slick from another drilling rig, which apparently began leaking days after the Deepwater Horizon disaster began.

Citing an environmental group and federal documents, the Mobile, Ala., Press- Register reports that the smaller leak, from the Ocean Saratoga platform, apparently began around April 30 and was noted by federal officials May 15. But they and Diamond Offshore officials aren't saying anything else about it.

The spill was first reported by SkyTruth, which said it accidentally discovered the separate slick while scrutinizing Deepwater Horizon images. Photos taken during overflights "appear to show a large oil crew boat pumping dispersants into the water at the spill site," the Press- Register writes.

Officials at the National Response Center, which is coordinating the massive BP spill, said the Ocean Saratoga leak had been reported, but they would not say exactly when it began. The Coast Guard has not yet responded either.

Religious Nutjobs Of The Day

From Newsweek, presented without comment:

A growing conversation among Christian fundamentalists asks the question that may have been inevitable: is the oil spill in the gulf a sign of the coming apocalypse?

About 60 million white evangelicals live in America, and about one third of them believe that the world will end in their lifetime, according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press….

…Now blogs on the Christian fringe are abuzz with possibility that the oil spill is the realization of Revelation 8:8–11. "The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea became blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed … A third of the waters became wormwood, and many died from the water, because it was made bitter." According to Revelation, in other words, something terrible happens to the world's water, a punishment to those of insufficient faith. The foul water, according to the New Oxford Annotated Bible, mirrors one of the plagues God called upon Egypt on behalf of his people Israel.

Though maybe it's Revelation 16:3: "The second angel poured his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing in the sea died."

Some interpreters are very sure: The oil spill matches biblical prophesy and is another predictor of the end. One commenter at Godlike Productions argues that the redness of the oil seen in pictures can be interpreted as blood. "The water is tinted red from the oil … it ACTUALLY looks like blood. coincidence??? NOT!!!!"

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE:  J-Walk blog has founded supportive evidence….

Holyoil

Hurricanes and the Oil Spill

With hurricane season upon us, questions are being asked about the effect of hurricanes on the oil spill and, conversely, the effects of the oil spill on hurricanes.  NOAA has the "answers", although it involves a lot of guesswork, since there's never been a situation where a major hurricane passed through an oil slick of this size.

I have reprinted NOAA's Q&A in its entirety below the fold.

How The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Has Turned The Right Wing Into Socialists (and Hypocrites)

Crazy Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), like many of her fellow Republicans, isn't satisfied with the federal response to the BP oil spill disaster because — get this — she wanted to see the federal government seize control and ownership of more private property. Seriously.

"Where were the boats that could have been commandeered by the government to be sent into this region to deal with that oil plume as it was coming up to the water and destroying marine life? Nowhere to be found. Why? The administration was hands off on this policy."

I don't get it.  If bailing out Wall Street and the car companies is government-engineered socialism, why isn't taking ownership of BP's private assets?  Why, here is what Bachmann said only last April on Larry King:

BACHMANN: The story in our country has been the federal government takeover of private industry. The federal government literally, in 18 months’ time, has taken either direct ownership or control of 51 percent of the private economy. Eighteen months ago, 100 percent of the private economy was private. But today, the federal government literally owns banks., the largest insurance company in the United States. The federal government owns over half of all home mortgages today in the United States — Chrysler, G.M. the student loan industry and now health care.

The point for Bachmann and her brethren, obviously, is to lash out hysterically and attack the president. Whether it makes sense or is consistent with her so-called principles is irrelevant.  (And I'm sure when she finds out that some little lefty liberals are arguing the same thing, she'll do a complete 180).

I should also note, in passing, that the assertion that the Obama administration has been "hands off" on the oil spill is patently absurd.  I understand the frustration that, as yet, there has been no cessation of the leak.  But that's not because the government is sitting idly by.  It's because nobody — including the government — knows exactly how to stop the damned thing.  We're in uncharted (and oily) waters.

RELATED:  Sarah Palin weighs in with this hilarious tweet…

Greenies 

Yup.  You're reading that right.  Sarah is taking the Gulf oil spill and doing an "I told you so", as if to say "When I was chanting 'drill baby drill', I didn't mean there.  If only you people had listened to me!"

