Occupy Ecology Deeply

This site may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in an effort to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. we believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

FAIR USE NOTICE FAIR USE NOTICE: This page may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. This website distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for scientific, research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107.

Read more at: http://www.etupdates.com/fair-use-notice/#.UpzWQRL3l5M | ET. Updates
FAIR USE NOTICE FAIR USE NOTICE: This page may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. This website distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for scientific, research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107.

Read more at: http://www.etupdates.com/fair-use-notice/#.UpzWQRL3l5M | ET. Updates

All Blogs licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Methane Outbreak Alert!

Dissident Voice: a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice

Methane Outbreak Alert!

A cadre of the world’s top climate scientists have seen enough evidence of prospective runaway climate change that they are now sounding the alarm, putting the world on notice that an extinction event may be in the cards. The principal actor in this macabre tragedy: Methane.

The following is a quote from the Arctic Methane Emergency Group (“AMEG”), which is the organization created by these high level climate scientists.
An Assessment by AMEG:
Could the World be in Imminent Danger and Nobody is Telling?
Uniquely and fearlessly AMEG has studied key non-linear trends in the Earth-human System and reached the stunning conclusion that the planet stands at the edge of abrupt and catastrophic climate change as a result of an unprecedented rate of change in the Arctic.
Methane (CH4) is over twenty times more powerful, over a 100-year period, per molecule, than is carbon dioxide (CO2). Or, put another way, methane is more effectual than carbon dioxide at absorbing infrared radiation emitted from the earth’s surface and preventing it from escaping into space. Methane, during its first few years upon entering the atmosphere, is 100 times as powerful as an equal weight of CO2.

As it happens, it appears excessive levels of methane are just now starting to seriously impact the Earth’s atmosphere… in a big way!

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, as of February 2013, methane levels in the atmosphere are measured at 1,874 ppb (parts per billion.) This level, in an historical context, is more than twice as high as any time since 400,000 years before the industrial revolution. In the past, methane has ranged between 300-400 ppb during glacial periods and 600-700 ppb during warm interglacial periods.

Newly Identified Sources of Methane Emissions in Deep Arctic Seas

In 2012, expeditionary teams in the Arctic were shocked, and dismayed, to find methane bubbling up from deep ocean sites. “Previous observations have pointed to large methane plumes being released from the seabed in the relatively shallow sea off the northern coast of Siberia, but the latest findings were made far away from land in the deep, open ocean where the surface is usually capped by ice.”1
Physicist Eric Kort (Ph.D., Applied Physics, Harvard University) of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Pasadena, California was surprised to see methane levels rise so convincingly each time their research aircraft flew over cracks in the sea ice. These methane measurements come from Hiaper Pole-to-Pole Observations, which uses aircraft loaded with scientific instruments flying long distances at varying altitudes. The study, covering numerous flights into the Arctic at different times of the year, was published in Nature Geoscience. The study covered an area about 950 miles north of the coast of Alaska and 350 miles south of the North Pole.

Moreover, as if discovering methane emissions from the deep seas of the Arctic isn’t already of major concern, a recent study discovered immense amounts of methane locked under Antarctic ice: “They… calculated that the potential amount of methane hydrate and free methane gas beneath the Antarctic Ice Sheet could be up to 4 billion metric tons, a similar order of magnitude to some estimates made for Arctic permafrost. The predicted shallow depth of these potential reserves also makes them more susceptible to climate forcing than other methane hydrate reserves on Earth.”2
The Arctic is in Meltdown: At the same time, Methane Gushes into the Atmosphere

According to the Arctic Methane Emergency Group (AMEG), the “Arctic is in meltdown.” As such, AMEG has declared: “An extremely high international security risk of acute climate disruption followed by runaway global warming.”
Likewise, Russian scientists have spotted methane plumes/bubbles that are more than a kilometer in diameter coming to surface along the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, which is the largest continental shelf in the world. Seventy-five percent (75%) of the sea over the shelf is shallow water, less than 50 metres deep, and consequently more immediately exposed to warming trends.

