Thursday, September 17, 2015
California oilfield wastewater panic ignores first rule of toxicology
So oilfield wastewater sprayed on CA cops contains toxins! How awful! What the Greenies don't mention is the first law of toxicology: The toxicity is in the dose. We ingest minute amounts of toxins all the time and it does us no harm. But even plain old drinking water can kill you if you drink too much of it. Wastewater for crop usage is purified according to official standards and there is no evidence it does any harm.
“You can't find what you don't look for,” UC Berkeley researcher Seth B.C. Shonkoff recently told the LA Times, referring to the chemicals that state regulators don’t know to test for in the recycled wastewater the California oil industry sells for use on crops here in the top agricultural producing state in the US.
Chevron produces more than 10 times as much water as it does oil at its Kern River oil field in California’s Central Valley, for instance — 760,000 barrels of water a day versus 70,000 barrels of oil. Half of that water is treated and sold to the Cawelo Water District in Bakersfield, which mixes it with fresh water and sells it exclusively to farmers.
Nobody knows if that water contains chemicals from fracking or other extreme oil extraction techniques, because the companies aren't required to test for them before selling the water. Nobody knows what those chemicals are, anyway, because companies aren't required to make that information public.
And that’s just a fraction of the lucrative new market in recycled oil field water Chevron is pioneering as the climate-exacerbated drought gripping the American West show no signs of abating any time soon.
According to the LA Times, the company recycles 21 million gallons of produced water every day in California, selling it to farmers who use it on about 45,000 acres of cropland in Kern County, the nation’s “No. 2 crop county” since 2013.
Farmers rely on government regulators to guarantee that the recycled oil water they buy is safe, the Times reports, but given that state regulators don’t even know what those chemicals are, it can't very well be testing for them. But that could all change soon.
The California legislature passed a law in 2013 that establishes a regulatory framework for fracking, acidization and other unconventional well stimulations techniques, including mandatory air quality and groundwater monitoring and public disclosure of all chemicals used. The full regulations go into effect July 1, 2015 (six months before the scientific study and environmental impact study ordered by the law will be completed, but that’s another story).
Last month, state water authorities announced that all recycled oil field water would have to be tested for every chemical copmanies report using in the extraction process, and set a June 15, 2015 deadline for companies to report the results of those tests. Currently, the only tests required by the state are for naturally occurring toxins.
Environmental advocacy group Water Defense has already done its own test of the water Chevron is selling to California farmers, however, and says, “Our findings are appalling: laboratory analysis of irrigation water in the Cawelo Water District found not only oil, but known toxins and potential carcinogens including methylene chloride. Are these chemicals in the food we eat? We need to be investigating our waterways for the full range of contaminants that are going into them.”
David Ansolabehere, general manager of the Cawelo Water District, criticized Water Defense’s methods, per the LA Times, but at the same time announced that his agency and Chevron would voluntarily contract a third party to conduct tests in accordance with the new requirements.
The biggest question that needs to be answered in all this, of course, is whether or not there has been significant contamination of our food supply. At present, it’s not clear whether or not oil contamination in water used on crops could ever actually make its way into an almond or cherry or any other California-grown produce you might ever consume. But it certainly will help when we know what to look for.
Of course, this is just one of many issues the oil industry has with water that needs to be resolved. California oil wells coughed up some 3.1 billion barrels of water along with 200 million barrels of oil in 2014, much of it too salty or chemical-laden to be treated in a cost-effective manner.
Some 831 million barrels of that wastewater was injected into disposal wells last year, even as evidence was coming to light that California regulators had improperly allowed as many as 2,500 injection wells to operate in groundwater aquifers that should have been protected under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
In response to the drought — and the fact that California has only one year of water left in its reservoirs — Governor Jerry Brown announced emergency urban water use restrictions earlier this year. Those restrictions were heavily criticized for not including the oil and agricultural industries.
State regulators, meanwhile, gave oil companies another two years to continue injecting wastewater into protected aquifers while they seek the proper exemptions from the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Obama's Alaska Global Warming Story Backfires
President Obama attempted to gin up concern about global warming during his recent high-profile trip to Alaska, but he inadvertently called attention to major flaws in alarmist global warming theory. If Obama wants to use Alaska as a poster child in the global warming debate, skeptics will be all too happy to oblige.
“I’m going because Alaskans are on the front lines” of global warming, Obama declared in a White House video. He also claimed Alaska is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet.
Obama listed a litany of alleged global warming harms occurring in Alaska. He claimed warming is destabilizing permafrost, threatening homes and infrastructure. He claimed rivers are becoming warmer and more acidic, threatening tourism. He claimed sea level is receding, causing shoreline erosion. He claimed wildfire season is longer and more intense. He claimed Arctic sea ice is shrinking.
Despite all the verbal posturing, objective facts show Obama is misrepresenting the facts regarding global warming and Alaska. Let’s start by examining his claim that Alaska is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet.
Obama made this claim by singling out a time period covering the past 60 years. Since 1955, our planet has undergone three separate and distinct temperature trends. From 1955 through the late 1970s, global temperatures cooled. From the late 1970s through the late 1990s, global temperatures warmed. From the late 1990s through the present, global temperatures have flat-lined.
In Alaska, according to the Alaska Climate Research Center (ACRC), temperatures cooled from 1955 through the 1973, warmed significantly between 1973 and 1980, and have been flat ever since. There has been no global warming in Alaska since the 1970s. Claiming Alaska has been warming at twice the global average during the past 60 years is a very imprecise (at best) and misleading (at worst) way of pointing out that Alaska warmed during a brief 7-year period more than three decades ago and did not experience any warming during the rest of the 60-year period, including the past 35 years.
Alaska’s lack of recent warming is most strikingly presented in another temperature chart published by the ACRC. The ACRC compiled temperature data for 19 locations in Alaska from 1977 through 2014. In 16 of the 19 locations, as well as Alaska as a whole, temperatures have cooled over the course of these past 37 years. By just about every measure, Alaska is cooling, not warming.
Obama also claims warming temperatures are destabilizing Alaska permafrost. Yet how can permafrost be destabilizing when its necessary prerequisite – warming temperatures – is not even happening? And even if permafrost were melting, why would this be a climate catastrophe? Permafrost, by definition, is soil that is frozen solid. Frozen soil supports very little life. Soil that is not frozen supports abundant life. Sure, there may be some short-term disruptions of the frozen soil while it undergoes transformation to non-frozen soil, but the long-term benefits of soil that supports abundant life far outweigh the long-term benefits of soil that does not support abundant life.
Obama claims rivers are becoming warmer and more acidic. Again, how are rivers becoming warmer when Alaska air temperatures have not risen during the past 35 years? Obama offered no scientific evidence to support his claim, and his claim defies the objective temperature record and common sense.
The president claims sea level is receding, causing all sorts of woes. Yet, haven’t we been told over and over again that global warming is causing sea level to rise, not recede? And if rising sea levels were supposed to be such a bad thing, then why is sea level recession all of a sudden such a bad thing?
Obama claims Alaska’s wildfire season is longer and more intense. How can wildfire season be longer when temperatures are colder? And regardless of such flaws in his logic, objective data show wildfires throughout the United States are becoming less frequent as our planet modestly warms. Indeed, the past few years have been some of the fewest numbers of wildfires on record.
Obama’s final claim, that Arctic sea ice is receding, is counterbalanced by expanding Southern Hemisphere sea ice. Global warming’s impact on polar sea ice appears to not be so global after all.
Tying these objective facts together, the inescapable conclusion is Alaskans are indeed “on the front lines” of global warming – just not in the way Obama would lead us to believe.
