Menstuff® has compiled the following information on the Environment.
The Crisis of Civilization! Arctic Death Spiral and the Methane Time
Bomb! Antarctica Secrets Beneath the Ice! Climate Disruption The Movie Beyond the Tipping Point by Joe Tyndall World Population
The Crisis of Civilization!
Arctic Death Spiral and the Methane Time Bomb!
Antarctica Secrets Beneath the Ice!
Climate Disruption The Movie
Beyond the Tipping Point by Joe Tyndall
Blue Man Group Stop Global Warming
Getting some perspectivee.
With windmills, low-energy homes, new forms of recycling and fuel-efficient cars, Americans are taking conservation into their own hands.
One morning last week ... 29 years after president Jimmy Carter declared energy conservation "the moral equivalent of war" ... 37 years after the first reference to the "greenhouse effect" in The New York Times ... one day after oil prices hit a record peak of more than $75 per barrel ... Kelley Howell, a 38-year-old architect, got on her bicycle a little after 5 a.m. and rode 7.9 miles past shopping centers, housing developments and a nature preserve to a bus stop to complete her 24-mile commute to work. Compared with driving in her 2004 Mini Cooper, the 15.8-mile round trip by bicycle conserved approximately three fifths of a gallon of gasoline, subtracting 15 pounds of potential carbon dioxide pollution from the atmosphere (minus the small additional amount she exhaled as a result of her exertion). That's 15 pounds out of 1.7 billion tons of carbon produced annually to fuel all the vehicles in the United States. She concedes that when you look at it that way, it doesn't seem like very much. "But if you're not doing something and the next family isn't doing anything, then who will?"
On that very question the course of civilization may rest. In the face of the coming onslaught of pollutants from a rapidly urbanizing China and India, the task of avoiding ecological disaster may seem hopeless, and some environmental scientists have, quietly, concluded that it is. But Americans are notoriously reluctant to surrender their fates to the impersonal outcomes of an equation. One by oneand together, in state and local governments and even giant corporationsthey are attempting to wrest the future from the dotted lines on the graphs that point to catastrophe. The richest country in the world is also the one with the most to lose.
Environmentalism waxes and wanes in importance in American politics, but it appears to be on the upswing now. Membership in the Sierra Club is up by about a third, to 800,000, in four years, and Gallup polling data show that the number of Americans who say they worry about the environment "a great deal" or "a fair amount" increased from 62 to 77 percent between 2004 and 2006. (The 2006 poll was done in March, before the attention-getting release of Al Gore's global-warming film, "An Inconvenient Truth.") Americans have come to this view by many routes, sometimes reluctantly; Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, thinks unhappiness with the Bush administration's environmental record plays a part, but many of the people NEWSWEEK spoke to for this story are Republicans. "Al Gore can't convince me, but his data can convince me," venture capitalist Ray Lane remarks ruefully. Lane is a general partner in the prominent Silicon Valley firm of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which has pledged to invest $100 million in green technology. He arrived at his position as a "Republican environmentalist" while pondering three trends: global warming, American dependence on foreign oil and the hypermodernization of Asian societies.
Others got to the same place by way of religion, most prominently Richard Cizik, director of governmental relations for the National Association of Evangelicalsbut also people like Sally Bingham, an Episcopal priest in San Francisco and a founder of the religious environmental group Interfaith Power and Light. A moderate Republican, she had to defend herself on a talk-radio show from a listener who accused her of buying into the liberal myth of global warming. "I am," she pronounced frostily, "a religious person called to care for creation from this platform." And many followed their own idiosyncratic paths, like Howell, who started researching the connections between food, health and the environment after her mother died of cancer. Soon she and her husband, JD, found themselves caught up in replacing all their light bulbs and toilets with more-efficient versions and weighing their garbage, which by obsessive recycling they have reduced to less than 10 pounds a week.
But probably the most common formative experience is one that Wendy Abrams of Highland Park, Ill., underwent six years ago, as she was reading an article about global climate change over the next century; she looked up from her magazine and saw her four children, who will be alive for most of it. That was the year the hybrid Prius went on sale in the United States, and she bought one as soon as she could. This reflects what Pope describes as a refocusing of environmental concern from issues like safe drinking water, which were local and concrete, to climate change, which is global and abstract. Or so it was, anyway, until it came crashing into New Orleans last summer with the force of a million tons of reprints from The Journal of Climate. Katrina, says Pope, "changed people's perceptions of what was at stake"even though no one can prove that the hurricane was directly caused by global warming.