“The scale and volume of the methane release has astonished the head of the Russian research team who has been surveying the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf off northern Russia for nearly 20 years.”3
“We carried out checks at about 115 stationary points and discovered methane fields of a fantastic scale – I think on a scale not seen before. Some of the plumes were a kilometer or more wide and the emissions went directly into the atmosphere – the concentration was a hundred times higher than normal,” says Dr. Igor Semiletov of the International Arctic Research Centre at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, who led the 8th joint US-Russia cruise of the East Siberian Arctic seas.3
Regarding the amounts of methane released into the atmosphere, according to Dr. Natalia Shakhova of the International Arctic Research Centre: “The concentration of atmospheric methane increased unto three times in the past two centuries… That’s a huge increase, between two and three times, and this has never happened in the history of the planet.”3
The cause of this emerging outbreak of methane, as explained by AMEG, is a horrendous cycle that started 20-30 years ago when Atlantic and Pacific Ocean currents, warmed by greenhouse gases, flowed into the Arctic Ocean. This extra heat into the Arctic Ocean causes declines in the sea ice, and it increases temperatures. As it happens, the extra heat travels into shallow seas along the continental shelf and, over time, the warming also spreads to the deep seabed, destabilizing methane hydrates and free gas trapped over millennia in the permafrost cap. As follows, methane that has been trapped for millions upon millions of years is released into the atmosphere.

The quantities of methane in the continental shelf are so huge and overwhelming that only 1% or 2% of the methane released could lead to an unstoppable chain reaction of runaway overheating of the planet. This is why some of the world’s most renowned climate scientists formed AMEG, because they were prompted by indisputable signals of the beginning stages of massive releases of methane, thus, threatening an extinction event on planet Earth.

Historical Methane Mass Extinction Event: “The Great Dying”

Approximately two hundred million years ago methane was involved in a mass extinction event, referred to as “The Great Dying.” The outcome was the extinction of over half of all life forms. Some studies suggests a volcanic eruption started the warming cycle, triggering positive feedback by causing underwater permafrost to melt and release methane gas to the atmosphere (similar to today, except humans are the trigger rather than a volcano) which further amplified warming even more, releasing more methane, and the feedback grew, and grew, until conditions became so inhospitable that mass extinction occurred.4
Arctic Methane Emergency Group 

According to an Arctic Methane Emergency Group Press Release d/d November 11, 2012: “Abrupt climate change is upon us… Food prices will go through the roof. The government’s climate change policy is in tatters. The government should have acted years ago. Now it may be too late… There has been an elephant in the room, and it has been totally ignored. It’s all about Arctic sea ice….”

AMEG recently completed a new film: Arctic Methane – Why the Sea Ice Matters.5 The following excerpts are taken from this film:

Peter Wadhams, President of the International Association on Sea Ice and Head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group/Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge, says: “It is quite urgent that we recognize what is going on… the ice has been getting thinner over the last 40 years since I have been measuring it, and it has lost about one-half of its thickness… five years ago the shrinkage started to accelerate. Now, melting in summer is greater than freezing in winter.”

James Hansen, adjunct professor, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University and former Head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies claims the melting ice could lead to the point where ocean floor warming triggers massive release of methane hydrate, i.e., methane molecules trapped in ice crystals, which would become a “tipping point.” As well, methane is already being released from thawing tundra on land, and it is bubbling up in the Arctic Ocean, which is clear evidence of the warming of the Arctic Ocean waters. Thus and so, there is evidence that the warming ocean floor is already beginning to release massive amounts of methane into the atmosphere, with dire consequences to follow.

According to David Wasdell, International Coordinator, Meridian Programme: “A runaway climate change is now clear and beginning to be quantified for the first time… the greatest threat we face as a planet… The rate of change we’re generating in the current situation is between 200-300 times faster than that experience of any extinction event apart from the asteroidal impact. If you look at the general background change, for instance, it takes about 10,000 years to change the concentration of carbon dioxide by 100 ppm — we’re doing it in 30 years at this year’s rate… so, the rate of change in the climate is phenomenal compared to previous extinction events.”

Wasdell continues, “We’re already in a mass extinction event. We’re losing species and losing populations, partly by climate change and partly by habitat change, partly by overexploitation of habitat like fisheries… We’ve lost about 40% of the phytoplankton in the oceans which is the basis of the food chain.”
Imagine 40% of land crops disappearing, the world would be in a state of chaos involving hordes of desperate people invading other countries for their food and water. In contrast, what can marine life do upon losing 40% of its primary food source as a result of human-induced climate change?

Jet Stream Impact Threatens World Food Supply

The warming Arctic impacts the entire Northern Hemisphere in a negative fashion, threatening humankind’s food supply. As the Arctic warms, the jet streams change, and the jet streams drive weather systems, most prominently in the Northern Hemisphere. As a result of the warming Arctic, the jet streams become wavier and slower, causing freakish weather all across the Northern Hemisphere.
As an example: A couple of years ago the jet streams were locked and the trough of the wave was over Pakistan; the crest was over Russia. The jet stream did not move for 35 days. The trough was low pressure with lots of rain, and as a result, Pakistan flooded, beyond one month. At the time, worldwide television networks sent broadcasts of groups of Pakistanis huddled together on small landmasses surrounded by water. Simultaneously, Moscow was under a high-pressure ridge, experiencing a powerful 35-day heat wave. An estimated 50,000 Russians, over and above the normal mortality rate, died (not mentioned on TV), and the country lost 40% of its wheat crop. Russia halted wheat exports.

