Category Archives: environment
Dr. Ira Leifer was appointed, by the federal government, to the Flow Rate Technical Group. Since BP is still lying through their collective teeth about how much oil is actually gushing from their screw up, and which parts of the ecosystem (including animals) are being destroyed, this is an important study. From DemocracyNow, via CrooksandLiars:
Congressman Ed Markey wrote a letter to BP last month requesting that the corporation provide safe access to the well site and full financial support, but there’s been no response from BP. Dr. Ira Leifer is the scientist leading the proposed research mission known as “Deep Spill 2.” He’s also on the federally appointed Flow Rate Technical Group. He’s a researcher in the Marine Science Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara, joining us now on the phone. Dr. Leifer, Welcome to Democracy Now!. Explain what you are requesting and what you are not getting.
DR. IRA LEIFER: Well, Amy, about 10 years ago, almost to the day, there was an experiment in frigid Arctic Norwegian waters to try to learn where the oil would go and because it was a small release, it was artificial. We didn’t learn from that what we need to know now to try to understand where the oil’s going from the Macondo spill. We don’t know, we’re searching in the dark. Deep Spill 2, this experiment that I proposed and created and brought together a team of scientists to research, is trying to understand hypothesis driven science where the oil goes in the water column so that we can actually go and respond to it. And in part it’s for now, to know what it’s effect on the ecosystem is, but a big part of this is for the future and for the next generation, so that in a future oil spill, we actually are not searching blindly for where the oil goes but we have a good idea and we can actually respond to it appropriately.
AMY GOODMAN: What has BP said?
DR. IRA LEIFER: It’s been silent. We put together this experiment, we have literally centuries of field experience from world-class researchers like Miriam Kastner and Rick Koff and Vern Asper, and we’ve heard nothing from BP, as well as other scientists I know who are doing and trying to do research, find themselves blocked at every turn from actually learning what we need to know so we can address this spill safely.
AMY GOODMAN: What is your sense of how much oil is flowing out of this well?
DR. IRA LEIFER: The flow rate team is going to come up with its numbers within, I think, later this week and they’ll be sort of, mine tend towards the top side. But the real problem is not what the amount of oil is flowing out, but where its going, what parts of the ecosystem it’s attacking. Its like a cancer that is metastasizing the patient. The ecosystem may not be dead yet, but its at great risk and patients sometimes die of pneumonia. In this case, a hurricane could come through and my big worry is that if we don’t know where the oil is going and where it’s going to be, then this interwoven network and fabric that is the life of the Gulf of Mexico could be taken out. For example, eagles that never get oiled, if their fish disappear, they too will die. We really need to understand what’s happening and the science is not being done, because in my view and that of many of my colleges, BP is blocking it.
AMY GOODMAN: Why do you have to ask BP for permission? Who is in charge here? You’re working for the government. You’re working with them.
DR. IRA LEIFER: As far as I understand, BP is still in charge of access to the well site, as well, it’s unclear in terms of financing and support for science to understand what happens. BP caused this accident and so there’s a certain strong sense that they should in fact support strong efforts to try to understand it, to minimize the damage. And instead, they seem to be worrying about their long-term profits and not the long-term health of the environment.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re not getting permission to do this study but this, it seems to me, this is an indictment not only of BP, but of the U.S. government that allows this to go on. But also reporters, journalists, photographers who are attempting to document this will now be charged with felonies if they come within 65 feet of any site, even to try to photograph an oiled bird?
DR. IRA LEIFER: I don’t really understand that, it makes no sense to me. Where there’s clear safety issues, of course, there’s some issue. But here in Santa Barbara, we have oil, and people work around it and photograph it, and so on. As a scientist, my concern is that if we do science, everyone wins but if we don’t, we’re actually doing a disservice to humanity. That is just inexcusable, in that, if we don’t do the science and nobody learns from this horrible catastrophe to try to be ready for the future one— to myself that is inexcusable—so I and my scientific colleges, are trying to do everything we can to make sure we can learn as much about that. And I would include that the free and fair flow of information, reporters having access is part of the learning process as a society, so that when there are accidents in the future, we actually can respond intelligently and not with a lot of unknown assumptions and just waving our arms and trying to hope we get things right.
AMY GOODMAN: So BP does not want you to study them, but how high up have you gone in the U.S. government—since you work with the U.S. government—to demand access?
DR. IRA LEIFER: What I have done is, I have put together this experiment and I have shared it with members of the Technical Flow Rate Team and other people within the government, hoping to get the go-ahead on being able to do this experiment. As a scientist, I can only make proposals for what to do and try to share what our efforts are with the public through venues like “Democracy Now!”
