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Hot Rails To Hell, Pipelines To Perdition

6:47 am in Uncategorized by joe shikspack

Do you live near a railroad line? How about a pipeline? You might want to check into your proximity to those things.

Because America is the new Saudi Arabia, soon to be the world’s number one oil producer, the infrastructure that used to carry our energy products around is straining to meet the demand created by the new production.

This pressure is translating into pipeline accidents which are shockingly destructive. There are on average 1.6 pipeline accidents a day in the US, and the rate of pipeline accidents in Canada has doubled in the past decade. There are also rail disasters, like the recent Lac Megantic rail tanker explosion which killed 47 people and devastated a small town and the recent explosion in rural Alabama when a train carrying 2.7 million gallons of North Dakota crude oil derailed and exploded, sending up 300 foot flames.

pipeline accidents

Map of US Pipeline Accidents January 1, 2010 to March 29, 2013

Even pipeline regulators say they wouldn’t live near a pipeline:

A federal pipeline safety official admitted on camera recently that he made a point of ensuring his home wasn’t in the path of any pipelines before buying it, and that he wouldn’t advise anyone to build in the path of a pipeline. …

‘Here is what I did when I bought my house — I looked on all the maps, I looked for all the well holes. I found there is nothing around me but dry holes and no pipelines. And it’s not because I’m afraid of pipelines, it’s not because I think something will happen. It’s because something could happen. … You’re always better off, if you have a choice….’

Energy giants need to get gas and chemicals to process their raw product to transport it to a refinery. Since US demand for petroleum products has been in decline since 2005 they also want to transport the refined product to a port in order to reach a higher paying market, which is why energy giants like Exxon are presssuring Congress to lift the US export ban on oil and other energy products like natural gas. Naturally, the President Obama has installed a friend of the energy giants as Secretary of the Department of Energy who is in favor of enormous profits for greedy polluters exports of energy products.

Taken together with natural gas, the US is awash in domestic fossil fuels that are largely stranded in North America, and is now in a position to reconsider its scarcity-based energy policies.

Should the export ban be lifted, there will be even more pressure on the energy transportation infrastructure and, hence, more danger for Americans living near pipelines, rail lines and roads where there will be increased truck traffic.

Another toxic legacy of Enron

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A Dispatch From The Committee To End The Future

7:58 am in Uncategorized by joe shikspack

Greetings fellow inhabitants of Earth. We, the Committee to End the Future, a purposely shadowy global organization of extremely wealthy and powerful people wish to thank you for your cooperation in completing the final round of our “Great Game.”

Banner: All Markets Peak, All Pipelines Leak

A banner at a Tar Sands Blockade protest. Can activists like these prevent the detonation of carbon bomb?

For centuries we have played a series of rounds of the “Great Game,” accumulating resources by dominating governmental and economic structures, subjecting citizens of the various countries of Earth to a variety of schemes to divert the products and value of their labors to our use and to pauperize those not of our sort.

To cut to the chase, though, the reason for this communication is to warn our fellow inhabitants away from a very dangerous movement that could potentially disrupt our game and cause something of an annoying reset just as we are getting close to declaring a winner. We have discovered to our dismay that a small but noisy group of citizen activists wish to rein in the emission of carbon and methane which are essential to both our economy and completion of the Game.

If these noisy, misguided activists are successful, we shall have to write off many Trillions of dollars worth of energy assets that are important as game pieces as well as means of game completion.

We hope that we can count on you, our fellow inhabitants to continue your demand for carbon and methane emitting energy sources which are essential, let us not forget, to your personal comfort and ease of living. No matter what these activists say or do, please continue to ignore them. Continue to listen to the politicians that we support and their long-term, incremental plans that will bring down carbon emissions so gradually that you will never notice it.

We are now very close to the end of the Game. No game is complete without an end state. In short, we need to know who the winners are. At the end of this round of the Great Game we shall finally know, and in the tradition of the Egyptian Pharoahs that buried their fellow players alive at the end of their games, so shall we. We believe that our fellow inhabitants will enjoy a final rest from the great toils required of all those who play the Game.

Thank you for your cooperation!

But Seriously…

A short time ago somewhere between 35 and 50 thousand people braved the chilly winter winds and cold temperatures in Washington to tell President Obama to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline that will bring tar sands sludge from neighboring Canada to the United States for refining. The same weekend, President Obama went golfing with a couple of oil company bigwigs at an exclusive private golf resort owned by one of the CEO’s. Oh, and the President also golfed with some sports star famous for not being able to keep it in his pants. Naturally, all the media coverage has been about the philandering sports star.

