First published December 17, 2014
Nuclear radiation resulting from the March 2011 Fukushima disaster –which threatens life on planet earth– is not front page news in comparison to the most insignificant issues of public concern, including the local level crime scene or the tabloid gossip reports on Hollywood celebrities.
The shaky political consensus both in Japan, the U.S. and Western Europe is that the crisis at Fukushima has been contained.
The truth is otherwise. Known and documented, the ongoing dumping of highly radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean constitutes a potential trigger to a process of global radioactive contamination.
This water contains plutonium 239 and its release into the Ocean has both local as well as global repercussions. A microgram of plutonium if inhaled, according to Dr. Helen Caldicott, can cause death:
Certain isotopes of radioactive plutonium are known as some of the deadliest poisons on the face of the earth. A mere microgram (a speck of darkness on a pinhead) of Plutonium-239, if inhaled, can cause death, and if ingested, radioactive Plutonium can be harmful, causing leukemia and other bone cancers.
“In the days following the 2011 earthquake and nuclear plant explosions, seawater meant to cool the nuclear power plants instead carried radioactive elements back to the Pacific ocean. Radioactive Plutonium was one of the elements streamed back to sea.” (decodescience.com).
It would appear that the radioactive water has already penetrated parts of the Japanese coastline:
Environmental testing of shoreline around the nuclear plant (as well fish, especially Tuna) showed negligible amounts of Plutonium in the seawater. The Plutonium, from what little is reported, sank into the sediments off the Japanese coast.” (Ibid)
A recent report suggests that the Japanese government is intent upon releasing the remaining radioactive water into the Ocean. The proposed “solution” becomes the cause of radioactive contamination of both the Japanese coastline as well as the Pacific Ocean, extending to the coastline of North America.
While the chairman of the Nuclear Radiation Authority recognizes that the water in the tanks is heavily “tainted”, a decision has nonetheless been taken to empty the tanks and dump the water into the Ocean:
The head of Japan’s nuclear watchdog said contaminated water stored at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant should be released into the ocean to ensure safe decommissioning of the reactors.
Shunichi Tanaka, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, made the comment Dec. 12 after visiting the facility to observe progress in dismantling the six reactors. The site was severely damaged in the tsunami generated by the 2011 earthquake.
“I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of tanks (holding water tainted with radioactive substances),” Tanaka told reporters, indicating they pose a danger to decommissioning work. “We have to dispose of the water.”
With regard to expected protests by local fishermen over the discharge, Tanaka said, “We also have to obtain the consent of local residents in carrying out the work, so we can somehow mitigate (the increase in tainted water).”
Tanaka has said previously that to proceed with decommissioning, tainted water stored on the site would need to be released into the sea so long as it had been decontaminated to accepted safety standards.
“While (the idea) may upset people, we must do our utmost to satisfy residents of Fukushima,” Tanaka said, adding that the NRA would provide information to local residents based on continuing studies of radioactive elements in local waters.
The inspection tour was Tanaka’s second since he became NRA chief in September 2012. He last visited in April 2013.
During his visit, Tanaka observed work at a trench on the ocean side of the No. 2 reactor building, where highly contaminated water is being pumped out. He also inspected barriers set up around the storage tanks to prevent leaks of tainted water.
Tanaka praised the completion in November of work to remove all spent nuclear fuel from the No. 4 reactor building, as well as changes to work procedures that he said allows for the completion of the work at the No. 2 reactor trench. Hiromi Kumai , NRA Head Signals Massive Release of Tainted Water to Help Decommission Fukushima Site Asahi Shimbun December 13, 2014
The contradictory statements of the NRA chief avoid addressing the broader implications, by giving the impression that the issue is local and that local fishermen off the Fukushima coast will be consulted.
Additional articles and videos on Fukushima and Nuclear Radiation are available at Global Research’s Dossier on The Environment
BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
News reports have taken great care to emphasize that the accident happened in the “non nuclear” segment of the plant.
Ironically, the disaster spewed more than 15,000 gallons of oil into the Hudson River, infecting it with a toxic sheen that carried downstream for miles. Entergy, the nuke’s owner, denies there were PCBs in this transformer.
It also denies numerous studies showing serious radioactive health impacts on people throughout the region.
You can choose whether you want to believe the company in either case.
But PCBs were definitely spread by the last IP transformer fire. They re-poisoned a precious liquid lifeline where activists have spent decades dealing with PCBs previously dumped in by General Electric, which designed the reactors at Fukushima.
Meanwhile, as always, the nuclear industry hit the automatic play button to assure us all that there was “no danger” to the public and “no harmful release” of radiation.
But what do we really know about what happened and could have happened this time around?
At an integrated system like a reactor complex, are there really any significant components whose impacts are totally removed from the ability to touch off a nuclear disaster?
A “non nuclear” earthquake, 120 kilometers away, caused Fukushima One to melt, and then explode. “Non nuclear” backup power sources failed after being flooded by a “non nuclear” tsunami, leading to still more melt-downs and explosions. “Non nuclear” air crashes, either accidental or as at 9/11, or bombs or terror attacks could rapidly convert Indian Point and any other commercial reactor into an unimaginable nuclear disaster.
At Indian Point, “non nuclear” gas pipelines flow dangerously close to highly vulnerable reactors. In an utterly insane proposal that almost defies description, corporate powers want to run another gas pipeline more than 40 inches in diameter within a scant few yards of the reactor epicenters. An explosion that could obliterate much of the site would of course be “non nuclear” in origin. But the consequences could be sufficiently radioactive to condemn millions of humans to horrifying health consequences and render the entire region a permanent wasteland. Indian Point, in Buchanan, New York, is about 45 miles north of Manhattan.
The real dangers of this most recent fiasco are impossible to assess. But Indian Point sits all-to-near the “non nuclear” Ramapo seismic fault line which is more than capable of reducing much of it to rubble. Twice now—in Ohio and Virginia—earthquakes have done significant damage to American reactors. With 20 million people close downwind and trillions of dollars worth of dense-packed property, a Fukushima-scale hit at Indian Point would easily qualify as an Apocalyptic event.
