Trump Environmental Protection Agency makes it easier to harm infants

The dramatic headline is designed to get your attention, so please forgive the theatrics. Yet, while the president distracts us with his chaotic, incompetent and untruthful actions and words about more headline issues, his misnamed Environmental Protection Agency has struck again.

Amanda Mills penned the following article on June 23, 2020 in the online publication “Nation of Change,” “Trump’s EPA rolls back regulation of chemical linked to brain damage in infants that can be found in drinking water.” I will include her entire brief article below.

“Last week, Trump’s EPA decided to roll back regulations of a chemical that causes brain damage in infants. This chemical, perchlorate, is found in rocket fuel and can also be found in public drinking water.

Environmental experts and Health professionals have been fighting this deregulation that was created during the Obama Administration.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler claims this move ‘fulfills President Trump’s promise to pare back burdensome ‘one-size-fits-all’ overregulation for the American people.’

According to Associated Press, perchlorate from runoff contaminates the drinking water of as many as 16 million Americans, the Obama administration said in 2011 when it announced the EPA would act to set maximum limits for perchlorate for the first time.

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) senior strategic director for Health Erik D. Olson says this decision is ‘illegal, unscientific, and unconscionable. The Environmental Protection Agency is threatening the health of pregnant moms and young children with toxic chemicals in their drinking water at levels that literally can cause loss of IQ points. Is this what the Environmental Protection Agency has come to?’

According to Common Dreams, the NRDC plans to challenge the order in court, claiming the consent decree did not allow for deregulating the chemical.”

I truly wish I were making these things up and kids will not be harmed by the president, but as evidenced by previous EPA actions and his blatant lack of empathy for COVID-19 victims, this is not really a stretch. As conservative pundit David Brooks has said, the president “lacks a sense of decency or empathy.”

These roll back of environmental regulations have been deliberate efforts to make it easier for industry to not worry about pollution. Environmental protections cost money. Sadly, when industry has not been permitted to get away with harming people, animals and the environment, it becomes a major motion picture as “Dark Waters” was last year or “Erin Brockovich” years before.

And, the troubling part is people who live in more rural or town areas near these facilities are the ones who get screwed or killed. These hard working folks make up some of Trump’s voters. The ecologist and biologist Sandra Steingraber has testified in front of Congress and the European Union parliament. She is has authored several books, her first being “Living Downstream” and her second “Raising Elijah.” In these books, it shows how industry outguns and outspends local people harmed by their pollution. It takes a Herculean effort to fight this injustice, hence the heroic movies when it does happen.

One thing Steingraber points out is our pollution metrics tend to measure the impact of pollution on a 50 year old man. That is the wrong metric. Kids have developing brains and lungs, mouth breathe more than adults, put their hands in their mouths more frequently, play outside more and are lower to the ground. They are more susceptible than adults are to chemical pollution. Plus, pregnant women are caring for two lives (maybe more), so we need to be extra careful with them.

So, this is why the Trump EPA’s decision to permit easier pollution is so over-the-top callous. Please question this move. Make people stand up and explain why this is a good idea. As I have mentioned before, I knew of Trump’s negatives, but what I feared most is what Trump would do to our environment and climate change actions more than anything. This is just one more example.

A few odds and ends

Absent a large theme, let me toss out a few odds and ends for your digestion. In no particular order:

– When the pro-Brexit planners were organizing the vote, they tolerated Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson’s efforts, but did not involve them in the planning process. To see those two once again involved is not encouragjng to any future organized departure.

– There is a reason a certain US President does not want people looking down the Deutsche Bank rabbit hole. Malfeasance abounds with all parties, including the bank itself, which has been required to pay fines for money laundering. When you add to the mix a real estate developer who cannot get a US bank to lend him money and no better to place to launder money than in real estate, and it is not hard to fathom unscrupulous behavior.

– The US leaving three agreements will make the world less safe and prosperous, including the US. The Trans-Pacific Partnership was designed for the eleven participating countries to compete against China; with the US withdrawing, the other ten countries moved ahead, but it lost some clout without the US. Leaving the Iran deal (which they were in compliance with) was unwise. Instead of some stability, we are at risk, as much from Trump as from Iran. And, leaving the Paris Accord on Climate Change made us an outlier at a crucial time for our planet.

