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Philip Bump's Posts


FDA bans BPA from sippy cups after sippy cups no longer contain BPA

Drink up, kid.

Good news for opponents of bisphenol-A, the chemical that's been linked to "mammary and prostate cancer, genital defects in males, early onset of puberty in females, obesity," and more. Linked in rodents, the Food and Drug Administration is quick to note, declaring that it’s cool for people to ingest.

Unless you're a baby! From CBS News:

The controversial chemical BPA, or bisphenol-A, can no longer be used in manufacturing baby bottles or sippy cups, the Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday.

"Consumers can be confident that these products do not contain BPA," FDA spokesman Allen Curtis said in a statement, adding that the agency's action was based on the bottle industry's phase out of the chemical. "The agency continues to support the safety of BPA for use in products that hold food."

Wow! Bold step! What prompted the FDA to buck an industry that's already given $4.7 million in Congressional campaign contributions in 2012?

The U.S. chemical industry's chief association, the American Chemistry Council, had asked the Food and Drug Administration to phase out rules allowing BPA in such products in October, after determining that all manufacturers of bottles and sippy cups had already abandoned the chemical due to safety concerns.

Oh. Thanks, I guess?

Read more: Politics


Coal: Unpopular

Also, unpopular!

All of a sudden, everyone hates coal. (This may be a slight exaggeration.)

Shares of coal mining companies tumbled Monday as inventories continued to build with weaker demand in the slowing global economy. ...

The coal industry has been battered this year as utilities switch to cheap natural gas from coal to generate electricity. Natural gas prices are low because of huge supplies resulting from widespread drilling in the nation's shale deposits and soft demand for gas in the mild winter across much of the nation.

The International Monetary Fund lowered its outlook on Monday for global growth over the next two years. It also warned that Europe's financial crisis and a potential budget crisis in the U.S. could slow world economic growth even more. That was not good news for coal producers who hope to offset falling U.S. demand with more shipments overseas.

Read more: Coal


On the 110th birthday of air conditioning: Stay cool

Here's what America looks like today, via The New York Times' Jim Roberts:

Yeah, it's July, but this is ridiculous. Ri. Dic. U. Lous. The coolest places east of the Rockies are Tampa and Houston? Madness. Yesterday, we only broke eight all-time record highs. Today we're likely to do a little better.

Which is appropriate! Today, we celebrate an important anniversary: the 110th birthday of the air conditioner.

A junior engineer from a furnace company figured out a solution so simple that it had eluded everyone from Leonardo da Vinci to the naval engineers ordered to cool the White House when President James A. Garfield was dying: controlling humidity. “If you could keep humidity at a balanced rate,” said Marsha E. Ackermann, the author of “Cool Comfort: America’s Romance With Air-Conditioning” (Smithsonian Books, 2002), “it would not seem so sweltering and things would not be dripping all over.”

It was a world-changing innovation. “Air-conditioning, in the broad sense, had a profound effect on the way people lived and worked,” said Bernard A. Nagengast, an engineering consultant who specializes in the history of air-conditioning and heating. “It allowed industry to operate in ways it couldn’t operate before, in places it couldn’t operate before.”


Mitt Romney may have a few million reasons to oppose wind power

Some day, Massachusetts' Cape Wind project could generate 454 megawatts of power for the state, using 130 turbines located off the shore of Nantucket. It could tap into an innovative, undersea backbone -- supported by a partnership including Google -- running along the East Coast.

Some day. The project has been plagued by opposition and government intervention; most recently, a D.C. appeals court ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to revisit its assessment of the risk to aircraft. And if Mitt Romney -- who's become increasingly hostile to wind projects -- becomes president, he just might heed the wishes of one of his richest backers and let the project die.

Computer-generated view of Cape Wind from Nantucket. Click to embiggen.

Some of the strongest opposition to Cape Wind has come from grassroots community groups like Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound. The Alliance opposes the project because of how it might impact the views of those who live along the shore. (The image above demonstrates that impact. If you enlarge it, you'll notice some white specks along the horizon.)

One of the reasons the Alliance has gotten so much attention is that one of its sponsors has a last name that acts as a media magnet: Koch. William Koch, brother to the more-famous Charles and David, has invested heavily in stopping Cape Wind. In part, it's because he's a local resident. And, in part, it's because he is rich because of the fossil fuel industry.

Read more: Wind Power


Wham, bam, goodbye dam: Fish get down after river opens up

Last fall, engineers in Washington breached a dam on the Elwha River in hopes that populations of trout and steelhead would return to the waterway.

