November 22 News: Supercommittee Becomes a Super Failure, Taking Oil Tax Subsidies Off the Table

Other stories below: Scientists See Little Chance of Avoiding Dangerous Global Warming; Brazil’s Environment Secretary Calls Chevron Oil Spill an “Environmental Crime”

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Oil tax breaks safe as supercommittee flops

The collapse of the deficit supercommittee means oil companies fighting to preserve billions of dollars in tax breaks can once again breathe easy.

Many Democrats had sought to kill the tax subsidies as part of any major deal on spending cuts and revenues, prompting strong oil industry pushback.


While scuttling the subsidies was likely a long shot for inclusion even if the panel had produced a deal, its failure probably ends any remaining threats this year.

The tax incentives’ survival shows the industry’s lobbying clout even during a year that saw near-record energy prices, high profits and plenty of calls — including some from Republicans — to look at energy subsidies overall.

Greenhouse gases soar; scientists see little chance of arresting global warming this century

Heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are building up so high, so fast, that some scientists now think the world can no longer limit global warming to the level world leaders have agreed upon as safe.

New figures from the U.N. weather agency Monday showed that the three biggest greenhouse gases not only reached record levels last year but were increasing at an ever-faster rate, despite efforts by many countries to reduce emissions.

As world leaders meet next week in South Africa to tackle the issue of climate change, several scientists said their projections show it is unlikely the world can hold warming to the target set by leaders just two years ago in Copenhagen.

“The growth rate is increasing every decade,” said Jim Butler, director of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Global Monitoring Division. “That’s kind of scary.”

Brazil fines Chevron $28 million for oil spill

Chevron was fined $28 million for an oil spill off the country’s coast and could face further penalties, state media reported on Monday.

The leak off Rio de Janeiro state has stopped, said Curt Trennepohl, president of the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, according to state-run Agencia Brasil. Residual oil in the rocks, however, may still rise to the surface for a few days, he said.

Trennepohl said Chevron was hit with a $28 million fine and could face more penalties if it is shown the company failed in the execution of its emergency plan, Agencia Brasil reported.

Rio de Janeiro Environment Secretary Carlos Minc criticized drilling contractor Transocean, accusing the company of trying to drill at too high a pressure, given the geological characteristics of the seabed.

“This accident was avoidable. … It was incompetence. That is an environmental crime, ” he told Brazil’s Globo TV.

China Pushes Clean-Energy Agenda Ahead of Summit

China plans to push for more funding for clean-energy technologies in the developing world even as it repeated its opposition to mandatory emissions cuts, underscoring the challenges at climate-change talks beginning next week in South Africa.

International climate-change officials are meeting in Durban ahead of the expiration of the Kyoto Protocol global-warming treaty next year, but any formal agreement is considered unlikely by experts.

In addition to continued opposition from major greenhouse-gas emitters China, India and the U.S.—factors that hobbled similar talks in Copenhagen two years ago—Europe continues to grapple with its debt crisis. That makes any new cuts that could curb economic growth and new spending on green initiatives much less likely. Meanwhile, Japan is considering its plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 25% by 2020 after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster led political leaders to reconsider the nation’s nuclear ambitions.

Xie Zhenhua, China’s top climate change official, acknowledged at a news conference Tuesday that the global economic crisis will hinder the effort. But he said those difficulties are only “temporary.”

“Combating climate change is a long-term effort,” he said, urging developed countries to make progress on the financing for the climate change fund for developing countries.

U.S. Military Undermined By Environmental Change

Across the US, critical military installations are being put at risk by environmental change. According to the US Department of Defense’s (DoD) 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review Report:

In 2008, the National Intelligence Council [NIC] judged that more than 30 US military installations were already facing elevated levels of risk from rising sea levels. DoD’s operational readiness hinges on continued access to land, air, and sea training and test space. Consequently, the Department must complete a comprehensive assessment of all installations to assess the potential impacts of climate change on its missions and adapt as required.

Sounds logical, and forward thinking, and the US military certainly has the expertise to do a proper job of it. However, there are multiple systemic barriers standing in the way ‘climate proofing’ those critical installations.

