Skip to content Skip to site navigation
Gristmill: Fresh, whole-brain news.


Comments

Conservative newspaper declares love for Obama’s fracker-friendly ways

A Washington Examiner front page in 2010, after Obama called on blacks, Hispanics, women and young people to vote.
Twitter user Maimonides, via The Washington Post
A Washington Examiner front page in 2010, after Obama called on blacks, Hispanics, women, and young people to vote.

Uber-conservative Beltway newspaper The Washington Examiner has revealed its secret crush on Barack Obama and his administration's fracker-friendly ways.

It's not often that the newspaper says anything nice about the president. The Examiner is owned by Philip Anschutz, an oil-drilling magnate, and the newspaper sometimes seems to exist only to beam its owner's conservative views into the brains of D.C. insiders.

In March, for example, the paper's editorial writers likened the president to "a desperate gambler who doubles down on a losing bet" after he called for more green energy spending. In January, the editorial writers charged that "Obamacare threatens states' fiscal autonomy." And, famously, back in 2009, Examiner political correspondent Byron York argued that Obama's "sky-high ratings among African-Americans make some of his positions appear a bit more popular overall than they actually are" -- as if the opinions of blacks shouldn't count.

But when it comes to the Obama administration's complicity in the nationwide fracking spree, the Examiner has nothing but love. Here are some excerpts from "Two cheers for Obama on fracking," the newspaper's May 5 editorial:

Comments

Youngstown, Ohio, voters on fracking: “Yes, please”

fracking-ohio-hplead
Jason Shenk

On Tuesday, voters in Youngstown, Ohio, gave the fracking industry carte blanche to continue pumping chemicals into the ground beneath them and pumping natural gas out.

A city charter amendment that would have outlawed hydraulic fracturing in the city was rejected by voters, with the unofficial final vote tally showing 3,821 votes against and 2,880 in favor. The ballot measure would also have banned new pipelines in the city and prevented oil-field waste from being transported through the city.

A fracking boom is underway in Ohio, especially in its east, where Youngstown is located. But the boom has not brought with it many jobs for Ohioans, despite promises otherwise, as most of the work is being done by specialists who've come in from other states. It has, however, brought with it water pollution problems.

Opposition to the ballot measure was spearheaded by a business-backed group calling itself Mahoning Valley Coalition for Job Growth and Investment. That group was formed especially to defeat the ballot measure, and it easily outspent the measure's backers. In campaigning, the business group had described the ballot measure as unconstitutional, far-reaching, and unenforceable, and claimed it would send the wrong kind of message to the business community.

Comments

Where did all the tornadoes go?

Remember these guys?
Shutterstock
Remember these guys?

The drought that parched much of the nation during the past year didn't just stunt crops -- it also stunted the annual yield of tornadoes. And an unseasonably chilly spring is so far helping to keep the hellish twisters at bay -- although weather forecasters warn that trend may be short-lived.

During the past 12 months, the U.S. was hit by an estimated 197 tornadoes rated EF1 or stronger on the Enhanced Fujita scale, which ranks tornadoes according to their destructive potential from a low "0" up to a devastating "5." That was the lowest number of such tornadoes during any 12-month period since record-keeping began in 1954 -- well below the previous low of 247 recorded between July 1990 and June 1991.

That's in huge contrast to the onslaught of tornadoes that tore deadly paths of destruction through the nation in 2011, which was a record-busting year of tornadoes galore.

Read more: Climate & Energy

Comments

Coal companies have gotten good at wrangling their way out of federal fines

Robert Murray
Reuters / Danny Moloshok
Coal boss Robert Murray, probably contemplating how to minimize his company's latest safety fine.

Back in high school, I had a great strategy for dealing with parking tickets I couldn’t afford to pay: I went down to city hall and challenged them -- sometimes with a legitimate excuse, sometimes not (“The two-hour sign was obscured by a flowering cherry tree!”). I had figured out that bureaucrats cared less about the reliability of my sob story than they did about getting on with their day, so often they’d just roll their eyes, reduce the fine, and shoo me out the door.

Turns out the same tactic works for coal companies facing fines for safety infractions. A Cleveland Plain Dealer investigation found that when federal regulators fine mine operators for violating safety standards, those companies “are fighting significant fines as a matter of course and getting them reduced, if not dropped,” which means “clogging up the appeals process and wearing down a system that lacks resources to match the challenge.” You know, just like a privileged teenager exploiting an overburdened traffic court -- except with hundreds of thousands of dollars, not to mention miners’ lives, at stake.

The Plain Dealer reports:

Comments

Entomologists: “Stop feeding corn syrup to honeybees.” Duh.

