Toxic Oil Spill Rains Warned Could Destroy North America – A dire report prepared for President Medvedev by Russia’s Ministry of Natural Resources is warning today that the British Petroleum (BP) oil and gas leak in the Gulf of Mexico is about to become the worst environmental catastrophe in all of human history threatening the entire eastern half of the North American continent with “total destruction” Russian scientists are basing their apocalyptic destruction assessment due to BP’s use of millions of gallons of the chemical dispersal agent known as Corexit 9500 which is being pumped directly into the leak of this wellhead over a mile under the Gulf of Mexico waters and designed, this report says, to keep hidden from the American public the full, and tragic, extent of this leak that is now estimated to be over 2.9 million gallons a day.The dispersal agent Corexit 9500 is a solvent originally developed by Exxon and now manufactured by the Nalco Holding Company of Naperville, Illinois that is four times more toxic than oil (oil is toxic at 11 ppm (parts per million), Corexit 9500 at only 2.61ppm). In a report written by Anita George-Ares and James R. Clark for Exxon Biomedical Sciences, Inc. titled “Acute Aquatic Toxicity of Three Corexit Products: An Overview” Corexit 9500 was found to be one of the most toxic dispersal agents ever developed. Even worse, according to this report, with higher water temperatures, like those now occurring in the Gulf of Mexico, its toxicity grows.
Hundreds die in Indian heatwave – Record temperatures in northern India have claimed hundreds of lives in what is believed to be the hottest summer in the country since records began in the late 1800s. The death toll is expected to rise with experts forecasting temperatures approaching 50C (122F) in coming weeks. More than 100 people are reported to have died in the state of Gujarat where the mercury topped at 48.5C last week. At least 90 died in Maharashtra, 35 in Rajasthan and 34 in Bihar.Hospitals in Gujarat have been receiving around 300 people a day suffering from food poisoning and heat stroke, ministers said. Officials admit the figures are only a fraction of the total as most of the casualties are found in remote rural villages.Wildlife and livestock has also suffered with voluntary organisations in Gujarat reporting the deaths of bats and crows and dozens of peacocks reported dead at a forest reserve in Uttar Pradesh.
As Deflation Looms, E.C.B. Keeps Its Eye Firmly on Inflation – NYTimes – If the European Central Bank has one monetary dragon it considers essential to slay, it is inflation. Keeping inflation under control is the central bank’s primary legal responsibility, and as Europe struggles to overcome economic problems caused by the sovereign debt crisis, inflation has remained the bank’s primary focus. But some economists say it has become a driving obsession that has blinded the bank to a potentially bigger threat to Europe: deflation. The central bank’s doubters grew louder after it made a big show of taking measures to cancel out the supposed inflationary impact of the government bond purchases it began on May 10 to help keep Greece and several other euro zone countries from defaulting on their debts.
The Pain Caucus, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: What’s the greatest threat to our still-fragile economic recovery? Dangers abound… But what I currently find most ominous is the spread of a destructive idea: the view that now, less than a year into a weak recovery from the worst slump since World War II, is the time for policy makers to stop helping the jobless and start inflicting pain. When the financial crisis first struck, most of the world’s policy makers responded appropriately, cutting interest rates and allowing deficits to rise. And by doing the right thing, by applying the lessons learned from the 1930s, they managed to limit the damage: It was terrible, but it wasn’t a second Great Depression. Now, however, demands that governments switch from supporting their economies to punishing them have been proliferating in op-eds, speeches and reports from international organizations. Indeed, the idea that what depressed economies really need is even more suffering seems to be the new conventional wisdom…
The Oil Drum: Australia/New Zealand | Nuking The Oil Slick – A recent interview with Matthew Simmons on Bloomberg discussed the possibility of a nuclear explosion being used to seal the leaking Macondo oil well.This idea was floated a couple of weeks back by the Russian periodical Pravda, which noted the technique was used 5 times to seal leaking wells in the old Soviet Union (once unsuccessfully in attempt to stop a gas leak in the Ukraine – though the likely environmental damage might cause you to wonder what the definition of "success" is).The first use of this technique was in Uzbekistan in 1966, with the blast 1.5 times the strength of the Hiroshima bomb and at a depth of 1.5 kilometers. Using a nuclear device in an attempt to shut down the GOM oil spill seems like using a battleship to cross a river.Success is not guaranteed and the side effects could be horrendous.There are some really mad ideas being floated in the US about this problem.The only hope is to let the drilling rig crews get on with the job.The relief well is probably the closest thing to a sure fix.
