Al Jazeera: BP dispersants ‘causing sickness’

This article from Al Jazeera contradicts the ‘everything is contained and well’ official US government version of the state of the Gulf of Mexico. Not that Al Jazeera would be the only news source that points out that which shouldn’t have to be pointed out: Corexit is highly toxic!

Here’s an excerpt of the Al Jazeera piece, which is highly recommended reading:

Two-year-old Gavin Tillman of Pass Christian, Mississippi, has been diagnosed with severe upper respiratory, sinus, and viral infections. His temperature has reached more than 39 degrees since September 15, yet his sicknesses continue to worsen.

His parents, some doctors, and environmental consultants believe the child’s ailments are linked to exposure to chemicals spilt by BP during its Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.

Gavin’s father, mother, and cousin, Shayleigh, are also facing serious health problems. Their symptoms are being experienced by many others living along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

Widely banned toxic dispersants

Injected with at least 4.9 million barrels of oil during the BP oil disaster of last summer, the Gulf has suffered the largest accidental marine oil spill in history. Compounding the problem, BP has admitted to using at least 1.9 million gallons of widely banned toxic dispersants (one that has been banned in the UK), which according to chemist Bob Naman, create an even more toxic substance when mixed with crude oil. And dispersed, weathered oil continues to flow ashore daily. Continue reading

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WWF: Hungary Toxic Sludge Disaster Avoidable

Toxic Sludge Disaster Hungary 2010

Toxic Sludge Disaster Hungary 2010

A few days ago, a toxic sludge reservoir maintained by the Hungarian aluminium producer MAL inundation whole villages, killing seven and injuring over 100 people. It turns out that this reservoir has been unstable for some time. It has been leaking at least since June, as evidence posted by the WWF International proves. According to their website:
An aerial photograph taken in June showing a damaged and clearly leaking sludge pond wall shows that the toxic mud disaster in Hungary and subsequent pollution of rivers including the Danube could have been avoided, WWF-Hungary said today.
The sludge pond dam wall burst Monday flooding six villages with toxic red mud. Another victim succumbed to injuries in hospital yesterday and two bodies were found during clean up operations today, taking the death toll to seven with one person still missing.
“This new evidence of the degraded state of the walls and significant leakage more than three months before the incident should be cause for an urgent investigation, not just of this disaster but of the state of Hungary’s other toxic sludge ponds,” said Gábor Figeczky, the Acting Director of WWF-Hungary.
Today, Hungarian authorities have evacuated Kolontár as they fear another inundation with toxic sludge the reservoir might break completely. Writes Le Monde:
The nightmare continues in Hungary. The village of Kolontár was completely evacuated on Saturday October 9 as authorities feared a second inundation of the red toxic sludge.
While the ecologic catastrophe that happened on Monday already has cost the lives of seven and injured close to 150, the reservoir of the bauxite-aluminium factory near Ajke that caused the deadly spill which threatens the ecosystem of the Danube river is at the risk of collapsing completely from new fissures discovered in the dam.
It’s worth remembering, that the population – mostly farmers – have no lost their entire livelihood, as the land they were cultivating is now toxic. It is also worth noting that the proprietor, the Bakonyi family, of MAL, the company which is responsible for the spill, is among the richest 100 families in Hungary (28 to be precise), writes the Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger.
This is, of course, another example of the Capitalist paradigm in which the profits are for a few, while the costs are to be shared amongst everyone else.

GM maize pollutes rivers across the United States

From The Independent via GMWatch:

An insecticide used in genetically modified (GM) crops grown extensively in the United States and other parts of the world has leached into the water of the surrounding environment.

The insecticide is the product of a bacterial gene inserted into GM maize and other cereal crops to protect them against insects such as the European corn borer beetle. Scientists have detected the insecticide in a significant number of streams draining the great corn belt of the American mid-West.

It seems they have built-in the insecticide into the crop itself and somehow it has been washed out and ended up in the environment now polluting streams.
That makes me wonder: Aren’t we eating this built-in insecticide when we eat this stuff in any form whatsoever? I guess so, but I am sure it is completely safe and without any health hazard. Ha, ha.