Unfortunately, Sarah has never taken the position that "drill baby drill" was limited to just onshore places.  In fact, the opposite.  She was the one to convince McCain into supporting offshore drilling!  Here's a Q&A from CNBC's “Kudlow & Company” Interview – Jul 31, 2008:

Q: When we talked about a month ago, you told me you were going to persuade Senator McCain to drill in ANWR. Now actually, McCain’s come a long way on drilling Outer Continental Shelf. Have you yet talked him in to ANWR?

A: I have not talked him in to ANWR yet. But yeah, he has evolved into being open enough to say yes to that offshore. Obama certainly hasn’t gone there. We certainly need this. We need it for American security, & for energy independence.

And during the 2008 Vice Presidential debate against Joe Biden, she chastized Obama's position on offshore drilling, calling offshore drilling "safe" and "environmentally-friendly":

BIDEN: We have 3% of the world’s oil reserves. We consume 25% of the oil. John has voted 20 times in the last decade-and-a-half against funding alternative energy sources, clean energy sources, wind, solar, biofuels. McCain thinks, I guess, the only answer is drill, drill, drill. Drill we must, but it’ll take ten years before any [new drilling delivers oil].

PALIN: The chant is “drill, baby, drill.” That’s what we hear across this country in our rallies because people are hungry for those domestic sources of energy to be tapped into. They know that even in my own energy-producing state we have billions of barrels of oil and hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of clean, green natural gas. Barack Obama and Sen. Biden, you’ve said no to everything in trying to find a domestic solution to the energy crisis. You even called drilling — safe, environmentally-friendly drilling offshore as raping the outer continental shelf.

"Well, that's all from the 2008 campaign," you say.  Maybe she had a change of heart since then on the subject of offshore drilling.  Nope.  There's this from March, 2009:

Salazar went to Alaska this week as part of the process of developing this administration's offshore energy plan. He has called a time out on new leasing, for more public input, and he got plenty Tuesday.

Whaling captain and mayor of the North Slope Borough Edward Itta advised slowing down: "Mr. Secretary, like all Alaskans, the people of the North Slope depend on the economic engine of oil and gas development. We have supported onshore for well over 30 years now. But, Mr. Secretary, offshore is a different matter."

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin advised speeding up: "Delays or major restrictions in accessing our needed resources for environmentally responsible development are not in the nation's or our state's best interest." 

And just two months ago, in a widely circulated missive, Palin attacked President Obama's plan to open up large swaths of the U.S. coastline to potential drilling for being too little, too late. "[L]et's not forget," she wrote, "that while Interior Department bureaucrats continue to hold up actual offshore drilling from taking place, Russia is moving full steam ahead on Arctic drilling, and China, Russia, and Venezuela are buying leases off the coast of Cuba."

And just eight days ago, despite the BP spill, Sarah said she remains a "big supporter of offshore drilling." 

Now, with her tweet, she would like you to forget she said all that.  When she led the chants of "drill baby drill", she was only talking about onshore drilling, you stupid "greenies" (despite the fact that she wasn't).

For any other politician, members of the news media would confront them about this obvious hypocrisy.  But Sarah avoids those kind of questions (prefering the softball questions of Fox News), so she'll never have to account for her obvious political chicanery and flip-flopping.

What particularly annoys me about this Palin tweet isn't that she's blatently fabricating her own record regarding offshore drilling.  It's that she's doing it in an unctious condescending tone, as if we have failed to understand all along that she was warning us about the dangers of offshore drilling ("Now do you get it"?).  And yet, we DO get it.  We get what she said in the past.  And no matter how belittling her tone, it doesn't change what has come out of her mouth.  She supported offshore drilling.  Period.

P.S.  And it's not like onshore drilling can't hurt the environment.  If an oil well in ANWR had blown up, the oil would just kind of pool all over the tundra, and it would be much easier to just nuke it, like the Russians did.  This, apparently, is desireable, in the Palin world-view.

Obama’s Katrina?

A lot of "serious" right-wing contributors are comparing the Obama's response to the Oil Spill to Bush's response to Katrina.  

Read, for example, how unhinged the Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan

I don't see how the president's position and popularity can survive the oil spill. This is his third political disaster in his first 18 months in office.

