Author Archives: Benny Roye

EPA: Low Oil Prices Will Make Keystone XL A Climate Nightmare

Mother Jones

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Earlier today the Environmental Protection Agency released a letter that one of its top officials sent yesterday to the State Department, weighing in on the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline. The letter is part of a last round of comments from federal agencies before the Obama administration makes a final decision about whether to approve the pipeline, and environmentalists had hoped that it would spell out the threat the project could pose to the climate.

They weren’t disappointed. The EPA letter argues that the recent drop in oil prices means that Keystone XL could come with a major carbon footprint. This is an argument environmentalists like Bill McKibben have been pushing for years. And it’s a big deal—President Barack Obama has said that the pipeline will be approved only if it won’t increase overall greenhouse gas emissions.

Here’s the logic: A pipeline is the cheapest way to move oil; trucks and trains are much more expensive. Canadian tar sands oil is especially expensive to produce. When the price of oil is high, it makes economic sense to export it with trucks and trains. This is the line of reasoning the State Dept. has used to argue that approving the pipeline won’t contribute to climate change: The oil is going to get burned with or without Keystone XL, because producers will just send it out some other way. Republicans in Congress have cited that same State Dept. analysis as evidence that Keystone XL isn’t the climate-killing monster environmentalists make it out to be.

But when the price of oil is so low, that calculus gets turned upside down. According to State’s own analysis, the economic rationale for using trucks and trains starts to erode once the price of oil dips much below $75 per barrel. Right now, oil is hovering around $50 a barrel. So if prices stay low and the if the pipeline isn’t built, that oil might actually stay buried—where many climate scientists have said it needs to stay if we’re to avoid disastrous levels of global warming.

Here’s the key line from the EPA letter:

“At sustained oil prices within this range, construction of the pipeline is projected to change the economics of oil sands development and result in increased oil sands production, and the accompanying greenhouse gas emissions, over what would otherwise occur.”

Some energy analysts disagree, arguing that oil prices would have to drop much further than current levels to have an impact on tar sands production. And even though there’s reason to think oil could be cheap for a while, energy companies don’t tend to make big expensive decisions about where and how to drill based on short-term market trends. So there’s still room for debate on the EPA’s take here.

The EPA letter is likely to become a centerpiece of the pipeline debate as Congress continues to wrangle over the issue. (A bill to approve the pipeline passed the Senate last week, and next week the House is expected to take it up once again. President Obama has promised to veto the bill.) But the more important thing to watch is whether it changes any minds in the Obama administration, which is nearing a final decision on whether the pipeline will be built.

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EPA: Low Oil Prices Will Make Keystone XL A Climate Nightmare

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Every “serious environmentalist” must support fracking? Seriously?

Every “serious environmentalist” must support fracking? Seriously?


If you oppose fracking, then you are not a “serious environmentalist.”

So say U.C. Berkeley physics professor Richard Muller and his daughter Elizabeth Muller in a new opinion paper with a none-too-subtle title: “Why Every Serious Environmentalist Should Favor Fracking.”

Until recently, Muller wasn’t much of an environmentalist himself. He was a prominent climate denier. But last year he wrote in The New York Times that he came to realize the error of his ways after an intensive review of the science.

Now this self-described “converted skeptic” has appointed himself the arbiter of serious environmentalism.

Richard Muller

The Mullers’ paper was published by British think tank. We read it so you don’t have to. Here are the main points: 1. Fracking is mainly used to extract natural gas. 2. Burning natural gas produces less soot than burning other fossil fuels. 3. Airborne soot is a major killer, especially in the developing world. Ergo, if you oppose fracking, then you support the deaths of millions of poor people. You monster.

In the Mullers’ minds, if you don’t like fracking, then you must prefer coal and oil. They imply that solar and wind energy will succeed only with government subsidies, ignoring the $544 billion that governments spent subsidizing fossil fuels last year. They also disregard the falling costs of renewables.

“The developed world has the financial resources to subsidise solar and wind,” the duo writes. “But developing countries are not wealthy enough to do that.” More from the paper:

Environmentalists who oppose the development of shale gas and fracking are making a tragic mistake.

Some oppose shale gas because it is a fossil fuel, a source of carbon dioxide. Some are concerned by accounts of the fresh water it needs, by flaming faucets, by leaked “fugitive methane”, by pollution of the ground with fracking fluid and by damaging earthquakes.

These concerns are either largely false or can be addressed by appropriate regulation.