It's time to share more honey with the honeybees that made it.
Shutterstock
It's time to share more honey with the honeybees that make it.

If you want to a kill a honeybee hive's buzz, take all its honey away and feed the bees a steady diet of high-fructose corn syrup.

Believe it or not, apiarists have been doing just that since the 1970s -- feeding HFCS to their colonies as a replacement source of nourishment for the honey that gets taken away from them to be sold.

And believe it or not, HFCS, which is bad for humans, is also bad for honeybees. It's especially bad for those that are exposed to pesticides, which these days is a high proportion of them.

It's not that HFCS contributes to honeybee diabetes, nor does it result in honeybee obesity. But it weakens their defenses. And right now, the bees need all the defenses they can get in order to survive.

When honeybees collect nectar from flowers, they also gather pollen and a substance called propolis, which they use to make waxy honeycombs. The pollen and propolis are loaded with three types of compounds that University of Illinois entomologists discovered can help the bees detoxify their cells and protect themselves from pesticides and microbes.

Read more: Food

Comments

California Gov. Jerry Brown blames climate change for early wildfires

Jerry Brown addressing journalists on Monday.
CAL FIRE
Jerry Brown tells journalists what's what on Monday.

California's governor was quick to blame climate change for the early-season wildfires that are already wreaking havoc in his state.

Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has been an advocate for climate action and a fiery critic of climate deniers. On Monday, he visited the state fire department's aviation management unit as firefighters battled the remains of what a couple days earlier had been a raging blaze in the Santa Monica Mountains. While he was there, he shared some choice words with reporters about the causes and consequences of a fire season that's shaping up to be a big one. From the Los Angeles Times:

Comments

Should America export its fracked gas? Why greens say no.

Cove Point, built as a natural gas import terminal, destined to be a natural gas export terminal.
Dominion
Cove Point, built as a natural gas import terminal, destined to be a natural gas export terminal.

Frackers already contaminate America's groundwatermake people sickproduce radioactive waste, and contribute to earthquakes. Processing and moving the natural gas that they produce leads to nasty spills and deadly explosions. And cheap natural gas makes it harder for renewable energy to compete.

But, hey, at least almost all of that cheap fuel is being used by Americans in America, right?

That may not continue to be the case. The Obama administration is poised to rule on a slew of applications to export natural gas to other countries through hulking industrial terminals dotted along U.S. coasts. Over the weekend, Obama appeared to reveal his hand on the issue, forecasting that the U.S. would likely become a net gas exporter by 2020, reports The Financial Times.

According to the newspaper, administration officials fear that a restriction on natural gas exports, as is being sought by American environmentalists and manufacturers, would send a bad signal about the country's support for free trade.

Comments

One nuke plant in Wisconsin will shutter, another in California might not be switched back on

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station
Shutterstock / Julius Fekete
San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Americans worried by the threat of a nuclear meltdown could soon have two fewer reasons to fret.

A nuclear power plant in Wisconsin will be powered down on Tuesday and the owner of a trouble-plagued plant in California is considering shutting it down for good.

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Kewaunee [Power Station] owner Dominion Resources Inc. has announced it will shut the plant on May 7, a move that is expected to result in the loss of hundreds of jobs.

The reactor is closing because the Wisconsin utilities that had purchased its electricity declined to continue buying it, citing the low price of natural gas. Dominion put the power plant up for sale in 2011, but no buyer emerged.

Comments

Beware: Rough wildfire season ahead

Smoke from the Springs Fire blows over a dry Californian landscape.
wanderingnome
Smoke from the Springs Fire blows over a dry Californian landscape.

An inferno that led to the evacuation of thousands of Southern Californians last week was a harbinger of a nasty fire season ahead for America's West and Southwest.

A change in the weather on Sunday helped firefighters start to bring the Springs Fire in the Santa Monica Mountains under control, three days after it sparked to life amid hot and dry conditions.

Much of California is particularly dry and unseasonably brown this year. Storms stayed away from the state over the winter and mountains are covered with just a thin layer of snow.

Read more: Climate & Energy

Comments

Canadian tar-sands exec: ‘We do need Keystone’

Tar sands developments such as this one, in Northern Alberta, could be expanded if Keystone XL is approved.
Shutterstock / Christopher Kolaczan
Tar-sands developments such as this one, in northern Alberta, could be expanded if Keystone XL is approved.

The U.S. State Department has curiously asserted that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline wouldn't significantly affect the development of tar-sands fields in Alberta, Canada. But that assertion is being contradicted by a big player in the Canadian tar-sands industry.

Steve Laut, president of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., told the Toronto Globe and Mail that "we do need Keystone" to be built if the industry is to increase its oil extraction in Alberta. Here's the quote in the context of the article: