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Philip Bump's Posts


We’ve already used a year’s worth of resources in 2012

The planet in question.

As of tomorrow, humanity is operating in the red for 2012.

See, today is the day that the Global Footprint Network estimates that we've exhausted a year's worth of global resources. If you think of how much energy and resources the planet can replenish in a year, we've used up that amount since Jan. 1. Everything from now until New Year's Eve, then, is us putting it on our credit cards. Or, more accurately, using next year's resources. Even more accurately, some year in the 2030s' resources.

Since 1970, we've been using more resources than can be replenished, meaning we keep going deeper and deeper into the hole. Each year, "Earth Overshoot Day" (which isn't really that great a name) comes sooner.

Read more: Climate & Energy


California meat company shut down for abusing cows

A perhaps slightly happier cow.

This story is deeply awful. Not unexpected, just awful. From the Los Angeles Times:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture temporarily closed Hanford-based Central Valley Meat Co. after reviewing video footage from the animal rights group Compassion Over Killing, which said it had captured images of torture and intentional cruelty to cows. …

Federal investigators went to California on Friday to review two videos, one running three hours and the other only three minutes. Compassion Over Killing said the footage -- which it said was taken by one of its contractors who held a job inside the plant in June and July -- captured images of cows being jabbed, hit, electrically shocked and sprayed with hot water.

Gawker has a copy of the video, which I couldn't bear to watch. I also recommend steering clear of the comments there.

Read more: Food


Scoop: A preview of Romney’s energy plan

Last night, Mitt Romney announced that he plans to release his energy plan tomorrow. He wouldn't tell the crowd at his fundraiser what was in it, because "we have members of the media here right now."

Tough luck, Mitt. We happen to have sussed out exactly what your energy plan contains. How'd we get this massive scoop? None of your business. Let's just say that we have our sources.

Mitt RomneyMitt Romney at Holland State Park, June 19, 2012, in Holland, Michigan.

First and foremost, Romney will call for drilling everywhere. Literally everywhere. He will propose a bill that mandates an exploratory well be drilled within every square mile area of America. Actually two: one for oil and one for natural gas. Actually, three: oil, gas, and coal. And maybe one for kryptonite. The bill is expected to sail through the House.

Romney will also propose a bill that provides a financial incentive for businesses to conduct research and development into additional ways in which to use oil. Can oil replace a fax machine? Maybe. Can you use oil as wiring in an office? Only one way to find out. This bill will be named "The 2013 Anti-Terror Job Creation Act," and will be introduced on the floor by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.). It will simultaneously be introduced in Times Square by Upton's niece, Kate. (She is actually his niece.) It is expected to be passed by the House on party lines and to receive public support broken down on gender lines.


As New York nears fracking decision, both sides take to the airwaves

Earlier this week, CBS reported that New York state will roll out new guidelines to allow fracking sometime after Labor Day. It's a vague story, to be sure, but it meshes with reports from late June about fracking companies getting an early peek at the restrictions.

Existing fracking regulations. Click to embiggen.

There's another reason to believe a rule is imminent: both pro- and anti-fracking groups have taken to the airwaves along the state's southern border with Pennsylvania. That's the region most likely to be cleared for new drilling, sitting on the northern rim of the natural gas-permeated Marcellus shale.

The Times reports on the advertising battle:

Two coalitions of landowners and businesses that support hydrofracking began a new advertising campaign last week, arguing that fracking would be an important source of new jobs and economic activity. Those groups are running an advertisement in newspapers in the Southern Tier, as well as 30- and 60-second radio ads in Albany and the Southern Tier, that focus on President Obama’s support for expanding natural gas production; the ads are scheduled to continue for several weeks.

The radio advertisements include Mr. Obama saying, at an appearance in Cincinnati last month, that “there are a lot of folks right now that are engaging in hydraulic fracking who are doing it safely.”

“We agree with you, Mr. President,” a voice says. “Governor Cuomo, please listen to the experts: issue clear, statewide guidelines for safe natural gas development now.”

Read more: Climate & Energy


Possibly on the GOP convention guest list: Hurricane Isaac

Just northeast of Venezuela on this map, you'll see a smear of red. That's Tropical Storm 9. In a day or two, it will be Hurricane Isaac.

On Sunday, the Tampa Tribune ran a column from the head of the University of Georgia's Atmospheric Sciences Program considering how climate change will affect the heavily populated coastal city. On hurricanes in particular, he wrote:

The Tampa area has been spared a direct hit by a major hurricane in recent years, but it is not a question of "if" a hurricane will hit but "when." While the literature is still emerging on climate change and hurricanes, a recent study by NOAA scientists suggests that as the climate system warms, major hurricanes -- Hurricane Katrina or greater -- may be less frequent but more intense. Ocean temperatures are rising as well, and warm water is the fuel for these storms. Stronger storms coupled with elevated sea level clearly means a greater inland storm-surge hazard.


New fuel-efficiency standards coming any day now — and not a day too soon

A car, going green. (Photo by dalee.)

Last week, the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced a delay in the release of the government's new fuel-efficiency standards. The rule was supposed to come out last Wednesday; now its release date is to be determined.