The first issue is technical. The new variability caused by environmental change is making risk calculations more complicated. Does one plan coastal infrastructure for a 15cm or 50cm total sea level rise by 2050? 2050 may seem far in the future, but it is well within the lifetime of new infrastructure builds. (Stimulus package funding that went for new infrastructure should have included a rider necessitating that an ‘environmental change proof’ assessment be made).

29 Responses to November 22 News: Supercommittee Becomes a Super Failure, Taking Oil Tax Subsidies Off the Table

  1. prokaryotes says:

    Obama: Cutting CO2 helps economy

    During a joint press conference Wednesday with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, however, Obama reiterated his support for using market forces to rein in carbon emissions, and even argued that doing so is good for the economy as a whole.

    “(A)s we move forward over the next several years, my hope is, is that the United States, as one of several countries with a big carbon footprint, can find further ways to reduce our carbon emissions,” Obama told reporters in Canberra, according to a White House transcript. “I think that’s good for the world. I actually think, over the long term, it’s good for our economies as well, because it’s my strong belief that industries, utilities, individual consumers – we’re all going to have to adapt how we use energy and how we think about carbon.”

  2. prokaryotes says:

    Evidence Supports Ban On Growth Promotion Use of Antibiotics in Farming

    Stuart Levy, an expert in antibiotic resistance, notes that a guiding tenet of public health, the precautionary principle, requires that steps be taken to avoid harm.

    Current practices set the stage for the rapid spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria

    The long-term administration of antibiotics in animal feed creates an optimal environment for antibiotic resistance genes to multiply. Essentially, treated animals become “factories” for the production and distribution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as Salmonella and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a troubling infection that is resistant to common antibiotics.
    Bacteria can transfer antibiotic resistance to other bacteria, and multiple different resistance genes can be linked together in this process. Thus, even if farmers turn to antibiotics that are not commonly used to treat people, these drugs — given over long periods of time — can also promote resistance.Several studies demonstrated that antibiotic-resistant bacteria can easily spread from animals to people in close contact with animals, such as veterinarians, slaughterhouse workers, farmers, and the families of farmers.
    As much as 90 percent of antibiotics given to livestock are excreted into the environment. Resistance spreads directly by contact and indirectly through the food chain, water, air, and manured and sludge-fertilized soils.
    The broad use of antibiotics in fish food in farm fishing, particularly overseas, leads to leaching where it can be washed to other sites, exposing wild fish to trace amounts of antibiotics.

    The consequences of antibiotic resistance are great

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, antibiotic-resistant infections cause longer and more expensive hospital stays, and greater risk of death. Each year in the US antibiotic-resistant infections result in $20 billion in additional health care costs and $8 million in costs in additional hospital days. If antibiotics are ineffective, patients may end up paying more in search of alternative drugs, and enduring a wider range of side effects.

  3. prokaryotes says:

    New Research On Body Parts’ Sensitivity to Environmental Changes
    Research by a team of Michigan State University scientists has shed new light on why some body parts are more sensitive to environmental change than others, work that could someday lead to better ways of treating a variety of diseases, including type 2 diabetes.

    “If we know how we can control sensitivity to environmental issues such as malnutrition, we can, in principle, manipulate genes that are regulating that sensitivity,” Shingleton said. “Genes can be activated so they can actually restore sensitivity.”

    What Shingleton and colleagues discovered is that even when malnourished, the genitals of a male fruit fly continue to grow to normal size.


  4. prokaryotes says:

    Nanoparticles Used as Additives in Diesel Fuels Can Travel from Lungs to Liver

    Recent studies conducted at Marshall University have demonstrated that nanoparticles of cerium oxide — common diesel fuel additives used to increase the fuel efficiency of automobile engines — can travel from the lungs to the liver and that this process is associated with liver damage.

    Cerium oxide is widely used as a polishing agent for glass mirrors, television tubes and ophthalmic lenses. Cerium oxide nanoparticles are used in the automobile industry to increase fuel efficiency and reduce particulate emissions. Some studies have found that cerium oxide nanoparticles may also be capable of acting as antioxidants, leading researchers to suggest these particles may also be useful for the treatment of cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease and radiation-induced tissue damage.