A few weeks ago, they did. From the Los Angeles Times:

Biologists John McMillan of NOAA's Northwest Fisheries Science Center and Raymond Moses, a Nez Perce working for the local Lower Elwha Klallam tribe, were checking one day in June on the steelhead they had tagged and planted in a pristine tributary above the old dam. In that tributary, known as Little River, they saw several of the fish they had transported with hopes the fish would spawn. And then they saw something else.

It was a male steelhead, about 5 pounds bigger than any of the 60 fish they had tagged and planted. It bore nothing to suggest it was anything but a wild fish that had, of its own accord, discovered new territory.

"Ray and I instantly realized he had no floy tag, no radio tag, and we knew from its size it was obviously something that had made its way on its own past the dam," McMillan said this week.

A section of the Elwha Dam comes down.

Read more: Food


The right gets mad about the carbon tax, as everyone knew they would

Today in American politics: All of the Republicans who are paid to be Republicans are super mad that some other Republicans who are also paid to be Republicans are being bad at being paid Republicans!

Last week, we noted the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, hosted a discussion about implementing a carbon tax. Here's how we ended that post: "In about 15 seconds, the right-wing blogosphere is going to go apoplectic."

Apparently the 15 seconds are up.

This is a photo taken the moment we predicted the future. (Image courtesy of Valerie Everett.)

ThinkProgress has a few select quotes from angry pundits. Here, the National Review: "Disturbing reports are reaching us of a hitherto-secret meeting at the American Enterprise Institute Wednesday afternoon looking at the feasibility of persuading Congressional Republicans to back a 'revenue neutral' carbon tax." Disturbing! Hitherto!


Like a bad gambler, TransCanada promises it will have Nebraska’s money next time

Keystone Light! Get it? Also, we'd rather drink the oil. (Photo by Quinn.Anya.)

When TransCanada was pitching Nebraska on the stretch of the Keystone pipeline that was completed in 2010, it estimated that the state would rake in $5.5 million in taxes in the first year. (This is the already-operational Keystone 1 pipeline, not to be confused with the controversial proposed Keystone XL pipeline.)

On that estimate: not quite!

State and county records indicate that TransCanada this year will pay $2.2 million in personal property and real estate taxes to eight rural counties in eastern Nebraska crossed by the 30-inch, crude-oil pipeline.

To be fair, TransCanada says the tax bill will go up for 2013 -- perhaps four times as much, according to Shawn Howard, a TransCanada spokesman who had just rolled a die that came up "four."

Read more: Oil


Oil industry dumping crap in North Dakota. Um, literally.

These are bricks of a dried compost product called "Black Gold." (Photo by Arnold Inuyaki.)

The fossil fuels boom in North Dakota has meant jobs and one of the country's better economies. It's also meant a strain on the state's resources and infrastructure, as we noted last month. One we left off our list: sewage.

Two firms were cited on Friday for dumping more than 100 loads of raw sewage in "fields and ditches" between late 2011 and early this year. The waste originated at drilling locations and worker camps in the Bakken oil patch.

In all, the loads added up to more than 500,000 gallons -- enough to fill three-quarters of an Olympic-sized pool. (London 2012!)

Read more: Oil


Drug traffickers take advantage of energy-company roads in Texas

New roads built to facilitate drilling in southern Texas are also facilitating the movement of something else.

Energy companies boring into the depths of South Texas in the multibillion-dollar hunt for natural gas and oil are opening a growing fissure in U.S.-Mexico border security as they build hundreds of miles of private back roads and an uncharted pipeline to America for drug traffickers.

Hefty roads running through once-remote ranchlands now enable loaded-down tractor-trailers and pickups to avoid Border Patrol highway checkpoints that have long been the last line of defense for stopping all traffic headed farther into the United States.

This is not oil. (Photo by West Midlands Police.)
Read more: Oil


Talking the talk on the environment doesn’t equal walking the walk

People who advocate green behavior aren't more likely to engage in it, at least in Hungary, according to recent research from Corvinus University in Budapest [PDF].

A survey was carried out in order to measure the difference between the ecological footprint of “green” and “brown” consumers. No significant difference was found between the ecological footprints of the two groups -- suggesting that individual proenvironmental attitudes and behaviour do not always reduce the environmental impacts of consumption.

The researcher, Maria Csutora, asked a pool of respondents which of eight behaviors they'd practiced in the preceding month for environmental reasons. Those who'd performed four or more were "green," none at all, "brown." Everyone else was labelled "average." That ranking was then compared to the respondent's "ecological footprint" (as computed by compounding various measurement tools) and tracked by income level (since higher income-earners tend to have bigger ecological footprints).

The result?

Read more: Climate & Energy