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Philip Bump's Posts


What those extreme temperatures look like on the ground

Lisa Hymas has a good overview of the 1,924 new high-temperature records set across the United States last week. The only numbers in that post that aren't three digits are the ones indicating the timescale of the upcoming problem: within 60 years, it will be ubiquitous.

Here's what these hotter temperatures and shifts in weather systems look like to the people experiencing them:

A tree down in Washington, D.C. (Photo by woodleywonderworks.)

Temperatures in Hill City, Kan., hit all-time highs at the end of June. From a report by The New York Times:

For five days last week, a brutal heat wave here crested at 115 degrees. Crops wilted. Streets emptied. Farmers fainted in the fields. Air-conditioners gave up. Children even temporarily abandoned the municipal swimming pool. Hill City was, for a spell, in the ranks of the hottest spots in the country.

“Hell, it’s the hottest place on earth,” [said] Allen Trexler, an 81-year-old farmer who introduced himself as Old Man Trexler. He spoke while standing in the shade of a tree on Saturday morning, the temperature already sneaking toward 100.

The heat wave extended east. On Sunday, Atlanta tied its all-time high temperature of 106 degrees -- a record set the day prior.

In parts of Georgia and Tennessee, the air quality was so bad over the weekend that officials scrapped their Code Red warnings and dubbed the steamy haze a Code Purple, signaling very unhealthy air.

In North Carolina, the heat had a different impact.

Heat records are being shattered all over the country and it was so blazing in North Carolina that a highway buckled and had to close. …

Authorities say it got so hot the pavement buckled on Interstate 440, closing the southbound lanes near the Interstate 40 west exit.

Read more: Climate & Energy


Exxon boss cries over natural gas glut, tells us we’re climate crybabies

Rex Tillerson: Chill out, world!

[If anyone out there knows how to code, I'd love to put a little widget down below where it says HA_WIDGET. All it needs to do is print the word "HA" over and over again until the end of time. Like, literally, forever. Thanks.]

Yesterday, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson complained that, "We are all losing our shirts today. We're making no money. It's all in the red."


Tillerson's complaint of course wasn't about oil. In oil, his company is so far in the black that black holes are getting sucked into its gravitational field.

Last year, ExxonMobil earned profits totaling $41 billion. In other words, the company made $78,000 every single minute of the year. January 1, 12:01 am: $78,000. January 1, 12:02 am: $78,000. ExxonMobil made more in a minute than the average American household makes in a year -- with $26,000 to spare. ExxonMobil could have paid a household's bills every minute and thrown in a new car just for kicks.

Tillerson's complaint was about natural gas. Drilling is happening so broadly that supply is rising quickly. A slower economy and warm winter in the Northeast suppressed demand, making profit margins low.

Yeah, that warmer winter. Rex knows about that. He knows about global warming and yada yada. And he has a message for us: Chill out.

Read more: Climate & Energy


America: Awash in sunlight and oil

America is like this pelican, except likely to survive.

The Wall Street Journal isn't the most environmentally friendly news outlet. (For example.) (And, also: It frequently chops down thousands of trees, turns them into pulp, crushes soybeans into ink, and combines all of this into a product that is dumped directly into landfills. Can you imagine?)

You should not, therefore, be surprised to read its triumphant proclamation of the imminent end of foreign oil.

America will halve its reliance on Middle East oil by the end of this decade and could end it completely by 2035 due to declining demand and the rapid growth of new petroleum sources in the Western Hemisphere, energy analysts now anticipate.

Hooray! First paragraph! Oh, also:

By 2035, oil shipments from the Middle East to North America "could almost be nonexistent," the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries recently predicted, partly because more efficient car engines and a growing supply of renewable fuel will help curb demand.

Bottom of the third paragraph. If they could have whispered it, they probably would have.

A reduced reliance on importing oil is indeed good. But primarily if it's because we're reducing oil use. That's not a runner-up.

Read more: Oil, Solar Power


We’ll be right back, after these quick falsehoods

This show looks boring.

From ThinkProgress:

According to a new analysis from the Annenberg Public Policy Center, 85 percent of spending on presidential ads by the top spending conservative 501(c)(4) organizations went toward spots labeled “deceptive” by fact checkers. Third-party 501(c)(4) groups, commonly referred to as political action committees, do not have to disclose their donors.

As of June 1st, no Democratic 501(c)(4) organizations had spent any money on the presidential race.

And who are these miscreants of misinformation? The American Energy Alliance, the Koch-linked Americans for Prosperity, and Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, for starters. And the ads themselves have a common theme: energy. As ThinkProgress notes, "Bloomberg analysis found that 81 percent attack ads against President Obama were related to energy in the first quarter of this year."

Read more: Media


What we stand to lose (or gain!) in a compromise transportation bill

Photo by James Thompson.

Congress normally revisits funding for transportation projects every several years, reevaluating spending, priority projects, and the like. That's what they normally do. The current transportation legislation was passed in 2005 and repeatedly extended until revisiting the entire bill became impossible to avoid. In other words, until now. The most recent extension ends Saturday.

