One Year In 2 Minutes

Wednesday, 12 January 2011, 9:34 | Category : Environment, Weather
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A very cool video from Oslo, Norway…

One year in 2 minutes from Eirik Solheim on Vimeo.

Preventing The Spill

Wednesday, 26 May 2010, 9:21 | Category : Environment
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Not the one that’s currently spewing 50,000 barrels or more each day into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  It’s too late to prevent that one.  We made those decisions 20 and 30 years ago, when we chose to drive cars that got 15 mpg instead of 30.  We made that decision when we decided that in the United States of America, “conservation” and “fuel efficiency” and “alternative energy sources” would be obscenities that were anathema to the American way of life.  So now, in 2010, we have to drill everywhere we can think of, at whatever potential cost;  we have to send hundreds of thousands of our military men and women to the Middle East to ensure we can continue to be held hostage by nations and societies that don’t give a damn about us once the money has been transferred.  We can’t change that for the foreseeable future.  We can’t prevent the next spill, or the one after that, because we have nearly 4,000 wells just in the Gulf of Mexico, and with that many, there will be other spills.  But we can, maybe, prevent some future spill, 30 years from now.  Not with better technology, although that would help, but by making serious energy policies now that would lead to sharply reduced dependence on oil as a primary energy source.  What we’re seeing now is proof that we have a vested national and human interest in making cars far more efficient – or electric – and developing effective mass-transit.  We need to be willing to say “no, you don’t need an Excursion if you’re only driving 3 kids and a dog to soccer practice”.  You don’t have a “right” to drive a huge pickup truck, not when it only delivers 14 or 15 miles on a gallon of gas and you don’t haul big things or pull heavy trailers.   Smaller, lighter, more efficient trucks would serve most pickup drivers just fine.  What is so un-American about using less gas?  The cheapest barrel of oil is the one you never buy.  And it won’t wash up on anybody’s beach either.

Mountaintop Removal Mining Permits. Seriously.

Monday, 11 January 2010, 22:38 | Category : Environment
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Many years ago, I saw a cartoon that had two Native Americans looking out at a mountain in the distance. In the second pane, the mountain explodes. In the third pane, one turns to the other and says “I see the Corps of Engineers is at it again”. And so they are. Last week the Environmental Protection Agency gave a compliance letter to the Corps of Engineers for a mountaintop removal mining project in West Virginia. The Corps promptly issued a permit to Hobet Mining allowing the project to proceed. Mountaintop removal is just that – dynamiting a mountain to remove the top several hundred feet of the mountain, exposing the coal seams. It makes it really, really easy to get at the coal, and requires many fewer mine workers. The company is then allowed to dump the dynamited material in valleys below the mountain. Lots of dirt, along with mining waste, is deposited into the valleys, waste that includes all sorts of toxic materials – arsenic, selenium, mercury, heavy metals, which have this annoying habit of finding their way into streams and aquifers, the Clean Water Act notwithstanding. The Bush Administration’s version of the EPA allowed this waste to be classified as “fill”, a technical classification which carried far fewer environmental regulations. I’m guessing their criteria was something along the lines of “Does it glow in the dark? No? Well, OK!”. Seriously, the idea of regulating mountaintop removal from an environmental perspective strikes me as something not far short of absurd. I’m not going to argue that we shouldn’t be using mountaintop removal as a mining method, even though it’s horrible for the environment. But if we’re going to allow it, we should stop this pretense that it can be done in an environmentally friendly or sensitive manner. The EPA estimates that mountaintop removal has removed about 500 mountaintops and buried about 2,000 miles of streams in the US. That didn’t adversely affect the environment of those streams – it obliterated it. Issuing environmental permits for this activity makes as much sense as putting smoke detectors in a blast furnace.

Mountaintop mining

Lovely sight, isn’t it? And it’s not enough to ruin the mountain. We also ruin the valley below. Two for one. Not to mention that chorus of blasts that salute local residents constantly. So, let’s stop this farce of environmental regulations. Let’s just say “we want the coal, and we don’t give a damn about the land or the people”. After all, God forbid we should try to find a way to make do with a little less electricity. Not while there’s still mountains out there, anyway.

