Category Archives: Vicks

Are Electric Cars Really Greener?

Electric cars are kind of a divisive issue. Those who drive electric vehicles often wax poetic about how much better they are for the environment while others, like the author of this Politico piece, like to point out all the ways that electric cars aren’t as green as they are made out to be.

What’s the truth about electric cars? It’s complicated.

Let’s talk about batteries.

On the one hand, the battery for electric cars is an environmental issue in its own right.

The rare, lightweight metals used in the batteries and throughout the cars often come from?not so eco mines?that are hugely environmentally polluting. Plus, as few as 5 percent of the lithium batteries used in electric vehicles actually get recycled (in the EU), which means they just sit in landfills and leach toxins into the environment. However,?Tesla claims to have a battery recycling plan that is actually cost-effective for both manufacturers and?recycling plants, which could improve the battery issue.

And while the manufacturing of electric cars produces more carbon emissions than manufacturing a gas-powered car, one look at Musk’s solar-powered Gigafactory puts that argument to rest.

Electric vehicle production may be secretly more dirty than you’d expect, it’s something that innovative companies like Tesla are working?to?tackle. When it comes to?of fueling electric vehicles, though, they’re as green as you make them.

The way you charge your electric car matters.

According to the author of Politico?s recent piece, increasing the number of electric vehicles on the road will actually increase pollution. The idea is that new models of internal combustion vehicles are actually extraordinarily efficient, which is true.

?Today?s vehicles emit only about 1% of the pollution than they did in the 1960s, and new innovations continue to improve those engines? efficiency and cleanliness,? according to author Jonathan Lesser.

When comparing that sort of low?emissions pollution with the pollution caused by traditionally-powered electric vehicles, yes. A new gas-powered car is probably greener than a new, grid-powered electric car right now. But that only factors in electric vehicles charged through the grid.

Solar power, one of the cleanest and most independent forms of renewable electricity, needs to be taken into?serious consideration. The author relies on a projection regarding?the increase of renewables pumped into the grid, which may hit 30 percent by 2030–not enough to keep things clean for electric cars. But that bleak outlook only takes into account our existing infrastructure.

We need to ditch fossil fuels.

When considering the environmental cleanliness of new gas cars versus electric cars, one big factor that needs to be taken into consideration is the importance of getting our planet off of a dependence on fossil fuels.

While less-polluting gas cars are wonderful, they are still gas cars. They will always only be powered by oil and gas. An electric car, on the other hand, can be powered just as easily by?wind or solar as by fossil fuels, if the infrastructure were?there to support it.

And that’s why we need more electric cars. Sure, as they currently exist?they may not be as pristine and clean as we like to believe, depending on how you fuel them. But the renewable energy infrastructure will not grow around them unless there is a demand.

We need people driving clean electric cars to push towns, cities, and states to enact widespread projects to provide clean sustainable energy for the surge in electrically powered vehicles. That’s how we will begin to cut off our dependence on polluting fossil fuels.

Solar is the future (and the present) for electric charging.

I have always associated electric cars with solar charging. The vast majority of electric car charging stations I see?are solar powered. Even?certain grocery stores?have implemented free solar charging stations to reward?environmentally-conscious customers while they shop.

While I?can’t speak for the whole country, buying an expensive electric vehicle like a Tesla only makes financial sense if the electricity is very affordable–as it is at many?solar charging stations, including long term use of a personal solar station at home.

Granted, not everyone will exclusively use solar to power their cars. With the rise in popularity of luxury electric vehicles, it is natural that those who are less eco-minded but desire to indulge?their wealth will?buy a fancy electric car and not discriminate between renewable charging stations and fossil fuels. But that?doesn?t mean electric cars are actually worse for the environment. It means we need to make it easier for the indiscriminate to cleanly charge them.

Our infrastructure needs to grow and evolve in tandem with our vehicles. An electric car is a move towards cleaner energy. It should be charged that way, too.

Related on Care2

Keyless Cars are Killing People
The Dos and Don’ts of Washing Your Produce
Is Eco Toilet Paper Worth the Extra Cost?

