The only choice for the environment: Joe Biden for President

Hurricane Zeta is on it’s way to New Orleans. Need any more convincing?

Climate change does not cause hurricanes. It is a factor in making hurricanes more frequent and wetter, because the warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico allow the tropical storms to linger longer in place and intensify. A Level 1 hurricane can more easily become a Level 5 one. I’ve seen what a Level 5 does, it crushes entire communities.

Climate change alters the climate patterns, and this results in unpredictable extreme weather events, including drought, floods, and severe winter storms. The forest fires in California, Brazil amazon rain forest and Patagonia, Siberia and along the artic circle, and in Australia’s Northeast are a product of global warming.

The good scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency have either been muzzled, left or been demoted. The head of the EPA, Andrew Wheeler, was a lobbyist for the coal industry. Words like global warming are no longer spoken within the halls of the EPA.

“Donald Trump is the worst present ever for the climate, our health and our safety. He views the power of the presidency not as a change for good, but as a weapon to damage the nation while enriching himself and his cronies,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brun.

This is real. The photos are from Northern California, where members of my family live. Fire rage in the San Gabriel mountains, close to where my brother lives. That makes this race pretty personal.

Sierra Club: Fall 2020

The Sierra Club is proud to be endorsing Joe Biden in the 2020 Presidential election. Biden has laid out a bold vision of safeguarding our air and water, transitioning to a clean energy economy, and investing in communities that for too long have been left behind to deal with pollution caused by our reliance on fossil fuels. Vice President Joe Biden’s selection of Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate made this ticket the strongest ever for proposed climate action. The Biden-Harris partnership will prioritize climate – and climate justice – in their administration while restoring the United States as the a global leader in tackling the crisis.

Make your voices known. Vote now.

Dave

Biden is the Best for Global Problems – Part 2

Climate Change

From “A planet in peril”, New York Times, Editorial Board, Oct 18, 2020.

For anyone who cares about the health of the planet, the Trump years have been, to say the least, profoundly discouraging. Barely two months in office, President Trump order his cabinet to review and remove any regulatory obstacles to the production of oil, gas and coal; shortly thereafter, he renounced America’s support for the landmark Paris climate agreement, thus shedding any claim to American leadership on a global crisis.

It was more or less downhill from there. He methodically decapitated Obama-era rules aimed at limiting emissions from power plants and oil and gas operations and mandating increases in fuel efficiency. He also opened public land hitherto shielded from mining and drilling exploration.

There were other assaults large and small on environmental protections, but the most damaging were those that undermined rules to diminish greenhouse gases while enabling the industries that produced them. All this despite the climate-related carnage in front of his own eyes, conspicuously the fires in California – and despite authoritative studies warning that failure to wrench emissions drastically downward over the next decade will bring irreversible damage.

Emissions in America, pre-Covid-19 declined slightly thanks partly to the switch to cleaner fuels and the determined efforts of states and cities to do the job Mr. Trump won’t do. Globally, however emissions have been rising and the seas with them.

_______

So absolutely well stated. Climate change is a significant factor in recent extreme weather events includes both prolong drought and hurricanes/ monsoons. This year we went through the entire list of 24 named hurricanes and now Hurricane Delta is destroying the western areas of Louisiana and Texas. The forest fires and devastating ecological damage is occurring now in the Brazilian amazon rain forest, the incredible unique wetlands to the south (Pantanal), Australia, and all along the artic circle in Siberia, Greenland, and Alaska.

Yes, our air is clean, because the carbon pollutants go to the upper atmosphere and cause trapping of solar rays. Our planet is overheating like one big greenhouse.

Obama understood the severity of the problem and so does Joe Biden. They will put qualified people who have the interest at heart. We need global solutions, and this means action from China, Russia, India and Brazil.

Donald Trump puts fossil fuel lobbyists in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency. Yes, our air is clean, because the carbon pollutants go to the upper atmosphere and cause trapping of solar rays. Our planet is overheating like one big greenhouse.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Florida – Vote for Biden

I fear time is running out for this simple message. I live in Florida. Unlike most states, the sea water really surrounds us, so we have our choice of beaches. I guess I could include Hawaii another incredibly beautiful state. It is something very precious.

We share something else with the gulf coast states – hurricanes. Not just in frequency, but also in their ability to destroy homes. Scientists will tell you that climate change does not cause hurricanes, because a lot of factors influence the development of hurricanes. What climate change does, with the warming of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico waters, is allow tropical storms and hurricanes to intensify. So, with climate change, a tropical storm can go to a Category 1 hurricane or from a Category 1 hurricane to a Category 5. The Category 5 hurricanes are extremely destructive and deadly.

The immense forest fires recently in California are the result of many environmental conditions, and I would never blame a forest fire exclusively on climate change. The ignition of the fire can come from multiple sources, including lightening strikes and human activities. The buildup of dry material can also be blamed the difficulty of conducting periodic control burns. However, the inescapable reality is that climate change increases the size of the fire, to the extent where it is incredibly difficult to control. Climate change means a longer dry periods in the western states where the fires can start.

Pulling out of Paris Climate Accords was one of the worse mistakes made by Trump. He said it was grossly unfair to the US and many developed countries, as we would have to bear more of the burden of reducing our carbon emission. In 2016, he said once we left, everyone else would wake up to see what a mistake the US had made, and the European countries would join us in leaving.

It was true Trump, this great deal maker, to sell the public, that he could make America great, by telling everyone how clean our air is, and we have no problem. Yet, as I write, there’s talk about Hurricane Delta coming. Hurricane Delta is right, as this year, we’ve had all 24 named hurricanes and now are going through the Greek alphabet with alpha, beta, gamma, delta.

