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Gristmill: Fresh, whole-brain news.


Fired coal mine employee shares letter from evil coal boss with the world

A post popped up on the link-sharing site Reddit earlier today: "Yesterday I was laid off because President Obama was re-elected. AMA!" "AMA" is short for "ask me anything," inviting the Reddit community to do exactly that. Accompanying the post is this image:

Click to embiggen.

The Reddit poster, who said he worked in a warehouse for a coal company, didn't identify the company, but we can tell you: It was Murray Energy, a coal company based in Ohio and run by our old friend Prayin' Robert Murray.


U.S. oil production headed for 20-year high

As predicted, oil production in the United States hit its highest level since 1994. Production is on pace to have its highest year since 1991.

From Bloomberg:

Output swelled by 8,000 barrels to 6.68 million barrels a day in the week ended Nov. 2, the Energy Department reported today. It was the most since Dec. 23, 1994. Improvements in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have unlocked fuel trapped in deep underground rock formations in states such as North Dakota, Texas and Oklahoma.

Oil production since the 1920s, in case you were wondering. Click to embiggen.


2012 has been the hottest year ever in the United States

For the first time in 17 months, the United States was cooler than average in October. Is global warming therefore a hoax? Yes, of course. Obviously.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration yesterday released its monthly overview of the country's weather. The slightly cooler average temperature for October -- 0.3 degrees F below the long-term average -- was offset by the month's closing out the warmest year-to-date on record. So far in 2012, the average temperature has been 58.4 degrees F -- 3.4 degrees above average, and 1.1 degrees above the previous warmest year ever. Is global warming therefore a hoax? Yes, of course. Obviously.
Click to embiggen.

Meanwhile, the drought (remember the drought?) continues.

The October 30, 2012 U.S. Drought Monitor showed 60.2 percent of the contiguous U.S. was experiencing moderate-to-exceptional drought, less than the 64.6 percent at the beginning of October. Drought conditions improved across parts of the Midwest and Northeast, while drought conditions worsened across parts of the Northern Rockies.

Jeff Reid
It feels like forever since we've used a drought photo. I missed them.
Read more: Climate & Energy, Food


‘Magic’: How New York dried out and fired up its subway system

An empty, dry tunnel under the East River.

On a normal day, New York's subway system is magical. That the largest city in the United States, one of the densest and tallest places on Earth, should have running beneath it an intricate, extensive series of tubes linked at various places to the surface is an achievement we rarely reflect upon. Right now, as they have been for months, crews are digging a new tunnel along Second Avenue, a brand new subway line, under homes and stores and businesses like it's just the regular way things are done.

Public transit is never simple, but when it's done elegantly and well, it seems like simplicity incarnate. Go down, get on the train, get off where you wanted to be.

Sandy shook that. For a week, the subways were soaked and silent. For the first two days after the storm, New Yorkers were immobile. But only for two days. What happened next, as the head of one riders' advocacy group told the Times, "borders on the edge of magic."


Tree-sits: Transcendent protest glory or just bottles of pee?

In light of the enduring tree-sit blockade in East Texas that's holding off the Keystone XL pipeline construction there, this op-ed from Waging Nonviolence.

A tree-sit was organized to challenge strip mining in 2011 and in 2012. This year the tactic was used to resist fracking and to protest a new biolab in Florida. Other “climbers” have included members of the Ruckus Society, students at the University of California Santa Cruz and the University of California Berkeley. But the most enduring example was Julia Butterfly Hill’s two-year tree-sit in the late 1990s.

It's almost the 15-year anniversary of Hill's Northern California campaign against redwood clear-cutting, and the tree-sit tactic has never been so popular. It's practically become de rigueur for the environmental movement.

Read more: Uncategorized


Climate change and overfishing hurt our cutest, tiniest fish

Our tiny fish are in trouble. Sardines may be considered "sustainable," but we're not managing them well.

