Monday, April 28, 2008

Delta, Utah - Smog Pictures

These are two pictures of the coal fired power plant at Delta, Utah.

  • The first picture shows the smokestack, with mountains barely visible in the background.
  • The second picture shows a power line, with the smokestack barely visible in the background. In this picture, the mountains are totally obscured by smog.

These pictures are in no way retouched.
It was a clear day (only an hour before) just across the border, in Nevada.
The photos were taken from the South, with the sun behind the camera (which would have given the clearest shots).

This is smog.
This is what it looks like here on a good day.
I've heard it looks a lot worse during winter temperature inversions.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

You'd Think This Would Be A Lesson

ChinaDaily reports that national power plant coal reserves are down to a new record of only 12 days, and less than a week in some Chinese provinces. This is pretty serious for a nation that relies on more than 70 percent of it's electrical power from coal. China is now a net importer of coal. And of course, even China is subject to supply and demand, and the cost of coal is rising – effecting China's whole economy.

You'd think this would be a lesson for us. But we have our own examples.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has stated:

Today, we don’t need to abolish carbon as an energy source in order to see its inefficiencies starkly, or to understand that this addiction is the principal drag on American capitalism. The evidence is before our eyes. The practice of borrowing a billion dollars each day to buy foreign oil has caused the American dollar to implode. More than a trillion dollars in annual subsidies to coal and oil producers have beggared a nation that four decades ago owned half the globe’s wealth. Carbon dependence has eroded our economic power, destroyed our moral authority, diminished our international influence and prestige, endangered our national security, and damaged our health and landscapes. It is subverting everything we value.

We know that nations that “decarbonize” their economies reap immediate rewards. Sweden announced in 2006 the phaseout of all fossil fuels (and nuclear energy) by 2020. In 1991 the Swedes enacted a carbon tax—now up to $150 a ton—and as a result thousands of entrepreneurs rushed to develop new ways of generating energy from wind, the sun, and the tides, and from woodchips, agricultural waste, and garbage. Growth rates climbed to upwards of three times those of the U.S.

Iceland was 80 percent dependent on imported coal and oil in the 1970s and was among the poorest economies in Europe. Today, Iceland is 100 percent energy-independent, with 90 percent of the nation’s homes heated by geothermal and its remaining electrical needs met by hydro. The International Monetary Fund now ranks Iceland the fourth most affluent nation on earth.”

You'd think this would be a lesson for us.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Great Basin Outdoor Adventurers Meetup

I have just started a new group at
...the Great Basin Outdoor Adventurers Meetup

Meet with people who like outdoor adventures - like hiking, mountain biking, camping, backpacking, kayaking, climbing, skiing, etc. All Adventures Welcome!
You can even schedule adventures.

Check out the Last Chance Expedition of the SNWA Watergrab Wildlands
May 17-21

click here to visit the new group.
Join now! It's free.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Same Old Slime

Sometimes it seems George Bush Jr. is determined to create a Hell on Earth.

Read: "
Bush's Third Climate-Change Fake-Out" at the Washington Post.

Andrew Gumbel of the Independent offered an instant "translation" of Bush's basic message: "In recent years, my refusal to acknowledge the reality and seriousness of global warming has turned me into a laughing-stock and contributed to my record low poll ratings. So now I have to look interested."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Prehistoric Global Warming

I haven't read this book yet, but it sounds quite plausible... and very frightening. Here's a review from

Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell us About Our Future

"Mass extinctions periodically reshape life on Earth. The best known, the Cretaceous - Tertiary (K-T) boundary, ended the reign of the non-avian dinosaurs approximately 65 MYA when an asteroid roughly 10 kilometers wide gouged the Chicxulub crater near the Yucatan Peninsula, setting the stage for mammals, including Homo sapiens, to become the dominant terrestrial vertebrates.

Another extinction event, the Permian - Triassic (P-Tr), some 251 MYA, is informally known as 'the Great Dying.' Up to 96 percent of all marine species and 70 percent of terrestrial species were erased as global ecosystems crumbled. Life itself nearly died - and Peter Ward makes a compelling case in "Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future" that global warming was the primary culprit.

