August 15, 2011 archive

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So you want to Drill in the Arctic

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Somewhat flying under the radar even in Blogtopia (yes, Skippy invented that) and here in the People’s Republic of Left Blogistan is the big blowout at the Royal Dutch Shell Gannet Alpha Platform (one of 7 pumping oil from the Gannet Field which drills into the Eocene, Palaeocene and Jurassic period).

The story goes something like this-

Shell has been having chronic problems with breakdowns with its Brent (another oil field in the North Sea and namesake of the ‘Brent Crude’ financial benchmark) platforms that shut down all 4 of them after the discovery of severe maintenance problems including extensive gas leaks at the Brent Delta platform and actual factual chunks of the platform falling off into the Sea at Brent Bravo.

Indeed, on their very own official site an anonymous (though available for interview) expert says-

Experts damning comment on Shell North Sea Oil Spill

by John Donovan

Aug 13th, 2011

Comment from a Shell North Sea Platform Safety & Maintenance Expert on the current oil spill near the Gannet Alpha Platform

…another example of reactive maintenance regime, i.e. allowing, through neglect, equipment to fail and then reacting to the failure rather than, as the Safety Case for Gannet prescribes, preventing failure in the first instance by application of appropriate maintenance, inspection and monitoring.

(Expert in question may be available to the media for comment)


What happened at Gannet Alpha was a leaky flow pipe which goes from the wellhead to the platform.  The problem is “under control” at the moment, they have shut off the well head and are undertaking repairs on the flow pipe.

Even though it it is dwarfed by the continuing disaster that is the BP Deepwater Horizon Spill which dumped about 5 Million Barrels into the Gulf of Mexico, Gannet Alpha has released over 1,300 Barrels making it the largest in the North Sea for a decade.

And 1,300 is the conservative estimate.

Additionally Shell is under fire for not promptly reporting the accident which was reported last Wednesday.

Now if you are inclined to believe Shell’s protestations that this was a relatively minor incident and even Aberdeen which is far, far away will not suffer much damage because the spill will break up naturally, let me remind you this is the very same company that recently received a conditional go ahead from the Obama Administration to drill three exploratory wells in the Beaufort Sea “even though the Interior Department has not yet approved the company’s plan for responding to a catastrophic oil spill.”

The editorial published by the Los Angeles Times August 10th, 2011 and distributed by McClatchy-Tribune News Services continues on to say

Shell’s response plan contends that it can clean up 95 percent of spilled oil, an unprecedented percentage even in much less hostile environments. But the skimmers and booms that are usually employed to clean up spills don’t work effectively in waters with large amounts of floating ice. Nor is there any guarantee that Shell would be able to get disaster equipment to the wells. Canada’s National Energy Board recently reported that on one day out of five, conditions in the Arctic, including the Beaufort Sea, are too harsh to send out spill-response teams. Meanwhile, the nearest Coast Guard station is 1,000 miles away, and the agency told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation that it cannot be counted on to respond to spills off the North Slope.

Shell’s proposal must clear other hurdles before any drilling can take place. For example, the company must show other federal agencies that its activities would not harm polar bears or marine life. But the application shouldn’t have reached this point without a response plan that is realistic about the environmental dangers of seeking an energy future in the Arctic seas.

Mondragon Miracle Part II of III: The Genius of Don Jose

It’s been a rather tough week for capitalists. With people waking up from the illusion of money and riots erupting in otherwise reserved England, I almost feel a little sorry for the advocates of Milton Friedman. Almost.

As you scrape together your last dollars to exchange for gold and throw another bucket of water on your burning London flat, have you considered abandoning this system? There is a choice, you know. We choose to have this system and all the pain that comes with it. Not offering opposition to a bad system is making a choice to continue with the dysfunction.

What’s that? You didn’t know you had choices? No one has explained to you the alternatives? Well, if you don’t feel obligated to ride this sinking ship to the bottom of the ocean, come along with us as we start talking solutions.

In Part I of this three part series, we discussed the history of a little known cooperative venture called Mondragon. This company went from a twelve-man paraffin stove manufacturing plant to a conglomerate that holds Wal-mart at bay in miniscule country of Basque, and employs 130,000 people. The cooperative has a remarkable 80% success rate in business ventures, far outstripping the typical success rate of 20% (less in this market). It has consistently helped the Basque people strengthen their communities with education, health care, housing and a robust social safety net.  It creates jobs where none existed before, stabilizing their economy while nearby Spain and Portugal flounder.

How could this one company achieve such miraculous results? Well, it may actually be a divine intervention–through a Jesuit priest named Don Jose. In this segment, I delve deeper into Don Jose’s unique genius in devising the Mondragon system.


