The latest target of the unconventional oil craze is California, specifically the Monterey Shale in southern California (see map). Will California become the next North Dakota? Let us ponder.
Oil in California is nothing new -- it's the third highest oil-producing state in the U.S. (after Texas and North Dakota, which recently displaced Alaska for the No. 2 spot). The Monterey area has been drilled for years, profitably, though production has been steadily declining since its peak in the mid '80s.
I wear jeans a lot, practically every day. When my jeans get a hole I patch them and wear them in the garden. But eventually they get too holey to wear even in the garden. What can I do with my old jeans rather than throw them out? Jeans don't make good cleaning or pee rags like my worn-out cotton T-shirts. Can I send them someplace to be used as insulation for houses? Any other ideas would be appreciated.
Judith M. Highlands Ranch, Colo.
A. Dearest Judith,
Jeans as pee rags seems like a new torture method. Let’s not go there.
Another thought: Since you’re into gardening, you could use your old jeans to make kneepads -- which would protect subsequent pairs of jeans. You can also compost fabric, though it can take awhile to break down. Needless to say, crafty ideas abound for reusing denim -- take a look at this list, for starters. Some of the items are in-jean-ious, and some will make you look like you stepped out of a Charlie’s Angels episode. I shall let you decide what suits you best.
If cities were stocks, you’d want to short Phoenix.
Of course, it’s an easy city to pick on. The nation’s 13th largest metropolitan area (nudging out Detroit) crams 4.3 million people into a low bowl in a hot desert, where horrific heat waves and windstorms visit it regularly. It snuggles next to the nation’s largest nuclear plant and, having exhausted local sources, it depends on an improbable infrastructure to suck water from the distant (and dwindling) Colorado River.
In Phoenix, you don’t ask: What could go wrong? You ask: What couldn’t?
And that’s the point, really. Phoenix’s multiple vulnerabilities, which are plenty daunting taken one by one, have the capacity to magnify one another, like compounding illnesses. In this regard, it’s a quintessentially modern city, a pyramid of complexities requiring large energy inputs to keep the whole apparatus humming. The urban disasters of our time -- New Orleans hit by Katrina, New York City swamped by Sandy -- may arise from single storms, but the damage they do is the result of a chain reaction of failures -- grids going down, levees failing, backup systems not backing up. As you might expect, academics have come up with a name for such breakdowns: infrastructure failure interdependencies. You wouldn’t want to use it in a poem, but it does catch an emerging theme of our time.
Phoenix’s pyramid of complexities looks shakier than most because it stands squarely in the crosshairs of climate change. The area, like much of the rest of the American Southwest, is already hot and dry; it’s getting ever hotter and drier, and is increasingly battered by powerful storms. Sandy and Katrina previewed how coastal cities can expect to fare as seas rise and storms strengthen. Phoenix pulls back the curtain on the future of inland empires. If you want a taste of the brutal new climate to come, the place to look is where that climate is already harsh, and growing more so -- the aptly named Valley of the Sun.
This weekend marked the 40th annual meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which brings together a broad array of attendees from across the right-leaning spectrum, from older white people to younger white people, hyper-conservatives to severe conservatives.
Needless to say, climate change was not a big topic of conversation. So Mike Stark of FossilAgenda.com brought his camera along and asked a few of the younger CPACers what they thought of it. Here's what they said:
Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) introduced two bills on Thursday that would repeal exemptions for oil and gas companies under the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. As a press release from the members noted, the bills were introduced:
… in order to ensure that the hydraulic fracking industry follows the same rules that other industries do in preserving our natural resources. This legislation is focused on ensuring the safety and the health of the communities where the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process is already taking place.
Polis’ bill, the “Bringing Reductions to Energy’s Airborne Toxic Health Effect (BREATHE) Act” (H.R. 1154), is based on the premise that oil and gas wells and their associated infrastructure can cause significant air pollution. The bill would require companies to cumulatively account for air pollution from all of their wells in one area by requiring aggregate permits, rather than individual permits for each well. The bill also adds hydrogen sulfide to the list of hazardous air pollutants regulated under the Clean Air Act.