All over America, a post-Katrina future is taking shape under the banner of "sustainability." Architects vie to create the most sustainable skyscrapers. The current champion in Manhattan appears to be Norman Foster's futuristic headquarters for the Hearst Corp., lit to its innermost depths by God's own high-efficiency light source, the sun. The building's "destination dispatch" elevators require passengers to enter their floor at a kiosk, where a screen directs them to a cab, grouping them to wring the last watt of efficiency from their 30-second trips. But it is expected to be challenged soon in Manhattan by a new Bank of America tower, designed by Cook & Fox, which takes "sustainability" to a point just short of growing its own food. Every drop of rain that falls on its roof will be captured for use; scraps from the cafeteria will be fermented in the building to produce methane as a supplementary fuel for a generator intended to produce more than half the building's electricity; the waste heat from the generator will both warm the offices and power a refrigeration plant to cool them.
Far away in Traverse City, Mich., a resort town four hours north of Detroit, home builder Lawrence Kinney wrestles with a different problem, people who want 6,000-square-foot vacation houses they will use only a couple of weeks a year. Outraged by the waste, he refuses to build them. His preferred size is about 1,800 square feet, 25 percent smaller than the national average; he has rediscovered the virtues of plaster walls instead of resource-intensive drywall, uses lumber harvested locally by horse-drawn teams and treats his wood with stains made from plants, not petroleum. When Jeff Martin, a program manager for Microsoft, set out to build a sustainable house near Charlotte, N.C., he specified something that looked like a house, not "a yurt, or a spaceship, or something made out of recycled cans and tires in the middle of the desert." He turned to Steven Strong, a Massachusetts-based renewable-energy consultant who says he "fell in love" with solar energy when he realized that "you could put a thin sliver of silicon, with no moving parts and no waste, in the sun and generate electricity forever." Strong designed an unobtrusive solar-cell array on the roof of Martin's conventional stucco-and-stone house to provide free electricity, and a sun-powered heater that produces so much hot water Martin can use it to wash his driveway. "We never run out," Martin boasts, "even when my wife's family comes to visit over Christmas."
The sun: sustainable energy that not even in-laws can exhaust! The same sun that for years shone uselessly on the roof of FedEx's immense Oakland airport hub, through which passes most of the company's traffic with China. Since last year, solar panels covering 81,000 square feet have been providing 80 percent of the facility's needs. The sun that also creates the wind that powers the wind turbines that Chicagowhich is seeking to be known as the environmental city as well as the windy oneis building atop the Daley Center, a high-rise courthouse. But among cities, few are as sustainable as Austin, Texas, which recycles its trash so assiduously that residents generated only 0.79 tons of garbage per household last year, down from 1.14 tons in 1992. Austin's city-owned electric company estimates that "renewable" power, mostly from west Texas wind farms, will account for 6 percent of its capacity this year, nearly doubling to 11 percent by 2008. Beginning in 2001, customers were allowed to purchase wind power at a price guaranteed for 10 years. But since it was more costly than conventional power, most people who signed up did so out of convictionuntil last fall, when rising natural-gas prices meant that conventional customers were paying more, and suddenly the company was overwhelmed with new converts to sustainable power.
Another thing the sun does, of course, is grow plants. Agriculture is being reshaped by the growing demand for corn to produce ethanolwhich can be blended with gasoline to stretch supplies, or can power on its own the growing number of "flex-fuel" cars. Four billion gallons will be produced this year, a doubling just since 2003. Dave Nelson of Belmond, Iowa, now devotes as much land to growing corn for fuel as for foodthe same varietyand after the starch is extracted for fermentation, the protein left behind gets fed to his pigs, which produce manure to fertilize the fields. "Not a thing is wasted," says Nelson, who is chairman of a farmer's cooperative that runs one ethanol distillery and is building another. The problem, though, is that people and livestock eat corn, too, and some experts see a time, not too far off, when the food and fuel industries will be competing for the same resources. Biotech companies are scrambling to come up with processes for getting ethanol from cellulosethe left-behind stalks and leaves of the corn plant, or other species such as switch grass that can grow on marginal land. One can envision vast farms devoted to growing fuel transforming the Midwest.
