Goddamned pollution.

It smells just like El Lay tonight, doubtless thanks to the world’s largest garbage incinerator.

I love Detroit, except when it really stinks.

Alexandra Morton.ca

If the name TransCanada is familiar to you, it may be because they are the corporation behind the as yet unapproved KeystoneXL Pipeline. But the technology is safer than ever, they keep telling us! Yaright. From ThinkProgress.org:

A natural gas pipeline operated by TransCanada Corp. exploded and caught fire in the Canadian province of Manitoba on Saturday, shutting off gas supplies for as many as 4,000 residents in sub-zero temperatures.

“We could see these massive 200- to 300-meter high flames just shooting out of the ground and it literally sounded like a jet plane,” resident Paul Rawluk told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

…in order to repair the line, they shut off the natural gas supply to several municipalities.
Temperatures dropped to -20 degrees Celsius overnight.

Niverville Deputy Mayor John Funk said that “service is expected to be lost for minimum of 24 hours to multiple days” in a statement on the town’s website…

…a Wall Street Journal analysis released this week found that people discover pipeline spills far more often than the leak-detection technology touted by companies. Based on PHMSA data for 251 pipeline incidents over four years, the WSJ found that nearby residents or company employees were nearly three times as likely to detect a pipeline leak. Leak-detection software, special alarms and 24/7 control room monitoring, on the other hand, discovered leaks just 19.5 percent of the time. …

April 25 (Reuters) - Heavy use of the world’s most popular herbicide, Roundup, could be linked to a range of health problems and diseases, including Parkinson’s, infertility and cancers, according to a new study.

The peer-reviewed report, published last week in the scientific journal Entropy, said evidence indicates that residues of “glyphosate,” the chief ingredient in Roundup weed killer, which is sprayed over millions of acres of crops, has been found in food.

Those residues enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease, according to the report, authored by Stephanie Seneff, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Anthony Samsel, a retired science consultant from Arthur D. Little, Inc. Samsel is a former private environmental government contractor as well as a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

"Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body," the study says.

We “have hit upon something very important that needs to be taken seriously and further investigated,” Seneff said.

Environmentalists, consumer groups and plant scientists from several countries have warned that heavy use of glyphosate is causing problems for plants, people and animals. …

Via What exactly is in Beijing’s polluted air? | Environment | guardian.co.uk
Through the year before the Olympics, while we were living in Beijing, I used to do daily views-out-the-window as a guide to the challenge the air-cleanup-people faced. For instance, the photo above is a downtown area a few weeks before the opening ceremony.

Therefore I am sobered by news reports, official warnings, and messages from friends in Beijing, Xi’an, and elsewhere saying that the air pollution there is worse than it has ever been before. Here’s a gauge: the picture above was taken back when the level of dangerous “PM 2.5” small-particulate pollution, as reported by the rogue @BeijingAir monitoring site on the roof of the US Embassy in Beijing, was in the low-300s “hazardous” range. The readings in the past few days have been in the previously unimaginable 700s-and-above range, reported as “beyond index” by @BeijingAir. The worst I have personally seen in Beijing was in the high 400s, and that day I did not understand how life could proceed any further in such circumstances. The conditions this weekend have been much worse:
As a place-holder and set of reading tips, here are a few points for now:

    This is yet another reminder of a fact impossible to forget when you’re inside China but that often gets glossed over in credulous accounts of the New Chinese Century. Namely, that economic growth has come at the cost of environmental disaster, which is in turn (according to me) the most urgent and important of several limits and dangers the Chinese system faces. Every country as it develops has gone through its hellish-despoliation era, and of course the world as a whole is still at this stage. But the scale and speed of China’s transformation make its case unique.  …


N.B.: tumblr insists on rotating this image 90° for reasons unknown.