It is exactly what the scientists predicted – more extreme weather events. Why are there extensive fires in the Amazon? Why in Australia? Why in the artic regions of Alaska, Canada and Siberia?

Climate change is a global problem, solved by working together with all nations. It isn’t going to be solved easily – our carbon emissions are very high and our dependence on fossil fuels very strong. Biden is the right person to lead this country through a transition to less reliance of fossil fuels and more international cooperation in the developing countries – such as Brazil, India, China and Russia.

Vote Biden for Florida, California, the US and the rest of the world. Our house, where we live, is in trouble and it will only get worse under Trump.

A greener planet is possible but we need new leadership now.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Upcoming Election

An incumbent president, usually runs on his achievements during the prior  three plus years.  But, much of what Donald Trump has claimed to have accomplished is not true.  From environmental issues, energy,  the economy and immigration, Trump has claimed credit for accomplishments during the Obama administration.  Trump also falsely portrayed much of his own administration’s efforts as successes, when in fact they were not.

The 20,000 lies that Trump has told over the last 3 1/2 years are quite incredible.  His version of a stupendous economic recovery in 2018-2019 is total nonsense.   The economy was not in collapse at the end of Obama’s term.  It definitely had crashed during George Bush’s last year, losing 800,000 jobs a month and it was President Obama had turned it around, adding about 200,000 jobs a month.  In fact, when Trump cites statistics on how well his administration has done, he typically goes back in time, to the date of his election (November 8, 2016) and not his inauguration date in 2017  just to steal some credit from President Obama.

In the upcoming blogs,  I intend to examine more closely the “three E’s”  – the environment, energy and the economy, plus I intend to  address immigration policy and the “build the wall” craze (it should be called enhance the “see-through fence” initiative).   Trump could brag all he wanted as a real estate developer.  Now he is getting caught every single day, in multiple lies.

Immigration policy is a real pile of crazy sh*t,  Sorry, I just didn’t know how to express this any better.  For months Trump kept bragging how great his policies were,  because apprehensions at the southern border were going down, 40%,  then 61% and finally 78%.   So, immigrants were not trying to sneak into our country, because they were afraid of being caught.  Of course, apprehensions started to rise,  and Trump again bragged that his policies were a tremendous success because they were going up.   Down is great, up is great, who cares, it’s all in the presentation?    In January 2020, the President celebrates great numbers on immigration again, this time apprehensions again were going down.   So, down, up and down again, all with dubious statistics, and all causes to celebrate the tremendous success.

I believe it is necessary to dispel the barrage of  false claims in order to establish the truth.   There is an enormous distribution system of false information.  Energy, environment and the economy issues are all intertwined.    The  “fake news” is often slick presentations, with selected facts helped along by industry lobbyist  groups.  Just one small example –  I saw on a cable news program, a clip showing barges filled with coal going down the Mississippi river,  and the newscaster was talking about how US coal exports had doubled since 2016, which is true.  Yet, in about 2 minutes, I could verify that US coal production had continued it’s steady decline during the Trump administration.  This rise in exports was simply that more coal was being sent overseas,  because the demand was dropping in the US.    Major coal companies filed for bankruptcy in 2019 and 2020, including Cloud Peak Energy and  Murray Coal.

So, I am preparing my first blog on the environment and more will follow.  I am always receptive to comments from my visitors, contrary to my opinions.  As usual, I will support my statements with links from the internet.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Trump + Trade

I just thought the link below really said everything.  Trade is one area which Trump has nearly complete control.  Except every time he slaps on a tariff against a country, they retaliate with tariffs on the US.   It is a “lose-lose” policy as the tariffs are passed through to the consumer.    Nothing positive ever seems to emerge from Trump’s actions.  He has threaten Brazil and Argentina with tariffs, because their currencies are weak. A lot of this is not particularly rational.

Trump was handed a reasonable and rational approach to China’s violation of trade agreements.  It was called the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.    But, it unified  our Asian, Canadian  and South American  trading partners to  force compliance of fair trade with China.   But it was long and complex,  It was also negotiated by President Obama.   So, the US withdrew from the agreement.

Withdrawing from international agreements, and going it alone, may look like it’s putting US interest first.  Actually, it puts us last.    We’ve lost our leadership role in the UN, NATO and the Paris Accords on Climate Change.  Because Trump wants all the glory, all he can do is eliminate regulations and agreements.   And disrupt free trade with tariffs.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Link

Trade is the one area Trump has complete control

 

 

Impeachment Update + Climate Change Meeting + Say good-bye Rick

Thought I would add two quick items:

I continue to add links to the impeachment inquiry page as shown on the right side of this web site.  I particularly like the CNN Inquiry tracker.   There are currently 30 requests for testimony or documents and 24 subpoenas.  The joint committee, meeting behind closed doors, has heard from 16 witnesses, so the hearings in this phase, are far from being done.    I figure with 16 down and 54 to go, this marks the 30% done level.  Of course,  the requests and subpoenas could outpace the testimonies, so this % done statistic could go down.

Imagine inviting 20,000 of your friends over for Thanksgiving and given only a few weeks to prepare.  What Madrid did, in hosting the COP25 Meeting is pretty incredible.  It will be a conference filled with intense negotiations, as reducing carbon emissions calls for sacrifice, and each country has to do their share for the greater good of the planet.  Good words with no action are not helpful.    Unfortunately, the US and Brazil look to be the only two countries who see this  terrible crisis as an inconvenience to their nationalistic political agenda.  Bolsonaro, President of Brazil, seems to believe that Brazil is somehow not connected to the rest of the planet.  Yes, our house is on fire, in California and the Amazon.   Trump will become a permanent resident in Palm Beach, Florida, and may begin to take a real interest in rising sea levels.