A team of University of Georgia marine scientists is conducting research on the huge underwater oil plume that was discovered in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. Throughout a two-week cruise in the Gulf of Mexico, they are posting regular updates and photos to this blog.The team now on board the R/V F.G. Walton Smith is led by Samantha Joye, UGA professor of marine sciences, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. Joye was a member of the NOAA-supported expedition that discovered the deepwater plumes thousands of feet below the surface in the Gulf of Mexico, about two weeks ago.The group sailed from Gulfport, Miss., on Tuesday, May 25, on a scientific mission to characterize and visualize the largest of the underwater oil plumes, estimated to be more than 15 miles long, 5 miles wide and some 300 feet thick at depths ranging from approximately 2,300 feet to 4,200 feet. This plume is currently located to the south/southwest of the Deepwater Horizon site.“Nothing like these plumes has ever been seen before,” said Joye. “This is the first time such a buoyant plume has been document in a cold, pelagic environment.” Ocean temperatures range from 8 degrees C at the bottom of the plume to about 15 degrees C at the top.
Trust your senses – One of the strangest things about these deepwater plumes we’ve been tracking is that we see a strong CDOM signal but there’s been no visible oil in the deepwater. That changed today: we saw oil in the deepwater. We sampled a station about a mile south of our previous stations (you can get our position and our ship track on www.marinetraffic.com, just look for the R/V Walton Smith in the Gulf of Mexico sector) and we saw the most intense CDOM signals that we’ve seen so far. The Pelican cruise sampled near here three weeks ago but the CDOM signals we are seeing now are much stronger. In the CTD figure shown here, green is the dissolved oxygen signal, red is the signal for colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM), and blue is the transmissometer signal. The main plume extends from about 1100m to 1300m in the water column. Though the signals for CDOM and beam attenuation (transmissometer) are very high, there is only moderate oxygen depletion. We hypothesize that this is because this is a relatively young region of the plume—in other words, the microorganisms have not had time to break down the organic matter yet.
Radioactive fish near nuclear plant said ordinary – State health officials say Vermont Yankee most likely was not the source of the radioactivity in the fish, a yellow perch. Fish and other living things – including humans – around the world have been absorbing tiny amounts of strontium-90 since the United States, Russia and China tested nuclear weapons in the atmosphere in the 1950s and 1960s. A fresher dose was released by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. "It’s clearly consistent with the background levels from Chernobyl and weapons testing that went on until 1965," said Michael Dumond, chief of prevention services, which includes radiological health, for the state of New Hampshire. The river between the states is New Hampshire territory, though Dumond said New Hampshire has largely deferred to Vermont on testing samples from it. Does that mean strontium-90 is present in fish caught around the world? "Yes. It’s everywhere,"
Two million idle Italian youngsters run risk of becoming ‘lost generation’ -A leading sociologist has warned that Italy risks "losing a generation" of young talent as it struggles to climb out of its crippling downturn. On the day the Rome government launched a desperate package of cuts to trim its debt and avoid the meltdown suffered by neighbour Greece, figures showed that two million young Italians are now drifting, neither studying nor working.The ranks of idle Italians accounts for more than a fifth of all 15- to 29-year-olds, thanks mainly to a surge in the industrial north, where the job market shrivelled last year as national GDP dropped 5%. "Young people with more qualifications and with a well-off family behind them go abroad, and get along; all the others are left behind," said sociologist Chiara Saraceno. With so many people kicking their heels, the number of 18-34-year-olds still living with their parents rose to almost 60% last year, up from 49% in 1983. Among those between 30 and 34, a third are still enjoying home-cooked pasta. The downturn turned them into hostages in their own homes.
