Archive | July 2013

21. Recent Heat-related Deaths in Wisconsin

Heat-related deaths and sicknesses are likely to become much more commonplace in the U.S. and the rest of world as a consequence of increased global warming, primarily caused by human activities. Following are six deaths that have been reported by the news media in Wisconsin:

Milwaukee authorities are reporting a fourth and fifth suspected heat-related death. The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office says the latest victims are a 64-year-old woman, who died early Saturday, and a 69-year-old man who died Friday.

They said the woman developed breathing problems in her Milwaukee home, where the air temperature was 93 degrees. Her body temperature was 110 degrees. She had an air conditioner, but was unable to install it on her own. All the windows in her home were closed, and the family never opened them because they feared shots being fired in the neighborhood. They said the man was admitted to St. Joseph’s Hospital from a home in Milwaukee on Thursday with a body temperature of 102 degrees and died Friday night.

The bodies of two of the other dead men, ages 71 and 79, were found in separate houses Friday. In both cases, the medical examiner said the houses were sealed with no fans on and no air conditioning on in the house. The fifth victim is a 44-year-old man who was found unresponsive in an alley Wednesday evening in Milwaukee and pronounced dead in an intensive-care unit Thursday.

Finally, the death of a two-year old boy found by a deputy in the trunk of a car on his parents’ property near Centuria, Wisconsin, has been confirmed to be heat-related. Preliminary autopsy results released Friday said the boy likely died of hyperthermia — a condition in which the body temperature spikes from high and prolonged heat.

The National Weather Service says Milwaukee has recorded four consecutive days of highs in the mid-90s this week, with the “heat index” (factors in humidity) registering more than 100 degrees Fehrenhei.heatindex

20. Obama’s Speech on Fighting Global Warming: “Too Little, Too Late”?

The president’s speech was great in tone and in the way he showed we need immediate action to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and deal with other countries of the world in the collective reduction in worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases. But the plan lacked detail, especially in how we should all be CONSERVING more energy that is generated by fuel burning in everything we do, especially driving less, flying less (or not at all), and using less energy in our homes and in the places where we visit.

The U. S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that U.S. gasoline and diesel fuel consumption for transportation in 2012 resulted in the emission of about 1,089 million metric tons from gasoline and 422 million metric tons of CO2 from diesal fuel burning to the atmosphere, respectively, for a total of 1,511 million metric tons of atmospheric CO2 in 2012. This total was equivalent to 83% of total CO2 emissions by the U.S. transportation sector and 29% of total U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions.

Regarding air travel, it is often said that transportation by plane usually results in by far the largest quantities of greenhouse gases (GHG’s) emitted by a person in a year. GHG’s emitted (CO2 and nitrous oxide). This is due to the tremendous quantities of fossil fuels burned in takeoff, climbing and cruising at high elevation in a heavy jet airliner.

In 2011, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 11,280 kWh. Louisiana had the highest annual consumption at 16,176 kWh and Maine the lowest at 6,252 kWh.

To meaningfully reduce our emissions from transportation and household/business use our Congressional representatives and senators needs to ENACT MAJOR PROGRAMS THIS LEGISLATIVE SESSION. The U. S. Congress should enact programs that offer voluntarily “positive financial incentives” ($) to Americans who limit their carbon dioxide emissions to minimal levels, as measured by their annual mileage driven in automobiles (all registered vehicles they own) over a year’s time. It is not enough to rely on vehicle energy efficiency improvements to reduce CO2 emissions by transportation since studies have shown than most people who buy more fuel efficient cars eventually drive even more miles per year than they did before, not less, which therefore negates the fuel efficiency caused greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions.

These programs should be funded by taking away the many tax exemptions now given to fossil fuel development corporation, reductions in funding the military industrial complex, and by eliminating major expansions to highways and airports and by avoiding the construction of new power sources due to increased conservation of energy in homes and increased energy supplies from wind and solar sources. The money should then be directed into funding for offering positive financial incentives for people to drive less (miles) (or not drive at all); to avoid flying; and to use less fossil fuel derived energy in their homes or businesses. People who already chose to walk, ride buses, and not fly airplanes would benefit financially by this program, as would individuals, families and business who use less fossil fuel derived energy in heating and electrifying their homes and businesses.

More details on the financial incentives plan are contained in: “Positive Financial Incentives: An Environmentally Just Approach for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions”, published earlier on this blog site on May 9, 2013.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

19. Enbridge’s Pipeline 67 Tar Sands-Crude Oil Expansion Project

b9944286z.1_20130705171213_000_gif1cqiv.1-1Photo by Darryl Dyck
In this photo from last year, a worker move logs on the Douglas Channel in British Columbia. The channel is the proposed termination point for an oil pipeline from Alberta as part of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project.

The tar sands industrial complex is located in northern Alberta, Canada in what was once a pristine natural area. It is now a terribly polluted industrial landscape. The crude oil that originates from this area is already widely criticized for its role in magnifying the climate change threats including extreme weather. According to an opinion piece in the Milwaukee Journal’s online interactive site by Eric Hansen, the Alberta tar sands-crude oil activities are now emerging as “a serious threat to Earth’s finest collection of freshwater: Lake Superior and the upper Great Lakes”.

Enbridge’s pipeline 67, the linchpin of the whole plan, runs from Alberta to Superior. At Superior, the pipeline splits. One pipeline bisects Wisconsin on its way to Delavan, Wisconsin before continuing south. Some of its crude oil would go to Chicago-area refineries; most is destined for ports and refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.

Another pipeline runs eastward from Superior, before crossing under the Straits of Mackinac to connect to Detroit-area refineries — and others on the Atlantic Ocean.

