Oil trains/bomb trains
* One of Warren Buffett’s BNSF trains derailed near Galena, Illinois, 5 March, sending railcars “across two sets of tracks,” flames “several hundred feet high” and emitting dark smoke “seen for miles.” 103 of the 105 cars on the train were loaded with crude. Firefighters still on the scene Sunday.
* Three other fiery derailments in a month: Boomer, WV where 19 CSX crude-hauling cars exploded into a huge fireball on 16 Feb; Ontario, Canada where there was a CNR derailment near Gogama on Valentine’s Day and another near Gogama on 7 Mar, which drove tank cars into the Makami River. The WSJ reports the new CPC-1232 tanker cars were involved, thus ending hopes they would be safer than the DOT-111s.
* Finally, an analysis of that Bakken oil being shipped in exploding railcars: vapor pressure is about 13.9 lbs/sq inch compared to 6 lbs/sq inch for “average” oil. Hold this thought for a sec.
* While many fear the bomb trains rolling through our communities, the Obama administration has opted to let North Dakota produce regulations for Bakken oil which mainly comes from … North Dakota.
* Bakken oil is extremely gassy, there is no facility in North Dakota to treat the oil to reduce gassiness, and no plans for one. And now, back to that thought you’ve been holding: North Dakota’s draft regulations for Bakken oil specify they’re good to go so long as the vapor pressure is 13.7 lbs/sq inch. Feeling better now?
* Oil companies used $95/barrel in estimating the value of their oil reserves last year. The January-February average estimate this year was $51.28/barrel, meaning “a lot of pain.” Continental Resources, e.g., had reported $22.8 billion using the earlier ($95) average—but $13.8 billion (61% less) using the Jan-Feb estimate.
* Exxon Mobil’s head thinks oil prices will “remain low over the next two years because of ample global supplies and relatively weak economic growth.” Exxon even projected $55/barrel of crude through 2017.
* Oil storage is at 90% of capacity in Europe, 70% in the US and +/- 80% in other parts of the globe. A new term: contango, wherein buyers purchase oil based on what they think the price will be in the future. Doing the contango is catching on and storage space rent is taking off, leaving oil producers with fewer buyers since they can’t afford to pay the rent on storage space for the oil. Will oil hit $20/barrel as a result?
* BPZ Resources of Houston has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, “citing the plunge in oil prices.”
Oil scandals, oil crises
* Believe it or not, and surely you will: that Gov-Christie-involved pollution settlement with Exxon just got worse. Apparently, a “top” Christie staffer “‘elbowed’ his way into the multi-billion-dollar settlements’ negotiation meetings with Exxon Mobil.”
* BP’s been sued by Ohio which claims BP “wrongfully collected over $33 million in reimbursements from the state to clean up storage tank leaks.” “Double-dipping” involved, too.
* Officials have sprung into action in the Kern County fracking wells contamination scandal by shutting down 12—that’s one whole dozen—of the thousands of wells. Actually, they’ve ordered two to shut down; the other 10 were voluntarily closed by Chevron. The LA Times finds much lacking.
* Diné women are calling attention to federal approval of exploratory drilling in natural gas wells, “as well as uranium mines, coal mines and coal-fired power plants” in Navajo Nation.
* Investigation into corruption in Brazil’s state-run oil company Petrobras with “54 people accused of taking bribes [including] a former president and the speakers of both chambers of Congress.” Current President Dilma Rousseff “has been completely cleared of any involvement.”
* Chances last fall for improving Libya’s economy—and the lives of its people—via oil production looked brighter. But now, the National Oil Corp says Islamist-backed authorities are not protecting oil fields and facilities. Update: An anti-Islamist Libyan Army General has just been sworn in as Army Chief. Stay tuned.
Mountaineer Workers Rising labor rally in West Virginia on March 7, 2015.
* After an Oklahoma state seismologist agreed to a joint statement with the US Geological Survey that OK’s earthquakes were possibly related to fracking wastewater disposal, he was called on the carpet by state officials and oil industry reps.
* A United Steelworkers local and Monroe Energy (Delta Air Lines subsidiary) have reached a deal to avoid a strike at the company’s refinery near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
* Currently three oil trains a day roll through Vancouver, Washington. Some want Tesoro Corp and Savage Companies to build an oil terminal, thus doubling oil train traffic. Others want a mixed-use development.
* Citadel Exploration of Newport Beach has sued San Benito County to overturn the fracking ban 59% of voters approved. Interesting timing since several other cities and counties are “considering [anti-fracking] ballot measures in 2016.”
* Alas and alack (ALEC?), Senate stalwarts tried but failed to override President Obama’s veto of the Keystone XL pipeline.