– Anti-immigration rhetoric abounds, yet facts are usually casualties in the debate. Rather than have a healthy, data-centric analysis, fear and blame are the selling points. It was succesful in the US, in the UK and in Hungary. People have a right to feel the way they do, but if they heard thoughtful discourse, they may be less zealous with their hatred.

– The ecologist and biologist Sandra Steingraber once wrote environmental impact tests are too geared toward a fifty year-old man, when children are more susceptible being closer to the ground, outdoors more, putting their hands in their mouths and mouth breathing more and without fully developed lungs and brains. I read yesterday, the Trump EPA is defunding tests to perform chemical impact analysis on children. Why? Steingraber, a bladder cancer survivor, notes we do not consider the environment enough as a cause for poor health.

That is enough for now. Let me know your thoughts.

 

We measure environmental impact on adults, not kids

I have written several times about Sandra Steingraber. Who is she, you may ask? She is a biologist, ecologist, author and environmental advocate. Steingraber has spoken in front of the United Nations, the European Parliament and US Congress on the impact of chemicals on our environment and people.

Steingraber is a bladder cancer survivor which led her to her passionate advocacy. Bladder cancer is a bellweather cancer, meaning it is almost always caused by environmental toxins. Her home was in proximity to several chemical plants. In addition, her siblings and nearby cousins also had various cancers, including bladder cancer. A key factoid is she was adopted, so her cancer was not genetic and it came from exposure.

Steingraber has strongly advocated for kids on environmental issues. Her first two books called “Living Downstream” and “Raising Elijah,” using her son’s name, focus on these issues. A huge takeaway from her books and advocacy is we tend to measure the impact of environmental toxins on a fifty year old man, not children.

Why is this statement important? Kids are still developing their brains, so they are more susceptible to environmental toxins. Their lungs take time to fully develop as well. Plus, children are smaller in weight, closer to the ground, breathe more through their mouths and put their hands in their mouths with much greater frequency. If they touch something, it winds up in their mouth (remember the pretreated lumber playgrounds? – arsenic was used in the pretreatment).

Steingraber and other scientists’ analyses reveal toxins from chemical plants can damage us from air particulates as much as from seepage into the water. She notes these toxins settle on playgrounds, fields and trees, but then become airborne when the wind blows again. So, kids will often get exposed from what they touch or breathe in from what they scuff up from the ground.

I have seen her speak and have read both of these books. Her message resonates with parents. With the assault on environmental regulations by the current White House, her message is needed even more. Plus, she has another huge caution for all of us. As the climate warms, the impact of these chemicals will only get worse. She likens the earth to a crock pot that is warming these chemicals.

I encourage you to read her books. Her message is pertinent, loud and clear. It needs to be shouted from the rooftops, but especially from the playgrounds. We owe it to our children.

Innovation is portable (and attractive)

Innovation is portable. This is a quote from David Smick’s book “The World is Curved.” Who is David Smick, you may be asking? He was an economic advisor to Congressman Jack Kemp, President Ronald Reagan and President Bill Clinton, two Republicans and a Democrat. His comment is telling in that he notes if we do not do our best to keep the innovators here, they will go elsewhere. And, when they go elsewhere, manufacturing from the innovation will be based elsewhere.

The US has the world’s best college and university system and it draws people from around the globe and country. So, we should grease the skids to make it easier for them to stay and innovate here post graduation. It would be a shame for the idea creation to start here and migrate to another country. As that will be where the job creation begins.

So, what do we need to do about it? We need to make sure our immigration laws are improved to make it easier to keep talent. Industry has been crying out for this, yet it is held hostage by a political gamesmanship to speak to a strident base. We need to reform our patent laws to make sure “patent trolls” do not interfere and sabotage the innovators. These trolls are extortionists who will use a key word or phrase in an idea by someone else to state that someone is violating a patent they filed (with no product or development behind it). What the troll wants is “go away money” without a court case.

We need to understand the historical marriage and timing of venture capital, government funding and other investor capital. Our nation has been forged on the interplay between these funding sources, as they are needed to perpetuate ideas and implement the initial manufacturing effort. The money is needed at various times in the process, with the government money sometimes in advance of the venture capital, sometimes in tandem with the venture capital and sometimes following it. The need varies based on the what is needed to get stuff off the ground.

There are numerous examples of joint investment. I spoke of one last night about an offshore wind turbine testing facility in Charleston, South Carolina. It is a joint venture between folks like GE and Siemens who make turbines, Clemson University, the City of Charleston, the US Department of Energy and the SC Department of Energy (although it may have a different name). The idea is to improve the efficacy of these offshore wind turbines making them more economical to use here in the states, as they are done elsewhere.

Another good example in Durham, North Carolina is a company called Semprius, which makes the most elegant solar photo-voltaic panel in the world, where 33% of the sun’s energy is convertible to electricity, a huge leap forward. This is a joint venture between Pratt-Whitney Rocketdyne, Siemens and the US Department of Energy. With solar energy taking off everywhere, but especially in North Carolina with about 23,000 jobs which have been growing at a 25% annual rate the last three years, it shows what innovation means to an area. Nationally, at year-end 2014, there are 174,000 solar jobs which have been growing at a double-digit rate over the last five years per annum.

It should be obvious that I picked two renewable energy examples, as these two sources not only have to be a key part of our future energy mix, but they have and will promote jobs as a result. And, not only is innovation portable – it is attractive to new business. So, this is where we need to fund more of our resources. It is good for our environment and it is good for business. And, per Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change which is on point, it is good for God’s creation. Given that the Pope is also a trained scientist with a Masters in Chemistry, as well as a humanitarian, I think the world should listen to what he has to say on these issues. Especially, since he is echoing the findings of so many scientific bodies and panels.

I am a tree hugger and a capitalist

It is not uncommon for me to be called a tree hugger when I am speaking about protecting our environment, addressing man-influenced climate change or the perils of some fossil fuel retrieval processes that can and are wreaking havoc such as fracking or mountain top coal mining. Some who use this term intend to belittle my arguments, as they espouse the belief if you label something with a moniker that has a negative connotation in some circles, it dismisses my arguments as not worth heeding.

Yes, I am a tree hugger, but I am a capitalist as well. I firmly believe we do a disservice to the need to protect our environment without fully addressing the cost/ benefit analysis of fossil fuel retrieval processes or chemical use both within and to protect crops. Often, we do not fully measure the cost impact to net against the revenue impact. If we did more of this, then we may forego some measures as not justifiable from a cost/ benefit comparison. This would go on top of other impacts that may not show up directly in costs.

Here are few examples of what I mean.

– The city of Burlington, VT is now 100% powered by renewable energy including bio-mass, hydropower, wind and solar energy. Per the Burlington Electric Department, they have not had a rate increase since 2009 and their future projections said this package of renewable energy sources was the cheapest and most sustainable model. An environmental scientist with the University of Vermont noted that Burlington is not uniquely situated. The wind does not blow any more than elsewhere and the sun certainly does not shine as often as anyone would like, but their model is based on decisions leaders started making ten years ago.

– The state of North Carolina has spent a lot of time paving the way for fracking in our state trying to make an increasingly apparent unsafe process safer. After spending all this time, there may not be any takers as there is not much natural gas to frack in NC, which they knew beforehand. After the rules were finalized, the committee noted we knew it would be a stretch. Then, with so many problems, why did you go down this path wasting everyone’s time, energy and money on a bad process with little promise?

– The President has said he is OK with the pursuit of offshore drilling off the coast of the Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia and Maryland. The two Senators from NC support this as well as our Governor. Yet, NC has a huge tourism business that is in the billions of dollars as well as a huge fishing industry. These folks are not too keen on this exploration given the risk and damage the operations bring. Further, just off the coast of North Carolina, wind energy could power the entire eastern seaboard of the US. And, as opposed to the Horizon oil rig collapse, when a wind mill crashes into the sea, it causes only a splash.