Even Wal-Mart wants to help shape a sustainable future, and few companies are in a better position to do so. Just by wrapping four kinds of produce in a polymer derived from corn instead of oil, the company claims it can save the equivalent of 800,000 gallons of gasoline. "Right-sizing" the boxes on just one line of toysredesigning them to be just large enough for the contentssaves $3.5 million in trucking costs each year, and (by its estimate) 5,000 trees. Overnight, the giant retailer recently became the largest purchaser of organic cotton for clothing, and it will likely have a comparable impact on organic produce as well. This is in line with CEO H. Lee Scott's goal of reducing the company's "carbon footprint" by 20 percent in seven years. If the whole country could do that, it would essentially meet the goals set by the Kyoto treaty on global warming, which the United States, to the dismay of its European allies, refuses to sign.
Wal-Mart's efforts have two big implications. One is cultural; it helps disprove the canard that environmentalists are all Hollywood stars. Admittedly, some of them are, like "Entourage" star Adrian Grenier, whose renovated home in Brooklyn will have wall insulation of recycled denim, or Ed Begley Jr., who likes to arrive at show-business parties aboard his bicycle and markets his own line of nontoxic, noncaustic, biodegradable, vegan, child-safe household cleansers. (Begley concedes that "there are some insincere people in this community" who may have latched onto the environment because Africa was already taken, but, he says, "even if you're only into this cause for a week, at least you're doing something positive for that week.") But it wasn't movie stars who snapped up 190,000 organic-cotton yoga outfits at Sam's Club outlets in 10 weeks earlier this year.
And even as "green" products make inroads among Wal-Mart's budget-conscious masses, they are gathering cachet among an affluent new consumer category which marketers call "LOHAS": Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability. "The people who used to drive the VW bus to the co-op are now driving the Volvo to Whole Foods," exults David Brotherton, a Seattle consultant in corporate responsibility. Brotherton estimates the LOHAS market, for everything from organic cosmetics to eco-resort vacations, at up to $200 billion. This is the market targeted by AOL founder Steve Case, who has poured much of his fortune into a "wellness" company called Revolution (it will own eco-resorts and alternative health-care ventures), and by Cottages and Gardens, a publishing company that is launching an upscale sustainable-lifestyle magazine in September called Verdant (a chic synonym for "green"). Their younger counterparts get their green news from places like Grist.org, whose founder, Chip Giller, sees the site as participating in a "rebranding of the environmental movement" away from preachiness and toward creating jobs, enhancing national security and having fun.
The second effect of Wal-Mart's entry into environmental marketing is to give eco-awareness the imprimatur of the world's most tightfisted company. "If they meet their [20 percent] goal," says Jon Coifman, media director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, "it's going to demonstrate irrefutably that reducing your carbon footprint is not only possible but financially efficient." Andy Ruben, Wal-Mart's vice president for "strategy and sustainability," said the company had assumed that certified organic cotton would cost 20 to 30 percent more than the ordinary kind, grown with pesticides and synthetic fertilizer. But when its representatives actually talked to farmers, they found the organic cost about the same. Within five years the company intends to sell fish only from certified sustainable fisheries in the United States. Wal-Mart, Ruben says, plans on being in business a long time, and it wants fish to sell.
Wal-Mart also has been on the defensive over the way it treats its employees, suppliers and competitors, which may play a role in its desire to be seen as a good corporate citizen. But to give it the benefit of the doubt, it's run by people, and they have children, too. It seems as if American business must be filled with midlevel executives like Ron Cuthbertson, senior vice president of supply chain and inventory management for Circuit City, who dutifully justifies each of the chain's environmental initiativessubstituting reusable bins for cardboard shipping boxes, establishing consumer battery-recycling centers and so onin bottom-line terms, but then can't help adding: "I personally have a passion for this." It can almost be described as a struggle for the soul of American business, which might help explain why a top corporate executive once showed up in the office of Paul Anderson, chairman of Duke Energy Corp., to perform a mock exorcism. Anderson is an outspoken advocate for controlling greenhouse-gas emissions, and his fellow CEO suggested he must have been possessed by the spirit of an environmentalist. Some other CEOs, Anderson says, will agree with him in private but hide their feelings in public. "Part of it," he muses, "has to do with how close someone is to retirement: they think, if I can just get through the next few years without addressing this."