She continues:

I wonder if the president knows what a disaster this is not only for him but for his political assumptions. His philosophy is that it is appropriate for the federal government to occupy a more burly, significant and powerful place in America—confronting its problems of need, injustice, inequality. But in a way, and inevitably, this is always boiled down to a promise: "Trust us here in Washington, we will prove worthy of your trust." Then the oil spill came and government could not do the job, could not meet need, in fact seemed faraway and incapable: "We pay so much for the government and it can't cap an undersea oil well!"

This is what happened with Katrina, and Katrina did at least two big things politically. The first was draw together everything people didn't like about the Bush administration, everything it didn't like about two wars and high spending and illegal immigration, and brought those strands into a heavy knot that just sat there, soggily, and came to symbolize Bushism. The second was illustrate that even though the federal government in our time has continually taken on new missions and responsibilities, the more it took on, the less it seemed capable of performing even its most essential jobs. 

Peggy conveniently overlooks the obvious.  Katrina is not the same as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in some very significant ways.

For one thing, the federal government never took it upon itself to oversee oil spills caused by private industries.  There is no federal expertise in capping oil blowouts. There is no federal agency tasked specifically with repairing broken well pipes. There is no expectation that the federal government should be able to respond instantly to a disaster like this. There never has been. For better or worse, it's simply not something that's ever been considered the responsibility of the federal government.

The same cannot be said of hurricanes.  In that case, we specifically have FEMA just for that purpose.  And FEMA worked like a charm during the Clinton administration.  But when George Bush became president and Joe Allbaugh became director of FEMA, everything changed. Allbaugh neither knew nor cared about disaster preparedness. For ideological reasons, FEMA was downsized and much of its work outsourced. When Allbaugh left after less than two years on the job, he was replaced by the hapless Michael Brown and the agency was downgraded and broken up yet again. By the time Katrina hit, the upper levels of FEMA were populated largely with political appointees with no disaster preparedness experience and the agency was simply not up to the job of dealing with a huge storm anymore.

So is the oil spill "Obama's Katrina"?  Hardly.  There was nothing for the Obama Administration to do.  BP had the experts to stop the thing.  BP was tasked to stop the thing (although the Obama Administration was clearly breathing down BP's back).

In fact, there's a very good argument that the BP oil explosion could have prevented if the federal agencies under Bush hadn't been watered down.  The BP blowout was made more likely because that Bush administration decided that government regulation of private industry wasn't very important and turned the relevant agency into a joke. If you believe that government is the problem, not the solution, and if you actually run the country that way for eight years, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But we shouldn't pretend it's inevitable.

Is Kevin Costner Making Himself Useful?

The spill in the Gulf rages on.  Animals are washing ashore dead.  Efforts to stop the thing are proving unproductive.  It is the worst environmental disaster the world has ever seen.

And one man may have a solution: Kevin Costner.  Yes, that Kevin Costner.

Mr. Costner appeared in New Orleans last week to demonstrate a $24 million oil extraction device he is pitching to BP and Coast Guard officials. Costner says the device will clean oil from the water at a rate of 97 percent. BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said Wednesday that his team will test the device next week.

Costner’s involvement in helping solve oil spill crises is not new. The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster in Alaska motivated the actor to help fund a consortium of scientists to develop technology that mitigates oil-infected water before it hits the coast. The technology is ready to combat the BP spill, he told reporters last week.

“It's not anymore about talk," Costner told WWL-TV in New Orleans. “It's about doing the walk, and that phrase was probably invented down here.”

Costner’s company, Ocean Therapy Solutions, provides multiple machines designed to address spills of different sizes. The largest can clean as many as 200 gallons per minute, Costner said. The company reports it has 20 such machines ready to be employed.

“The machines are basically sophisticated centrifuge devices that can handle a huge volume of water and separate [the oil] at unprecedented rates,” Ocean Therapy Solutions CEO John Houghtaling said last week.

Costner said the machines work by drawing in the infested water where it then breaks it down, allowing the oil to discharge through a separate pipe. His audience, a gathering of local parish presidents, appeared eager to get the device to the Gulf.

Um, okay.  Well, he did star in Waterworld.

Rand Paul Doubling Down By Showing Support For BP

Bruce Bartlett may have said it best when he wrote that Paul suffers from foolish consistency syndrome:

I don't believe Rand is a racist; I think he is a fool who is suffering from the foolish consistency syndrome that affects all libertarians. They believe that freedom consists of one thing and one thing only–freedom from governmental constraint. Therefore, it is illogical to them that any increase in government power could ever expand freedom. Yet it is clear that African Americans were far from free in 1964 and that the Civil Rights Act greatly expanded their freedom while diminishing that of racists. To defend the rights of racists to discriminate is reprehensible and especially so when it is done by a major party nominee for the U.S. Senate. I believe that Rand should admit that he was wrong as quickly as possible.

