Keystone Pipeline: Sound off Sunday

Your chance to sound off about a hot button issue.

What do you think about the Keystone Pipeline? Why has it become such a lightning rod?

Do these facts change your opinion?

Keystone XL:

Keystone is a multi-phased project. Several sections have already been built and are in use. The Keystone XL pipeline that is under consideration and the subject of controversy is the last of four phases.

Oil extracted from the tar sands/oil sands in Alberta, Canada is called bitumen. At 57 degrees fahrenheit it is as hard as a hockey puck. It must be warmed or diluted before it can be piped. Extraction is energy intensive.

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline crosses an international border. Approval depends on a finding by President Obama’s administration that construction will be in the national interest. Proponents say it will help the economy and lessen dependence on oil from hostile suppliers. Opponents say it will worsen global warming, and that spills will cause environmental damage.

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Image Source: Wikipedia

Existing pipelines: Three segments of the pipeline are already in use: (1) Hardisty, Alberta to Steel City, Nebraska and Pakota, Illinois. (2) Steele City to Cushing, Oklahoma, and (3) Cushing to Port Arthur, Texas. The controversial route more or less duplicates the Hardisty to Steele City route, but is shorter (see green line on map, runs through Baker, Montana).

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Image Source: Wikipedia

Several additional pipeline routes to carry oil across Canada are being planned; and, a pipe parallel to an existing line from Hardisty to Wisconsin, has been proposed.

Spills: Over the last ten years, 4.1 million gallons of petroleum and hazardous liquids have been spilled each year in pipeline accidents, causing an average of two deaths per year. Property damage: $263 million annually. The Keystone Phase 1 pipeline, which opened in 2009, has had 12 reported leaks. In 2010, over a million gallons of Canadian diluted bitumen spilled from a pipeline into the Kalamazoo River. As of Aug. 2013, Enbridge Corporation, the company that built and maintains the pipeline, had spent more than $1 billion to repair and mitigate the damage. Cleanup is still underway.

Train transport: The number of train shipments of bitumen-derived oil has increased exponentially in recent years. Transporting by train is more dangerous than by pipeline.

Train accidents involving oil transport in 2013:

  • July, Lac Megantic, Quebec: Oil train derailed and seventy two tanker cars exploded and burned. Forty seven people died. Forty downtown buildings were destroyed. Cleanup estimate: at least $200 million.

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    Lac Megantic, Quebec Image source: CTV

  • Oct., Gainford, Alberta: Four rail cars carrying crude oil and nine carrying liquified petroleum gas derailed in Alberta. The fire burned for days.
  • Nov., Aliceville, Alabama: Crude-oil tanker train derailed and burned. Released up to 750,000 gallons of oil.
  • Dec., Casselton, North Dakota: 20 cars in a train carrying crude oil ignited after colliding with a derailed grain train near Casselton, N.D., sending up a fireball and spilling an estimated to 476,000 gallons of oil.

Environmental impact of bitumen vs. ordinary oil: From shale to tail pipe, bitumen releases 17 to 20 % more carbon into the atmosphere than regular gasoline.

Jobs: temporary jobs (one year or less, full and part time) 42,000. Permanent jobs: 30 to 50.

Scribbler’s view: It was a surprise to learn how much of the Keystone Pipeline is already finished, how common pipeline spills are and how much oil is transported by rail. Tar sands oil extraction is more dangerous and dirtier than I thought, and more of a done deal.  

The last phase of the XL project will probably be approved. Even if it isn’t, stopping the construction of the pipeline will not end the extraction, shipment and burning of bitumen-derived oil from Canada. At most it would increase costs. This is a symbolic fight, a line in the ‘sand,’ and rallying point to organize fights against practices which worsen climate change.The legacy and value of the controversy will be new political alliances, and that the fight has brought the issue to the headlines. 

How do you think Congress and the President should/will resolve the Keystone controversy? 

Resources

http://archive.onearth.org/blog/dont-believe-the-fantasy-job-claims-keystone-xl-is-not-in-our-best-interest

http://www.nprberlin.de/post/what-you-need-know-about-keystone-xl-oil-pipeline

http://keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov/documents/organization/221135.pdf

http://www.factcheck.org/2014/03/pipeline-primer/

Attention all eaters: Five things to know about new food safety rules

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Have you ever written to a government agency on an issue you care about?