But its owners would not be financially liable beyond the sliver of cash they’ve contributed to the $12-odd billion federal fund meant to cover such events. Likely damage to health and property would soar into the trillions, but this is none of Entergy’s concern. Small wonder the company has no real incentive to spend on safety, especially when a captured regulatory agency lets it do pretty much whatever it wants.
Aside from the magnitude of its kill zone, Indian Point is unique in its level of opposition. Andrew Cuomo, governor of the nation’s fourth-most populous state (behind California, Texas and Florida), has been demanding its closure for years. New York and numerous downwind cities, towns and counties have gone to court on issues ranging from water quality to evacuation to earthquake dangers and more.
Even the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) concedes that Indian Point—among other reactors—has been out of compliance on simple fire protection standards for years. To “cure” the problem, the NRC—which depends financially on the industry it’s meant to regulate—has simply issued waivers allowing Indian Point to operate without meeting established fire safety standards.
Unique (so far) among American reactors, Indian Point Unit Two doesn’t even have a license to operate.
But Unit Three’s is about to expire, with no hint the NRC might actually shut either. So if America’s atomic reactors are now allowed to operate without actual licenses, and with known safety violations, what’s the point of any regulation at all?
Meanwhile the paltry power generated by these antiquated clunkers can be gotten far more reliably, cheaply, cleanly and safely from renewable sources and increased efficiency. But since that doesn’t fit Entergy’s peculiar bottom line, and since its parent industry still has sufficient political pull to keep going, we all remain at risk.
So in an industry where technical information is closely held, we can’t fully evaluate the threat imposed by this latest malfeasance. The only thing certain is that it will happen again.
This newest fire at Indian Point should remind us that we are all hostage to an industry that operates in open defiance of the laws of the public, the economy and basic physics.
Sooner or later all three will demand their due. We can passively hope our planet and our species will survive the consequences.
Or we can redouble our efforts to make sure all these reactors are shut before such a reckoning dumps us into the abyss.
by Natasha Geiling
May 5, 2015 at 9:28 am
As California farmers face a fourth year of the state’s historic drought, they’re finding water in unexpected places — like Chevron’s Kern River oil field, which has been selling recycled wastewater from oil production to farmers in California’s Kern County. Each day, Chevron recycles and sells 21 million gallons of wastewater to farmers, which is then applied on about 10 percent of Kern County’s farmland. And while some praise the program as a model for dealing with water shortages, environmental groups are raising concerns about the water’s safety, according to a recent story in the Los Angeles Times.
Tests conducted by Water Defense, an environmental group founded by actor Mark Ruffalo in 2010, have found high levels of acetone and methylene chloride — compounds that can be toxic to humans — in wastewater from Chevron used for irrigation purposes. The tests also found the presence of oil, which is supposed to be removed from the wastewater during recycling.
“All these chemicals of concern are flowing in the irrigation canal,” Scott Smith, chief scientist for Water Defense, told ThinkProgress. “If you were a gas station and were spilling these kinds of chemicals into the water, you would be shut down and fined.”
Chevron, which produces around 70,000 barrels of oil and 760,000 barrels of water each day at the Kern River oil field, has been selling water to farmers in the surrounding area for two decades. But government authorities have never required that water to be tested for chemicals used in oil production — only naturally occurring toxins like salts and arsenic. And even those standards are “decades-old,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
Before getting to the Central Valley fields, wastewater from the Kern River oil field is mixed with walnut shells, which helps remove residual oil. The water then passes through a series of treatment ponds before flowing down an eight-mile canal to the Cawelo Water District. While in the canal, the wastewater is sometimes diluted with freshwater — and sometimes not. The water from the Kern River oil field is applied to some 45,000 acres of crops, irrigating everything from nut trees to citrus fruits.
Last year, the California state legislature passed a law requiring oil companies to disclose the chemicals that they use in oil extraction, and in April, California water authorities declared that oil companies would need to start checking to make sure that those same chemicals aren’t making it into recycled water bound for agricultural use. Oil companies have until June 15 to disclose the results of these new tests.
“We need to make sure we fully understand what goes into the wastewater,” Clay Rodgers, assistant executive officer of the Central Valley Water Quality Control Board, told the Los Angeles Times.
To test the recycled wastewater for contaminants, Water Defense’s Smith — who has consulted with the EPA and other government offices on more than 50 oil spills — took samples from 10 different points of varying depth along the Cawelo canal’s eight-mile stretch. Smith compares his testing method to a video, and says the state’s method is more like an instant picture — it looks at the wastewater for a split second, and can miss contaminants. His method, he contends, gives a better holistic picture of the water’s composition. One sample Smith took had levels of methylene chloride — an industrial solvent used to soften crude oil — as high as 56 parts per billion, four times the amount of methylene chloride Smith found in 2013 when he tested parts of an Arkansas river fouled by the 2013 ExxonMobil tar sands pipeline spill.
Chevron is pushing back against claims that the wastewater contains dangerous chemicals, saying in a statement emailed to the Los Angeles Times that “protection of people and the environment is a core value for Chevron, and we take all necessary steps to ensure the protection of our water resources.” Out of an “abundance of caution,” however, both Chevron and the Cawelo Water District will contract with an outside group to test the wastewater. Still, Chevron would not disclose publicly the fluids it uses for drilling or well maintenance.
Blake Sanden, an agriculture extension agent and irrigation water expert with UC Davis, told the Los Angeles Times that farmers can smell the petrochemicals in the water, but most assume that the soil is filtering out any harmful toxins before they can be absorbed by the crops. While soil does filter out some impurities, Sanden says it’s impossible to know for sure whether waste from oil production is making its way from irrigation water into the roots and leaves of crops.
To Smith, that’s just another missing piece of information that needs to be understood before wastewater from oil production is deemed safe for agriculture.
