It’s Official: Breathing is Bad for You

pollution prosperity

(Photo by Mike Licht/Flickr)

The World Health Organization has classified polluted air as a Group One human carcinogen. That puts the air that most people in the world are breathing in the same category of harmfulness as such things as asbestos and cigarette smoke. It also ranks the eastern United States, along with China, Mexico and North Africa as having the most polluted air in the world. In some ways, of course, this is old news. Some of us figured out a few decades ago that polluted air is not good for you. Nevertheless, as reported by Reuters this new study is going to rock some big boats. Continue reading

Oil Figures Don’t Lie, but Oil Liars Go Figure

Coming soon to a yard near yours? A fracking well looms over a residence in the Eagle Ford shale region of Texas. (Photo by Earthworks Action/Flickr)

Coming soon to a yard near yours? A fracking well looms over a residence in the Eagle Ford shale region of Texas. (Photo by Earthworks Action/Flickr)

The headlines are coming with dizzying speed. On October 11, “US Soon to Overtake Russia as World’s Largest Oil Producer.” And then days later, “US Surges Past Saudis to Become World’s Top Oil Supplier.” Wait, how can Russia and Saudi Arabia both be the world’s largest oil producer in the same week? Okay, never mind, they run neck and neck. So this is really great news for American oil burners, no reason at all now they should change their planet-warming ways. If the headlines were true. Which they weren’t. Continue reading

Feds: Poison Chicken Approved, Cantaloupe Farmers Jailed

sick chicken

This chicken is safe to eat. Just handle while wearing a biohazard suit, in a negative-pressure, double-sealed room, and cook for several days at 900 degrees.[See also: Handling the Ebola Virus for Dummies] (Photo by amslerpix/Flickr)

When 33 people died and hundreds were sickened from eating cantaloupe contaminated with listeria, the owners of the farm involved were hauled into court in handcuffs and charged with six criminal offenses. When hundreds of people were sickened by salmonella in chicken — seven different strains of salmonella, all resistant to antibiotic treatment — from a chicken plant that did the same thing last year, nothing happened. No prosecutions, not even a recall of the contaminated chicken. It’s being suggested that the latter outbreak is not being dealt with because of the government shutdown, but the real reason is far worse than that. Continue reading

Leading US Publications Mislead on Climate Change. Together.

Does journalism get more lame than this? Increasingly, yes.

Does journalism get more lame than this? Increasingly, yes.

In just one week, TIME Magazine, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal have published pieces that say, respectively, that the earth might be cooling, not warming; that there is no limit to how many humans can live on earth; that there is no “scientific” connection between global warming and extreme weather; and that “most experts” believe that the benefits of global warming will outweigh the harm. What are we to make of the fact that these colossi of traditional journalism (not to mention Britain’s Daily Mail and Rupert Murdoch’s Australian papers) are all singing from the same sheet music, on virtually the same day? Has there been some epic paradigm shift away from global climate change? Or is the rising tide of destruction and human suffering around the world driving the industrialists — industrial journalists included — closer to panic? Continue reading

Steroids for Cows: How to Gag a Hyena

Far from the fields of grass they once roamed, and on which they evolved, cows such as these -- sick, crowded, dirty, stressed, being force fed unnatural food and shot up with chemicals -- are the source of today’s T-bone steak. (Photo by Randy Heinitz/Flickr)

Far from the fields of grass they once roamed, and on which they evolved, cows such as these — sick, crowded, dirty, stressed, being force fed unnatural food and shot up with chemicals — are the source of today’s T-bone steak. (Photo by Randy Heinitz/Flickr)

It is possible to gag a hyena; the food industry has actually choked on its own latest solution to an economy-of-scale problem. The problem was created when the corn industry mandated (through its wholly owned subsidiary, the United States Congress) the use of corn ethanol in automobile fuel. Among the unintended consequences were an immediate tripling of the cost of corn, leading to  1) widespread famine in countries whose staple food is the tortilla, and 2) more importantly, decreased profits for cattle feedlots. The feedlots demanded, and got, a quick fix: a chemical that would reduce the amount of corn needed to fatten cattle by making them swell up. Oddly, not everything worked out well. Continue reading