Carpenter Crafting Eco-Friendly Altar of Poplar wood For Eco-Friendly Pope’s U.S. Visit
I could make some smart remarks about why Poplars should be neither grown (intrusive roots) nor harvested (wetland tree) but I will forbear for once
Deacon Dave Cahoon is working at his St. Joseph’s Carpentry Shop in Poolesville, Md., to construct 14 pieces of furniture for the altar that will be used when Pope Francis offers Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. later this month.
The handcrafted pieces are not only specifically designed for the Pope, but also for a Pope who believes in climate change and mankind’s role in it.
“Deacon Cahoon said he was inspired by Pope Francis’s recent encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si, to use materials for the altar that did not involve any exploitation of the environment or of native workers,” the Catholic Standard reported.
Cahoon is part of a team of 12 craftsmen putting together the Pope’s altar, which was designed by Catholic University architecture students Ariadne Cerriteli, Matthew Hoffman, and Joseph Taylor and is made of poplar wood.
This is not, however, the first time Cahoon has built an altar for a Pope. Back in 2007 he constructed the altar used by Pope Benedict XVI in National’s Park.
“It’s just by the grace of God,” Cahoon told The Standard of building altars for two Popes at his Poolesville, Md., shop.
“You go along for the ride, and all along the way you see the work of the Holy Spirit,” Cahoon said.
Lawmaker seeks impeachment of EPA chief
A Republican lawmaker from Arizona wants the head of the Environmental Protection Agency impeached.
A resolution introduced Friday by Rep. Paul Gosar calls for the removal of Gina McCarthy as EPA administrator for making false statements on multiple occasions during congressional testimony. The resolution has 20 co-sponsors.
"Perjury before Congress is perjury to the American people and an affront to the fundamental principles of our republic and the rule of law," Gosar said. "Such behavior cannot be tolerated. My legislation will hold Administrator McCarthy accountable for her blatant deceptions and unlawful conduct."
The congressman accuses McCarthy of committing perjury on three occasions concerning the EPA's new Waters of the U.S. rule, also known as the Clean Water Rule. The rule, which Gosar and other Republicans oppose, gives the federal government control of various types of waterways — such as ditches and tributaries — normally under the jurisdiction of the states.
The resolution is the latest saga in the battle between congressional Republicans and the EPA, which many Republicans accuse of executive overreach.
Agriculture groups, mining companies and other groups in rural regions have expressed concerns that the water rule might pile unwanted regulations on them.
During multiple hearings spanning from February to July, Gosar said McCarthy testified that regulations on previously non-jurisdictional waters were developed based on scientific data. However, memos between officials at the Army Corps of Engineers, which is helping implement the water rule, indicate that was not necessarily true.
Gosar also said McCarthy provided false statements under oath when she claimed that the EPA had met all of the rule's legal and scientific deficiencies raised by the Army Corps of Engineers. Gosar said memos and testimony from Army Corps officials dispute those claims.
"Administrator McCarthy committed perjury and made several false statements at multiple congressional hearings," Gosar said, "and as a result, is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors — an impeachable offense."
"Administrator McCarthy is a dedicated public servant who performs her duties with the utmost respect for the law," wrote the EPA in a statement sent to the Washington Examiner in response to the resolution. "This exercise has zero merit and is nothing more than political theater. Protecting public health and the environment for all Americans should not be a political issue. All sides want clean, safe air for their children. We are fulfilling our jobs — as Congress has directed us, and as courts have reaffirmed for us — to protect public health and the environment."
This is the third time Gosar has tried to impeach an official from the Obama administration, the first two being former Attorney General Eric Holder and Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen. Holder left office in April, while Koskinen is still heading the IRS. Gosar, a three-term congressman, hails from a district in Arizona that includes large swaths of rural land. He will be up for re-election in 2016.
The Clean Water Rule rule went into effect Aug. 28. A federal judge in North Dakota placed a temporary injunction against the EPA the day before the water rule was set to be enforced, after 13 states filed a lawsuit in North Dakota citing concerns it would harm states. The EPA worked around the ruling and went ahead with enforcing the water rule in all states except those included in the lawsuit.