Our Secretary of Energy Rick Perry will be leaving soon, stonewalling the House for documents and testimony related to the Trump-Ukraine scandal and really embracing the “Bob Murray” energy plan to push coal and do whatever is possible to discourage renewable energy sources.   Solar panels made in China got hit with 55% tariffs and inverters, I believe, are now taxed at 25%,.

Murray Coal got everything on their agenda list they sent to Mike Pence, (except his welfare plan for nuclear and coal)  which included rolling back of all initiatives taken during Obama’s administration, yet the Murray Coal still went bankrupt.    I hope I will never see again in my lifetime the owner of a coal company have so much sway over the Department of Energy and the EPA.   Money doesn’t talk, it swears (Bob Dylan).

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Madrid to host Cop25 climate talks in December after Chile withdraws

Weaker alone and it’s getting worse (China, Iran, Climate Change) + Over the top distractions

Trump has started a number of highly disruptive “wars” without a clear end in sight.  The two big ones is his economic war with China and the political war with Iran.   A third huge division among us and our allies is our recent action against international cooperation in climate change.  Our Department of Justice is currently waging war against our automobile manufacturers who are working with California to improve exhaust emissions standards.  I guess the idea is that we all must breathe the same polluted air.   I’ll leave this last one for separate blog.

— Trade War – No end in sight.

The trade war with China, just seems to get worse every month.  According to experts, China has engaged in unfair trade practices.  But, the current trade wars are just the US and China.  We failed to obtain international support.  We created the World Trade Organization to address issues such as unfair trade practices and currency manipulation.  Now we take action without their involvement.  Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) which included 12 countries (China not one of them) and would have been the best counter measure against China’s unfair practices.  Trump has correctly stated that prominent Republicans and Democrats were against it.   Likely, if Clinton were elected president, then she would have attempted to make  changes in the agreement.

The TPP agreement is long and complex.  It has survived without the US in a new agreement, the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (CPTPP).   The US was insisting on certain provisions which would be best for the US. and none of the other countries before we signed it.  See links below.  When Trump pulled out, all the contested provisions were pulled out.  It includes however, what seems at the top of Trump’s wish list – respect for intellectual property as follows:

It [CPTTP] includes the most detailed standards for intellectual property of any trade agreement, as well as protections against intellectual property theft against corporations operating abroad.

Manufacturing as measured by the US ISM manufacturing employment index, last month hit a two year low of  47.4 in August 2019, down from a high of 60.17 on September 2017.  See link.

Trade wars are a lose-lose proposition.   There are 18 countries which are party to the CPTPP agreement including Japan, Mexico, Australia, Singapore and Canada.  They are stronger together, and the US is now weaker as it stands alone.

—  IRAN

Now Iran.  As long as the sanctions were lifted, Iran obeyed by its commitments.  They had a strict monitoring program.  The agreement basically called for the US to lift sanctions as long as Iran was in compliance.  When Trump imposed economic sanctions by refusing to import oil from Iran, it put the US in violation of the agreement.  Further, the US was pressuring other countries and companies not to lift Iran’s oil.

Thus, Iran correctly stated that they had the right not to be bound by the terms of the agreement, primarily on the amount of uranium it could enrich.   None of our European allies want Iran to get nuclear weapons, so they are pleading with the US, to drop the sanctions, so Iran can be brought back into compliance.  President Macron is leading this effort.  The head of the UN atomic energy watchdog agency (IAEA)  is in Iran now,   Iran makes no secret of its violations of the treaty and in fact will comply with thorough IAEA inspections,   It is simply tit-for-tat against actions taken by the US.

Trump’s theory, that once Iran felt the pain of sanctions, it would do anything to please the US hasn’t worked at all.  In fact, it has been a terrible failure.   Treaties are tough to put together, but much easier to fall apart.

I’ll stop here.  I’ve got a lot more to say on Trump’s misguided policies on reducing our carbon emissions and minimizing the real threat it is creating throughout the world, including droughts and extreme weather events.  But that will be a separate blog.

— DISTRACTIONS

I have to contend with a huge number of distracting events in July and August.  It’s really nuts.  Vice President Mike Pence wants an American on Mars by 2024, about 6 years earlier than planned, price tag around 500 billion dollars (a trillion here and there eventually adds up to real money) plus the militarizing of space with the Star Wars themed “Space Force.”   Then the trip to Ireland, was a publicist nightmare.  His grandfather was Irish, but he fled Ireland as a refugee escaping violence and poverty, just the folks Trump is trying to ban from the US.  Plus,  it was a terrible snub to stay at the Trump hotel, far outside of Dublin, for “security reasons.”  Nobody bought this one.   See link.

What else:  Trying somehow link Bill Clinton and Jeff Epstein by repeating social media nonsense,  buying Greenland and insulting Denmark (whose next?), the Trump drawn hurricane maps to include Alabama, pulling funds for Puerto Rico hurricane rebuilding effort to build the Mexican border wall (seeing just how far the National Emergency Act can be stretched), and a barrage of tweet attacks against Jay Powell for basing his decisions on interest rates on economic data and Fed Reserve objectives, rather than Trump’s polling numbers.  Remember, Jay Powell was Trump’s nominee to the Fed and highly qualified for this position by both Democrats and Republicans.

I’m not sure if any of the above means much. Our policies on Iran, China and Climate Change are real issues where an immediate course correction is necessary.  More like 180 degree turn, as we are “stronger together.” This will have to wait until the 2020 elections.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Manufacturing Unemployment index is down

Wikipedia: Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (CPTPP)

Atomic watchdog chief in Iran for high-level talks

The distractions:

Mars Confusion 

Pence’s disasterous trip abroad

The Irish love anyone who can drink beer and has a bit of Irish heritage.  I believe they’ll make an exception with VP Mike Pence.

