Monday, January 28, 2013

The Brilliance of These United States

My favorite dead curmudgeon, Andy Rooney, was talking inside my head again. "D'ja ever wonder," he groused,"why Congress is pretending to do immigration reform and gun control but nobody is touching climate change with a ten foot pole?"

I think I may have the answer. It can be found in a NASA photo. You can now see, from the vantage point of space, that enough homegrown American gas is being burned off -- wasted -- to heat all the homes in Chicago and Washington!

 From The Financial Times:
The volume of unwanted gas being flared off in North Dakota, the state leading the shale revolution transforming the outlook for US energy, rose about 50 per cent last year. The surge at the state’s Bakken formation is being replicated in other shale regions with the Texas state regulator issuing 1,963 permits to flare in 2012, more than six times the number of 306 in 2010.    
The rapid increase has made the US one of the world’s worst countries for gas flaring. The volume of gas flared in the US has tripled in just five years, according to World Bank estimates and is now fifth highest in the world, behind Russia, Nigeria, Iran and Iraq.
Follow the money. Climate change is not being addressed because pollution is not being regulated. It's not being regulated because our taxpayer-subsidized oil companies are profiting and depositing a teensy little fraction of their ill-gotten gains into the campaign coffers of congress critters and into the inauguration slush funds of presidents. It's cheaper to spew vast quantities of a precious natural resource into the atmosphere than it is to build pipelines to not only contain it, but to use it to power homes and businesses. The propaganda you see being spewed in those annoying "Learn More" TV commercials sponsored by the oil and gas industry is not only mendacious, it's evil. They want you to believe their rape of the earth has a humanistic purpose. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It gets worse. ExxonMobil, Chevron and other conglomerates are taking a page from the Walmart playbook of vulture capitalism. They're hiring temporary laborers for only a few dollars above the minimum wage and not covering them with medical or accident insurance for one of the most dangerous jobs in the country. The New York Times is running a story today about the horrific accident rate in the North Dakota oil fields, and a medical infrastructure ill-equipped to deal with it. It's the high cost of low price. Bloated corporations foist the responsibility for their workers onto the government. Bleeding bodies and bleeding land and tainted water and dirty air abound. Guess who pays with their lives and their health? Guess who will pay when the polluters are sued for their malfeasance? Guess who will get a slap on the wrist and no jail time?

ExxonMobil has nothing to fear. It just donated $250,000 to President Obama's coronation celebration, matching what it gave to industry-loving oilman George W. Bush's inauguration slush fund.

D'ja ever wonder why Obama is keeping mum on campaign finance reform, and has said nary a word about trying to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling? Here's why:


James F Traynor said...

This has always disgusted me.

Denis Neville said...

Stunning image! Just like the swamps of Nigeria because it’s cheap.

Regulators could stop flaring, but they won’t because it would reduce the cash flow from those oil wells and to the politicians. Last year the EPA extended the time that companies were allowed to flare until 2015.

Follow the money.

Find out which companies are pumping their dirty money into politics and which politicians are receiving it:

What does the fossil fuel industry get for all its campaign contributions? Our government provides from $10 billion to $52 billion annually in tax breaks, giveaways, loans, price controls, and other ways to support the fossil fuel industry.

Find out how Congress voted on key energy legislation — and how the dirty energy money may have affected the outcome:

A bipartisan group of 53 senators have urged Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline:

Follow the money.

Will Obama approve the Keystone XL pipeline? Is the Pope Catholic?

Follow the money.

Deluded environmentalists (recalling one on his way to one of the inaugural balls on the Young Turks) gushed over Obama’s comments on global climate change in his inaugural speech.

Let Matt Stoller remind us once again:

“Obama’s entire edifice is based on lying almost entirely to help sustain his image, with almost no interest in sound policy-making. Obama understands the threat of climate change, but like the exceptional con artist he is, what happens to others he does not know, or what happens in the future, is irrelevant to him. He understands banking, and war, and women’s issues, and corruption and Citizens United. Like a great con artist, he has studied his mark, the American voter, and specifically the Democratic voter, and he understands which buttons to push.”

Zee said...

Just on general principles, I am sickened by the waste of a low-cost, yet important, resource.