"The Clean Water Rule is fundamental to protecting and restoring the nation's water resources that are vital for our health, environment and economy," the EPA wrote in a litigation statement in response to the temporary injunction.
“Renewable” Energy – Powerful Words Make Us Do Stupid Things
The term “renewable” is now magical when applied to energy policy. We understand intuitively that fossil fuels are fixed, not renewable. Even if they are abundant now, every bit of coal, oil, or natural gas we use means there is less available, and their use causes a host of environmental and national security problems. If an energy supply were renewable, it would be a desirable replacement for fossil fuels. This was the simple logic of the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005, including a provision to establish a renewable fuel standard. Renewability equals goodness. A host of interest groups, including many environmentalists, have lined up to support almost any energy source that can carry the adjective renewable.
We can be smarter than this. It turns out that some of policies to encourage renewable energy look just plain stupid. We need better criteria for evaluating energy alternatives, because we must reduce fossil fuel. (Stay tuned, I’ll return to this in the future.)
I suggest three better ways to think about energy policy – energy return on energy invested, also called net energy; power density; and life cycle assessment. All three are more abstract and less intuitive than renewability. Yet all three would contribute to better energy policy.
Energy return on energy invested (EROI) mirrors the idea of returns on financial investments. This metric accounts for the fact that any energy source requires other energy sources to capture, move, and transform that energy source into heat, electricity, or work. So the wood for our winter heating requires gasoline and oil for the chain saw, diesel fuel for the machinery to get the logs out of the, more gas to cut and split the wood, diesel to get the couple of cords of wood to our house, and human work (food energy) to haul, stack, and haul it again to the stove. The EROI for wood is the measure of the amount of heat we get for our house from burning the wood divided by the sum of all the energy needed to harvest, process, and deliver the wood. If the result of that calculation is greater than 1.0 then the net energy or EROI is positive; we got more energy out of the system then we put into the system.
Energy systems should be thought of in the same way we think of saving money. We would not put $100 in the bank today with the promise of getting $95 back a year from now. So we should not promote energy systems that put in 100 units of energy to get 95 units back, even if the system is deemed “renewable.” We appear to have done this in the case of ethanol from corn, the primary fuel mandated from the EPA’s renewable fuel standard.
There is a vigorous debate in the academic literature about whether corn ethanol’s EROI is positive or negative. Scientists supported by the government argue that the EROI is positive, although the amount of net energy is not large. At best the energy out in the form of ethanol is only slightly more than the total energy it took to make this alcohol. Others scientists, notably David Pimentel of Cornell University, suggest that the net returns are negative. The sum of energy to plant, fertilize, irrigate, harvest the corn, to convert the corn to sugars, and to make ethanol from that sugar is greater than the energy in the ethanol. Virtually all of these energy inputs are fossil fuels. If Pimentel and others like him are correct, we are using more fossil fuel energy to make a gallon of ethanol from corn than that gallon of ethanol contains. But it is “renewable,” so it must be good. This strikes me as a stupid policy. It would use less fossil fuels to just use them directly.
A second metric for evaluating alternative energy systems is power density. This is a measure championed by the Canadian geographer and energy expert Vaclav Smil. Smil’s several books on energy are must reads for anyone who wishes to weigh in on energy issues; Energy in Nature and Society is the most comprehensive of them. Power density, which is more abstract than EROI, measures the flow of energy in spatial terms. Think of it as measuring how compact or dense an energy system is. The greater the power density of the system the less space it will consume on the planet per unit of usable energy produced, an important consideration when we are trying to find energy to support more than 7 billion humans. One of the reasons that fossil fuel systems have been so successful is that they exhibit a high power density, therefore take up less space compared to alternatives. This fact makes finding good alternatives to fossil fuels more challenging than just calling those alternatives “renewable.”