Irish Times Review of Mike Pence’s visit

 

 

 

 

 

War of Words

“I’m not going to enter a war of words with anybody, including the American president,” Denmark’s prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, told a Danish television channel on Wednesday.  Ok, that’s right.  Don’t back down and don’t escalate,

A few days ago, I was already to post a slightly humorous comment on Greenland, saying the Prime Minister should have told Trump, “Well, if you want Greenland, then give us Puerto Rico. ”  That was going to be my joke.  Then, it came out that the White House actually discussed swapping Puerto Rico for Greenland.   That’s super crazy.

Buying Greenland was a crazy distraction.  The Prime Minister of Denmark,  Mette Frederiksen, was absolutely right to call the idea “absurd.”   Even more absurd is the cavalier way Trump proposed this.   Trump was right that this had been considered during Truman’s presidency in 1946.   But, this was done under tight security, and no one knew about it for 45 years, when it was discovered by a Copenhagen newspaper in declassified documents in the National Archives.

Today, we have a military base (Thule air base) on Greenland.   Denmark has been a strong ally of the US.  Danes have fought with the US in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.    However, unlike Trump,  the Prime Minister is a strong environmentalist, and Denmark is making great strides in reducing carbon emissions.  It would be hard not to be a strong believer in climate change, as it is so evident in Europe and of course, in Greenland.

So, Trump hopped into Air Force 1, to attend the G7 meeting in beautiful Biarritz, France where the hot issues will be Iran, trade issues and climate change.

On climate change,  President Bolsonaro  of Brazil in making his country  great again, has done great harm to the Amazon.  I warned this was going to happen.   The people who voted for him are now choking on smoke in Sao Paulo.    Donald Trump intensified the Trade War, not only with China but with our European allies.  EU is trying desperately to save the Iran Nuclear agreement, after the US pulled out.

So, the G7 meeting will be a “war of words”  with the US now more as  the trouble maker than the problem solver.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/08/16/trump-greenland-purchase-harry-truman-denmark/

Representative Iihan Omar

I like her, but she would really do herself and the causes she supports, to resist getting into the limelight, at least for now.   What did she say that was so horrible?

It was that our support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins,” which is slang for 100 dollar bills namely money.   Of course, money and politics go hand-in-hand.   Trump wants good relations with the Saudis, in hopes of getting big military contracts.  Not for the US government, but for companies like Boeing and dozens of military equipment manufacturers.    I think the Vox website got it right:

” It was false — support for Israel is complex and related to many more factors than just lobbyist money — and it played into centuries of conspiracy theories about Jewish money corrupting Western politics.”

Her four words went viral and totally blown out of proportion.  There was another comment where she seem to give support of a dual loyalty theory, that implies Jewish politicians were conflicted between what was best for America and best for Israel.  She really has back tracked on her offensive comment.  However, Trump is really on the war path.  Again, it is not her statements per se, but the exaggerated impact which is  being tossed about the social media.  Social media can act as a distorted echo chamber.

I worked in Kuwait, and listen to some pretty anti-Israel comments.  It was, in my opinion, rooted on a biased history of how Israel was formed, and its intentions to its Arab leaders.  We had some lively debates at that time.  At the same time, Muslims and Jews were just fine working together.  It was never personal.

The US under the Trump administration will never present a practical plan to resolve the hostilities between Palestine and Israel, because it will simply agree with Israel.   We have given up our role as a neutral party, and gone way too far in aligning our interests with Israel.  That’s very bad for us.   For Arab extremists,  the anger and paranoia begins with hatred towards Israel, and then all countries associated with Israel, most obvious today is the US.

As I said in the beginning, I like Representative Omar.   I think she has a lot of “John Kennedy” type zeal in her and is strongly involved in the really big issues facing the world – such as hunger, environment  and climate change.  Getting it right on access to health care services and education for our country are critical to make this country great again (after Trump).

I hope she can weather this storm.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/2/12/18220241/ilhan-omars-twitter-tweet-anti-semitism

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_All_About_the_Benjamins

(I honestly didn’t know how popular this slang expression was, and I thought they were talking about Benjamin Netayahu.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilhan_Omar

 

 

 

Brumadinho Dam Collapse

Mariana denovo! Meu Deus!  In Portuguese, this means “Mariana again, my God.”

This is in reference to the dam that collapsed in Mariana, Minas Gerais, Brazil   in November 2015,  killing 19 people, spilling 60 million cubic meters of toxic mud  and completely destroying the town of Bento Rodrigues.     There were warning signs before the collapse.   The company had hired experts, who identified problems with the dam.  But the operation company Samarco, a consortium between Vale and BHP,  did too little, too late.   The investigation of the Mariana dam collapse lead to criminal charges, fines and lawsuits.   The environmental damage stretch all the way to the mouth of the Rio Doce river, to the Atlantic Ocean.  Toxic elements found in the tailings include mercury, arsenic and lead.  See link below.

The criminal charges and lawsuits provided Value strong motivation to insure their dams were safe.   But there’s an lot about Vales’s  Brumadinho dam collapse that seems similar to Mariana.  On January 25, 2019 an earthen dam,holding back 11.7 million cubic feet of tailings  from an iron ore mine  broke and  immediately created a huge mud flow for two miles.  From video shot at the time, it was a catastrophic failure with a breach in the lower sections of the dam, leading to a total caving in of the upper sections of the dam.  Heavy rainfall is likely a contributing factor.

