A quick civics quiz to start your day. The answers are in italics at the end of each question. (If you read the headline, you're cheating.)
When was the General Mining Act, which is still in place, signed into law? 1872.
Under the General Mining Act, how much do companies pay to stake a claim to extract precious metals on public land? How much in annual maintenance costs thereafter? $189; $140.
How much do they pay to the government in royalties for each ounce of gold extracted? Silver? Copper? Zero dollars; nada; zilch.
How much did the government earn in royalties from precious metal extraction last year? Not one fucking penny.
In other words, if your company staked a claim in 1873, and had been mining gold from it continuously, the total cost to your company would have been $19,509. At today's spot price of $1,715 an ounce, you'd have needed to extract only 12 ounces over the past 139 years to recoup the entire amount you'd paid the U.S. government.
Bad news, water lovers: You're going to need to wait until at least 2013 before you know if you're drinking fracking fluid.
Last May, the Department of the Interior, America's most introspective governmental bureau, announced proposed regulations for the fracking process. The proposal was … not very strong. Companies would have to provide information on chemicals used in the process, but only after the fact.
Nonetheless, the fracking industry was hella mad, because if you government pencil-necks say companies have to worry about where chemicals end up or, worse, have to tell everyone what chemicals they use, those companies will have to fire everyone and probably resort to a life of crime. And besides, they noted, the existing rules states have are already so oppressive.
But Interior was all, too bad, guys. We're going to crack down! By the end of the year, you watch, we'll have final rules.
The Interior Department no longer plans to finalize rules this year that will impose new controls on the controversial oil-and-gas development method called hydraulic fracturing, a spokesman said.
“In order to ensure that the 170,000 comments received are properly analyzed, the Bureau of Land Management expects action on the [hydraulic fracturing] proposal in the new year,” Interior spokesman Blake Androff said.
Supporters say it's just what Detroit needs: large-scale blight removal and reforestation to reinvigorate the post-industrial wasteland with urban innovation. Detractors say it's a land grab that jeopardizes a local fast-growing urban farming movement and stands to displace low-income residents of color.
Multi-millionaire money manager John Hantz now has a deal to purchase the lots from the city for $300 each -- about eight cents a square foot, which is very, very cheap, even for beleaguered Detroit.
A Web site set up by Mr. Hantz, a wealthy entrepreneur, to advance his proposal says the farm would return the city “to its agrarian roots.” The repurposed lots -- cleared of blight and planted with roughly 15,000 hardwood trees -- would establish an economic zone, raise property values and return vast tracts of abandoned land to the city tax rolls, according to Mike Score, the president of the venture, Hantz Farms. Ideally, the enterprise has signaled, it would eventually become a major source of local food ...
Saunteel Jenkins, a City Council member who favors the proposal, argues that the city needs to think in new ways. “Farming will be one of the many things that be part of Detroit’s reinvention,” said Ms. Jenkins, chairwoman of the council’s Planning and Economic Development Committee. “The auto industry used to be our bread and butter, but now we have to diversify.”
Oil companies: They're kind of like pet cats, it turns out. They don't care what you want, they're only out for themselves, and they love to bury their waste wherever they feel like it. And thanks to the Environmental Protection Agency, they're able to bury it via aquifer injection at hundreds of sites across the country where the EPA says the water is not "reasonably expected" to be used for drinking.
In some of America's most drought-stricken communities, this practice is polluting what little drinkable water there is left. A new report from ProPublica digs into the EPA's spotty record on issuing exemption permits for dumping in the nation's precious aquifers -- starting with the fact that the EPA itself hasn't kept great records on which permits it has issued at all.
Federal officials have given energy and mining companies permission to pollute aquifers in more than 1,500 places across the country, releasing toxic material into underground reservoirs that help supply more than half of the nation's drinking water. ...
Though hundreds of exemptions are for lower-quality water of questionable use, many allow grantees to contaminate water so pure it would barely need filtration, or that is treatable using modern technology.
The EPA is only supposed to issue exemptions if aquifers are too remote, too dirty, or too deep to supply affordable drinking water. Applicants must persuade the government that the water is not being used as drinking water and that it never will be.