In March, the Senate passed a transportation reauthorization bill called Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, clearing the normally contentious chamber by a nearly 3-to-1 vote. MAP-21 [PDF], as it's lovingly called, is by most accounts a strong compromise, a two-year bill that includes a variety of new and revised programs that address maintenance, new road creation, transit, and beautification. Is it what many of us would want to see if we were given the government's pocketbook? No. But it could be worse.

It could, for example, be the House's version. The House has yet to pass full reauthorization legislation, instead signing off on short-term extensions. Recognizing the urgency and need of infrastructure investments, the House has decided to play its normal game: load the bill up with unrelated crap and negotiate to get the bill as far to the right as possible. Included in the House's proposals are an effort to halt EPA regulations on coal ash (here's EarthJustice on the issue) and to force authorization of the full Keystone pipeline. The former is at least sort of transportation-related; coal ash is a common component of concrete. The latter is the political equivalent of crossing your arms and holding your breath until you turn blue.

There have been ongoing rumors over the course of the week that a compromise between the two chambers would be reached. If anything other than a short-term extension is going to happen, a bill needs to be finalized and submitted by midnight tonight. Within the past few hours, in fact, there have been reports of a deal being reached. As of writing, that hasn't been confirmed.


Here’s just how filthy that beach water is

Appearances can be deceiving.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has released its annual "Testing the Waters" report, an overview of the nation's beaches.

You'll want to read this before taking a dip.

Over the 22 years the NRDC has created the report, 2011 saw the third-highest levels of beach closings and advisory days. What does that mean? What, exactly, would you be swimming in?

Most beach closings are issued because beachwater monitoring detects unsafe levels of bacteria. These unsafe levels indicate the presence of pathogens -- microscopic organisms from human and animal waste that pose a threat to human health. The key reported contributors of these contaminants are (1) stormwater runoff, (2) sewage overflows and inadequately treated sewage, (3) agricultural runoff, and (4) other sources, such as beachgoers themselves, wildlife, septic systems, and boating waste.

Oh, neat. Here's how that pollution has varied as a cause of beach closures over the years:

Read more: Green Living Tips


Why Congress must investigate the wasteful Solyndra investigation

Please sit down. Seriously. I will not be responsible for you passing out from surprise and injuring yourself. Today of all days, we must be careful about incurring healthcare costs.

Here's the news from Politico:

More than a year after House Republicans began investigating the $535 million Solyndra loan guarantee, the lawmaker leading the probe says it could soon come to a close. “We’re getting closer to getting closure on this,” Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s oversight panel, told POLITICO late yesterday.

"What?" you will exclaim. "Am I to believe that perhaps there was no evidence of wrongdoing to be found?" Yes, dear reader. That is what you are being asked to believe. We understand your hesitance.

Read more: Politics, Solar Power


Hope you enjoyed those two years without drilling on Alaska’s North Slope

A joke from me, created at Arctic Ready.

In 2010, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar visited Alaska's North Slope, a region that has long been eyed by Shell as an area for development. As he prepared to leave the state, he spoke to reporters.

We know that it would be very difficult to mount the kind of oil spill response that has been mounted in the Gulf of Mexico. And so because those questions are very much part of what we have been dealing with, it also seemed necessary for us to say, until we have answers to some of those central questions, we're not going to allow the drilling of the exploration wells.

Apparently he got all the answers he needed. As Businessweek reports:

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says the federal government will announce its five-year offshore lease plan later this week and it will include targeted areas off Alaska's northern coast.

Salazar says the Arctic lease sales will be in areas with high petroleum potential, but low conflict with environmental resources.


Why we can’t have better flood insurance yet: Abortions

Yes, yes, but what about abortion?

A long time ago, back in the halcyon days of Summer 2012, a time when "Call Me Maybe" was tearing up the charts and people were watching baseball, I guess -- one Monday in late June of that year we posted an article.

It was this article, looking at revisions to the nation's flood insurance policy. The idea was so sensible, so cost-effective, that we assumed even in the Wacky World of Washington™ they stood a good shot of passage.

After all (we wrote, smiling) the legislation simply allowed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to update flood maps and insurance rates to consider the impacts of higher sea levels. Opposing such rational action made no sense at all, we noted, then joking that irrationality "has never once in America’s 223-year history of Congress been an obstruction to politicians introducing legislation." Just a joke, Congress! We knew you'd come through!

We were so innocent back when we wrote that, yesterday.


The Senate’s flood insurance program looked like it was headed toward smooth passage -- but now, there appears to be an abortion-related wrinkle.

Yes, abortion.

Read more: Politics


Good news about fossil fuels! Related: Bad news about fossil fuels!

How you will feel at the end and beginning of this post, respectively. (Photo by loresjoberg.)

Presenting: New data about fossil fuel consumption from the Worldwatch Institute, in decreasing order of how good the news is.

  • Oil consumption in the European Union dropped by 2.8 percent in 2011!
  • Oil consumption in the United States dropped by 1.8 percent in 2011!
  • Oil consumption increased by .7 percent globally last year -- less than the 3.3 percent increase in 2010.
  • But a lot more than the 1.3 percent decline in 2009.