In the four-county Los Angeles Basin, home to about 18 million people, emissions from fuel-burning vehicles and industries, coupled with sunny days, low rainfall, stagnant air and pollutant-trapping mountains, are a recipe for particle pollution.I'm not sure why the captains of industry hate regulations so much. Sure, they are a challenge for engineers to meet, and can bring about disruptive technology, but in any other circumstances, they would consider those good things. All I heard about with Tier II and III and IV was how terrible things were going to be when they finally went into place. Well, they are in place, and the salespeople went from pushing the old models before the regs went into effect, to pushing the new models as soon as the old ones were gone. I tend to think that the diesel emissions regulations were a textbook example of how to improve things by rule-making. They set a goal, and provided several targets for incremental improvement. Industry was given leeway on how to meet the standards, some companies used one technology, some used another. Each has its benefits and its drawbacks. Some companies couldn't come up with a novel way of meeting the regs, and left the business to focus on a different product. Life goes on, and things get better.
Under the old standard in effect now, U.S. cities’ annual average cannot exceed 15 micrograms of fine particles per cubic meter of air.
As recently as 2001, air in the Riverside area averaged more than double that concentration.
But in 2012, the entire four counties complied, except for one monitoring station in Riverside County’s Mira Loma, which was just 0.1 micrograms too high. The standard was violated on six days in Mira Loma last year, compared with 108 in 2001. That’s a 94 percent reduction. Last year’s preliminary data shows even Mira Loma complied.
“The average concentration as a whole has been cut in half since the 1990s and we expect all of the counties to be under the former standard by the end of 2014," Atwood said.
And the trend is nationwide.
Over the past 10 years, tons of PM2.5 emitted into the nation’s air have declined 45 percent, while the concentrations people breathe have dropped 33 percent, according to EPA estimates.
All four of Chicago’s monitoring sites comply with the old standard, and in New York City, all eight comply. Across the nation, just four non-California counties exceeded it in 2012 – Lemhi County, Idaho, Ravalli County, Mont., Doña Ana County, N.M., and Philadelphia County, Pa. All are expected to dip below it by December.
Much of the credit goes to cleaner diesel engines, mandated by national standards.
It would take 60 new diesel trucks to produce the same amount of PM2.5 as a heavy-duty truck manufactured in 1988, based on EPA’s emission standards. The amount of soot allowable from a new truck declined 99 percent over the past 25 years.
Friday, March 7, 2014
The gates are destined for new locks that will double the capacity of the canal. photo credit Tom Fowlks
These massive gates, soon to be installed in new locks in the Panama Canal, currently stand guard near the Atlantic entrance to the 100-year-old waterway. Built by Italian steel manufacturer Cimolai, each gate is nearly 10 stories tall, weighs 3,100 tons, and costs $34.2 million to fabricate, transport, and install. Construction crews will wheel 16 of these monsters into the locks — eight on each end of the canal — where robotic transporters will fit them into their housings. It’s all part of a projected eight-year, $5.2 billion plan to add a third lane to the canal to accommodate colossal “post-Panamax” container ships. When it’s finished in 2015, the project will double the capacity of the only man-made interoceanic waterway in the world.That is awesome. The first picture in the slideshow shows a seemingly ant-sized guy beside the gates.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Modern Farmer highlights seven recommendations from a late-19th century farm guide that are still useful. One that's back to being cutting edge:
4. Field peas make a great green manureWe tried Austrian winter peas as a cover crop two years in a row. I'm not sure how much nitrogen boost we got from them, but it was pretty amazing how much they grew in the spring prior to spraying them. Cover crops are definitely an old practice that's come back in a big way.
I have tried peas as a fallow crop for the past three years, and find them the best and cheapest substitute for barn-yard manures that the poor land farmer can find. If all the farmers would use every means in their power to feed and improve their lands, we would soon have a different country from the present.
