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Philip Bump's Posts


This is what North Dakota’s oil boom looks like

North Dakota's Department of Mineral Resources today released the state's monthly oil production statistics [PDF]. This is what the boom looks like, stretching back to April 1951 when the first well was built.

Barrels of oil is indicated on the left axis; number of wells, the right. Click to embiggen.

Since 2000, production has really exploded. (So to speak.) Here's just the last 12 years.

Same scale as above. Click to embiggen.
Read more: Uncategorized


Voters wish politicians would fix the climate. Really.

This dog is not registered to vote.

Believe it or not, politicians can mention the fact that the health of the planet is being slowly eroded due to carbon pollution and they won't immediately be impeached.

Kind of a surprise, right? Especially if the only evidence you have at hand is how willing elected officials are to discuss climate change. From the available evidence, it seems that members of Congress would rather talk about their sympathy for Al Qaeda than suggest that maybe we should take common-sense steps toward not ruining the climate.

They don't need to be so skittish. According to the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, advocating for action on climate change is a net benefit for political candidates. Some toplines from a poll the group released today [PDF]:

  • A majority of all registered voters (55%) say they will consider candidates' views on global warming when deciding how to vote.
  • Among these climate change issue voters, large majorities believe global warming is happening and support action by the U.S. to reduce global warming, even if it has economic costs.
  • Independents lean toward “climate action” and look more like Democrats than Republicans on the issue.
  • A pro-climate action position wins votes among Democrats and Independents, and has little negative impact with Republican voters.

This is generally good news -- but it seems hard to believe that this will inspire any Republican candidates to pick up the mantle, or encourage any Democrats to invoke the wrath of climate deniers. One of the missing factors in this poll (based on my read-through; happy to be corrected) is an assessment of the virulence of the belief. Climate deniers are far more vocal than proponents for action. This has been part of the problem: There's a much higher political cost paid when opposing deniers than supporters, even though the latter are the majority.


Here is a map of America’s most obese states

Yesterday, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released its annual report articulating the states with the highest obesity rates in the nation. Winning the dubious distinction of first place: Mississippi.

The analysis used the state obesity rates released today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Mississippi had the highest rate of obesity at 34.9 percent, while Colorado had the lowest rate at 20.7 percent. Twenty-six of the 30 states with the highest obesity rates are in the Midwest and South.

Grim, to be sure.

Our contribution to this depressing bit of news? This interactive map.

Read more: Uncategorized


Romney: Obama hates coal. Obama: Romney hates wind.

The two presidential campaigns are now operating as weird reflections of each other. Each is criticizing the other for killing energy jobs; each is claiming to be an industry's salvation. It's basically the same strategy, but Romney says "coal" while Obama says "wind."

Photo by Hepburn Wind.

This afternoon, Mitt Romney heads to Ohio, where he'll attend a "coal event" in a small town near the West Virginia border. Romney's goal is to leverage the "war on coal" rhetoric that's dragging down the president's popularity in the region.

As notes, the optics of Romney's trip today may be tricky.

Romney will be at American Energy. A sister company within parent Murray Energy Corp. pleaded guilty last month for a pipeline rupture at a coal preparation plant near Beallsville that spilled thousands of gallons of slurry into pristine Captina Creek, turning the stream black for 22 miles. Ohio Valley Coal Co. pleaded guilty last month in federal district court to criminal violations of the federal Clean Water Act. The spill is costing the company millions.

Murray Energy is the largest privately held coal company in the nation, according to its website. An accident at its Century Mine in Beallsville on Aug. 8, 2011 killed a worker.

So why the visit? Why let Murray "[bus] in employees and their families for the rally in support of Romney"? Perhaps this CNN interview with Robert Murray, CEO of Murray Energy, explains.


Enbridge CEO tries to defend tar-sands pipeline, says ridiculous nonsense

If you're familiar with the name Enbridge, it's probably because of the company's stellar track record of spilling oil all over Michigan and then spilling a bit less oil all over Wisconsin. It's like a vaudeville skit, something out of Laurel and Hardy -- a clumsy buffoon slipping and sliding all over the stage, oil pouring from his pants pockets and from under his hat.

Standard revolutionary fare in opposition to a new Enbridge pipeline. (Photo by jennzebel.)

Enbridge is currently "managed" by a guy named Patrick Daniel, continuing the new trend of dudes only having first names. Patrick Daniel (whose name I just accidentally typed as "Denial" -- seriously -- and then thought about whether I should change it) went on the radio in Canada yesterday and said the following things, according to the Edmonton Journal. His goal was to get people to like this idea he has for a new pipeline to take tar-sands oil from Alberta to British Columbia. He was maybe not so successful.

He said:

Everything that we say sounds defensive and self-interested, and on the other side, everything they say ... is really taken as gospel -- and it isn’t.