If you’re interested in local farming, and minimal use of pesticides, insecticides and herbicides, now is a good time to write to the The Food and Drug Administration.

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In 2011, the FDA updated its food safety regulations with the most comprehensive overhaul in seventy years, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). They are still working out the kinks. Anyone with an opinion is invited to comment before December 15, 2014.

Here are the new rules in their entirety. If you don’t have time to wade through all of that, Scribbler is here to help.

About fifty years ago, we made a U-turn in how we grow food. We introduced nitrogen fertilizers and new practices that allowed us to exponentially increase the amount of food we produce.

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We are a long way, however, from understanding how best to grow food for billions of people. Scientists are discovering practices that encourage microbial activity in the soil, and are healthier and safer than some of the chemical-based practices most farmers use.  Until we know more, farmers who work and experiment with soil, water conservation, composting and organic methods need to be allowed — encouraged — to continue.  The new FDA rules will make that difficult. Some farms could inadvertently be put out of business.

Here’s what’s important for organic and small farms:

1. Farms vs. Facilities 

When food producers get big enough, the FDA stops defining them as “farms” and starts calling them “facilities.” The new rules update standards that facilities, i.e., large institutions, must comply with. Farms have separate requirements, designed for smaller operations.

The new definitions of what qualifies as a facility and what is a farm are fuzzy. For instance, small farmers who work jointly to store and package what they produce, or who have plots of land that are not contiguous, might be inappropriately classified as facilities.

According to laws passed by Congress, farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture farms (CSA’s) are farms, not facilities, but the FDA rules don’t make that clear. Small farmers who decide to, say, add a U-pick strawberry business that brings in $5000, might find themselves subject to rules requiring putting together and maintaining an expensive Food Safety Plan. To understand what that means, have a look here.  The plan could cost more than the income from the strawberries.

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2. Due Process

Legal remedies and processes need to be clarified. If a grower’s status is changed, say a “farm” gets classified as a “facility,” there is no requirement for prior notice, leaving farmers no opportunity to correct the problem. The agency also  doesn’t have to list reasons for a change in status, and there is no clear path to appeal the FDA’s decisions. All these issues need to be addressed.

3. Soil Amendments 

The words “compost” and “manure” don’t appear in the new food safety rules, but they are in the subtext. Here’s a good breakdown of new rules governing soil amendments. Basically, the FDA is trying to prevent crops from being contaminated with bacteria like Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli. The trouble is, the new FDA rules conflict with those of the Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program. There is disagreement about how long compost tea and manure fertilizers must be cured before they can be applied. The science is not clear. The National Organic Program, which was adopted after many months of research and public comment, in cooperation with the National Organics Standards Board (part of the USDA), should be the standard.

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4. Water

Water is different everywhere, and the quality needed for safe drinking and swimming, is not the same as what’s needed to safely grow food. The FDA is proposing narrow rules that set one standard for all water use, both recreational and farming. This will lead to over-use of chemical water treatments. The rules need to be flexible to accommodate water in different geographical areas, and for different kinds of water use.

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5. Sound off

It’s not just mega businesses that control what happens in Washington. When enough people speak up, policy makers respond. Witness the influence of the Tea Party, and the delay of Keystone Pipeline. The FMSA itself is being revised because of a huge response from the public. If you want to send a comment or statement to the FDA, here are instructions. Several sites also have templates and more information. See The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, and the Friends of Family Farmers.

 Do you follow the ins and outs of rule-making about how we grow food? Have anything to add about the FDA’s new proposals?

Additional Resources: 

http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/sites/default/files/small-farms-tech-report/centersfcfs_comments_fsmareproposal_11.19.14.pdf

http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/node/175900

http://www.carolinafarmstewards.org/fda-publishes-new-food-safety-rules/

http://www.friendsoffamilyfarmers.org/?p=3736

http://sustainableagriculture.net/fsma/speak-out-today/

http://www.youngfarmers.org/a-re-focus-on-food-safety/

http://sustainableagriculture.net/fsma/learn-about-the-issues/manure-and-compost/

Meal Worms, Anyone?

Of all our food sources, what is the most efficient at converting carbohydrates to protein?

Not cattle, certainly. Ten pounds of feed generates one pound of beef. Plus each cow raised in the industrial system needs about 2000 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat, and a single cow can produce up to 132 gallons of methane a day. Methane is twenty times more heat-trapping than carbon dioxide.