Looking at another popular renewable energy — wind power — we see the usefulness of power density as a metric. Since the wind blows often, if not regularly, it is assumed that its renewability makes it a desirable energy alternative. But it has a very low power density, meaning that it will take a lot more space for the wind infrastructure to deliver the same amount of usable energy we get from fossil fuels, as we can see below from estimates made by Smil.
This much lower power density explains why even modest wind power development in Maine is so visible, in some cases degrading vista’s important to Maine’s tourism economy. Wind power’s low power density, and therefore big footprint per unit of energy delivered, also accounts for its negative impacts on birds and bats.
A final approach to evaluating alternative energies is Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). Here analysts attempt to measure the full costs of energy systems “from cradle to grave,” including what economists call the external effects. These are the spillover costs when an activity imposes costs on other people that are not accounted for by typical markets where energy resources are traded. LCA would attempt to calculate the full costs of the system, from its initial development to its eventual deconstruction once obsolete.
Going back to ethanol from corn, LCA would measure the costs of increased soil erosion and nutrient loading in the Mississippi River and other water bodies adjacent to the dramatically expanded acreage dedicated to corn production because of the Renewable Fuels Standard. It would measure the increased hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico as these nutrients are flushed down the Mississippi.
Renewable is one of those words with many vague meanings. That is part of its power. It was embraced originally by environmentalists keen to find alternative energy systems to fossil fuels. The problem was that it was also embraced by special interests who saw a way to enhance their narrow interests (sell more industrial corn, develop wind farms) in the guise of improving the environment and national security by offering “renewable” energy alternatives. Lurking behind the rhetoric of renewability were serious environmental problems that we ignored at our own risk.
We can be smarter.
How Obama’s Environmental Policies Are Undermining the US Military and National Security
When President Obama declared earlier this year that “climate change” represents “an immediate risk to our national security” he was absolutely right.
Only, the key detail he forgot to mention is precisely why it represents such a risk: because his administration’s crazed faith that renewable energy represents a solution to “climate change” is severely impacting the defensive capabilities of the US military.
Consider the case of two giant wind projects scheduled imminently for development near vital US defense facilities.
Both have been given the go-ahead in the teeth of opposition from senior members of the US military. Neither is likely to be cancelled because they accord with the Obama administration’s green priority commitments — which apparently take precedence over trivial issues like hurricane predictions, air defense warnings, and terrorism prevention.
Security risk #1: the Desert Wind project in North Carolina
Comprising 150 turbines, each more than 500 feet tall, this is very shortly to be built on the doorstep of the Hampton Roads Naval military base — home to one of America’s only two Relocatable Over the Horizon Radar (ROTHR) sites.
This state-of-the-art ROTHR facility is a key part of US homeland defense, charged with monitoring criminal operations, terrorist threats, and menacing activity of non-friendly countries in the Gulf of Mexico and northern South America. It also deals with hurricane predictions and climate change monitoring.
The government’s own studies have warned that turbines and radar facilities do not mix:
"Current generation wind turbines are extremely large, radiowave-reflecting structures. The turbine blade span can exceed the wingspan of a 747 jumbo jet and the turbine tower heights are equivalent to a 40-story office building. The blades rotate every few seconds so the reflected radio waves are Doppler shifted up to a couple of hundred knots by the velocity of the blade surfaces. OTH radars detect moving targets against a background of backscatter from the earth’s surface, or clutter, by virtue of the speed-induced Doppler separation between their reflections and those of the stationary clutter. However the secondary reflection of those clutter signals off nearby turbines introduce a spectral contamination to the clutter backscatter which spreads it into target Dopplers. This creates a background against which the target returns must now compete, and the radars’ ability to detect targets is reduced, in much the same way that municipal light pollution of the night sky prevents astronomers’ ability to see stars."