– When we speak of doing more fossil fuel development, we consistently hear jobs are one of the reasons. Yet, this is not an either/ or as there are jobs in the renewable energy industries as well. Just in solar energy, the numbers of jobs tally 174,000 in the US at year-end and more than double the number of coal industry jobs. Plus, the growth rate in solar jobs is double-digit the last five or so years, with 2014 seeing 22% growth. Those 25,000 new permanent jobs added in 2014 almost equal in one year the estimated temporary jobs from the Keystone pipeline. Plus, the sun shines in all states, so jobs can be spread around, especially with the even more compelling cost of solar.

The parts of the cost/ benefit equation that do not get factored in enough are the costs of cleaning up the messes and repairing the road and environmental degradation which is usually left for the state, the cost of healthcare when the environment is trashed or chemicals are used inappropriately or in excess, and the opportunity cost of lost water resources, which is one of our two dearest resources and is called the new oil. These latter two factors are reasons the state of New York said no to fracking.

Being totally frank, it makes economic sense to treat our environment well. It is so important, you can even find bible passages where we are compelled to take care of the environment. So, yes I am a tree hugger. My question is why isn’t everyone?

The sun shines in every state and country

I am constantly bemused how leaders will attempt to gain support for an investment in fossil fuel energy with the statement that it will create jobs. In the case of the Keystone pipeline, I have heard 40,000 jobs, which are largely temporary. But, let’s say the jobs are permanent for the sake of argument. Creating 40,000 jobs would be a good thing, yet we still need to look at the cost/ benefit of the investment. In essence, proponents are talking about piping oil derived from a horrible means of extraction across our country with the risk of leakage.

However, on the flip side is the growing elegance and cost effectiveness of the solar energy industry whose costs continue to fall and are on par in some places with other less environmentally friendly energy sources. * By 2018, the costs should be on par across the board. But, sticking with the jobs, there are now about twice as many solar energy jobs as coal industry jobs and the disparity continues to grow with double-digit job growth in solar and retrenchment in coal.

This next statement should be the clincher, in my simple view. The sun shines in every state in the United States and in every country. The Keystone pipeline would cross only a few states. Petroleum and coal are produced in only a few states. And, it should be noted that solar energy does not need to be large-scale to be introduced, which is one reason it scares the energy institutions. People like you and me can install solar energy to reduce or alleviate our energy costs. Companies like Apple, Google, IKEA, etc. have moved ahead and are moving further ahead with solar energy (and wind energy) to power their distribution centers and stores.

And, if that does not clinch the argument, the following should. Solar energy is renewable and does not cause environmental problems like fossil fuel retrieval and use. When the health cost/ benefit analysis is considered, the decision on where to invest becomes much easier, as evidenced by the State of New York banning fracking. So, even with leaders who are obviously heavily funded by the fossil fuel industry and want to do away with renewable tax credits and frack away on and offshore, this movement toward solar energy (and wind energy) is happening and is attracting a lot of capital investors.  Plus, there are jobs being created right and left, if leaders would look at what is happening rather than listen to the people saying to look the other way.

So, George Harrison and Bob Dylan told us the answers to our energy and climate change problems even back in the 1960s. “Here comes the sun,” sang George and “the answer my friend is blowing in the wind,” sang Bob. Remember those songs as they represent key parts of our energy future.

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* Note: Please check out the link below to an article in The Charlotte Business Journal regarding the comparative cost of rooftop solar energy.

http://www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/blog/energy/2015/01/report-rooftop-solar-already-cheaper-than-utility.html?ana=e_du_wknd&s=article_du&ed=2015-01-10&u=IlwxM+wgoty/35aabEFaDQ092c7352&t=1421075718

 

What are the greater threats to humans?

Watching the news these days can seem like an apocalypse is about to occur. Between ISIL, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram and other terrorist groups, EBOLA, the festering conflict in the Ukraine, the ever-present threat of North Korea, and various levels of corruption in far too many countries, it could seem the end is near. Yet, while all of the above are scary, the one that we should be most fearful of is the level of corruption, as it gets in the way of addressing the greater apocalyptic threats to humans. The greater threats to humans are: too many people with too few resources, chemically enhanced food products that are leaving us less able to fight off anti-bacterial resistant strains of bacteria, global poverty and health concerns and the impact of climate change on all of these issues.