Cartwright’s bill, the “Focused Reduction of Effluence and Stormwater Runoff Through Hydraulic Environmental Regulation (FRESHER) Act” (H.R. 1175), would require stormwater runoff permits for oil and gas construction and operations to protect surface water resources. This is essential because rain causes runoff from fracking sites that can contain sediment and other pollutants which end up in nearby waters. It would also mandate a study on the effects of oil and gas operations on surface water.
In additions to these exemptions from parts of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, the oil and gas industries enjoy loopholes in a handful of other laws including the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Superfund Act, the Community Right to Know Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.
Remember that one time? In Congress? When an anonymous group of House Republicans tried and failed to sneak a rider into the farm bill that would have exempted agribusiness from liability for biotech crops and all but eliminated the government’s power to regulate them? Good times.
Well, the implosion of the farm bill did nothing to stop Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont, et al’s quest to insulate themselves from lawsuits. Maybe it has something to do with the rise of superweeds and superbugs resistant to their products and the fact that commodity farmers are just maybe starting to take a hard look at the costs versus the benefits of the current and coming crop of genetically modified seeds. Or perhaps it’s simply a desire to complete their dominance of U.S. agriculture.
Whatever the reason, the so-called “Monsanto rider” is back, this time thanks to an anonymous senator, or group of senators, who have attached it to the must-pass “Continuing Resolution” that will keep the government operating as of March 27. Let me just say that when it comes to Congress -- which is chockablock with men and women desperate for media attention -- whenever you hear the word “anonymous” attached to anything, you know you there’s something sketchy going on.
Tom Philpott at Mother Jonesdid the yeoman's service of digging out the exact language from the bill. Right after the section where Congress defunds the mohair subsidy program (you do know we have a mohair subsidy program, don’t you?), the draft legislation states that in the event that a court declares a genetically modified seed illegal, the U.S. Department of Agriculture can override the judge and allow farmers to keep planting, harvesting, and distributing it. Funny enough, this exact scenario occurred with Monsanto’s GMO sugar beets a couple years ago when a federal judge found that the USDA had violated the law in approving them. The department defied the court order and told farmers to keep planting anyway.
A new, seven-acre urban “accelerator farm” taking root on Chicago’s south side will soon grow one of the Windy City’s most-needed crops: farmers.
Called South Chicago Farm, it will be the seeding ground for Farmers for Chicago, a recruiting program announced today by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Growing Power, the Milwaukee-based urban farming organization founded by MacArthur Award-winning urban ag luminary Will Allen. The three-year, tuition-based farm becomes part of the city’s new “incubator network” through which the city is making land available for farmer training. Emanuel, who unveils the network plan today, says getting farmers on the land is the next big step toward building a strong, local agriculture system.
The farm site, located across the street from a former steel plant, includes walking trails and an adjacent plot that will hold community gardens for 100 local families overseen by Growing Power.
Erika Allen, Chicago and national projects director for Growing Power (and Will Allen’s daughter), says that while the city is making huge advances in developing urban agriculture, there simply aren’t enough farmers to grow the food that Chicago needs. Detroit, Cleveland, New York, and other cities that are working to build local food systems are also feeling the farmer drought.
I’ve only been a vegan for 12 hours, and already I’m running into trouble.
There’s the honey, for one thing -- lurking in my breakfast cereal (ingredient No. 3) first thing in the morning. And then glycerin, an ingredient I’ve never before considered threatening, in my midmorning trail mix. (Simply Almonds, Cashews, and Mango, Trader Joe’s? Ha! Not quite.) Turns out the stuff may or may not be animal-derived, and there’s no easy way to check. Who knew? Surely my all-time-favorite, five-ingredient crackers would be a good substitute … Dammit, honey again.
“We have to go to the store again. I can’t eat any of my snacks after all,” I complained to my fiancé, Ted. “Honey is in everything.”
“Is honey seriously out?” he asked, incredulous. “It’s animal throw-up! The bees don’t even want it!”
