Friday, May 16, 2014

Gasland & FrackNation

A couple of interesting finds by Garrett in his response to the movies: in this peer-reviewed article by Popkin et al., the researchers find that being close to a (fracked) gas well hurts property values, so the story that McAleer tells of happy landowners enjoying the "most productive cow on the lot" isn't quite true. On the other hand, he notes that some of the people Fox interviews in his movie were found to be not telling the full story. It turns out that the land in Colorado was damaged not by fracking but by a nearby coal mine.

Nice work digging up the truth! Documentaries aren't there to tell the full story, that's for sure.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Deer and water in the news

Bonnie wrote her paper on hunting the state of MD this year, and noted that some hunted deer end up as food for the homeless. There's an article in the NYT today about just that: they hunt the deer in Rock Creek Park and give the food to the homeless. The reporter sounds like she went around asking people if they no longer wanted it after knowing it was deer, and that's a strange question to ask. What's wrong with deer meat? I'd much rather it end up on someone's plate than on the side of the road after damaging someone's car. Overpopulation is bad; food for the homeless is good. Seems like a good choice.

Another article is about fracking and how it's being banned in some places to protect the water. This isn't because they're afraid fracking will poison the water a la Josh Fox, but because fracking uses up a great deal of water as part of the process. This is certainly true but it's a new tactic being used by the anti-fracking movement, and as such it too has garnered the notice of the NYT. Sure makes sense to me: I don't like the anti-fracking propaganda machine, but fracking does use up a lot water, and in places that don't have much to begin with, some attention to the issue is definitely appropriate.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Fracking bringing car crashes

Patrick wrote last week to make me aware of this article: as fracking brings jobs to places that were pretty rural, there are a lot more people traveling roads that weren't meant for so many folks to travel. One unfortunate outgrowth of this increased traffic is increased collisions. Hopefully as fracking expands, so do traffic controls.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Cobia- the other fish meat

After our discussion of aquaculture today, Claire wrote to suggest this article. She says, "From my perspective at least, this seems like to be a more effective way to practice aquaculture. Obviously not all practices are perfect, but innovation is always the key to progress, and I see this new fish in open ocean areas and a big step in the right direction. If for nothing else because it is a more humane practice, keeping the fish swimming and alive for as long as possible until its quick demise."

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Maryland Air Quality

           Although improvements in air quality have been made in Maryland as well as nationwide over the past fifteen years, summertime smog levels in Harford County and Prince George’s County are among the worst in the nation. According to the new report released by the American Lung Association about two weeks ago, one-half of Americans live in places where smog and soot pollution makes it dangerous to breathe at times. Harford County was ranked 13th worst, and Prince George’s County was ranked 21st. In addition, in 22 out of the 25 metro areas with the worst ozone pollution, which includes the Baltimore-Washington Area, there was a peak in smog from 2010-2012, compared to the previous three years. In Maryland, the abnormally hot summer of 2012 drove smog levels up to dangerous levels for 30 individual days, compared to only nine days in 2013. George Aburn, director of air management of the Maryland Department of Environment says that ozone pollution primarily comes from other states, so state officials have pressed the EPA to resolve the problem.
            After many attempts by the EPA to determine a “legally acceptable” way to regulate states contributing to pollution problems in downwind states, the Supreme Court ruled that 27 Midwestern and Appalachian states will be forced to reduce power plant pollution that blows downwind. Last Tuesday, there was a 6-2 decision that ruled that the EPA may limit emissions that create smog and soot that drifts into the air above states along the East Coast. This was adopted because the cross-border pollution prevents cities and counties from complying with health-based pollution standards by law, because they have no authority to control it. This new ruling would cost power plant operators $800 million in 2014 and annually; however, the EPA states that the investment is worth it because of the hundreds of billions of dollars in health care savings from cleaner air. Also, there would be a prevention of 30,000 premature deaths and thousands of illnesses a year with the new rule. There is much opposition coming from power-plant operators who believe that this is a way for the administration to shut them down, as well as from states who claimed they had no voice in determining their individual impact on emissions in neighboring states.