I am not saying the first group of issues are not severe, especially EBOLA and those impacted by the terrorists groups, but the issues which would impact humans the most are in the second group, with corruption standing in the way of doing measurable things about problems that will be exacerbated by the overarching problem of climate change which impacts everything.

Population planners have answered the question how many people can the earth support with a carefully couched range. If the average human consumes like the average Rwandan, the earth can support over 15 billion people. If we consume like the average North American, the earth could support less than 3 billion people. We are currently between the two with roughly 7 billion of people. The two keys we must always keep in our mind are air and water. “Water is the new oil” as our dearest resource on the planet and it is showing its need to be nurtured more with the extreme droughts in California, Texas, Australia and other parts of the globe. Plus aquifers are not as robust in many areas as needed. Bad air quality is so harmful that we have only begun to scratch the surface on the impact of toxic air particulates that come from fracking, pesticides and other chemicals that are blown or escape into the air.

The chemicals we use to grow more and better foods to feed our growing population, not only are harmful due to the pesticides that need to be ever stronger (we are spraying Agent Orange on some crops), but there is a nastier and more deadly problem that we are seeing surface in hospitals. Chemically enhanced foods are hindering our ability to fight bacteria that gets in our system, sometimes from these same foods. The super-bacteria is increasingly resistant to current anti-bacterial medicines and more people are dying from formerly highly preventable infections. “PBS Frontline” did a documentary earlier this week on this issue and “60 Minutes” did a similar report in the past year.

EBOLA has exposed the global health and poverty concerns in West Africa which impede our ability to fight disease, any disease. EBOLA will be very hard to harness and may result in a million deaths before it is reined in, which is truly a catastrophe. But what happens if one of these anti-bacterial resistant strains gets into people? What it also shows that people in poverty do not have access to healthcare, clean water and sewage to process waste away from where they live. The inability to separate drinking water from sewage water is a key to reducing exposure to disease. Plus, there is a high correlation between family size and poverty, so it is incumbent upon us to distribute birth control materials and education resources.

However, each of these problems will be made worse by climate change on top of the problems climate change will cause by itself. Dr. Sandra Steingraber, biologist, ecologist and author (“Living Downstream” and “Raising Elijah”), notes that we do not talk enough about the impact of climate change on the chemicals in the ground. She notes it is like a chemical crock pot, as the climate gets hotter, the chemicals will become even more detrimental. Author Steven Solomon notes in his book “Water: the Epic Struggle of Wealth, Power and Civilization,” that climate change will impact our water in a huge way through more severe droughts, fighting more forest fires, more unpredictable weather patterns (providing way too much precipitation in some places, with very little in others) and impacting crop irrigation on top of its other concerns.

Plus, those in poverty and without good healthcare tend to get impacted by natural events more than others, so climate change will be more harmful to those who can least afford it. I have written before about the Carteret Islanders whose island is being consumed by the ocean. It has already destroyed their ability to grow crops through the salt water encroachment. The islanders have had to travel to petition leaders of larger islands to move their people there. Ironically, these less educated people have more open dialogue about climate change than we do in our US Congress.

Yet, standing against doing more things to address these issues is corruption and influence, including in the US. We must address these issues now and not wait until they happen. The price tag to fix the impact of climate change or research new drugs, is far cheaper to do it now than after the impact. In the US, we have too many funders of politicians that have a financial stake in perpetuating their interests, which run afoul of planning ahead. It is far worse elsewhere with corrupt politicians keeping money meant for others. For example, Hosni Mubarak has over $80 billion in wealth, yet Egyptians were getting by on $2 a day. Brazil shined up nicely for the World Cup, but not much of the money fell to people in need. The Ukraine president was ousted last fall as he was corrupted by the Russian government, while others suffered in the country.

These are the bigger concerns that could endanger all humans. We need to do our best to address these issues now and plan accordingly than wait until it is too late or too costly.

