Four disasters this week

My friend and fellow-blogger Keith has written another excellent post that I would like to share with you today. He speaks of four disasters this week, and … well, I will let Keith tell you in his own words, for there is really nothing for me to add. Thank you, Keith for such an excellent, well-stated post, and for your permission to re-blog.

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Between the horrible earthquake outside of Mexico City and Hurricane Maria, two disasters are harming people. This is on top of the two terrible hurricanes that hit Texas (Harvey) and Florida and the Caribbean Islands (Irma) in the past three weeks. We need to help those impacted and who may still be impacted as Maria continues onward. At last count, 245 people in Mexico City and the area have died from the earthquake and Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, etc. have been decimated by Maria.

While it is highly likely man-influenced climate change has made the hurricanes more powerful, two other disasters are clearly man-made and harmful to people. For one, we have to travel to Myanmar and Bangladesh as the government of Myanmar is doing an ethnic cleansing of a minority group of Muslims called Rohingyas. Over 400,000 Rohingyas have sought refuge in Bangladesh to escape the raping, killing, beating and burning of their homes…

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EPA Is Now The SPPA … ‘Scott Pruitt Protection Agency’

EPA Director Scott Pruitt’s life is worth more than yours or mine.  We all know that the Environmental Protection Agency is being scaled back, their hands tied when it comes to doing their job monitoring and enforcing laws that were intended to protect our environment, our health and our very lives.  This was Trump’s dream, to repeal all laws and actions that were implemented by President Obama … or any previous presidents, for that matter.

In a Washington Post article this morning, however, the assault on the functionality of the EPA has been taken to a new level.  Agents who are trained in investigating environmental crimes have been taken away from their jobs … and placed on a security detail to protect, not the environment, but director Scott Pruitt.  Pruitt is now receiving round-the-clock security protection by agents whose jobs it has been to monitor assaults on the air and water we rely on to survive.

Reportedly, Pruitt has been the victim of threats … threats he brought upon himself by his own rhetoric, his denial of human contributions to climate change, and his intent to rollback previous efforts to protect our planet.

epaIn the past, the EPA director has had one of the smallest security details of all cabinet members.  It should still be so.  The agents being relocated to Pruitt’s personal security detail are, understandably, not happy.  Michael Hubbard, a former special agent who led the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division office in Boston said, “These guys signed on to work on complex environmental cases, not to be an executive protection detail. It’s not only not what they want to do, it’s not what they were trained and paid to do.”

Who pays the price for keeping Pruitt safe and cozy?  Well, you already know the answer to that, folks.  But what is that price?  I do not know what it is costing today, but to put it into perspective, during Pruitt’s first three months in his current position, his personal security detail cost We The People $832,735.40.  Since then, his security detail has nearly tripled, so I will leave it to you to do the math. The $800k was nearly double what the previous director required.  Process that one for a minute.

But even the cost of Pruitt’s security pales in comparison to the cost of the damage that is going unnoticed

pruittPatrick Sullivan, the EPA assistant inspector general for investigations, said, “A lot of correspondence we have reflects that people are unhappy with his perceived unenforcement of environmental laws.” Now, we all know that! The vast majority of people in the U.S. do believe the scientists and do wish to preserve the planet for future generations, contrary to the rhetoric of Trump & Co. Shouldn’t these ‘threats’ be a wake-up call to Pruitt that he is on the wrong track?  Wouldn’t you think that somebody in power would assess the situation and realize that we care more about our planet than apparently Trump or Pruitt do?  But alas … I must have forgotten for a moment, that our needs are secondary to Trump & Co.’s personal goal of reversing every good thing that has been done in the past 8 years.  Whatever was I thinking?

This is yet another nail in the coffin of our hopes for any meaningful enforcement of environmental laws …  the few that remain, that is. My own opinion is that Pruitt was the worst possible choice for this job, given that he has filed multiple lawsuits against the very agency he now leads, and it is his own words and actions that have placed him in this situation.  If the threats are real, and I have some doubt about the volume of threats quoted by the agency, he brought them on himself, so let him hire his own bodyguards from his own pay.  His net worth is valued at somewhere between $1 million and $5 million, so he can better afford it than we can.  I do believe in providing security for our employees, but to take people away from doing an important job so they can protect a man who is purposefully destroying our lives, is unconscionable.