As of Feb 23, 177 people are confirmed dead and 133 people are considered missing.  (see Wikipedia link) Many of the victims were Vale’s employees.  The force of the flood was tremendous, overturning buses, destroying homes and hotels, and drowning their occupants.  A section of a bridge collapsed.  The mud swept over approximately a square mile of land.  It definitely could have been worse.   The mud flow veered east of the village of Vale de Cachoreira (valley of the water fall),  taking some lives but sparing others.   An alarm system failed to go off.  Vale stated this failure was unimportant, as most of the destruction occurred in a matter of seconds.

As with the Mariana disaster,  there were warning signs.   Right now, all eyes are focused on a German firm TUV SUD who performed the last safety inspection in September 2018.   There is evidence that they were reluctant to sign off on the certificate of safety,  but management in Vale pressured them.    There is a serious conflict of interest in these inspections, as Vale hires the outside firm, and pays them for the inspection.   Obviously, more direct involvement is needed from the government.   The shut down of a tailing pit, I would think, could shut down operations at a mine, so there will always be some resistance.  But two accidents of this magnitude ought to be sufficient incentives for change.

The environmental impact is still being assessed.   High mercury concentrations were found in the river below the spill after the collapse.   Metal contaminants do not decompose with time.   The will become more dilute as they flow downstream.  Unfortunately toxic elements can be concentrated in fish and other animals,  leading to real health risks.

Earth dam collapses due to mining operations have occurred in many countries, including the US, India, Italy and Japan.   The precipitating event is often heavy rainfall, but preceding this, are typically structural defects.   In the case of Brumadinho, the rain lead to a process called “liquidification” where solids in the tailings became mobile.   Clogged dam outlets may have contributed to the Brumadinho disasterer. With sifting weather patterns due to global warming,  the historical rainfall patterns may become less predictable, requiring extra measures to insure safety in all tailings pits.   Brazil has many tailing pits in worse condition than Brumadinho.   This latest disaster should be considered a wake up call to Brazil (as if Mariana wasn’t enough!).

The US has its own share of disasters.  In year 2000,  in Marin County, Kentucky,  a coal mining tailing pit failed. According to Wikipedia,  “The water supply for over 27,000 residents was contaminated. The spill was 30 times larger than the Exxon Valdez oil spill and one of the worst environmental disasters ever in the southeastern United States.”     Beyond permitting requirements, a vigilant monitoring and safety inspections, free of conflict of interest with mining operators seem essential.   Remember the saying, “What comes around, goes around.”   The next Mariana, or Brumadinho type disaster  might be in West Virginia, Michigan or Kentucky.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Mariana Dam Collapse

Wikipedia,  Brumadinho Dam Collapse

Wikipedia:  Dam failures 

Other similar dam disasters:

Global Warming

Scientists like to refer this as “climate change” but whatever it is called, it is real, it is worldwide and the consequences of ignoring it or belittling it, are very serious.

I was blown away when I saw this graph on the front page of the New York Times, on February 7, 2019.  I mean the front page of the New York Times is precious territory,  but the editors decided to put this graph at the top left corner, because it tells a very compelling story.   It is from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric  Agency (NOAA) showing the 2018 global temperature is right on trend beginning around 1970.   Look at the last five points, 2014 to 2018, the temperatures are above all others on the chart,  meaning the last 5 years were the hottest ever on our planet.

This temperature increase coincides with increases in worldwide carbon emissions.   It is  distinctly different from the 1880 to 1930’s, random ups and downs.  Global warming is a factor in extreme weather events including the blistering cold snap in the Midwest, the extreme heat wave in Australia, hurricanes in Puerto Rico, Florida, and the gulf coast states,  prolong dry conditions in California promoting forest fires and expansion of deserts causing famine in Africa.

It is real,  It is bad,  And we lack leadership at the highest levels of our government.  Trump will pull out of Paris Accords, and did not say one word about climate change in the State of the Union address.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again.  Global warming doesn’t cause hurricanes to form.  Ok.  It is a contributing factor in turning a tropical storm into a hurricane.   I live in Miami, and I know the difference.  Hurricanes can totally destroy a house and are deadly.    I was in Miami when Hurricane Andrew hit in August 1992 and I saw the destruction.

I was very  glad to see climate change listed along with terrorism as one of the major threats to US security as reported by National Security Director, Dan Coats in the Foreward of the 2018 assessment (see links) as follows:

Challenges from urbanization and migration will persist, while the effects of air pollution,inadequate water, and climate change on human health and livelihood will become more noticeable. Domestic policy responses to such issues will become more difficult—especially for democracies—as public become less trusting of authoritative information sources.

Environment and Climate Change: The impacts of the long-term trends toward a warming climate, more air pollution, biodiversity loss, and water scarcity are likely to fuel economic and social discontent—and possibly upheaval—through 2018.  The past 115 years have been the warmest period in the history of modern civilization … (page 16) ,   

The report does not go into detailed as this is a highly condensed summary of immediate threats to the US.  It is clear from the report that water and food shortages increase the risk of unrest in parts of the world.   I fear these trouble spots will end up like Syria and Libya,  prolong proxy wars.    President Obama was ridiculed on Fox News suggesting that climate change could be a worse peril than terrorism to our country.

Our increasing environment problems becomes more noticeable – that’s right, if we take the trouble to see what’s happening.   Of course, when a hurricane comes and demolishes your dream beachfront home,  it is pretty difficult to ignore.

Just as I was ready to hit the publish button,  I discovered another news story, in which scientists consider our warming gulf coast waters make it likely that hurricanes will intensify at a more rapid rate (see Miami Herald story).   This gives everyone less time to evacuate, and is particularly bad for the less mobile (poor people, elderly, hospitalized folks) to get out of harm’s way.