The occurrence of mass extinction events is not open to debate - the data is in the strata - available to any researcher diligent enough to decode the physical evidence. Unlike some global warming books "Under a Green Sky" carefully examines the fossil and climate record to justify models and simulations designed to predict future events. Ward, a paleontology professor at the University of Washington, and a NASA staff astrobiologist, invokes runaway global warming as the primary driver of the P-Tr extinction - and convincingly demonstrates that an anthropogenic (human-caused) encore is the obscene outcome of business as usual energy policies.

"Under a Green Sky" recounts how scientists examine mass extinctions and determine plausible causes based on paleontological and geological evidence. After the K-T event was convincingly attributed to an asteroid strike, extraterrestrial (ET) impacts because the default explanation for other mass extinctions. Ward avoided the ET impact bandwagon and pursued a more nuanced approach by examining the fossil record in painstaking detail to determine if extinctions happened slowly, in phases, or all at once - only the last option favors an impact hypothesis.

If the pace of extinction rules out an impact event, what other agent could kill so indiscriminately across land and sea on a global scale? Scientists can measure past atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide or methane by analyzing isotope ratios in rocks and counting stomata, the microscopic pores found on the under side of leaves. Both methods show that a major greenhouse episode took place at the end of the Permian and continued into the early Triassic. On land Therapsids (mammal-like reptiles) made way for the dinosaurs - a topic covered in Ward and Ehlert's superb Out of Thin Air: Dinosaurs, Birds, And Earth's Ancient Atmosphere.

Life's nemesis was ultimately found on the P-Tr ocean floor. ET impact events like the K-T extinction kill ocean life from the surface down - and most losses take place in the upper half of the ocean. Surprisingly, to impact partisans, the P-Tr killer struck first in the ocean depths and moved upward. Dark bands in P-Tr strata signal the presence of anoxic (without-oxygen) archaea and bacteria - potent producers of greenhouse accelerating methane or deadly hydrogen sulfide gas. How did these usually innocuous and ancient organisms devastate life on Earth?

The Pangean supercontinent formed halfway through the Permian. Availability of shallow aquatic environments diminished, ocean currents and weather patterns were radically altered, and seasonal monsoons lashed coasts separated by a vast interior desert. These changes stressed the global ecosystem - much as humanity does today - then global warming triggered by the Siberian Traps, the largest known volcanic eruption in Earth history, initiated the coup de grace by delivering massive amounts of carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere over a 700,000 year period as the Permian drew to a close.

Temperatures soared 10 - 30 degrees Celsius (18 - 54 degrees Fahrenheit) as sulfur dioxide combined with water vapor to form acid rain. The ocean conveyor which carries warm and poorly oxygenated surface water toward the poles where it cools and is re-oxygenated before sinking and making its way back to the equator shut down.

The collapse of the ocean conveyer was catastrophic. Aerobic (with-oxygen) life in the deep sea suffocated as oxygen disappeared. Anoxic replacements quickly filled the vacant niche until the killing zone reached the surface of the global Panthalassic Ocean. Methanogenic archaea and bacteria produced prodigious amounts of methane - a far more efficient greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide - while sulfate-reducing microorganisms released unprecedented amounts of deadly hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg gas) into the ocean and atmosphere. The sky literally turned green as oxygen levels dwindled, the ozone layer disappeared, and hydrogen sulfide poisoned animals and plants. Pangaea, already arid, approached desiccation - more than enough to drive the mother of all mass extinctions.

Fast forward 251 million years to the present. Ward presents three possible Anthropocene scenarios:

1. Humanity manages to keep atmospheric carbon dioxide levels below 450 ppm (parts per million) by the year 2100. Earth warms somewhat, additional ice melts, but sea level rise is manageable and life goes on much as it has in the past - but any pending ice age will be indefinitely postponed. This outcome, as Ward notes, is hopelessly optimistic unless a massive initiative to limit or sequester greenhouse gas emissions is successfully implemented within this decade.