For shale gas is a wonderful gift that has arrived just in time. It can not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also reduce a deadly pollution known as PM2.5 [tiny pieces of particulate matter, aka soot] that is currently killing over three million people each year, primarily in the developing world. …

Europe can develop shale gas far more rapidly than it can move to solar and wind, largely because of the low cost, the absence of an intermittency problem, and good existing gas infrastructure. To the extent that shale gas replaces coal, it will save hundreds of thousands of deaths each year, lives that will be lost if we choose the slower and more expensive transition to renewables.

All this despite the conclusion of experts that America’s fracking boom is having only “modest impacts” on greenhouse gas emissions. That’s because it’s not just displacing coal but also holding back renewables.

And for anybody who thinks natural gas doesn’t contribute to air pollution, we would suggest a day trip to poor neighborhoods in Contra Costa County east of San Francisco, where growing clusters of gas-burning plants in already-industrialized areas are hurting residents’ health.

It turns out there’s more behind the Mullers’ paper than meets the eye. Elizabeth Muller has a clear financial stake in the fracking industry. She is managing director of the China Shale Fund, a venture capital fund set up to export American fracking technology to Asia.

The Mullers’ paper was published by the Centre for Policy Studies, which was cofounded in 1974 by Margaret Thatcher “to promote the principles of a free society.” Why would a British think tank be promoting the Mullers’ views? Because fracking is a white-hot issue in the U.K. right now. The conservative national government desperately wants to expand fracking, but many citizens remain unconvinced of its benefits.

A free society, hey? It would sure be nice to free our society from fracking industry propaganda.

Why every serious environmentalist should favour fracking, The Center for Policy Studies

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants:

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Every “serious environmentalist” must support fracking? Seriously?

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Once Again, Republican Obstinacy Bites Them in the Ass

Mother Jones

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So, the filibuster. Did Harry Reid do the right thing getting rid of it for judicial and executive branch nominees?

I’d say so. And yet, I think Republicans missed a bet here. I’ve never personally been a fan of the idea that the Senate’s raison d’être is to be the slowest, most deliberative, and most obstructive branch of government. Hell, legislation already has to pass two houses and get signed by a president and be approved by the Supreme Court before it becomes law. Do we really need even more obstacles in the way of routine legislating?

Still, I’ll concede that my own feelings aside, the Senate really was designed with just that in mind. It wasn’t designed to be an automatic veto point for minority parties, but it was designed to slow things down and keep the red-hot passions of the mob at bay. So here’s what I wonder: why weren’t Republicans ever willing to negotiate a reform of the filibuster that might have kept it within the spirit of the original founding intent of the Senate?

What I have in mind is a reform that would have allowed the minority party to slow things down, but would have forced them to pay a price when they did it. Because the real problem with the filibuster as it stands now is that it’s basically cost-free. All it takes to start a filibuster is a nod from any member of the Senate, which means that every bill, every judge, every nominee is filibustered. The minority party has the untrammeled power to stop everything, and these days they do.

But what if filibusters came at a cost of some sort? There have been several proposals along these lines, and all of them would have allowed the minority party to obstruct things they truly felt strongly about. But there would have been a limit to how many things could be obstructed, or how long the obstruction could go on, and the majority party could eventually have gotten its way if it felt strongly enough. It would have been ugly, but at least Republicans would have retained some ability to gum up the works.

Instead, by refusing to compromise in any way, they’ve lost everything. Just as they lost everything on health care by refusing to engage with Democrats on the Affordable Care Act. Just as they lost everything on the government shutdown and the debt ceiling. Just as they lost the 2012 election.

Hard-nosed obstinacy plays well with the base, but it’s not a winning strategy in the end. Republicans never seem to learn that lesson.


Once Again, Republican Obstinacy Bites Them in the Ass

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Tar-sands waste going to fuel dirty power plants in China

Tar-sands waste going to fuel dirty power plants in China

Josh Mogerman

Petcoke piled up along the Calumut River in Chicago.

As cheap tar-sands oil flows through America’s refineries, the dusty byproduct — known as petroleum coke, or “petcoke” —  is piling up throughout the country. The stuff is too nasty to burn in U.S. power plants, so oil companies are doing the next best thing — shipping it to China, where somebody else can burn it.

Petcoke has been heaping up along the Calumet River in Chicago — and the problem will likely get worse once BP turns its Whiting Refinery into one of the world’s biggest tar-sands processors. Over in Michigan, Detroit’s mayor and other lawmakers recently fought for months before ridding their riverfront of mounds of petcoke that a Koch Industries subsidiary had stockpiled there.