In 2012 the United States’ drought was the worst since 1950. Syria, part of the Fertile Crescent breadbasket of the Middle East, had a 6-year drought only recently, and India has had two droughts the past four years. And, the list does not end here….

Radical Climate Change in Arctic

According to AMEG, here’s how climate change in the Arctic has changed weather patterns: Over the past three decades, snow cover has been reduced by 17-18% per decade and sea ice is declining fast because of human-induced global warming. Consequently, the albedo effect is collapsing in the Arctic.
Albedo is the reflection of Sun’s radiation off the white ice and white snow surfaces. Unfortunately, when the albedo effect collapses, the dark sea and dark land mass absorb most of the Sun’s radiation. A collapsing albedo effect is ominously apocalyptic for the Arctic, and for the world. And, disturbingly, Arctic albedo is already in the collapsing stage. This will inevitably lead to ever more methane emissions and a vicious cycle of feedbacks leading to an extinction event, probably unstoppable.

According to physicist Paul Beckwith, University of Ottawa, since 2007, there has been a sharp increase in methane release, and he says methane is the key now to a ‘tipping point’ in the climate. He believes it is entirely possible that before 2020 the Arctic will be clear of sea ice with open waters three months of the year, as a minimum, and without sea ice, and with the loss of the reflective albedo, all the feedbacks will kick into gear. This will, in turn, trigger runaway warming of the planet and fractured weather patterns like extra-prolonged droughts or sudden, torrential rains as the entire world begins to sizzle!


Beckwith believes geo-engineering is the only salvation for the Arctic. This involves injecting sulfur dioxide into the Arctic atmosphere, which acts like a large erupting volcano, blocking out sunlight, allowing the Arctic to cool. Be that as it may, there are serious scientists and legal scholars, e.g., experts at both Harvard and UCLA, who question the value of geo-engineering without first taking the time to establishing very tight international protocols. On the other hand, and controversially, some scientists fear potential consequences of a ‘Frankenstein atmosphere’ once humans begin tampering with nature.

The problem: There are no good solutions absent question marks.

In that respect, this begs the question of why the governments of the world have not been, as rapidly as humanly possible, promoting renewables as a replacement for fossil fuels. Renewable energy technology is proven, and for the uninitiated, renewables have been around for decades. And, renewables are climate friendly.

At the end of the day, runaway climate change may be the result of the greatest failure of political leadership in recorded history… assuming recordkeeping is still maintained within the context of an extinction event.

All of which goes to prove, humans and asteroids are on the same level.
Postscript: A quote from Astronaut Ulf Merbold (71), Federal Republic of Germany, who participated in three space flights for a total of 49 days, 21 hours, and 38 minutes:
For the first time in my life I saw the horizon as a curved line. It was accentuated by a thin seam of dark blue light – our atmosphere. Obviously this was not the ocean of air I had been told it was so many times in my life. I was terrified by its fragile appearance.
  1. Steve Connor, Danger from the Deep: New Climate Threat as Methane Rises from Cracks in Arctic Ice, The Independent (UK), April 23, 2012. []
  2. EcoAlert: New Climate-Change Threat? Immense Amounts of Methane Locked Under Antarctic Ice, The Daily Galaxy (University of California/Santa Cruz), Aug. 29, 2012. []
  3. Steve Connor, Vast Methane ‘Plumes’ Seen in Arctic Ocean as Sea Ice Retreats, The Independent (UK), Dec. 13, 2011. [] [] []
  4. George Papadakis, UK, Methane Gas Hydrates: A Potential Threat to Climate Stability, Climate Emergency Institute, Dec. 22, 2011. []
  5. Envisionation, Producer: Nick Breeze, Spring 2012. []
Robert Hunziker (MA in economic history at DePaul University, Chicago) is a former hedge fund manager and now a professional independent negotiator for worldwide commodity actual transactions and a freelance writer for progressive publications as well as business journals. He can be contacted at: 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Is Sustainability Even Possible?

Science News

60-Second Earth

Is Sustainability Even Possible?

More than 40 years after Earth Day, human civilization is still far from the ideal of sustainability. David Biello reports

Listen to this Podcast

Some questions to ponder on Earth Day: how much of an environmental problem is the growing human population? And is the problem too many people or the throwaway culture of too many things?

A new paper in the journal Science attempts to assess the burdens placed on people and the planet by individuals’ decisions to have large families and/or consume a lot.

A key factor in the creation of large families is young women without access to schools or family planning. So one way to address population growth is to educate and empower women.