Art and Architecture In The Storm Drain

Monday, 27 August 2007, 14:14 | Category : Environment
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From BLDGBLOG, an interesting interview with Canadian urban explorer Michael Cook. It’s interesting on two levels, first for the interview itself, and second for the accompanying pictures, which definitely don’t look like the storm drains in my town. Who knows, maybe if he explored the sewers of Washington DC he’d find GWB’s approval ratings.

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The Weather Channel Meterologist Controversy

Wednesday, 24 January 2007, 12:04 | Category : Environment
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Lots of chatter about this. I decided to see what actually was said. Dr. Heidi Cullen was reacting to a blog interview with a DC-area TV meteorologist, Brian van de Graaf, who had this to say about global warming:

“The subject of global warming definitely makes headlines in the media and is a topic of much debate. I try to read up on the subject to have a better understanding, but it is complex. Often, it is so politicized and those on both sides don’t always appear to have their facts straight. History has taught us that weather patterns are cyclical and although we have noticed a warming pattern in recent time, I don’t know what generalizations came be made from this with the lack of long-term scientific data. That’s all I will say about this.”

Dr. Cullen then noted a later entry on that same blog ( which responded to van de Graaf’s statement:

“”If that were a question on a climate science exam, van de Graaf better hope for partial credit. Sure, there are cyclical patterns of climate change and weather patterns, but he misses the more important point about trends in long-term data.

The global surface thermometer record only stretches back to the 1800s, but reliable traces of the planet’s temperature can be made stretching back thousands of years using ice cores, tree ring records, ocean sediments and other “proxy” methods. Together, these records have showed a stark warming trend during the past century, particularly the last 30 years, that is out of step with previous shifts.

Scientists have identified human emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, as the most likely culprit for the warming. This is the opinion of most climate scientists, and van de Graaf and others should know this and communicate this to the public….

Van de Graaf and his colleagues can look to the American Meteorological Society, which awards them their television “seals of approval” and hence their legitimacy as TV meteorologists, for a nonpartisan scientific view on climate change.

More than three years ago the AMS issued a statement on climate change that said: “There is convincing evidence that since the industrial revolution, human activities, resulting in increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases and other trace constituents in the atmosphere, have become a major agent of climate change.”

Perhaps AMS members should be required to read the organization’s statements and consider getting on board with the group’s new emphasis on becoming station scientists. Either that, or continue to be left out of covering the biggest weather story of all time.”

Dr. Cullen referred to that blog post, and went on to say:

“”I’d like to take that suggestion a step further. If a meteorologist has an AMS Seal of Approval, which is used to confer legitimacy to TV meteorologists, then meteorologists have a responsibility to truly educate themselves on the science of global warming… Meteorologists are among the few people trained in the sciences who are permitted regular access to our living rooms. And in that sense, they owe it to their audience to distinguish between solid, peer-reviewed science and junk political controversy. If a meteorologist can’t speak to the fundamental science of climate change, then maybe the AMS shouldn’t give them a Seal of Approval”.

So – not quite as extreme a statement as this Alabama broadcast meteorologist would have you believe. Also – Spann makes the statement that “Billions of dollars of grant money is flowing into the pockets of those on the man-made global warming bandwagon”. I can’t find anything close to that. The Federal government spent a few hundred million dollars on climate research in 2005, the latest year for which I could find figures. Here’s the link for that. That amount will buy you a few days of war in Iraq, by the way. I doubt that private sources are covering the remaining billions Spann claims. On the other hand, ExxonMobil is spending millions to convince people that the science behind global warming isn’t legitimate. I don’t claim to know for sure whether we’re causing some of the problem. With all the data that’s accumulating indicating we are, I’m inclined to believe that there’s some fire under all that smoke, and if we can put some of it out, we should.

Dr. Cullen’s original blog post is here, followed by this post.