Hot Earth Links: A Fracked Earth News Report.
Climate change, local weather
__There’s so much heat in the atmosphere nowadays that oceans cannot absorb and release it as efficiently as in the past. Hence, both oceans and atmosphere are heating up, influencing the weather. (Great graphs at the link.)
__Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay have been inundated by heavy summer rains, with 20,000 evacuated in Argentina. North England and Wales also inundated, but by heavy winter rains. Southern India and Sri Lanka hit by floods. Meanwhile, Australian and Southeast Asian agriculture are set back by low rainfall.
__Record-high temperatures in the eastern US over the holiday. In the Deep South, deadly tornadoes raged, followed by more deadly tornadoes and cold in Texas. Flash flooding in Illinois. Altogether, 34 deaths blamed on extreme weather.
__Russia “is warming more than twice as fast as the average for the rest of the world.” Floods and wildfires taking place around the country; Lake Baikal water level way down; earthquakes occurring where they haven’t before; permafrost receding, releasing methane.
__Scientific models focus on release of methane from Arctic permafrost in summer. However, winter methane emissions from several sites account “for about half of all the methane emitted from those sites throughout the entire year.”
__In Nevada, a solar energy array with “a tower of molten salt” for storage is expected to generate 110 MW for up to ten hours after the sun sets.
__Carbon emissions from power plants has fallen by 18% since 2013 in the UK. At the same time, “clean energy” power increased from 30% to 39% (2012-2014). Nuclear output is down 9.7%, coal by 23%.
__Australia’s Broken Hill, once famous for its silver mine, is now celebrated for its “large-scale solar industry.” Interestingly, BHP Billiton is deeply involved in this project. Fascinating graph showing the world’s major solar power producers by country at link.
__They’ve fused magnesium with ceramic silicon carbide nanoparticles, creating a light, strong structural metal for making “airplanes, spacecraft, and cars” that will need less fuel. A big plus: magnesium is among the most abundant metals on the planet.
__Heartening news: Cornell University scientists “have developed a new reusable polymer that can remove pollutants from flowing water within seconds,” at adsorption rates “vastly superior to traditional activated carbon” and with cyclodextrin filters that can be cleaned simply by washing them with ethanol or methanol.
__Rachel Maddow takes a close look at the Flint, Michigan tragedy, which becomes even more disturbing with the news that “Michigan state officials … knew an unusual number of children had suffered lead poisoning … during the months of July, August and September, 2014.”
__Bolivia’s 2nd largest lake has dried up—“nothing short of devastation” for communities relying on fish, and for the flamingo population, too. Quicker evaporation is occurring, as Earth warms. Mining sediment is now backed up on the land since there’s no water to disperse it.
State of the oil economy
__Oil prices/barrel have decreased by 76.1% since 3 July 2008. The Dow took notice and dropped 367 points.
__Energy limited partnerships were quite the rage during 2013-14. Now, however, 5 of the 10 “worst performing mutual funds with more than $1bn in assets” are energy limited partnerships, with Goldman Sachs’ negative returns among the largest.
__US shale oil production down 14.3% over 2014; 11 more Chapter 11 bankruptcies filed in the 4th quarter; and “U.S. oil and gas job cuts have reached 70,000 so far.” Meanwhile, they’re anticipating 600,000 more barrels of oil available/day in excess of demand, which probably means all that oil in storage will stay there through 2016.
__As oil prices hit big lows, Alaska’s governor has proposed a state income tax—first one in 35 years. They’re short two-thirds of the state’s $5.2b budget.
__Saudi Arabia’s hit hard by the oil situation—“a record $98 billion budget deficit in 2015”—but King Salman plans to “diversify sources of income” and get away from sole reliance on oil.
__Prices/barrel of oil down again as of 11:35 am, 28 December: $36.85 in New York; $36.93 Brent.
Oil politics, alliances, activities and outcomes
__As predicted, the US House and Senate approved repealing the ban on US crude oil exports and extended tax breaks for renewable energy for five years. Somehow the obvious—a bigger oil glut—isn’t discussed much, though some US refiners are upset that all that crude will be exported and refined elsewhere.