A third conduit for the tar sans-crude oil is a firm called “Calumet Specialties”, a Superior refiner who wants to ship 13 million barrels per year of crude oil across Lake Superior and through the Great Lakes on barges.

“Proposals for a massive expansion of tar sands crude oil shipments on and around the Great Lakes do not make sense”, he said. Among the waters vulnerable to Canadian pipeline company’s ill-advised plans are Lakes Superior and Michigan as well as the Bois Brule, Namekagon, Chippewa, Wisconsin, Fox and Rock rivers.

Enbridge’s already partially built system expanded to the proposed size would lock in both Wisconsin and our region as a major transportation corridor to ship tar sands crude oil overseas to the world market for decades to come — and a reasonable citizen would be outraged”, according to Hansen.

“Profit and jobs would go to Canada. Crude oil would go overseas. Toxic risk would stay here, sprinkled throughout our region in the crude oil spills, air quality and public health impacts that would certainly come”, he added.

Global warming would also unquestionably be fueled by the massive amount of fossil fuel burning that would be required to continue with this expansion, much less the vast quantities of greenhouse gases that would obviously be emitted by the end combustion of the oil products.

Enbridge’s piecemeal method, linking and converting already existing pipelines with new connectors, has largely escaped the intense public scrutiny and uproar the Keystone XL pipeline proposal has met — so far, according to Hansen.

Tar sands crude oil spills are notoriously difficult to clean up well — and there are serious questions whether the tar sands corrosive qualities make pipeline ruptures inevitable. Tar sands’ raw product is bitumen, similar to asphalt. To move it through a pipeline requires diluting, with benzene (a known carcinogen) for example, high temperatures and increased pumping pressure. Hansen notes that Tar sands developers want to triple their production of crude oil from the tar sands.

Yet, unquestionably, Enbridge’s record so far merits alarm, says Hansen: “Just 150 miles east of Milwaukee, our nation’s largest inland crude oil spill began on July 25, 2010, devastating the Kalamazoo River near Marshall, Mich. Cleanup is still incomplete; costs are passing the billion-dollar mark.

“For 17 hours, through three shift changes and multiple alarms going off, Enbridge employees in their Calgary, Alberta, control room did not shut down the pipeline. That only happened when a Michigan utility worker called. Meanwhile, 840,000 gallons of crude oil spilled. The Key information was only shared a week later: The spill was tar sands, not conventional crude oil.

Wisconsinites should not allow this project to continue. Federal and state permits for the Enbridge pipeline 67 expansionshould not be grated, and the oil barges and other hazardous crude oil proposals be denied.

The crude bitumen contained in the Canadian oil sands is described as petroleum that exists in the semi-solid or solid phase in natural deposits. Bitumen is a thick, sticky form of hydrocarbon, so heavy and viscous (thick) that it will not flow unless heated or diluted with lighter hydrocarbons. At room temperature, it is much like cold molasses. Making liquid fuels from oil sands requires energy (fossil fuel burning) for steam injection and refining. This process generates 12 percent more greenhouse gases per barrel of crude oil than extraction of conventional oil.

So not only are our Great Lakes Region’s waters likely to be impacted negatively by this massive project proposed by Enbridge company, but our Great Lakes’ climate is also at risk as will the overall climate. The Pipeline 67 Expansion may end up as the last straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Enbridge’s proposed “Pipeline 67” Expansion DOUBLES the flow of heated, tar sands-crude oil,which would be pumped 990 miles from northern Alberta, Canada, to Superior, Wisconsin, from the current 440,000 BARRELS of crude oil PER DAY, to 880,000 BARRELS of crude oil PER DAY. For each gallon of gasoline burned, almost 20 pounds of carbon dioxide is released to the atmosphere. For each person mile traveled by jet aircrafraft, the carbon dioxide emitted ranges from 40 – 65 pounds per mile, with the shorter trips resulting in higher pounds per mile due to the inefficiencies of starting and climbing.

In summary, there are large quantities of fossil fuels burned in processing of the tar sands into crude oil at the Alberta mine site, resulting in the release of millions of ton of greenhouses gases to the atmosphere every year. Additional energy is used to pump the crude oil to the refinery sites, causing the release of more greenhouse gases; additional energy is used in refining the crude oil into it’s final end products: gasoline, jet fuel, diesel fuel and heating oil.

Transporting these end products to their final destinations requires yet more fossil fuel combustion in making the transport, which results in even more greenhouse gases being emitted to the atmosphere. Finally, the end product fuels (gasoline, jet fuel, diesel fuel) from this process which are purchased by fossil fuel consumers – owners/users of airplanes, trucks, automobiles, trains, ships, buses, factories, heating plants, motorized recreational vehicles, etc. – and then burned for their energy value end up releasing vastly more millions of tons of greenhouse gases to the earth’s atmosphere, where those gases can remain for upwards of a century, or more, compounding with former releases from the past, with the result that we are heating the atmosphere at at increasingly faster rate each decade that progresses, causing the oceans, polar ice caps, glaciers and large body lakes to warm at unprecedented rates, resulting in the acidification of ocean sea water and the rising of ocean sea levels. in this country and abroad.

The Milwaukee Journal online news reports that: “Enbridge’s piecemeal method, linking and converting already existing pipelines with new connectors, has largely escaped the intense public scrutiny and uproar the Keystone XL pipeline proposal has met — so far.” At Superior, the pipeline splits. One pipeline bisects Wisconsin before continuing south, with some of its crude destined for the Chicago-area, with the majority of the to ports and refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. Enbridge’s initial tar sands-crude oil pipeline expansion proposal was supposedly approved by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in 2007.