Sometimes, however, the agency has issued permits for portions of reservoirs that are in use, assuming contaminants will stay within the finite area exempted.
Dead fish don't lie -- except for a lot of the ones served in restaurants.
A new study from conservation group Oceana found that 39 percent of New York restaurant fish DNA-tested by the group was mislabeled. That, combined with past studies of Los Angeles (55 percent), Boston (48 percent), and Miami (31 percent), paints a sad and even scary picture of what diners can expect when they sit down at American seafood restaurants.
Mislabeled fish was found at a range of eateries from low- to high-priced, and at every sushi spot tested. The New York Times reports:
In some cases, cheaper types of fish were substituted for expensive species. In others, fish that consumers have been urged to avoid because stocks are depleted, putting the species or a fishery at risk, was identified as a type of fish that is not threatened. Although such mislabeling violates laws protecting consumers, it is hard to detect.
Some of the findings present public health concerns. Thirteen types of fish, including tilapia and tilefish, were falsely identified as red snapper. Tilefish contains such high mercury levels that the federal Food and Drug Administration advises women who are pregnant or nursing and young children not to eat it.
Ninety-four percent of fish sold as white tuna was not tuna at all but in many cases a fish known as snake mackerel, or escolar, which contains a toxin that can cause severe diarrhea if more than a few ounces of meat are ingested.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) has decided that this is the perfect moment to launch a brand new congressional caucus. From The Hill:
[Boxer] said Tuesday that she’s forming a “climate change caucus,” and argues that Hurricane Sandy “changed a lot of minds” on the topic.
The move signals that Democrats might again be ready to aggressively promote bills to curb greenhouse gas emissions, even as the political prospects for global warming legislation remain remote in Congress.
“I am going to form a climate change caucus, because people are coming up to me, they really want to get into this. I think Sandy changed a lot of minds,” Boxer told reporters in the Capitol.
Pack it in, Chevron. Peace out, coal industry. Ya burnt, so to speak. After all, nothing gets things done like a congressional caucus.
The first thing you should know about Exxon's 2013 "Outlook For Energy" report, the latest in an annual series that makes predictions about energy use to 2040, is that climate change is mentioned twice. In both cases, the expression is followed by the word "policies."
So, with that big grain of salt, an oil tanker-sized grain of salt, what does Exxon portend for energy use on our little, warming planet? The toplines:
"Efficiency will continue to play a key role in solving our energy challenges." Energy use by developed nations will stay flat.
"Energy demand in developing nations [those not in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD] will rise 65 percent by 2040 compared to 2010, reflecting growing prosperity and expanding economies." This increase will mean a 35 percent rise in energy demand globally.
"With this growth comes a greater demand for electricity." This increased demand for electricity will account for half of the overall increase in demand for energy.
"Growth in transportation sector demand will be led by expanding commercial activity as our economies grow." Exxon will keep making money off cars and shipping ...
"Technology is enabling the safe development of once hard-to-produce energy resources, signiﬁcantly expanding available supplies to meet the world’s changing energy needs." … and fracking.
"Evolving demand and supply patterns will open the door for increased global trade opportunities." North America will start exporting oil.
I mean, that's pretty grim, if predictable. As living standards increase, so does energy use. And even if the largest energy users -- read, greenhouse gas emitters -- level off (which is questionable), growth elsewhere in the world more than makes up for it. So by 2040, the world, warmer thanks to what we've already emitted, will keep adding to greenhouse gas pollution as it adapts to shifts in climate -- and 2 billion more people.
A natural-gas transmission line in West Virginia ruptured this afternoon. From WOWKTV:
[An] explosion rocked Sissonville shortly before 1 p.m. today, setting several homes on fire and forcing officials to issue a shelter in place for local residents.
The explosion caused huge flames to race throughout the area, lapping both sides on Interstate 77, which has been closed to all northbound and southbound traffic.
Sgt. Michael Bayless with the West Virginia State Police said the investigation into the cause of the explosion is still ongoing and very preliminary. He said crews with Columbia Gas are working to shut off the pipeline to control the fire. However he said that process is very delicate because they don't want to reignite the explosion.