 

A few interesting tidbits on renewable energy

As the attention nationwide continues for fracking for natural gas, in spite of the mound of evidence of environmental degradation, chemical leakage and vast water usage, we are seemingly ignoring the greener path which has and will continue to bear fruit in our nation. Many do not realize the significant progress that has been made on the renewable energy front. With kudos to my blogging friend Hugh Curtler, at http://www.hughcurtler.wordpress.com who instigated this post with one of his own, a few interesting tidbits on renewable energy that do not get played up enough are as follows:

  • There are more jobs in the US in the solar energy industry than in the coal industry. In 2013, there were over 140,000 solar energy related jobs. This has been reported by several sources and verified as true by Politifacts.
  • The state of California, if measured as a nation, would be the 7th most prolific solar energy country. It is the US leader by far in solar energy development.
  • The state of North Carolina had the second most solar energy development in the US in 2013 and is now the fourth most prolific solar energy state. Two NC companies of several that are gaining national and global notoriety are Semprius, who makes the most elegant solar photovoltaic panel in the world, and Strata Solar, who is a fast growing developer of solar panel installations.
  • In 2013, there were about 75,000 jobs in the wind energy industry. If we play our cards right, there could be over 500,000 wind energy jobs by 2030. Wind energy production has increased from 4 million megawatt hours in 1999 to 141 million megawatt hours in 2012.
  • The state of Texas has a relatively quiet wind energy boon going on which is creating jobs and electricity for its residents. Almost 10% of the electricity produced in Texas comes from wind energy and it is the clear leader in wind energy production in the United States.
  • The US Department of the Interior just announced that its Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has defined three wind energy areas offshore North Carolina that total approximately 308,000 acres for potential commercial wind energy development. The entire eastern seaboard of the United States could be powered by wind off North Carolina.
  • Finally, one-fifth of the world electric energy production now comes from renewables.

Man influenced climate change is happening and I have seen reports that future models may understate the impact going forward. We need to move in a more aggressive way toward renewable solutions. As a business person and tax paying citizen, I feel that the greener paths will be more monetarily green than spending our dear water and air resources to dig vertical and horizontal holes in the ground to release limited supplies of natural gas.

Finally, it is not an either/ or issues on jobs, as the fossil fuel industry contends. Of course, there are jobs in the fossil fuel industry, but as shown above there are jobs in renewable energy creation. The solar and wind energy progress and positioning for future development is job creating and attractive to new industry.

Let’s stop the ill-fated fracking train and invest in the future.

Marco Rubio, Thom Tillis and a few odds and ends on climate change

In the past few weeks, there have been several definitive reports from the United Nations, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and various scientific groups, which highlight even more definitively that climate change is here, it is human-influenced and we need to increase our efforts to do something about. When scientists say we are 95% certain that climate change is human-influenced it is as close to slam dunk as you can get. Additionally, it was reported by yet more scientists, the western ice sheet in of Antarctica is irreversibly melting and will contribute more to sea level rise. And, the President’s rightfully spoke about the need to ratchet up some things we have already begun with respect to moving toward renewable energy and conservation.

The reaction from the right, whose efforts are funded heavily by the fossil fuel industry, is to draw yet another line in the sand inching their position back and attacking messengers, pieces of data and continuing the stance that climate change is not human-influenced. At a GOP US Senate primary debate in North Carolina, Speaker of the NC House,Thom Tillis, and his three rivals all raised their hands to the question of “who believes client change is not human-influenced?”

The other day, GOP US Senator Marco Rubio, who is a possible presidential candidate, stated that he did not believe that climate change was human-influenced. I find these stances amusing and sad on several fronts, especially from Rubio who should be appealing to a younger audience that is not buying the fossil fuel story. Rubio resides in South Florida and the Miami area is in great jeopardy due to sea level rise. The rising sea level has already infiltrated the water run off system from roads in parts of Miami. The sea water is coming up through the drains in the gutters and is increasingly flooded streets each time there are significant storms. It is so bad, that four counties in and around Miami have banded together to actively plan to withstand sea level rise with a projected budget of $200 Million. They have received national acclaim for addressing the issue now. *

Tillis, who is running against US Senator Kay Hagan, should not get off easily either as he has effectuated decisions that are harmful to our planet and state of North Carolina. On his watch, the NC General Assembly refused to accept a peer-reviewed scientific report that the sea level off NC coast would rise 39 inches  by 2100. Similar reports were accepted in Virginia, Maine and Louisiana and the 39 inches may end up on the low side. Under Tillis’ eye, the NC General Assembly would only accept an 8 inch increase projection, based on looking backward at the previous 100 years. Looking backward is about as good a metaphor as you will find. The sad part is there has been a war on the environment in NC ranging from letting electronic bill board companies cut down more trees without permission to severely cutting the Department of Energy and Natural Resources, who was having a hard enough time governing coal ash dumps and other issues before the Duke Energy spill.