Chicken? It takes ten pounds of feed to generate five pounds of chicken meat, and 468 gallons of water to produce one pound of chicken.

The most efficient protein source? And the most environmentally friendly?

Insects.

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I don’t actually know if ladybugs are edible

Ten pounds of feed produces nine pounds of cricket meat. Insects barely need water, and generate almost zero greenhouse gases. Insect meat is high in fat, which, contrary to the diet soda hype in the U.S., is critical for health. Insects reproduce rapidly, in small spaces. They can be used as food for livestock.

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Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, and the US Dairy Export Council, Finke 2012

Two billion people already rely on about 2000 edible insects as a source of food. We’re not just talking exotic chefs in Asia. Here in the U.S.A., the FDA allows up to:

— 30 insect parts in 100 grams of peanut butter
— 30 fruit fly eggs in 100 grams of tomato sauce
— 10 insects in 8 ounces of golden raisins
— 10 maggots in 100 grams of drained mushrooms

Bottom line: Americans eat about 500 grams of insects and insect parts every year. That’s the equivalent of a little over a pound of chicken.

Fans of the film “Snow Piercer” will appreciate the potential for insects as a food source. Or maybe not.

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Image source: StackExchange

 

Feeling brave and looking for your own arthropod recipe? If you’re in New Orleans, drop by the Insectatorium where the Executive Bug Chef is whipping up holiday treats.

How about this as a gift to yourself or a loved one?

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Image source: David George Gordon

David George Gordon’s Eat-a-Bug cookbook was listed as one of the New York Times best cookbooks of 2013. If you’re in Seattle, Mr. Gordon’s home town, you can join one of his cooking demonstrations.

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Image source: David George Gordon

Moi? Truth be told, the only insects to pass my lips (except the FDA-allowable ten bugs per eight ounces in my raisins), were chocolate covered ants a so-called friend fed me for a joke, many, many years ago. She watched me chew with bright-eyed glee that would have tipped off anyone but the most ardent chocolate lover. They tasted, incidentally, the way ants smell.

Still — Scribbler is willing to bet there will be more insects on plates in the not to distant future. Maybe even on mine.

Have you tried eating or cooking with insects? How did they go down? Or up?

Voter Turnout

How was voter turnout in your state for mid term elections?

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Feeling patriotic. Just returned from a visit to Gettysburg and Washington, D.C.

Oregon’s was darn good.  69.5 per cent. Not everything went the way Scribbler deigned it should, locally or nationally, but I’m a patient woman.

In most states, turnout was low.

What’s Oregon’s secret?

Exciting ballot measures. $8 million was spent to support a measure requiring that GMO foods be labeled, much of it from out of state. $20 million was spent in opposition to the measure, most of it from out of state.  Yay Citizens’ United. We were buried in hyperbolic ads and flyers.

Also on the ballot: a top two (as opposed to party system) voting initiative.

And, a measure to legalize marijuana …

Voting in Oregon, which is by mail, is easy and encouraged. Does it help? Maybe some. Washington, however, also votes by mail and turnout there was down.

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Voters who don’t mail in time, drop ballots off at special boxes. Photo source: Lincoln County Voter Info.

How do we compare to other countries?

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Image source: NPR, Diane Rehm Show

In national elections we flounder somewhere around 60th.

How do other countries do it? Some hold all elections, national and local on one day. Some impose a fine on people who don’t vote (Uruguay and Singapore), or automatically register everyone to vote (France and Sweden). None of those happening here anytime soon.

What do you think about voting by mail? Is there controversy about voting and voting rights in your state? Should we do more to encourage voting? If so, what?

Tinker Crate

My father advised us to watch the things our children naturally are drawn to, over and over. “That’s what they’ll do in life. Encourage them,” he said.

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Andy (right) and his buddy Marc, circa 1992. Photo credit: Jim Whitmore

We took that advice to heart. For years we endured encouraged surgical tubing catapults, PVC pipe swords, bannister puppet shows, legos between the sofa cushions, potato/ping pong ball/rubber band guns, magic tricks, chain maille, funny smells.  My husband, bless the man, was a gleeful participant in anything that involved shooting things and running around. One spring our children decided to dig a fort in the woods behind the house. The kitchen floor was muddy for days. A decade later a utility inspector knocked on the door and solemnly opined that there was evidence of a geological event back there.

