Monsanto’s Bt corn was supposed to reduce pesticide use. The Environmental Protection Agency said as much when the corn, which is genetically modified to resist the crop-ravaging rootworm, debuted in 2003. Sure enough, as more farmers sowed their fields with Bt corn, fewer of them needed to spray pesticides to protect their crops. The share of U.S. corn acreage treated with insecticides fell from 25 percent in 2005 to 9 percent in 2010.
But now, Bt corn has become, basically, too successful: Rootworms are starting to develop immunity to this prevalent crop, driving farmers to return to insecticide use. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Syngenta, one of the world’s largest pesticide makers, reported that sales of its major soil insecticide for corn, which is applied at planting time, more than doubled in 2012. Chief Financial Officer John Ramsay attributed the growth to “increased grower awareness” of rootworm resistance in the U.S. Insecticide sales in the first quarter climbed 5% to $480 million.
The frustrating part is that rootworms’ resistance to the Bt corn gene was entirely predictable — so predictable that some companies seized it as a financial opportunity:
American Vanguard bought a series of insecticide companies and technologies during the past decade, betting that insecticide demand would return as Bt corn started losing its effectiveness. In the past couple of years, that wager has paid off.
The Newport Beach, Calif., company reported that its soil-insecticide revenue jumped 50% in 2012, and company earnings climbed 70% as its stock price doubled. Its insecticide sales rose 41% in the first quarter to $79 million, with gains driven by corn insecticide.
Scientists say that so far, rootworms have only developed resistance to seeds engineered to include just one rootworm trait, and Monsanto says it plans to phase out that seed and replace it with a multiple-trait variety. But the EPA cautions that rootworms resistant to the first seed are more likely to develop resistance to other traits, too. And although Monsanto recommends crop rotation to “break the rootworm cycle,” historically high corn prices are driving more farmers to plant corn every year — and that has also increased the presence of other pests besides rootworm.
So let’s set aside, for the moment, the repetitious debates between pro- and anti-GMO contingents, and consider this simple fact: Bt corn’s success lasted all of seven or eight years before rootworm resistance popped up. The same cycle could easily repeat itself with other rootworm traits or with other pests altogether.
GMOs are supposed to make farmers’ volatile business a little more secure. But when their failure is so predictable that corporations like Vanguard can profitably bet on it, who’s really coming out on top?
Electric utilities! They are to me what sideboobs are to Huffington Post — I just can’t stop writing about them.
A couple of days ago I posted a brief introduction to utilities and the way they currently work. The take-home lesson is that current regulations give utilities every incentive to build more infrastructure and sell more power, but very little incentive to cut costs or innovate.
The situation is no longer working for us. We need rapid, large-scale innovation in low-carbon electricity systems, and we need it now. It’s time to fundamentally rethink the utility business model.
I hope you’ll indulge me just one more scene-setting post before I finally get to the long-awaited post on solutions. Today we’re going to take a look at the way electricity has typically gotten from generator to customer, the electricity “value chain,” so we can better understand which parts need to change. This is a complicated topic, to say the least, but I’ll do my best to break it down in the simplest terms I can, with the proviso that I’m glossing over lots and lots of important details.
The electricity value chain
OK. Think of the electricity value chain as having three basic links:
In the beginning, most utilities, especially investor-owned utilities, were “vertically integrated,” meaning they owned and operated the entire value chain, from the power plant to the meter. At the time, electricity was viewed purely as a commodity; the utility’s sole job was to get as much of it as possible to customers as cheaply as possible. What customers did with it on their side of the meter was of little concern, as long as they kept using more of it.
In the electricity-as-commodity model, it’s all about economies of scale. The bigger you make the power plants, the cheaper the power. That’s why utilities were monopolies: so they could maximize the benefits of scale.
The physical expression of the commodity model is the “hub and spoke” electricity grid, with large centralized power plants sending power out long distances to surrounding customers. It helps to think of it as a hydrological system. Electricity springs from power plants and flows down great rivers of transmission cables into the smaller canals and streams of a distribution system. In this system, power flows only one way, from hubs outward. It’s like gravity pulling water downhill.