Shorter version: "Just because we lie, people don't like us."

Setting aside the irony of claiming that science is "taken as gospel," the debate isn't between oil-lovers and oil-haters. It's between people who make money by polluting and people who would like to curtail that pollution. It's between an industry that seeks to obscure the truth and a movement that wants to clarify. By the way, dude -- you sound defensive.


California’s carbon-trading market will launch in November

A subtle reminder that the environment in California is generally nice.

The long run-up to California's cap-and-trade program will finally end this November, as the state launches its market for carbon allowances. Polluters will buy allowances for each ton of carbon dioxide they produce on an open market. Producing more will therefore cost a company more; producing less will yield a cost savings. The system is intended not only to impose a cost on the pollution, but also to bring down the total amount of pollution.

From Bloomberg:

The [California Air Resources Board] is on schedule to develop a platform for a Nov. 14 auction of allowances, each allowing for the release of one metric ton of carbon under a state program that caps emissions from plants beginning next year, Chairman Mary Nichols said during an interview at Bloomberg’s San Francisco office. ...

Allowances to be used as part of the state’s program are commanding higher prices than any other carbon permits traded on futures exchanges as regulators develop rules for a system that eventually will cover 85 percent of the greenhouse gases released in the state. It would become the first economy-wide program of its kind in the U.S.

Read more: Climate & Energy


At long last, the Exxon Valdez will be turned into scrap

The Exxon Valdez, at the still-young age of 26, will soon leave this world once and for all.

Rocks covered with oil from the Valdez. (Photo courtesy of ARLIS Reference.)

Yes, the ship that in 1989 drenched the beaches of Alaska in crude oil is still around, having fled the scene of its crime to drift through Europe under an assumed name, like so many disgraced scoundrels before it. With Oriental Nicety now written on its outermost layer of paint, the ship sits off the coast of India, having only recently learned its fate from an Indian court: death.

From Nature:

[I]n 2011, … she was sold for $16 million to an Indian demolition company, Priya Blue Industries. The same company had attracted bad press in 2006 for breaking down a ship called the Blue Lady, despite knowing that she contained asbestos. Activists claimed that the Oriental Nicety, too, was contaminated with asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyls, a persistent organic pollutant. The Indian Supreme Court forbade docking of the ship and imposed an environmental audit.

So the Oriental Nicety sat on death row for two months, costing her owner $10 million as the value of its steel declined and the company continued to pay its crew.

Last month, the court ruled in favour of Priya Blue: there was no toxic waste on the ship. The Oriental Nicety is welcome to beach at Alang, the world's largest ship-breaking yard, where she will be dismantled for scrap.

Read more: Uncategorized


Hot seawater forces shutdown of nuclear reactor in Connecticut

Connecticut has one nuclear power plant. On Saturday, one of its reactors was shut down because the water in Long Island Sound was too hot.

Unit 2 of Millstone Power Plant near New London was shut down Sunday afternoon after temperatures in the sound exceeded 75 degrees for 24 hours, the maximum temperature at which the nuclear power plant has permits to extract cooling water for the unit, said Ken Holt, spokesman for plant operator Dominion.

We've mentioned the correlation between warmer water and electricity production before. In a nuclear plant, water plays a critical role in keeping the reactor core cool. Obviously warm water is not as effective at displacing that heat. And if the reactor core isn't kept cool -- well, let's just say you want to keep it cool.

Temperatures in Long Island Sound (at left center). Click to embiggen. (Image courtesy of Weather Underground.)
Read more: Climate & Energy


John Boehner wants to know why Obama caused this drought

Here is an excerpt from a statement from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) earlier today.

[T]he president continues to blame anyone and everyone for the drought but himself.

Yes! John Boehner, laying it on the line. Why doesn't the president accept the blame for the massive affliction that is almost unprecedented in national history? I bet John Boehner would, if he were president.

Here are some thoughts.

Read more: Politics


Hotter weather could lead to parasite problems — at least for frogs

There are literally trillions of microbes in and around your body right now -- living in your stomach, crowded around your eyeballs, under your fingernails. But it's all a happy symbiotic relationship. You keep them alive; some of them keep you alive. None of them are trying to kill you.

Parasites, on the other hand, are happy to use your stomach itself as a food source and probably nest in your eyeballs. And with greater temperature shifts due to climate change, it's possible that you'll be more susceptible to parasitic invasion.

Parasites, which include tapeworms, the tiny organisms that cause malaria and funguses, may be more nimble at adapting to climatic shifts than the animals they live on since they are smaller and grow more quickly, scientists said.

It's possible. But you should be most worried if you're a frog.

If you look like this, be nervous. (Photo by Jonathan Choe.)
Read more: Climate & Energy