Skip to content Skip to site navigation

John Upton's Posts

Comments

Whoa there! State lawmakers try to make oil trains safer

"beware of trains" sign
Shutterstock

The wheels of railway safety reform may be in motion in Minnesota, but they've ground to a halt in Washington state.

Each day, an average of six trains bearing particularly incendiary fracked crude travel through Minnesota's Twin Cities, rattling the nerves of residents and lawmakers. The main worries are about potential derailments and explosions, but oil spills are also a concern, as evidenced by the recent leak of 12,000 gallons from a moving train in the state’s southeast.

On Monday, Minnesota state Rep. Frank Hornstein introduced legislation that aims to protect the state from oil-by-rail accidents. The Star Tribune reports:

Comments

White House gets geeky on climate problem

Obama with an iPad
Pete Souza / White House
"According to this, Florida is fucked."

To see how the world is changing around you, sometimes it helps to lose yourself online.

The White House is plunging into a new geeky approach to climate adaptation. It has consolidated online climate tools into a new hub, climate.data.gov, intended to help Americans understand how weather and sea levels will continue to change in their states and even their neighborhoods.

Comments

Scientists to Americans: This climate change thing really is a big deal

global warming
Shutterstock

One of the world's largest and most influential science organizations is launching a new campaign to cut through the noise of climate denialism and help the public understand the threat of climate change.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science kicked things off on Monday by publishing a 20-page report entitled What We Know. The gist: We know that global warming is real, risky, and demands a serious response -- "the three Rs of climate change."

“We're trying to provide a voice for the scientific community on this issue so that we can help the country, help the world move this issue forward,” AAAS CEO Alan Leshner said during a call with reporters on Tuesday morning. "If we don’t move now we are at tremendous risk for some very high impact consequences, many of which are laid out in the report."

The AAAS has also assembled a panel of a 13 leading scientists who will make public presentations and try to spread climate smarts far and wide.

Here's an explanation of those three climate Rs from the initiative's website:

Read more: Climate & Energy

Comments

Climate change could bring ancient moss back to life

Drilling for moss.
Peter Boelen
Sampling frozen moss in Antarctica.

The germs of microscopic jungles lay frozen at the poles, ready to burst into life as the ice and snow melt around them.

Deep moss banks growing on rocks and at the bottoms of lakes are defining botanical features in many cold and frigid environments. And as the poles melt, moss populations are quickly greening newly exposed earth.

But how could moss reach these remote locations? A new discovery highlights the fact that it doesn't need to. It's already there, frozen after previous warm spells and ready to resume the humble act of living.

Read more: Climate & Energy

Comments

Two-thirds of Republicans think the media exaggerates climate change

old newspapers
Shutterstock
Do they at least believe in recycling?

Major media outlets in the U.S. are doing a piss-poor job of covering climate change. But even when they do cover it, many of their audience members don't believe them.

On Monday, Gallup released recent survey data showing that 42 percent of Americans polled believe news outlets exaggerate the seriousness of climate change.

As you might expect, there's a big partisan divide on the question. More than two-thirds of Republicans think the media exaggerates, while nearly half of Democrats believe the seriousness of climate change is actually underestimated by the media.

Read more: Climate & Energy

Comments

Alabama wetland still infested with oil, four months after train accident

Aftermath of a arain derailment in Alabama
Public Herald
Cleaning up this oily mess turned out to be hard, so it looks like the railroad pretty much gave up.

The derailment and explosion of a train passing through Alabama wetlands in November helped bring attention to the dangers of hauling oil by rail. But the mess left behind after the explosion has been largely ignored.

The Associated Press recently visited the derailment site near the town of Aliceville and found "dark, smelly crude oil still oozing into the water." Waters around the oil spill's epicenter are lined with floating booms to help prevent the spread of surface oil, but environmentalists have detected toxic chemicals from the oil flowing downstream. And questions have been raised about a decision to rebuild damaged tracks without first removing all the oil that surrounded them. Here's more from the story:

Comments

Judge rejects latest Koch-led bid to snuff out Cape Wind

wind turbines
Shutterstock

Wind won, and Bill Koch took another one in the crotch.

A U.S. District Court judge rejected a long-running legal effort by the Koch-funded Alliance for Nantucket Sound and other groups to strip the planned Cape Wind energy farm of its federal approvals, which have taken more than a decade to secure. Bill, a lesser-known Koch brother, has spent millions leading a battle against construction of the 130-turbine offshore wind array, which he says would mar his views of Nantucket Sound.

The alliance had alleged a laundry list of shortcomings in the federal government's approval process. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, this was the alliance's 15th legal challenge to the project, and the 15th to fail.

Comments

I see London, I can't see France

Paris bans cars, makes transit free to fight air pollution

Paris skyline
Evan Bench

Air pollution is about as romantic as wilted flowers, chapped lips, and corked wine, so the record-setting smog that has settled over the City of Love in the past few days is definitely dampening the mood.

Unseasonably warm weather has triggered unprecedented air pollution levels in Paris. Over the weekend, the city responded by offering free public transportation and bike sharing. (Similar measures were taken throughout nearby Belguim, which also reduced speed limits.) But that wasn't enough to fix the problem, so Paris and 22 surrounding areas are taking more extreme steps, banning nearly half of vehicles from their roads.

Private cars and motorcycles with even registration numbers will be barred from the streets on Monday. Unless the air quality improves quickly and dramatically, odd registration numbers will be banned from the roads on Tuesday. Electric vehicles and hybrids will be exempted, as will any cars carrying at least three people. About 700 police officers will be stationed at checkpoints, handing out $31 (€22) fines to violators.

Read more: Climate & Energy

Comments

Will frackers cause California’s next big earthquake?

gg-bridge.jpg

The Ring of Fire, an earthquake-prone area around the edges of the Pacific Ocean, might not be the best spot for earth-rumbling fracking practices. But fracking is exploding in the ringside state of California, raising fears that the industry could trigger the next "big one."

More than half of the 1,553 active wastewater injection wells used by frackers in California are within 10 miles of a seismic fault that has ruptured within the past two centuries, according to a jarring new report. The fracking industry's habit of injecting its wastewater underground has been linked to earthquakes. (And Ohio officials are investigating whether fracking itself was enough to trigger temblors early this week.)

From the report:

shaky-ground-table
shakyground.org

Comments

Blacking out America would be a cinch, because there’s not enough distributed solar

power lines
Shutterstock

Crippling America's old-fashioned electrical grid for a long period of time would be disturbingly easy. Saboteurs need only wait for a heat wave, and then knock out a factory plus a small number of the 55,000 electric-transmission substations that are scattered throughout the country.

That's according to the findings of a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission analysis. "Destroy nine interconnection substations and a transformer manufacturer and the entire United States grid would be down for at least 18 months, probably longer," wrote FERC officials in a memo for a former chair of the agency.