“The state appears to not even be testing for oil in the water,” Smith said. “You’re not going to find chemicals of concern if you don’t look for them.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, monitoring the oil fields has been a “low priority” for California’s Water State Resources Control Board, the state body that regulates wastewater. The burden for testing wastewater falls largely on the oil companies, which in the past have sought to reduce testing and disclosure requirements due to concerns over time and expense.
With the drought placing more attention on water resources, Smith says that it’s important for testing of wastewater to continue.
“We want to work with Chevron, we want to work with the regulators. We want to use multiple methods of testing,” he said. “That’s the best way to figure out what’s in that water and what can be done to solve it.”
Sorry, TEPCO, There is No "Safe" Level of Radiation
by MIRIAM GERMAN
A number is something that expresses a mathematical value. A reference point representing a neutral fact. For example, some numbers regarding the Columbia Generating Station nuclear plant in WA State:
1 Nuclear Reactor.
12 Earthquake Fault lines.
764 fuel assemblies.
185 control rods.
0 containment around the fuel pool
7 million people in Washington State
1 million people in Oregon.
56 million gallons of radioactive waste next door at Hanford.
Numbers. They represent value. But the value depends upon the validity of the process, the integrity of the process whereby the numbers were ascertained, determined or in the case of TEPCO and Fukushima, created. TEPCO figured out at the very start of 3.11 that numbers, their values and the process of distributing those numbers to the media, to the world, was the very juncture at which they could control the story. If they could confuse, obfuscate, create, disburse and seem as though they were the authority rather than the ship of fools that they truly are, credibility was going to be built in with as much assurance as 2+2=4 with each number they released.
Let’s take a look at the number 300. It is half of 600 and 100 less than 400. But still, it is static and relative. Then ask a question: Is using the number 300 in terms of the amount of tons of radioactive water flowing from Fukushima-Daiichi into the Pacific, a reality or one of the best PR campaigns ever in the history of the worst disasters created by man on Earth?
300 Tons of radioactive water flowing, 24/7. No more. No less. TEPCO’s story line is this: 300 tons of radioactive water is flowing daily into the Pacific Ocean.
Let’s look at the numbers for any sort of reality base. But first…
Imagine turning on your faucet in your bathroom sink. You are brushing your teeth. When you’re finished, you turn off the water. How much water did you use? 5 gallons? 10 gallons? 2? You might like to think 2 gallons because it is less than all of the other options you have made up. But really, you don’t know. You are still guessing but feel good about 2 gallons rather than more. If you had a gauge on your tap, you would know how much water you used.
Do you think you use the same amount of water each time you brush your teeth? How would you know? Do you turn the water on the same amount with regard to pressure? Do you brush for the same duration each time? You have no way of knowing unless you have a gauge. No gauge? All guesses.
300 tons is a random number TEPCO chose to use after deliberating with the messaging of yet another PR campaign of dis-information. The first numbers we heard were 400 tons but those morphed into 300 and then 600. 300 stuck when an article was written claiming that 300 tons of radioactive water leaked from one of the tanks at Fukushima. It had nothing to do with all of the water flowing into the Pacific nor was it based in reality since the tanks had no gauges on them. Nevertheless, 300 tons stuck.
The amount of radioactive water flowing into the Pacific comes from many sources. There are no gauges on rain water, on ground water, on the amount of water leaking from the tanks bolted together at Fukushima. There is absolutely no way to know definitively, let alone exactly, how much highly radiated water has been flowing over the melted cores of Reactors 1, 2 and 3 and from the fuel pool in #4 since 3.11 began. Here we go again. Numbers. Reactors 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Rain water. Ground Water. Hosed in water. Tanks leaking water. Surely TEPCO had a way to determine this number of 300 tons of leaking radioactive water into the Pacific that even our anti-nuclear leaders to this day, still espouse to the public when talking about the ongoing disaster at Fukushima.
Back to the point. The number 300 is an “unknowable” in the sense that in this equation of how much radioactive water has been leaking, pouring, flowing, seeping into the Pacific, 300 would equal X. X is the unknown factor.
In an article from Japan News from Sept 7, 2013, Kazuaki Nagata writes, TEPCO said ‘it will install water gauges on all flange-type tanks storing radioactive water from Reactor #1 to enhance monitoring.’ So we know there were no gauges on the tanks when they were haphazardly created and TEPCO had revealed itself early on to be 100% full of lies; the gauges which they said they did attach at a later date, didn’t work as we were soon to find out.
But to go on with that article, Nagata reveals that a tank leaked 300 tons of highly radioactive water, “causing a domestic and international uproar over environmental contamination.”
There was no uproar. All was quiet like a mouse.
So how did TEPCO get the number ‘300 tons’? It’s hard to know when gauges aren’t present or those that are, are broken or when TEPCO is only obfuscating the truths of things exponentially worse than what they are reporting.
Find the amount of radioactive water leaking from each of the 1000 bolted tanks.
Add X to each tank that does not have a gauge.
Add <or>X to each tank whose gauge does not work.
Add <or>X when you find that there was no way to determine how much water filled each tank originally.
Now add the amounts of rainfall over Fukushima since 3.11 day one through current date.
Then determine how much ground water sits beneath Fukushima-Daiichi and how much of that ground water flows into the Pacific.
How much ocean water was poured over Fukushima on 3.11 till current date from hoses to keep the fuel pools cool?
How much water was in the fuel pools and how much leaked out?
How much steam was cast out into the atmosphere and back down over Fukushima from 3.11 to current date adding to the amount of 300 tons?
Add all of these together.
The answer is still X.
The only answer to this word problem is that it is impossible to know how much radioactive water flows into the Pacific but it exceeds 300 tons by exponential realities.
We know that TEPCO is a conduit of deception, evasion, and lies so let’s not pass along in our teachings to others, anything from their PR campaign, the most ubiquitous of which being the amount of radioactive water flowing into the ocean; 300 tons is a gross misrepresentation of the 24/7 massive radioactive assault on the Pacific Ocean and her animals.