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Trump Is Right: Our Generals Haven’t "Done the Job"

Mother Jones

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This story first appeared on the TomDispatch website.

President-elect Donald Trump’s message for the nation’s senior military leadership is ambiguously unambiguous. Here is he on 60 Minutes just days after the election.

Trump: “We have some great generals. We have great generals.”

Lesley Stahl: “You said you knew more than the generals about ISIS.”

Trump: “Well, I’ll be honest with you, I probably do because look at the job they’ve done. Okay, look at the job they’ve done. They haven’t done the job.”

In reality, Trump, the former reality show host, knows next to nothing about ISIS—one of many gaps in his education that his impending encounter with actual reality is likely to fill. Yet when it comes to America’s generals, our president-to-be is onto something. No doubt our three- and four-star officers qualify as “great” in the sense that they mean well, work hard, and are altogether fine men and women. That they have not “done the job,” however, is indisputable—at least if their job is to bring America’s wars to a timely and successful conclusion.

Trump’s unhappy verdict—that the senior US military leadership doesn’t know how to win—applies in spades to the two principal conflicts of the post-9/11 era: the Afghanistan War (now in its 16th year) and the Iraq War, which was launched in 2003 and (after a brief hiatus) is once more grinding on. Yet the verdict applies equally to lesser theaters of conflict, largely overlooked by the American public, that in recent years have engaged the attention of US forces—a list that would include conflicts in Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.

Granted, our generals have demonstrated an impressive aptitude for moving pieces around on a dauntingly complex military chessboard. Brigades, battle groups, and squadrons shuttle in and out of various war zones, responding to the needs of the moment. The sheer immensity of the enterprise across the Greater Middle East and northern Africa—the sorties flown, munitions expended, the seamless deployment and redeployment of thousands of troops over thousands of miles, the vast stockpiles of material positioned, expended, and continuously resupplied—represents a staggering achievement. Measured by these or similar quantifiable outputs, America’s military has excelled. No other military establishment in history could have come close to duplicating the logistical feats being performed year in, year out by the armed forces of the United States.

Nor should we overlook the resulting body count. Since the autumn of 2001, something like 370,000 combatants and noncombatants have been killed in the various theaters of operations where US forces have been active. Although modest by 20th-century standards, this post-9/11 harvest of death is hardly trivial.

Yet in evaluating military operations, it’s a mistake to confuse how much with how well. Only rarely do the outcomes of armed conflicts turn on comparative statistics. Ultimately, the one measure of success that really matters involves achieving war’s political purposes. By that standard, victory requires not simply the defeat of the enemy, but accomplishing the nation’s stated war aims, and not just in part or temporarily but definitively. Anything less constitutes failure, not to mention utter waste for taxpayers, and for those called upon to fight, it constitutes cause for mourning.

By that standard, having been “at war” for virtually the entire 21st century, the United States military is still looking for its first win. And however strong the disinclination to concede that Donald Trump could be right about anything, his verdict on American generalship qualifies as apt.

That verdict brings to mind three questions. First, with Trump a rare exception, why have the recurring shortcomings of America’s military leadership largely escaped notice? Second, to what degree does faulty generalship suffice to explain why actual victory has proved so elusive? Third, to the extent that deficiencies at the top of the military hierarchy bear directly on the outcome of our wars, how might the generals improve their game?

As to the first question, the explanation is quite simple: During protracted wars, traditional standards for measuring generalship lose their salience. Without pertinent standards, there can be no accountability. Absent accountability, failings and weaknesses escape notice. Eventually, what you’ve become accustomed to seems tolerable. Twenty-first-century Americans inured to wars that never end have long since forgotten that bringing such conflicts to a prompt and successful conclusion once defined the very essence of what generals were expected to do.

Senior military officers were presumed to possess unique expertise in designing campaigns and directing engagements. Not found among mere civilians or even among soldiers of lesser rank, this expertise provided the rationale for conferring status and authority on generals.