".... the abundant supplies of gas it [fracking] has unlocked have outpaced development of infrastructure needed to store and pump it to populations...

...But with gas prices having dropped from their 2008 peak of more than $13 per million British thermal units to just $3.40 because of increased production of the resource it is now uneconomic to build pipelines and storage tanks."

I don't know if any of the big "fracking" states impose severance taxes on extractive industries as we do here in New Mexico, but it would seem to me that flaring ( i.e., destroying) natural gas permanently removes (severs) the resource from the state just as surely as selling it would.

So why not force the oil/gas companies to monitor the amount of gas they flare, and pay a sufficiently high severance tax so as to MAKE it economical to build the infrastructure to store and transport the gas? Either that, or stop producing and flaring gas altogether?

This approach would eliminate both the waste and pollution elements of gas production, and wouldn't involve action on the Federal level.

4Runner said...

Anyone want a job up in the gas/oil fields of North Dakota? I took a look-see @ various current openings:
Crewmen ages 21-28 & single, $14/hr with housing in company dorms. "Harsh weather" working conditions.
Truck drivers $20-25/hr, single health & accident insurance, company housing when on duty.
Adjacent to the gas & shale sites are fine places for all these young single guys to get separated from their hard-earned cash: gambling casinos (something like 24 in the state). They're hiring, too:
bartenders, slot attendants & cashiers $7-11/hr, plus security dudes @ $15 per.
Truly a workers' paradise: you'll go far in Fargo!!

Karen Garcia said...

Speaking of the brilliance of these United States, David Brooks has written a column about the Repubs' attempt to do an extreme makeover on their sorry selves. My response:

Earth to David: half of the moderate Republican Party of your dreams has already been subsumed by the neoliberals, the Third Way, the Blue Dogs, and the Wall Street branch of the Democratic Party. The other part was hijacked by the Tea Party astroturfers and ALEC, such union-busting billionaires as the Koch Brothers, the murky anonymous corporate persons spawned by the Roberts Court, the NRA, the zealots of the Christian right, and sundry paranoid fringe/militia movements still skulking in the back woods of America.

I have to admit it's been amusing to watch Paul Ryan strive futilely to resemble a human being, Sarah Palin slink from the Fox nest of vipers back to her fascist tour bus, and Karl Rove likewise disappearing after his sudden national TV meltdown, squealing like a character out of Animal Farm when he had to face the truth that all the Adelson billions and all the voter suppression antics couldn't put Romney together again.

Even when a reasonable few purport to back immigration reform, they can't help but show their true colors. First come the drones and the guns and the drug tests, and any other ignominy they can dream up. Then they'll decide who gets to stay (hint: migrant farmworkers exempt from labor laws, willing to serve the plutocracy for cheap.)

Don't despair, David. When it comes to the forever wars, the secret wars, the drug wars and the eternal spy state,the GOPers still have their parts as vile, but very useful, idiots in Bipartisan Kabuki.

spreadoption said...

Karen, What a glorious put-down of David Brooks! I love it! The guy's an intellectual bully of sorts, a useful idiot, for sure.

In my few remaining brief moments of hope for this nation, I feel the possibility that Americans may be ever so slowly waking up to the reality of their decline. (Or not?)

It seems to me that those few of us who really "get it" have an obligation to try to speak and write in such a way that it shakes the very foundations of people's beliefs. We are inclined by our natures, however, to be too polite, too circumspect, too "politically correct", and unnecessarily respectful. You can't wake people up with a whisper or a whine. You gotta get in their face and force them to confront your different way of seeing things. Of course, it's a fine line where we risk losing credibility. I'm convinced, nevertheless, that there is a way to be strong, forceful, intelligent, and convincing... or at least alarming enough to make them pay attention. Karen, I think you got it exactly right with that comment to Mr. Brooks.

Now a question for our Canadian members, regarding that NASA photo of the flares: North of Quebec City there appears to be a large flare surrounding what might be lac Saint-Jean. Does anybody know what that's about? My searching has turned up nothing but camping, fishing, and hunting.

Having grown up in Canada, I'm "American by birth but Canadian by heart" and now back in the States. What I fear is that Canada is falling prey to the same vicious plutocracy that is wrecking this country and Europe.