This is also an indictment of the Federal Government who BTW.. has also restricted access to the area for all members of the press. From the C&L writeup:
The Coast Guard has announced new rules keeping the public, including photographers and reporters covering the spill, from coming within 65 feet of any response vessels or booms on the water or on beaches. Violators could face a fine of up to $40,000 and felony charges. In order to get within the 65 foot limit, media must get direct permission from the Coast Guard Captain of the Port of New Orleans. (emphasis mine)
Bureaucracy and bullshit at it’s finest folks!! Thanks Obama…so much for transparency eh dude? Obama’s really heading to the top of my shit list lately in record time.
Caught this video at C&L this morning. Love it! Took these folks two days and dodging the cops. It’s a simple but direct message really made me smile.
That, my dear reader, is the title of the Independent article I read Sunday evening in my inbox. Somehow, I wasn’t surprised to see that it was about British Petroleum..aka BP. It’s the description of a Canadian drilling project which environmentalists and people with a modicum of common sense brand BP’s method of ‘extraction’. From the Indy article:
BP, the British oil giant that pledged to move “Beyond Petroleum” by finding cleaner ways to produce fossil fuels, is being accused of abandoning its “green sheen” by investing nearly £1.5bn to extract oil from the Canadian wilderness using methods which environmentalists say are part of the “biggest global warming crime” in history.
The multinational oil and gas producer, which last year made a profit of £11bn, is facing a head-on confrontation with the green lobby in the pristine forests of North America after Greenpeace pledged a direct action campaign against BP following its decision to reverse a long-standing policy and invest heavily in extracting so-called “oil sands” that lie beneath the Canadian province of Alberta and form the world’s second-largest proven oil reserves after Saudi Arabia.
Producing crude oil from the tar sands – a heavy mixture of bitumen, water, sand and clay – found beneath more than 54,000 square miles of prime forest in northern Alberta – an area the size of England and Wales combined – generates up to four times more carbon dioxide, the principal global warming gas, than conventional drilling. The booming oil sands industry will produce 100 million tonnes of CO2 (equivalent to a fifth of the UK’s entire annual emissions) a year by 2012, ensuring that Canada will miss its emission targets under the Kyoto treaty, according to environmentalist activists.
For decades, technology has tried to figure out a way to extract the oil from these tar sands. Evidently someone is tired of waiting wouldn’t you say? Another precious resource will be sucked up in order to extract this oil:
The oil rush is also scarring a wilderness landscape: millions of tonnes of plant life and top soil is scooped away in vast open-pit mines and millions of litres of water are diverted from rivers – up to five barrels of water are needed to produce a single barrel of crude and the process requires huge amounts of natural gas. The industry, which now includes all the major oil multinationals, including the Anglo-Dutch Shell and American combine Exxon-Mobil, boasts that it takes two tonnes of the raw sands to produce a single barrel of oil. BP insists it will use a less damaging extraction method, but it accepts that its investment will increase its carbon footprint.
BP is lying its collective ass off when it says anything about using a ‘less damaging’ method of extraction. It would cost them more money and BP is nothing if not cheap when it comes to safety and environmental concerns, judging from their past history of fuck-ups and..ahem..accidents. GreenPeace’s climate and energy guru has said this about BP and the tar sand extraction plans:
“It takes about 29kg of CO2 to produce a barrel of oil conventionally. That figure can be as much 125kg for tar sands oil. It also has the potential to kill off or damage the vast forest wilderness, greater than the size of England and Wales, which forms part of the world’s biggest carbon sinks. For BP to be involved in this trade not only flies in the face of their rhetoric but in the era of climate change it should not be being developed at all. You cannot call yourself ‘Beyond Petroleum’ and involve yourself in tar sands extraction.”
If none of this pisses you the hell off…consider the logic of BP’s PR executive regarding the project:
Take a gander at the remains of the BP plant in texas after BP cut corners on safety and employees were killed because BP knowingly allowed safety problems to go uncorrected in order to pad their…bottom line.
I wrote about the original refinery explosion here which killed 15..count em..15 employees. BP eventually only had to ante up $373 million for the lives of their employees lost in this TX refinery explosion and subsequent coverup. I wrote about that here in October of this year.
Now, the bastards are going to kill an area the size of Wales and England combined..and get paid handsomely to do it. So people can drive their big friggin SUV’s and have gas to put in them among other things..
I try not to cut and paste articles. I want to add my usual two cents on how I feel about it. But this time..I have no words, just sadness and despair that we, the universal we, can fuck shit up this bad..that an entire magnificent species will probably disappear in my lifetime, save for zoo’s exhibits and special labs where they try in vain to breed these wonderful beasts and bring them back from extinction..From The Independent:(all emphasis mine)
The face of a doomed species
Tigers driven to edge of extinction by poachers and loss of habitat
By Andrew Buncombe in Delhi
Published: 31 October 2007
The disastrous impact of poaching and the destruction of the natural habitat of one of the planet’s most threatened animals will be made clear tomorrow when the Indian government is told that its remaining tiger population could be as low as 1,300.