In assessing Anderson's soul, it should be noted that his company is particularly heavily invested in nuclear power, an alternative to fossil-fuel plants that produce no greenhouse gases, so his concern for the Earth happens to coincide with his company's interests. So much the better for him, compared, say, with Ford chairman Bill Ford Jr., a strong environmentalist who almost alone among auto executives concedes that cars contribute to global warming. Yet Ford has struggled to impose his views on the industry, or even the company that bears his name. He turned the historic River Rouge plant into one of the most environmentally sound factories in the world, at a cost of $2 billion. But Ford has had to back away from a promise to improve gas mileage on its SUVs by 25 percent and to increase hybrid production to 250,000 vehicles by the end of the decade. The company, which loses money on hybrids despite their higher sticker price, said it would join the other two U.S. carmakers in making more flex-fuel cars instead. DaimlerChrysler just announced that it will begin importing its Smart microcar from France, a vehicle just nine feet long that gets up to 69 miles per gallon. "Putting a product like Smart in the marketplace," says Reg Modlin, director of environmental and regulatory planning, "shows that we're trying."
Looked at one way, these are thrilling times, the beginning of a technological and social revolution that could vault our society into a post-post-industrial future. "If you mention green tech or biotech in a presentation," says Lane, the venture capitalist, "you'll get your funding before you get to your third slide." On the other hand, we may just be kidding ourselves. Can bicycles and switch grass really offset the effectsin pollution, resource depletion and habitat destructionof a billion Chinese lining up to buy cars for the first time? Domestic oil production has been declining for years, and the United States now imports 60 percent of the 20 million barrels it uses every day. It's nice that Jane Cremisi, a mortgage consultant in Newton, Mass., washes and reuses her aluminum foil and patronizes ecofriendly hotels like the Lenox, in Boston, which composts its food waste. Or that Melinda MacNaughton, a former dietitian from El Granada, Calif., cleans her house with vinegar and baking soda. But you cannot save the world with anecdotes. Is the relevant statistic that sales of hybrid cars doubled last year to 200,000or that they were outsold by SUVs by a ratio of 23-1?
Still, when you look at all the United States has accomplished, can the challenge be so far beyond us? Marty Hoffert, emeritus professor of physics at New York University, doesn't think so. "If the United States became a world leader in developing green technology and made it available to other countries, it could make a big difference. For $100 billion a year, which is at least what we're spending on Iraq," it could be done, he says. "People understand the urgency," says Fred Krupp, executive director of Environmental Defense, "and they see the economic opportunities." It will take political will, though, and in that sense every mile Howell rides on her bicycle achieves more than it saves in petroleum; it raises consciousness and awareness. And it will have to enlist people like Steven F. Hayward, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. "There's no problem environmentalists can't turn into an apocalyptic crisis," says Hayward (who agrees that the Earth is warming but thinks civilization is likely to survive it). Yet of all things, this hardheaded acolyte of the free market worries most about species extinction, among the most rarefied of ecological concerns. But, you see, Hayward has a young daughter. And she wants to be a zookeeper when she grows up.
Source: Newsweek By Jerry Adler with
Jessica Ramirez, Karen Springen, Brad Stone, Karen Breslau,
Keith Naughton, Jamie Reno, Ken Shulman, Matthew Philips,
Staci Semrad, Margaret Nelson, A. Christian Jean, Andrew
Murr and Jac Chebatoris, July 17, 2006 issue -
Breathing is as automatic as your heartbeat, but if you live in a polluted area, each breath could be detrimental to your health.
PM2.5 particles, classified as a fine air pollutant with an aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5 micrometers, have the ability to penetrate deep into the lungs and bloodstream. A study published in The Lancet found that for every 10 ug/m3 increase of PM2.5 particles, lung cancer incidences increased by 36 percent. Potential sources of PM2.5 include motor vehicles, power plants, wood burning and other industrial processes.
HealthGrove wanted to see which of the 50 U.S. states (and Washington, D.C.) has the most polluted air. Using data from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we analyzed average daily fine particulate matter (ug/m3) from 2003 to 2011.
HealthGrove ranked the 25 most polluted states based on PM2.5 particle levels. For each state, we list the most polluted county as well as the rate of cancer and heart disease deaths both of which are correlated to air pollutant levels.
Note that the top-polluted counties in each state are often not the most populated areas. This could be due to wind patterns that move pollution or the rural location of many industrial processes. Weather patterns also account for the lower levels of air pollution near coastal regions.