The stance on climate change continues to baffle me, especially when the evidence is piling up in front of your eyes. I left the Republican Party in 2006, with a principal reason being their stance on global warming. That was 8 years ago. What many don’t know is the fossil fuel industry had a concerted effort with a public relations firm to convince Americans that global warming was a hoax using industry provided data, data out of context and hired gun scientists. They did an excellent job in their efforts. Yet, there was no denying even in 2006, that global warming was an obvious problem. It was so obvious, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich did a TV commercial with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to say he was wrong about global warming. It should be noted when Gingrich ran for president in 2012, he said he was wrong to say he was wrong, a flip flop of global proportions.

Climate change is the greatest issue facing our planet. It is far more than sea level rise that we need to worry about. Forest fires will be worse, droughts will be worse, hurricanes hitting landfall will be worse and stalled weather systems will be worse. These are already happening. But, the scary part is palatable water will be a major concern, food production will be a major concern and the chemicals in the ground to grow food and stop pests, will simmer like in a crock pot making environmental healthcare effects worse. The remedial costs of fixing these problems once occurred will far exceed the costs of proactively addressing the issues now.

For supposedly reasonable candidates to say that we are not influencing climate change is harmful to Americans and all earthlings. It does a disservice to people and we need to challenge them on why they believe the way they do. It is that important.

* Here is a link to a post I wrote on the Miami planning for sea level encroachment.

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2014/03/27/miami-2017-billy-joel-may-need-to-change-the-ending-with-the-encroaching-seas/

 

 

But, you told me fracking was perfectly safe….

To honor Earth Day which was earlier this week, I feel compelled to restate and add a few additional concerns that make fracking, at its best, a very challenging process. I have seen numerous legislators state without reservation that “fracking is perfectly safe.” Nothing in life is perfectly safe except for the prediction you will die at some point. Getting anything out of the ground is a difficult process and fraught with problems. Fracking is no exception to this rule especially the way fracking has been done in the last ten years, which exposes further its weakest points.

But, to recap the problems fracking causes, here is quick summary:

1) Radioactive waste – Apparently, frackers are sloppy with their waste and have left some radioactive stuff lying around. This is a new challenge that threw even the most strident fracking critics for a loop. While the level of radioactivity is not high, this is clearly a metaphor for sloppy tactics and does not give confidence that we know the whole truth about fracking dangers. Chester Dawson of the Wall Street Journal, recently wrote an article on this issue entitled “Fracking’s New Problem: Radioactive Waste.” Here is a link:

http://money.msn.com/investing/post–frackings-new-problem-radioactive-waste

2) Earthquakes –  This one gets dismissed often, as frackers have said fracking does not cause earthquakes. That is not exactly correct and may even be less accurate than before. It has been proven the deep underground disposal of the chemically toxic fracking slickwater has caused (not just correlated with) earthquakes in Arkansas and areas like Ohio, Oklahoma and in the UK have seen an increase in earthquakes. Yet, there have been recent reports that the intensity of the fracking process itself (and not just the water disposal) has been linked to earthquakes in some areas like Ohio. Oklahoma, in particular, has seen a significant increase in earthquakes in the past few years dwarfing previous numbers.

3) Chemically Toxic Slickwater – Duke University’s and other studies have shown that the toxic slickwater is finding its way into people’s water. The people in fracking areas like Dimock, PA already know this. When industry tried to discount that you could always light the water on fire, a plain-spoken resident said, that industry person did not live here when I moved in, so how does he know how different it is today? A former fracking engineer said that 1 out of 20 cement casings around the fracking well fail immediately and the toxic slickwater gets out. With 10,000 wells, that means 500 will fail immediately. And, the engineer said with the way they are doing fracking now (which is horizontal as well as vertical), the exposure is even greater. Water finds a way, even when it is toxic slickwater, to get into stuff it should not.