In earlier eras, the very structure of wars provided a relatively straightforward mechanism for testing such claims to expertise. Events on the battlefield rendered harsh judgments, creating or destroying reputations with brutal efficiency. Back then, standards employed in evaluating generalship were clear-cut and uncompromising. Those who won battles earned fame, glory, and the gratitude of their countrymen. Those who lost battles got fired or were put out to pasture.

During the Civil War, for example, Abraham Lincoln did not need an advanced degree in strategic studies to conclude that Union generals like John Pope, Ambrose Burnside, and Joseph Hooker didn’t have what it took to defeat the Army of Northern Virginia. Humiliating defeats sustained by the Army of the Potomac at the Second Bull Run, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville made that obvious enough. Similarly, the victories Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman gained at Shiloh, at Vicksburg, and in the Chattanooga campaign strongly suggested that here was the team to which the president could entrust the task of bringing the Confederacy to its knees.

Today, public drunkenness, petty corruption, or sexual shenanigans with a subordinate might land generals in hot water. But as long as they avoid egregious misbehavior, senior officers charged with prosecuting America’s wars are largely spared judgments of any sort. Trying hard is enough to get a passing grade.

With the country’s political leaders and public conditioned to conflicts seemingly destined to drag on for years, if not decades, no one expects the current general in chief in Iraq or Afghanistan to bring things to a successful conclusion. His job is merely to manage the situation until he passes it along to a successor, while duly adding to his collection of personal decorations and perhaps advancing his career.

Today, for example, Army General John Nicholson commands US and allied forces in Afghanistan. He’s only the latest in a long line of senior officers to preside over that war, beginning with General Tommy Franks in 2001 and continuing with Generals Mikolashek, Barno, Eikenberry, McNeill, McKiernan, McChrystal, Petraeus, Allen, Dunford, and Campbell. The title carried by these officers changed over time. So, too, did the specifics of their “mission” as Operation Enduring Freedom evolved into Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Yet even as expectations slipped lower and lower, none of the commanders rotating through Kabul delivered. Not a single one has, in our president-elect’s concise formulation, “done the job.” Indeed, it’s increasingly difficult to know what that job is, apart from preventing the Taliban from quite literally toppling the government.

In Iraq, meanwhile, Army Lt. General Stephen Townsend currently serves as the—count ’em—ninth American to command US and coalition forces in that country since the George W. Bush administration ordered the invasion of 2003. The first in that line, (once again) General Tommy Franks, overthrew the Saddam Hussein regime and thereby broke Iraq. The next five, Generals Sanchez, Casey, Petraeus, Odierno, and Austin, labored for eight years to put it back together again.

At the end of 2011, President Obama declared that they had done just that and terminated the US military occupation. The Islamic State soon exposed Obama’s claim as specious when its militants put a US-trained Iraqi army to flight and annexed large swaths of Iraqi territory. Following in the footsteps of his immediate predecessors Generals James Terry and Sean MacFarland, General Townsend now shoulders the task of trying to restore Iraq’s status as a more or less genuinely sovereign state. He directs what the Pentagon calls Operation Inherent Resolve, dating from June 2014, the follow-on to Operation New Dawn (September 2010 to December 2011), which was itself the successor to Operation Iraqi Freedom (March 2003 to August 2010).

When and how Inherent Resolve will conclude is difficult to forecast. This much we can, however, say with some confidence: With the end nowhere in sight, General Townsend won’t be its last commander. Other generals are waiting in the wings with their own careers to polish. As in Kabul, the parade of US military commanders through Baghdad will continue.

For some readers, this listing of mostly forgotten names and dates may have a soporific effect. Yet it should also drive home Trump’s point. The United States may today have the world’s most powerful and capable military—so, at least, we are constantly told. Yet the record shows that it does not have a corps of senior officers who know how to translate capability into successful outcomes.

That brings us to the second question: Even if Commander in Chief Trump were somehow able to identify modern-day equivalents of Grant and Sherman to implement his war plans, secret or otherwise, would they deliver victory?