Air Pollution (ug/m3): 11.41
Air Pollution (ug/m3): 11.47
Air Pollution (ug/m3): 11.63
Air Pollution (ug/m3): 11.65
Air Pollution (ug/m3): 11.69
Air Pollution (ug/m3): 12.13
#18. New Jersey
Air Pollution (ug/m3): 12.46
Air Pollution (ug/m3): 12.87
Air Pollution (ug/m3): 12.96
#15. North Carolina
Air Pollution (ug/m3): 12.99
#14. South Carolina
Air Pollution (ug/m3): 13.16
Air Pollution (ug/m3): 13.16
Air Pollution (ug/m3): 13.26
Air Pollution (ug/m3): 13.3
Air Pollution (ug/m3): 13.35
Air Pollution (ug/m3): 13.38
Air Pollution (ug/m3): 13.47
#7. Washington, DC
Air Pollution (ug/m3): 13.58
#6. West Virginia
Air Pollution (ug/m3): 13.76
Air Pollution (ug/m3): 13.95
Air Pollution (ug/m3): 14.02
Air Pollution (ug/m3): 14.1
Air Pollution (ug/m3): 14.23
Air Pollution (ug/m3): 14.36
While Lower 48 politicians might have partisan heartburn over President Barack Obamas decision to change the name of Mount McKinley to its Koyukon Athabascan name, Denali, youd be hard pressed to find many Alaskans, conservative or otherwise, with objections.
Weve been calling it Denali since I moved up here, Dave Stieren, a conservative talk radio host for KFQD-AM in Anchorage told me. To me its like happy holidays/merry Christmas. Anybody who cares about it too much is not someone Id like to hang out with.
At Mondays GLACIER conference on Arctic issues, put on by the State Department in Anchorage, one of the biggest applause lines came during Secretary of State John Kerrys remarks introducing Obama, who is spending part of the week touring Alaska.
Alaska is a conservative state. Registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by a wide margin, but the states brand of conservatism has a pro-development, anti-government, libertarian flavor. Most people dont see the mountains name change along partisan lines. Instead, some see it as a victory in the states long public lands tug-of-war with the federal government, while others, especially in the Alaska Native community, see it as a victory for indigenous rights. And pretty much everybody has been calling the mountain Denali for years.
Theres also something worth explaining about the culture here. We put Alaska-ness before all else, and tend to view outsiders with suspicion. In Alaska, nobody really cares if you went to Harvard, but if your grandmother was buried here, you should say so because it gives you cred. I think this is because there are only 700,000 people in this state and a whole lot of dangerous country, animals and weather. People from very different backgrounds tend to find themselves relying on each other, so we care most about stuff like whether you are the type to carry a tow strap in your truck and would be willing to pull us out of a ditch in a snowstorm. Politics come way second. Our loyalty to Denali over McKinley is driven by the same impulse. Denali is ours, it comes from here, it carries a tow strap. McKinley isnt and doesnt.
Lesil McGuire, a Republican state senator who grew up in Anchorage, said she has been calling the mountain Denali since childhood, when her family made frequent visits to Denali National Park and Preserve. (The park was created in 1980. The state changed the name of the mountain at that time, but the federal government didnt follow suit.)
As Alaskans we feel listened to and respected to have the federal government recognize the name we have had in statute since 1980, she said via text message Tuesday.
Not to say people arent cynical. Stieren viewed the name change, timed to coincide with the presidents Alaska visit, as a distraction from what local conservatives see as greenie views on environmental policy that people fear might stand in the way of resource development. The change is popular with Alaskans, he said, but a token gesture.
Its the equivalent of your stepdad, who is never home, buying you a birthday present at the airport gift shop, he said.
The biggest losers coming out of the switch are several hundred businesses, from banks to dress shops, that are named after McKinley or sell products named after McKinley. Alaska McDonalds, for example, sells a double-patty McKinley Mac, which might have to be renamed. Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz laughed when I asked him about Ohio politicians objection to the name change.
If folks in Ohio are really intent on naming Alaska places, maybe theyd let us name some of theirs? he said.
My aunts ex-husband who I still think of as an uncle, Paul Ewers, works as the city attorney in Fairbanks and lives in the neighboring community of Ester. He told me hes not attached to the name McKinley because the mountain was named by a prospector during McKinleys run for president in 1896. President McKinley never even visited.
McKinley would agree with the name change! he said. Hed probably say I dont know why they named that mountain after me. He didnt even know what it looks like.
The change is most meaningful for Alaska Natives like Princess Daazhraii Johnson from Fairbanks, who is of Gwichin and Koyukon Athabascan heritage. Alaska has the largest indigenous population per capita of any state. Johnson sees the name change as part of a wider shift toward valuing native cultures. She connected it with another recent victory for Alaska Natives: a bill signed last year that made 20 Alaska Native languages official languages of the state.