President Obama’s choice of golfing partners seems to be a bad omen for the ultimate success of the movement seeking to stop not just a pipeline, but an industry hell-bent on exploiting an energy resource. Exploiting that resource will wreak destruction of a number of types on the Canada’s environment, and will if fully exploited have a dramatic deleterious global effect on the climate.

In fact the boreal forest of Canada, which is being buldozed, stripped of trees and whose waters are being polluted by this project is the most important carbon sink in the world:

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Frackonomics, or, Why we can’t have anything nice

6:46 am in Uncategorized by joe shikspack

I was recently asked by a friend to contribute to a sort of compact reference on fracking (you can see the product here). As I was working on the section on the economics of fracking, it struck me that what is wrong with the economics of fracking is what is wrong with our whole energy economy; the incentives are set up to create a perverse outcome.

Because the environmental costs of fracking (and pretty much all extractive energy industries) are externalized, or perhaps “socialized” would be an easier term here, and the profits are privatized, the appearance of a very profitable industry is based upon false economic information. The creation of these incentives to extract fossil energy with little regard to the environmental consequences (and sometimes even common sense) has vested enormous economic power in the hands of people who use that money to purchase political power. They then perpetuate those same incentives over the objections of those who for years, Cassandra-like, point out that their continued activity is rendering our environment inhospitable to human life. As an article in the Independent from 2006 “Disappearing world: Global warming claims tropical island,” chronicles:

Rising seas, caused by global warming, have for the first time washed an inhabited island off the face of the Earth. The obliteration of Lohachara island, in India’s part of the Sundarbans where the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers empty into the Bay of Bengal, marks the moment when one of the most apocalyptic predictions of environmentalists and climate scientists has started coming true.

As the seas continue to swell, they will swallow whole island nations, from the Maldives to the Marshall Islands, inundate vast areas of countries from Bangladesh to Egypt, and submerge parts of scores of coastal cities.

At the time of this writing, it is six years since what would seem to be a pretty poignant wake-up call, yet governments and corporate elites have done little or nothing to alter course. In the case of energy corporations, they are rushing in to exploit the new accessibility of resources that were previously locked in by ice with the eager assistance of President Obama:

Shortly before Thanksgiving in 2010, the leaders of the commission President Obama had appointed to investigate the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico sat down in the Oval Office to brief him.

After listening to their findings about the BP accident and the safety of deepwater drilling, the president abruptly changed the subject.

“Where are you coming out on the offshore Arctic?” he asked.

William K. Reilly, a former chief of the Environmental Protection Agency and a commission co-chairman, was startled, as was Carol M. Browner, the president’?s top adviser at the time on energy and climate change. Although a proposal by Shell to drill in the Arctic had been a source of dissension, it was not a major focus of the panel’s work. …

The president’?s preoccupation with the Arctic proposal, even as the nation was still reeling from the BP spill, was the first hint that Shell’?s audacious plan to drill in waters previously considered untouchable had gone from improbable to inevitable.

Other nations are rushing to firm up their military arrangements in the arctic, undoubtedly to protect their oil industries claims. Not to be outdone by the energy sector in finding new ways to profit from climate change, financial sector geeks are developing strategies to profit from the scarcities caused by droughts and other climate disasters.

Our elected officials meantime have more or less ignored the most recent global negotiations to reduce carbon emissions continuing a pattern of derailing and undermining global climate change initiatives:

In each successive climate talk, the United States has acted to stall the process, defang the agreements, undermine the international community, and endanger the current and future people of the world.

Here is grassroots campaign’s founder Bill McKibben on why “Copenhagen failed spectacularly“:

“Neither China nor the United States, which between them are responsible for 40 percent of global carbon emissions, was prepared to offer dramatic concessions, and so the conference drifted aimlessly for two weeks until world leaders jetted in for the final day. Amid considerable chaos, President Obama took the lead in drafting a face-saving ‘Copenhagen Accord’ that fooled very few. Its purely voluntary agreements committed no one to anything, and even if countries signaled their intentions to cut carbon emissions, there was no enforcement mechanism.”

In Durban, the United States refused to agree to action to take place soon, instead pushing for implementation of an agreement in 2020, which Jamie Henn, McKibben’s associate, wrote, “isn’t just a delay, it’s a death sentence.” Wrote Henn of the United States’ posture in Durban, “the only thing the U.S. brought to the table was a wrecking ball.”

President Obama has steadily undermined international efforts to confront the gravest global concern, lied about it, distracted from it and gotten away with it.

In place of making real progress on global warming, they pursue both intensified oil drilling and “alternative” extractive energies like fracked natural gas and oxymorons like “clean coal.” Any honest person who has any familiarity with coal can tell you that there is no such thing as clean coal.

Ask these guys about clean coal, they look like they could use a laugh.
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