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Philip Bump's Posts


Does early snow disprove global warming?

Manhattan, 2010.

During the run-up to Wednesday's debate, I remember seeing kids in the background of live shots wearing shorts and thinking, "Huh. Looks pretty nice in Denver." Friday morning, it snowed there. It snowed this week in Minnesota and North Dakota, too, in some places, more than a foot deep. The New York Times notes that such a snowfall is rare.

Well, then so much for global warming, right? Nope.

For one thing, it's not snowing all that early for these places. For another, as we constantly note, isolated weather extremes are different from the long-term trend. And, third, some scientists are expecting a bad winter -- thanks in part to global warming.

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy


Finally! Chipotle signs deal to pay tomato pickers more

A red vegetable.

After a long, grueling fight and many protests, good news to report: The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) signed an agreement with Chipotle that affirms better working conditions for the people who pick the chain's tomatoes. From the Denver Post:

Denver-based Chipotle Mexican Grill reached agreement Thursday with a farmworker-based human rights organization to join the group's Fair Food Program. ...

For six years, the CIW had invited Chipotle to join the Fair Food Program. Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold said [on Tuesday] that the company, despite not joining, was in compliance because for three years it has purchased from growers who have signed on to the program.

The pact comes in advance of the winter tomato-growing season, when most of the nation's tomatoes come from growers in Florida.

We've covered the Fair Food Program fight before, most recently at the end of last month. We described what the agreement entails:

Food companies that join the program enter binding contracts with the CIW. They agree to pay a penny more per pound directly to the workers, which doesn’t sound like much but significantly raises their take-home pay. The program also requires shade tents and ice water in the fields, health and safety monitors, sessions to educate workers about their rights, and a confidential enforcement program run by the Fair Food Standards Council in nearby Sarasota. A grower who doesn’t stick to the agreement risks losing his ability to sell to the 10 big fast food and grocery retailers who have signed on.

At that point, the workers insisted that they were in the fight for the long haul. "We’ll continue these demonstrations until Chipotle signs," one organizer said at the time -- and they did.


Green group buys up Wyoming oil leases to stop drilling

When Tim DeChristopher won a 2008 Bureau of Land Management auction for oil and gas leases, there was one catch: He didn't have the money to pay for what he won. For that little bit of civil disobedience, DeChristopher was sentenced to two years in jail.

The Trust for Public Land, in contrast, intends to pay the money. From the Associated Press:

The Trust for Public Land plans to buy out 58,000 acres of oil and gas leases owned by Houston-based Plains Exploration and Production Co. for $8.75 million, the San Francisco-based group tells The Associated Press.

The announcement opens a fundraising effort by the trust. Almost half the money needs to be raised if the deal is to be closed at the end of the year as the agreement requires. …

The deal would end PXP's plan to drill 136 gas wells near the Hoback River headwaters inside Bridger-Teton National Forest, [near Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming]. Opponents said the project would pollute the air, harm wildlife and taint pristine streams in a rolling landscape of meadows and forest.


More jobs lost as wind tax credit nears expiration. Congress, you listening?

Tennessee Valley Infrastructure Group Inc.

The slowdown in the wind industry due to the imminent expiration of a key tax credit is spreading beyond manufacturers of turbines. From Reuters:

Kaydon Corp, a maker of specialty ball bearings for wind turbines, said it would shut a South Carolina plant and record a charge of $47 million to $52 million due to the impending expiration of a renewable energy tax credit and weak markets.

The renewable energy production tax credit, which expires at the end of this year, provides a tax credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced. …

"(While) wind energy will be a viable market in the long term, it will be challenged by continued regulatory uncertainty in the United States, including the impending expiration of the Production Tax Credit and a weak global economy," Chief Executive James O'Leary said in a statement.


Texas grandmother arrested for trespassing on her own land to protest Keystone

Daryl Hannah got arrested yesterday while blocking TransCanada's construction of its Gulf Coast tar-sands pipeline. But the more interesting story is that Eleanor Fairchild was arrested, too.

Tar Sands Blockade
Eleanor Fairchild, a 78-year-old grandmother and landowner.

Who's Eleanor Fairchild? No one you've heard of. The important part isn't who she is, it's why she was arrested and where she was when it happened. Fairchild was arrested for trespassing. And when it happened, she was standing on her own property.

From CBS News:

Hannah and landowner Eleanor Fairchild were standing in front of heavy equipment in an attempt to halt construction of the Keystone XL pipeline on Fairchild's farm in Winnsboro, a town about 100 miles east of Dallas. They were arrested for criminal trespassing and taken to the Wood County Jail, Bassis said. Hannah also faces a charge of resisting arrest, according to jail records.

Let's repeat that: Eleanor Fairchild, 78, was arrested for standing on her own property.

Read more: Climate & Energy


With fuel prices spiking in southern California, gas stations close up shop

Here's what gas prices in Los Angeles have done over the past month.

That's an 11 percent spike in the past week. The problem is a massive drop in California's gasoline supply, particularly in the southern part of the state. Gas stations are literally running out of fuel. And without fuel, they're closing up shop. From Bloomberg:

A typical Los Angeles driveway this week.