Who would believe all that feverish activity would lead to a paying job?  Here’s Andy, 2014.

The job title, for you parents of young inventors? Product Designer.

Know any 8-to-13 year old artist/explorers? Who need time away from a screen? Yeah, this is a screen, but stay with me. Check out Tinker Crate. For younger kids, see the hands-on kits at Kiwi Crate. You too can have experiments going on nonstop at your house.

Hug and a kiss to my dad, Andy Sr., for his sage advice. He turns 87 this month.

Is this who we are?

What do you feel about the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay?

In 2001, thirty-year-old Syrian Abu Wa’el Dhiab was in Kabul, running a food import business.

When 9/11 brought war to Kabul, Dhiab, his wife and four children left Afghanistan for Pakistan, hoping for safety. He was picked up by the Pakistani police. They turned him over to the American military, probably for a bounty. He was not charged with any crime. Dhiab was transferred to the prison at Bagram Airbase in June 2002. Two months later he was sent to Guantanamo Bay.

American taxpayers pay $2.7 million per prisoner per year  to keep Guantanmo running. Of the 149 prisoners still there, 79 are cleared for release.

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Photo Source: Global Issues

Dhiab was cleared for release in 2009.

Four years later, he joined other detainees in a hunger strike protesting their incarceration without charge.

Prisoners who are judged to be dangerously underweight are force-fed. If uncooperative, they are “forcibly extracted” from their cells, strapped down, a tube jammed down nose and throat. The procedure often causes choking and vomiting.

One U.S. Navy nurse at Guantanamo has refused to administer force-feedings, calling the practice a “criminal act.”

Guantanamo Bay Facility Continues To Serve As Detention Center For War Detainees

A restraint chair used to force-feed detainees on hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images. Source: The Guardian

In 2013, Dhiab  filed a legal challenge to the force-feedings (Dhiab v. Obama).

This month, U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler rejected a Department of Justice’s bid to hold Dhiab’s hearing in secret, and in a separate decision ruled that videos showing Dhiab being force-fed, be released to the public.

The Department of Justice has appealed.

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U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler dismissed the DOJ’s bid to seal Dhiab’s hearing. Image source: Legal Times blog

Dhiab, now 44 and confined to a wheelchair, waits. The Uruguayan government offered to resettle him and five other prisoners, but the transfer is mired in politics, both American and Uruguayan.

His wife, Umm Wa-el writes:

More than a decade has passed since Abu Wa’el was taken from us in the night. I had just given birth to our fourth child; our other children were just toddlers. My husband is a kind man and a superb cook. I miss the dishes he learned to prepare in his father’s restaurant. He is guilty of no crime, has never been charged, and was told by President Obama five years ago that he would be released from Guantanamo.

This year has been one of the hardest to be without him. Last July we were still living in Syria. The civil war forced us to leave for Lebanon, and then to seek shelter in Turkey. I tried to rejoin my family in Jordan but was immediately taken in for questioning at the border and refused entry because of Abu Wa’el’s detention at Guantanamo. The stigma travels. We’ve made it back to Istanbul now. I’m proud that the children are registered in school, and that their teachers tell me that they have already caught up in their studies.

I had to do all that alone. Abu Wa’el is nearing his 13th year at Guantanamo Bay. When I speak to his American lawyers, I can tell that they are shocked and appalled by his case. I’m not so shocked. I was a teacher in Syria. The government locked me up twice in the past just because of Abu Wa’el’s detention, so I know what it means when politics disregards the law.

Excerpted fromThe Obama Administration Must Let the American People See Footage of My Husband Being Force-Fed in Their Name” 7/15/2014

 

 

In a May 23, 2013 speech, President Obama stated: “Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are holding a hunger strike. Is that who we are? … Is that the America we want to leave to our children? Our sense of justice is stronger than that.”

President Obama’s legal team is debating now about whether a treaty ban on “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” applies to U.S. military prisons overseas. In 2005 President Bush said it did not apply, that torture overseas in prisons or by the CIA was legal. As a senator Barack Obama supported legislation making it clear that cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners was not legal, anywhere. Since becoming President, however, he has never declared his position on the treaty ban.

What do you think? Have you been following Abu Wa’el’s case, or of any of the other Guanatamo prisoners? Seen any of the protests supporting the detainees?