Good news. That's happening. In fact, the rate of population growth peaked back in the 1960s and has been falling ever since.

What about consumption? Our global economy's toll in pollution and degradation of the environment remains high, though its focus has shifted around the globe. For example, the current uptick in Brazilian deforestation can be traced largely to exports of beef and soybeans to China.

The conclusion of the Science paper: "contemporary economic growth is unsustainable." And true sustainability has to be long-term: it means ensuring that whatever decisions we make now do not lessen the ability of future generations to have at least as good a life as we enjoy today. We can't buy our way out of the problem.

—David Biello

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tar Sands Is Worse Than You Can Imagine: Incredible Images You Have to See



AlterNet is teaming up with the Post Carbon Institute to bring you mind-blowing images and stories that will inspire you to take action.

The Suncor Energy upgrading refinery, on the banks of the Athabasca River.
Photo Credit: Copyrighted image; photographer not disclosed.

Post Carbon Institute and Alternet have partnered to shed a powerful light on the true costs of our addiction to fossil fuels, starting with the Alberta tar sands

Every powerful photo is linked to three meaningful actions that you can take right now to fight back against tar sands mining. We need your help getting the word out; please take a look at the images, take a stand , and share far and wide with your friends, colleagues and neighbors. 

The mining of the Alberta tar sands is the biggest industrial project on earth and quite possibly the world's most environmentally destructive. The visuals are hard to stomach, but the story is an important one to tell.  

As conventional oil and gas deplete, the energy industry must resort to unconventional resources that are more expensive, more technically challenging to access, and pose far greater risks to ecosystems and communities than ever before. The result is destruction on an unprecedented level. 

The tar sands tale is told frame by frame in the image deck, guiding us from the clear-cutting of pristine Boreal forest and creation of vast open-pit mines all the way to the pipelines that transport diluted bitumen across the continent. 

The connection between the astounding environmental destruction taking place in Canada and the debate over approval of the Keystone XL pipeline here in the US is clear. As the recent rupture of the Pegasus Pipeline in Arkansas makes abundantly clear, the transport of diluted bitumen from Alberta via pipelines to oil refineries thousands of miles away poses unacceptable environmental risks. 

As important, the Keystone XL Pipeline is a key litmus test for the Obama Administration and the country as a whole. And the rest of the world is watching.  

Although the Canadian tar sands contribute a small percentage of total global oil production and the Keystone XL Pipeline is just one of many contested fossil fuel projects in the world (in fact, First Nations and thousands of other Canadians are fighting an equally dangerous tar sands pipeline, the Northern Gateway Pipeline), this decision by President Obama is a keystone of a different kind - representing the kind of energy future we want for ourselves and our loved ones.  

For that reason, it's not mere hyperbole to say that this is a life and death decision.  

We're reaching out to you to speak up against the Keystone XL Pipeline by sharing these images with your friends, family, and neighbors, and by clicking on one of the calls to action associated with each image.  

Stay tuned as PCI and Alternet unveil our next collaborate visual effort in the coming weeks. 

Leslie Moyer is the Energy Reality Campaign Director for Post Carbon Institute.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Dead dolphins and shrimp with no eyes found after BP clean-up

Dead dolphins and shrimp with no eyes found after BP clean-up


Chemicals used to disperse Gulf of Mexico spill blamed for marine deaths and human illness

Hundreds of beached dolphin carcasses, shrimp with no eyes, contaminated fish, ancient corals caked in oil and some seriously unwell people are among the legacies that scientists are still uncovering in the wake of BP's Deepwater Horizon spill.

This week it will be three years since the first of 4.9 billion barrels of crude oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico, in what is now considered the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. As the scale of the ecological disaster unfolds, BP is appearing daily in a New Orleans federal court to battle over the extent of compensation it owes to the region.

Infant dolphins were found dead at six times average rates in January and February of 2013. More than 650 dolphins have been found beached in the oil spill area since the disaster began, which is more than four times the historical average. Sea turtles were also affected, with more than 1,700 found stranded between May 2010 and November 2012 – the last date for which information is available. On average, the number stranded annually in the region is 240.

Contact with oil may also have reduced the number of juvenile bluefin tuna produced in 2010 by 20 per cent, with a potential reduction in future populations of about 4 per cent. Contamination of smaller fish also means that toxic chemicals could make their way up the food chain after scientists found the spill had affected the cellular function of killifish, a common bait fish at the base of the food chain.

Deep sea coral, some of which is thousands of years old, has been found coated in oil after the dispersed droplets settled on the sea's bottom. A recent laboratory study found that the mixture of oil and dispersant affected the ability of some coral species to build new parts of a reef.

