Nota Bene #118: VOTE!

“I am not fit for this office and should never have been here.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #115: RIP No. 32

“If you’re really pro-life, do me a favor—don’t lock arms and block medical clinics. If you’re so pro-life, lock arms and block cemeteries.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #113: Seth's Near-Death

“Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #112: GOOOLLLLLLLL

“Freedom of any kind is the worst for creativity.” Who said it? Continue reading

Gulf oil has likely reached the Loop Current

The image at right is a composite of the most recent MODIS satellite image of the spill area in the Gulf of Mexico and a National Weather Service model of the Loop Current. It was created by Brad Johnson of Think Progress’ The Wonk Room.

The composite image shows that the oil spill area has almost certainly reached the Loop Current, which is one of the major currents in the Gulf of Mexico. The loop current runs right past the Florida Keys and then meets up with the Gulf Stream, and if the tar balls that have been washing up on Key West beaches over the last day or two are from the spill (they may be from older spills years ago), then we should assume that the MODIS satellite imagery is the minimum extent of the spill area. Given that scientists aboard a NOAA survey ship have observed a plume at least 45 km long and 10 km wide that’s thousands of feet below the surface (and thus not visually detectable from the surface), it’s reasonable to say that the observed surface slick does not represent the full extent of the spill to date. And NOAA has now closed 19% of federally-controlled Gulf waters to all fishing (map).

The Weekly Carboholic: EPA Office of the Inspector General recommends EPA enforce Clean Water Act

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Last week, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that the EPA’s internal monitoring organization, the Office of the Inspector General, found that the EPA’s current approach to controlling excess nutrient deposition into the Gulf of Mexico by the Mississippi River was not working. Continue reading

The Weekly Carboholic: Early deaths cost Appalachia more than coal jobs earn

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Appalachia has some of the most impoverished communites in the United States. The entire region is economically depressed as compared to the national average. But coal communities in Appalachia are even worse off than the rest of the region, a fact that runs counter to the idea that coal jobs support local communities. A new study out of the Institute for Health Policy Research at West Virginia University and published in Public Health Reports looked at this discrepency and found that, even using conservative assumptions, the economic costs of coal mining in Appalachian communities far outweighed the benefits from having a coal mine in the community. Continue reading

The Weekly Carboholic: nuclear energy is not zero-carbon, but is low carbon

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Nuclear power is not, as the industry and some politicians claim, a carbon-free source of electricity. It is truly carbon free when you split uranium in a nuclear fission reaction, but acquiring that uranium-235 and disposing of its wastes are not zero-carbon enterprises. For that matter, nor is constructing the nuclear power plant itself. And now Nature News has reported on a study about how much carbon nuclear power plants emit over their entire life cycle, and the life cycle of its uranium fuel. Continue reading

Corn ethanol production is killing the coastal Gulf of Mexico

Today’s recipe is for “Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone”:

  • Start with historically massive agricultural input of phosphorus and nitrogen into the Mississippi River system.
  • Add occasional yearly floods that can double the input of phosphorus and nitrogen following the flood.
  • Dump the Mississippi River into an algae-rich Gulf of Mexico.
  • Heat the Gulf water to a tepid 70 degrees Fahrenheit (local water temperatures may vary)
  • Add lots of sunlight.
  • Wait for phytoplankton algae bloom to form, then die and start decomposing.
  • Ta da! You’ve finished your Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone!
  • If you wish increase the size of your dead zone, just increase agricultural runoff from nitrogen fertilizers. Corn farming for ethanol would be a great way to start.

Continue reading