Legumes like the field pea (AKA black peas, Austrian winter peas, spring peas or Canadian field peas) still are great cover crops that can help farmers reduce erosion, retain moisture in their fields and improve their yields. Field peas “certainly provide a lot of nitrogen,” says Andy Clark, communications director for Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education, and the editor of Managing Cover Crops Profitably.
Today, Clark notes, few farmers have the luxury of fallowing a crop for an entire growing season (with some exception out West, where a summer crop of field peas can maintain soil moisture through a dry summer, prior to wheat planting in the fall.) As a winter cover crop, however, field peas can still be a good bet.
China's South-to-North Water Diversion Plan makes California's water projects look small:
The project’s eventual goal is to move 44.8 billion cubic meters of water across the country every year, more than there is in the River Thames. The infrastructure includes some of the longest canals in the world; pipelines that weave underneath riverbeds; a giant aqueduct; and pumping stations powerful enough to fill Olympic-sized pools in minutes. It is the world’s largest water-transfer project, unprecedented both in the volume of water to be transferred and the distance to be traveled—a total of 4,350 km (2,700 miles), about the distance between the two coasts of America.If the California water system wasn't a big enough environmental mess, the Chinese will make it look like nothing. I really can't fathom the scope of this project.
The US, Israel, and South Africa are home to long-distance water transfer systems, but none on this scale.The project creates a grid of water highways that criss-cross the country and can be adjusted to send water almost anywhere. That grid—the siheng sanzong, literally the “four horizontals, three verticals”—consists of the Yangtze, Yellow, Huai, and Hai Rivers running west to east, and three routes that run from south to north, each longer than 1,500 kilometers (600 miles) through both natural and man-made canals.
The first branch, the eastern route, has just started transferring water from the Yangtze River in Jiangsu province to the dry cities in Shandong province. A second route will start carrying water from central China to Beijing and other northern cities at some point in 2014. The third, western route may link the Yangtze River to the Yellow River by crossing through the mountainous terrain of Sichuan and Qinghai, at elevation of between 3,000 and 5,000 meters.
Borrowing water from the south isn’t as simple as Mao suggested. The government has so far relocated at least 345,000 people to make way for construction, the largest resettlement for an infrastructure project since at least 1.4 million people were moved for the Three Gorges Dam.
Marie Schofield, chief economist, and Toby Nangle, head of multi asset allocation at Columbia Management, have a great little note up reminding people of the basic force that's holding back the economy.
For decades, the top 5% have been accumulating an ever-increasing share of the national income in the U.S.:
The remaining 95% were only able to keep their buying power up by taking on more debt.
Lately that hasn't been an option.
The excerpt of the report the post cites pretty much says that the gains of the top 5% since 1980 have come as wages for everybody else have stagnated, or in some cases declined. Widely available credit at steadily lower interest rates from the post-Volcker busting of inflation (and the destruction of manufacturing jobs at the same time) masked the drain the inequality produces on economic growth, but here in the aftermath of the Great Recession, debt growth for the 95% isn't really an option, and growth has been lousy. I think that minimal credit growth, combined with household deleveraging and adoption of labor-saving technology are most of what's to blame for the slow recovery in jobs in this chart, and that the impact of both a decreasing share of productivity growth for the bottom 95% and the adoption of technology can be seen in each of the 3 most recent recessions (one could make the point that the last four recessions have been the slowest peak-to-trough-and-back in the post-war period):
from : Calculated Risk
Corporate profits and and shareholder returns have soared during that time, while wages have stagnated and debt loads have increased for the non-rich. Maybe it is just coincidence that these changes have correlated with the era of tax cuts and "trickle-down economics", but I believe there is causation. While Dave Camp's recent tax reform plan called for two tax brackets and a tax surcharge that is in effect a third tax bracket, while continuing to tax capital gains and dividends at a reduced rate, I believe we need even more brackets than we have now (with higher marginal rates at the top), with dividends taxed as regular income and capital gains taxed at 28%, just like in the horribly oppressive high-tax days of the early Reagan administration.
