Wow. Hard to believe, isn't it? )See the EIA website for the original data.) Since 2008 U.S. petroleum production has increased 7 quadrillion BTU due to fracking in Texas and North Dakota. In addition, natural gas production in the eastern U.S. has produced and additional 3 quadrillion BTU.
Due to the new fracking technology - being able to drill vertically two miles and then horizontally for another couple of miles, the U.S. has leaped in hydrocarbon production. In contrast, Saudi Arabia and Russia have only increased output by 1 quadrillion BTU in the past 5 years.
Mmm. Can we drop ethanol now?
Mmm. A couple of data points - Soybean, Corn Futures Hit New Lows tells that corn slid to its lowest level in 3 years. The reason? The fall harvest is going to be the largest in U.S. history. Almost 12 percent had been harvested last Sunday with inventories of 824 million bushels. Corn futures for December delivery were selling for $4.39 a bushel.
Last year was a down year for corn production because of severe drought in the Midwest. (It is interesting to remember in 1960 total U.S. corn production was a little under 4 billion bushels. This year USDA is estimating 13.8 billion bushels.)
Monsanto's losses widen as seed sales decline tells that Monsanto sold fewer genetically modified seeds in the fourth quarter. The company lost 47 cents a share for the last quarter. This is traditionally Monsanto's weakest quarter since farmers will buy their spring supplies in the next quarter.
Unknown is whether the lower seed sales are because farmers are turning away from the genetically modified seeds, or whether they will actually be planting less corn in the near future.
As an engineer, I have always been an advocate of nuclear power. As a teenager, I was going to be a nuclear engineer until I built a geiger counter for a science fair project. That hooked me on electrical engineering. But I have always felt fondness for nuclear engineering.
The problem is the 100 percent safety required of nuclear power. If something goes wrong, it takes decades if not centuries for the earth to heal, as Chernobyl survivors will attest.
Fukushima survivors are unfortunately duplicating the experience of Chernobyl. The Tōhoku earthquake of March 11, 2011 created a tsunami generating a chain-reaction of events leading to core meltdowns. It still is not under control. What have we learned from Fukushima documents there was equipment within 25 miles of the facility that could have prevented the core from meltdown after the power grid failure. There are parallels to the Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Today in the New York Times, the paper described the pain of the Japan's Nuclear Refugees, Still Stuck in Limbo. The facility is still leaking radioactive water, so the environmental healing has not begun. Some of the nearby villagers will visit their decaying homes for a few hours each week and endure the equivalent of two chest x-rays for that duration. Some will weed the sidewalks while others attempt to simply remember a happier life. Because of unattended repair of roofs, the ancient beams of their houses are rotting. They like the miles of forest around them, are simply becoming a radioactive carbon sink.
There is another parallel to Fukushima - our modern world's inability to fix a massive disaster such as Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, or Chernobyl. It takes longer to rebuild than for the Americans to build the Panama Canal in 1904-1914. That puzzles me. Is it lack of will/compassion, or simply there is no margin left for today's world? In other words, nothing left in the tank for a disaster.
The first Monday of October is the traditional opening of the Supreme Court. The website teases, "In the event of a lapse of appropriations, the Court will continue to conduct its normal operations through October 4. Further notice will be provided in the event a lapse of appropriations continues beyond October 4."
I confess that I know about the First Monday in October because of the Walter Matthau film. The court calendar is divided into roughly two week intervals. One interval is for hearings and the other is for research and opinion writing.
During a court sitting, each side of the case is permitted a 30 minute argument. There are no witnesses or juries. The justices have before them the complete record of the previous case proceedings in court. Sessions begin promptly at 10 AM, an hour lunch break and then more hearings until 3 PM. Up to 24 cases may be heard during the two week sitting interval. There are no public sessions on Thursdays and Fridays.
The New Madrid seismic zone affects Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi. It is a 150-mile fault that stretches southward from Cairo, Illinois, through New Madrid, and down into Marked Tree, Arkansas. It also includes Reelfoot Lake in western Tennessee.
Through high-resolution imagery, geologists have determined the fault zone is mechanically weaker than the adjacent geologic structures. The weak rock extends down as much as 120 miles beneath the surface, actually reaching the mantle.
I spent the weekend
at a high school reunion. There are multiple psychological essays written on
why people attend reunions and also the people that attend them. For me,
it was not that complex. These were classmates. They were involved
in the shaping of my personality. (So I blame them)
There are some of my classmates that have done very well in careers and financial achievements. Others had their achievements in family, service, and other areas. But all were comfortable with their lives. There was no envy. (Well, I admit being envious of the red Corvette that was parked at our two events this weekend.)
