Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Hurricane Sandy “Frankenstorm”: Proof of Climate Change?

Given that President Obama and Governor Romney never discussed about climate change and global warming during three of their 2012 US Presidential Debates, will “Frankenstorm” Sandy cramp their respective plans for the presidency?

By: Ringo Bones

If you are still “relatively young” or who have kids who are currently between the ages of 5 and 8, chances are you’ll going to be concerned about the state of the Earth’s climate by the time when you or your kids turn 65. But is the decision of the two political parties of the 2012 US Presidential Election candidates not to discuss global warming and climate change related issues already start to bother you?

As news of Hurricane Sandy – after the devastation it caused around the Caribbean – as it prepares to pounce on Florida now start to make everyone wonder if global warming and climate change factors have contributed into this hurricane being dubbed as a “Frankenstorm” by the press, it already placed a damper on the West Coast presidential campaign trail schedules for both Democrats and Republican parties. Though Hurricane Sandy is still classified as a Category I storm as of October 26, many residents in the Florida panhandle are already concerned of it becoming a repeat of Hurricane Katrina.

Ever since as far back as the days of US President Ronald Reagan, climate change and global warming issues had always been a politically contentious one since if most incumbent leaders in the industrialized West chose a more carbon neutral path of energy generation and transportation technology and infrastructure, it would put a serious dent on the profit earnings potential of multinational crude oil extraction companies. Sadly, the world’s biggest multinational crude oil extraction companies are also the main campaign underwriters of politicians – not just in the United States – but also in the rest of the industrialized West. Thus making a less carbon intensive future for the rest of us nothing more than a pipe dream as “Big Oil” chose to spend millions on suppressing scientific findings that climate change and global warming are primarily caused by dirty coal and crude oil burning.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Shell On The Dock In The Hague: Victory For Environmentalism?

As the “famed” crude oil company Royal Dutch Shell being on the dock in a judicial venue normally reserved for war criminals, does this signify a victory for the global environmentalism movement?

By: Ringo Bones

Thanks to the support of high-profile environmentalists, like Friends of the earth’s Geert Ritsema, the “famed” crude oil company Royal Dutch Shell is finally on the dock in The Hague after 4 Nigerian famers lead by plaintiff Eric Dooh and scores of Nigerian fishermen sued Shell for compensation after the oil company’s crude oil wells and pipelines in the environmentally sensitive Niger Delta region started an oil spill due to lack of maintenance between the years 2004 to 2007 that ruined the primary livelihoods of the nearby locals. Given that both compensation seeking plaintiffs and environmentalists finally brought Shell to a court normally reserved for notorious war criminals for a mere “compensation case proceedings”, does this mean victory at last for victims of the negative environmental impact of crude oil extraction and for the environmentalists around the world fighting for their struggle?

According to a representative from Royal Dutch Shell, the oil spills in the ecologically sensitive Niger Delta region is largely due to local organized criminal gangs stealing crude oil from Shell owned pipelines to be sold off at a profit. Though Shell’s defense may be reasonably sound, the common person on the street who knows the basics of how multinational crude oil companies work only see their reasoning as nothing more than “environmental hooey” because if only Shell stop spending countless millions on their PR advertising on TV and other media outlets, the funds could be better spent in maintaining the safety of their crude oil extracting operations around the world. To add insult to injury, Shell’s PR representatives often use the appalling security conditions in the Niger Delta region both as an alibi and as an excuse for not being able to maintain their crude oil pipelines in that part of the world.

Even though Royal Dutch Shell might be currently the biggest multinational crude oil extraction company sued for operational negligence that caused an environmental catastrophe, other well-known crude oil extraction companies are yet to be brought to justice for their notoriety when it comes to their “corporate social responsibility”. BP has not yet fairly compensated people whose livelihoods they’ve ruined during the wake of the disastrous oil spill back in April 2010. And the environmental and social atrocities caused by former US President George W. Bush and former US Vice President Dick Cheney owned crude oil extraction companies seems to pale in comparison the atrocities committed by 1990s era Balkan region war criminals.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Not So Environmentally Friendly Rare Earth Metals Industry

How much can the modern industrialized world compromise established environmental legislations for easier access to rare earth metals?

By: Ringo Bones

A few days ago, the Australian owned Lynas Rare Earth Plant – the biggest rare earth metals processing/refining facility outside of Mainland China – was seeking a permanent permit to stay operational despite of local environmentalists and residents of Kuantan, Malaysia protesting their concerns over doubts of Lynas’ ability to safely dispose the resulting low-level radioactive wastes that results in rare earth metals processing. And there’s a likelihood that the local court judges of Kuantan may side with the environmentalists and residents because 18 years ago, a rare earth metals plant located elsewhere in Malaysia was given a court order to cease operation after its inability to properly dispose off the resulting low level radioactive wastes that contain non-commercially extractable residues of thorium and radon gas that eventually gave cancer to nearby residents. Given its bad environmental track record, is the rare earth industry inherently less than Earth friendly and is hazardous to human health?  

Thanks to the Beijing government’s stranglehold on the global supply of rare earth metals now indispensable to the production of everything from modern computers, wind turbines and environmentally friendly hybrid cars. By the way, Mainland China currently controls 97% of the world’s commercially used rare earth metals supply so doubly bad news to those countries with concerns over the Beijing government’s handling of local pro-democracy activists and the Tibetan freedom issue; Thus making more enlightened nation-states to seek other sources of rare earth metals not tainted by “despotism” and giving green light to mining firms to develop their own rare earth metals mining and refining schemes. Unfortunately, environmental concerns seem to be relegated to the wayside in the search of rare earth metals sources not under the stranglehold of the less-than-friendly Beijing government. 

The Australian owned Lynas has been developing its rare earth metals mining and processing abilities for the past 10 years in order to become the biggest rare earth metals producer outside of Mainland China. Unfortunately, the local court judges at their Kuantan plant eventually bowed to environmental pressures put forth by both the activists and the local residents. Given the current environmental hurdles faced by the rare earth metals industry, will their tenured chemists at their research and development facilities be able to develop a more “Earth-Friendly” way to mine and process rare earth metals?