4) Toxic air particulates – This does not get talked about enough, as the toxins that are blasted from the shale are not all captured and find their way into the air. You add to that the dust from the heavy equipment and trucks and the air pollution can be significant and drift into more populated areas as evidenced when Dish, Texas pollution migrated. On top of this, unused methane gas is vented directly into the air. This is such an issue in North Dakota land owners want money for the vented methane and the industry does not want to pay for it. More importantly, this venting has to be factored into the impact of using natural gas on the environment and climate change.

5) Infrastructure degradation – It is hard for us to appreciate what goes on daily with the heavy equipment and trucks that run constantly. One of the landowners actually videotaped the constant noise and dust pollution that wreaks havoc. If fracking goes on in your area, your life will be totally different from before and not in a good way. This sounds like a small issue, but it is a significant change on residents in a fracked area.

However, let’s set that aside. The key concern that is now getting the attention it deserves is the significant impact of water usage that fracking entails. Industry keeps telling everyone it is not that much water, but California and Texas are in a bad way with the droughts going on. Frackers and farmers have been fighting over water in Kansas, Oklahoma and California the past two summers. With 2 million gallons per frack (on the low side) and 10 fracks per well (on the low side), that is 20 million gallons per well. When an area is fracked the wells can easily number 10,000, but let’s shoot low and say 5,000. With that many wells in one area, that totals 100 billion gallons of water.  Per Steven Solomon’s book, “Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization” he notes “water is the new oil.” With water so dear, the key question remains – Is this where we want to spend our water?

But, don’t just take my word for it. George Mitchell, the father of fracking told us before his death “Fracking can be handled if they watch and patrol the wildcat guys. They don’t give a damn about anything; the industry has to band together to stop isolated incidents.” Mitchell is contradicting with this statement that fracking is perfectly safe. Even if it were, his statement also points out it is only as safe as its worst operator. He was investing in alternative energy before his death, so he saw the future as one that needed to move more away from fossil fuels. But, Greg Zuckerman of the Wall Street Journal and  author of “The Frackers” said it best that the dangers of fracking are greater than what the industry is letting on, but not as great as what the critics are saying. Yet, he added that we won’t know the full extent of the dangers until down the road. Based on what I have read, I would place the fulcrum closer to the critics end.

Truth be told, we are fracking and wanting to drill for oil offshore as the US can become more energy independent and fossil fuel companies can make a bucket load of money. Yet, we are being extremely shortsighted. We could power the entire eastern seaboard of the US with wind energy off just the North Carolina coast. It would create jobs around the wind turbine building/ maintenance and power grid installation. If we played our cards right, we could have over 500,000 wind energy jobs by 2030 (we had 75,000 as of last summer). And, solar energy continues to expand in major and minor ways in the country. Solar energy has become much more efficient, so much that individual homeowners can deploy it. Almost every IKEA store in the country is solar-powered and any data center like the ones Google and Facebook have here in North Carolina are solar-powered. And, Ivanpah, at 377 megawatts is the largest solar enterprise in the world, has gone online near Las Vegas. There are jobs today in solar energy from installation to maintenance.

The United Nation’s International Panel on Climate Change released their updated report last week. The IPCC notes we must act in a significant way to address climate change in the next fifteen years or the cost will be prohibitive. We must move in a more accelerated manner away from fossil fuels. The luxury of time has gone.

Plus, contrary to what the fossil fuel industry, with its huge vested financial interest in the process and who has hired a PR firm, has said about how safe fracking is, take everything you hear with a grain of salt because it is not safe. There is no way it can be as it is too hard a process. If the industry had been more forthcoming about the dangers, saying we are doing our best to be as safe as possible, that would have been believable. But, to say something is perfectly safe when it clearly is not and cannot be is far beneath the truth. People should be insulted when they hear someone say this. But, what do I know, as I am just a concerned citizen who cares about what happens in our country and is highly skeptical when people tell me there is no problem with something when there obviously is.