Gasoline station owners in the Los Angeles area including Costco Wholesale Corp. are beginning to shut pumps as the state’s oil refiners started rationing supplies and spot prices surged to a record.Valero Energy Corp. stopped selling gasoline on the spot, or wholesale, market in Southern California and is allocating deliveries to customers. Exxon Mobil Corp. is also rationing fuel to U.S. West Coast terminal customers. Costco’s outlet in Simi Valley, 40 miles (64 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles, ran out of regular gasoline yesterday and was selling premium fuel at the price of regular. …

Costco is working on a plan to alert its members as gasoline runs out at the company’s stores “so customers don’t have to guess where to go,” Cole said. The company will sell whatever premium gasoline it has stored for regular gasoline prices wherever supplies run out, he said.

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy


Indian electricity and Nigerian oil: Lucrative targets for thieves

Nayu Kim

There’s a huge, often unseen infrastructure that lies between a source of energy and where it's used -- a pipeline or a set of wires or a trucking route. In some countries, that's a big problem: It gives thieves a lot of opportunity to strike.

In India, they're going after electricity.

In India, about a quarter of all power generated is either stolen or lost in transmission, five times the figure for China. Still more is given away to farmers, while the rest is sold to consumers for a loss, pushing state electricity companies toward bankruptcy and resulting in the rolling blackouts that afflict almost the entire nation every day and undermine its economic prospects. …

India’s state electricity companies have run up losses of $46 billion, or 2 percent of national income, largely financed by lending from public sector banks, straining the country’s financial system. As a result, the companies have little money to invest in equipment or pay salaries, or even to pay for the electricity they are receiving from newly built private-sector power plants.

This summer, massive blackouts on consecutive days left 670 million people without power. The primary cause was generation issues, but stolen energy doesn't help the overall situation.


Romney’s attack on green investment was massively, massively wrong

Daniel Borman
The kind of green Romney would never lie about.

It is a little-known fact that Mitt Romney made his fortune by selling false statements on the black market. He's got a guy he knows in the Caymans who will buy fibs for $5,000 and straight lies for $10,000. As he's giving interviews or speaking at rallies, a staff member records what he says, wringing out the stray pieces of wheat and packing up the chaff for shipment to the Caribbean.

What I'm saying is that Mitt Romney has a casual association with factual accuracy.

Last night, he made a lot of money from his Caymans contact, pulling in the highest dollar amount for this little bit right here:

You put $90 billion into -- into green jobs. And -- and I -- look, I'm all in favor of green energy. Ninety billion [dollars] -- that -- that would have -- that would have hired 2 million teachers. Ninety billion dollars. And these businesses -- many of them have gone out of business. I think about half of them, of the ones have been invested in, they've gone out of business. A number of them happened to be owned by -- by people who were contributors to your campaigns.

For this little number, Romney earned about $90 billion. Because it is wrong. Very, very wrong. Others have made this point -- ThinkProgress and Wonkblog -- but it's worth spelling out how far from the truth Romney was.


Comically evil coal boss forces white-collar workers to give up cash for Romney too

Robert Murray
Reuters / Danny Moloshok
Robert Murray reflects on a lifetime of deceit ha ha no he's probably just waiting for the valet.

Robert Murray is head of Ohio coal company Murray Energy. We bring him up in these pages every now and again in part because he is the archetype of a fossil-fuel boss: surly, furious, exploitative. Also in part because he's forcefully crammed himself into the news this election cycle. Murray, you may remember, is the guy who made his employees attend a Mitt Romney rally, losing a day's pay in the process.

There is a bright side to Robert Murray, though: His efforts to pick employees' pockets to benefit Romney are collar-color independent. From a great profile of Murray at The New Republic:

In May, [Murray] hosted a $1.7 million fund-raiser for Romney. Employees have given the nominee more than $120,000. …

The accounts of two sources who have worked in managerial positions at the firm, and a review of letters and memos to Murray employees, suggest that coercion may also explain Murray staffers’ financial support for Romney. Murray, it turns out, has for years pressured salaried employees to give to the Murray Energy political action committee (PAC) and to Republican candidates chosen by the company. Internal documents show that company officials track who is and is not giving. The sources say that those who do not give are at risk of being demoted or missing out on bonuses, claims Murray denies.


Prepare for wackiness: Shell is drilling the Arctic again

Shell's director of Alaskan Drilling and Stuff.

If Alaskans near the Beaufort Sea hear the tinny sounds of "Yakety Sax" for the next few days, there's good reason: Shell is trying to drill. Here's our recap of how it's gone so far.

From the Anchorage Daily News:

The company resumed drilling in the Chukchi Sea on Sept. 23 after a two-week suspension due to encroaching sea ice, [Curtis Smith, spokesman for Shell Alaska,] said.

But Shell still won't be able to drill deep enough to reach oil this year. An oil spill containment dome, an essential piece of safety gear, was damaged during testing last month in a Bellingham shipyard. …

Shell is investigating what went wrong in the testing of the containment dome, designed to be lowered over an out-of-control well to funnel oil, natural gas and contaminated water back to the barge, the Arctic Challenger.

It doesn't plan to release its findings to the public, Smith said.

Ha ha big shock. I guess a statement saying "it got clogged with cheeseburger grease, somehow?" wouldn't really reassure people.

Read more: Climate & Energy