To reiterate, it was great to see the New York Times break out of the publishing norms,  and put the graph front and center.  Of course, they followed up with pictures of melting glaciers in China, wildfires in Paradise, California,  Hurricane Florence in Florida, and a dried up section of the Rhine in Germany.  All of these were from 2018. And they put it all online so anyone could read their story.  Great work.  But,  there is more needed than just public awareness.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

It’s official: 2018 was the fourth warmest year on record

2018 National Threat Assessment

Climate change could be making Atlantic hurricanes stronger faster, study finds

Global Temperature Record (Wikipedia)

10 signs of a warming planet

Why Is the Cold Weather So Extreme if the Earth Is Warming?

Bolsonaro: Rights of indigenous people (Part 2)

My family has many immigrants.  I am the son of an immigrant.   I am hurt by the hatred and absurd exaggerations on immigration.   Trump uses foreign aid as if it was a weapon to coerce other countries in agreeing to his policies.   He  sees a competitive and hostile world.

Immigrants are minorities.  I see a lot of Trump in Bolsonaro, to the indigenous people of the Amazon.  Actually Bolsonaro is worse.  Per the Guardian (see link below):

Bolsonaro’s environment policies are tied to racist attitudes toward minorities and Brazil’s indigenous peoples. In a speech last year, he said: “Minorities have to bend down to the majority … The minorities [should] either adapt or simply vanish.”

Expressing a view common to military circles, he has claimed, without evidence, that indigenous land rights are part of a western plot to create separatist Amazonian states supported by the UN.

“Sooner or later, we will have dozens of countries inside [Brazil]. We won’t have any interference in these countries, the first world will exploit the Indians, and nothing will be left for us,” he said last year.

Bolsonaro has promised to open indigenous lands to mining and other economic activities. About 13% of Brazil’s territory is recognised indigenous lands, most of them in the Amazon. They are a major barrier to protect the forest, only 2% of rainforest deforestation has occurred inside indigenous territory.

My advice is that Brazilian should not take this radical move away from international cooperation.  It will take a very long time to recover our international bonds once Trump is gone.    Fernando Haddad may not be perfect but he is a far better choice than Bolsonaro.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/09/brazils-bolsonaro-would-unleash-a-war-on-the-environment

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jair_Bolsonaro

Weaker Apart

Hillary Clinton’s campaign had a simple slogan, just like Trump’s campaign.  It was “Stronger Together”  and I’ve turned it to the negative, “Weaker Apart.”    I am referring to actions by the Trump administration to breach or terminate any multinational agreement which it perceives is not in the best interest of the US.   Trump likes to think of himself as this incredibly skilled negotiator who can be get better deals usually on a bilateral basis.

I don’t see a global approach to problems as an option, but rather as a necessity.   We don’t solve nuclear proliferation, climate change or fair trade (Trump’s biggest concern)  on our own.   Unilateral sanctions on countries whom we have disagreements (Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, Iran, to name a few)  are generally failures.

I commented before on how confused Trump’s policies were China, seeking their help in pressuring North Korea to denuclearize and simultaneously attacking them as a currency manipulator and promoting unfair trade practices. Secretary of State last visit to China, failed for exactly these reasons – see New York Times article.

Getting tough on Iran with new sanctions is also backfiring.  It has created a sort of odd unity between EU leaders and Iran, that desperately wants to keep the Iran accords alive as this provides constant monitoring of Iran’s uranium enrichment sites.   Meanwhile Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif,  in an interview with CNN Fareed Zakaria,  is not following Trump’s game plan of high level meetings to work out a new accord.  He rightly says that the accord took years to reach, and was comprehensive covering uranium enrichment, reprocessing, monitoring and sanction relief.   The International Atomic Energy Agency was given full access to Iran’s nuclear facilities and confirmed Iran has been in compliance.   Zarif pointed out there is no sense in sitting down with the US to work out a new agreement, when they are presently in violation of the existing accord.   Having the two leaders meet at this point, would just be a PR “photo shoot.”

Perhaps there is no area that is so clearly a global problem and costly to the US than climate change.   The Paris Accords was,  to most environmentalists, a weak plan as each government could set their own goals to reducing carbon emissions.  But it was an incredible achievement, nevertheless to have each country acknowledge the need for positive action to reduce their carbon emissions.   The proposed rollback of car mileage standards, means more gas will be consumed in each car, and more carbon emissions.   Americans will foot the bill, not only paying more for gasoline but also in health related problems.  This impacts around 25 million asthma suffers.

I have provided a link below on likely battle which will ensue over the EPA rules change on  car emissions.  US car emission standards will be lowered below California’s emission standard, setting off another court challenge.   Republicans, who traditionally support the states in these issues, will suddenly now be on the side of Trump and his business friendly EPA.   See links.

Global warming does not create hot weather, every day of the week.   Instead, it makes extreme weather events more likely.  The hurricanes may not be more frequent with global warming, but they are likely to be more laden with water, and have time to intensity.  In time, storm surge will increase due to rising sea levels.   The result is more flooding,  the really destructive part of hurricanes in terms of human injury and death.

A comment from Christine Whitman, former EPA administrator under George W. Bush.

“There’s not an ideological push here, there’s just, ‘We’re going to do whatever industry wants, and if Obama did anything, it’s bad and we’ll undo it,’” Christine Todd Whitman, the EPA administrator under former President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2003, said in a phone interview. “I don’t think the president has thought through what used to be a basic principle of Republicans, and that’s states’ rights.”

Christine Whitman is a lifetime Republican,  who recognizes the need for clean air and water is not a political matter.

The efforts of the Trump administration are not making America Great, it is giving in to polluters, and rejecting the international cooperative effort.