What are the real numbers? As you can see now, we will never know. What is the real damage? As we witness the death toll rise among the ocean animals, we will have a better and clearer recognition that the damage that nuclear power creates is one that is NEVER worth the risk.
Now that you’ve made it to the end of this article, everything you just read about the water is true but it is a DISTRACTION! It is a distraction by design from TEPCO. As John Bertucci of Fukushima Response points out, “repetitively attaching this number to the contaminated water effectively mutes public perception and discussion of the real 300 tons we should be worried about: the missing core material from 3 empty reactors, each of which contained about 100 tons of fuel rods, called corium now, although that assumes it has retained some coherent physical state.”
We know definitively that parts of the core of Reactors 1, 2 and 3 (you knew I’d circle back to these, didn’t you!) blew across the world and landed in your organic gardens, your lungs, your children’s lungs, your food supply and of course, in your DNA. The isotopes that blew with it are lethally yours for the next tens of thousands of years.
So remember, when you hear 300 tons of water, think 300 tons of melted and atmospherically dispersed radioactive material in our ocean, air, food and soil and you will be 1 day smarter than yesterday.
There is no number to designate a “safe level” of radiation because there is no such thing as a safe level of radiation, but there is value to each and every one of your lives and even more value when you add the life of future generations to the life of our planet. Do the math.
(Thanks to John Bertucci and M.Roy for their contributions to this article.)
Miriam German is the director of RadCast.org. She founded No Nukes NW in 2012.
by Emily Atkin
April 23, 2015
"Fears Of Contamination Confirmed, North Carolina Residents Warned Not To Drink Their Water"
Sherry Gobble has been wary of drinking the tap water in her neighborhood for more than a year.
“I feel like I’ve become very suspicious of all water,” she told ThinkProgress in November. “When I go to a friend’s house, and they offer coffee or tea, I don’t drink it because I don’t know where it came from.”
On Monday, her fears were confirmed. Nineteen households and a church in her community of Dukeville, North Carolina were sent letters by the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) warning them not to drink or cook with well water due to elevated levels of toxic heavy metals, the Associated Press reported. Like Gobble’s home, each is located within a quarter mile of a coal ash pond owned by Duke Energy.
The letters sent to Dukeville residents were part of a statewide testing of private drinking water wells near Duke Energy-owned coal ash dumps. That undertaking was sparked by an 82,000-ton coal ash spill from one of Duke’s storage ponds last year, which contaminated water.
In all, those tests conducted by DENR showed contamination of 87 private drinking water wells for households located near eight Duke plants across the state, the AP reported. The DENR tests only looked for contaminants found in coal ash — things like mercury, manganese, arsenic, and vanadium — and found of elevated levels of various chemicals depending on the location.
Duke Energy, however, is denying that any of the contamination is a result of leaky coal ash ponds. In a statement to ThinkProgress, Duke spokesperson Erin Culbert said each well had an absence of boron and sulfates, which she said are “key indicators of groundwater potentially impacted by coal ash, because they migrate more quickly than other trace elements.”
“Based on the state’s test results we’ve reviewed thus far, we have no indication that Duke Energy plant operations have influenced neighbors’ well water,” she said.
Others have taken issue with Duke’s explanation. Pete Harrison, a staff attorney at the non-profit Waterkeeper Alliance, said there could be explanations as to why boron and sulfates weren’t present — for instance, he said, the coal they were burning at the plant might have been low in those elements, meaning it might not show up in the waste.
“They’re ignoring what is there in the water and just pointing out what isn’t,” Harrison said. “I think it’s kind of a non-sequitur argument they’re trying to make.”
Dukeville had a particularly high number of letters sent by DENR notifying residents of water contamination, and according to the AP, several of the letters cited high levels of vanadium. Vanadium is a naturally occurring element, but high levels are often found in coal ash, and it’s classified as a probable carcinogen.
According to Harrison, six water wells in Dukeville contained vanadium at a level of more than .3 parts per billion (ppb), which is the state’s maximum groundwater standard for the element. Five of those wells had levels from 1.6 to 10.6 ppb, he said, but one had a level of 25 ppb — nearly 86 times the maximum standard.
The people who get their water from that well are James and Levene Mahaley, who have lived near the coal ash pond since 1954, the AP reported.
The Mahaleys were reportedly aware of their contamination before the letters were sent out, telling the AP that Duke Energy officials came to their home in November to offer them shipments of bottled water, and told them not to tell anyone about it. According to Yadkin Riverkeeper Will Scott — the lead advocate for protecting the watershed in Dukeville — Duke also gave the Mahaleys a book about the negative health impacts of vanadium.
“The story is that Duke has known that these people had high levels of vanadium. They knew that. They gave them water. They knew they had health effects,” he said. “But they’ve still been sending out letters to the community saying everything’s fine.”
Culbert took issue with that notion as well, saying the Mahaley residence was the only well in Dukeville that exceeded 18 ppb, a level the state had, at the time, said was safe for vanadium in groundwater. The state updated its groundwater standards to .3 ppb this year. There is no federal drinking water standard for vanadium.
As for the Mahaley’s recollection that Duke Energy told them to keep quiet about the contamination, Culbert said she was “not aware of any expectation that the Mahaleys keep that information private.”
Testing of the water wells in these areas is far from over. According to Harrison, many of the letters sent out to residents notifying them of contamination said re-sampling would be recommended in one month, due to the fact that the labs could not reliably show specific vanadium levels below 25 ppb. So, while the labs are confident vanadium is present in the wells where it’s shown up, they’re not totally confident how much is there.
Culbert said Duke Energy would pay for any additional sampling or re-sampling that needed to be done.
Absent immediate direct evidence that the widespread contamination of well water near Duke Energy coal ash ponds is in fact the result of coal ash, Harrison said the Waterkeeper Alliance would keep trying to prove the link.
“Our task now is to continue to investigate the connection through the groundwater between these ash ponds and these people’s wells,” he said. “We know these ponds are leaking, but its much more difficult to prove where these contaminants are coming from because it’s all deep in the ground.”