So where does the petcoke go from there? The U.S. EPA will not issue new petcoke burning licenses. It’s just too dirty. Some has been sent back to Canada to be burned in power plants there. And now the Wall Street Journal reports that China’s hunger for the dirty fuel is surging:

While countries across Latin America, Europe and even the Middle East are buying a lot of U.S.-produced gasoline and low-sulfur diesel that meets their stringent air-quality control, China is in the market for something dirtier.

The country, which has pledged not to sacrifice the environment for short-term economic gain, is buying an increasing amount of a byproduct called petroleum coke from U.S. refiners. …

Sales of petcoke inside the U.S. have waned since 2006, according to data from the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration. But China’s appetite is growing. It took more than 24 million barrels of the stuff in the first half of this year, up nearly 55% over last year. The country now accounts for 20% of all the U.S. petcoke shipments overseas. …

China has been pushing to clean up its air lately. But Max Auffhammer, agricultural and resource economist at the University of California-Berkeley, points out that petcoke is even dirtier than the coal that has so badly sullied China’s environment. “It is strange to think that for some parts of the Chinese economy, we would prefer that they use coal instead of petcoke,” he told the newspaper.

China Is in the Market for Dirty U.S. Fuel, Wall Street Journal
First it was Detroit, now ‘PetKoch’ piling up in Chicago, Midwest Energy News

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants:

Find this article interesting? Donate now to support our work.Read more: Business & Technology


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Tar-sands waste going to fuel dirty power plants in China

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5 Ways Monsanto Wants to Profit Off Climate Change


The agriculture giant has a variety solutions for mitigating and adapting to global warming. Darryl Bush/ZUMA Global warming could mean big business for controversial agriculture giant Monsanto, which announced last week it was purchasing the climate change-oriented startup Climate Corporation for $930 million. Agriculture, which uses roughly 40 percent of the world’s land, will be deeply affected by climate change in the coming years. In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that warming will lead to pest outbreaks, that climate-related severe weather will impact food security, and that rising temperatures will hurt production for farms in equatorial areas. (In areas further from the equator, temperature rise is actually estimated to increase production in the short term, then harm production if temperatures continue to rise over 3 degrees Celsius in the long term.) Meanwhile, increases in the global population will make it crucial for farmers to be efficient with their land, says UC Davis professor Tu Jarvis. “The increase in food production, essentially, in the future needs to be in yields—output per acre,” Jarvis says, even while weather patterns make farming less predictable or more difficult in some places. Monsanto, meanwhile, has been gearing up to sell its wares to farmers adapting to climate change. Here are five climate change-related products the company either sells already, or plans to: 1. Data to help farmers grow crops in a changing climate. Climate Corporation, which Monsanto is acquiring, sells detailed weather and soil information to farmers with the stated mission of helping “all the world’s people and businesses manage and adapt to climate change.” This data is meant to help farmers better plan, track, and harvest their crops, ultimately making farms more productive. According to its press release, Monsanto thinks the ag data business will be a $20-billion market, and that farmers using these tools could increase their yield BY 30 to 50 bushels (that’s between 1,700 and 2,800 shelled pounds). In a video interview about the acquisition, Monsanto vice president of global strategy Kerry Preete told TechCrunch: “We think weather patterns are becoming more erratic, it places a huge challenge on farmers with their production. We think a lot of the risk can be mitigated out of weather impact through information,” Preete said. “If you know what’s going on every day in the field, based on climate changes, soil variations that exist, we can really help farmers mitigate some of the challenges that impact their yield.” 2. Insurance for when it’s too hot, cold, dry, wet, or otherwise extreme outside.Climate Corporation currently sells both federally subsidized crop insurance and supplemental plans that pay out additional benefits when crops go awry. While federal insurance repays farmers up to the break-even point for a failed crop, Climate Corporation insures the lost profits as well. Monsanto says it will maintain this insurance business. Though the broader insurance industry is concerned about losses due to major natural disasters occurring more often as the result of climate change, insuring crops is less risky because payouts for a damaged crop season a generally smaller than those for dense, damaged urban areas, according to Gerald Nelson, a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois. 3. Drought-resistant corn. Monsanto lists the effects of climate change-related precipitation changes and droughts as a potential “opportunity” in its most recent filing with the Carbon Disclosure Project, explaining that “climate changes also will require agriculture to be more resilient.” The company adds that it is “positioned well to deliver products to farmers that are climate resilient.” This year, Monsanto started rolling out a new line of patented, first-of-its-kind genetically engineered corn seeds that areresistant to drought. The seeds are engineered so that they can withstand the stress of a drought by using less water when it is dry outside, but still yield the same amount of corn during a regular harvest, according to Farm Progress. In southern Africa, where corn is the largest agricultural product, last month’s report from the IPCC predicts that by the end of the century, it is “likely” that the area will become dryer due to climate change and that this “will [increase] the risk of agricultural drought.” Though the drought-resistant corn is currently only being sold in the US, the market for hybrid corn in South Africa alone is worth an estimated $250 million, according to Reuters, and the continent has an estimated 75 million acres of land available for corn production. Monsanto has been ramping up its presence in sub-Saharan Africa through the Gates foundation-fundedWater Efficient Maize for Africa program, donating germplasm (starter seeds) and drought-tolerant corn traits and, Reuters says, developing relationships with local organizations. 4. Cotton that needs less water to grow. Corn isn’t the only crop that Monsanto is reengineering for a changing climate. The company is piloting genetically modified cotton with “improved water use” that that can grow while using less water and survive drought. The IPCC predicted in 2007 that climate change will lead to decreased cotton yields across the South in the coming years. In cotton-producing states such as Texas, water scarcity is an issue and heat waves can evaporate the water available in soil and in reservoirs, which may make water-preserving crops attractive when they come to market. States along the cotton belt, which stretches across much of the southeastern US and into Texas, have been stricken by extreme heat and drought in recent years. A recent report from NOAA found that climate change increased both the magnitude and likelihood of extreme heat waves taking place in the us but “had little impact on the lack of precipitation in the central United States in 2012.” 5. Crops for biofuel. Since 1993, Monsanto has sold high-yield, highly fermentable corn seed specifically designed to be made into ethanol—it was the first company to do so. Ethanol processors that have partnered with Monsanto through a related program buy the corn at a premium because it produces more fuel per bushel of corn. The company also sells soybeans and sorghum, which can be used to produce biofuel. Whether ethanol is actually a “green” fuel is debatable. But in recent years, laws aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on foreign oil have helped boost its production, and if corn-based ethanol continues rising in demand, “the financial opportunity could be significant for the business,” Monsanto says in its Carbon Disclosure Project filing.

