The Keystone Pipeline leak was nearly twice as big as we thought

April 9, 2018 by  
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New reports show that nearly twice as much crude oil leaked from the Keystone Pipeline in South Dakota last November than originally estimated. TransCanada spokesperson Robynn Tysver said that roughly 9,700 barrels of oil leaked instead of the estimated 5,000 barrels. This new information means the leak is among the biggest onshore spills in the United States since 2010. There are 42 gallons in one barrel of oil, so instead of 210,000 gallons as was originally estimated, around 407,700 gallons leaked in what TransCanada refers to as the Amherst incident . This means the spill was the “seventh largest onshore oil or petroleum product spills” reported to the United States Department of Transportation since 2010, according to Aberdeen American News. Related: Keystone 1 oil pipeline leaks 210,000 gallons days ahead of Keystone XL permit decision TransCanada started utilizing the pipeline again 12 days following the leak. Tysver told American News, “The remediation work on the property has been completed. We have replaced the last of the topsoil and have seeded the impacted area.” The Amherst incident cost the company around $9.57 million, according to the news publication, citing an updated pipeline safety administration report. TransCanada said on their website they sampled groundwater at 12 monitoring wells and there “was no impact to groundwater.” The Keystone Pipeline connects oil fields in Alberta, Canada to refineries in the United States; Reuters described it as a 590,000 barrel-per-day pipeline. Aberdeen American News said according to a preliminary report, the pipe may have been damaged in 2008, during construction. Reuters said they had reviewed documents revealing Keystone has leaked far more oil, and more frequently, “than the company indicated to regulators in risk assessments” before operations started in 2010. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration , part of the Department of Transportation, could release the final report on the leak in the upcoming few weeks. Via Aberdeen News and Reuters Images via TransCanada

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The Keystone Pipeline leak was nearly twice as big as we thought

The Keystone Pipeline leak was nearly twice as big as we thought

April 9, 2018 by  
Filed under Green

New reports show that nearly twice as much crude oil leaked from the Keystone Pipeline in South Dakota last November than originally estimated. TransCanada spokesperson Robynn Tysver said that roughly 9,700 barrels of oil leaked instead of the estimated 5,000 barrels. This new information means the leak is among the biggest onshore spills in the United States since 2010. There are 42 gallons in one barrel of oil, so instead of 210,000 gallons as was originally estimated, around 407,700 gallons leaked in what TransCanada refers to as the Amherst incident . This means the spill was the “seventh largest onshore oil or petroleum product spills” reported to the United States Department of Transportation since 2010, according to Aberdeen American News. Related: Keystone 1 oil pipeline leaks 210,000 gallons days ahead of Keystone XL permit decision TransCanada started utilizing the pipeline again 12 days following the leak. Tysver told American News, “The remediation work on the property has been completed. We have replaced the last of the topsoil and have seeded the impacted area.” The Amherst incident cost the company around $9.57 million, according to the news publication, citing an updated pipeline safety administration report. TransCanada said on their website they sampled groundwater at 12 monitoring wells and there “was no impact to groundwater.” The Keystone Pipeline connects oil fields in Alberta, Canada to refineries in the United States; Reuters described it as a 590,000 barrel-per-day pipeline. Aberdeen American News said according to a preliminary report, the pipe may have been damaged in 2008, during construction. Reuters said they had reviewed documents revealing Keystone has leaked far more oil, and more frequently, “than the company indicated to regulators in risk assessments” before operations started in 2010. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration , part of the Department of Transportation, could release the final report on the leak in the upcoming few weeks. Via Aberdeen News and Reuters Images via TransCanada

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The Keystone Pipeline leak was nearly twice as big as we thought