Ring of Fire
April 9, 2015
A study published last week says the increase in radioactive material in Pennsylvania homes can be linked to the increase in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, activity in the state, ThinkProgress reported.
Scientists from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said radon levels in Pennsylvania homes had been increasing since 2004, “around the same time the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) began rapidly increasing the number of permits it issued for unconventional gas drilling.”
The report also said there had been no “similar increases” in levels of the odorless, carcinogenic, radioactive gas in homes before 2004.
The study found that buildings using well water had a radon concentration 21 percent higher than buildings using municipal water. It also found that homes in townships, where there are more fracking wells than in larger metropolitan areas, had a 39 percent higher radon concentration than those in cities.
Currently, the DEP estimates that nearly 40 percent of Pennsylvania homes contain radon levels above the recommended concentration.
The report’s authors pointed out that the increase in radon levels at the same time as the increase in fracking only represents a correlation, and that the study does not definitively prove fracking caused the rise.
“We’re not convinced this industry is playing a role [in increased radon levels],” study leader Brian Schwartz told ThinkProgress. “All we’re saying is these findings provide no reassurance that the industry is not playing a role.
What the study does prove, however, is that more research needs to be done on the effects of fracking. In addition to a radon program in Pennsylvania, the researchers recommended “future studies to understand the impact of drilling on radon levels.”
Between groundwater contamination, earthquakes, and increases in radioactive gas, it’s becoming more and more apparent just how dangerous fracking really is.
By Oriental Review
April 07, 2015
The quest for Ukraine’s legendary black earth is almost complete. To the dismay of French, Polish, German farmers, the multinational agricultural corporation Monsanto, as well as DuPont Pioneer and John Deere, have all lobbied for access to the largest agricultural market in Eastern Europe. This will soon reshape the market for agricultural products in the EU and spell ruin for Europe’s farmers.
In Nov. 2013, the Ukrainian Agrarian Confederation drafted a legal amendment that will benefit global ag producers by allowing the widespread use of genetically modified seeds. Taking a backseat to the dramatic political developments there, this turn of events went almost unnoticed, although Monsanto has been lobbying within Ukraine’s agricultural market for quite a while. Back in 2007 the US embassy in Kiev demanded that the Ukrainian government take action against sellers of “fake” seeds (i.e., producers competing with TNCs).
When GMO crops were legally introduced onto the Ukrainian market in 2013, they were planted in up to 70% of all soybean fields, 10-20% of cornfields, and over 10% of all sunflower fields, according to various estimates. That equals about one million hectares of land growing GMO crops (or 3% of the country’s total farmland). Leaving aside for the moment the controversy about the hazards of GMOs in general, let us merely consider how the seizure of the Ukrainian market by American multinational agribusinesses will affect the EU’s economy.
Since the mid-90s the Ukrainian-Americans at the helm of the US-Ukraine Business Council have been instrumental in encouraging the foreign control of the Ukrainian ag industry. Within two to three years, as the relevant provisions of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU go into effect, Monsanto’s lobbying efforts will transform the Ukrainian market into an oligopoly consisting of American corporations.
Although the media in Kiev is awash in patriotic rhetoric, it is unlikely that any heroic figures will emerge who will stand up for the right of new generations of Ukrainians to live and work on wholesome land. The intellectual standards of the work being done by the Ukrainian Grain Association, for example, the largest umbrella organization of Ukrainian farmers, are on eloquent display in its latest press release, which needs no further comment.
Within a few years ag producers will expand their use of biotechnology licensed from the US, which Article 404 of the Association Agreement with the EU somewhat ambiguously refers to as “best practices … for agricultural policies.” Making Ukrainian ag producers addicted to seeds that are only available from America is part of a relentless PR campaign promoting GMO technology throughout Europe that brandishes keywords like “innovation,” “biotechnology,” and “the common EU market.”
Within the next few years, as addendums to Ukraine’s Association Agreement with the EU go into effect, Monsanto is counting on a significant increase in the acreage of GMO cropland in Ukraine. Afterward they will begin to act out their role as a colonial power, raking in profits from emerging markets, although India already knows that story does not have a happy ending. The company was booted out a few years ago, after a ghastly outbreak of mass suicides among the local farmers, according to the Times of India. Because of budget deficits and their dependence on the IMF, Ukrainian banks are now firmly tethered to external financing. IMF loans and assistance from the World Bank and other supranational organizations are secured by Ukraine’s rich black earth, in a practical as well as a legal sense. Local banks will only offer favorable credit terms to those farmers who agree to use certified herbicides. Naturally those are manufactured by Monsanto. The corporation will receive a steady income from that precious black earth, “wringing” the fertile soil dry.
Further proof that American investors have a sincere appreciation for the value of Ukraine’s black earth can be seen in the recent acquisition of a 50% stake by the investment fund Siguler Guff & Co in the Ukrainian Port of Illichivsk, which specializes in agricultural exports.
Ukraine controls a third of all arable land in Europe. The hasty introduction of biotechnology into developing countries leads to deplorable results that are evident in Latin America and Africa. But Europe’s farmers will go bust much earlier. Their goods, which are produced by workers in the EU where the price of labor is quite exorbitant, cannot compete with the influx of GMO products from Ukraine.
Polish farmers know very well where all this is heading. They cannot win a court fight against the lawyers employed by these multinational giants, and so in 2013 they shifted their tactics in favor of mass protests.
By contrast, ag producers in France, Germany, and other EU countries still seem indifferent. The bottom line is that European farmers, who are somewhat removed from politics, have not yet grasped that Washington’s much-hyped propaganda about “working toward democracy in Ukraine” has but one objective – to toss another lasso around Europe’s economy and her agricultural producers, bringing them to their knees.
The Oil and gas giant's PAC donated $10,000 to James Inhofe's campaign.--
By Simon Bowers
Tue Mar. 24, 2015
One of America's most powerful and outspoken opponents of climate change regulation received election campaign contributions that can be traced back to senior BP staff, including chief executive Bob Dudley.