Spanish Judge Opens Criminal Investigation against Repsol

Oil Platform at Tarragona

Image Source: El Pais

Do you remember  hearing about oil spills in the Mediterranean off the coast of Spain in 2009? I don’t. If it was in the news, I must have missed it. El Pais writes today:

A court in Tarragona has opened the door for criminal prosecution against Repsol for at least two oil spills off-shore opposite the Ebro delta (Tarragona), about 40 kilometers off the Catalonian coast. The spills, that the oil company didn’t indicate to the authorities, happened in May and June 2009 during performing prospection task intended to determine the viability of two patches of submarine oil difficult to access.

The Ministry of Developement detected the spills in July of last year and the prosecutors opened an official investigation the following month, which completed appreciating evidence of a felony against the environment, according to the complaint that the judge received last week.

Read full story at El Pais (Spanish)

There was indeed something about the accident in the (Spanish) press in 2009. Also from El Pais:

After three days of willful silence, Repsol admitted yesterday its responsibility for the oil spills that its North-American subcontractor Pride kept secret from the Ministry of Developement at least two occasions in May and June. The oil company notified the Merchant Marine in a brief letter delivered 13:54 yesterday, according to the archives of that body. In the message, Repsol is asking to be included in the disciplinary proceedings because of “contractual obligations” towards Pride, which it hired to perform tasks of exploring the coast of Tarragona.

Read the full story at El Pais (Spanish)

Note: Pride is probably referring to Pride International, Inc., which is headquartered in Houston, Texas. Repsol is a Spanish oil company, the 15th largest petroleum refiner worldwide.

The oil patch data is also interesting, especially the depth:

– Name: Montanazo D-5 y Lubina-1.

– Distance from coast: 40 kilometres.

– Estimated lifetime: From 5 to 7 years.

– Expected to be operational: 2014

– Depth: 2.354 and 2.439 meters (update: this is the total depth, of which 736 m are water).

– Estimated production: Between 3,800 and 3,700 barrels of crude daily.

– Operator: Repsol (75%), Cepsa (7,3%) and others.

– Investment: 135 million euros.

2,400 meters? That’s even deeper than the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico – the one that is still gushing after 70 something days. Looks like the countries bordering the Mediterranean have been lucky (this time).

Update: The 2,400m is the total depth, with 736m of water, according to Repsol.

Dead Zones Found Around BP Gusher Site

From the Guardian:

Scientists are confronting growing evidence that BP’s ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico is creating oxygen-depleted “dead zones” where fish and other marine life cannot survive.

In two separate research voyages, independent scientists have detected what were described as “astonishingly high” levels of methane, or natural gas, bubbling from the well site, setting off a chain of reactions that suck the oxygen out of the water. In some cases, methane concentrations are 100,000 times normal levels.

Other scientists as well as sport fishermen are reporting unusual movements of fish, shrimp, crab and other marine life, including increased shark sightings closer to the Alabama coast.

Larry Crowder, a marine biologist at Duke University, said there were already signs that fish were being driven from their habitat.

Dead zones and it’s causes are a phenomenon already quite well-known in the Gulf of Mexico. From a Carlton College site:

The Gulf of Mexico dead zone is an area of hypoxic (link to USGS definition) (less than 2 ppm dissolved oxygen) waters at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Its area varies in size, but can cover up to 6,000-7,000 square miles. The zone occurs between the inner and mid-continental shelf in the northern Gulf of Mexico, beginning at the Mississippi River delta and extending westward to the upper Texas coast.

[…]

The dead zone is caused by nutrient enrichment from the Mississippi River, particularly nitrogen and phosphorous. Watersheds within the Mississippi River Basin drain much of the United States, from Montana to Pennsylvania and extending southward along the Mississippi River. Most of the nitrogen input comes from major farming states in the Mississippi River Valley, including Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Nitrogen and phosphorous enter the river through upstream runoff of fertilizers, soil erosion, animal wastes, and sewage. In a natural system, these nutrients aren’t significant factors in algae growth because they are depleted in the soil by plants. However, with anthropogenically increased nitrogen and phosphorus input, algae growth is no longer limited. Consequently, algal blooms develop, the food chain is altered, and dissolved oxygen in the area is depleted. The size of the dead zone fluctuates seasonally, as it is exacerbated by farming practices. It is also affected by weather events such as flooding (more info) and hurricanes.