            In my opinion, there is no one formula to determine how much each state has individually contributed to the pollution in downwind states. I don’t believe it is fair to have each state take accountability for more or less than they contributed. Furthermore, it is complicated to regulate a rule like this when wind patterns are not uniform. I applaud the initiative to want to reduce emissions in order to have clean air, especially since I suffer from asthma. However, it seems as if there is miscommunication between the Clean Air Act and the EPA and they are supposed to be working cooperatively. Overall, it is nearly impossible to determine the exact amount of pollution that a state produces. As a result, it becomes expensive to implement, ineffective to regulate.
--Malshauna Hamm

***Last post you're accountable for on the reading quiz***

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Congestion tax

Congestion taxing is a system where cars are charged a fee around 5-8 dollars for operating a vehicle in a certain area during rush hour. Europe was the first country to develop this system, and it became extremely effective. For instance, in London just over a million people enter the city a day. As soon as London enforced this system, their traffic congestion decreased by 20%. The benefit of the congestion charge is that it allows cities to generate revenue in order to build alternative transportation systems. The program's revenue was used to improve public transit services, which included more buses and renovation to the subway system. Additionally, as the charge exempts vehicles using alternative fuels, it encourages users to purchase environmentally clean automobiles. The tax reduced traffic, encouraged people to purchase more efficient cars, and most importantly improved air quality. London experienced nearly a 30% decrease in greenhouse gas emission as a result of the congestion charge. Keep in mind the public health benefits that follow as well. For instance, encouraging citizens to either walk or bike if within acceptable distances can compound health benefits.

I am a firm supporter of this system due to the positive outcomes European countries have witnessed. Congestion charging can ultimately lead to improved public transportation in the U.S, meanwhile, reducing air pollution by charging people for the environmental damages. Economically this charge will also create additional jobs in the transportation sector. Additionally, commercial drivers benefit from improved work environment due to a substantial decrease in traffic.  Greenhouse gas emission will drop by an estimated 15-30% as a result of this charging strategy. I believe both businesses and citizens benefit from this charge in terms of cleaner air, and roads that are much less congested. Whether or not citizens oppose this system, I believe the benefits of the congestion charge outweigh the costs.
--Patrick Keshishian

BP Oil Spill Settlement Debate

On April 20, 2010 fire broke out on the BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico which led to 87 days of oil gushing into the gulf with no way to stop it.  The effects of this catastrophe were so large that BP has spent over 26 billion dollars in the past four years to clean up the mess and compensate for wages lost from the disaster.  Paying these wages has taken a toll on BP's budget and it is made worse by the fact that there are so many claims being filed that have no legitimate connection to the disaster. There are people using the situation to make fraudulent claims, making money even though they live hundreds of miles away from the coast, as long as they validate sales drops during that time period.  The problem with these claims, although they may be relevant, is that the businesses that were directly affected by the disaster are now being litigated in court because BP does not feel that they should pay for every claim filed. This has had a huge effect on people who rely on the water in the Gulf to make money and survive.

Personally, I think that BP should not have to pay every claim.  The company is going to court to try and change the original agreement that they would pay for everything to be fixed.  Now, they realize that people are making claims that are ridiculous and this will end up costing the company much more money. 9.2 billion dollars is the predicted amount by the end time all of the filed settlements are paid out.  I feel bad for the people who live on the coast or work on the water because those who haven't received any money are losing even more by having to take out loans.  If there weren't so many people trying to file claims to make money for no reason then the men and women who actually need the money to survive could be paid and this issue could have been avoided.
--Joe Armentrout

Crab population is down

The Bay survey is finally out, and updates to the graphs in the slides can be found here. The picture is ugly, but the spin is that it was a bad winter: it's not over-harvesting but natural fluctuations that lie behind this low population level. That doesn't mean that everything is fine and they'll come back later: they certainly could, but in an ever-changing environment like the Bay with new predators cropping up from time to time, it's impossible to tell the future.

To briefly sum up the graphs, the "young of the year" are at a low but not ridiculously low level. In fact, that's one of the areas of least concern. There are a lot of young this year because there were a lot of females last year. Unfortunately, the number of females is REALLY low this year: the lowest they've seen in about 12 years, and the estimated population is at or below the minimum threshold of 70 million that was set in 2011.

The number of harvestable crabs too is at its lowest level probably since 2002, and males are down at their lowest level since 2008. Disappointing results that mean restrictions on harvesters and higher prices for consumers.