Elon Musk warns AI could become an immortal’ digital dictator

April 9, 2018 by  
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As if the world didn’t have enough dictators to worry about, Elon Musk  says that our future authoritarian leaders will be AI. Musk has previously warned about the dangers of artificial intelligence , particularly if control of it is concentrated the hands of a power-hungry global elite. He suggests that an AI dictator would know everything about us (thanks to being connected to computers across the planet), would be more dangerous to the world than North Korea and would unleash “weapons of terror” that could lead to the next world war. To top it all off, unlike human dictators, an AI dictator would never die. According to Musk, this dark future awaits us if we don’t regulate AI. “The least scary future I can think of is one where we have at least democratized AI because if one company or small group of people manages to develop godlike digital superintelligence, they could take over the world,” Musk said in the new documentary  Do You Trust This Computer ? “At least when there’s an evil dictator, that human is going to die. But for an AI, there would be no death. It would live forever. And then you’d have an immortal dictator from which we can never escape.” The documentary in which Musk is quoted focuses on several potentially hazardous applications of artificial intelligence, including the stock market, fake news algorithms, and autonomous weapons. In the film, Musk cites Google ‘s DeepMind project as an example of a powerful company in pursuit of superintelligence, or AI that is truly smarter than a human being. DeepMind has already achieved several milestones, including the 2016 defeat of world champion Lee Se-dol by AlphaGo in the board game Go. “The DeepMind system can win at any game ,” explained Musk. “It can already beat all the original Atari games. It is super human; it plays all the games at super speed in less than a minute.” Related: Elon Musk says trips to Mars coming as soon as next year Musk clarifies that this is not necessarily a question of good or evil, at least regarding the AI itself. “If AI has a goal and humanity just happens to be in the way, it will destroy humanity as a matter of course without even thinking about it. No hard feelings,” Musk said. “It’s just like, if we’re building a road and an anthill just happens to be in the way, we don’t hate ants , we’re just building a road, and so, goodbye anthill.” Musk suggests that humans ultimately incorporate artificial intelligence into their very being to avoid becoming redundant. Putting his money where his mouth is, Musk is the co-founder of Neuralink that is reportedly interested in accomplishing Musk’s goal of merging the human brain to a computer. Via CNBC Images via  Steve Jurvetson/Flickr   WebSummit/Flickr and Depositphotos

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Elon Musk warns AI could become an immortal’ digital dictator

ESA launches world’s first mission to explore the "atmospheres of hundreds of planets"

March 23, 2018 by  
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Behold a brand new era of space exploration. The European Space Agency (ESA) just selected the Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey (ARIEL) mission from three candidates to launch what Nature describes as the “world’s first space telescope dedicated to studying the atmospheres of exoplanets.” The four-year, $552 million will launch on the Ariane 6 rocket in 2028. The agency said we’ve found thousands of exoplanets with a massive range of sizes, masses, and orbits, but we haven’t uncovered a pattern connecting such characteristics to the parent star’s nature. “In particular, there is a gap in our knowledge of how the planet’s chemistry is linked to the environment where it formed, or whether the type of host star drives the physics and chemistry of the planet’s evolution,” according to ESA. Related: Kepler data reveals 20 potential habitable worlds ESA plans to zero in on hot and warm planets, “ranging from super-Earths to gas giants orbiting close to their parent stars.” Nature said a spectograph will scrutinize light filtering through an exoplanet’s atmosphere while it passes by its host star, “revealing chemical fingerprints of gases that shroud the body.” ARIEL could detect signs of water vapor, methane, and carbon dioxide, and also measure exotic metallic compounds. ESA says such findings could help place an exoplanet in context of a host star’s chemical environment. ESA Director of Science Günther Hasinger said in the statement, “ARIEL is a logical next step in exoplanet science, allowing us to progress on key science questions regarding their formation and evolution, while also helping us to understand Earth’s place in the universe .” + ESA’s Next Space Mission to Focus on Nature of Exoplanets Via Nature Images via ESA/ATG medialab, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO and NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech

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ESA launches world’s first mission to explore the "atmospheres of hundreds of planets"