Since there is no way to store the power, there must always be enough flowing into the streams to sate customer thirst. When demand surges in certain areas at certain times, grid operators fire up more power plants to supply the extra need. The plants that are always running are “baseload,” usually coal, nuclear, or hydro. The ones that get fired up for the busy daytime hours, the “mid-merit” plants, are typically natural gas combined-cycle plants. And then when demand “peaks” for a few hours, usually in the afternoon and again when people come home in the evening, they fire up the more expensive oil or gas “peaker plants.” There must always be enough power plants online — enough “generation capacity” — to supply well in excess of any expected peak, establishing “reserve margins” of 15 to 20 percent. That’s how reliability is assured: The canals and streams are kept full at all times.
Previous utility reformsyvonne nPrevious utility reforms!? This fennec fox is all ears.
In 1978, seeking to open up the generation side of things to smaller and cleaner power plants, Congress passed the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, or PURPA. (There’s some talk that it could be used to drive a new wave of distributed renewables, but the details are complicated and not essential to the story I’m telling.)
More significantly, in the 1990s, there was a wave of regulatory restructuring that “unbundled” generation from transmission and distribution. These changes created competitive wholesale and retail power markets on the generation side, but left transmission and distribution — getting power to customers and billing them for it — to regulated utilities.
(This is often referred to as “deregulation,” but I think that’s a misleading term; the whole industry remains regulated from top to bottom.)
Restructuring was proceeding at a brisk clip until California happened in 2000-2001. Remember that? Enron? Maximum fubar? More or less overnight, “deregulation” and “consumers get f*cked” became synonymous in the public mind and restructuring of the utility industry froze in place.
I stole these handy maps from American Electric Power:AEP
The top map shows all the states that were investigating or implementing restructuring in 2001. On the bottom you see the situation in 2010 — only Texas and the Northeast have stuck with restructuring. (Arizona is apparently looking into it.)
So we’re left with a mix of public and investor-owned utilities, some vertically integrated and some with only T&D, and just for fun, some have undergone decoupling (which we’ll talk about in a later post) and some haven’t. All these categories overlap. Oh, and some holding companies own both independent power producers and regulated utilities. It becomes very difficult to make generalizations or simplifying assumptions about utilities — and it also becomes super-boring.
I think I speak for all Americans when I say that contemplating the post-partial-quasi-halfway-restructured U.S. electricity industry gives me an intense, nagging pain just above my left eye socket. This is what happens when you bang into the force field of tedium.
What has changed in electricity
So let’s take a few steps back and think about what’s changed in electricity. The traditional utility model made sense in the context of rapidly rising demand, economies of scale, and blissful climate ignorance. But today, two big counter-trends loom large.Joachim S. Müller“Wake up. He’s not done yet.”
First, climate change has become an urgent priority. U.S. policy may look stuck right now, but action on climate is inevitable, and utilities know it. Doing what really needs to be done on climate would involve an immediate and rapid scaling up of low-carbon power along with aggressive, system-wide pursuit of conservation, energy efficiency, and demand response.
Second, electricity is beginning to behave less like a commodity and more like information. It’s no longer a one-way affair, from generator to meter. Now it’s hundreds of thousands of small, distributed generators (think rooftop solar panels) sharing with each other on local distribution networks. Electricity is increasingly managed: monitored, fine-tuned, time-shifted. Big customers, and increasingly small ones too, want energy services rather than raw kilowatt-hours. They want to know how to tie together solar panels, microturbines, energy management software, smart appliances, electric cars, batteries and other storage, and energy-effective design into smart systems. They want to know how to create microgrids that incorporate electricity generation and management and can “island” off the larger grid in case of emergency or attack. They want all the pieces of the electricity puzzle to fit together in a way that reduces consumption, minimizes waste, and maximizes resilience. Or if they don’t want it yet, they’ll want it soon.
That’s where things are headed: an electricity grid, particularly on the distribution side, that is infused with information technology and looks a lot like the internet. (This is usually referred to as the “smart grid,” though it extends beyond just the grid. Al Gore tried to make “enernet” catch on, but it never really took.)
So, two changes: the low-carbon imperative and the shift from a dumb one-way system to a smart, multi-directional network. Both point above all to the need for innovation, not just in technology but in business practices, financing models, and investment strategies.
The best tool we currently know of for producing rapid innovation, product development, and jobs is a competitive market. That’s what’s missing.
Now, I mentioned before that some markets have restructured to provide for competition on the generation side. I think that’s all to the good, and it should continue. But what’s really needed today is competitive markets on the distribution edge. It makes no sense to have utilities hostile to distributed energy and local energy management. We need entrepreneurs thinking about how to package energy services in new ways for customers, and we need utilities not just to stop impeding them or to get out of their way, but to actively empower them.Joachim S. MüllerGet ready for part 3.