    Blough, the center’s director and an associate professor in the university’s Department of Biological Sciences, said, “Given the ever-increasing use of nanomaterials in industry and in the products we buy, it is becoming increasingly important to understand if these substances may be harmful. To our knowledge, this is the first report to evaluate if inhaled cerium oxide nanoparticles exhibit toxic effects in the liver.”

    Dr. Siva K. Nalabotu, the study’s lead author and a Ph.D. student in Blough’s lab, said, “The potential effects of nanomaterials on the environment and cellular function is not yet well understood. Interest in nanotoxicity is rapidly growing.

    “Our studies show that cerium oxide nanoparticles are capable of entering the liver from lungs through the circulation, where they show dose-dependent toxic effects on the liver. Our next step is to determine the mechanism of the toxicity.”

    The research was supported with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy

  5. prokaryotes says:

    Carbon Black Nanoparticles Can Cause Cell Death, Inflammation in Lungs, Researchers Find

    Monick said researchers expected to find one level of inflammation when cells were exposed to carbon black nanoparticles. They were surprised, however, to find that nanoparticles activated a special inflammatory process and killed cells in a way that further increased inflammation. She said the research showed that the intake of carbon black nanoparticles from sources such as diesel fuel or printer ink caused an initial inflammatory response in lung cells. The surprising results came when the team discovered that these nanoparticles killed macrophages — immune cells in the lungs responsible for cleaning up and attacking infections — in a way that also increases inflammation.

    “Apoptosis is one way cells die in which all the contents stay in the cell, the cell just keeps shrinking onto itself and the surrounding tissue is protected,” Monick said. “We thought that was what was happening with the carbon nanoparticles; we were wrong. A different process called pyroptosis was occurring, causing the cells to burst and spill their contents.”

    That, she said, can cause a secondary inflammatory response.

  6. prokaryotes says:

    Chemicals’ Study Pinpoints Threat to Workers’ Lungs

    ScienceDaily (Nov. 17, 2010) — Tiny particles used in a range of everyday products from computers to shampoo can adversely affect the lungs in very different ways, a study has shown.

    The study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, showed that four different types of nanoparticles produced distinct patterns of lung injury in rats, some involving the immune system.

    Researchers found that some nanoparticles were more likely to trigger an asthmatic-style reaction while others led to a worsening severe lung injury.

    The study highlights the need for animal models until there are improved cell-based tests to predict the effects of nanoparticles, since the use of cell cultures alone would not be able to pick up the extent of different diseases the nanoparticles are likely to cause.

    Ken Donaldson, Professor of Respiratory Toxicology at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Nanoparticles are becoming more important in industry and are being used in ever-increasing amounts. This study shows that different types of nanoparticles may produce different diseases in those exposed to them in industry.

    “Therefore each kind of nanoparticle needs to be assessed and appropriate care taken to minimise exposure consistent with the risk they pose. This will ensure better health and safety for those working with these new materials.”

  7. prokaryotes says:

    Nanoparticles Used in Common Household Items Cause Genetic Damage in Mice

    Titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles, found in everything from cosmetics to sunscreen to paint to vitamins, caused systemic genetic damage in mice

  8. prokaryotes says:

    Weird weather and the new climate reality

    Polling stations in Connecticut were commandeered to shelter residents still without power eight days after a freak October snowstorm. Two months earlier, residents of Bastrop County, Texas, lost a record 476 homes to a single wildfire. And corn farmers in Mississippi County, Mo., are still picking up the pieces after their land disappeared under the raging Mississippi River in May.

    The human toll from a year of extraordinary weather is high and getting higher. It is no longer just in distant places like Brazil, Somalia or Thailand that extreme events are wreaking havoc on people’s lives and livelihoods. It is right here in the United States. Communities across the country have endured severe storms, record-breaking temperatures, droughts and flooding – in what appears an alarming upward trend in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather. NOAA has already tallied 10 disasters through August 2011 each caused more than a billion dollars worth of damage.

    So what is going on? Public and media attention has focused mainly on the destruction and hardship triggered by these disasters, rather than their causes. Yet scientific evidence increasingly points to a link between climate change and extreme weather trends. In other words, these may not be just random weather events. Greenhouse gases from human activities are likely partly to blame.

