Our Blog

Guest Post - Dmitry Orlov - An American Chernobyl

by: EJ on 05/26/2010
Posted in: Peak Oil

More perspectives on the Gulf oil spill from Dmitry Orlov, author of Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects. In this post from his blog, Club Orlov, Dmitry Orlov compares the Gulf oil disaster to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion in 1986. "Translate "industrial accident" into Russian and back into English, and what you get is "technogenic catastrophe". An apt term indeed!

The drawing of parallels between industrial accidents is a dubious armchair sport, but here the parallels are just piling up and are becoming too hard to ignore:

* An explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986 spewed radioactive waste across Europe

* A recent explosion and sinking of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform is spewing heavy oil into the Gulf of Mexico

These accidents were both quite spectacular. At Chernobyl, the force of the explosion, caused by superheated steam inside the reactor, tossed the 2500-tonne reactor lid 10-14 meters into the air where it twirled like a tossed penny and came to rest back on the wrecked reactor. The cloud of superheated vapor then separated into a large volume of hydrogen gas, which detonated, demolishing the reactor building and adjoining structures. At Deepwater Horizon, a blowout of a recently completed oil well sent an uncontrolled burst of oil and gas, pressurized to over 10,000 psi by the 25000-foot depth of the well, up to the drilling platform, where it detonated, causing a fire. The rig then sank, and came to rest in a heap of wreckage on top of the oil well, which continues to spew at least 200,000 gallons of oil a day. Left unchecked, this would amount to 1.7 million barrels of oil per year, for an indefinite duration. This amount of oil may be enough to kill off or contaminate all marine life within the Gulf of Mexico, to foul the coastline throughout the Gulf and, thanks to the Gulf Stream, through much of the Eastern Seaboard, at least to Cape Hatteras in North Carolina and possibly beyond. A few tarballs will probably wash up as far north as Greenland.

The Chernobyl disaster was caused more or less directly by political appointeesm: the people in charge of the reactor control room had no background in nuclear reactor operations or nuclear chemistry, having got their jobs through the Communist Party. They attempted a dangerous experiment, executed it incompetently, and the result was an explosion and a meltdown. The Deepwater Horizon disaster will perhaps be found to have similar causes. BP, which leased and operated Deepwater Horizon, is chaired by one Carl-Henric Svanberg--a man with no experience in the oil industry. The people who serve on the boards of directors of large companies tend to see management as a sort of free-floating skill, unrelated to any specific field or industry, rather similarly to how the Soviet Communist party thought of and tried to use the talents of its cadres. Allegations are already circulating that BP drilled to a depth of 25000 feet while being licensed to drill up to 18000 feet, that safety reviews of technical documents had been bypassed, and that key pieces of safety equipment were not installed in order to contain costs. It will be interesting to see whether the Deepwater Horizon disaster, like the Chernobyl disaster before it, turns out to be the direct result of management decisions made by technical incompetents.

read full article

Guest Post - Richard Heinberg - This Is What the End of the Oil Age Looks Like

by: Heather on 05/25/2010
Posted in: Peak Oil

This just in from Richard Heinberg, author of Blackout, Peak Everything, The Oil Depletion Protocol, The Party's Over and Powerdown. Richard shares his invaluable Peak Oil perspective on the situation in the Gulf. Thanks Richard!

Deepwater Horizon: This Is What the End of the Oil Age Looks Like

Lately I've been reading the excellent coverage of the …

read full article

Guest Post - Melissa Everett- Letter to the Class of 2010

by: EJ on 05/21/2010
Posted in: Guest Posts

With the end of the educational year fast approaching, many students are already having their graduation ceremonies and thinking about their next steps. Melissa Everett, author of Making a Living While Making a Difference: Conscious Careers in an Era of Interdependence sent us this post for the graduates of the class of 2010.

A radio interviewer recently shocked me with a question about an energy challenge campaign I was promoting - which was really a question about human nature. On the subject of cutting our carbon footprint a mere ten percent, he asked, "Frankly, don't you think our generation is too selfish and set in its ways? It's going to have to fall on the young people to make real change."

That's too easy. My generation, the Boomers, and those before ours, helped to build a world of fossil fuel use and industrial agriculture and financial institutions that have gambled with the futures of the generations to come. You do not want to hear the state of the world; you probably don't want to hear us apologizing for our short-sightedness - or, from those of us who have devoted our lives to creating more sustainable approaches, apologies for not being more successful.

You are entering the labor market before much of the Class of 2009 has been fully absorbed into meaningful employment. You are hearing a buzz about green jobs - renewable energy installation, smart grid engineering, transportation modeling, and materials research to produce better stuff with fewer toxics, to name some key opportunities . However, for the most part, the overall economic situation, and the slow movement of environmental policy, have kept the performance of the green economy far below its promise. As graduates, you are bringing your calm and accepting sensibilities out into a very competitive environment.

This predicament has already taking a toll with the class of 2009 and probably with you. According to a recent Business Week article, young people are less and less likely to vote, and are paying less attention to the big picture, than they were even a year or two ago. You're saving your strength for finding work.

It is not the business of the older generation to ask you to change that.

But there is one question that's in your best interest to consider, if you want to see a stronger economy, and especially a stronger innovation sector. Where will all the green jobs come from?

read full article

Guest Post - David Spero - For the Veterans

by: Heather on 05/20/2010
Posted in: Guest Posts

This just in from David Spero, author of Diabetes: Sugar-Coated Crisis on the negative health impacts of military service. The original post appeared on David's Diabetes Self-Management blog - this updated version in posted by permission. Thanks David!

For the Veterans

What's the worst thing you can do for your long-term health? Well, heroin is bad, …

read full article

Declare Beer Independence!

by: Heather on 05/19/2010
Posted in: Events

Cinco de Mayo, Mother's Day, Memorial Day - there is no shortage of American holidays in May. But there's one you may not know about, and you'll definitely want to mark it on your calendar!

The annual American Craft Beer Week is taking place across the US this week, from May 17-23. The "Mother of All Beer Weeks" celebrates small and independent …

read full article