Egypt: Apocalypse Now

What do the Egyptian people want? Islam? Democracy? Or is it just bread, and a way to survive? (Photo by Jerry Jackson, globaltechfirm/Flickr)

What do the Egyptian people want? Islam? Democracy? Or is it just bread, and a way to survive? (Photo by Jerry Jackson, globaltechfirm/Flickr)

Disregard anything the poets and pundits are saying about current events in Egypt as long as they are rhapsodizing about such irrelevancies as democracy vs. tyranny, secularism vs. radical Islam, or when a coup is not a coup. Listen only to those who recognize that Egypt is being sledge-hammered by a perfect storm of peak oil, peak food and peak water, exacerbated by a strong dose of climate change. Egypt is a failing state, whose failure not only will destabilize an entire region, but foreshadows the similar failure of every state whose existence depends on cheap and plentiful oil, food and water. Continue reading

Let Them Drink Oil

With thirsty oil rigs spearing the sky behind it, a water truck makes its run in Barnhart Texas,

With thirsty oil rigs spearing the sky behind it, a water truck makes its run in Barnhart Texas,

Barnhart, Texas, a crossroads village 250 miles southwest of Dallas, is living the dream. It was barely hanging on to a sleepy, sunbaked existence when fracking came to the area two years ago. As drill rigs sprouted like Jack’s beanstalks in every direction and oilfield workers swarmed in RV suburbs, the town boomed, and some property owners in the area landed rich leases. “Boom Times for a Tiny Texas Town,” exulted the Wall Street Journal. Last month, the entire town ran out of water. Bust.

Barnhart, Texas, is now living the nightmare. Continue reading

Agriculture Running Amok

Indiscriminate use of neonicotinoids threatens to bring back the Silent Spring. (Photo by Mrs Gemstone/Flickr)

Indiscriminate use of neonicotinoids threatens to bring back the Silent Spring. (Photo by Mrs Gemstone/Flickr)

For many industries, rampant destruction of the world’s topsoil (in the US, at least three tons lost for every ton of crop, multiples of that in many other countries) and water (the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico from agricultural runoff is the size of New Jersey) might be accomplishments enough, but not Big Agriculture. It is now busily poisoning a wide range of the world’s living things. The culprit — a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. Brought to market just 20 years ago, they are the world’s most widely used pesticides. And only now are we finding out how deadly they are. Continue reading

9/5/2000: Apocalypse Rehearsed

Hurricane Sandy brought New Yorkers a brief taste of Apocalypse Then, bit it wasn't close to 9/5/2000.

Hurricane Sandy brought New Yorkers a brief taste of Apocalypse Then, but it wasn’t close to 9/5/2000.

A fascinating retrospective by Kathy McMahon, a clinical psychologist who blogs as “Dr. K., the Peak [oil] Shrink,” details the little known (in this country) and little remembered (anywhere) story of what happened when the oil supply of some industrial European countries was briefly interrupted by their own citizens. The breathtaking speed with which the grocery stores emptied, the gas stations closed and the economy flatlined are instructive, and predictive. Too bad nobody knows the story. Continue reading

A New American Error in Oil and Gas: 3 Charts

US_crude_oil_production_1900_2035

In this, the mother of all oil charts, we can see that things were fine until 1970. It’s been downhill ever since, and will be from here on in.


Apparently there are still a few Americans who believe the hogwash being put out by the oil and gas industry to the effect that America is awash with gas and oil, is headed for energy security, and will soon be the world’s number one oil and gas producer. The people still clinging to this fantasy seem to include President Obama and the Wall Street Journal. We have refuted the case here more than once, using arithmetic and logic, but perhaps those languages are a bit arcane these days. Let’s try charts. I have three to show you. Continue reading