2. Greenhouse gas emissions accelerate as China and India continue to industrialize; carbon dioxide levels reach 700 ppm by the year 2100. Rising seas have forced countries to relocate some essential coastal infrastructure and deal with regional population displacements. Scientists note that the ocean conveyor recently shut down - triggering climate and weather pattern changes that even politicians can't ignore. Famine and scarcity replace consumer culture as societal norms. The future is bleak but technological civilization may continue to exist if it adapts quickly enough.

3. Carbon dioxide levels hit 1,100 ppm by 2100. The result resembles the worst parts of the bible - no adequate secular alternative is available. Earth is 10 degrees Celsius warmer. All of the world's ice is melting. Sea level rise is measured in meters. Much of the world's population is displaced by rising waters and vital infrastructure losses cannot be replaced. Polar bears are long gone, Homo sapiens is the latest endangered species. The ocean conveyor shut down decades ago. Signs of deep ocean anoxia are increasingly apparent and appalling - the sky turns a sickly shade of green. The sixth great mass extinction is underway. Remaining governments fight savage wars over scarce resources as entire ecosystems collapse. Natural selection and humankind are brutally reacquainted when medicine reverts to pre-industrial norms. Rampant famine and disease causes a global population implosion. Humanity will probably survive but a second stone age is the most likely outcome.

Those who forget the lessons of history - majestically inscribed into the paleontological and geological record - are doomed to repeat it. Educate yourself, become politically active, and force our leaders to change course before an anthropogenic apocalypse devours us all."
by Carl Flygare

If you read this book, please let me know what you think.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Corrupt and Corrupter

While I was watching the hearing of the oil executives before a House Committee on C-SPAN, I noticed something very interesting. I could spot the Republicans on the Committee almost instantly. C-SPAN didn't initially show whether the Committee member was Democrat or Republican. This gave me time to guess. And I was able to pick the Republicans with 100% accuracy.

How did I do it? Simple; if the first words out the Committee members' mouth sounded like they were kissing the oil executives' asses, they were Republicans. That's right, 100% accuracy!

Don't get me wrong. It's not like I believe the Democrats are the good guys and the Republicans are the bad guys. It's more like corrupt and corrupter. But it sure looks like the Republicans have completely sold out.

Maybe that's why the oil companies are getting $18 Billion in tax breaks and alternative energy lost theirs.

This isn't the first time oil executives have had to face a tongue lashing from Congress - and nothing else. The Daily Show parodied that this has happened for about the past three years.

This is corruption at it's worst in Washington. Pay up or your business dies – and the little guys can't afford to pay up. The problem is that not only are these small energy companies unable to bring us truly clean energy, but our future is in serious doubt. Quite simply, the oil companies can't buy their way out of global warming and extreme climate change. But Congress seems to think so. And the Republican Party has been taking the most graft.

This can't last. Republicans have realized that we're catching on. Americans are becoming less and less willing to vote for Republicans. And Exxon just might be more willing to invest in alternatives if we stop buying their gas. Shell and BP are investing heavily in alternative energy. As a symbolic gesture, maybe we should buy their gas instead.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Glenn Beck Understands Addiction

Glenn Beck is the host of CNN's “Glenn Beck” show – that is available in 85 million households... Although in my household, I usually change the channel whenever he's on. I'm convinced far too much of what he says is either distraction or propaganda. But, for a change, I decided to see what he's up to.

Glenn Beck “reported” that an article was published online by BBC that told that global temperatures have been falling since 1998. This report was simply wrong. Most of the mainstream press (legitimate) journalists haven't reported it. In fact, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann named Glenn Beck as his runner-up for the “worst person in the world” after Beck made the claim that the hottest year in global history was 1934. (That was actually the hottest year in the United States.)