Doug Inkley, a senior scientist for the US National Wildlife Federation and author of a report published this week on wildlife affected by the spill, said: "These ongoing deaths – particularly in an apex predator such as the dolphin – are a strong indication that there is something amiss with the Gulf ecosystem."

Scientists believe that the 1.8 million gallons of dispersant, sprayed as part of the clean-up, have cemented the disaster's toxic effect on ocean life and human health. The dispersant, called Corexit, caused what some scientists have described as "a giant black snowstorm" of tiny oil globules, which has been carried around the ocean in plumes and has now settled on the sea floor. A study last November found the dispersant to be 52 times more toxic than the oil itself.

Larry McKinney, director of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, said: "Before we depend on dispersants to get rid of oil and get it out of sight, we need to understand what it can do in the open ocean. We're told to keep oil off the shore and away from estuaries, but we've not dealt with something like this before, that's in the open ocean and gone from top to bottom, affecting the whole water column."

Scientists believe the addition of dispersants to the oil made it more easily absorbed through the gills of fish and into the bloodstream. Dr William Sawyer, a toxicologist, has studied concentrations of petroleum hydrocarbon (PHC) in edible fish and shellfish in the region. Samples before the spill had no measurable PHC in the tissue, whereas fish tested in recent months show tissue concentrations as high as 10,000 parts per million, or 1 per cent of all tissue. He said: "The study shows that the absorption [of the oil] was enhanced by the Corexit."

BP says the dispersants it used are "government approved and safe when used appropriately", and that extensive testing has shown seafood in the Gulf states is safe to eat.

Louisiana State University's Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences has found sea life in the Gulf with lesions and deformities that it believes may be linked to the use of dispersants. These include shrimp with no eyes and crabs with no eyes or without claws. BP claims these abnormalities are "common in marine life", had been seen in the region before, and are caused by bacterial infections or parasites.

In a blow to the region's tourism, tar balls continue to wash up along the affected coastline, which now stretches from the beaches of Louisiana to Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Marco Kaltofen, a chemical engineer at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, said: "We have a reservoir of petroleum and petroleum-contaminated sediment that lies just offshore of several Gulf beaches. Every time we have a storm, all of a sudden you're getting these tar balls washing up."

It is not just wildlife that scientists believe has been affected. Michael Robichaux, a Louisiana doctor, has documented 113 patients who he thinks were made ill by exposure to chemicals associated with the spill. Their most common symptoms include headaches, memory loss, fatigue, irritability, vertigo, nausea, blurred vision and insomnia.

One of Dr Robichaux's patients, Jorey Danos, 32, is a formerly healthy father of three. Since working for BP on the clean-up, he says he has experienced serious ill health, including severe abdominal and joint pain that has left him walking with a cane. Several doctors, including a neurologist, have put his condition down to the neurological impact of exposure to the chemicals related to the spill.

Mr Danos said: "I worked 21 days in one of the boats skimming the oil and we were sprayed directly with Corexit from above on three occasions. My skin came out with bumps and burning and I started having breathing problems. When a speedboat with BP representatives came by I asked for a respirator but they said no, because it would lead to bad media attention. Now I'm still dealing with it three years later." BP said all workers were provided with safety training and protective equipment and would have had the opportunity to join a class action settlement.

Geoff Morrell, BP's head of US communications, said: "No company has done more to respond to an industrial accident than BP has in the US Gulf of Mexico."

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Breaking: New Photos, Video of Mayflower Spill and Lake Conway

Breaking: New Photos, Video of Mayflower Spill and Lake Conway

By (about the author)     Permalink      
General News
Become a Fan
  (55 fans)

Perky oil booms placed strategically to save the world. by On Wings of Care

MAYFLOWER, AR.  On April 12, On Wings Of Care (OWOC),  a nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of wildlife,  wild habitat,  and natural ecosystems,  flew over ExxonMobil's Pegasus Pipeline spill in Mayflower, AR.

The new images show conditions at the site,  two weeks after the leak began pouring thousands of gallons of crude oil into backyards and backwaters of this neighborhood.

Is this Arkansas in Spring, or a desert wasteland? by On Wings of Care

Now the oil (or more properly, "diluted bitumen") is making its way into nearby Lake Conway. 

On Wings Of Care is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of wildlife,  wild habitat,  and natural ecosystems.

Founder and President Bonny Schumaker,  Ph.D.,  is retired from 22 years as a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  She's also a former Continental Airlines pilot and has been an FAA flight instructor for over 15 years. 

Combining her skills as pilot and scientist with her passion for wildlife,  Dr. Schumaker has clocked nearly 600 hours of flight time over the Gulf of Mexico,  documenting the status of wildlife,  coastal wetlands,  and offshore waters.