Highway Runnery

The Proper Use of Garnishes

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

I am totally bored with the news today. Like Jeralyn at TalkLeft there is little being reported except about Republicans and, like her they are just not interesting to me. They’re all clowns, felons or religious zealots. Jeralyn lucked out going to her local farmers’ market, but due to the weather here I couldn’t go for a walk on the beach. I can’t even get off the street because the intersection is under about 4 feet of water, the choice is row boat or SCUBA today.. So I surfed the net this afternoon for entertainment.

When I was back in college and in between jobs, I waited tables and tended bar. Not bad money back in ’72 – ’73, it helped pay the bills. One of the things I was very attentive about were garnishes for drinks, like lemon twists, maraschino cherries (UGH!) and olives. I’m rather observant about what goes on behind the bar and rather particular about my drinks, vodka martinis being my favorite, so when Rachel Maddow did a segment on her show about drink garnishes, I chuckled. Her rant on garnishes started because of red bees in Brooklyn, NY that had been getting into the Red Dye #40 laced cherry juice at the factory where the cherries are made. Her objections extended to olives which have “conceivably been lying out festering in their own juices in a warm room all night, with fingers on them.” Well, while the alcohol kills a lot of germs, I usually peek behind the bar to see how the garnishes are kept. The better places keep them in trays over ice with little tongs or picks. Her take on lemon twists was pretty clear, it’s there to add some flavor, “It has a job to do, and that job is not to be eaten!”. The moral of her lecture was “Don’t Eat the Garnish” and hold the maraschino cherries.

On Doing Better Than 50%, Or, Could More “Made In USA” Mean More Jobs?

We gotta grow some jobs, and that’s a fact, and we probably aren’t going to be able to do it with big ol’ jobs programs funded by the Federal Government, what with today’s politics and all, and that means if this Administration wants to stay in the jobs game they’re going to have to find some smaller and more creative ways to do it.

They are also going to have to come up with ideas that are pretty much “bulletproof”, meaning that they are so hard to object to that even Allen West and Louie Gohmert will not want to be on record saying “no no no!”; alternatively, solutions that work around the legislative process entirely could represent the other form of “bulletproof-ery”.

Well, I have one of those “maybe bulletproof” ideas for you today, and it has to do with how “Made in USA” the things are that our Government buys.

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

Time for a break from poetry…in order to create some art.

The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another.

–James Matthew Barrie

Art Glass 29

Late Night Karaoke

Town Hall Protests Only News If It’s A Tea Party

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

I’ll bet you any money that you didn’t see this on the TV news or in the traditional media. That’s because, unlike two years ago, these protests are Demograts.

Shouting “Stop Voting Against Jobs,” more than 500 Massachusetts residents converged outside of Senator Scott Brown’s $1,000-a-head fundraiser on the Boston waterfront August 10 — drowning out Brown’s speaking program. Join the fight at MASSIniting

While we were all engrossed in the fake deficit, raise the ceiling crisis, this is what was going on in hometowns of the tea party congress critters.

Pique the Geek 20110814: Tin, Less Common than You Think

One metal that we take for granted is tin, something that most of us see and handle every day in the form of “tin” cans, long used to store food.  Actually, this invention dates only from the early 1800s when canning itself was invented, although tin plated iron and steel date back much earlier.

Tin is used it lots more than cans, however.  Much of the tin used today is in the form of solder, used for joining other metals, particularly copper and brass, together.  Formerly a 1:1 by mass mixture of tin and lead was used for soldering copper water pipes, but because of increased awareness of the dangers of lead, other solder compositions are now used for potable water.

Let us take a few minutes to explore this interesting metal.

Mother vs Grandaughter

Ma, at 82 has fallen down and broken her elbow, medical institution policy imminent and contrasted with the four thousand dollar childbirth bills of my daughter.

Sunday Train: The Texas Wishbone Regional High Speed Rail

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Back in the 90’s, Texas tried to get an Express HSR system off the ground (that is, a bullet train system somewhere in the 125mph to 220mph range) with the “Texas Triangle” project. It was to be an entirely privately funded project. Not surprisingly, competing against the heavily  publicly subsidized interstate highway and air travel systems, it did not get off the ground.

More recently, the Texas T-Bone was proposed, based on the Dallas to San Antonio leg of the Triangle and a route from Houston to Temple, then running north to Dallas with connections south to Austin and San Antonio.

While the Texas T-Bone seems to be the current plan of the Texas High Speed Rail and Transportation Corporation, this is more of an advocacy group than an official HSR Commission or Rail Development Commission.

Given that we are in between periods of substantial federal funding for High Speed Rail, I thought this might be a good time to take a look at the prospects for Regional HSR, in some of the existing rail corridors within the “Texas Triangle” region … and so arrived at the Texas Wishbone.