Hypoxia, by the way is defined as ‘ the condition in which dissolved oxygen is below the level necessary to sustain most animal life – generally defined by dissolved oxygen levels below 2mg/l [miligrams/liter] (or ppm [parts per million])’. The following map shows the extent of the Gulf of Mexico dead zone.

Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone

Size of dead zone in Gulf of Mexico

In 2010 researchers predicted one of the largest dead zones ever, covering an area of around 6,500 and 7,800 square miles, an area roughly the size of Lake Ontario, this without factoring in the effect of the Gulf oil gusher.
Note that in 2009 the same researchers predicted a dead zone covering the area of 7,450 and 8,456 square miles, which is about the size of New Jersey. It turned out to be much smaller than forecasted, covering roughly around 3,000 square miles. However, the researchers think that this is attribuable to short-term effects and not a sign of improvements in conditions.

BP seems to be aware of that the oil gusher could create such dead zones, in fact, the whole Gulf of Mexico and the East Coast of Florida could become dead zones. According to OpEdNews:

A BP insider, providing information to OpEdNEws.com, reports that scientists and engineers, fearing the worst, have envisioned a worst case scenario, “It could very well be that the entire Gulf and the East coast of Florida could become dead zones, with no aquatic life at all.”
The Gulf of Mexico is not the only dead zone on Earth. There are about 150 of them, says NASA. As NASA points out, not all areas of ‘anoxia’, which is an extreme form of ‘hypoxia’ are caused by pollution. The largest such area is the Black Sea, which is entirely anoxic below a depth of 150m. This is due to the fact that lower waters do not mix with upper waters which leads to a stratification of the Black Sea, i.e. a layering, that normally remains in place if not disturbed by external events.
It would be interesting to learn – and I haven’t found that information yet – what the chemical environment and reactions in such dead zones are and if there could be any additional health risk in that – as if one would need any additional, it’s already bad enough as it is.

Toyota Aiming for $ 50,000 Fuel-Cell Car by 2015

It looks like fuel cell cars will be available at acceptable – well, relatively speaking to what they cost now – prices soon.

From Wired.com:

Toyota says it has cut the cost of building fuel-cell vehicles by 90 percent and could sell its first hydrogen vehicle for $50,000 by 2015.

That’s still a big chunk of change, but a bargain compared to the six- or seven-figure price tags the cars are generally thought to cost now. The exorbitant cost has been among the technology’s greatest hurdles and one reason Honda, General Motors and others lease or loan — rather than sell — the few hydrogen-fuel-cell cars they have on the road.

But Toyota says it has cut the cost of building such cars by 90 percent in recent years. It hopes to cut that by another 50 percent in coming years, so it can can sell an “affordable” mid-sized hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicle. Such a car would offer the same range as a conventional auto “with some extra cost,” says Yoshihiko Masuda, Toyota’s managing director of advanced vehicles.

“Our target is, we don’t lose money with introduction of the vehicle,” Masuda told Bloomberg. “Production cost should be covered within the price of the vehicle.”

Toyota has slashed costs by using one-third the amount of platinum typically found in a fuel cell, Masuda said at a conference in Long Beach, California. It also has reduced the cost of the polymer-electrolyte membrane used in the cell. Both Toyota and GM use about 30 grams of platinum and are cutting that to 10. They also say scaling up to large-scale production would cut costs further.

Toyota, Honda, General Motors, Daimler and Hyundai are among the automakers who hope to have hydrogen fuel cell vehicles on the road by 2015.

Toyota may team up with Daimler to achieve that goal writes automobilemag.com:

Toyota’s plan to push a $50,000 hydrogen fuel cell vehicle into mass production by 2015 is ambitious, but the automaker may have some assistance from Daimler. New reports suggest the two companies are looking to team up to help expedite and amortize fuel cell development.

Both firms already have significant experience in fuel cell vehicles. Daimler has been playing with the technology since 1994, but Toyota first started experimenting with FCVs back in 1992. Both companies have a number of fuel cell test vehicles on the road, but the cost to build them is nothing short of astronomical. Most estimates suggest each vehicle costs roughly $1 million to manufacture, although Toyota says it has already cut that cost by 90 percent. Still, the company wants to halve that cost before pushing such a vehicle into series production.

One of the reasons for the significant cost is the hundreds of cells used in each fuel cell stack, which produces the power. The cells use a carbon matrix with platinum as a catalyst and each is hand assembled. Hydrogen storage is also a big research topic. Current storage systems that give vehicles a good range eat into cargo space and are extremely heavy.