It wasn't Pleasantville - several of our classmates are no longer with us. One dear friend is suffering from a brain tumor and it rends my heart to watch her. Out of high school none of us would have selected the path we eventually journeyed.
Many of us are not done or even complacent. Many talked of 2nd careers and goals. There wasn't angst.
Mmm. What did I learn from this weekend? That I somewhere became comfortable with myself and didn't realize it. That is a pretty good reason to attend a high school reunion.
I have always been a fan of Linda Ronstadt. She had a voice that was bigger than a house and has brightened the lives of many people. Her new book, Simple Dreams is not an autobiography, but as she subtitles it, a musical memoir.
Linda was born in Tucson Arizona, with a mixed Mexican-American family and traditions. Music was always part of the family life and was the foundation for her journey through music.
After finishing her first year of college, Linda decided to leave the music-limited Tucson for Los Angeles. A particularly touching moment was when she told her parents she was leaving - the night she left. Although they attempted to talk her out of it, they relented. Her father left the room and brought her the 1898 Martin guitar that had been given to him by his father. He said the same thing to her that is father had said, "Now that you own a guitar, you will never be hungry."
This was circa 1965 and the time of hippies, psychedlia, and national angst over the war in Vietnam. It was an amazing pack of people she lived, performed, and ran around with. These included the moody and angry Jim Morrison of the Doors (who she had a sixth sense to avoid), Jackson Browne, Neil Young, the Eagles, and others.
Linda has an amazing memory and although she doesn't preach on the dangers of alcohol and drugs, she made an early discovery they were not right for her, and eventually dangerous for anyone. She tells of an emergency room visit because of cocaine where the physician explained that cocaine atrophied the cilia of the ear, degrading hearing. That experience led her away from the drug scene that eventually claimed the lives of many of them.
Even after the hit, "A Different Drum", Linda still didn't have money for a washing machine, and would go out on tour simply for the money. Eventually though, her voice captivated audiences and she had a string of hits.
She tired of rock music only, and wanted to do something else with her talent. That led her to discover other artists such as Emmy Lou Harris, Dolly Parton, Nicolette Larson, the Neville Brothers, and Nelson Riddle. Turning away from rock and roll, she had success in New York musicals, first the summer in the park series and then later to Broadway.
She kept reaching, experimenting with blue grass with Ricky Skaggs, Creole with the Neville Brothers, and the Great American Songbook with Nelson Riddle.
Linda sang her last concert on November 7, 2009 in Tucson, the city where she began. She had begun to lose control of her voice, blaming it on different things such as a tick bite. Eventually it would be diagnosed as Parkinson's Disease as described in Linda Ronstadt on Her Memoir and Parkinsons' .
So why the journey when she was at one time the queen of rock and roll? It was because she discovered that the essence of rock was its passion, nominally centered on romance. As Linda grew older, learned and experienced more, she realized music was a medium for expressing all of human life, not just passion. An amazing journey.
EPA Proposes Carbon Pollution Standards for New Power Plants explains some new standards. New large natural-gas power plants must not release more than 1,000 pounds of CO2 per MWh. New coal-powered plants are limited to 1,100 pounds of CO2 per MHh.
That will challenge new coal powered plants because the average emission rate for a coal plant is 2,249 lbs MWh of CO2, 13 lbs of SO2 and 6 lbs of nitric oxides.
The IEEE Spectrum tells that even a modern coal powered plant produces 1800 lbs per MHh. The large gap between the new regulation and state-of-the-art implies there will be no new coal plants in the U.S. without carbon capture and storage. And good luck making that work.
EPA gives coal-state democrats a chance to sound republican tells the new regulations have political intrigue. Kentucky and West Virginia representatives of Congress are not happy their constituents are losing their livelihoods.
The Western Fisheries Research Center tells that the cutthroat trout virus (CTV) that was first recovered from fish in Heenan Lake California in 1988.
Not much is known about the virus, although it appears to be widespread. Fish Virus May Help Save Human Lives tells the genome closely resembles the virus that generates Hepatitis E, an emerging human disease.
Research on Hepatitis E has been difficult, partly because it it difficult to culture the virus in the laboratory. The liver cells which host Hepatitis E are difficult to sustain in the laboratory, but the fish cells which CTV attacks, are cultured much more readily. Aside from easier laboratory culturing, CTV does not represent a personal disease threat to the researchers.
Wikipedia explains Hepatitis E is one of five hepatitis viruses. Although generally not fatal to juveniles and young adults, it is does affect quality of life until it disappears. It is however, dangerous to pregnant women with a mortality rate of about 20 percent.