Virginia: The State of Denial, Sinking

The harbor at Norfolk Virginia

Norfolk, Virginia, on one of the world’s great harbors in the world’s largest estuary, has long prospered because of its proximity to the sea. That tide is changing. (US Navy photo)

The rising waters of climate change are lapping at the foundations of Virginia’s second-largest city, and are repeatedly rolling over one of its premier tourist attractions. Norfolk city officials and National Park Service managers on Assateague Island are trying desperately to deal with the rising threat. But they get no help or even encouragement from the state government, whose official position is that there is no such thing as climate change, therefore the sea cannot be rising. Continue reading

Romney’s Energy Plan: I Have a Dream

Oil pump jacks drawing oil from the Lost Hills Oil Field in the San Joaquin Valley in Central California. Romney’s prescription: get more of them, and make them go faster. (Photo by Richard Masoner/Flickr)

From the folks who brought us Newt Gingrich’s promise to deliver $2-a-gallon gas if we just let him play president for a while — never mind how, just trust him — comes now from the grownup in the room, the actual candidate for president, an energy policy for the country that is equally grounded in realism. If we let him be president for a while, says Mitt Romney, he will deliver energy independence for America in seven years. Never mind how. All we have to do is trust him and the oil companies.
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Corn Growers Suffer Quintuple Whammy

Drought-stressed corn, maybe also toxic, bug-bit and weed-plagued, in Kentucky last week. (Photo by CraneStation/Flickr)

The failure of industrial agriculture is on display everywhere in America’s “breadbasket” — now we should probably call it the ethanol basket,  or the high-fructose-corn-syrup basket — and the consequences are already spreading around the world. You thought it was just a drought? It would be bad enough of that’s all it was, but it is much, much more. The count so far: Continue reading

Top Hedge Fund Guy Sees Worsening Global Food Crisis

Famine, as visualized by sculptor Rowan Gillespie on Custom House Quay in Dublin, Ireland. Famine is what hedge fund manager Jeremy Grantham is really talking about in his latest investor letter. (Photo by William Murphy/Flickr)

The skipper of one of the larger hedge funds on the planet — $100 billion under management — has just laid out, again, in wonkish detail and with financial sophistication, the evidence that the industrialized world has fallen to its knees and is about to topple onto its face. He says, in short, Brace for Impact, and anyone who has  any interest in surviving the next couple of decades on Planet Earth would be well advised to read his report — and act accordingly. Continue reading

Running Out of Water and Time

Drought-stricken corn under a hot and rainless Iowa sky last week. Two more studies say, things are going to get worse. (Photo by USDA)

The train is coming at 80 miles per hour. Children are playing on the railroad tracks, oblivious. The train is closer now. The children are not aware of it. You can hear the train, people are yelling at you that it is coming, and you, my friend, stand there near the children, not moving, thinking of other things. Thus climate change bears down on us, thus peak oil comes closer at 80 miles per hour, and thus does our water run out. Two shouted warnings about water just this week. Continue reading

Feds Approve Las Vegas Water Grab

The Fountains at Bellagio Casino, one reason Las Vegas is running out of water. Yes, we know they have their own well, but the 5-10 million gallons they use every day could significantly slow down the depletion of Lake Mead. (Photo by sheilaellen/Flickr)

Dying cities, like dying people, reveal their characters near the end. Some go out with dignity, others grasp wildly at any scheme to avoid their fate, no matter at what harm to others. Case in point: Las Vegas, a clutch of casinos, bars and brothels built in the worst place you could build a city, in order to cater to the worst urges of human nature. Now this synthetic oasis in the desert is running out of water, and proposes a solution consistent with its traditional ethics: we’ll just take somebody else’s water.
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In a Village in India, It’s Power to the People

A Mumbai vendor uses a lamp, charged during the day by the solar panel he is holding, to bring business to his stall. Such affordable solar solutions are helping people all over the country deal with an unreliable (and seemingly unfixable) grid. (Photo by Nokero/Flickr)

A tiny village in India offers a lesson to the world: in a country reeling from failures of its grid, shortages of fuel for power generation, daily blackouts and brownouts, the village has power for lights, water pumps, fans, battery-chargers and the like all the time, from an inexhaustible source.  Note to anyone interested in surviving the coming crash of the industrial age: listen up. Continue reading

India Blackout Foreshadows US Event

It’s not easy to get a picture of a blackout. This one is from Brazil. (Photo by Alexandre Brevegliere/Flickr)

The United States is edging ever closer to the kind of power-grid failure that put 600 million Indians — ten per cent of the population of the planet — in the dark for two days this week. The reasons for the threat are the same here as they are there: one, no one is taking care of the grid — the network of transmission lines, interconnectors and transformers that is essential to life as we know it; two, supply cannot keep up with demand; and three, rate-setting is a political rather than an economic process. It should not come as a shock, so to speak, that neglect, failure to prepare and playing politics with essentials  should lead to disaster.  Continue reading

Bogus Oil Boom Bogs Down

a natural gas well using hydraulic fracturing

It’s not just a drilling rig, it’s a fracking rig, and it has to be watered with millions of gallons if it is going to flourish.

Here’s a lovely circle of life: global warming caused in large part by burning oil has contributed to a drought that is making it impossible for the oil bidness to sustain its over-hyped oil boom in the Bakken oil shale formation under Montana and North Dakota. And that’s just one reason the boom will soon be busted.

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The China Syndrome Worsens

Lanzhou, on the Yellow River in China, is one of the most polluted places in the world and is typical of the the consequences of unrestrained industry that are bringing Chinese protesters into the streets. (Photo by sandandtsunamis/Flickr)

China has long been the secret envy of American industrialists. Imagine being able to do whatever you want — build any factory anywhere, pay people whatever the hell you feel like laying them, dump your waste wherever the hell you feel like dumping it — all with no interference from any news media, EPA, environmental organization or opposition party. Forget West Virginia — that’s almost heaven.  But be careful what you wish for, boys and girls; China is coming apart faster than we are. Continue reading