But we still need the reliability and stability with which regulated utilities have traditionally been charged. How can utilities provide that, make sure the grid keeps humming, while also structuring competitive markets on both the generation side and the distribution edge? That’s that knotty subject that we will (finally) tackle in my next post.
One-year-old tabby cat MJ’s bike courier owner considers her an “indoor cat,” but he also considers a mohawk and a handlebar mustache “appropriate head accessories” so he may just be a generally confused person. Because MJ, who rides around Philly on her owner’s shoulder, is clearly at heart an outdoor cat who thrives on feeling the wind in her fur.
MJ’s human, Rudi Saldia, is a little cagey in this interview about whether he deliberately trained the kitty to be a bike fiend, or whether she expressed interest in taking a spin. If he did it on purpose to groom MJ as a conversation starter and YouTube star, we have to admire his savvy, because it worked — MJ and Saldia are now appearing in a commercial for GoPro cameras, which Saldia uses to film himself and his passenger. Saldia claims, though, that he originally made his YouTube videos only to prove to his mom that MJ liked to cruise around on his shoulder.
The town I grew up in had a cat who would ride around on the back of a motorcycle (we called him Motorcat). So this stuff is not new to me. But Motorcat wore a helmet, and I’m a little concerned about MJ. “We’re always safe out there,” Saldia assured the AP, but we think he should look into one of these:
Here, would you like 1,142 calories for about $5, plus the price of a ticket to Japan? For the next little while, in Japan only, McDonald’s is selling an item called the Mega Potato that is “double the size of an order of large fries.” MSN writes:
At 350 grams, it’s more than three-quarters of a pound of fries poured into a Golden Arches-stamped cardboard trough that McDonald’s has advertised as “perfect for sharing.”
This is actually the second coming of the Mega Potato. Back in 2010, McD’s offered it in a slightly smaller iteration — it was the equivalent of two orders of medium fries. But, as Zimmerman’s law of fast food states, gross food can only get grosser and weirder.
Business-oriented MSN is actually totally into this principle: “At some point, maybe McDonald’s will stop placating its critics and start rewarding its loyalists. Yes, they want fries with that.” (Even if “that” is an order of fries, apparently). Just wait three more years, MSN guy, and you’ll be able to get a Mega-Mega Potato which will offer almost zero nutrition and an entire day’s worth of calories at once.
The Night Heron was an invitation-only bar built illegally inside a Chelsea water tower in New York City that was open for just a few weekends this spring. Despite the arcane, timepiece-based invite process, Atlantic Cities and The New York Times both made it there. Here’s how a guest would find her way to this spot, according to Atlantic Cities:
The entrance tickets … are in the form of a pocket watch — which can only be obtained as a gift — with a reservation number and instructions inside advising against high heels and to be ready for a bit of climbing … After squeezing through a trap door, you are welcomed into a candlelit wooden cylinder outfitted with a bar, drink tables, and chandelier, all made from upright piano parts. You sip an aromatic amber concoction made by a dapper proprietor and survey this cedar jewel box, seemingly constructed by a pauper of exquisite taste.
Here’s what that felt like:
All this was possible because, even in a city of gentrifying neighborhoods and investment, there are still building owners who don’t pay much attention to their property.The New York Times reports:
Mr. Austin located a suitable water tower by scouring Buildings Department records for violations with egregious scaffold fines. That can indicate a neglectful landlord, he said, which meant it might be a vacant building ripe for adopting as one’s own.
At Atlantic Cities, Dan Glass suggests that the project shares roots with urban exploration, but N.D. Austin, the organizer, has a different way of describing this project: “transgressive placemaking.” We call it an awesome way to have a few illicit drinks with friends and then break your neck getting back down.
Does your mouth water at the thought of corn that’s engineered to produce a poison that kills insects? If not, Connecticut might be the place for you.
The state’s Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed legislation that would require food manufacturers to label products that contain genetically engineered ingredients such as GM corn. The bill sailed through on a 35-1 vote, and now moves to the state House.
Speaker of the House J. Brendan Sharkey [D] wants to support legislation that would require the labeling of products that contain genetically modified organisms.
But he’s not sure whether the House will approve the version approved in the state Senate late Tuesday night that would depend on three nearby states to approve similar legislation by July of 2015.
Sharkey, in an interview near the House podium around the time the Senate was approving the bill, said his majority caucus met behind closed doors earlier in the day to discuss the controversial measure.