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NASA And The New Director …

Dr. Ben Carson – Secretary of Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

Rex Tillerson – Secretary of State

Betsy DeVos – Secretary of Education

Jeff Sessions – Attorney General

Scott Pruitt – Director of the Environmental Protection Agency

The above is a list of just a few of the cabinet members appointed by Donald Trump who are the complete antithesis of the jobs they hold.  I have written at length about each before, so I need not repeat myself here.  However, yesterday a new name was added to the list: Jim Bridenstine for Director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

nasa-logoUnlike every other NASA director in the history of the agency, Bridenstine has no science credentials … no background in scientific research, no college degree in any hard science, zip.  His degrees were in business, economics and psychology. In fact, Mr. Bridenstine is an anti-scientist … a climate change denier who seems to believe that, despite the lack of a related education, he knows more than the scientists who have devoted their entire careers to study and research.  This is the man who may soon be in charge of our space program, folks.

Bridenstine has taken climate-change denial to new levels.  In 2013, he gave a lengthy speech to the House of Representatives enumerating his points for disputing the scientific results of climate change. “Mr. Speaker, global temperatures stopped rising 10 years ago. Global temperature changes, when they exist, correlate with Sun output and ocean cycles.” But he then went on to demand that President Obama apologize for funding climate change research!

NASA chart.jpgNASA has been at the forefront of climate change research, and in 2010 a NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) science brief summarizing recent research, explains, “A study by GISS  climate scientists recently published in the journal Science shows that atmospheric CO2 operates as a thermostat to control the temperature of Earth. There is no viable alternative to counteract global warming except through direct human effort to reduce the atmospheric CO2 level.”

nasa-2.jpgBoth Senators from Florida, republican Marco Rubio and democrat Bill Nelson, criticized the Bridenstine’s nomination.  Florida, of course, is connected to NASA through the Kennedy Space Center located in Titusville, Florida.  “I just think [his nomination] could be devastating for the space program,” said Rubio. “The head of NASA ought to be a space professional, not a politician,” said Nelson.

Because I am not ‘science-savvy’, have never understood more than basic scientific concepts, I shall simply say that NASA’s Earth Science Division is a key player in providing data and scientific research on environmental issues, including climate change.  NASA’s research into temperature, ice, clouds and other climate phenomena is world-renowned. Nasa’s network of satellites provide a wealth of information on climate change.

However, since last November, Trump has made it clear that he intends to cut funding for this division and expects NASA to focus only on space exploration, not earth’s environment.  His nominee for director of NASA seems to fit well with his goals of defunding all federally funded environmental research.

Bridenstine, it is said, has long lobbied for ‘opening commercial access’ to space.  What does that mean, exactly? I cannot say for sure (I told you … science is NOT my strong suit) but Bridenstine is a strong advocate for drawing private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin more deeply into NASA’s exploration of space, and he mentions ‘commercial use of the moon’s resources’.  Okay, fine, I suppose, but if we do not address climate change, none of that has any relevance now, does it?

nasa-3Bridenstine’s nomination will have to be confirmed by the Senate, and here is where I think there may be some hope.  Given the partisanship in the Senate, no democrat is likely to produce a ‘yea’ vote.  So … it only requires 3 republican senators to vote against Bridenstine’s nomination and he will fail to be confirmed.  Marco Rubio has already expressed concerns, so if he sticks by his guns, there is one.  Since Trump’s failure to condemn white supremacists after the Charlottesville attack three weeks ago, many republicans in both the House and the Senate are growing disillusioned with Trump.  And, he has added insult to injury, insulting a number of his own party.  And let us not forget the devastation wreaked by last week’s hurricane on the gulf coast of Texas. My hope is that at least two other republican senators are fed up enough to deny him this confirmation, for Bridenstine and NASA will not be a good combination. Once again, Trump has chosen what may be the worst possible candidate to fill a position.  Let us hope the Senate puts the brakes on this one.

