Yesterday (June 28) was the 70th day since crude oil has been gushing into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico with no end in sight. Contemplating the effects of this disaster is hard to think about, but there is another "slick" in the Gulf waters that occurs regularly and nobody gets panicked about it or sends all the 24/7 news reporters out to cover it.
It is the annual slick that comes out of the delta areas of two rivers….the Mississippi and the Atchafalaya…. which both empty into the Gulf of Mexico. Jonah Goldberg writes about it in a June 16 commentary piece.
"A rolling dead zone off the Gulf of Mexico is killing sea life and destroying livelihoods. Recent estimates put the blob at nearly the size of New Jersey. Alas, I’m not talking about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. As terrible as that catatastrophe is, such accidents have occurred in the U.S. waters only once in every 40 years (and globally about once every 20 years). I’m talking about the dead zone largely caused by fertilizer runoff from American farms along the Mississippi and the Atchafalaya river basins. Such pollutants cause huge algae plumes that result in oxygen starvation in the Gulf’s richest waters, near the delta".
The essay goes on to say that the fertilizer runoff deadzone is an annual occurrence in that part of the Gulf. The average annual size of this dead zone runs up to 6,600 square miles and it is generated by the U.S. bipartisan federal agriculture, trade, and energy policies. The current trend of pursuing biofuels (supposedly to replace carbon-based fuels) will generate even more dead zones like the one described in Goldberg’s piece. One researcher found that if current corn-based ethanol production stays on target, the size of the Gulf deadzone of overgrowth of algae will increase by 34 percent. This was from a study done by the National Academy of Sciences in 2008.
The utopian dream of living oil-coal-natural gas-free fails to recognize that for every barrel of petroleum based fuel that is not produced here in the U.S., we will be buying it from overseas oil producers and most of the big ones hate us with a passion (all the Arab oil producers, with the possible exception of Saudi Arabia… and Venezueala for starters.)
Goldberg quote again from his article: "But wait a minute…isn’t this why we are investing in ‘renewables’, to free ourselves from this vicious petro-cycle? Don’t the Billy Sundays of the Church Of Green promise that they are the path to salvation? " Goldberg goes on to quote Matt Ridley, author of "The Rational Optimist" who has said that the ethanol production "steals precious land to produce inefficient fuel inefficiently (making food more scarce and more expensive for the poor). If all our transport came from biofuels, we would need 30% more land than all of the existing food-growing farmland we have today."
Other facts cited from Ridley’s book: * "Nature Conservancy’s Joseph Farigone estimates rainforest clear-cutting for biofuels releases 17-420 times more CO2 than it off-sets by displacing petroleum or coal." * wind and solar power: this would not solve any of the needs for transportation since these two sources only produce electricity; "if the average needs for electrical energy were to be met, we would need wind farms the size of Kazakhstan or solar panels the size of Spain." * "Fossil fuels have been one of the great boons to both to humanity and the environment, allowing forests to regrow now that we don’t use wood for heating or grow fuel for horses any more. The great permanent shortage is usable land surface and and fresh water, The more land we use to produce energy, the less we have for vulnerable species, watersheds, agriculture and recreation." (Ridley)
Another quote from Ridley’s book: "If you like wilderness as I do, the last thing you want to do is go back to the medieval habit of using the landscape surrounding us to make power."
My own thoughts on the subject: I have long been aware and also persuaded that trying to shut down the production of fossil fuels will only lead to bigger energy and environment problems. The vaunted Green Energy sources are inadequate for the demands and trying to get people to reduce those demands, while the Greenies like the Green- Guru Al Gore and Arianna Huffington et.al. live out their hyposcrisy by using up tons of fossil fuels for their comfort and convenience…big homes with air conditioning and massive use of electricity; flying in privare jets or other jets that gobble up fuel, driving big gas-guzzling vehicles…is not what is going to make other people want to listen to their rantings or obey their orders for the "little people" they scorn so openly.
Further thoughts: If you want to see what agricultural pollution has done in our own midwest area, fly in a plane over the huge Lake Winnipeg just to our north in the province of Manitoba. Pilots have reported sighting huge patches of blue-green algae in that once-pristine lake. Blue-Green algae are the worst form of algal growth since it contains deadly toxins that can kill animals or livestock which drink blue-green algae polluted water. (Blue-green algae are the result of manure runoffs) If you want an even closer example of what agricultural runnoff (in this case chicken manure) can do to a local lake, drive east on Highway 10 and then south on a county road, and take a look at Sand Lake on the border of Clay and Becker Counties and view the destruction of a once- lovely lake for fishing, boating and swimming. It is now filled with blue-green algae and certain people whose homes are along its shores have become ill from swimming in Sand Lake or even breathing the fumes of the decaying algae during the hot months of summer. One family we know became ill last Fourth of July from the fumes of the decaying blue green algae on Sand Lake…..it is right here in midst. Agricultural pollution from chemical fertilzer/or/ animal manure is a deadly problem that we face right in our own territory, to say nothing of the river deltas of Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama and other southern states that border the Gulf of Mexico. Incidentally, the lake chain that leads from Sand Lake ultimately empties into the Buffalo River and finally into the Red River from whence it travels northward to Lake Winnipeg, picking up agricutural pollutants along the way from the rivers and streams of northern ND and northern MN.
"We have met the enemy and it is us" (Pogo)