To have this sacred mountain that already had a name for thousands of years, its the highest form a disrespect to call it something else, she said.
Johnsons grandparents, who had Athabascan names, were renamed with biblical names as children, she said. Denali means the the tall one in their language.
Mount McKinley, its arbitrary, it has no resonance and meaning for the people of Alaska, she said. But Denali embodies everything that is powerful and beautiful and strong about Alaska and her people.
There is also a sizeable segment of Alaskans who couldnt care less either way. Like my wifes uncle Jimmy Allen who lives in Nenana where you can get a pretty nice view of the mountain. He worked seasonally at Denali Park for years. His Facebook profile is a picture of him riding a big old Harley. His status update on Sunday: So they (he) has renamed a big rock in Alaska. Something else for me care absolutely nothing about!!
I reached my sister-in-laws good friend, Juneau fisherman Ajax Eggleston, on the deck of his boat while he was fishing for salmon in the Gulf of Alaska on Tuesday. He said hed actually seen the famed mountain only once. He calls it Denali, but didnt have much use for the politics.
It doesnt matter to me, he said. Lets do whatevers cheap.
I think we can say that Denali never looked better
than it does today, Kerry said, drawing hoots and
whistles from a crowd that had until then stuck to polite
Oil Prices Will Stay High and May Even Rise to $100 a Barrel
The world is experiencing its first demand crisis in more than two decades. We can blame China, OPEC, Iraq, and the oil peak for that, but we must also admit that the industry has gone through some structural changes that have had enormous influences on energy prices. Certainly, a case can be made that oil and gas have become asset commodities that are attracting more investors at a time when equity returns aren't great. In fact, that's why the American Stock Exchange introduced the first exchange-traded fund (ETF) tracking crude prices in April 2006. Exchange-traded funds have become hot on Wall Street because they give individual, average investors the opportunity to have control over their investments, by taking positions in crude oil rather than investing in shares of energy companies or mutual funds. In a kind of cyclical effect, these new investors have added, and will continue to add, market liquidity, causing oil prices to continue soaring, and energy companies also to make more money.
Oil prices had climbed to $75 per barrel in April 2006 and were set to hit a new record, while gasoline prices passed $3 per gallon, double what they had been two years earlier in December 2004. Oil was trading at $40 and we thought that was high. Now, in retrospect, we were so wrong. In fact, we probably won't see oil that cheap again, unless there's a temporary glut caused by OPEC, which is unlikely. The sharp rise has nearly everyone scratching their heads about where oil prices may be headed next. Consumers are paying through the nose and traders are asking how they can get a piece of that boom. Some think it won't be long before we get to $100 oil, while more aggressive analysts are setting their sights as high as $180 per barrel.
The oil boom has made headlines across the globe recently. Strong demand from China and India, a lack of spare capacity, or more accurately, the inability of OPEC countries -- particularly Saudi Arabia -- to increase oil supply by any significant margin, as well as weather-related supply shocks have fueled the crude oil rally. As a result, we have seen windfall earnings for oil companies and painfully high fuel costs for the consumer, all of which has forced politicians and oil executives into a corner as public outrage mounts.
The U.S. Senate Committees on Energy & Natural Resources and Commerce, Science, and Technology heard executives of the world's five largest oil companies at a public hearing amid charges of gouging in November 2005. But the executives offered strong defense of their companies' high profits, as national politicians pressed them to account for soaring gasoline, diesel, and natural gas prices in the months after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the Gulf Coast. Later, senators heard from state officials who urged Congress to pass a federal anti-price-gouging law. The Bush administration, however, cautioned against such laws, saying competition was more effective in controlling prices.
While admitting that high oil prices were hurting consumers, the executives said their profits were not out of line, arguing in fact that prices were being driven by larger forces often out of their control. "Today's higher prices are a function of longer-term supply and demand trends and lost energy production during the recent hurricanes," said James Mulva, chairman and chief executive of ConocoPhillips. But several senators, mostly Democrats along with some Republicans, appeared unsatisfied by those responses, and they demanded to know what the industry was doing to increase supplies, and whether oil companies would help promote conservation measures. "Most Americans and most of the polls show that our people have a growing suspicion that the oil companies are taking unfair advantage of the current market conditions to line their coffers with excess profits," Pete Domenici, Republican of New Mexico, said during the televised hearing. Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, added: "Working people struggle with high gas prices, and your sacrifice, gentlemen, appears to be nothing." She noted that the executives were making millions of dollars in salaries, bonuses, and stock awards. Still, calls for a windfall profits tax on oil profits that would help families pay high heating bills and other energy costs were beaten back.