“The caucus confirmed my own sense that obviously we want to do something,” Sharkey said. “My concern all along has been the question of whether Connecticut should put itself out on its own, requiring this labeling and whether that puts us at an economic disadvantage being the first and only state to do this.”
Unlike 64 other countries, the U.S. lacks any labeling laws for GMO food (though Americans who want to avoid it could do so by buying certified organics). Some countries outright ban GMOs — officials in Hungary just burned 1,000 acres of Monsanto’s genetically engineered corn after new crop-testing regulations led to its discovery.
So lawmakers in Connecticut, Vermont, and elsewhere are trying to take matters into their own hands, pushing forward with state-level labeling legislation. Bills in both of those New England states are cautious, setting long timeframes for the start of a ban and including caveats based on whether other states adopt similar laws. That caution is a response to fears of lawsuits from the powerful food and ag industry, which opposes GMO labeling.
“I’m concerned about our state going out on its own on this and the potential economic disadvantage that could cause,” House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said. “I would like to see us be part of a compact with some other states, which would hopefully include one of the bigger states such as New York.” …
Even if the bill passes the House and is signed into law by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy [D], it would not take effect until at least three other states pass similar legislation. GMO labeling legislation is pending in more than a dozen states.
The Center for Food Safety reports that legislation in Maine is also moving forward:
In addition to the Connecticut victory, [on Tuesday] Maine’s GE food labeling bill passed through the state’s Agriculture Committee — a major hurdle — which voted 8-5 in favor of their labeling bill. The bill passed the state Assembly earlier this month.
“Both of these victorious votes show the power of the voice of consumers, who through their vocal and powerful demand for GE food labeling, are finally getting their state lawmakers to listen and take action,” said Rebecca Spector, west coast director of Center for Food Safety.
All of this action has some Monsanto backers nervous. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) recently inserted an amendment into the Farm Bill that would forbid states from requiring labels on GMO foods.
First the bad news: The “safest” herbicide in the history of science may be harming us in ways we’re just beginning to understand. And now for the really bad news: Because too much is never enough, the Environmental Protection Agency just raised the allowable limits for how much of that chemical can remain on the food we eat, and the crops we feed to animals — many of which end up on our plates as well. If you haven’t guessed its identity yet, it’s Monsanto’s Roundup, a powerful weed killer.
The EPA and Monsanto are apparently hoping that no one notices the recent rule change — or, if we do notice, that we respond with a collective shrug. But that, my friends, would be a mistake. While Roundup may truly be the “safest” pesticide ever invented, that isn’t quite the same as “safe.” It just may be that Roundup represents a hitherto unrecognized threat to our health — not because of what it does to our bodies, but because of what it does to our “internal ecology,” a.k.a. our “microbiome.”
As Michael Pollan deftly cataloged in his must-read cover story in the most recent New York Times magazine, scientists are just beginning to explore the inner reaches of our bodies to understand how our microbiome affects our health. Nonetheless, there are some growing signs that Roundup might be the last thing you want in there.
Monsanto would, of course, disagree. The common claim is that Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, is less toxic than aspirin. How can one of the most effective broad-spectrum herbicides in the history of humankind be less toxic than aspirin?
I’m glad you asked. For two reasons. First, because glyphosate isn’t well absorbed by our digestive tract: 98 percent of it passes right through us. And second, because its “mode of action” involves a biochemical process that is specific to plants. (For the budding chemists among you, it disrupts the metabolic process known as “the shikimate pathway,” which humans do not have.)
Now, the actual safety and environmental effects of Roundup are the subject of some dispute. It gets into waterways and may affect aquatic plants. New research has implicated it in the catastrophic loss of amphibians. Even the U.S. Department of Agriculture has evidence, which it downplays, that Roundup may damage soil through its impact on beneficial soil microbes and interfere with the growth of plants, including Roundup Ready varieties that have been genetically engineered to resist the herbicide. And there’s the controversial claim by a Purdue University plant pathologist that Roundup has caused an increase in miscarriage and infertility in livestock.
There are studies that show glyphosate is toxic to human placental cells, but you’re unlikely to run into high enough concentrations to show those effects — unless you’re a farmworker. A study of Berlin residents [PDF], meanwhile, found glyphosate levels in human urine that exceeded Germany’s safe drinking water limits [PDF].