  Via The Latest Chinese Pollution Crisis - James Fallows - The Atlantic

Through the year before the Olympics, while we were living in Beijing, I used to do daily views-out-the-window as a guide to the challenge the air-cleanup-people faced. For instance, the photo above is a downtown area a few weeks before the opening ceremony.

Therefore I am sobered by news reports, official warnings, and messages from friends in Beijing, Xi’an, and elsewhere saying that the air pollution there is worse than it has ever been before. Here’s a gauge: the picture above was taken back when the level of dangerous “PM 2.5” small-particulate pollution, as reported by the rogue @BeijingAir monitoring site on the roof of the US Embassy in Beijing, was in the low-300s “hazardous” range. The readings in the past few days have been in the previously unimaginable 700s-and-above range, reported as “beyond index” by @BeijingAir. The worst I have personally seen in Beijing was in the high 400s, and that day I did not understand how life could proceed any further in such circumstances. The conditions this weekend have been much worse:

As a place-holder and set of reading tips, here are a few points for now:

This is yet another reminder of a fact impossible to forget when you’re inside China but that often gets glossed over in credulous accounts of the New Chinese Century. Namely, that economic growth has come at the cost of environmental disaster, which is in turn (according to me) the most urgent and important of several limits and dangers the Chinese system faces. Every country as it develops has gone through its hellish-despoliation era, and of course the world as a whole is still at this stage. But the scale and speed of China’s transformation make its case unique. …


N.B.: tumblr insists on rotating this image 90° for reasons unknown.

Via The Latest Chinese Pollution Crisis - James Fallows - The Atlantic

Chronicles of Extreme Weather, Illustrated Edition
By James Fallows

Jul 15 2012, 10:50 AM ET

[Above] is the standard Google Earth view of the west end of Lake Superior, including my beloved second-home-town of Duluth and the idyllic Apostle Islands.

And here is a satellite view after the “never experienced anything like this before” torrential rains and resultant flooding last month:


 Via dear Edosan & Chronicles of Extreme Weather, Illustrated Edition - James Fallows - The Atlantic

Chronicles of Extreme Weather, Illustrated Edition
By James Fallows

Jul 15 2012, 10:50 AM ET

[Above] is the standard Google Earth view of the west end of Lake Superior, including my beloved second-home-town of Duluth and the idyllic Apostle Islands.

And here is a satellite view after the “never experienced anything like this before” torrential rains and resultant flooding last month:


Via dear Edosan & Chronicles of Extreme Weather, Illustrated Edition - James Fallows - The Atlantic

A bit of the old Innsmouth, innit

A bit of the old Innsmouth, innit

The Heartland Institute, the libertarian thinktank whose project to undermine science lessons for schoolchildren was exposed this week, faces new scrutiny of its finances – including its donors and tax status.

The Guardian has learned of a whistleblower complaint to the Internal Revenue Service about Heartland’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.

There was also a call from a group of climate scientists who have personally been on the receiving end of attacks from Heartland and bloggers funded by the thinktank, and whose email was posted online after a notorious 2009 hack, for Heartland to “recognise how its attacks on science and scientists have poisoned the debate about climate change policy,” in a letter made available exclusively to the Guardian.

The unauthorised release of internal documents indicated Heartland had received $14m over several years from a single anonymous donor as well as tobacco and liquor companies and corporations pledged to social responsibility, including the General Motors Foundation.

The release of the donors’ list led a number of environmental organisations to demand GM, which gave $30,000, and Microsoft, which gave $59,908 in free software, to sever their ties with a thinktank that has a core mission of discrediting climate science.

An online petition on Friday criticised GM for taking the auto industry bailout and using taxpayer funds to a thinktank spreading what they say is climate misinformation. GM has admitted funding Heartland, pointing out that the money was for its work on health issues, not climate change. …

The Liter of Light project, launched to combat the rising cost of electricity in the Philippines, aims to provide 1 million homes with light

China calls Canada’s decision ‘preposterous’, while Greenpeace says the country is protecting polluters instead of people

Canada has pulled out of the Kyoto protocol on climate change, one day after an update was agreed on, saying the accord won’t work.