This is why the Commanding Officer of the Texas military base near where the only other US ROTHR facility is located pronounced himself “extremely concerned” about the problems caused by industrial wind turbines. Also, last year, General John F Kelly of the US Marine Corps expressed to the House Armed Services Committee similar objections. He said:
"I remain concerned about the planned construction of wind farm sites in North Carolina that will interfere with our ROTHR radar system in Virginia. I am also concerned over wind projects in Texas that will impact ROTHR systems in that state. These wind farms could and likely will adversely impact our ROTHR systems….We are working within the Department of Defense and with developers and stakeholders to develop potential mitigation solutions but I have little confidence we will succeed."
General Kelly’s concerns are understandable given that the government study quoted above recommends that wind developments of Desert Winds’ magnitude be sited a minimum of 28 miles from a ROTHR receiver if they are not seriously to degrade its performance. But Desert Winds is just 14 miles away from the ROTHR receiver. Despite this, the Navy was mandated in October 2014 to sign an agreement with the Spanish-owned wind developer Iberdrola. Astonishingly, the agreement says that the Desert Wind project can only be temporarily shut down by a “special” National Security declaration — one signed by the president. Otherwise, it can go about its business unimpeded by any objections the military may care to raise about lost operational performance.
Security Risk #2: Pantego Wind in North Carolina
This development of 50 turbines, each around 500 feet tall, is scheduled to be built near Seymour Johnson AFB in Goldsboro, NC. One of the base’s primary missions is to train fighter pilots to fly low-level routes (eg to avoid radar).
Hence this letter from the base’s conscientious CO — Col Jeannie Leavitt — to the NC governor outlining her concerns about how the wind project would affect the base’s mission and operational performance.She wrote:
"…windmill structures and rotating blades have a demonstrable negative effect on the F-15E’s main radar and its terrain following radar system. The effects are significant at both medium and low altitude flight levels."
Subsequently, the CO authorized an in-depth study of the problem. It identified at least three serious concerns:
It would make low-altitude air-to-air intercept training virtually impossible, leaving pilots unable to complete their syllabus.
It would interrupt low-altitude tactical navigation and maneuvring, making training less realistic and leaving combat fliers less proficient.
It would multiply the number of 400+ foot obstacles in the training zone by a factor of five, raising safety of flight risk, especially at night.
As a result, the developer (a company called Invenergy, based, almost inevitably, in Chicago) offered to reduce the number of turbines — though several were still to be left in the flight path of SJ pilots. When Seymour Johnson objected to this non-solution, it was overruled during a Department of Defense Siting process.
Through gritted teeth, Col Leavitt, 4th Fighter Tactical wing commander, was forced to issue a statement praising the “careful balance” of an agreement which capitalized “on the potential of renewable energy in eastern North Carolina, while allowing the 4th Fighter Wing to continue its F-15E, low-level flying mission.
To be clear, there is little if any credible evidence that renewable energy is making any difference towards mitigating climate change. It’s so unreliable it requires constant back up from conventional fossil-fuel power stations operating on spinning reserve. And its contribution to global energy production remains so small as to be negligible.
However, there is plenty of evidence to show that the Obama administration’s prioritization of wind energy is impairing America’s defence capabilities. This has been known for at least five years, as acknowledged during a June 2010 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee called “Wind Farms: Compatible with Military Readiness?” Rep Solomon Ortiz, the chairman, noted:
"This IS a serious problem! Is there anything that we can do to preserve the military capabilities threatened by wind development at military bases? In the short term, no."
Perhaps, though, we should leave the last word on the absurdity of the situation to Rep Conaway, during a later part of the hearing, when questioning a starry eyed eco-zealot — one Dr. Dorothy Robyn — from the Department of Defense.
"So renewable energy comes in front of other requirements that DOD has?… I have had four-stars tell me that they have to hide all these extra costs, so they can look green. They also say that renewable energy is not mission-critical to what they are doing. You are not going to power an MRAP with a battery or wind."
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Posted by JR at 12:42 AM