On Wings Of Care's four-minute video flyover is below:

Big manly equipment is dwarfed by the magnitude of the spill ... by On Wings of Care

Only 2 portapotties? Exxon must not be planning a big party. by On Wings of Care

The fragrance of tar sands oil fills the air ... by On Wings of Care

A beautiful day in the neighborhood ... or it should have been! by On Wings of Care

Just another day in paradise... by On Wings of Care

Author's note: Bonny Schumaker of On Wings of Care is piloting the plane, and  after the Mayflower flyover, she is involved with flying 13 rescue dogs to their "fur"-ever homes. I asked her for captions and info on the photos and video when she gets a moment, but I am not sure when we might get that info. I am sure she is a great multitasker, but I don't expect her to be able to fly a plane full of 13 dogs, and text, too!  So, I decided to post the images alone, than  hold them back until I got further info.

And additional info will be posted on http://www.onwingsofcare.org, after all the sweet doggies get to their new homes.

OWOC extends its thanks to Brayton Matthews of FlightlineFirst at New Orleans' Lakefront Airport for joining Bonny on this flight, "so that we could get these photos and videos to you promptly!"

Related articles on Opednews: 
Tar Sands Oil Arkansas #3 (update) (04.12.13) by William Boardman at click here
Tar Sands Oil Arkansas #2 (an update, almost all new)  (04.11.13) by William Boardman at  click here  
Tar Sands Oil Arkansas #1  (04.10.13) by William Boardman at  click here


Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing for over 25 years. She studied art with Harold Ransom Stevenson in (more...)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

6 Things You Need to Know About the Arkansas Oil Spill


For starters, this is not your average crude; but there is a whole lot more you should know.

Photo Credit: Karen McCall/Greenpeace
This article was published in partnership with GlobalPossibilities.org.
By now, you already know that at least 84,000 gallons of crude spilled from an ExxonMobil pipeline, swamping an Arkansas subdivision on Friday, and causing the evacuation of 22 homes. In addition to the loss of wildlife, damage to property, and environmental and human health hazards posed by the spill, it may have implications for the Keystone XL pipeline currently under consideration by the Obama administration.

There is a lot more to the story that's important to understand. Here are six crucial things.

1. Not Your Average Crude

InsideClimate News reported shortly after the spill that an Exxon official confirmed the pipeline was "transporting a heavy form of crude from the Canadian tar sands region." Specifically, it has been identified as Wabasca Heavy, Lisa Song writes, "which is a type of diluted bitumen, or dilbit, from Alberta's tar sands region" although you won't hear any Exxon folks calling it tar sands. 

Dilbit is some seriously nasty stuff. She writes about a previous dilbit spill by Enbridge in Michigan's Kalamazoo River in 2010: 
Dilbit is a mixture of heavy bitumen and diluents--light hydrocarbons used to thin the bitumen so it can flow through pipelines. While most conventional crude oils will float on water, the bitumen began sinking into the river as the diluents evaporated, leaving a sludge of submerged oil that defied traditional cleanup methods. ...
Earlier this month, the EPA ordered Enbridge, Inc., the Canadian company that owns the pipeline, to dredge sunken oil from the riverbed. The cleanup has cost more than $820 million to date and could top $1 billion once the order is carried out.
The Arkansas spill wasn't as big as the Michigan spill and it was farther from main water bodies, but it's still serious business. If you want to know more about how dangerous tar sands/dilbit can be, the Dilbit Disaster is a must-read. 

2. Not Your Average Pipeline

The Pegasus pipeline running more than 850 miles between Patoka, Illinois and Nederland, Texas, is 20 inches in diameter and was built in the 1940s to carry crude from Texas to Illinois. But in 2006 the flow was reversed in order to carry Canadian tar sands to Texas. As Ben Jervey wrote for DeSmog blog, the flow was reversed to "help relieve the tar sands crude bottleneck in Cushing, Oklahoma. (The same reason given by proponents for the construction of Keystone XL.)"

The pipeline was built to carry 65,000 barrels a day, but Exxon was allowed to expand that to 95,000 barrels a day just a few years ago.

All of these facts bring up some basic questions. What effect does a higher capacity have on the pipeline? What effect does reversing the flow have on the pipeline? And what effect does switching from conventional crude to dilbit have on the pipeline, considering it was built to have a much thinner crude flowing through it?