Drought conditions across Australia's east coast will cut production of key agricultural commodities such as wheat and beef next season and reduce exports, the government's chief commodities forecaster said on Tuesday.There was also an interesting note at the end of the article:
The current season could see Australia, the world's third-largest wheat exporter, produce a bumper wheat crop, with increased plantings and if late season rains materialise.
However, forecasts of a return of dry El Nino weather conditions across the key farming states of Queensland and New South Wales later in 2014 mean the prospects for agricultural production remain uncertain.
Global markets will be watching forecasts of Australia's crop given concerns over Ukraine tensions disrupting supply from the Black Sea area, one of the world's key grain exporting regions.
Australian wheat production is forecast to fall 8.2 percent to 24.795 million in the 2014/15 season from 27.013 million tonnes this year as dry conditions curb yields, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural, Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) said.
ABARES said the decline in production will come despite a 2 percent increase in acreage planted as yields return to historical average levels due to dry conditions.
The yields assumptions are based on a break in the drought, but with forecasts for more dry conditions across Australia's east coast, the commodity forecaster acknowledged further cuts to yields are possible.....
Australia's drought was also resulting in record cattle slaughter rates, prompting ABARES to up its forecast for 2013/14 beef exports to 1.15 million tonnes.
Parts of Queensland, Australia's largest cattle producing state and home to half the national herd, have recorded the driest two years on record.
ABARES said Australia's national herd will fall to 27.1 million head, the lowest since the 2009/10 season, a year also impacted by drought.
But the following season, 2014/15, ABARES, based on its assumption of a break in the drought, is forecasting cattle farmers will begin to rebuild stock, resulting in a fall in beef exports of nearly 7 percent.
If the drought breaks, exports would fall to 1.04 million tonnes, cementing Australia's position as the world's third-largest beef exporter, ABARES said.
"The duration, frequency and intensity of heatwaves have increased across large parts of Australia since 1950," according to a Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO report on Tuesday.In other words, this is what climate change in Australia looks like.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
More like his anti-poor people plan:
Ryan is very good at marshaling faux scholarship churned out by ideologues in the service of talking points, and at convincing reporters that he is an actual policy wonk. Unfortunately, he seems to have convinced himself and undertaken the ambitious goal of reconciling his policies with the work of real researchers. That was a bad, bad move.Ryan's problem is generally the Republicans' problem. They want to balance the budget and cut taxes, avoid slashing entitlements (at least in the near future when there base demographic is still alive to vote), maintain or increase defense spending, fight a war anywhere somebody looks at us funny, and that only leaves cutting support for the folks who have the least, because we know they won't do anything to the folks who have the most. The reason Dave Camp's tax reform plan doesn't see the light of day is because it proves that Republicans can't dramatically lower rates, eliminate deductions and stay revenue-neutral. They can claim it will, but once they put a plan down on paper, we'll find out they don't have a plan that works. Paul Ryan's budget is the exact same thing. He may claim to be a policy wonk, but he isn't very good at math. He just takes the outcomes he wants and tries to slash away at the social service budget until he gets in the ballpark. Now he's trying to find a way to wrap his plan in academic cover, and he does that half-assed, too. The guy is pretty much useless.
The bigger dilemma is that Ryan’s budget goals leave him no room to maneuver. He’s committed to balancing the budget within the next decade. But he wants to prop up defense spending, refuses to increase tax revenue, and has promised to maintain Social Security and Medicare benefits for all current retirees. He recently cut a deal with Democrats to ease cuts in the main domestic spending programs. Having taken everything else off the table, the only place left for his cuts is programs that benefit the poor.
And Ryan’s budget absolutely slays the budget for anti-poverty programs – the vast majority of his spending cuts come from the minority of federal programs aimed at the poor. That fact has led to his current predicament: Democrats have painted him as a cruel social Darwinist, causing him to become concerned about his image as an “Ayn Rand miser,” causing him to re-brand himself as a poverty wonk, causing him to dive into scholarly literature. But scholarly literature is never going to show that his plans to impose massive cuts to the anti-poverty budget will help poor people.