So.  why are we weaker apart?   Increase inflation due to trade wars with China,  increase danger of a nuclear  arms in Iran, as a result of our breaking the Accord,  increase gas costs as we attempt to force Iran to the negotiating table, and sadly, more carbon emissions, which we will pay for with cars that get fewer miles to the gallon.

Not great,  In the long term  just dumb.  Regaining our leadership role in the world might have a change in 2020, with a new leader.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Kerry says Trump’s Iran strategy ‘very dangerous and ill-advised’

Iran Widens an Already Huge Rift Between Europe and U.S.

Trump’s Assault On Auto Pollution Rules Is The Latest Salvo In A War On States’ Rights

Trump Fuel Efficiency Proposal Is Attack on Global Climate and States’ Rights, Critics Say

Christine Todd Whitman

Global Warming and Hurricanes

Note:  I believe I’ve correctly summarized their findings.   The article is primarily on Atlantic hurricanes.   Typhoon Mangkhut was a terrible storm, and the death count (~80) will likely increase as recovery efforts are underway.   Many more people die after a typhoon or hurricane than during one.

How climate change could cause more mega-storms like Super Typhoon Mangkhut and Hurricane Florence

Florence and Climate Change

Florence appears to be a very powerful hurricane.  South Carolina residents on the coastal areas are taking the evacuation orders seriously.   This is very good.   The best way to survive a hurricane is to leave.

I wrote about the relationship between hurricanes and climate change in a prior blog.   It isn’t cause and effect sort of thing.   Warm water makes hurricanes wetter.   Winds can intensify if the hurricane movement slows over warm weather.  But the relationships become pretty complex.

One group of scientists,  the GFDL (Geophysics Fluid Dynamics Laboratory) has studied the history of hurricanes and relationships using computer modeling.   They are apart of the NOAA, responsible for weather research at the federal level.  Their conclusion is the number of hurricanes in the future is not likely to go up due to global warming.  But they will be stronger and more devastating.  Bad news.  Here is their conclusion:

A review of existing studies, including the ones cited above, lead us to conclude that: it is likely that greenhouse warming will cause hurricanes in the coming century to be more intense globally and have higher rainfall rates than present-day hurricanes.

I’ve seen what a force 5 hurricane can do – totally destroy houses, cars and boats.   And it kills people as tears through an area.   More die from flooding,  electrocution and lack of medical facilities, after the hurricane.  Wet hurricanes, like Maria and Katrina caused drownings.

It was a hot topic after  Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and Hurricane Irma destroyed homes on both east and west coasts of South Florida.   Irma was a monster, and I have friends still haggling with insurance companies and trying to rebuild.

The reaction from the former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt was unbelievable, when asked about the contribution of global warming after Hurricane Maria.  He shot back saying the question was “insensitive” to the suffering of Puerto Ricans.   The EPA was not involved in  recovery efforts.   The  hurricane season going from June to November  is exactly the right time to bring up the fact that we are doing nothing on climate change, except pretend it doesn’t exist.  I think January to December are all good months to address global warming and hurricanes.

Al Gore referred to the consequences of global warming, 12 years ago as the  “inconvenient truth.”

I honestly feel very sorry for the residents of South Carolina.  I hope they get the hell away from the coastal areas, ASAP.    But, global warming is here, and global warming catastrophes are real and deadly.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Note –  Global warming is no longer part of EPA’s vocabulary.  They are the ones that should be working to curb carbon emissions.  NOAA can only make predictions, not change policy.

NOAA GFDL Website:   Global Warming and Hurricanes

Sun Sentinel:  Now is the right time to talk about climate change

Trump Policies to the Coal Industry – Part 1

(1) Decline in Coal Production

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt used to brag about how much the US was reducing carbon emissions, even while he was denying climate change was a problem and the Paris Climate Change Accords were against the best interests of our country.    One reason for our lower emissions  is the less of our electricity on a percentage basis  comes from dirtiest  fossil fuels- coal.   As shown in the above chart,  US coal shipments from mines were 661 million short tons (mST).   This is the lowest coal shipments since 1983 – wow 35 years!

The above graph shows only coal shipped within the US.  EIA also posted higher total production statistics which includes exports.  For 2017, the preliminary estimate of total production is 774 mST,  a slight improvement over 2016 production of 728 mST.   This slight uptick is probably not going to last as preliminary first quarter production (Jan-Mar 2018) declined by 5.2% over the prior quarter.  The trendline is either flat or down.  See link below for these statistics.

Donald Trump supposedly “digs coal.”  But the electric utilities don’t because it is more expensive.  They have been switching to natural gas during the last 20 years which includes the Bush and Obama administrations.  Particularly hard hit were coal mines on the east cost.     Note: this report was produced by the Energy Information Agency, a part of the Department of Energy, headed by former Texas governor Rick Perry.

There was a short video on one of the cable stations, touting the success of Trump’s policies, as evidence by how many coal filled barges were going down the Mississippi river.   Given  how little coal is transported by river barges, one can see this was pure nonsense.   Just partisan politics dressed up as a news story.

Coal is used primarily to generate electricity.  About 30% of our electricity  comes from coal in 2016.  It was 52% of our electricity  in 1997.   As shown in the graph below,  in the last 66 years, the percentage of electricity generated by coal  has never been this low.

Natural gas began its rise around 1989 with 10% share and never looked back.   Nonhydro renewables, primarily solar and wind have increased since 2005.   Going from 2% to 8% with alternatives  is a 4 fold increase. According to the EIA, wind turbines account for 6% of US electricity generation, leaving only 2% for solar.   I believe the graph below does not include electricity from residential solar panels.

