I am suspending my blog until the beginning of CY'14. I am writing a new novel, and at the end of the day, I don't have anything left in the tank. Hopefully suspending the blog for a few months will help me complete the novel. I look forward to sharing it with everyone!
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. 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.
Image of Japan by SeaWiFS in 1999 Image Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, SeaWiFS Project and ORBIMAGE
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.
House damage in central Oklahoma from the magnitude 5.6 earthquake on Nov. 6, 2011. Image Credit: Brian Sherrod, USGS
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.