For his part, Rand Paul has spent the last 24 hours backtracking very fast.  Originally he had problems with parts of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; now he claims he would have voted for it, even the parts he didn't like (i.e., the part which compelled businesses not to discriminate).

Some conservatives — and even Paul himself — have tried to dismiss the whoe Civil-Rights-gate issue as a gotcha game, based on an historic event which has no bearing on the present.  But wiser people (like me) understand that the issue isn't civil rights, but Paul's adherence to a hands-off government.  That has real world applications to current events.

And this morning shows why.  In an interview on ABC News’ Good Morning America today, host George Stephanopoulos pressed GOP Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul on “how far” he would “push” his anti-government views. Playing a clip of Paul telling Fox Business that he wants to “get rid of regulation” and “get the EPA out of our coal business down,” Stephanopoulos asked if Paul believed “the EPA should not be allowed to tell oil companies they can’t use certain chemicals to enforce safety regulations on that rig out there?” “No,” replied Paul, saying that he was referring to the EPA’s effort to regulate carbon emissions.

When Stephanopoulos followed up with a question about getting “rid of the EPA,” Paul defended BP’s response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill last month and attacked the Obama administration’s crackdown on the oil giant as “really un-American“:

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you don’t want to get rid of the EPA?

PAUL: No, the thing is is that drilling right now and the problem we’re having now is in international waters and I think there needs to be regulation of that and always has been regulation. What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of, you know, “I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP.” I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business. I’ve heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill. And I think it’s part of this sort of blame game society in the sense that it’s always got to be someone’s fault. Instead of the fact that maybe sometimes accidents happen. I mean, we had a mining accident that was very tragic and I’ve met a lot of these miners and their families. They’re very brave people to do a dangerous job. But then we come in and it’s always someone’s fault. Maybe sometimes accidents happen.

Really, Rand?  Coming out in favor of BP?  It's un-American to come down hard on British Petroleum?

Great timing.  And great way to change the subject….

How Much Oil Is Actually Being Spilled?

When the oil spill first occured, we were told it was about 1,000 barrels per day.

Then BP upwardly revised its estimates a few days later… to 5,000 barrels per day, and that remains the official estimate.

But within the past few days, we've been treated to video of the actual spill from deep underwater…

And now we read this:

BP has said repeatedly that there is no reliable way to measure the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico by looking at the oil gushing out of the pipe. But scientists say there are actually many proven techniques for doing just that.

Steven Wereley, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, analyzed videotape of the seafloor gusher using a technique called particle image velocimetry.

A computer program simply tracks particles and calculates how fast they are moving. Wereley put the BP video of the gusher into his computer. He made a few simple calculations and came up with an astonishing value for the rate of the oil spill: 70,000 barrels a day — much higher than the official estimate of 5,000 barrels a day.

The method is accurate to a degree of plus or minus 20 percent.

Given that uncertainty, the amount of material spewing from the pipe could range from 56,000 barrels to 84,000 barrels a day. It is important to note that it's not all oil. The short video BP released starts out with a shot of methane, but at the end it seems to be mostly oil.

Lovely. 70,000 barrels is about 3,000,000 gallons of oil.  Per day.  The Exxon Valdez oil disaster, by comparison, was a total of 12 million gallons.

That is depressing enough, but when you couple it with this headline from National Geographic….

Gulf Oil Leaks Could Gush for Years

"We don't have any idea how to stop this," expert says.

…well, that just makes you want to cry.

I guess if we can't stop the leak, it doesn't really matter how fast the oil is coming out.  We just have to wait until the particular reservoir of oil underneath the sea bed gets tapped out.

How much oil is that?  Oh, about 50 million barrels (or 2 billion gallons).  Which comes out to about 160 Exxon Valdez disasters.

Dig A Little Deeper, NYT

An article on the front page of today's New York Times contains quotes from various conservation groups indicating that perhaps the oil spill isn't as bad as people think it is.  Example:

Other experts said that while the potential for catastrophe remained, there were reasons to remain guardedly optimistic.