Jim Inhofe, a Republican senator from Oklahoma who has tirelessly campaigned against calls for a carbon tax and challenges the overwhelming consensus on climate change, received $10,000 from BP's Political Action Committee.
Following his re-election, Inhofe became chair of the Senate's environment and public works committee in January, and then a month later was featured in news bulletins throwing a snowball across the Senate floor.
Before tossing it, the senator said: "In case we have forgotten—because we keep hearing that 2014 is the warmest year on record—it is very, very cold outside. Very unseasonal."
The BP PAC is funded by contributions from senior US executives and company staffers who sent in contributions to the PAC totaling more than $1 million between 2010 and 2014. Over the same period the committee paid out $655,000 to candidates, with more than 40 incumbent senators benefiting.
Yet, BP and Dudley have long called for world leaders to intervene and impose tough regulatory measures on the fossil fuel industry. Publishing its 98-page research paper, Energy Outlook 2035, last month, BP warned: "To abate carbon emissions further will require additional significant steps by policymakers beyond the steps already assumed."
Dudley has personally given $19,000 since June 2011 to the BP PAC—very close to the $5,000-a-year maximum allowable by law. Although Dudley is a resident of Britain, he is eligible to give via the BP PAC because he is a US national.
While the sums channeled to Inhofe's campaign represent only a small proportion of the BP PAC's election spending and the senator's own campaign funds, they show how unafraid the committee has been to spread its donations to the most controversial candidates. According to the BP PAC website, it financially supports election candidates "whose views and/or voting records reflect the interests of BP employees."
Records suggest Inhofe's 2014 campaign was a funding priority for the BP PAC, ranking as one of the top recipients of committee funds when compared with disbursements to other serving senators.
This was despite Inhofe's senate battle not being a close one. His opponent, Matt Silverstein, who Inhofe beat comfortably in last November's midterms, had a tiny campaign war chest by comparison.
BP was asked whether it was appropriate for the PAC to make campaign contributions to such a vocal opponent of action on climate change, or for Dudley to be contributing towards such payments.
In a statement BP replied: "Voluntary donations [by staff] to the BP employees' political action committee in the US are used to support a variety of candidates across the political spectrum and in many US geographies where we operate."
"These candidates have one thing in common: They are important advocates for the energy industry in the broadest sense."
It added: "BP's position on climate change is well known and is long-established. We believe that climate change is an important long-term issue that justifies global action."
The company declined to comment on Dudley's own donations.
PACs exist in the US where companies and trade unions cannot give directly to the campaigns of those running for office. Instead funds are pooled from staff—often senior executives—into a PAC, and disbursed by a committee board, often in a manner sympathetic to the company's lobby and other interests.
Other US oil industry leaders, including Exxon Mobil chief executive Rex Tillerson, make contributions to their own corporate PACs—money which in many cases can then be traced to Inhofe and other climate-skeptic politicians.
But Tillerson and other peers have not been as outspoken as BP and Dudley in calling for state intervention to tackle climate change, making the BP boss's links to Inhofe campaign finance more controversial.
Last week Obama said it was "disturbing" that Inhofe had been made chair of the senate environment committee. In broader criticism of unnamed political opponents, he then went on to say: "In some cases you have elected officials who are shills for the oil companies or the fossil fuel industry. And there is a lot of money involved."
Inhofe is unabashed about election campaign financing he receives from the industry. In his 2012 book, The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, he wrote: "Whenever the media asked me how much I have received in campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry, my unapologetic answer was 'not enough.'"
According to data compiled from public filings by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), Inhofe's campaign raised $4.84 million between 2009 and 2014, with $1.77 million coming from PACs, many of them sponsored by fossil fuel companies.
BP's PAC was more active in the US 2014 election cycle than any other for more than a decade. Despite insisting it is non-partisan, 69 percent of contributions to federal election candidates in recent years have been to Republican politicians. This is a stronger bias than most other corporate PACs, according to the CRP.
Not all recipients of BP PAC donations are climate change skeptics. Indeed, among other top recipients in recent years has been Steny Hoyer, House Democratic whip, one of the strongest advocates for government measures to tackle climate change.
There are, however, other leading recipients who have attracted criticism from climate change campaigners, including Republican House speaker John Boehner and fellow Republican, Sen. Mike Enzi from Wyoming.
When asked his views on climate change in January, Boehner said: "We've had changes in our climate, although scientists debate the sources, in their opinion, of that change. But I think the real question is that every proposal out of this administration with regard to climate change means killing American jobs."
"I don't see [Obama] as trying to control pollution. I see him trying to put business out of business," Enzi said last year.
Campaign contributions are just one aspect of US political engagement linked to BP and its staff. Filings show the oil and gas group spends millions on lobbying efforts.
The CRP classifies BP as a "heavy hitter," ranking it among the top 140 biggest overall donors to federal elections since 1988. Its PAC ranks as the sixth largest such body with a sponsor company that is ultimately part of a non-US multinational company.
Those on the PAC board, deciding how to spend staff donations, are senior executives and lawyers at the company. The board's vice-chair is Bob Stout, BP's Washington-based head of regulatory affairs, who also sits on the group's global policy making body. Dudley does not sit on the PAC board.
According to its website, the PAC makes donations to "candidates who support the principles of free enterprise and good government, support a fair and reasonable business environment for the energy industry and share our philosophy that energy diversity advances energy security." It says staff contributions are encouraged but stresses they are voluntary.
The first BP PAC contribution to Inhofe's 2014 campaign was a given on March 12, 2012. This $1,000 donation came just two weeks after the publication of Inhofe's book The Greatest Hoax, cementing his credentials as the most outspoken denier of climate change in US politics.
Publicizing the book, the senator gave a radio interview on Voice of Christian Youth America. "God is still up there," he said. "The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what he is doing in the climate to me is outrageous."
When it comes to alternative fuels, there is little doubt that future generations will be tasked with looking after the world in a vastly different manner than previous generations.
The Need for Change
If you take the U.S as a prime example, considering it is the largest economy in the world, you may be surprised to learn that on recent figures, the nation’s current transportation system accounts for nearly one third of the country’s total carbon dioxide emissions.
Considering that carbon dioxide is regarded to be the primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to global climate change, it is abundantly clear that minimizing energy use and finding alternatives to fossil fuel combustion in the transportation sector should be key priorities.
The University of Michigan have been producing an national Eco-Driving Index (EDI) since 2008 and it takes a monthly check of the average amount of greenhouse gases produced by an individual driver in the United States, who has purchased a light-duty vehicle that month.
Using a calculation that is based on the fuel economy of each specific model of motor vehicle and the distance driven, it produces an EDI figure that estimates the amount of fuel used and the amount of greenhouse gases emitted.
The EDI figures offer encouragement that we are taking a step in the right direction when it comes to reducing emissions, but more needs to be done. This is why motor manufacturers are busy designing vehicles that operate using alternative fuels, so that our roads in the future will be less polluted and our vehicles more environmentally-friendly and energy efficient.
Hydrogen might have had a bit of a public image problem thanks to the Hindenburg, but it is actually a safe alternative to petrol and with models like the perhaps unimaginatively-namedToyota Fuel Cell Sedan and plenty of other major motor manufacturers working away to produce their own hydrogen cars, this is an alternative fuel that has a big future on four wheels.
Hydrogen actually has the capability of fuelling two different types of car. Fuel cell vehicles run using hydrogen and cars that have an internal combustion engine can also be engineered so that they can run on hydrogen rather than gasoline.
A fuel-cell vehicle uses hydrogen to generate electricity which in turn, is then utilized to power an electric motor in the car. This is an important point, as instead of relying on battery power alone, a hydrogen-powered car is able to use its fuel cells to generate its own electricity.
The Honda FCX Clarity uses a chemical process within the fuel cell that allows hydrogen and oxygen to combine in order to create this electricity. The big bonus about this technology from an eco point of view, is that the only byproduct of this process is water vapor.
Hydrogen combustion engine
For those that like their internal combustion engine, hydrogen can be used to create what feels like a normal gas-powered car, but uses hydrogen as the fuel source rather than the more harmful-to-the-environment gasoline as its fuel.
These hydrogen combustion engine cars are also big winners when it comes to lowering CO2 emissions, as they also only produce water vapor just like the other hydrogen version.
The only issue that is preventing more widespread use of this alternative fuel in cars is the current lack of hydrogen fueling stations, but it is a technology that has surely got a future on our roads.
Using electricity to power cars is not actually a new idea but it is only recent developments that have allowed electric cars to become a truly viable option.
Battery technology has been the key challenge for the motor industry and they have had to find a way of getting cars to travel high speeds and long distances without draining the battery. The early prototypes did suffer from limited range and when the battery died, they could take hours to recharge.
Thanks to new battery technology, electric cars are now definitely a viable alternative fuel option and they have conquered these previous power limitations using lithium-ion batteries, which are the same as the batteries that you will find in most laptops and mobile phones.
For those that still have concerns with an all-electric car, there are models available that switch between gasoline and electric to keep the car on the road and recharge the batteries whilst you are on the move.
Cooking oil and grease are not exactly high on a list of ingredients for a healthy diet but when it is combined to make biodiesel, which is good news for your car as an alternative fuel to consider.
Although the process can actually be done at home with a bit of know-how, you can run the risk of damaging your vehicle if you get it wrong at any stage and it is certainly safer to leave it to the experts to create the biodiesel through a proven chemical process.
Biodiesel and bioethanol are biofuels that are liquids when they are at room temperature and this means that they can be dispensed from fuel pumps in the same way that you would re-fuel your car at a petrol or gas station.
Ford, Volvo and Saab are leading the way in producing Flex-Fuel vehicles and with the increase in Biodiesel filling stations, more models from other manufacturers will become available to buy. You can currently run Volvo C30, V70 and S40 models and Ford Focus and Mondeo models together with Saab's 9-3 and 9-5 are all capable of running on a percentage of bioethanol blend up to E85.
This is an alcohol that is made from plants, known as biomass. Sugar cane, sugar beet and cereals such as wheat and barley are the most commonly used resources to create bioethanol.
The production process uses enzyme amylases to convert the crop into fermentable sugars and then yeast is added in order to ferment the sugars to alcohol and carbon dioxide. The final part involves the liquid fraction being distilled so that it produces ethanol.
Using bioethanol in your car involves an adjustment to the engine timing and also means you will need a bigger fuel tank on board due to the low energy density of this type of fuel. Alcohol fuels do have the capacity to degrade certain types of rubber and metal used on cars, so this means that some engine components might have to be replaced when you convert your car.
You might want to consider ethanol as an alternative fuel. It is a type of alcohol that is made from plant matter like corn and sugar cane and is already added to gasoline sometimes, as a way of helping to meet emissions targets.
It is quite common for car manufacturers to offer cars these days that have flex-fuel engines, which means that your vehicle can run on a blend that is 15% gasoline and 85% ethanol. A good number of motoring experts are predicting that ethanol could be the way America and the rest of the world for that matter, ends its obsession and addiction to oil and become the default alternative fuel of choice.
Liquefied Petroleum Gas
Supporters of LPG or liquefied petroleum gas might argue about the assertion that ethanol is going to take over the number one spot as the alternative fuel that we all convert to.
Many parts of the world would already argue that LPG is not actually an alternative fuel at all, as it is widely used in countries like the Netherlands to run their cars and cook their food. LP gas is kept pressurized so that it remains in liquid form and in the same way that liquefied natural gas is used, because this makes it so energy dense, it is suitable for powering cars efficiently.
Better for the Environment?
The advantage of using biofuel is that it has the potential to be carbon neutral, due to the fact that all of the carbon dioxide emitted when using the fuel is balanced out by the absorption from the atmosphere during the growth cycle of the crop.
There is a counter-argument to this put forward by some, that the actual process of growing the crop in the first place requires an element of fossil fuels for fertilization, harvesting and the other aspects of creating and transporting the fuel.
Greenhouse gases can still be reduced by somewhere between 60% and 90% and large reductions in emissions can be achieved with biodiesels when waste oils instead of growing the crops to produce the oil.
Electric cars are generally considered to be one of the most environmentally-friendly options for the future but their impact is influenced by the green credentials of each respective country. For example, Norway generates a lot of its power from Hydroelectricity, which means the power generated to charge the cars provides a lower environmental impact than a conventional petrol car.
In contrast, as China currently generates all of its power from coal,this drastically reduces the environmental advantage of an electric vehicle. The more the planet reduces its dependence on fossil fuels and switches to renewable energy, the more positive it will be for the eco-friendly attributes of electric cars.
Comparing Motoring Costs
Economies of scale play a big part at the moment when it comes to the cost of owning and running a biofuel car.
Forecourt prices of biofuel blends are often higher than conventional fuels as a result of the production costs and supply and demand factors. As biodiesel and bioethanol have lower energy content than either petrol or diesel, this means that more fuel volume per mile is required, which makes it more expensive to fill up, but at least you are doing your bit for the environment.
Most Economical Car to Run
If you are looking for an alternative energy vehicle that is the most economical to run, electric cars are hard to beat.
The most economical cars according to the official U.S source for fuel economy information are all-electric and it is the same story in the UK and other parts of Europe and the world.
Bill Jubilant groups rally to tell the president that it's time to reject tar sands pipeline 'once and for all'
Following years of fierce environmental campaigning by a grassroots movement against the monied fossil fuel industry, President Barack Obama on Tuesday vetoed a Congressional bill approving the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
Only the third veto by this president, many hope that the action marks the end of a six-year approval process for an $8 billion pipeline project that would carry synthetic crude oil and diluted bitumen from the Athabasca tar sands mines in Alberta, Canada and connect to the completed portion of the pipeline in Steele City, Nebraska, which then would carry the oil to Gulf Coast refineries.
Though White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the president's rejection would occur without "a lot of drama or fanfare," reaction was immediately jubilant as many saw the move as a huge win for the climate movement.
May Boeve, Executive Director of 350.org, which spearheaded the fight against the Keystone pipeline, heralded the move as "conclusive proof that activism works."
"After four years of rallies, marches, sit-ins, and civil disobedience, we’re thrilled to see President Obama take an important first step by vetoing this love letter to Big Oil," Boeve continued.
A coalition of environmental groups is holding a celebration outside of the White House in Lafayette Park.
Organized by 350.org, Indigenous Environmental Network, Natural Resources Defense Council, Energy Action Coalition, Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and Friends of the Earth, the rally is to let the President know that, while the veto is "a strong step in the right direction," that he must reject the pipeline "once and for all."
AP reports that the executive veto will put "a freeze on a top GOP priority—at least for now."
And as Bill Snape, Senior Counsel for the Center for Biological Diversity, explained to Common Dreams, the veto does not necessarily stop the pipeline. "Hopefully the president will reject the project," Snape said.
As Snape notes, Tuesday's veto is simply a rebuff of what Obama deems Congressional overreach. The Keystone pipeline still awaits a permit by the Secretary of State while the administration says that it will continue to weigh the so-called merits of the project. Obama has said he will not approve a project that significantly increases U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide.
Noting that other recent actions by the president have been less climate-friendly, Snape added: "And double hopefully, the president will reject harmful offshore oil drilling and public lands fracking as well. But we have a lot more work to do there."
In a statement, Greenpeace U.S. Executive Director Annie Leonard echoed the idea that other climate fights await. "The State Department needs to put the final nail in the coffin of Keystone XL, so we can focus on the real opportunity ahead: building America’s new, clean energy economy," Leonard said.
Despite the much-anticipated rejection, Republican leaders vowed their continued support for the legislation, which was ushered through both chambers of the GOP-led Congress earlier this year.
"The allure of appeasing environmental extremists may be too powerful for the president to ignore," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) wrote in an op-ed published Tuesday. "But the president is sadly mistaken if he thinks vetoing this bill will end this fight. Far from it."
Ahead of the veto, more than a hundred artists, actors, First Nations leaders, environmentalists and other leaders—including Willie Nelson, Naomi Klein, Van Jones, Laura Poitras, Thom Yorke, Norman Lear, Rebecca Solnit and James Hansen, among others—sent a letter to the president urging his full rejection of the pipeline.
The unity letter, circulated by 350.org, says that a few key points have emerged in the years-long campaign.
First, the letter states, "most of those who care about this project oppose it, and with an intensity matched by few issues in recent time." Citing the Tribal Nations and farmers who were the first to resist the project because of its threat to their beloved land, the letter says that the passionate opposition "spread over time to climate scientists, college students, moms, financial experts, many trade unionists, renewable energy proponents, nurses, artists and an ever-growing swath of the general population."
The second point, the group notes, is that more and more studies have shown that tar sands pose an undeniable threat to the ever-warming planet. "There is no way to reconcile this pipeline with a serious climate policy," the letter states.
"Rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline will powerfully demonstrate your commitment to stopping the rising of the oceans, set the stage for further climate action and build a legacy worth sharing."
Last, all of the arguments for the pipeline—jobs, energy independence, inevitability—have been clearly refuted, showing the true colors of the project as a "classic boondoggle, whose only beneficiaries will be a handful of rich oil companies while our families take on all the risk."
The group concludes saying they fully support the president's veto, predicting that it is an action sure to shape Obama's climate legacy.
"Many of the choices that define a presidency come by accident or chance," they write. "But this one is firmly in your control. Climate change will be a defining issue of this century. Rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline will powerfully demonstrate your commitment to stopping the rising of the oceans, set the stage for further climate action and build a legacy worth sharing."