    In the latest authoritative report making this connection, the International Panel on Climate Change recently warned that a warmer world will likely bring more heavy rainfall, heat waves and breaking temperatures. The findings echo those of a 2009 assessment by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (sponsored by 13 federal government agencies), which pointed to climate change as a likely culprit in warmer nights, heat waves and heavy downpours.

  9. prokaryotes says:

    Nuclear ‘space battery’ bests solar in Curiosity Mars mission

    If you’re going to Mars with an SUV-size robot, you’ll need a really good energy supply.

    The Mars Science Laboratory, called Curiosity, scheduled for launch on Saturday will be powered by a nuclear device, rather than solar panels. Designers hope the nuclear generator will make the mobile robot more productive as it conducts science experiments in the search for conditions to support life.

    Once it arrives on Mars, the robot will be heated and powered electrically from a ceramic form of plutonium dioxide. The nuclear decay from that block, which is covered in multiple protective layers, generates heat that is circulated with a series of heat-transferring tubes. The generator includes a thick cylinder about two feet tall to house the heat source and has fins to dissipate the heat.

  10. prokaryotes says:

    Solar panels that fan out after landing were used in previous Mars missions, but using a radioisotope system gives experiment designers more flexibility, according to the Idaho National Laboratory, which made and extensively tested the generator. For example, the probe will be able to communicate during all phases of its mission, including during entry into the atmosphere and landing.

    “You can operate with solar panels on Mars. You just can’t operate everywhere,” Stephen Johnson, director of INL’s Space Nuclear Systems and Technology Division, said in a statement. “This gives you an opportunity to go anywhere you want on the planet, not be limited to the areas that have sunlight and not have to put the rover to sleep at night.”

  11. prokaryotes says:

    Climate change threatens life on Seacoast

    PORTSMOUTH — The likelihood of more frequent and severe weather events, increased asthma and the death of crucial plant life in Great Bay are all realities on the Seacoast.

    That was among the conclusions reached by experts who were in Portsmouth on Thursday at a conference sponsored by the New Hampshire Carbon Action Alliance.

    “Climate Change and New Hampshire’s Seacoast” brought together professors, engineers, doctors and scientists who provided statistical evidence to suggest a correlation between climate change and a number of issues facing the region.

    Their talks were framed, many said, by the recent draft document by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change that links man-made climate change to the extreme weather conditions in much of the world in recent years.

    Among those presenting was Kerry Emmanuel of the Program in Atmospheres, Oceans and Climate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He said his data indicate there will be an increase in intense hurricanes, while weaker events will become less numerous.

  12. prokaryotes says:

    Ellen Douglas, an engineer and earth scientist from the University of Massachusetts in Boston and a Portsmouth resident, also talked. She said she was involved in a project spearheaded by the Union of Concerned Scientists that found an increase in temperature in the Northeast by 2 degrees since 1970, plus warmer winters.

    “Despite record snowpack last winter, we have seen a decrease in snowpack in the past few decades, and spring is coming two weeks earlier,” she said.

    She was at the conference to discuss a paper she wrote plotting the frequency of storms in the Portsmouth region. After the Mother’s Day flood of 2006, she began wondering whether extreme whether events were happening more frequently. She found multi-day events are increasing on the Seacoast, with flooding as a result.

    “We can handle the one-day event; it’s these two- and three-day events that are causing problems,” she said.

    Dr. Mark Windt, a North Hampton pulmonologist and allergist, said allergies are on the rise and studies are increasingly showing a correlation between lung health and climate change effects — particularly smog, which is a result of carbon pollution.

    Also speaking was Fred Short, of the Jackson Estuarine Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire, who has spent 30 years researching Great Bay. Short said there’s proof that eelgrass, which keeps the estuary healthy, is dying at an alarming rate due to increases in nitric acids from coal-fired power plants, nonpoint source pollutions like lawn fertilizer, sea level rise and extreme weather events that cause erosion.

    Because of decreasing eelgrass, fish including flounder and striped bass and lobsters, as well as waterfowl are diminishing, he said.