John H. Cushman Jr. wrote for InsideClimate News:
... seven years ago, when Exxon, the pipeline's operator, turned it into a higher-volume line for diluted bitumen from Canada flowing under greater pressure to refineries on the Gulf Coast, federal rules did not require a new permit application or safety reviews, according to federal officials.
"Our regulations don't specify how much product a pipeline carries. There is no regulation if they want to change the type of crude they carry," said Damon Hill, a spokesman for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, a part of the Transportation Department. "As far as reversing the flow of a pipeline, it is not a safety issue."
To reverse the line that runs from Patoka, Ill. to Nederland, Tex. required 240,000 man-hours of work on pump stations, valves, bypasses and integrity tests, Exxon said when it opened the line.
But only after the spill occurred did the agency step in with an order, issued Tuesday, that clamps down on the Pegasus pipeline, for example by limiting the pressure at which it may operate once it reopens. Noting that the pipeline's flow was reversed in 2006 so that it could carry Canadian tar sands crude 850 miles from Illinois to Texas, the agency's corrective action order remarked that "a change in the direction of flow can affect the hydraulic and stress demands on the pipeline."
3. Tax Exempt?

Who's footing the bill for the cleanup? The government has an Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund that companies which transport oil must pay into. But, as it turns out, the bitumen that Exxon was transporting in its pipeline isn't oil by government standards. Erin O'Sullivan writes for Oil Change International: 
In a January 2011 memorandum, the IRS determined that to generate revenues for the oil spill trust fund, Congress only intended to tax conventional crude, and not tar sands or other unconventional oils. This exemption remains to this day, even though the United States moves billions of gallons of tar sands crude through its pipeline system every year. The trust fund is liable for tar sands oil spill cleanups without collecting any revenue from tar sands transport. If the fund goes broke, the American taxpayer foots the cleanup bill.
Keep this in mind as Exxon tries to wiggle out of connecting the contents of its pipeline with tar sands.

4. No Media Access 

It feels like BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster all over again when it comes to media access. Lisa Song reported that the command center for cleanup is tightly controlled by Exxon, with even the parking lot off limits and guarded by security. She wrote:
The stakes are high and Exxon is running the show here, with federal agencies so far publicly invisible. The phone number of the command center in Mayflower goes to an ExxonMobil answering service based in Texas, and each day it is Exxon that distributes a unified command press release--which contains the logos of Exxon, Faulkner County and the city of Mayflower--with official updates on the progress of the cleanup. ...
A request for a media tour of the spill site today was turned down by an Exxon spokesperson, who emerged from the command center to speak with a reporter at the gate. All areas being cleaned up so far have also been off limits. There is no central location where members of the media can gather to ask questions.
5. Under Investigation

Exxon may be feeling a little bit of heat as the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has ordered a corrective action, which puts the broken pipeline under lockdown for the time being (pretty much a no-brainer). Jeannie Nuss reported for the AP that, "the order signed by Jeffrey Wiese, associate administrator for pipeline safety, says 'continued operation of the Pegasus Pipeline would be hazardous to life, property, and the environment.'" 
But that's not all. She writes:
The federal agency's order comes as Arkansas' attorney general promised a state investigation into the cause and impact of the spill and other officials say they plan to ask Exxon to move the Pegasus pipeline to protect drinking water.
"There are many questions and concerns remaining as to the long-term impacts, environmental or otherwise, from this spill," Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel wrote to ExxonMobil executives Tuesday. He also asked ExxonMobil to preserve records pending his investigation.
6. Effects on Keystone XL

So, how is this going to affect decisions about the Keystone XL pipeline? Those who have been against the pipeline because of its environmental risks have new fodder. Others who were previously in favor or indifferent may have second thoughts, especially considering that the Pegasus pipeline capacity was only about a tenth of what the Keystone XL would carry.

Any pipeline poses risks, but tar sands pipelines pose even more risks than conventional oil. "TransCanada's first Keystone pipeline leaked 12 times in its first 12 months," wrote Sierra Club's Michael Brune. "Because tar sands must be pumped at higher pressures and temperatures than conventional oil, it corrodes pipes faster."

Just days before the Arkansas spill, a coalition of environmental groups, led by the National Wildlife Federation, as well as landowners, and others filed a petition with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the EPA, calling on them to enact stronger safety regulations for pipelines carrying tar sands oil. The petition may well pick up more backers in the spill's aftermath. 

Tara Lohan is a senior editor at AlterNet and editor of the new book Water Matters: Why We Need to Act Now to Save Our Most Critical Resource. You can follow her on Twitter @TaraLohan.

Fracking Debate Reveals Cracks in American Society

Fracking Debate Reveals Cracks in American Society (via http://www.kalev.com)

Story by Robert Gluck Kalev.com Contributor Not being able to resolve issues makes things worse and so it goes with fracking for natural gas. Think of the fracking issue as reflective of our society as a whole. Why? Because the war going on with this issue is similar to other issues. Each side…

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Exxon Pegasus Oil Spill Shows Why the Keystone XL Issue is So Critical


Exxon Pegasus Oil Spill Shows Why the Keystone XL Issue is So Critical 

Benjamin Feinblum

exxon, pegasus, oil, spill, shows, why, the, keystone, xl, issue, is, so, critical,

The Keystone XL decision is still underway. While pipeline routes are being adjusted for this project, a similar Exxon pipeline carrying the same oil type has had a major spill in Arkansas. The "Pegasus" pipeline is now releasing thousands of barrels of oil. This example is a regular occurrence. Oil pipelines leak. What would happen if the Keystone XL pipeline sprung a similar leak on it's original route?