A new study from researchers in the U.S. and Venezuela on sardine collapse in the Caribbean has found "climate change, plankton decline, and overfishing" are to blame for an extreme decline that "may have dire socioeconomic consequences" for countries in the region. From SciDev:

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food


As gas prices drop elsewhere, New York begins rationing

As predicted (sort of), gas prices have dropped after Hurricane Sandy.

From Time:

[A]round the country, and even in states affected by Sandy, [a] trend has arisen, with gas prices dropping dramatically pretty much everywhere. According to Reuters, gas prices nationally decreased nearly 21¢ over the two-week span ending November 2. That’s the steepest dip measured since 2008, when demand for gasoline plummeted amid the onset of the Great Recession.

Except … not really. Here's a graph of gas prices over the past three months. The blue line is the national average price. The red line is the price in New York City. The green line is the price in Philadelphia, a city only lightly affected by the storm.

Click to embiggen.
Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy


What a Cabinet shake-up could mean for energy and the climate

Now that the occupant of the Oval Office is settled, speculation turns to the room down the hall. When Obama is sworn in next January, it will be to work with a potentially much different Cabinet. One area in which there might be some turnover: Cabinet members who work on energy. Specifically, the secretary of the interior, secretary of energy, and administrator of the EPA -- each of whom has at some point discussed leaving the administration.


Finding itself suddenly in a relatively quiet political moment, Politico has written not one but two stories on possible Cabinet changes. This one details each of the the three posts above. This one walks through every Cabinet position, suggesting possible replacements as needed. We've pulled the two together.

This is certainly the position about which green groups are most concerned. The current administrator, Lisa Jackson, has been a fierce advocate for toughening pollution standards -- regularly, in opposition to the White House.

Jackson has testified before Congress so many times that Republicans have joked she should get her own parking space.

Over the past four years, she has won admiration from the environmental community for imposing tough new clean air regulations, including the first-ever climate rules for new power plants.

But Jackson’s tenure also saw increased concern from the White House about the cost of those regulations. Obama punted the agency’s plans to tighten smog standards last year, dealing a huge blow to environmental and public health groups.

Who might replace her?


Little coyotes are moving to the big cities

Adorable pet-snatching coyotes are flocking to North American cities, and new research shows that they're pretty well-adapated to urban life.

Chicago Man

Biologist Stan Gehrt has been studying Chicago's near-secret coyote population for 12 years. About 2,000 coyotes live in the city, and "the majority of people have no idea," says Gehrt.

From The Ottawa Citizen:

He thought at first there wouldn’t be enough to study, but when he trapped them and attached radio collars it became clear the animals were common, and multiplying.

Gehrt and others have found the coyotes are not just moving to the city from the wilds -- they're making their homes in the city and raising urban pups, establishing coyote communities that sometimes stay within only a couple of city blocks. In Massachusetts alone, the population has grown from zero to about 10,000 in 60 years, with many animals making their homes in "very urban" sections of cities.

From On Earth:

Read more: Cities, Living


The fake ‘War on Coal’ continues, and a coal boss shares his prayer for a doomed nation

I bet you thought that with the end of the election, you were done hearing about the "War on Coal." That is because you do not understand how wars work. In a war, you have a series of skirmishes and battles. The end of one battle does not mean the war is over, people. Look it up in a history book. And so the "War on Coal" continues even to this day, except not really, because it is made up.

Ron Cogswell
Revenuers are comin' for your coal.

Tuesday night saw the culmination of the non-war's biggest battle: the battle for Washington. The winner was obvious. From Politico:

Mitt Romney's strategy for picking up coal country was simple: paint President Barack Obama as the enemy of the region's important industry.

But millions of dollars in advertising later, Obama still picked up Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia -- states Romney needed desperately, leaving him with only West Virginia. …

Even several Democrats in down-ballot races were victorious despite Republican efforts to tie them to Obama’s EPA regulations and other mandates opposed by the coal industry.

Coal advocates insist the complete loss they saw on Tuesday won't keep them down.