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Philip Bump's Posts


Last month was the [FIRST] hottest [SEPTEMBER] in recorded history

Last month, SEPTEMBER, was the TIED FOR FIRST hottest SEPTEMBER in world history. Combining land and sea temperatures, the month was 0.67 degrees C above the 20th century average.

A map illustrating the above point. Click to embiggen.

The most-recent January-to-SEPTEMBER period was the EIGHTH warmest on record.

Things that happened during the month in question. Click to embiggen.
Read more: Climate & Energy


Koch Industries offers its employees a handy voter guide

In other fossil-fuel-company-is-desperate-to-keep-the-good-times-going-despite-the-international-shift-away-from-fossil-fuels-(which-is-occurring-however-slowly)-and-therefore-is-insistent-on-its-employees-voting-a-hard-right-ticket-in-the-hopes-that-it-might-somehow-postpone-the-inevitable-degradation-of-the-planet-long-enough-to-wring-a-few-more-bucks-out-of-its-industry news, Koch Industries sent out a letter suggesting cool people for its employees to vote for.

From In These Times:

In a voter information packet obtained by In These Times, the Koch Industries corporate leadership informed tens of thousands of employees at its subsidiary, Georgia Pacific, that their livelihood could depend on the 2012 election and that the company supports Mitt Romney for president. The guide was similar to one the company distributed before the 2010 midterm elections, which Mark Ames and [Mike Elk] reported on in The Nation last year.

The packet arrived in the mailboxes of all 45,000 Georgia Pacific employees earlier this month. The cover letter, by Koch Industries President and Chief Operating Officer Dave Robertson, read: …

"If we elect candidates who want to spend hundreds of billions in borrowed money on costly new subsidies for a few favored cronies, put unprecedented regulatory burdens on businesses, prevent or delay important new construction projects, and excessively hinder free trade, then many of our more than 50,000 U.S. employees and contractors may suffer the consequences, including higher gasoline prices, runaway inflation, and other ills."

Enclosed with the letter was a flyer [PDF] listing Koch-endorsed candidates, beginning with Romney. Robertson’s letter explained: “At the request of many employees, we have also provided a list of candidates in your state that have been supported by Koch companies or by KOCHPAC, our employee political action committee.”


Murray Energy coal miners make another appearance in an anti-Obama ad

Coal miners who work for Murray Energy have one request for President Obama: stop lying.

Obama has been running an ad claiming that their employer, Murray Energy, forced them to attend a Mitt Romney rally without pay. If this issue sounds familiar, it's because we've mentioned it before.

On Friday, the miners held a press conference asking the president to pull the ad. Here's the press conference:

It quickly became a 30-second attack ad, by a group called "Checks And Balances For Economic Growth."

Checks And Balances For Economic Growth is registered at the Washington, D.C., address of the law firm Webster, Chamberlain & Bean -- an address shared by a number of conservative organizations, including, at one time, Tom DeLay's former political action committee. Thanks to the murky world of PAC contributions, it's not clear if Checks And Balances For Economic Growth is linked to Murray Energy PAC, the PAC run by mine owner Robert Murray to which, it seems, employees are forcefully encouraged to contribute.

There's little doubt that the miners in the video are concerned about their jobs. There's good reason to be. And it seems likely that the miners at the press conference appeared there willingly, though, as mentioned above, the company is apparently not averse to encouraging political action by its employees.


Global food prices to spike, reserves to plummet in 2013

Not so fast, kid.

If you're eating something right now, you're going to want to stop. Not because this post is gross. Because you might want to save that to eat when the world runs out of food in a few months.

From The Guardian:

Food and Agriculture Organization
Both production and stocks of cereals are down.

Failing harvests in the US, Ukraine and other countries this year have eroded reserves to their lowest level since 1974. The US, which has experienced record heatwaves and droughts in 2012, now holds in reserve a historically low 6.5% of the maize that it expects to consume in the next year, says the UN. ...

With food consumption exceeding the amount grown for six of the past 11 years, countries have run down reserves from an average of 107 days of consumption 10 years ago to under 74 days recently.

Prices of main food crops such as wheat and maize are now close to those that sparked riots in 25 countries in 2008. [The UN Food and Agriculture Organization] figures released this week suggest that 870 million people are malnourished and the food crisis is growing in the Middle East and Africa. Wheat production this year is expected to be 5.2% below 2011, with yields of most other crops, except rice, also falling, says the UN.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food


Nigerians take their case against Shell Oil to a Dutch court

Four Nigerians have taken on an unlikely and outsized opponent, Shell Oil -- and on Shell's home turf.

The men live in villages in the Niger Delta, a sprawling region in the south of the country where the Niger River fans out to meet the Atlantic. The area is home to much of the oil-rich country's petroleum infrastructure -- refineries, etc. -- serving as the commodity's gateway to the rest of the world. The oil business in this region is often dangerous, and toxic and polluting.

The plaintiffs pose outside of the courthouse in The Hague.

The villagers, working with Friends of the Earth, say that leaks from a Shell pipeline ruined farmland, ponds, and the water supply. From the Associated Press:

"If you are drinking water you are drinking crude, if you are eating fish, you are eating crude, if you are breathing, you are breathing crude," one of the farmers, Eric Dooh, told reporters outside court.

"What I expect today is justice," he added. "I expect that judges are going to proceed in this matter, have sympathy and look into our environment -- tell Shell to apply the international standards where they are operating in Nigeria."


Pumpkin crop defies drought, prepares for evisceration

All summer, as the drought worsened and prices of staples like corn and soybeans spiked, there was a certain subset of America, already thinking about their costumes, with one worry: Are we going to run out of pumpkins?

Now that decorative gourd season is upon us, we have some good news. There's no shortage of pumpkins. In fact, we've got something like a bumper crop.

Unfamiliar with pumpkins? They look like this. Also, welcome to Earth!

From the Associated Press:

The drought forced thousands of ranchers to sell off cattle because pastures were too dry to graze, and corn and soybean farmers watched their plants wither in the summer sun. But John Ackerman said most of the pumpkins he planted fared “fantastic” for a simple, single reason: Pumpkins dig dry weather. ...

Pathology may help explain why pumpkins coped better than most crops at beating the heat. A relative of squashes, cucumbers, watermelons and cantaloupe, pumpkins tend to thrive in warm, temperate climates that stave off fungus, mold and other rind-rotting diseases that spread in wet conditions, said Dan Egel, a plant pathologist with Purdue University’s extension.

Also, pumpkins grown from seeds -- the most common way -- have tremendous root systems that reach deep into the ground, enabling them to reach moisture that corn and other crops without taproots cannot find.

See? You learned something about pumpkins.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food


Massive offshore wind project could generate 70,000 new jobs

Picture this, but with water underneath.

In May of 2011, our David Roberts deemed the Atlantic Wind Connection "a Big Deal." His capitalization. The project, funded in part by Google's energy-focused subsidiary, would install a massive transmission backbone along the Eastern seaboard connected to a series of offshore wind farms.

And according to a new estimate commissioned by project backers, it could create more than 70,000 new jobs. From the Associated Press:

The study released Wednesday said those jobs would be created by a new industrial base needed to manufacture, build, operate and maintain the towering wind turbines, and an additional 40,000 jobs would be needed to serve the supply chain. The job growth would be realized over a 10-year build out of the offshore industry. ...

Backed by the Internet titan Google and other investors, the Atlantic Wind Connection is moving forward with the construction of a 380-mile power line that would enable up to 7,000 megawatts of electricity to be produced at offshore wind farms from Virginia to New Jersey.

The study’s economic projections are based on the development of 7,000 megawatts of wind power, or enough to power more than 2 million homes in the Mid-Atlantic region.


New York Times journalists detained while covering TransCanada protests

An earlier protest against the pipeline.

Enjoying the bad press stemming from the arrest of landowners who are "trespassing" on their own land, TransCanada figured it would go ahead and have some journalists arrested, too.

From FuelFix:

Two New York Times journalists were detained briefly by law enforcement officers while reporting on demonstrations against the Keystone XL pipeline in northeast Texas, the newspaper said Thursday.

The journalists, reporter Dan Frosch and a photographer, were on private property with the permission of the landowner to report on protesters there on Wednesday, Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said. She said she did not know the identity of the photojournalist.

Like the "landowner" gets to have any say over who can be on his land. Come on. What do you think this is, America?


The food industry’s self-regulation is a spectacular failure

"Hm. Which of these has the least listeria?"

If you are a person who eats food, you'll want to read Bloomberg's look at the system of self-regulation by food producers. Actually, no. You won't want to read it, unless you like stories of convulsive bloody deaths and details about the amount of human feces on your food.

In short:

During the past two decades, the food industry has taken over much of the FDA’s role in ensuring that what Americans eat is safe. The agency can’t come close to vetting its jurisdiction of $1.2 trillion in annual food sales.

In 2011, the FDA inspected 6 percent of domestic food producers and just 0.4 percent of importers. The FDA has had no rules for how often food producers must be inspected.

The food industry hires for-profit inspection companies -- known as third-party auditors -- who aren’t required by law to meet any federal standards and have no government supervision. Some of these monitors choose to follow guidelines from trade groups that include ConAgra Foods Inc., Kraft Foods Inc. and Wal-Mart.

The private inspectors that companies select often check only those areas their clients ask them to review. That means they can miss deadly pathogens lurking in places they never examined.

And they do.


Obama OKs first new oil refinery in 30 years three weeks before Election Day

oil refinery
One of America's many gorgeous oil-processing facilities.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar made an announcement yesterday. (If you aren't hooked by that intro, I don't know what it would take.) For the first time in over three decades, the United States is poised to permit construction of a new oil refinery. From the Interior Department's announcement:

As part of the Obama Administration’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to expand domestic energy production, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced approval of a ‘land-into-trust’ application from the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation. Today’s action is one in a series of necessary approvals that will enable the tribes to build the first U.S. refinery in decades, supporting American made energy -- including domestic resources from the Bakken Formation -- while also creating jobs. …

If all required approvals are granted, the proposed MHA Nation Clean Fuels Refinery would be the first new refinery built in the United States in more than 30 years. ... As proposed, the 13,000 barrel-per-day facility would refine Bakken Formation crude oil into diesel fuel, propane and naptha products for the U.S. market. Since the President took office, domestic oil and gas production has increased each year, with domestic oil production currently at an eight year high, and natural gas production at its highest level ever.

Emphasis added, to make a point. And I omitted the second paragraph, which quotes Salazar mentioning the president, "all-of-the-above," and jobs. Again.

The shorter version of Salazar's statement: Go vote for my boss! After all, in three and a half weeks, voters head to the polls, and the president wants to secure every possible vote. The new refinery is in North Dakota -- a state that will vote for Romney by about 114 percent -- but the Obama campaign certainly hopes there might be one or two voters in Ohio or Florida who will hear about this and be knocked off the fence into his arms. It's politics.