restlessknights

The knights are restless and for good reason.

Archive for the category “Energy”

We Shale Overcome

As a Restless Knight, lying awake, thinking about our food and water safety, I wish I could be sitting around the fire with a bunch of old hippies, singing that song. But evidence gives me no confidence that that will soon happen. We are not overcoming shale; it is overcoming us.

In a recent story in the The Nation Magazine entitled, Fracking Our Food Supply, Elizabeth Royte painfully points out just what’s wrong with the energy industry’s methodology for extracting natural gas from shale deposits.

Don’t get me wrong. Despite my preference for renewable energy (Gas is far from being a clean green energy source. As the World Wildlife Fund energy team points out: “The idea that gas is the solution to climate change is a myth put out by vested interests.”), I am not dismissing natural gas as a temporary alternative to the dreaded coal — it is the way it’s being done that makes me restless. And if you happen to be a farmer near land that has been leased to hydraulic fracturing interests, you’ve got real reasons to be restless, and even scared manureless. I’m also restless over the distinct possibility that Americans will believe that shale gas is the answer to all of our problems, and the need to develop sane, clean, renewable energy sources will no longer be an imperative.

Some time in the not-too-distant-past, our nation lost the political will to guaranty the delivery of safe food to its population. By defunding judiciary agencies like the FDA and EPA, congress has made it inevitable that the vested interests will win out over food safety. In the case of corn, we shut our eyes to an agra industry becoming an energy industry, whose desire for profit dictates that we fill gas tanks, not hungry stomachs. Well, thanks, but no tanks. Can we please find another fuel for our cars and trucks other than what was once the product of the “Great American Bread Basket?”

But it’s all politics. It was suggested (I’m sure by a disinterested party) that corn-based ethanol could replace gasoline or at least become part of the mix that is now mandated to go into your fuel tank (Can we still call it a gas tank?). Which of out 50 states always begins the Presidential selection process? Hint: It is neither the political nor the financial capital. And don’t get me wrong. Some of my best friends are Iowans. In ten years, corn price per bushel rose from $1.97 to over $7.00, a jump of over 75%. I couldn’t find another food commodity having that rate of inflation.

But I digress. I switched to a related subject of food degeneration from my original topic, Shale and its impact on the food supply.

healthyCattle

Healthy cattle – before hydraulic fracturing

Tails of Woe

What caught my attention to this story was the reporting of farm animals, located near a fracking site, having their tails fall off. I guess we humans have nothing to fear from that alarm bell, as our ancestors lost theirs eons ago.

But perhaps we men should be concerned about what other of our body parts could meet the same fate.

Elsie, as shown in this undoctored photo, has become one of the casualties from a hydraulic fracking blow out, on a parcel of land a half mile upwind from where she and her sisters graze.

noTailOfWoe

Here is Elsie, after a good fracking.

In addition to the non-standard rear appendage, she and some of her fellow bovines began limping, with swollen legs and infections. Some lost over sixty pounds in a single week, preventing them from lactating. Calves take umbrage when their moms fail to deliver milk. Bulls did not escape the wrath of fracking. One $5,000 breeding bull had to be put to death after veterinarians were unable to treat him.

After testing the water, it was learned that it contained sulfate levels of up to 4,000 parts per million (ppm). The Illinois Department of Health (and they should know) states that 30 to 40 ppm of this additive is safe for drinking. High levels of sulfate can cause polio in cattle. But if you feel you’re not ingesting enough sulfides from your water, come to Schilke’s Farm in North Dakota (Elsie’s home), and enjoy a long soothing sip. Don’t let it bother you that other animals around the farm, such as cats and dogs had elevated levels of selenium. They drink from the same water supply as the rest of the farm population (including the humans). Incidentally, toxicity from this chemical is cumulative in the body.

snarlingDick

Cheney tells the U.S. to go frack itself

And speaking of water, a commodity in short supply in many places in the world, including the U.S., fracking a single well can require up to 7 million gallons of potable water. If that’s not enough, thanks to former VP Cheney, fracking interests are not required to report every nasty chemical they intend to use to accomplish their task. Ah, good old Dick Cheney. He was the first to receive a heart transplant when there was no evidence that he ever had one in the first place. I don’t suppose his connection to Halliburton (a major player in the hydraulic fracturing business) had anything to do with this industry secret, do you? By the way, that same great American got fracking excluded from violations of the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air and Safe Drinking Water Acts, the Toxics Release Inventory, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. So shooting a lawyer as quails are released from their cages is not the only act he can take credit for.

But that is only the beginning. The World Wildlife Fund has documented the many organs, including the kidney and liver that have been affected by the 632 chemicals used in natural gas production.

The Catskill Mountainkeeper lists on its website some of the chemicals found in water after hydraulic fracturing. Have you enjoyed some fine barium lately? How about cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury? This resource is on the alert, possibly because NY State Gov. Cuomo is under pressure and is yet to make his decision on permitting fracking on the state’s vast Marcellus shale deposits.

I stated in the beginning of this piece that I am troubled by the possibility, and even the probability that our citizens will become complacent about fracking and all of its evils. Yes, shale gas will bring us a certain amount of energy independence – but at what price? Is it worth having cheap fossil fuel in exchange for endangering the safety of our food supply?