By comparing the scale of the Keystone XL project with currently leaking and recently leaking pipelines, considering the route decisions underway for Keystone, and considering the impact of a disaster on proposed routes, the political decisions made to temporarily halt the process while a new route is considered showed leadership and vision by the Obama administration.

Comparing Pipelines

First, lets look at the scale of the Pegasus pipeline that is currently leaking. This is a 90,000 barrel per day capacity pipeline. The expansion of the 20 inch pipeline was completed in 2009. This is an advanced technology pipeline that is supposed to detect leaks. This pipeline was completed just four years ago.

In 2011 Exxon had a similar incident when it's 12-inch Silvertip pipeline leaked 1,000 barrels of oil into the Yellowstone River.

The Keystone XL projected would have a 36-inch pipeline that carries 830,000 barrels per day. The southern leg has been approved and is under construction. The Northern leg is being re-planned to take a different route. The original Keystone pipeline became operational in 2010.

Each pipeline carries oil that is referred to as "Canadian Wabasca heavy crude," or "heavy bitumen crude," which is corrosive.

The Keystone XL pipeline is almost double the size of a currently leaking pipeline and carries more than nine times the quantity of corrosive fuel per day. Keystone XL problems have the potential to release massive quantities more of oil.

Key Route Problems of the Northern Section of Keystone XL

The Northern leg proposal was to take the pipeline through the Ogallala Aquifer, which is one of the largest sources of fresh water in the world. Not only does the aquifer supply water for 2.3 million people, but 30% of all irrigation water for America's farmland comes from this single source, which crosses six states.

Ogallala Aquifer Map

For national context see the circled region:

National Ogallala Aquifer Map

The proposed routes and alternatives have begun to go around the Nebraska Sandhills, which is very sensitive environmental area, but continue to cut straight through the water supply.

Water Supply and Keystone XL

Some reports describe how TransCanada focused it's rerouting on going around property of landowners who most vocally opposed the pipeline. The rerouting does skirt the sandhills, but does not go around the critically important fresh water supply.

TransCanada posted a map of the proposed northern leg. Notice in this map the rust colored line showing the Keystone route already in operation since 2010. Planners of this route knew to go completely around the Ogallala Aquifer and over thicker soil that would not allow oil could to leak through into ground water. Here's TransCanada's own map image.

Keystone pipeline images

Heavy bitumen crude is extremely difficult to clean up during an accident because it sinks.  Skimmers are able to collect other forms of oil on the surface. Now, imagine this form of crude spilled in an underground water source that reaches six states and irrigates our farms. Watch this video from the Pegasus spill to see how hard this is to clean up, above ground, when we can reach it by hand.


Special Conditions of Northern Leg Make Matters Worse 

Not only did TransCanada apply for a route through one of the largest fresh water supplies in the world, but it applied for using thinner pipeline, operating at higher pressure than normal, through a seismic zone that had a 4.3 magnitude earthquake as recently as 2002.

A study was released, which said that the pipeline would have "limited adverse environmental impacts." The New York Times dug deeper and learned that the producer of the study, a company called Cardno Entrix, in it's own marketing materials describes TransCanada as a major client.

The Politics

Republicans have pushed to get this through as quickly as possible. In the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney promised that on his first day in office he'd approve the pipeline with it's initial design.

President Obama approved the southern portion and asked for a rerouting of the northern portion around critical areas.

Here is video of President Obama as he fast tracked the Southern portion of the Keystone XL. He mentions the Republican Governor of Nebraska who was concerned about the route of the pipeline.

We can't rush to major decisions like this out of political expediency. These decisions have major and lasting consequences. Imagine if the breadbasket of the United States all the sudden had toxic water rushing through it's irrigation systems. What impact could that have nationwide?

Remember The BP Oil Spill?

The 2011 BP Gulf oil spill was the largest U.S. environmental disaster since the dust bowl during the Great Depression.

NASA satellite footage shows a spill so big you can see if from space.

When the BP spill happened they used massive amounts of chemical dispersant's, that are toxic themselves, to clean up the oil. Seafood was tested for hydrocarbons (oil) but not tested for Corexit and other chemicals used in the cleanup.

The decisions we make today determine the outcomes we face in the future, and president Obama was right to delay the proposed Keystone project.