__Here’s a heck of a revelation: “ExxonMobil and Sierra Club Agreed on Climate Policy [in 2009] and Kept It Secret.”
__Gross. Roads in New York are being sprayed with “frack filth,” or, spiffied-up, ‘production brine.’ Fourteen counties now have permission to do this, but nine counties have banned the practice. (h/t EE)
__Last August 17th’s 4.6 mag earthquake in northeastern British Colombia is officially recognized as likely due to fracking. So, they’ve reduced the pump rate—and will shut pumps down should a 3.5 mag or greater one occur.
__Here you go: map showing who’s got licenses to drill for oil and gas in England—and where.
__Finally, a Dutch appeals court ruled that Royal Dutch Shell can indeed “be held liable” for inundating large swaths of the Nigerian Delta with oil in 2008 causing major damage to habitat and inhabitants. Stay tuned as lawsuits proceed.
Of gas and gasbags
__That Porter Ranch, California methane gas “leak” has created a “ghost town,” as residents are relocated to motels within 3 days of asking, even though Los Angeles city attorneys argue the wait time should be shorter and a “‘special master’” installed. Class action lawsuits are underway. Schools are being relocated. Erin Brockovich is now involved. Seems a valve was removed in 1979 because “it wasn’t working” — and wasn’t replaced?
__A proposed liquid natural gas terminal near Vancouver, British Columbia has been opposed by 53% of Tsawwassen First Nation voters.
__A “huge inferno” enveloped a butane gas depot in Nnewi, southern Nigeria, incinerating workers and customers inside the depot, and raging for 5 hours. A mistake in transferring the butane from a truck created the conflagration. “Tens” of employees and customers are estimated to have perished.
__Will Dow Chemical be in attendance at a Bhopal, India court “in relation to criminal charges on the 1984 gas disaster that killed 22,000 people”? Amnesty International says they must. Union Carbide owned the pesticide plant that exploded; Dow acquired it in 2001.
__A large gasbag got blown away by a wind farm, as Donald Trump lost his lawsuit in Scotland against the existence of a wind farm near his golf resort.
Mining wrecks and disasters
__Colombian divers found a 1708 Spanish ship-wreck in their waters, containing an estimated $2b+ worth of gold and silver from Peru and Bolivia. Spain wants it all back, but a court says it belongs to Colombia. Can’t we do better? Return the gold and silver to the indigenous peoples of Peru and Bolivia, have Spain reimburse Colombia for retrieving their ship, and let Spain take the thing home.
__A Brazilian federal judge “has blocked the assets of mining giants BHP Billiton and Vale … over the deadly collapse” of the dam holding back highly toxic iron mine wastewater in Minas Gerais. Potential damages are about $5.2b; the two mining corporations are to “implement ‘immediate damage-mitigating environmental measures’” or face daily fines of $38m. Major clean-up ordered, including dredging parts of the Rio Doce and restoring fresh-water springs and vegetation. 13 people perished in the disaster.
__Black lung has reappeared after three decades among miners in Queensland, Australia and the miner’s union is calling for a public investigation to determine why.
__Britain’s last deep-pit coal mine closed Friday, 18 December, in North Yorkshire. King Coal reigned for many decades, powering Britain, and miner strikes were the stuff of legends. Then along came Margaret Thatcher and … Fitting tribute to the coal miner families as they adjust to new ways of life:
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__Eva-Lotta Jansson, photographer, has documented the impact of coal and gold mining in South Africa where rivers carry “toxic sulphates and metals such as lead, zinc, copper and radioactive uranium” into local water supplies.
__More people killed this month in Kachin state, Myanmar as destructive jade mining practices create huge, unsteady piles of mining waste which locals scavenge for survival. $31b in jade was taken from the region in 2014; locals received nothing.
Food, flora and fauna
__Wild bees, “especially in Minnesota and much of the Upper Midwest,” declined by 25% between 2008-2013. Conversion to row crops and emphasis on ethanol are partially to blame. Map included.
__A federal judge in Hawaii has ensured sushi lovers their holiday treat by declaring limits set by a international commission for bigeye tuna (ahi) caught by longline fishermen need not be observed.
__A 3-star chef working the kitchen during the Paris Climate Conference destroyed trees in a protected forest in the Alps so he could have a botanical garden. He also drained nearby wetlands. He’s been fined $108,000, and must restore the wetlands
__Cecil the Lion’s legacy: the Obama administration will declare African lions Endangered Species if they live in central and West Africa, and Threatened Species if they live in southern and East Africa.
Celebrating the Solstice
See you on the 7th! 🙂
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