Posts Tagged ‘environmental disasters’

Ethanol more damaging to the Gulf than BP oil spill

August 8, 2010

Supposed environmental solutions often create new problems.

Dead zone in gulf linked to ethanol production

While the BP oil spill has been labeled the worst environmental catastrophe in recent U.S. history, a biofuel is contributing to a Gulf of Mexico “dead zone” the size of New Jersey that scientists say could be every bit as harmful to the gulf.

Each year, nitrogen used to fertilize corn, about a third of which is made into ethanol, leaches from Midwest croplands into the Mississippi River and out into the gulf, where the fertilizer feeds giant algae blooms. As the algae dies, it settles to the ocean floor and decays, consuming oxygen and suffocating marine life.

Known as hypoxia, the oxygen depletion kills shrimp, crabs, worms and anything else that cannot escape. The dead zone has doubled since the 1980s and is expected this year to grow as large as 8,500 square miles and hug the Gulf Coast from Alabama to Texas.

The gulf dead zone is the second-largest in the world, after one in the Baltic Sea. Scientists say the biggest culprit is industrial-scale corn production. Corn growers are heavy users of both nitrogen and pesticides. Vast monocultures of corn and soybeans, both subsidized by the federal government, have displaced diversified farms and grasslands throughout the Mississippi Basin.

“The subsidies are driving farmers toward more corn,” said Gene Turner, a zoologist at Louisiana State University. “More nitrate comes off corn fields than it does off of any other crop by far. And nitrogen is driving the formation of the dead zone.”

The sins of BP and “the greatest environmental disaster ever”

August 8, 2010

Thames in danger of impending catastrophe

Father Thames in Victorian England

Considering that the BP oil spill has been designated the “greatest environmental disaster ever”, the danger to the Thames from clumsy motorists has not been properly appreciated.

If we conveniently forget Bhopal and focus solely on the Gulf of Mexico, then spilling about 2 litres of engine oil into the Thames would be equivalent to the concentration of oil in the Gulf.

A very nice sanity check by Raedwald.

(More on Rædwald, of East Anglia here . He was called Rex Anglorum – King of the Angles by Bede but presumably has not been much of a role model for the University of East Anglia – Climatic Research Unit).

The volume of the Gulf of Mexico is 2,424,000 cubic kilometers, or 6.43 * 1017 US gallons. The volume of oil spilt is estimated at 20m gallons to 50m US gallons; let’s take the max, 5 * 107 gallons. That’s one part of oil to 1.29 * 1010 parts of water. The volume of the Thames at mid tide between Teddington and Gravesend is about 2.4 * 107 cubic metres (633 * 107 US gallons, or 127 times the total volume of the BP oil leaked). To replicate the ‘environmental disaster’ , I’ll therefore have to empty 1.87 litres of engine oil into the river.

Over 75% of the Gulf oil spill has now dispersed.

25 years on and toxicity is still being exported….

July 23, 2010

25 years after Bhopal where the manufacture of toxic products was “exported” to India the same “export” philosophy – this time with toxic wastes to the Ivory Coast – continues.

I thought I could see signs of ethics returning to the corporate world but I was being too optimistic. “Business as usual and pay a few fines if you get caught” seems to apply. Nobody goes to jail after all.

Trafigura found guilty of exporting toxic waste

A Dutch court has found multinational Trafigura guilty of illegally exporting toxic waste from Amsterdam and concealing the nature of the cargo.

Two civil protection workers pass by a bulldozer clearing a site polluted with toxic waste at the Akouedo district in Abidjan - 19 September 2006

In 2006, Trafigura transported waste alleged to have been involved in the injury of thousands of people in Ivory Coast. The firm was fined 1m euros (£836,894) for its ship, the Probo Koala, transiting Amsterdam with its cargo.Trafigura, an oil trading company, initially tried to clean up low-grade oil by tipping caustic soda into the hold of the Probo Koala. The company tried to unload the waste in Amsterdam for treatment, declaring it as “harmless slops”.


Sept 2006 – Thousands in Ivory Coast report falling ill from waste in Abidjan

Oct 2006 – About 1,000 Ivorians sue Trafigura

Feb 2007 – Trafigura reaches $160m out-of-court settlement with government of Ivory Coast

Oct 2008 – Ivory Coast court finds two people, not employees of Trafigura, guilty of dumping toxic waste in Abidjan

Sept 2009 – Trafigura agrees to pay $50m to people in Ivory Coast who say they were poisoned by the waste

June 2010 – Dutch prosecutors accuse Trafigura of illegally exporting hazardous waste to Ivory Coast

Trafigura denies responsibility for the dumping of the waste and any deaths or injuries caused !!

Birds or People: Environmental Hypocrisy and Double Standards

June 11, 2010

Bhopal vs. The Gulf of Mexico or Union Carbide vs. BP

The oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is creating hysterical headlines, slide show after slide show of birds in oily distress and diatribes against BP which can only be described as a witch-hunt. The hysteria is – quite naturally – mainly in the US and it seems to be compounded by the fact that BP is a non-US conglomerate.

I have no idea of how culpable or negligent BP employees were.

But I note the contrast with the apologist and protective attitudes taken in the US when Union Carbide – a US Corporation – outsourced its production of the highly toxic methyl isocyanate to Bhopal in India. The gas leak in 1985 has killed close to 25000 people.The U.S. Supreme Court on October 4th, 1993 declined to review a U.S. Appeals Court decision that reaffirmed that the victims of the Bhopal tragedy lacked  legal standing to seek damages in the United States court system.  In 2001, Dow Chemical acquired Union Carbide. This week, 25 years after the tragedy, the Indian courts sentenced eight Indian employees to 2 years imprisonment. None of the US executives of Union Carbide has been brought to trial let alone faced any sanctions.

But Bhopal is far away from the Gulf of Mexico and the beaches of Florida.

Government Doubles Earlier Gulf Flow Estimate, But Still Lowballing

The Bhopal tragedy

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