Oil, gasoline, and natural gas prices soared in the weeks after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast and shut down the vast majority of offshore production sites and 18 percent of domestic oil refining. Gasoline prices spiked past $3 a gallon in many parts of the United States, though they retreated to pre-Katrina levels by October. It was clear the economic impact across the country was going to cause problems, and it was not long before politicians such as Senator Conrad Burns, Republican of Montana, began saying high diesel prices were squeezing farmers and making American agricultural products too expensive for world markets. "Let the American people understand, agriculture is going to get shut down," he said. "We're not going to turn on one tractor to produce food and fiber for this country under these kinds of conditions. We have to do something different."
The executives of Exxon Mobil, Chevron, British Petroleum (BP), ConocoPhillips, and Royal Dutch Shell noted that they have been investing most of their profits in new production and refining. Lee Raymond, chairman and chief executive of Exxon Mobil, which reported a $9.92 billion profit for the third quarter of 2005, said that the industry's profits measured as percent of revenue were no greater than other industries. "We are in line with the average of all U.S. industry," he said. "Our numbers are huge because the scale of our industry is huge. How are these earnings used? We invest to run our global operations, to develop future supply, to advance energy-producing and saving technologies, and to meet our obligations to millions of our shareholders."
The oil chief executives asserted that in the past decade their capital investments matched their profits. Asked what they were doing to increase domestic oil refining capacity and bring on additional sources of energy, they said investments in their industry can take decades to come to fruition. Mr. Raymond said that even if the government streamlined the approval process for constructing new refineries, a move the energy industry sought, it would still take years to build new plants. Instead of building new plants, Exxon has chosen to expand existing plants.
"It is much more efficient because the basic infrastructure is already in place," Mr. Raymond said. "Over the last 10 years, Exxon Mobil alone has built the equivalent of three average-sized refineries through expansions and efficiency gains at existing U.S. refineries."
Raymond's argument is rather lame because acquiring another refinery doesn't increase the overall refining capacity. There has not been a new refinery built in the United States since 1976. Companies have expanded existing plants, which are also being operated closer to full capacity, but they have been coy about building new plants from scratch. In 1980, there were 425 refineries across the country; there are 176 today.
© 2006 George Orwel
Source: George Orwel is an Oil Analyst
and Senior Writer for both the Oil Daily and Petroleum
Intelligence Weekly. Previously, he covered the oil market
for six years as a staff reporter for Dow Jones Newswires.
Orwel has appeared on key media outlets, including CNN, BBC,
and NPR, and contributed articles to the Los Angeles Times
and the Christian Science Monitor, as well as other
publications. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom has made his share of headlines: in 2004, he ordered the city-county clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and he's been outspoken about homelessness, immigration, and health care. Now Mr. Newsom has a new crusade: bottled water.
Last week, the mayor signed an executive order banning the use of city funds for the purchase of single-serving water bottles, and also banned the sale of bottled water on city-owned property. It's all part of the city's effort to become more environmentally friendly and less wasteful, and residents who sign an online pledge not to buy bottled water can get a free stainless steel water bottle. The city also recently outlawed the use of plastic grocery bags.
In an interview with Newsweek, Newsom said that "These people are making huge amounts of money selling God's natural resources. Sorry, we're not going to be part of it. Our water in San Francisco comes from the Hetch Hetchy (reservoir) and is some of the most pristine water on the planet. Our water is arguably cleaner than a vast majority of the bottled water sold as "pure."
While there are no major public companies that sell only
bottled water, companies like The Coca Cola Co. (NYSE: KO)
and PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP) could be adversely effected if the
anti-bottled water trend catches on nationally. Coke and
Pepsi own Dasani and Aquafina, respectively.
Photographer James Balog and his crew were hanging out near a glacier when their camera captured something extraordinary.
They were in Greenland, gathering footage from the time-lapse they'd positioned all around the Arctic Circle for the last several years.
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They were also there to shoot scenes for a documentary. And while they were hoping to capture some cool moments on camera, no one expected a huge chunk of a glacier to snap clean off and slide into the ocean right in front of their eyes.
t was the largest such event ever filmed.
For nearly an hour and 15 minutes, Balog and his crew stood by and watched as a piece of ice the size of lower Manhattan but with ice-equivalent buildings that were two to three times taller than that simply melted away.