The public health impact of Hurricane Harvey is worse than we’ve been told

March 22, 2018 by  
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More than six months since  Hurricane Harvey decimated much of Central America and the American Gulf Coast, the public still doesn’t have the answers it needs regarding the full public health impact of the powerful storm. This is of particular concern for Texas, in which the nation’s most substantial energy corridor is based. 500 chemical plants, 10 refineries and more than 6,670 miles of oil, gas and chemical pipelines are located in the impact area of Hurricane Harvey. And investigations by the Associated Press and the Houston Chronicle have found that the toxic impact of the storm is far worse than authorities reported. The investigators documented more than 100 specific instances of toxic chemical release into the water, the air, or land as a result of Hurricane Harvey. Nearly half a billion gallons of industrial wastewater flooded out of one chemical plant outside of Houston alone, mixing with storm water and surging across the sprawling urban environment. Hazardous chemicals such as benzene, vinyl chloride, butadiene and other carcinogens were released into the flood waters during the storm. In the case of two major contamination events, officials publicized the potential toxic impact as less extensive than it actually was. Related: Houston Bike Share offers free bicycles to people who lost cars to Harvey While Texas regulators claim to have investigated at least 89 instances, they have not said whether they will take any enforcement action. Alarmingly, state and federal regulators only tested water and soil for contaminants in areas near Superfund toxic waste sites, ignoring the potential runoff of toxic chemicals during the unprecedented flooding of Houston and surrounding areas. During and after the storm, authorities only notified the public of dangers posed by two events: the explosions and burning at the Arkema chemical plant and an uncapped Superfund site by the San Jacinto River. “The public will probably never know the extent of what happened to the environment after Harvey,” Harris County supervising attorney Rock Owens told the Associated Press, “but the individual companies of course know.” Via NBC San Diego Images via Texas National Guard and  Depositphotos

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The public health impact of Hurricane Harvey is worse than we’ve been told

The amount of plastic in the ocean could triple in 10 years

March 21, 2018 by  
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Plastic in the ocean could triple between 2015 and 2025, according to a new report for the United Kingdom government. The Foresight Future of the Sea report said the marine environment faces “unprecedented change as a result of direct human activity and climate change ,” and the authors are calling for further investigation. Professor Edward Hill of the UK National Oceanography Center told the BBC, “We really need a mission to planet ocean — it’s the last frontier.” Related: Shocking Caribbean photos reveal a “sea of plastic and Styrofoam” According to Hill, the ocean is “critical to our economic future. Nine billion people will be looking to the ocean for more food. Yet we know so little of what’s down there. We invest a lot of money and enthusiasm for missions to space — but there’s nothing living out there. The sea bed is teeming with life.” The report recommends reducing pollution by preventing plastic from entering the ocean, utilizing biodegradable plastic , or even creating public awareness campaigns for ocean protection. It also states that the ocean faces threats beyond simple plastic pollution. By 2100, the ocean could warm 1.2 to 3.2 degrees Celsius, depending on emissions — leading to coral bleaching and a slump for cold-water fish species. The report states that ocean warming “is likely to lead to new species in UK waters,” while marine biodiversity could take a hit from climate change and over-exploitation. However, the global ocean economy could double to $3 trillion by 2030, with opportunities like deep-sea mining and offshore renewable energy . The report’s authors recommend developing “accurate and useful valuations of the marine environment through the goods and services it provides (including food, capturing carbon , mitigating flooding , and supporting human health ) so that environmental externalities can be made clear and their value incorporated into decision making.” + Foresight Future of the Sea Via the BBC Images via Depositphotos and Ingrid Taylar on Flickr

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The amount of plastic in the ocean could triple in 10 years

New evidence shows oil and coal were central in the decision to reduce Bears Ears