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Jim Bridenstine

White House’s Censorship Of Climate Change Reports

As I have said before … words matter. One’s choice of words matters. Months ago, we were introduced by the Trump administration to the concept of ‘Alternative Facts’, and those included, as we discovered, an alternative vocabulary. Now the (S)White House has added to the ‘dictionary of alternative words’ by dictating to federal agencies what words they are and are not to use. Guess what, folks? “Climate Change” is no longer allowed. Blogger-Friend Gronda has the details for you, as well as a link to the Annual Climate Change Report, which will likely be altered before it is released to the public. Please take a few moments to read this important information! Thank you, Gronda, for an excellent post and for permission to share!

Gronda Morin

Here is link to the 2017 Climate Change Report sponsored by the US government, and published by the NY Times: Read the Draft of the Climate Change Report – The New York Times 8/7/17 (A draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies, which has not yet been made public, but was obtained by The New York Times, concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. The report was completed this year and is part of the National Climate Assessment, which is congressionally mandated every four years. )

Because of the republican President Donald Trump’s administration’s disdain for climate change issues, many are concerned whether this report will be shared with the American taxpayers, and if it is, how heavily censored the report will be, and thus, we have this latest leak.

Here’s the rest of the story…

On August 7, 2017, Oliver Milman…

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Some Good News On Energy …

There’s some good news on the environmental front this week …

Thumbs up to Royal Dutch Shell CEO …

shellWhen the CEO of the world’s fourth largest petroleum company and the largest in Europe says that his next car will be an electric car, it speaks volumes.  Ben van Beurden, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell said, “The next buy I do is my next car, which will be an electric vehicle”. A Shell spokesman told Bloomberg the CEO will get a plug-in Mercedes-Benz S500e in September, while the Chief Financial Officer “already drives a BMW i3 electric car.”

So, oil demand might peak around 2030. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) pointed out last year that a global glut of just 2 million barrels a day is what triggered the 2014 oil price collapse. They’ve already told investors to expect the big crash in oil as soon as 2023.

We are at the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era.


EPA reverses course

In May, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made a decision to halt the rule created under President Obama to reduce methane leaks from new and modified oil and natural gas drilling wells. Oil and gas companies would no longer be required to detect and repair leaks of methane and other air pollution at new operations. The EPA recently found that the problem of escaping methane is even worse than initially feared, and offsets any emissions benefit from transitioning the electricity sector from coal to natural gas-fired power plants.

gas-drilling.jpegThe ruling was unpopular even with the oil and gas producers, who said they were already subject to state rules on methane emissions and had a financial incentive to capture methane and put it onto the market. But EPA head Scott Pruitt and Trump believed they knew best and proceeded with their agenda to erase all regulation on businesses.

Between May and August, the attorneys general in 15 states and the District of Columbia filed lawsuits against the EPA!

“By illegally blocking these vital clean air protections, Administrator Pruitt is endangering the health and safety of millions — but attorneys general have made clear: we won’t hesitate to fight back to protect our residents and our states,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is leading the lawsuit, said in a statement. Schneiderman was joined in filing the lawsuit by the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia. Each of these states deserves a round of applause in my book.

On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down the EPA’s attempt to suspend methane restrictions for the sector, formally vacating the agency’s 90-day stay of key provisions of New Source Performance Standards. On Wednesday, the EPA reversed course in yet another setback for the Trump administration’s regulatory rollback agenda.

pruitt.jpgScott Pruitt, in keeping with the Trump-tradition, denied that the reversal of his May ruling was in any way related to the lawsuits and the ruling by the court, saying, “We believe in dialogue with, and being responsive to, our state partners.  Today’s action reinforces our commitment to working with the states through the complex designation process.”  Yeah, yeah, right Scottie.  And donkeys fly, too.

What Keith has said many times appears to be true:  we have come too far to turn back on environmental protections and clean energy initiatives.  Score one for Mother Earth!