As far as anyone knows, this was an unprecedented geological catastrophe and they caught the entire thing on tape. It won't be the last time something like this happens either.
But once upon a time, Balog was openly skeptical about that "global warming" thing.
Balog had a reputation since the early 1980s as a conservationist and environmental photographer. And for nearly 20 years, he'd scoffed at the climate change heralds shouting, "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"
"I didn't think that humans were capable of changing the basic physics and chemistry of this entire, huge planet. It didn't seem probable, it didn't seem possible," he explained in the 2012 documentary film "Chasing Ice."
There was too much margin of error in the computer simulations, too many other pressing problems to address about our beautiful planet. As far as he was concerned, these melodramatic doomsayers were distracting from the real issues.
That was then.
In fact, it wasn't until 2005 that Balog became a believer.
He was sent on a photo expedition of the Arctic by National Geographic, and that first northern trip was more than enough to see the damage for himself.
"It was about actual tangible physical evidence that was preserved in the ice cores of Greenland and Antarctica," he said in a 2012 interview with ThinkProgress. "That was really the smoking gun showing how far outside normal, natural variation the world has become. And that's when I started to really get the message that this was something consequential and serious and needed to be dealt with."
Some of that evidence may have been the fact that more
Arctic landmass has melted away in the last 20 years than
the previous 10,000 years.
Oilmen Fund Anti-Global Warming Groups
It would appear that the big corporations have taken an active interest in fighting for lost causes. In the last such battle, the oil giant Exxon was proven to still be supporting conservatory lobby groups, which advocate that global warming is not real. Or if it is, it's not caused by us. And if it is, it's not that bad. You've all heard the same line of pathetic reasons and excuses over the course of the years, but, alas for them, the scientific community has proven once and for all that climate change is ours to deal with, The Guardian informs.
In an upsetting turn of events (for the fossil fuel industry), Bush and his gang of conservatives were ousted from power by the people, who voted for Obama in part because his agenda included points referring to stem cell research, economic stimulus plans and environmental protection. The latter point gained him a lot of support from the scientific community, and it's now beginning to show that the political will is there. Legislation regulating carbon emissions and classifying carbon dioxide (CO2) as a pollutant is already in the works, and could soon be adopted.
But, despite all this, and the fact that the science on the issue is clearly against them, oil companies continue to fund lobby groups whose sole purpose is to slow down the decision process in the federal government, and to interfere, essentially, with what the vast majority of the population wants. Among the groups that received funding from Exxon are the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), in Dallas, Texas ($75,000), the Heritage Foundation, in Washington DC ($50,000), as well as the infamous Heartland Institute, a so-called Chicago-based "think-tank," which advocates, alongside the fact that coal and oil are good for the atmosphere, that smoking is good for your health, and so on.
It's centers such as these that keep the American public
in doubt about global warming. Rather than listening to
long-time studies and recognized scientists, some members of
the audience prefer taking the short route, and believe
results coming from biased and paid-for studies, financed by
either the tobacco or the oil industry, which are the exact
opposite of what's happening in reality. Additionally, in
previous Exxon-related scandals in which internal memos got
leaked, the company was associated with a number of
lobbyists against global warming, as well as with the
Republican Party. And that is just one of the reasons why
everyone was happy to see Bush go.
Climate Change Swallows an Alaskan
Stunning film exposes climate
Ahead of the U.N. climate change summit in Paris, France, more than 180 nations pledged to voluntarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but many climate justice groups say far more needs to be done to keep global warming in check. We speak with one of the worlds leading climate scientists who has come to the Paris talks with a shocking message: The climate crisis is more severe than even many scientists have acknowledged. Kevin Anderson is deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and professor of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester in Britain. He has said many scientists are self-censoring their work to downplay the severity of the climate crisis.
Democracynow.org - Democracy Now!, is an independent
global news hour that airs weekdays on 1,300+ TV and radio
stations Monday through Friday. Watch our livestream 8-9am
The problems addressed in this documentary include current climate change, overpopulation, and misuse of energy resources.
It's an idea that most of us would rather not face -- that within the next century, life as we know it could come to an end. Our civilization could crumble, leaving only traces of modern human existence behind.
It seems outlandish, extreme -- even impossible. But according to cutting edge scientific research, it is a very real possibility. And unless we make drastic changes now, it could very well happen.
But no one can predict the future, so how do we address
the possibilities that lie ahead?
We have conquered the environment, and in our obsession
for control, we no longer allow the environment to live in
us. - Valerie Andrews
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