But it’s a little early to start rationalizing. We’ve just begun our month-long vegan experiment, and I want to get started on the right foot. (I’m proud to report that I had oatmeal instead of cereal for breakfast, and plain old almonds subbed for that trail mix nicely.)
Why go vegan at all? Well, to be honest, I’m curious.
I've written about efforts by the citizens of Boulder, Colo., to escape from their investor-owned utility (Xcel) and create their own, publicly owned municipal utility. Apparently that story is part of a trend! The New York Timescovers it today. There's not much new in the piece for those who have been following this stuff, but it's a nice introduction.
Most Americans don't understand that "private" utilities are not really "private" in the sense that other businesses are private. They are investor-owned, yes. They make profits for executives and shareholders, yes. But they also enjoy government-granted monopolies, which is to say, they face no competition. Their profits are guaranteed. Those of you who have read your Adam Smith will recall that competition is the fundamental force behind the beneficent Invisible Hand of the Market.
What happens if you take a market and remove competition but leave private profits in place? You get what you have traditionally gotten from U.S. utilities: lazy, bloated, hyper-cautious, innovation-averse giants.
Now, I'm generalizing, obviously. Some utilities are better than others; some really do take efficiency seriously; some really do innovate. But overall, historically, the U.S. utility sector has been a shit sandwich.
On the eve of the implementation of one of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s most controversial laws -- limiting the allowable size of sugary drinks sold in the city -- Justice Milton A. Tingling, Jr., of the New York State Supreme Court, sided with the law’s challengers, including the National Restaurant Association, the American Beverage Association, and the Soft Drink and Brewery Workers Union, overturning the Portion Cap Rule, aka the Soda Ban. Chiding the mayor, the Board of Health, and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOH) for circumventing the proper legislative channels, the decision was nothing less than a direct smackdown of Bloomberg’s “go-it-alone” style of governance.
The now-invalidated law was, according to the mayor’s office, the board, and the DOH, designed to lower the consumption of “sugary drinks,” and in turn lower the rate of obesity. In general terms, the law banned the sale of sugary drinks sold in cups or containers larger than 16 ounces. But, as its detractors quickly pointed out, the law was far from a panacea for the city’s obesity problem.
First, what fell into the “sugary drink” category was itself a matter of debate, as the definition includes only non-alcoholic, sugar-sweetened drinks with more than 25 calories per eight ounces of fluid, and specifically excludes beverages with a 50 percent or more milk or milk substitute content. So despite the calorie count in 16 ounces of a McDonald’s McCafé Chocolate Shake (700), Starbucks’ Double Chocolaty Chip Frappuccino (410), or a standard margarita (500+), sale of these drinks could continue unimpeded. Second, there was a consistency problem. While restaurants, theaters, and food carts would have to get rid of their giant sizes, other businesses -- mainly grocery stores, convenience stores, bodegas, and 7-Elevens -- would not fall under the regulation’s jurisdiction. So while a New Yorker like myself would no longer be able to buy a 32-ounce Coke at a movie theater concession stand, I could still theoretically -- and this is entirely theoretical, as I would never engage in such nefarious behavior -- buy a mondo soda at the bodega next door, stick it in my purse, and sip on it through the latest Mark Wahlberg flick. Finally, as Tingling was sure to point out, the law also would not have stopped anyone from getting unlimited free refills or “unlimited sugars after purchase.” (Are people dumping extra sugar into their sodas? Is this a thing?)
While these arguments raise some valid points, the exemptions would hardly have rendered the law ineffective. Even though the court eventually found that “the loopholes in this Rule effectively defeat the stated purpose,” rendering the law “arbitrary and capricious,” a closer reading of Tingling’s opinion quickly reveals that his real problem wasn’t with the law’s substance, but with the process through which it was passed.
Widely seen as Bloomberg’s law -- not the board’s or the DOH’s, and certainly not the people’s -- the soda ban was considered by many as part of the mayor’s last push to, as The New York Times put it, “burnish his legacy as he enters the final months of his career in City Hall.” And the court expressed its animus toward Bloomberg’s personal hand in the law from the outset.