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5 Ways Monsanto Wants to Profit Off Climate Change

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Sheldon Adelson: I Stand With President Obama on Bombing Syria

Mother Jones

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The debate over whether to bomb Syrian military facilities and weapons installations is creating some strange bedfellows. Among them: President Obama and Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.

On Tuesday, the Republican Jewish Coalition, which counts Adelson as a donor and a board member, told its members to urge Congress to authorize a strike in Syria. A spokesman for Adelson, a top backer of pro-Israel causes, told Bloomberg News that the gambling mogul supported the coalition’s position—and thus Obama’s—on Syria.

Obama and Adelson are far from ideological allies. Adelson reportedly spent upwards of $150 million, in disclosed and dark money, to defeat Obama in last year’s presidential election. He and his wife, Miriam, almost single-handedly kept Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich in the running during the GOP primary season, giving $20.5 million to the pro-Gingrich super-PAC, Winning Our Future. Once Romney won the party’s nomination, Adelson and his wife poured $30 million more into Restore Our Future, the pro-Romney super-PAC. On election night, Adelson attended the Romney campaign’s party at the Westin hotel in Boston.

During the campaign, Adelson questioned Obama’s commitment to protecting Israel. “Time and again, President Obama has signaled a lack of sympathy—or even outright hostility—toward Israel,” Adelson wrote in an op-ed for JNS News Service. These days, Adelson seems to be feeling better about Obama’s foreign policy stance.


Sheldon Adelson: I Stand With President Obama on Bombing Syria

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The Emerald City Comes to Afghanistan

Mother Jones

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Dan Drezner recounts the joys of scaring the crap out of his undergrads:

My students never believe me when I tell them the myriad ways the United States nearly launched nuclear weapons by accident during the Cuban Missile Crisis. My students never believe me when I tell them that Ronald Reagan sent an inscribed Bible and a cake shaped like a key to Iran as a way to release American hostages held in Lebanon. My students really do turn white as a sheet when I talk about the Eurozone crisis.

That must be a helluva lecture he gives about the eurozone crisis. I think I’m up to speed on the whole thing, but I’ve never turned white as a sheet over it. Maybe I need to sit in on one of Dan’s classes.

Anyway, this turns out to be mostly an excuse to link to Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s piece in the Washington Post about all the useless stuff we built in Afghanistan even though there was no real chance we’d ever use it. According to an inspector general’s report about a $34 million headquarters building in Helmand province, it is “the best constructed building I have seen in my travels to Afghanistan. Unfortunately, it is unused, unoccupied, and presumably will never be used for its intended purpose.” And that’s over and above the $771 million in aircraft that DoD wants to give the Afghans even though they can neither operate nor maintain them. As the bloggers like to say, read the whole thing.