On that score, we would do well to entertain doubts. Although senior officers charged with running recent American wars have not exactly covered themselves in glory, it doesn’t follow that their shortcomings offer the sole or even a principal explanation for why those wars have yielded such disappointing results. The truth is that some wars aren’t winnable and shouldn’t be fought.

So, yes, Trump’s critique of American generalship possesses merit, but whether he knows it or not, the question truly demanding his attention as the incoming commander in chief isn’t “Who should I hire (or fire) to fight my wars?” Instead, far more urgent is, “Does further war promise to solve any of my problems?”

One mark of a successful business executive is knowing when to cut your losses. It’s also the mark of a successful statesman. Trump claims to be the former. Whether his putative business savvy will translate into the world of statecraft remains to be seen. Early signs are not promising.

As a candidate, Trump vowed to “defeat radical Islamic terrorism,” destroy ISIS, “decimate Al Qaeda,” and “starve funding for Iran-backed Hamas and Hezbollah.” Those promises imply a significant escalation of what Americans used to call the “global war on terrorism.”

Toward that end, the incoming administration may well revive some aspects of the George W. Bush playbook, including repopulating the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and “if it’s so important to the American people,” reinstituting torture. The Trump administration will at least consider re-imposing sanctions on countries like Iran. It may aggressively exploit the offensive potential of cyberweapons, betting that America’s cyberdefenses will hold.

Yet President Trump is also likely to double down on the use of conventional military force. In that regard, his promise to “quickly and decisively bomb the hell out of ISIS” offers a hint of what is to come. His appointment of the uber-hawkish Lt. General Michael Flynn as his national security adviser and his selection of retired Marine Corps General James (“Mad Dog”) Mattis as defense secretary suggest that he means what he says.

In sum, a Trump administration seems unlikely to reexamine the conviction that the problems roiling the Greater Middle East will someday, somehow yield to a US-imposed military solution. Indeed, in the face of massive evidence to the contrary, that conviction will deepen, with genuinely ironic implications for the Trump presidency.

In the immediate wake of 9/11, George W. Bush concocted a fantasy of American soldiers liberating oppressed Afghans and Iraqis and thereby “draining the swamp” that served to incubate anti-Western terrorism. The results were beyond disappointing, while the costs exacted in terms of lives and dollars squandered were painful indeed. Incrementally, with the passage of time, many Americans concluded that perhaps the swamp most in need of attention was not on the far side of the planet but much closer at hand—right in the imperial city nestled alongside the Potomac River.

To a very considerable extent, Trump defeated Hillary Clinton, the preferred candidate of the establishment, because he advertised himself as just the guy disgruntled Americans could count on to drain that swamp. Yet here’s what too few of those Americans appreciate, even today: War created the swamp in the first place. War empowers Washington. It centralizes. It provides a rationale for federal authorities to accumulate and exercise new powers. It makes government bigger and more intrusive. It lubricates the machinery of waste, fraud, and abuse that causes tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to vanish every year. When it comes to sustaining the swamp, nothing works better than war.

Were Trump really intent on draining that swamp—if he genuinely seeks to “Make America Great Again”— then he would extricate the United States from war. His liquidation of Trump University, which was to higher education what Freedom’s Sentinel and Inherent Resolve are to modern warfare, provides a potentially instructive precedent for how to proceed.

But don’t hold your breath. All signs indicate that, in one fashion or another, our combative next president will perpetuate the wars he’s inheriting. Trump may fancy that, as a veteran of Celebrity Apprentice (but not of military service), he possesses a special knack for spotting the next Grant or Sherman. But acting on that impulse will merely replenish the swamp in the Greater Middle East, along with the one in Washington. And soon enough, those who elected him with expectations of seeing the much-despised establishment dismantled will realize that they’ve been had.

Which brings us, finally, to that third question: To the extent that deficiencies at the top of the military hierarchy do affect the outcome of wars, what can be done to fix the problem?