But that hasn't stopped Glenn Beck. He continues to quote US temperatures as global temperatures – in a round about way. The BBC article was online for all of 16 minutes, and then modified. Glenn Beck “reported” it as environmentalist “McCarthyism.” Apparently, an irate individual emailed the BBC reporter and threatened to send the article to other global warming activists. That's right; she threatened to promote his article – and he immediately backed down... No way! Now if this were a small rural newspaper and giant corporation threatened to sue, I might believe it. But an email from essentially unknown person intimidating the BBC... Not!

Let's consider what really must have happened. The reporter published an article that was wrong. As soon as someone from the BBC realized it, the article was fixed. How embarrassing. No wonder they don't want to talk about it.

However, Glenn Beck fabricated this elaborate story about how one global warming activist could stifle the truth. Being a global warming activist, I know how much even a small rural newspaper listens... they don't. They can easily ignore us. They almost have to, or otherwise nothing would get published. Let's face it; somebody always gets aggravated when enough people pay attention. And a lot of people pay attention to BBC.

So, why would Glenn Beck essentially make up this implausible story about environmentalist “McCarthyism?” More importantly, why would people believe him? And how did a top 40 DJ rocket past thousands and thousands of degreed journalists to become a host on CNN (Cable News Network)? ...Maybe because that's what people want to hear – even if it's not the truth.

People don't like change if it means doing without. And Glenn Beck is telling us what we want to hear; that we can keep our keep our gas hog cars, and we don't have to pay attention to what the power companies are doing. The uncomfortable truth is that the world needs to change, or face an environmental catastrophe. Yes, I realize conservatives don't like change. But extreme climate change is not what conservatives should stand for.

It isn't any surprise that the coal industry has been running a number of expensive ads on CNN. What is surprising is that one ad shows FutureGen, a canceled clean coal power plant, as an example of where coal is headed. This was the only coal-fired power plant to utilize carbon sequestration on the drawing boards. And the last time I checked, the Federal Government won't pay for it. In other words, forget clean coal.

Even George W. Bush has admitted that “America is addicted to oil.” Here's our proof that America is living up to the accusation. Addicts lie to themselves to keep being addicts. Addicts believe lies to keep being addicts. These lies would be self-evident if the addicts really cared to check. Unfortunately, many Americans won't change until they hit rock bottom, and our climate changes horrifically – which, of course, will be too late.

Considering his addictive past, you'd think Glenn Beck would know better. Then again, maybe he just has an addictive personality. Maybe all he cares about is getting what he wants; money and fame now, instead of drugs.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

What's Wrong With This Study?

I read the Ely Times article “12 ideas in new plan to cut Colorado River use” with hope that Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) was serious about looking into alternatives to the water-grab pipeline network. But I don't think so now. You see; they left out one very important alternative – the one they're actually planning on doing.

Now, why would SNWA leave out the water grab as an option in this study? Why would they not want to compare the costs of the multi-billion dollar “Groundwater Development Project” to these other ideas?

  1. Maybe SNWA wanted to save money on the study. Since they apparently feel the water grab is such a wonderful idea, maybe they felt it would just be a waste of money to compare it to other ideas. If so, why bother with the study?

  2. Maybe they don't want anyone else calculating how much the pipeline will really cost. Independent estimates have been higher than SNWA has been telling us. Admitting to the true cost of the pipeline network would be so inconvenient.

  3. Maybe they don't want us to compare the water grab to these ideas. It would be so confusing if the water grab didn't turn out to be the best idea.

  4. Maybe this is all a public relations effort. If SNWA can claim they tried to think of everything, then they can claim that the water grab is the only option. Without all the information available to us, we have to rely on the “Authority” to make the final decision.

  5. Maybe SNWA was serious about this study in a different way than they claim. By grouping good ideas with bad, they can make good ideas appear more like hair-brained schemes. Therefore; only the water grab will look like a good idea. How convenient...

Although Bill Rinne, director of surface water resources for the Southern Nevada Water Authority, said “All options are still on the table” it appears more likely that they want to table these ideas.

Despite what SNWA wants us to believe, the water grab is not above criticism. If SNWA doesn't want anyone else to examine the water grab, apparently they must have something to hide.