Are the earthquakes that have been reported throughout areas in which hydraulic fracturing is taking place acceptable? As of this writing, fracking-suspected quakes have occurred many areas, including the following:
Dallas, Texas
Basel Switzerland
Colorado
Oklahoma
Youngstown, Ohio

I don’t know about you, but the possibility of an earthquake can make me pretty restless.

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Keeping It Bottled Up

You know that nothing makes a knight more restless than keeping things bottled up inside. When that happens, they get sloppy with their lances; there is a reduction in the number of saved damsels in distress, and new leases on life to the endangered dragon population are granted.

But what should stress out even the non-knight population is the amount of detritus in the form of empty plastic bottles seen on the side of roads. Since there seems to be no moral compunction against littering, the road is a convenient place to toss that empty beverage bottle, after it has done its damage to your liver with the world’s fastest sugar delivery system. In fact, soda delivers sugar even faster than Mitt Romney fired people at Bain.

If bottle debris is not a problem for you, think about the waste associated with plastic bottles and all of its negatives on society.  Incidentally, they are estimated to be about half the waste stream.

First, plastic bottles are a petroleum product. Last time I checked, petroleum is the commodity for which we sacrificed four thousand lives, a trillion in un-budgeted military expenses and the wrecking of an entire country that did nothing to us to provoke such an invasion. And, despite the fact that there is a surplus of oil supply compared to demand, prices for this viscous goo are always threatening to rise meteorically. This is especially true when tensions are heightened in the Middle East (like that ever happens).

Making more bottles out of this scarce resource seems a waste unto itself, especially since most of those plastic containers could be reclaimed.  This would obviate the need to use even more of that sludge for which we send young people to die. Did you know that in 2006, Americans purchased over 31 billion liters of bottled water that took 17 million barrels of oil to produce, with a carbon footprint of 2.5 million tons of CO2? That was five years ago, and I doubt if those numbers have diminished since then.

In my adopted state of Florida, a bill is being considered that would place a deposit on each plastic bottle purchased. The legislature and governor has not always acted in our best interest, so they need to hear from you.  Would you mind that much, paying another nickel or dime for your bottle of sugary poison, or the more fashionable Evian, so that there would be an incentive to return those bottles for re-use? You could personally reclaim that deposit, or let the many unemployed folks in our state gather them from the streets and otherwise pristine beaches to earn a few bucks. Would you like to join the forty other U.S. states (and Guam) that treat plastic bottles sustainably? http://www.bottlebill.org/legislation/usa.htm

If you agree, please join me in signing this petition now!

We could all be doing our part to reduce plastic bottle use by doing a few simple things:

  • Carry a refillable water bottle. There is a vast selection available at most retailers, from $10 and up. These can replace the many plastic bottles for which you paid up to $1.25 per pint of water (gasoline is only 72 cents a pint by comparison).
  • Store water in much larger containers. If your tap water doesn’t taste quite right (and it probably doesn’t), think about a service that delivers quality water at regular intervals, and carts away the original for re-use.
  • Talk to the event handler at your business or organization. Suggest pitchers of water instead of those tiny throw-aways sitting in front of each guest.
  • Think twice before consuming that next bottle of soda. The teeth you save may be your own, not to mention the empty calories, or worse, the artificial sweetener to which you are exposing your organs.

Okay, I’m through ranting (for the moment). Now that I know my message has gotten through, loud and clear, my night might not be quite as restless going forward.

For more on the environment, check out my non-profit website, OurNeighborhoodEarth.org.

Fission for answers – con-fusion is the result

So what’s causing restlessness among the knights, this time?

Presidents pandering to polluters is my alliterative answer. Just as April 1st was upon us, President Obama became fossil fuelish by approving the Oklahoma section of the Keystone XL pipeline.  This was not the oil change I believed in, when I enthusiastically endorsed his election bid in 2008.

Now why do we suppose he did this? Was it because the voters of Oklahoma, grateful for the 600 temporary jobs his approval will potentially create, will rush out to support his re-election bid in 2012? If his race against that infamous flip-flopper, John McCain is any indication, Obama lost to the old rogue 66 to 34% in 2008. Does the President know something we don’t, such as Oklahomans woke up to reality and will now reverse a century old tradition of voting Republican?

Just when I thought my nights couldn’t get any more restless, at about the same time as the Keystone cave-in, the administration cut the budget for fusion research. Some have said this is the technology of the future, and always will be. The $50 million cut in fusion energy research will make that prophesy self-fulfilled.

Wait, my restlessness is just beginning. The withdrawn funds, which would have extended research activity at MIT, which last time I checked was a facility located in the United States, will now be directed to International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) located in a country where they don’t even talk American. This decision will close one of the three MIT facilities with all of the associated pain that come with significant layoffs.

This same President has gone fission, with the Federal underwriting of the conventional nuclear industry. This is the nuclear power that Germany, after appreciating the destruction experienced during the recent Fukishima fiasco, decided to replace as an energy source. Why does conventional nuclear power need Federal insurance guarantees? Because no company on the planet will insure a nuclear plant on its own.

Admittedly, cold fusion energy is an expensive process, but should it come to fruition, it could solve most of the energy problems associated with the burning of fossil fuels, and the dangers of uranium mining and storage of spent nuclear materials. Scientists working on this technology claim to be nearing a breakthrough. Is this the best time to be nipping it in the bud?

For more about the Pros and Cons of Nuclear energy, please go to my website:  http://ourneighborhoodearth.org/NuclearPower.html

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