Archive for 2005 May

What They Say about the Weather, and What They Don’t Say

In Yosemite, temperatures in the 80’s and rain on the snowpack threatens flooding.

In Colorado, similarly, temperatures fifteen and twenty degrees above normal are melting the snowpack: water levels haven’t been this high in twenty years, according to one kayaker.

And on the East Coast, it’s been a gloomy spring. The third coldest ever, according to a National Weather Service meteorologist.

The connection? All these facts can be seen as examples of a climatological trend predicted years ago by climatologists. For example, James Hansen, perhaps the best known climatologist in the country, has in more than one study argued that in a global warming scenario, the East Coast will actually get colder. Not enormously colder — about two degrees on the average — but measurably and noticeably.

Question: Why is this prediction never mentioned in newspaper stories about unusual weather? Wouldn’t it be worth at least a question to a climatologist once in a while? Then maybe we could have "a conversation" about the issue, as they say in newsrooms.

Just a thought.

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“Too Boring for TV”

Nuclear energy is in the headlines again, because John McCain and Joseph Lieberman are soon to float a bill proposing massive subsidies to major corporations — notably General Electric — that want to build nuclear energy plants again. Some notable enviros, such as Steward Brand, support the idea. Others, such as the National Resources Defense Council do not.

Thomas B. Cochran, the director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s nuclear program said in The New York Times  (registration required): "The issue isn’t: Do you support nuclear? The issue should be: Do you support massive subsidies to the tune of billions of dollars for nuclear power?" He said, "The answer is no."

One point often overlooked when it comes to nuclear power: the American insurance industry, back in l957, refused to insure these plants. Congress had to pass a law allowing the Federal government to insure the plants berfore they could be built (the Price-Anderson Act). This to me is argument enough against them, given that the insurance industry will, for a price, cover just about any other public activity under the sun.

But "The Onion," as usual, gets to the heart of the matter, with its hiliarious piece from the May 4th issue, entitled "Actual Expert Too Boring for TV."

They quote an expert from MIT thoughtfully discussing the issue, then a segment producer for MSNBC discussing the expert:

"[The expert] went on like that for six… long… minutes," Salters said. "Fact after mind-numbing fact. Then he started spewing all these statistics about megawatts and the nation’s current energy consumption and I don’t know what, because my mind just shut off. I tried to lead him in the right direction. I told him to address the fears that the average citizen might have about nuclear power, but he still utterly failed to mention meltdowns, radiation, or mushroom clouds."

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Mine Plans Surprise Ventura County

In the last month, three different companies have announced plans to mine rock and gravel for development purposes near Ventura County. East of the county, Cemex Inc of Arizona announced plans to mine rock on Soledad Canyon Road. As discussed in the Santa Clarita edition of the "Daily News" from last Friday, "the project includes mining 150,000 tons per years of anorthosite ore, a rock mineral that is used to bind concrete for building."

Amazingly, according to Andy Fried, president of the Agua Dulce Town Council, the Forest Service asked for a response from local governing bodies within two weeks, even though it has known about the project for the last five years. Another company, Pacific Industrial Minerals, proposes to build a bridge across the Santa Clara River to mine rock ten miles east of Santa Clarita, generating as many as 25 truckloads a day, according to the proposal.

North of Ojai, on Highway 33, a "new sand and gravel mine threatens to turn Scenic Highway 33 into an industrial thoroughfare," according to the Keep the Sespe Wild newsletter. The Diamond Rock Mine, expected to be a 100-acre industrial site operating 24 hours a day, "would be capable of generating three times as much traffic as the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Report suggests," director Alisdair Coyne points out.

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