“The sky is not falling,” said Quenton R. Dokken, a marine biologist and the executive director of the Gulf of Mexico Foundation, a conservation group in Corpus Christi, Tex. “We’ve certainly stepped in a hole and we’re going to have to work ourselves out of it, but it isn’t the end of the Gulf of Mexico.”

Yeah, will if you click on that link and poke around a little bit at the Gulf of Mexico Foundation website, you'll quickly see that it has a rather startling number of board members who work with, or for, the oil industry.

At least half of the 19 members of the group’s board of directors have direct ties to the offshore drilling industry. Seven board members are currently employed at oil companies, or at companies that provide products and services “primarily” to the offshore oil and gas industry. Those companies include Shell, Conoco Phillips, LLOG Exploration Company, Devon Energy, Anadarko Petroleum Company and Oceaneering International.

The Gulf of Mexico Foundation’s president is a retired senior vice president of Rowan Companies Inc., an offshore drilling contractor.

Smell an oily dead fish?  Of course you do.  It gets worse.  From the Gulf of Mexico Foundation website, you'll read things like this, under "Board News":

Board meets in Houston
January 2010
– The GMF held its winter Board of Directors meeting in Houston on January 25-26. The meeting was hosted by Transocean, which also sponsored a dinner for Board members the first evening. The meeting focused on further development of on-going and proposed projects.

Who is "Transocean"?  Well, it's a company which constructs and operates oil rigs.  One of its executives is on the board of the Gulf of Mexico Foundation, the "conservation group" quoted in the New York Times article.

But Transocean isn't just any company that constructs offshore oil rigs.  Transocean is the company that actually built and operated the Deepwater Horizon oil rig for BP.  Nine of the 11 workers who died when the rig exploded were Transocean employees.

In other words, the "conservation group" downplaying the extent of the disaster in the New York Times was actually a front group comprised of members with connections to the oil industry in general, and connections to the specific oil rig which was ground zero for the disaster.

Don't you think the New York Times readers would like to know that?

The Oil Rig Explosion That Started It All

Look for stairs to get a sense of scale:

Gallery-rigfire1

The latest —

President Obama visited Louisiana yesterday afternoon to observe the response effort to the BP oil spill, which he called a “potentially unprecedented environmental disaster.” “Your government will do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to stop this crisis,” he pledged. But Obama said taxpayers would not be on the hook for the cleanup, saying “BP is responsible for this leak — BP will be paying the bill.”

Speaking to a mostly Republican audience near Kansas City on Saturday, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin called the Gulf Coast oil spill “very tragic,” but said the U.S. should continue drilling offshore. “I want our country to be able to trust the oil industry,” she said, adding, “We’ve got to tap domestically because energy security will be the key to our prosperity.”

Oil giant BP said today that it will pay “all necessary and appropriate clean-up costs” related to the recent oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. “BP takes responsibility for responding to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. We will clean it up,” said a company statement.
 

About Obama’s Plan To Do Offshore Drilling

In the wake of the biggest old spill catastrophe since Exxon Valdez, it looks like plans to do more off-shore drill-baby-drilling is on hold:

As some Democratic lawmakers call on President Obama to suspend his plans to expand offshore oil drilling, the White House today said that there will be no new domestic offshore drilling until the investigation into the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is complete.

"All he has said is that he's not going to continue the moratorium on drilling but… no additional drilling has been authorized and none will until we find out what happened here and whether there was something unique and preventable here," White House senior adviser David Axelrod said on "Good Morning America" today, defending the administration's policy.

Axelrod said no new drilling in domestic areas will go forward until "there is an adequate review of what happened here and what is being proposed elsewhere."

Hmmmm.  Yes.  Seems like a reasonable response to what was a bad idea in the first place.

Meahwhile, Bill Maher tweets:

Whathesaid-300x122 

Agreed. 

Coal is Antiquated and Dangerous

Seems to me that in the 21st century, we shouldn't be sending men into miles-deep holes in the ground - a 17th century technology – in order to provide energy for all of us.

The amount of energy that the Earth receives from the sun in one hour could (if harnessed) fufill the entire planet's energy needs for an entire year.  Seems to me that we should be putting our efforts there, at least a little more.