The Canadian environment minister, Peter Kent, said Canada was invoking its legal right to withdraw. Kyoto did not represent the way forward for Canada or the world, he said.

Canada, Japan and Russia said last year they would not accept new Kyoto commitments, but Canada is the only country to repudiate it altogether.

The protocol, initially adopted in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, is aimed at fighting global warming. Canada’s previous Liberal government signed the accord but did little to implement it and current prime minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government never embraced it.

"The Kyoto protocol does not cover the world’s largest two emitters, the United States and China, and therefore cannot work," Kent said. "It’s now clear that Kyoto is not the path forward to a global solution to climate change. If anything it’s an impediment." …

Al Gore makes a blunt public attack on the Obama administration for its failure to enforce stricter pollution standards

Last week’s North Sea oil spill was not the first time Shell had found itself in trouble. Environment Editor Rob Edwards reports

21 Aug 2011

Shell has been officially censured for breaking safety rules 25 times in the last six years and has one of the worst safety records of the major oil companies in the UK, an investigation by the Sunday Herald has revealed.

The British oil multinational has been prosecuted, fined and formally reprimanded for repeatedly failing to maintain pipelines and other vital equipment in the North Sea, for failing to report a dangerous incident, and for failing to protect workers from hazardous chemicals.

The revelations, from records held by the Government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE), have led to renewed criticism of Shell in the wake of last week’s oil leak from a pipeline to the Gannet Alpha platform 112 miles east of Aberdeen. The company has been slammed for failing to be open about the leak, which it claimed to have sealed on Friday.

Now, critics have lambasted Shell for being a “serial offender” that refuses to learn from its mistakes. And they warn that the regulatory regime meant to ensure the safety of the North Sea oil industry is no longer fit for purpose.

“This shocking history of warnings, violations and prosecutions could suggest a company that is cutting corners on essential maintenance and skimping on safety,” said Dr Richard Dixon, director of the environmental group, WWF Scotland.

‘This doesn’t really surprise us, but it’s depressing all the same’

“With such a lamentable performance, something like the Gannet Alpha spill was almost bound to happen. The question now is what other knackered bits of kit are about to give out.” …

Successful plugging of two Gannet Alpha leaks come as a Scottish newspaper reveals Shell’s poor safety record in the region

… An investigation by the Sunday Herald found that Shell had been officially censured 25 times in the past six years for breaking safety rules, giving it one of the worst safety records of any major oil company in the UK. Infringements by Shell include repeatedly failing to maintain pipelines - similar to the one that gave rise to the Gannet leak - as well as for failing to report a dangerous incident, and failing to protect workers from hazardous chemicals. The revelations cited come from records held by the government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE), and include incidents in which Shell was fined or received an official reprimand.

Since 2005, Shell has been prosecuted four times: for an explosion at Bacton gas terminal near Norwich; an accident at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire; a collision at the Mossmorran gas plant in Fife; and a fatality on the Clipper rig in the North Sea. The company has been forced to pay out nearly £1m in fines and legal costs. No other major oil company has faced as many prosecutions in the last six years, according to the HSE. Talisman was prosecuted twice in the period, while BP, Total, Amec and Nexen were each prosecuted once, the Sunday Herald reported.

Shell said: “Safety is our foremost priority at all times. As part of that commitment, in 2004 Shell initiated a $1.2bn (£730m) project to upgrade our assets in the North Sea. This has been completed. This year alone, we plan to invest approximately $600m (£365m) in our assets in the region.”

Green campaigners reacted angrily to Shell’s record. Stuart Housden, director of RSPB Scotland, said: “Shell is a major player in UK waters. The records show however, that Shell is vulnerable to questioning around its maintenance and investment programme. Senior management must seek exemplar status and invest accordingly to achieve a rapid and lasting improvement.” …