* Speaking of ALEC, the Koch Brothers own “close to two million acres in Alberta’s tar sands territory.” Ah, but, “‘Keystone XL’s failure could potentially leave Koch with a family fortune of ‘stranded assets’ in Alberta.”
* The right-wing Harper government has been secretly meeting with First Nations chiefs, urging them “to sideline their aboriginal rights in exchange for business opportunities”—i.e., oil, mining and timber. Kochs are involved.
* Earthjustice, the Sierra Club and local groups are suing the Port of Seattle for allowing Shell to park its Arctic drilling fleet at the Port. No environmental review was done, among other concerns.
The dangerous world of mining
* Whoo-hoo! That gag order a West Virginia judge had imposed in the Don Blankenship (owner of Massey Energy) case has been overturned by a federal appeals court. Blankenship’s in court because of the explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine back in 2010 which killed 29 workers. A peek into what’s being revealed.
* Another sad day in West Virginia as one mine-worker was killed, two injured when a Murray Energy coal mine roof collapsed.
* At the West Virginia state house last Saturday “iron workers, general laborers, school teachers and coal-miners” rallied as “Mountaineer Workers Rising.” Cecil Roberts, United Mine Workers Union President, urged, “right here, let’s have, starting today, the biggest unarmed insurrection in this nation’s history.” Video.
* PNC Financial Services Group of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania will not be investing so much in mountain-top removal coal mining due to “environmental and health concerns.”
* Struggles of two South Dakota Oglala Lakota women, concerned about uranium, have been captured in a documentary, “Crying Earth Rise Up.”
* Gold mine workers are disappearing in violence-prone Guerreo, Mexico.
* Deadly methane explosion at Ukraine’s Zasyadko coal mine in a rebel-held section. Some 30 mine workers presumed dead. Update: 34 miners killed, “Kremlin-backed separatists have arrested” the mine’s director; criminal investigation under way.
Safer, shinier energy
* Three major reports—from the Bank of England, Deutsche Bank and one prepared for the National Bank of Abu Dhabi—could portend a major shift from extractive industries to renewables.
* Way to go, India! Goal is to increase “the country’s solar capacity 30-fold by 2020.” 100 gigawatts to be installed.
* Large, joyful, determined march on Parliament in London about climate change. Some protesters also marched on Shell headquarters, but the police interrupted that. Video.
Crying Earth Rise Up! is a documentary on “the human cost of uranium mining and its impact on sacred water.”
Global warming warnings
* Focusing on Canada and the filthy tarsands operation, Naomi Klein has a work-in-progress, “This Changes Everything”. She focuses on the tight bond between climate change and inequality and explores ways to change that. Video.
* California’s Central Valley farmers have drilled down 1500 feet, desperate for groundwater as the drought deepens, worrying hydrogeologists who say that “pumping out groundwater faster than it can recharge threatens springs, streams and ecosystems.” Threat of desertification looms.
* After a 3-year study measuring “the growth and photosynthesis rates of trees at 13 rainforest plots across Brazil, Peru and Bolivia,” an international team of experts concludes that rainforest trees have slowed conversion of carbon into energy during the extreme drought in favor of just trying to grow.
* Not only has sea ice thickness in the Arctic decreased by 65% since 1975, but when it reaches “its thinnest point … during the late summer months,” it’s down by a staggering 85 percent.
Climate change shenanigans
* Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is urging states to just blow off “the Obama administration’s signature climate rule” aimed at having states cut power plants’ CO2 emissions to 30% of 2005 levels by 2030. Mitch calls the rule “political extremism.”
* Private utility companies tried to get legislatures to alter laws so fees could be charged to households with solar panels. Didn’t work too well, so now they’re going after public utility commissions, usually politically appointed. ALEC is involved.
* Apparently heeding lobbyists from AEP and FirstEnergy (Ohio firms controlling the state’s electrical system), the West Virginia legislature is considering changing their net metering law (under which those households producing electricity get credit for it) to benefit AEP and FirstEnergy.
* Someone’s feeling a bit sensitive these days about China’s severe pollution problem. “Under the Dome,” a widely watched documentary about pollution, has been removed from the internet.
* Someone else is feeling sensitive, too. Florida’s Gov Rick Scott (R) doesn’t believe in climate change and what Rick Scott thinks is “true fact.” So, Dept of Environmental Protection workers are officially forbidden to use “the terms ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’” while at work. Meanwhile, Florida is sinking due to, you know, a non-true fact.
Good on you!
* Some 4 million people signed a petition “to ban neonicotinoid pesticides linked to the mass die-off of insects that pollinate a third of the world’s food supply.” A few large bees helped deliver the petition to the White House.
Content posted to MyMPN open blogs is the opinion of the author alone, and should not be attributed to MintPress News.