The most expeditious approach: Purge all currently serving three- and four-star officers. Then, make a precondition for promotion to those ranks confinement in a reeducation camp run by Iraq and Afghanistan war amputees, with a curriculum designed by Veterans for Peace. Graduation should require each student to submit an essay reflecting on these words of wisdom from Grant himself: “There never was a time when, in my opinion, some way could not be found to prevent the drawing of the sword.”

True, such an approach may seem a bit draconian. But this is no time for half measures—as even Donald Trump may eventually recognize.

Andrew J. Bacevich is professor emeritus of history and international relations at Boston University. His most recent book is America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History.


Trump Is Right: Our Generals Haven’t "Done the Job"

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Why World Leaders Are Terrified of Water Shortages

Mother Jones

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This story was originally published by Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration. Subscribe to the podcast and learn more at

Secret conversations between American diplomats show how a growing water crisis in the Middle East destabilized the region, helping spark civil wars in Syria and Yemen, and how those water shortages are spreading to the United States.

Classified US cables reviewed by Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting show a mounting concern by global political and business leaders that water shortages could spark unrest across the world, with dire consequences.

Many of the cables read like diary entries from an apocalyptic sci-fi novel.

“Water shortages have led desperate people to take desperate measures with equally desperate consequences,” according to a 2009 cable sent by US Ambassador Stephen Seche in Yemen as water riots erupted across the country.

On September 22 of that year, Seche sent a stark message to the US State Department in Washington relaying the details of a conversation with Yemen’s minister of water, who “described Yemen’s water shortage as the ‘biggest threat to social stability in the near future.’ He noted that 70 percent of unofficial roadblocks stood up by angry citizens are due to water shortages, which are increasingly a cause of violent conflict.”

Seche soon cabled again, stating that 14 of the country’s 16 aquifers had run dry. At the time, Yemen wasn’t getting much news coverage, and there was little public mention that the country’s groundwater was running out.

These communications, along with similar cables sent from Syria, now seem eerily prescient, given the violent meltdowns in both countries that resulted in a flood of refugees to Europe.

Embed from Getty Images

Groundwater, which comes from deeply buried aquifers, supplies the bulk of freshwater in many regions, including Syria, Yemen and drought-plagued California. It is essential for agricultural production, especially in arid regions with little rainwater. When wells run dry, farmers are forced to fallow fields, and some people get hungry, thirsty and often very angry.

The classified diplomatic cables, made public years ago by Wikileaks, now are providing fresh perspective on how water shortages have helped push Syria and Yemen into civil war, and prompted the king of neighboring Saudi Arabia to direct his country’s food companies to scour the globe for farmland. Since then, concerns about the world’s freshwater supplies have only accelerated.

It’s not just government officials who are worried. In 2009, US Embassy officers visited Nestle’s headquarters in Switzerland, where company executives, who run the world’s largest food company and are dependent on freshwater to grow ingredients, provided a grim outlook of the coming years. An embassy official cabled Washington with the subject line, “Tour D’Horizon with Nestle: Forget the Global Financial Crisis, the World Is Running Out of Fresh Water.”

“Nestle thinks one-third of the world’s population will be affected by fresh water scarcity by 2025, with the situation only becoming more dire thereafter and potentially catastrophic by 2050,” according to a March 24, 2009, cable. “Problems will be severest in the Middle East, northern India, northern China, and the western United States.”

At the time of that meeting, government officials from Syria and Yemen already had started warning US officials that their countries were slipping into chaos as a result of water scarcity.

A confidential 2009 cable from Stephen Seche, the Unites States’ ambassador to Yemen, raised alarms about water scarcity. Wikileaks

By September 2009, Yemen’s water minister told the US ambassador that the water riots in his country were a “sign of the future” and predicted “that conflict between urban and rural areas over water will lead to violence,” according to the cables.

Less than two years later, rural tribesmen fought their way into Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, and seized two buildings: the headquarters of the ruling General People’s Congress and the main offices of the water utility. The president was forced to resign, and a new government was formed. But water issues continued to amplify long-simmering tensions between various religious groups and tribesmen, which eventually led to a full-fledged civil war.