March 2, 2018 by  
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Despite lip-service to the contrary, new evidence reveals that oil and mining played a central role in the decision to reduce Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has repeatedly stated that mineral extraction was not a factor in drawing up the new boundaries for the monuments, but documents obtained by the New York Times show that this is untrue, and that Zinke – along with Utah Senator Orrin Hatch – encouraged removing protections from areas known to have oil, coal or uranium deposits. Documents show that in March 2017, Hatch asked the Interior Department to look at the boundaries of Bears Ears in order to “resolve all known mineral conflicts.” In May, Bureau of Land Management officials asked for information on a uranium mill within the monument. The resulting map, which was drawn to exclude protected areas that were thought to contain minerals, is almost exactly the same as the map Trump unveiled as he cut the size of Bears Ears. Documents also show that Zinke’s staff used coal deposit estimates when determining which parts of Grand Staircase-Escalante should be excluded from protection. “The Kaiparowits plateau, located within the monument, contains one of the largest coal deposits in the United States,” a Spring 2017 Interior Department memo said. Staff members were asked to research “annual production of coal, oil, gas and renewables (if any) on site; amount of energy transmission infrastructure on site (if any).” Minerals weren’t the only determination used in changing the boundaries. Cattle grazing and timber were also factored in. When Trump reduced the national monuments, the Bureau of Land Management started to ramp up for a practice known as “chaining” in Grand Staircase-Escalante. Chaining involves putting a large chain between two bulldozers, which then move through forests to destroy native vegetation and open the land for cattle – a devastating practice that decimates the local environment. Related: President Trump shrinks Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments by 2 million acres Zinke claimed in December that he had recommended reducing the size of Utah’s protected areas because he wanted to take “an approach in which we listen to the voices of the people, not Washington, D.C., special interests,” citing the fact that Utah government leaders were opposed to the designation of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. While about half of Utahns want Bears Ears reduced , a vast majority oppose the break-up of Grand Staircase-Escalante. Local Utah leaders have sought to reduce the monuments since they were established in order to generate money by leasing the land – but even they were surprised by the size of the ultimate reduction. “Obviously they were looking at facts other than the ones we had raised, we assume,” said John Andrews, associate director of the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration. Despite Zinke’s language, it was clear early on that mining and oil extraction were the real focus for reducing the national monuments. In December it was revealed that large Uranium firms were lobbying for access to the areas . At the time, Zinke denied that energy extraction was a factor in the decision-making process. “This is not about energy. There is no oil and gas assets. There is no mine within the Bears Ears…” he said. Via The New York Times Images via Patrick Hendry and the BLM

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New evidence shows oil and coal were central in the decision to reduce Bears Ears

The Nuclear Doomsday Clock is as close to midnight as it has ever been

January 25, 2018 by  
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Today, the world is the closest it has ever been to doomsday since since the nuclear arms race of the ’50s. Scientists and researchers moved the Doomsday clock – an indicator for how close humanity is to nuclear annihilation – to 2 minutes to midnight today. Researchers at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists cited the threat between North Korea and the United States, facilitated by President Trump’s harmful rhetoric, as the main reason for the shift. The closest we have ever been to midnight was in 1953, during the height of the nuclear arms race between the US and the USSR – when it was also 2 minutes to midnight. Last year, the clock ticked to 2.5 minutes to midnight, from an all-time distance of 17 minutes to midnight in 1991. Related: Several scientists predict the apocalypse will occur uncomfortably soon According to concerned scientists, the rhetoric between the leaders of the US and North Korea has gone a long way towards threatening all of humanity. But the US withdrawal from the Paris agreement and denigrating the nuclear deal with Iran has also contributed to the problem. “Divorcing public policy from empirical reality endangers us all. What we need is evidence-based policy making, not policy-based evidence making,” said theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss. Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Via CNN Images via Deposit Photos and Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

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The Nuclear Doomsday Clock is as close to midnight as it has ever been