As you may know,  Twenty-five miners were killed and another four are missing after a explosion took place at 3 pm Monday at Massey subsidiary Performance Coal Co.’s Upper Big Branch Mine-South between the towns of Montcoal and Naoma.

What you may not know is that the Upper Big Branch Mine has been cited for safety violations a lot in the past several years.  And by a lot, I mean 3,007 safety violations since 1995, a whopping 569 from last year and this year alone. [MSHA]

UBB_Safety_Violations_2

You mayn wonder why there was a sudden surge in 2009 of safety violations for the Massey Energy's subsidiary.  Well, I don't know, but I do know that in 2002, President George W. Bush “named former Massey Energy official Stanley Suboleski to the MSHA review commission that decides all legal matters under the Federal Mine Act”.  And I know that the MSHA chief under Bush, Dick Stickler, was a former manager of Beth Energy mines, which “incurred injury rates double the national average.” It was a classic case of have mine safety oversight being conducted by the corporate mining overlords themselves.

On October 21, 2009, the Senate confirmed President Barack Obama’s choice to replace Stickler, Joe Main, a “career union official and mine safety expert.” Massey’s Suboleski is still an active review commissioner

Obama: “Drill, Baby, Drill”

Really?  What a disappointment:

President Obama will announce new plans to drill for oil and natural gas off America's coasts Wednesday but will rule out drilling off California, Oregon and Washington state through 2017, administration officials say.

Obama's plans will include opening new areas of coastal Virginia and other parts of the mid-Atlantic region, Alaska and the eastern Gulf of Mexico for drilling. But officials say the president will block drilling in Alaska's Bristol Bay, where the George W. Bush administration's drilling plans in 2007 angered environmentalists.

According to administration officials, the plan would:

* Eventually open two-thirds of the eastern Gulf's oil and gas resources for drilling.

* Proceed with drilling off Virginia, provided the project clears environmental and military reviews.

* Study the viability of drilling off the mid- and southern Atlantic coasts.

* Study the viability of drilling in Alaska's Beaufort and Chukchi seas — areas hotly defended by environmentalists — but issue no new drilling leases in either sea before 2013.

What's particularly troubling is this:

The Senate is expected to take up a climate bill in the next few weeks — the last chance to enact such legislation before midterm election concerns take over. Mr. Obama and his allies in the Senate have already made significant concessions on coal and nuclear power to try to win votes from Republicans and moderate Democrats. The new plan now grants one of the biggest items on the oil industry’s wish list — access to vast areas of the Outer Continental Shelf for drilling.

Win votes from the "party of no"?  How did that work out with health care reform? 

Flashback:

Maybe the L.A. Times got it wrong.  Maybe it's for their April Fool's Day edition. 

[UPDATE:  Okay, maybe it's not a flip-flop so much.  As First Read points out, Obama had talked about possibly doing some off-shore drilling during the campaign, a few months after the footage in the video above]

But if it's not a joke, why would Obama do this?  It's not like he's going to win over Republicans.

UPDATE:  Via Political Animal, a Hill staffer conjectures that Obama is crazy — crazy like a fox.  Obama is starting a push on revising America's energy policy, and he's starting off by co-opting Republican ideas, so he can go for the bigger stuff:

Obama preempts the other side's most resonant arguments, which forces them to come up with more and more extreme claims in order to differentiate themselves. In the end, he occupies the reasonable middle ground and his opponents are Palinized. It doesn't always work — on the national security/gitmo/Miranda stuff, for example, it turns out the utter extreme positions the right is left with given the centrist ground Obama has staked out turns out to be fairly popular. But even there, the Administration has had reasonable success pushing back on the Miranda nonsense and, because they effectively occupy the tough, pragmatic middle ground, they routinely get cover from non-crazy Republican national security voices, which has helped blunt the force of these issues. (I understand that the term "middle ground" is very slippery and dangerous here, but I basically use it to mean policies that, before the great crazy of 2009 had broad consensus support from large portions of both parties and the Broder/Friedman/Brooks axis.)

At the same time, the policy is a tailored, measured version of what the Republicans have urged — so, yes, the headline is, 'Obama Allows New Offshore Drilling/Presses For Energy Independence,' but at the same time, California/Oregon/Washington where opposition is strongest isn't included, and there are environmentally-friendly changes to Alaska leasing policy announced at the same time. And again, as we've seen before, Republicans are sort of forced to twist and parse, and even to oppose things they have long supported, just because the Administration hasn't gone far enough.