Reveal reviewed a cache of water-related documents that included Yemen, Nestle and Saudi Arabia among the diplomatic documents made public by Wikileaks in 2010. Thomas Friedman, a columnist for the New York Times, found similar classified US cables sent from Syria. Those cables also describe how water scarcity destabilized the country and helped spark a war that has sent more than 1 million refugees fleeing into Europe, a connection Friedman has continued to report.

The water-fueled conflicts in the Middle East paint a dark picture of a future that many governments now worry could spread around the world as freshwater supplies become increasingly scarce. The CIA, the State Department and similar agencies in other countries are monitoring the situation.

In the past, global grain shortages have led to rapidly increasing food prices, which analysts have attributed to sparking the Arab Spring revolution in several countries, and in 2008 pushed about 150 million people into poverty, according to the World Bank.

Water scarcity increasingly is driven by three major factors: Global warming is forecast to create more severe droughts around the world. Meat consumption, which requires significantly more water than a vegetarian or low-meat diet, is spiking as a growing middle class in countries such as China and India can afford to eat more pork, chicken and beef. And the world’s population continues to grow, with an expected 2 billion more stomachs to feed by 2050.

Embed from Getty Images

The most troubling signs of the looming threat first appeared in the Middle East, where wells started running dry nearly 15 years ago. Having drained down their own water supplies, food companies from Saudi Arabia and elsewhere began searching overseas.

In Saudi Arabia, the push to scour the globe for water came from the top. King Abdullah decreed that grains such as wheat and hay would need to be imported to conserve what was left of the country’s groundwater. All wheat production in Saudi Arabia will cease this year, and other water-intensive crops such as hay are being phased out, too, the king ruled.

A classified US cable from Saudi Arabia in 2008 shows that King Abdullah directed Saudi food companies to search overseas for farmland with access to freshwater and promised to subsidize their operations. The head of the US Embassy in Riyadh concluded that the king’s goal was “maintaining political stability in the Kingdom.”

US intelligence sources are quick to caution that while water shortages played a significant factor in the dissolution of Syria and Yemen, the civil wars ultimately occurred as a result of weak governance, high unemployment, religious differences and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in addition to water shortages.

For instance, the state of California has endured a record drought without suffering an armed coup to overthrow Gov. Jerry Brown.

But for less stable governments, severe water shortages are increasingly expected to cause political instability, according to the US intelligence community.

In a 2014 speech, US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said food and water scarcity are contributing to the “most diverse array of threats and challenges as I’ve seen in my 50-plus years in the intel business.

“As time goes on, we’ll be confronting issues I call ‘basics’ resources—food, water, energy, and disease—more and more as an intelligence community,” he said.

A confidential 2008 cable from a US diplomat in Saudi Arabia Wikileaks

These problems are not just happening overseas, but already are leading to heated political issues in the United States. In the western part of the country, which Nestle forecast will suffer severe long-term shortages, tensions are heating up as Middle Eastern companies arrive to tap dwindling water supplies in California and Arizona.

Almarai, which is Saudi Arabia’s largest dairy company and has publicly said it’s following the king’s directive, began pumping up billions of gallons of water in the Arizona desert in 2014 to grow hay that it exports back to the Middle East. Analysts refer to this as exporting “virtual water.” It is more cost effective to use the Arizona water to irrigate land in America and ship the hay to Saudi Arabia rather than filling a fleet of oil tankers with the water.

Arizonans living near Almarai’s hay operation say their groundwater is dropping fast as the Saudis and other foreign companies increase production. They are now worried their domestic wells might suffer the same fate as those in Syria and Yemen.

In January, more than 300 people packed into a community center in rural La Paz County to listen to the head of the state’s water department discuss how long their desert aquifer would last.

Five sheriff’s deputies stood guard at the event to ensure the meeting remained civil—the Arizona Department of Water Resources had requested extra law enforcement, according to county Supervisor Holly Irwin.

“Water can be a very angry issue,” she said. “With people’s wells drying up, it becomes very personal.”

Thomas Buschatzke, Arizona’s water director, defended the Saudi farm, saying it provides jobs and increases tax revenue. He added that “Arizona is part of the global economy; our agricultural industry generates billions of dollars annually to our state’s economy.”