Editorial – Europe’s Endangered Banks – NYTimes – So far, Europe’s troubles have not hurt American banks, which own little debt from beleaguered Greece, Portugal or Spain. But the American and European financial sectors are entwined, and it is unclear whether American banks are prepared for what could happen. Doubts remain about the solvency of the weaker European countries, despite the plan by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to make up to $1 trillion available to indebted economies. The plan has brought needed respite to financial markets. Crucially, the European Central Bank threw a lifeline to banks in the euro area, promising to buy tens of billions worth of weak-country debt from them, a small portion. The German Bundestag overcame public resistance and approved the rescue package. But it has a fundamental shortcoming: it relies on deep budget cuts from countries that are in a recession or teetering on the edge. Several have weak governments that may not be able to carry through the prescribed fixes. Even if they do, the budget cuts are likely to make them even weaker.
Evaluating Gulf Coast Damage from Worst Spill in U.S. History – PBS News Hour (MP3 & transcript) Yesterday, a team of federal scientists released a report estimating that the size of the Gulf spill had surpassed that of the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, making it the worst in U.S. history.But the full extent of the damage to the environment is only slowly becoming clearer, with many questions still unanswered.We get more on that now from David Hollander, professor of chemical oceanography at the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science.Professor Hollander, welcome to you. I would like you to start by explaining to us the discovery by your team of scientists of a plume of oil below the surface. Now, what does that mean exactly?
BP says crude may continue flowing into gulf until August – As BP readied its latest fallback plan to stop oil gushing from one of its wells in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration and the company warned that the crude could continue flowing until August, compounding threats to coastal wetlands, fisheries and beaches. White House energy and climate adviser Carol M. Browner said Sunday that the oil spill was "probably the biggest environmental disaster we’ve ever faced in this country" and that "we are prepared for the worst." On the CBS show "Face the Nation," she said that the "American people need to know that it is possible we will have oil leaking from this well until August when the relief wells will be finished." Those two wells, which BP began drilling early this month, are expected to intersect the damaged one and seal it near the reservoir far below the seafloor. The first has reached 7,000 feet below the seafloor, and the second has reached 3,500 feet below the floor, but progress gets slower the deeper the wells go. With the arrival of hurricane season Tuesday, the drilling could be slowed if the rigs need to be evacuated during storms.
BP’s behaviour in the Gulf is appalling. But our thirst for oil is the real issue – As this piece is written, act one of the Gulf of Mexico tragedy continues, agonisingly, to unfold. We, the people of the region, keep hoping to leave behind the terrifying explosions and ghastly loss of human life, the dread invoked by black jets billowing endlessly from below and the floating oil spreading over an ever-growing area.We want to move on to act two, which will feature many dirty shovels, corpses of birds and people crying over the loss of a landscape they love. Act three has yet to be written; it will employ an enormous cast of lawyers and last for decades, but in that time there will be some healing, we hope. That’s what we need to happen as soon as possible, but we can’t seem to get the damned thing plugged up.
The Consensus On Big Banks Shifts, But Not At Treasury – Attitudes towards big banks are changing around the world and across the political spectrum. In the UK, the new center-right government is looking for ways to break them up: “We will take steps to reduce systemic risk in the banking system and will establish an independent commission to investigate the complex issue of separating retail and investment banking in a sustainable way; while recognising that this will take time to get right, the commission will be given an initial time frame of one year to report.” The European Commission, among others, signals that a bank tax is coming; presumably, as suggested by the IMF, this will have higher rates for bigger banks and for banks with less capital. And other European officials are increasingly worried by the lack of capital in German banks, by the recent reckless lending sprees in Ireland and Spain, and by the dangers posed by banks that are much bigger than their home countries (e.g., Switzerland). Yet top Obama administration officials refuse to change their opinions in the slightest; they have dug in behind the idea that they represent the moderate center on banking policy. This is a weak position; it is simply a myth with no factual basis