The graph seems to show declining use of hydroelectric power, but this is really the effect of the increase in electrical demand being satisfied by other fuels, as shown below.  If the period from 1975 to 2015 is examined, it shows that hydroelectric supplies between 250 to 350 bKW, with a flat trendline.  For renewable fuels, solar and wind turbines are the big growth areas now and in the future.  Non-renewables account for 84% of the US electricity.  The general trend of increasing renewables can be seen in many countries.  For instance, Germany fossil fuels and nuclear for electricity account for  70%, with coal percentage in decline and natural gas percentage on the increase.

(2) Stream Protection Rule

One of the first actions of newly elected Donald Trump, with the help of Congress was to repeal the Stream Protection Rule, which was a detailed clarification of prior rules for the dumping of debris from new mines into streams.  Hundreds of miles of streams and rivers are lost.    Environmentalists at the time did not think the rule went far enough.   Coal mining in four states (Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia) dynamite the top of the mountain (called mountain top removal, or MTR), and the “spoils” or tailings are dumped into river valleys.   The destruction of the environment is pretty terrible, and includes land, water and air pollution.

As correctly pointed out in the VOX article:

Coal mining is a messy business. In parts of West Virginia, Kentucky, and Virginia, mining companies often get at underground coal seams by blowing up the tops of mountains — a process known as mountaintop removal mining. Once that’s done, they’ll dump the debris into the valleys below, which can contaminate streams and waterways with toxic heavy metals.  Appalachian Voices, an environmental group, estimates that coal companies have buried over 2,000 miles of streams in the region through mountaintop removal mining since the 1990s. And there’s growing evidence that when mining debris and waste gets into water supplies, the toxic metals can have dire health impacts for the people and mostly rural communities living nearby.

And  VOX nailed it when they wrote in Feb 2017:

Scrapping the stream protection rule might help boost the bottom lines of some mining companies at the margins, but it’s unlikely to reverse the long inexorable downward trend of mining jobs in Appalachia.

The quarterly statistics show large declines in 2017Q4 to 2018Q1 in anthracite coal in Pennsylvania (-43%),  and coal production declines in   Tennessee (-63%),  Virginia (-9.4%) and Kentucky (-13%),  really undercutting Trump’s claim that the production declines was a result of “Obama’s war on coal.”

(3) Robert Murray,  Murray Coal, the Clean Power Plan and Andrew Wheeler (Scary Stuff)

Robert Murray is the CEO of Murray Coal.   He seems to have the inside track to President Trump on setting energy policies.  His policies seem radical, and only in the best interest of large chemical and mining corporations.   He sent VP Pence an action plan, which included cutting the EPA workforce in half.  This would be around 7,000 employees, back to the number of employees when the agency was first created in 1973.   An extremely important function of the EPA is approval of pesticides used in agriculture.  It would be very scary proposition to revert to pre-Rachel Carson era, when chemical companies could self certify the safety of pesticides.  See link, “How a Coal Baron’s Wish List became President Trump’s To-Do list.”

Robert Murray’s political philosophy seems anchored on the conviction that global warming is non-existent, and the only reason for the decline in coal production is unnecessary government regulation at all levels.  At the very top of the Murray action plan, is the Clean Power Rule,  one of the achievements of the Obama administration, which Murray has claimed is illegal.   The basis for this contention was that the rule was not approved by Congress, and President Obama was overstepping his authority.   In 2016, the Supreme Court halted enforcement of the regulation, pending resolution in the courts.

The EPA under President Obama conducted numerous studies, showing that the primary benefactors of the Plan, were low income or coal miners, who lived close to coal fueled power plants.  Opponents of the Plan claimed that this would raise unemployment in coal mining states and cause power plants to shut down.  There are difference of opinions on the economic impact of the plan.

President Trump is strongly opposed to the Clean Power Plan.  The proposed 2018 budget does not include any funds for enforcement of the Clean Power Plan.   It can not easily be repealed without avoid  court challenges by supporters.    At present,  the acting administrator of the EPA is Andrew Wheeler, who is a former lobbyist for the coal industry.  On June 20, 2018, it was revealed that prior to Wheeler’s appointment at EPA, he worked with Robert Murray and other coal companies, seeking repealing of Obama administration policies.

The documents also show the role played by now-EPA Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who then worked as Murray’s lobbyist, in setting up the meeting, where the coal boss presented Perry with a four-page action plan for repealing environmental regulations viewed as burdensome for the coal industry. During his confirmation hearing for the EPA post, Wheeler told senators that he had briefly seen the document and acknowledged taking part in the meeting.

So, Trump has turned over running the EPA to the lobbyist for a coal baron, Robert Murray.  Murray went one step further with his crusade, and wrote 6 executive orders, for Trump to sign.  Pretty audacious!   The political views of Senator Jim Imhofe (R-OK),  Scott Pruitt (former EPA Administrator, former AG of Oklahoma) and Andrew Wheeler are all pretty similar.  In fact, Wheeler was Imhofe’s legislation aide. See link at bottom “Who is Andrew Wheeler (and why you should be afraid of him).”

To be continued in Part 2.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 Links:

EIA:  2017 Coal Shipments

The link below is pretty long, and not easy to find on the new EPA site (thanks Scott Pruitt):

EIA  First Quarter 2018  and full year 2017 Production

EPA 2003:  Environmental Impact Statement, Mountain Top Removal (during Bush administration)

The article really nailed it, as stating that killing the stream production act was unlikely to reverse the decline in the coal industry.  But Trump owed a favor to Robert Murray.

VOX: Why Trump just killed a rule restricting coal companies from dumping waste in streams

How a Coal Baron’s Wish List Became President Trump’s To-Do List

A Coal Executive’s “Action Plan” For Trump Is Made Public

Bob Murray drafted 6 executive orders for Trump’s signature

Who is Andrew Wheeler?

Newsandviews.net post Coal industry subsidies based on a pretext