But state officials admit they don’t know how long the area’s water will last, given the increased water pumping, and announced plans to study it.

“It’s gotten very emotional,” Irwin said. “When you see them drilling all over the place, I need to protect the little people.”

By buying land in America’s most productive ground for growing hay, which just happens to be a desert, Saudi Arabia’s largest dairy company now can grow food for its cows back home—all year long. US Geological Survey/NASA Landsat

After the meeting, the state approved another two new wells for the Saudi company, each capable of pumping more than a billion gallons of water a year.

Back in Yemen in 2009, US Ambassador Seche described how as aquifers were drained, and groundwater levels dropped lower, rich landowners drilled deeper and deeper wells. But everyday citizens did not have the money to dig deeper, and as their wells ran dry, they were forced to leave their land and livelihoods behind.

“The effects of water scarcity will leave the rich and powerful largely unaffected,” Seche wrote in the classified 2009 cable. “These examples illustrate how the rich always have a creative way of getting water, which not only is unavailable to the poor, but also cuts into the unreplenishable resources.”

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Why World Leaders Are Terrified of Water Shortages

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Today’s oily news: Refiner wants to ship oil on Great Lakes, oil barge spills in Mississippi

Today’s oily news: Refiner wants to ship oil on Great Lakes, oil barge spills in Mississippi

A refinery in Superior, Wis., wants to cut in on the rail industry’s sweet deal: shipments of oil from North Dakota. The company doesn’t own trains. But it does sit at the tip of Lake Superior.

NASALake Superior,

covered in white

instead of oily black.

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Petroleum refiner Calumet Specialty Products Partners is exploring whether to build a crude oil loading dock on Lake Superior, near its Superior, Wis., refinery, to ship crude oil on the Great Lakes and through connecting waterways, the company said Friday. …

Pipelines are the cheapest way to move petroleum products, [analyst Ethan] Bellamy said, but their delivery points are fixed. Railcars, barges and ships can move to different delivery points. That allows crude to go to the highest bidder.

And what could go wrong?

Josh Mogerman of the Natural Resources Defense Council noted that a pipeline spill two summers ago of Canadian tar sands oil fouled Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, a Lake Michigan tributary.

“That should give anyone who cares about the Great Lakes pause,” he said.

Well, yeah. But that was a pipeline. When is the last time a boat carrying oil leaked into a waterway? I mean, besides yesterday.

From Reuters:

Two oil barges pushed by a tugboat slammed into a railroad bridge in Vicksburg, Mississippi, on Sunday, causing one to leak crude oil into the Mississippi River, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

Officials used an “absorbent boom” to contain the undetermined amount of oil that leaked into the river after the collision, which occurred shortly after midnight and damaged both barges, Lieutenant Ryan Gomez said. The barge that is leaking was holding 80,000 gallons of light crude oil, he said.

The Associated Press has more details:

Tugs were holding the barge near shore on the Louisiana side of the river, south of the bridge it hit and directly across from Vicksburg’s Riverwalk Casino.

Orange containment boom was stretched across part of the river downstream from the barge, and a small boat appeared to patrol the area. …

The oily sheen was reported up to three miles downriver from the bridge at Vicksburg on Sunday. Gomez said crews have laid down a boom and also a secondary boom. They also were using a rotating skimmer device to sweep up oily water in the river.

This is a minor spill on a relatively narrow body of water. A big spill on Lake Superior — which could, in its worst case, then flow through each of the other Great Lakes and over Niagara Falls — is a daunting prospect. (We looked at the prospect of such a spill last year.)

Spills are written into business plans like Calumet’s, maybe the second or third paragraph on the 19th page. They’re worst-case scenarios for which theoretical accommodations are made. Until, as happened yesterday, the spills cease to be theoretical.

Philip Bump writes about the news for Gristmill. He also uses Twitter a whole lot.

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Today’s oily news: Refiner wants to ship oil on Great Lakes, oil barge spills in Mississippi

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