Finally, by announcing the drilling policy without seeking to extract concessions, the Administration makes clear that it is their policy and they are the centrist/flexible/pragmatic ones — making it harder for Republicans to argue that they accomplished this or that they forced Obama to do it. […] [O]f course, if there was any reason to believe that Republicans would engage in normal negotiation/compromise, then I see why holding this back and trading it for support of a broader package would make sense. But does anyone really think there are Republicans to negotiate with on this stuff? And if Republicans do come to the table, Obama still has plenty of room to give, including by simply agreeing to sign a law that makes proposals like this a matter of statute, not executive discretion.

An interesting theory on an interesting political tactic.

Republicans’ Boycott of Climate Change Bill Committee Fails

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee have been working for weeks on a bill to address climate change, and Republicans on the committee wanted to stop it.  Their tactic?  Not showing up.  Republicans were aware of committee rules saying that no business could go forward unless two members of the opposite party were present.  So, every day this week, they sent one member, who would make a perfunctory appearance, then leave.

It didn't work:

With Republican boycotting the proceedings, Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) relied on a little used interpretation of committee rules to move the legislation. Traditionally, two minority members are required to conduct committee business.

Boxer said that she passed the bill “in full accordance with long-standing committee and Senate rules.”

“This is not a procedure we wanted; it’s a procedure that’s available to us,” said Boxer. “The majority has to be able to do its work…otherwise the whole Senate could come to a screeching halt.”

It won't be long before Republicans start to complain that climate legislation is going through without their input, etc., and waah waah waaah how unfair it is.

The thing about bipartisanship is that both parties — at a minimum — have to show up.  Republicans can't complain now (or later) about how they were cut out of the loop when they themselves, on their own initiative, boycotted legislative procedure.

Stats From The Cash-For-Clunkers Program

The Top Ten Cash for Clunkers Trade-Ins:

  1. 1998 Ford Explorer
  2. 1997 Ford Explorer
  3. 1996 Ford Explorer
  4. 1999 Ford Explorer
  5. Jeep Grand Cherokee
  6. Jeep Cherokee
  7. 1995 Ford Explorer
  8. 1994 Ford Explorer
  9. 1997 Ford Windstar
  10. 1999 Dodge Caravan

The Top Ten Cash for Clunkers New Cars:

  1. Ford Focus
  2. Honda Civic
  3. Toyota Corolla
  4. Toyota Prius
  5. Ford Escape
  6. Toyota Camry
  7. Dodge Caliber
  8. Hyundai Elantra
  9. Honda Fit
  10. Chevy Cobalt
[Source]

Smart, money-saving, and good for the environment.

Conservatives are now deriding the C-4-C program as an example of a government program that doesn't work and was mismanaged.  To the extent that there was a government screw-up, it was only because it was so popular.  “Cash for Clunkers” — the government program giving people a $4,500 voucher to trade in an old vehicle for a newer, more fuel efficient one — has been so successful that Congress is considering appropriating more money for it to continue.

Dumb Idea

AP:

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says he wants to consider taxing motorists based on how many miles they drive rather than how much gasoline they burn—an idea that has angered drivers in some states where it has been proposed.

The reason, says LaHood, is that gas taxes don't cover the cost of the federal and state highway and road infrastructure.

Okay, fine.  But a mileage tax isn't as good as a gas tax.  A mileage tax will motivate people to drive less, but it won't incentivize you to by a fuel-efficient car.  A gas tax, on the other hand, will do both.  Right?

Speedy Trials? Not In These Bad Economic Times

This is bad:

The economic storm has come to this: Justice is being delayed or disrupted in state courtrooms across the country.

Financially strapped New Hampshire has become a poster child for the problem. Among other cost-cutting measures, state courts will halt for a month all civil and criminal jury trials early next year to save $73,000 in jurors' per diems. Officials warn they may add another four-week suspension.

"It brings our system almost to a screeching halt," said county prosecutor James M. Reams. His aides are scrambling to reschedule 77 criminal trials that were on the February docket.

Perhaps it saves $73,000 in jurors' per diems, but I imagine a lot of those savings will be eaten up by having to house criminals an extra month in prison.

Then again, if they do it in January and February, I'll bet they save a bundle on heating costs for the courthouses.