Well, that’s good news. The main reason why fuel-cell cars are still so expensive is that they are not yet produced in sufficient numbers to bring costs down, but costs will only come down, if there are enough buyers for the cars and their simply are not at current prices. That’s kind of an awkward situation – unless you would kind of make a government stimulus program out of it – you know they did just that for conventional gas and diesel cars in Europe (cash for clunkers) to help out the car makers. Why not do it for fuel cell cars?
At the same time, governments could subsidise the deployment of refueling stations to expand the network where people can fill up their zero-emissions cars.

BP’s Oil Deals in Libya

BP Parody

Image Source: Huffington Post

Recent events around the Macondo well blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico, Libya seems to have some concerns about deepwater drilling, at least when done by BP. From IREN:

TEHRAN (IREN) – Libya wants assurances from BP after its handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill but will allow it to start deep-water drilling in the Mediterranean, the country’s top oil official said Monday. “At this point we’re not suspending anything and we’re going to drill pretty soon and some of the work will be in deep water,” Shokri Ghanem, the head of Libya’s National Oil, or NOC, told Zawya Dow Jones in a phone interview. “But they are taking precautions and what happened in the Gulf of Mexico will be a learning process.” BP and its Libyan partner, the Libya Investment, or LIC, in May 2007 signed an exploration and production deal with NOC worth at least $900 million for the onshore Ghadames and offshore Sirt areas.

That deal was hailed by BP in 2007 as “BP’s single biggest exploration commitment” by none other than Tony Hayward:

BP and its Libyan partner, the Libya Investment Corporation (LIC), today signed a major exploration and production agreement with Libya’s National Oil Company (NOC). The initial exploration commitment is set at a minimum of $900million, with significant additional appraisal and development expenditures upon exploration success.

The agreement was signed today in Sirt, Libya, by BP’s group chief executive Tony Hayward and NOC chairman, Shokri Ghanem.

During this exploration and appraisal phase, BP will acquire 5,500km of 2D seismic and 30,000 km2 of 3D seismic and will drill 17 exploration wells.

“We are delighted to be working with the National Oil Company of Libya to develop their natural resources for domestic and international markets. Our agreement is the start of an enduring, long-term and mutually beneficial partnership with Libya,” said Tony Hayward, BP group chief executive.

“With its potentially large resources of gas, favourable geographic location and improving investment climate, Libya has an enormous opportunity to be a source of cleaner energy for the world,” said Hayward.

Obviously, there were certain not so obvious deals going on – or may have been going on – that the public was and is not aware of. The WSJ wrote in September 2009:

LONDON — British oil giant BP PLC lobbied the U.K. in late 2007 over a controversial prisoner transfer agreement with Libya, and oil-rich Qatar lobbied Scotland on the case in June. Revelations of the efforts Friday fed speculation by opposition politicians and victims’ families that the recent release of the convicted Lockerbie bomber is entangled with oil interests.

U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said the U.K. didn’t pressure Scotland to free Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the Libyan convicted of the 1988 bombing of a Pan-Am flight that killed 270 people. He has strenuously denied accusations by political opponents that a deal to release Mr. al-Megrahi was made to facilitate the U.K.’s oil interests in Libya.

The Times noted on August 15, 2009:

The release of the Lockerbie bomber from prison would liberate Britain’s largest industrial company from a string of problems hampering its $900 million (£546 million) Libyan gas projects, industry sources claimed last night.

BP, the oil giant, signed a deal with Libya in 2007 to explore for gas in the west of the country and offshore. But since then it has faced a string of bureaucratic obstacles, including delays securing official permits and approvals to import equipment through Libyan customs, the sources said.

They added that BP’s work programme, conducting geological studies on the Sitre basin, an offshore block the size of Belgium, had been hit by delays securing official paperwork for the next scheduled phase of work. “Now that al-Megrahi is released, BP expects to get the go-ahead,” said one source in Libya.

Al Megrahi was released on August 19, 2009. Of course, since nothing in life and in business is connected to each other, this is a complete coincidence. If it were not, it would mean that BP has a hell of a lot of influence on governments. You would need to assume that it can even sway the opinion of courts, that would then be fascism, wouldn’t it.