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The Emerald City Comes to Afghanistan

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8 Handmade Crafts to Celebrate 4th of July



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8 Handmade Crafts to Celebrate 4th of July

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Follow These Steps To Find The Right Solar Panel Contractor

It is like finding a prize in the crackerjack box when have a good solar panel installation contractor. When you need a good contractor we can help you find the prize. We have outlined some tips for you to consult to find a good contractor.

After receiving references from a solar panel installation contractor, contacting those references will let you know if any discounts may have been offered by the contractor in the past. This may lead to discounts for your case or discounts on future projects. Entice contractors to complete the job in a timely manner with high standards by offering incentives. Remember that the contractor hired should work only within their specialization.

Before hiring a new solar panel installation contractor, you need to make sure that he/she has proper insurance. Some contractors try to run away from having their right insurance due to its expenses. Therefore, you need to know the coverage of your new contractor.

Don’t let yourself show through as inexperienced or desperate while you are interviewing potential solar panel installation contractors. You want to stay professional and collected. Always let the potential contractors know that you are going to be reviewing other options before making your final decision. This will show them that you are serious.

Draw up your own paperwork for the solar panel installation contractors you are considering to use when making a bid on your job. It is easier for you to compare the bids side by side if you are looking at the exact same paperwork. If a contractor wants to use his own paperwork then ask them to provide yours along with theirs too.

You need to be aware of how much experience your potential solar panel installation contractor has with his duties. Multitasking is rather important when it comes to a contractor, because they usually handle more than one project at once. If the contractor doesn’t have the experience, capabilitiy, and resources you handle your project along with others, it might never get finished the way you wanted.

Make sure that you choose a solar panel installation contractor who is a professional not only in his particular area but also has a great knowledge about all the other aspects of your job. If a contractor understands each and every aspect of your project, you will save a lot of time and money.

Every detail about your project must be inserted into the contract to ensure that everything is covered. If you are unsure about if a detail should be included, add it in to be safe. The more details you can add in, the smoother the project will go and there will be no questions later on.

Never finalize a contract without checking out more than one solar panel installation contractor. You should meet with at least 3 to see who makes you feel the most comfortable and best meets the needs of your project.

Going to internet to get additional ideas could be a fantastic idea. Go to Google and search for go green energy today. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with new ideas about solar heating options.

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If You Need A Good Solar Panel Contractor Here’s How You Could Find One

Has your house sustained some damages and needs some repairs; fast! Who do you call to help fix this problem? The solar panel installation contractor you decide to hire should be experienced in repairing the type of damage that your house is facing. You can also find if the contractor is recommended by an insurance solar panel company or by the local solar panel installers association. The following tips will help guide you in hiring a contractor.

Even if the solar panel installation contractor has a license and insurance coverage, you should check in detail whether he has them valid for your particular area or not. Licenses are not issued universally for all areas. You should be sure that the contractor you are hiring can safely do the job.

If the solar panel installation contractor that you are considering is working on another site, it is a good idea to request to see some of the work that they are doing. If your contractor is unwilling to show you their current worksites, something might be up and you should search somewhere else for a contractor.

It is recommended that you talk to your solar panel installation contractor regarding your changes in plan or related to your project work. In case, if you need an engineer, your contractor can provide you. By consulting him/her, you can make your project safer, secure and give long life to your project.

When a solar panel installation contractor advises that they cannot meet your requirements either timeline or budget, be polite, thank them and move on to the next potential contractor. If more than one tells you the same thing, the issue may be with your expectations. Ask for details as to why the contractor cannot meet the requirements and re-evaluate your requirements to ensure they are reasonable.

If you are unable to get references for your solar panel installation contractor, it might be wise to choose someone else. References are great sources to help you determine the contractor’s professionalism, work quality, and work ethic in order to pick the right contractor for the job.

Licensed professions add to the cost of your project, check which trades can operate without a license and see if they pertain to your project. Before you spend extra money on licensed professionals, do your research.

Be pre-planned and look for the solar panel installation contractor in advance. There might be a possibility that many expert contractors may be unavailable for couple of months. In case of urgent delay may occur in starting your work which may not be good for the project.

Using trade directions can be a great resource when researching a potential solar panel installation contractor. These directories usually perform background checks on contractors and verify that they are legitimate. They’ll also know if a contractor doesn’t have a good reputation.

Did the tips above spark an interest about solar pool? Why not go to Google and start entering solar hot water heaters tucson? We promise you can discover useful answers.

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