The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, will be told that drastic action has to be taken against the two forces threatening the big cat’s chance of survival.
“That size of a population is scientifically not viable,” said Valmik Thapar, a tiger expert and member of the National Board of Wildlife, which is due to convene in Delhi for a meeting chaired by Mr Singh. “But in the real world you have to try as hard as you can.”
Along with the polar bear, the tiger symbolises perhaps more than any other large creature the majesty and power of the natural world. At the same time the tawdry story of the tiger’s decline – not just in India but in other countries where it clings on desperately – is a stark indictment of mankind’s apparent inability to preserve the natural habitats on which it depends.
No one knows precisely how many tigers are left in India, home to perhaps 80 per cent of the world’s remaining animals and which, at the turn of the 20th century, was estimated to have up to 100,000 animals. It is believed there were about 5,000 at the start of the decade.
The most recent census, conducted in 2001 and 2002, put the figure at 3,642. But many experts questioned the way in which that count was handled and a new census was carried out by the government-run Wildlife Institute of India using a more scientifically robust method. While the findings will not be formally announced until the end of the year, preliminary results of the new count have put the population at between 1,300 and 1,500.
“The new figures and facts came as no surprise to conservationists, although the government is still recovering from the shock,” said Belinda Wright, executive director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, which has several tiger programmes. “In Madhya Pradesh – which is known as the Tiger State – the study has shown a loss of 61 per cent on the figures of the previous tiger census. The state of Maharashtra has shown a loss of 57 per cent.”
She added: “In the past census… many tigers were found outside the tiger reserves. The new study shows virtually no tigers outside the tiger reserves.”
Experts say the reasons for the decline of the tiger are simple. Not enough is being done to halt the continued poaching of the animals, which are highly prized in China and other parts of east Asia for their pelts and body parts. A tiger skin can fetch up to £5,300 while tiger penises – traditionally believed to have near-magical properties – can fetch £14,000 per kilo.
The tiger has suffered from a loss of its habitat as a result of large-scale mining and hydro-power dam projects. The loss of habitat and prey encourages tigers, pure carnivores, to seize domestic livestock which in turn aggravates local farmers. The tiger is the national symbol but, in the past five years, poachers have been killing them at the rate of one a day, campaigners believe.
Debbie Banks of the Environmental Investigations Agency, a London-based campaign group, said development projects often resulted in the displacement of communities who are left with a choice of moving to the slums of large cities or into the forests. “Living in the forests brings them into conflict with wildlife and the under-resourced, under-trained, ill-equipped forest department staff,” she said.
Mr Thapar, 55, who has written 15 books about tigers during three decades working with the animals, has said it would now “take a miracle” to save them. He warned of the impact of the Recognition of Forest Rights Act, a piece of legislation passed last year and expected to become law in the coming months, which grants some of India’s most impoverished communities the right to own and live in the forests.
The problem, he said, was that all evidence showed humans and tigers could not co-exist. “If you are not going to set aside habitats where there are no humans then you cannot have tigers,” he said.
The decline of the tiger is not isolated to India. In the past century, tiger populations across the world have slumped by 95 per cent and, across a broad chunk of Asia, tigers are now confronting extinction. Indeed, of the nine known sub-species of tiger, three (the Caspian, Javanese and Balinese) are already extinct while another, the South China tiger, is nearing extinction in the wild with perhaps fewer than 30 surviving.
An estimated 4,000 of the South China sub-species – the only one native to central and southern China –roamed the country 50 years ago but its habitat has been dramatically reduced by the country’s rapid economic growth and the sub-species was declared officially extinct in 2003. Just this week, the Chinese authorities banned hunting in a mountainous area of Shaanxi province of north-west China where a young South China tiger was apparently sighted by a farmer. The sighting has generated much excitement among conservationists and a team of experts has been set up to conduct a search.
Ms Wright said that, in India, there may now only be two genetically viable populations of Bengal tiger, as the country’s sub-species is known. Those live in the Corbett Tiger Reserve in Uttaranchal and the Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, which is said to haveinspired Rudyard Kipling to write The Jungle Book.
There have been the occasional pieces of good news. Last month about 20 tigers were discovered in a mountainous forest range in the western state of Maharashtra from where they were thought to have long disappeared. But among such rare flashes of hope, experts say the evidence of the tiger’s ongoing decline have been all too clear. In February 2005, it was revealed all the tigers in the Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan had been killed by poachers. Meanwhile, the size of the continuing trade in illegal tiger parts has been revealed by activists working undercover in places such as Tibet where there is flourishing business.
A senior official in India’s Environment Ministry said tomorrow’s meeting would evaluate progress at implementing recommendations made at the last meeting 18 months ago.
“Everyone is waiting for the [official] tiger report – even the Prime Minister,” the official told the Asian Age newspaper.
“It is only after the report is tabled that we will get the real picture, which we know is not going to be rosy. We know that we have lost large numbers of our big cats.”