February 24, 2015

Food for thought on SEA LEVEL RISE

How much is one inch in sea level rise?

Two quadrillion gallons of water. If you can't wrap your brain around that figure . . . It's enough to fill 3 billion Olympic size swimming pools.

And yet some don't worry about the one foot of James River water rise that I have noted in the past twelve years.

CSX in the headlines again

I'd like to think that this could be my last blog posting about CSX Transportation, but alas, it will likely be simply my latest. This company name was not in most folks' vocabulary until recently, when another of its MANY train cars full of Bakken field crude oil derailed in West Virginia. 

But this time CSX is in the news for the paltry $361,000 fine imposed on it by the state of Virginia for the huge oil spill in Lynchburg, Virginia, last April. It seems that 390 gallons of the 29,000 gallon spill are still in the environment. Presumably at the bottom of the James River.

During the ensuing fire, 90 percent of that spill burned and 245 gallons of crude oil were recovered at the riverbank site.

As part of the CSX agreement with the state, the company has reseeded the spill area and planted 200 trees. And they will make monthly inspections for oil that appears at the site.

But $12 per gallon of crude oil spilled -- or $900 per gallon still unaccounted for -- seems like a small fine to me in corporate dollars.

And I haven't researched yet what fines, if any, oil pipeline companies receive for their frequent leaks. Posting this on the expected day of President Obama's veto of Congress plan for Keystone pipeline is simply a coincidence!

February 18, 2015

Train safety standards

The train manufacturing industry has responded to safety issues by now making CPC 1232 cars to replace the many DOT-111 cars that are still in use. But even this improvement was not sufficient in the derailment in West Virginia earlier this week with huge explosions, fire and leak. That particular train was hauling 107 tank cars of North Dakota Bakken Field crude oil in the newer 1232 cars, not the older type model.

The CPC 1232 with a thicker one inch hull is the newer, supposedly tougher version of the DOT-111 cars that were manufactured up until 2011 and are being phased out. 1232 cars have reinforced top fittings to help prevent spills and pressure relief valves to allow gas to escape when there are fires. Thicker steel plates that are less likely to be punctured by couplers are another improvement. But the thousands of gallons of crude bound for the Yorktown, Virginia depot were still vulnerable.

This is the same route used by the train that exploded in Lynchburg last April. And if the derailment had occurred 35 miles earlier, while the train passed through the city of Charleston, W.Va., it could have been catastrophic. Less risk is not the same as risk-free.

The rail industry rightly claims that in lieu of the Keystone pipeline, this will be the travel path of countless more train cars of crude oil. And more spills. Pipelines are merely marginally safer than rail cars.

February 15, 2015

Hockey stick graph on climate change

Michael Mann, Raymond S. Bradley and Malcolm K Hughes created the famous "hockey stick graph" in 1999 for a paper, "Northern hemisphere temperatures during the past millennium: Inferences, uncertainties, and limitations." In 2001, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a version of the graph in its report, pushing the hockey stick depiction of temperature trends to the forefront of the climate change discussion.

So I present it again for your consideration. It says it all.