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A whole lot of oil spilled in the U.S. in 2013

Oil in a day’s work

A whole lot of oil spilled in the U.S. in 2013


Tip your 10-gallon hat to the gas and oil guys. The booming industry spilled 26 million gallons of oil, fracking fluid, fracking wastewater, and other toxic substances during 7,662 accidents in just 15 states last year.

That’s according to an analysis by EnergyWire, which studied state data to conclude that the number of spills was up 18 percent from the year before:

Many of the spills were small. But their combined volume totaled more than 26 million gallons … That’s the same volume as what gushed four years ago from BP PLC’s ruptured Gulf of Mexico oil well in 11 days.

Some of the increase may have come from changes in spill reporting practices in a handful of states, but the number of spills and other mishaps rose even without counting those states.

Some of the biggest jumps were in the booming Bakken Shale. North Dakota, which is already contending with flaring and urban woes in its once sparsely populated western end, saw spills jump 42 percent even though the average number of rigs working in the state dropped 8 percent.

Across the state line in Montana, spills were up 48 percent, tracking with the 42 percent increase in rig count figures maintained by Baker Hughes Inc., a common measure of industry activity.

It’s called economic development, right?

Spills up 18 percent in U.S. in 2013, EnergyWire

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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A whole lot of oil spilled in the U.S. in 2013

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Surprise: Liberals Are Just as Morally Righteous as Conservatives

Mother Jones

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From the Moral Majority to the Tea Party, we tend to think of those on the political right as driven by deep moral convictions. Much of the reason involves the right’s strong connection with fundamentalist religiosity, and the accompanying rhetoric about “moral values.” Indeed, conservatives have made a habit of accusing liberals of being “moral relativists,” even as psychological research paints liberals as more tolerant of uncertainty and nuance than conservatives, and more open to new experiences and ideas. That certainly doesn’t sound like the psych profile of a moral crusader.

Maybe, though, the moral motivations of liberals have been underestimated. That’s the upshot of a new political psychology study by Linda Skitka of the University of Illinois-Chicago and two colleagues. The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 21 separate studies examining the differing moral investments of the left and the right. And they found that overall, liberals showed just as much moral conviction as conservatives—albeit on very different political issues.

The 21 studies in question had much in common: All of them asked participants how much their stances on a wide variety of political issues were “based on moral principle,” “deeply connected to their beliefs about fundamental right and wrong,” “a moral stance,” and other related questions. All the studies also asked participants about their political ideology.

Crunching together this large body of similar research, Skitka and colleagues didn’t find much convincing evidence that conservatives feel more morally righteous than liberals do. For instance, in total the 21 studies examined the moral commitments of liberals and conservatives on 41 separate political issues, from drug policy to the Israel-Palestine conflict. But on the large majority of those issues—28 of them in all—liberals and conservatives showed about the same level of moral conviction. Of the remainder, conservatives felt more strongly about 7 issues (immigration, abortion, states’ rights, gun control, physician-assisted suicide, the deficit, and the federal budget) and liberals felt more strongly about 6 issues (climate change, the environment, gender equality, income inequality, healthcare reform, and education).

Different levels of moral conviction from left to right might tell us a lot about how particular issues play out, then (think abortion). But there’s wasn’t a very big difference in moral conviction overall.

When Skitka and her colleagues examined a subset of the studies that involved political engagement (activism, voting, and so on), meanwhile, they also failed to find a major left-right difference. In other words, liberals and conservatives were equally likely to be driven, by their moral convictions, into overt political actions such as activism or voting.

None of which is to suggest that when it comes to moral politics, liberals and conservatives are just two sides of a coin. Prior research, for instance, suggests that conservatives are more likely to believe in moral absolutes than liberals are. And as already noted, the two sides are not always equally fired up about a given issue: Thus, the zeal with which the right attacks, say, government spending is not matched with equal zeal on the left aimed at defending it.

Finally, much research has suggested that the basic moral systems of the left and the right are very different. If you follow George Lakoff, liberals have a “nurturant parent” morality, centered on caring and empathy, as opposed to conservatives’ “strict father” morality, centered on rules and obedience. If you follow Jonathan Haidt, meanwhile, then liberals feel strong moral convictions about issues involving harm and fairness, whereas conservatives root their morality in authority, tribalism, and even emotions of disgust.

There’s no reason to doubt that these differences are real. But the new study suggests that in spite of them, both the left and the right can get very fired up about politics. And when they let their deep-seated moral emotions drive their political views, they may do so with equal zeal.