  13. Jay Alt says:

    New release of climate e-mails from Russian server
    per Richard Black of BBC

  14. prokaryotes says:

    Funny that they do not catch these hackers.

  15. prokaryotes says:

    James Delingpole seems to brought the story first, just like he did the last time.

  16. Mike Roddy says:

    China suffers from gigantism, the same disease that prevails here in the US. It has always led to evolutionary dead ends, with mammals as well as dinosaurs.

    Encouraging clean energy development in developing countries is just another way to capture markets for their solar panels. Refusing to even talk about a carbon price in China renders their actions purely self serving. The US has the same problem.

  17. Artful Dodger says:

    If it’s Durban COP 18, it must be Climate-gate II:

    ‘New release’ of climate emails

    What appears to be a new batch of emails and other documents from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit has been released.

  18. prokaryotes says:

    Local Climate Today

    The november 2011 will be mostly likely the driest november on record and the 2nd sunniest november after 1989 is the sunniest november record, for germany!

    This after the spring in germany was the driest ever recorded!

    The lack of enough precipitation is threatning this years ski season already.

    Record suspected
    November too sunny and too dry

  19. Raul M. says:

    In hot climes, solar electric could power heat pump coils embeded in large chunks of wax that; in turn, in evenin would absorb heat to keep the indoors cool.
    Just as the permamelt situation shows up north, the heat extends down into the ground and waters. How has the soil average temp changed at depth in the hot climes?

  20. adelady says:

    Raul, in places that have always been hot, there’s not much difference. The underground homes at Coober Pedy in the Australian desert have always been comfortable, needing neither heating nor cooling. I’ve not heard of any changes there.

  21. Colorado Bob says:

    After a rainy afternoon and evening today, metro Detroit is on track for the warmest November on record, according to the National Weather Service.

    The region currently sits tied for first place for the warmest November on record, with temperatures averaging 47.8 degrees, 4.4 degrees above average, meteorologist Rachel Kulik said from the agency’s White Lake Township office today.

    High temperatures of 51 on Wednesday, 55 on Thursday and 57 degrees on Friday could help clinch the top spot, she said.

    “Right now, it looks like a pretty good chance,” Kulik said. “Thursday and Friday look like they’re going to be well above our current average for the month. So if we can hit that, we’ll probably slip into first place.”|head

  22. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    A carbon pollution market will be a disaster. Market mechanisms have comprehensively failed over the last thirty years to do anything but provide new avenues for the 1% to grift. The market loves volatility, it loves speculation, it loves bubbles, all of which will lead to the price wildly oscillating. Moreover, carbon pollution ‘offsets’ are already being rorted with gay abandon, and there is no reason to believe that this innate capitalist tendency will lessen in the future-in fact the very opposite is far more likely.A carbon tax, set at a clearly defined rate, rising according to a fixed schedule, gives business the opportunity to plan, if they still consider that a fit and proper task. The business class here are always demanding ‘certainty’ (while instructing the plebs to learn to love ‘risk’ ie your superannuation may evaporate to pay for the 1%’s lifestyle)so a tax would better suit them. The proceeds could be hypothecated to renewable research and implementation and general ecological repair.

  23. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Well at least they’ve got their priorities right.

  24. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Carbon nanotubes are suspected of acting very much like asbestos fibres. Yet another disaster in the name of ‘progress and profit’ in the making. Fortunately we will be overwhelmed by a plethora of other hubristic disasters before this becomes too big a problem.

  25. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    A recent article described how roof workers had left handprints on the roofs on which they worked, because they had swathed themselves in nanoparticle rich sunscreens. These then proceeded to strip the surface from the roofing material. They story swiftly disappeared down the ‘memory hole’.

  26. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Murdoch’s minions got away with it for years, and would be still, if ‘The Guardian’ had not ratted on MSM solidarity, and the ‘New York Times’ decided to settle some scores with Murdoch.

  27. Lionel A says:

    After a very dry spring and a dry October (with temperatures early in the month more like July-August) running into November water levels are low in southern England.

    Kennet and Avon Canal has water levels lowest for 90 years with sections now closed and empty of water. Those who know a bit about canal building will appreciate that this will not do much for the water-tightness of those section when if they reopen.