China wants to destroy space junk with giant lasers

January 18, 2018 by  
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Not only do we need to worry about pollution on Earth, but also in space . A team of six scientists in China are working on a very science-fiction-sounding solution: zapping that space trash with lasers . Could a space-based laser really help clean up the tens of thousands of pieces of junk orbiting our planet? From magnetic tugs to long tethers , the ideas of how to deal with our space mess have been imaginative but haven’t given us a firm solution yet. Could lasers offer an answer? Researchers from the Air Force Engineering University and Institute of China Electronic Equipment System Engineering Company published their work in the journal Optik last year on space-based lasers to tackle space debris. Related: ESA unveils magnetic space tug to corral broken satellites drifting in space According to the paper’s abstract, the scientists utilized numerical simulation to explore the “impacts of orbital elements of space-based laser station” on Earth-orbiting trash. Per Wired , a space laser could be mounted on a satellite , and in orbit “emit short bursts of near-infrared light:” 20 bursts a second over the course of a few minutes, which could be sufficient to break down the trash into smaller, less dangerous pieces. The scientists said in the abstract their work offers a “theoretical basis for the deployment of space-based laser station and the further application of space debris removal by using space-based laser.” The idea of space lasers isn’t wholly new – a 2015 paper cited by Gizmodo said there’s recently been a renaissance for the notion. That article says a laser would work by imparting energy into hunks of garbage so they could plummet out of orbit and burn up in Earth’s atmosphere . But would the rest of the world accept one country deploying lasers in space? Physicist Victor Apollonov of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ General Physics Institute told Gizmodo such technology could be put to military uses and “due to that, it is questionable.” He said people have been discussing the concept since the early 2000s, and there should be world-scale talks as a first step towards space lasers. Via ScienceDirect , Wired , and Gizmodo Images via Wikimedia Commons and ESA

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China wants to destroy space junk with giant lasers

Scotland to ban manufacture and sale of plastic cotton swabs

January 11, 2018 by  
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Scotland could be the first country in the United Kingdom to ban plastic -stemmed cotton swabs. Both the manufacture and sale of the polluting items – hundreds were found during a recent Gullane beach clean-up – would be banned. Environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said, “…people are continuing to flush litter down their toilets and this has to stop. Scotland’s sewerage infrastructure collects and treats some 945 million liters of wastewater each day. These systems are not designed to remove small plastic items such as plastic buds, which can kill marine animals and birds that swallow them.” Campaigners said the Scotland government plans to ban manufacture and sale of plastic-handled cotton swabs, according to The Guardian – and that move could slash the country’s contribution to ocean plastic pollution in half, according to Friends of the Earth Scotland director Richard Dixon. Cunningham launched a public consultation on a ban, describing it as evidence of the government’s goal to address marine plastic. Related: Scientists call for a worldwide ban on the ‘global hazard’ of glitter It’s a photo that I wish didn’t exist but now that it does I want everyone to see it. What started as an opportunity to photograph a cute little sea horse turned into one of frustration and sadness as the incoming tide brought with it countless pieces of trash and sewage. This sea horse drifts long with the trash day in and day out as it rides the currents that flow along the Indonesian archipelago. This photo serves as an allegory for the current and future state of our oceans. What sort of future are we creating? How can your actions shape our planet??.?thanks to @eyosexpeditions for getting me there and to @nhm_wpy and @sea_legacy for getting this photo in front of as many eyes as possible. Go to @sea_legacy to see how you can make a difference. . #plastic #seahorse #wpy53 #wildlifephotography #conservation @nhm_wpy @noaadebris #switchthestick A post shared by Justin Hofman (@justinhofman) on Sep 12, 2017 at 8:28am PDT There have been concerns over how many of the items have washed up on beaches after people flushed them down toilets. Environmental charity Fidra recently found hundreds on the beach. The Guardian reported most large retailers have made the change to biodegradable paper-stemmed swabs, but smaller retailers still sell imported plastic-stemmed ones. Fidra, which is behind The Cotton Bud Project , said on the campaign website the physical structure of plastic cotton buds allows them to bypass filters at many waste treatment facilities, and they can be released into the sea with untreated sewage. There, they can “attract and concentrate background pollutants to toxic levels” and be consumed by animals who mistake them for food – causing the plastic and toxins to enter the food chain . The Cotton Bud Project encourages people to toss cotton swabs in the trash, not the toilet, and lists brands that sell swabs with biodegradable paper stems. Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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