Fueling Your Car With Your Fat

It's possible:

Love handles can power a car? Frighteningly, yes. Fat–whether animal or vegetable–contains triglycerides that can be extracted and turned into diesel. Poultry companies such as Tyson are looking into powering their trucks on chicken schmaltz, and biofuel start-ups such as Nova Biosource are mixing beef tallow and pig lard with more palatable sources such as soybean oil. Mike Shook of Agri Process Innovations, a builder of biodiesel plants, says this year's batch of U.S. biodiesel was likely more than half animal-derived since the price of soybeans soared.

A gallon of grease will get you about a gallon of fuel, and drivers can get about the same amount of mileage from fat fuel as they do from regular diesel, according to Jenna Higgins of the National Biodiesel Board. Animal fats need to undergo an additional step to get rid of free fatty acids not present in vegetable oils, but otherwise, there's no difference, she says.

In fact, someone gruesomely has done it.  Beverly Hills doctor Craig Alan Bittner turned the fat he removed from patients into biodiesel that fueled his Ford SUV and his girlfriend's Lincoln Navigator. The prpblem is, it's illegal in California to use human medical waste to power vehicles, and Bittner is being investigated by the state's public health department.

Oxford Word Of The Year: “Hypermiling”

Annoucement here, from the New Oxford American Dictionary.

I actually know this word, because I actually do this.

"Hypermiling" is defined as "an attempt to maximize gas mileage by making fuel-conserving adjustments to one’s car and one’s driving techniques."

I do this all the time, and I expect most hybrid drivers do.  When you get below a certain mph, the gas engine cuts off and the battery takes over.  (Technically, the battery assists the engine at higher speeds, but you can't tell).  So when I drive into my neighborhood, with smaller streets and children playing, I like to lift my foot off the pedal just enough to turn off the engine.  And I silently glide through the streets and down my driveway.

More for Oxford:

Rather than aiming for good mileage or even great mileage, hypermilers seek to push their gas tanks to the limit and achieve hypermileage, exceeding EPA ratings for miles per gallon.

Many of the methods followed by hypermilers are basic common sense—drive the speed limit, avoid hills and stop-and-go traffic, maintain proper tire pressure, don’t let your car idle, get rid of excess cargo—but others practiced by some devotees may seem slightly eccentric:
• driving without shoes (to increase the foot’s sensitivity on the pedals)
• parking so that you don’t have to back up to exit the space
• “ridge-riding” or driving with your tires lined up with the white line at the edge of the road to avoid driving through water-filled ruts in the road when it’s raining

The American Automobile Assocation has issued press releases saying that certain hypermiling techniques are dangerous.  Like over-inflating your tires.  Yeah, ok.  That seems like a no-brainer to me.  Still, there is some blowback from the AAA criticisms.

Anyway, it may be less of an issue now, with gas prices under $2.00.  But I expect hypermiling to make a comeback.

Four other finalists for word of the year:

  • frugalista – person who leads a frugal lifestyle, but stays fashionable and healthy by swapping clothes, buying second-hand, growing own produce, etc.
  • moofer – a mobile out of office worker – ie. someone who works away from a fixed workplace, via Blackberry/laptop/wi-fi etc. (also verbal noun, moofing)
  • topless meeting – a meeting in which the participants are barred from using their laptops, Blackberries, cellphones, etc.
  • toxic debt – mainly sub-prime debts that are now proving so disastrous to banks. They were parceled up and sent around the global financial system like toxic waste, hence the allusion

Waxman In

Dingell is out and Waxman is in as Energy And Commerce Chair.  That may seem like inside-politics baseball, but it is kind of a big deal. This is a huge victory for environmentalists. TPM has the details:

Dingell, who first entered the House way back when Eisenhower was president, had been the head Democrat on this committee ever since 1981.

But many of the more liberal members over the years came to view him as too friendly to Michigan's auto industry and hostile to environmentalists — especially on issues like climate change and carbon limits.

It also shakes up Congress' seniority system and is yet another sign that the political momentum is squarely in the camp of aggressive Dems. Waxman played a lead role in staking out a far more aggressive stance towards the Bush administration than many other more cautious Dems would take.

The willingness to address the global warming crisis could be the single most important change ushered in by the Obama administration – and now with Waxman taking over from Dingell, the prospects for real action just got that much closer to realization.