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Surprise: Liberals Are Just as Morally Righteous as Conservatives

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If Obama’s For It, It Must Be Bad, Part 3,476

Mother Jones

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Dave Weigel points today to a perfect distillation of one of the most important political dynamics in Washington DC right now:

Not everybody wants Obama to notice them. Advocates for Common Core standards — which guide guide math and language arts instruction from kindergarten through high school — would rather the president take a pass.

Common Core was developed by associations of state officials and nonprofit groups. But once Obama embraced it and had given states financial and policy incentives to adopt it, it immediately sparked a backlash….“It’s imperative that the president not say anything about the Common Core State Standards,” said Michael Petrilli, executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “For two years running, he’s taken credit for the adoption of these standards, which has only fueled critics on the right who see this effort as a way for the federal government to take over control of the schools.

“If he cares more about the success of this initiative than credit-taking, he will skip over it.”

There you have it. If Obama’s for it, tea partiers are against it. It doesn’t really matter whose idea it was in the first place.

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If Obama’s For It, It Must Be Bad, Part 3,476

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Medicaid Expansion May Be a Sleeper Issue for Democrats This Year

Mother Jones

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Once Obamacare has been in place for a while, will it become popular enough that Republicans will finally give up their opposition? Maybe, maybe not. But how about the Medicaid expansion? The evidence there might be a little clearer. Here’s Greg Sargent:

The Medicaid expansion, as an issue, is kind of taking on a life of its own, independent of Big Bad Obamacare. In Louisiana, Senator Mary Landrieu has aggressively criticized the rollout of the law, but has also attacked Republicans for refusing to implement the Medicaid expansion. In Georgia, Dem Senate candidate Michelle Nunn has called for fixes to the law while also saying the state should expand Medicaid.

….Meanwhile, the expansion could hold pitfalls for Republicans, because as enrollment mounts, they may be pressed to say whether they really support taking that coverage away from people. Mitch McConnell was recently asked to comment on Kentuckians benefitting from the law, and he filibustered. The GOP Senate candidate in West Virginia is gung ho for repeal but has hedged on the expansion.

Hmmm. Jonathan Bernstein took a quick look at the websites of Republican gubernatorial challengers in blue states that have expanded Medicaid but look like possible Republican pickups. After all the appropriate caveats, he tells us what he found:

And the answer? Nada. Zip. Nothing. None of these Republicans is pledging to repeal the Medicaid expansion put in place by a Democratic governor….I don’t want to make more of this than the evidence can support. But for what it’s worth, early evidence supports the liberal optimist (and conservative pessimist) view: that where it’s in place, Medicaid expansion is here to stay.

If that’s truly the case, then sooner or later Obamacare’s Medicaid component will expand to all 50 states. Eventually, every state will have a governor who is willing to embrace it. Provided that trend is not counteracted by reversals in states that were in the first wave of Medicaid expansion, we’re talking about a one-way street. The only question is how long it takes.

Pushing for Medicaid expansion in the holdout states could turn out to be a solid populist issue for Democrats this year. The argument is simple: It’s free medical care and it doesn’t cost the state anything. Who’s against that? We’ll find out later this how well that argument works.

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Medicaid Expansion May Be a Sleeper Issue for Democrats This Year

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These Members of Congress Are Bankrolled by the Fracking Industry


A new report finds that the industry is giving out “gushers” of money, mainly to congressional Republicans. jessie owen/Flickr The growing fracking industry is “yielding gushers” of campaign donations for congressional candidates—particularly Republicans from districts with fracking activity—according to a new report from the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The report, “Natural Cash: How the Fracking Industry Fuels Congress,” examines a period spanning from 2004 to 2012. In that time, CREW finds, contributions from companies that operate hydraulic fracturing wells and fracking-related industry groups rose 180 percent, from $4.3 million nine years ago to about $12 million in the last election cycle. These donations are flowing to members of Congress at a time when some legislators are trying to increase regulation of fracking, a process in which drillers inject a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals into the bedrock to release oil and natural gas reserves. The most serious of these legislative efforts is the FRAC Act. First introduced in 2009, the act would require EPA regulation of the industry and would force fracking companies to disclose the chemicals that they inject under high pressure into the ground. Both the House and Senate versions of the bill are stalled in committee. To keep reading, click here.


These Members of Congress Are Bankrolled by the Fracking Industry

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These Members of Congress Are Bankrolled by the Fracking Industry

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