The Financial Times explains what is expected of the new standards:

If, as expected, the new rules reflect draft standards published last year, they foresee a near-doubling of US-made cars’ average fuel efficiency by 2025 from 27.5 miles per US gallon at present to 54.5mpg, under test conditions.

Mr Obama set out the plan in July last year, following an agreement with 13 leading carmakers to support the new standards, which he described as “the single most important step we’ve ever taken as a nation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil”.

The official assessment of the environmental impact of the new regulations, published by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last month, shows that the changes could cut the country’s road fuel demand by up to 1.19tn gallons over 2017-60, a reduction of 18 per cent from the level if the rules were not imposed.

When the new standards were announced, auto manufacturers came out in support of the efficiency increase.

Read more: Uncategorized


If you’re building a power plant and it isn’t natural gas, you’re not trendy

Photo by Gregory Perry.

You've heard us say it before: America produces as much electricity from natural gas as from coal. It's a sea change that has happened incredibly quickly.

Today, the Energy Information Administration outlined exactly how the switch happened.

Most of the new generators built over the past 15 years are powered by natural gas or wind. In 2012, the addition of natural gas and renewable generators comes at a time when natural gas and renewable generation are contributing increasing amounts to total generation across much of the United States.

Or, in graph form:

Click to embiggen.

The Times' Andy Revkin points to this slightly older graph, which makes the trend even more obvious.

In the first chart, keep your eye on the blue relative to the other colors. In the second, look at the yellow. At the end of last year, most new generation capacity added was natural gas. Over the past decade, natural-gas generation has been dominant.


One way to stop coal mining: Cut off the water

WV coal protest: mineA coal mine in West Virginia.

Midwest Energy News has a great story about an Indiana coal company that's trying to start mining in central Illinois. The company, Sunrise Coal, quietly worked for three years to convince local farmers to sign over the mineral rights to their land, creating a 19,500-acre swath over a virgin coal seam, which the company is calling the Bulldog Mine. The coal was ignored for decades because of its high sulfur content, but recent generations of emissions scrubbers have made such coal usable -- and lucrative.

But there's a big problem: water.

Sunrise says they’ll need between 340,000 and 540,000 gallons of water a day for the first few years of operation, and opponents say that number could climb to 750,000 gallons a day once the mine gets going. These totals dwarf the amount used by entire villages in the region. The nearby village of Oakwood, Illinois, population 1,594, for example, uses 130,000 gallons a day, village president Bob Jennings said.

When asked where the mine’s water will come from, [Sunrise spokeswoman Suzanne] Jaworowski said initially, “a collection pond.” When a reporter pointed out that rainwater was unlikely to supply the hundreds of thousands of gallons needed, she said that the company is looking to the village of Homer, Illinois, which borders the mine, for additional water.


Court strikes down major EPA air pollution rule

Sunset at the Fisk coal plant in Chicago. (Photo by vxla.)

This morning, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., struck down the EPA's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) [PDF], an effort to curb particular types of air pollution that originate from a polluter in one state but affect the air of another. The lawsuit was filed by a coalition of power producers, with additional lawsuits filed by a number of other fossil-fuel advocates. Slated to go into effect in January, CSAPR was put on hold until the court's decision.

EPA has estimated that implementation of CSAPR would have dramatic health benefits for downwind residents: 13,000 premature deaths avoided, as well as 420,000 upper and lower respiratory problems. So it's no surprise that environmental organizations have been quick to condemn the decision. The Natural Resources Defense Council labelled the decision "a loss for all of us, but especially for those living downwind from major polluters." The Sierra Club's statement is similar.

States impacted by CSAPR. Click to embiggen. (Image courtesy of EPA.)

As summarized by the court, here's what CSAPR does:

[U]pwind States must prevent sources within their borders from emitting federally determined “amounts” of pollution that travel across State lines and “contribute significantly” to a downwind State’s “nonattainment” of federal air quality standards. That requirement is sometimes called the “good neighbor” provision.

Under CSAPR, if a state like Wisconsin is found to be a source of air pollution (specifically nitrous oxides and sulfur dioxide) in another state, Wisconsin is required to enforce stricter limits on its polluters -- even if that pollution isn't present in Wisconsin itself.

Read more: Climate & Energy


2012: Fewest tornadoes, least ice, most acres burned

For you. (Photo by Shorts And Longs.)

We're living in extraordinary times, everyone. We, as a world, keep setting new records -- kicking climate ass and taking names and then coughing a lot and feeling dizzy. Just today, we have three new records or near-records to put up on humankind's trophy shelf, alongside the one that reads "Fight Against Climate Change: Participant."

U.S. record: Most acres burned by wildfire

As noted by Mother Jones, the United States can boast that 2012 is the burniest year to date in American history. From Jan. 1 until yesterday, some 42,000 wildfires scorched 6.8 million acres across the country. Here's how that stacks up compared to the last decade.

Data from the National Interagency Fire Center. Click to embiggen.

6.8 million is a lot of acres. It’s as if Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island all burned to the ground in their entirety.

Read more: Climate & Energy