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Philip Bump's Posts


Pennsylvania gives Shell a sweet, crude deal

Shell Oil wants to build an ethane processing plant in Western Pennsylvania. But: Can a massive fossil fuels conglomerate possibly turn a profit on something as risky as a natural gas derivative?

Under the deal, taxpayers would foot the bill for hazardous materials clean up at the western Pennsylvania site, a cost that could easily soar into the tens of millions, according to a report by CapitolWire news service.

[Pennsylvania Gov. Tom] Corbett officials told legislative staff that on top of the $1.65 billion in tax credits over 25 years starting in 2017, and other sweeteners that come with a tax-free Keystone Opportunity Zone, the state would be picking up the bill to clean up the waste from a zinc smelter site.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Oil


Teaser: Ridin’ bikes with U.N. suits

This afternoon, the United Nations had an event to promote urban bicycling in advance of Rio+20. Full story is coming on Monday, but, for now, please relive the excitement -- nay! the grandeur! -- of a six-block bike ride with our planet's much-maligned sorta-bureaucracy.

Read more: Biking, Cities, Urbanism


Austin dims its lights, everyone + science wins

This is a map of light pollution in the area around Austin, Texas.

Those purple markers (which are clickable at the map's website) indicate how much or how little night sky is visible. For the ones near the city core, the emphasis is on "little." In 2007, the city passed regulations aimed at reducing the amount of light that brightens the night sky, but old fixtures -- and the city's highways -- were grandfathered in until 2015.

Via rutloPhoto by rutlo on Flickr.

Yesterday, they took more direct action. The city council approved spending up to $15 million to replace or upgrade half of Austin's streetlights. The decision will result in the removal of existing plastic domes from under the lamps, which tend to diffuse the light broadly (and inefficiently). More importantly, it will also buy 35,000 LED lights, which use half the power of the existing bulbs and which last up to 15 years.


Protests temporarily delay opening Alabama forests to drilling

If you enjoyed the reasoned debate over opening Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to fossil fuel extraction, you'll likely be happy to learn that a similar debate may be coming to your own neighborhood.

For years Forest Service land in the East was considered irrelevant when it came to oil and gas leasing. But in the last year and a half, the federal government has leased or scheduled for auction more than 384,000 acres at the request of private bidders, more than 10 times as much land as it had leased in the previous two years.

The agency responsible for such auctions, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), had intended to auction another 90,000 acres in four southern states next week, but protests in Alabama prompted that state's auctions to be postponed.


Conspiracy of the day: American nonprofits oppose Canadian tar sands

Photo by tarsandsaction.

Here's a multiple choice question for you. Please circle the correct answer on your screen with a permanent marker, using a Sharpie™-brand pen in blue or black, for our system to read it properly.

The question: Why would American organizations contribute money to Canadian environmental nonprofits that are fighting, among other things, against the expansion of Alberta's oil sands and pipelines?

Read more: Fossil Fuels, Oil, Politics


North Dakota’s fossil fuel boom: Messy

Via Lindsey GeePhoto by Lindsey Gee.

The fossil fuels boom has brought jobs to North Dakota. And several other things!

Like much higher rents.

[School superintendent Kelly] Koppinger said every new teacher he's tried to recruit asks about housing. Most can't afford it. There's a new apartment building across from the high school, but it's too expensive.

"Right now for a two-bedroom, one-bath you're looking at $1,800-a-month rent," he said. "A teacher's take home pay is right around that $2,000 mark and for them to spend $1,800 a month on just rent, we couldn't recruit or retain some of the staff we did have, so we needed to get it to where housing was somewhat affordable."

To remedy that, the school district is building several apartment units and will charge $500 a month for rent.

And crime.

Within the last few months, a Watford City pharmacy was robbed of $16,000 in narcotics, four people were stabbed at a local strip club in Williston, a semi truck crashed into an RV full of people sleeping and the first prostitution ring in decades was busted.

Last year, the number of criminal incidents reported to the Williston Police Department nearly tripled to 16,495. But that's only a fraction of the lawlessness the police have seen this year.

And, this, just released today:

According to data obtained by ProPublica, oil companies in North Dakota reported more than 1,000 accidental releases of oil, drilling wastewater or other fluids in 2011, about as many as in the previous two years combined. Many more illicit releases went unreported, state regulators acknowledge, when companies dumped truckloads of toxic fluid along the road or drained waste pits illegally.


Halliburton gets tripped up by Indian bean farmers*

Economics 101: supply and demand. The more supply in the market, the price of a product drops. The more demand, prices rise. Demand leads to sales, which reduces supply and forces prices higher and higher until either 1) supply runs out or 2) prices drop demand.

This isn't a theoretical or arcane concept. Here's how that process played out just this week.


Coming this August: You, made of garbage

At least, if you're a man living in America.

[T]he average American man, weighing 175 pounds, produces his weight in trash every three months.

This quote comes from The Atlantic's Derek Thompson, who wrote a simple and solid overview of a report released this week by the World Bank. The report, "What a Waste: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management," is a thorough assessment of the world's current and future garbage production.

Garbage is one of those things that's part of our invisible infrastructure for the most part. We put our garbage outside, it goes away. This is not the case everywhere else in the world.


Hot town, May in the cities

via 7 JulyPhoto by 7 July.

Well, anyway, here's a huge chart from NOAA of all of the cities that saw record-setting heat in May. It is way too big to include here.

If you're more of a rural enthusiast, here's what the temperature variations looked like across the country.

Your standard "weather does not equal climate" disclaimer applies, as does your "yes, yes, but give me a break" response.

Read more: Cities, Climate Change


What’s really funny: Taking the oil industry’s word on its job creation

Oil industry apologists are giddy over a video of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) questioning a Department of Labor statistician about the various jobs that fall under the header of "green jobs." The crazy government includes crazy things under that heading! If you work for a facility that sells used clothing, that is a green job! If you drive a hybrid bus, green job! Garbage man! Green job!

The idea of categorizing green jobs is a new one, historically speaking. There were obviously green jobs a century ago, but people didn't look at them as being jobs that focused on sustainability or renewable energy production. The person who collected scrap metal and the person that built windmills just had regular old jobs. Green jobs only became a category tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in the past few years, meaning that it was applied retroactively to a number of jobs that clearly fit the definition. I mean, if the person that drives a low-emission mass transit vehicle doesn't have a green job, then who does?