While it’s true that glyphosate the chemical has been the subject of much scientific analysis, it’s also true that farmers don’t use pure glyphosate. They use Roundup on their fields — and Roundup is a product with other “inactive” chemical ingredients. And there is increasing evidence that Roundup as a product is far more toxic than glyphosate on its own because the ingredients interact in troubling ways.
All of which is to say that there’s isn’t really a good health argument in favor of increasing Americans’ exposure to the chemical. There are, however, some pretty compelling reasons not to — and that’s where your microbiome comes into the picture. Even if we aren’t absorbing all the Roundup that’s on the food we eat, we are certainly exposing the residents of our digestive tract to it. And here’s the funny thing. While we don’t have the metabolic process that Roundup disrupts, many microbes do.
So, in short, we may be dousing our interior landscapes with a potent and effective intestinal flora herbicide. Oopsie.
Researchers are only now beginning to explore this idea. There is new research out of Germany that establishes that glyphosate kills many species of beneficial animal gut bacteria while not affecting more harmful gut bacteria, like E. coli and the bacteria that causes botulism, which is apparently at epidemic levels in cattle. And it’s not a stretch to say that it likely has a similar effect on the versions of those bacteria that have colonized us.
And, as Pollan explains, our gut bacteria play a core role in maintaining our health, although in ways that are not at all understood. The research is in its earliest days, but it’s possible that an unhealthy microbiome could contribute to obesity and other diseases, especially those caused by inflammation.
It’s all very speculative, but you can see where this is leading. While we’re just beginning to understand how our microbiome works and how it may prove essential to preventing all sorts of diseases, our governments are increasing the amounts of this anti-microbial herbicide Big Ag is allowed to leave on our food.
This is all happening at a time when we have almost no data on how much we’re exposed to this chemical in the first place. One reason that glyphosate has continued to fly under the mainstream toxic chemical radar is that it’s actually very difficult to test for. There are only a handful of labs that can do it and it’s an expensive process. In fact, the USDA’s pesticide monitoring program only tests a single crop, soybeans, for glyphosate residue. This is true even though it’s used on a huge variety of crops, both directly on the plants, in the case of Roundup Ready, and indirectly, through spraying on fields before planting non-resistant crops.
So why would the EPA allow more of this stuff in our food? The agency didn’t decide to do this entirely on its own, of course. It did so because Monsanto asked.
Here’s the thing: As farmers adopted Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds in droves — the majority of corn, soy, and cotton grown worldwide includes the company’s Roundup Ready trait — there has been an explosion in the use of the pesticide for which the trait is designed: You guessed it, Roundup.
In the U.S. alone, it’s estimated that over 200 million pounds of the stuff are spread on fields and farms every year. That’s almost triple the amount used in 2001. (These numbers, by the way, are all estimates, since the USDA doesn’t precisely track glyphosate use because MONSANTO!)
There’s clearly more and more Roundup getting on our food. What else is Monsanto to do but get governments to bless this development? Both the E.U. and the U.S. have now complied. Stateside, the EPA has approved a significant increase on various grains, fruits, and vegetables, and upped the allowable limit on animal feed by a factor of 100.
Does that sound like a recipe for disaster to you? It probably should. It should also sound like yet another reason to buy organic food and either organic or pastured dairy and meat.
If it feels like Monsanto and its biotech brethren get to call the shots when it comes to toxic chemicals on our food, well, you’re right. On the other hand, the EPA is still accepting comments on these new glyphosate limits. Maybe if consumers make enough noise, the agency might reconsider.
The cleanest electricity is no electricity at all — a fact that is not lost on new Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.
During his first speech after being sworn into his new post, Moniz said energy efficiency would be one of his top priorities.
Secretary Moniz spoke to a crowd at the Energy Efficiency Global Forum about his upcoming agenda as secretary.
“Efficiency is going to be a big focus going forward,” he said. “I just don’t see the solutions to our biggest energy and environmental challenges without a very big demand-side response. That’s why it’s important to move this way, way up in our priorities.” The audience applauded.
Moniz’s decision to speak at an energy efficiency conference “speaks volumes about how important efficiency is” to his plans at the Department of Energy, said Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy.
Indeed, Moniz made it very clear that efficiency would be a central priority during his tenure. He backed up President Obama’s call in the State of the Union for doubling U.S. energy productivity by 2030
New Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz vowed Tuesday to help advance a big bipartisan energy efficiency bill that’s moving through Congress and make conservation a major priority using his existing authorities. …
Moniz said he has met with senior leadership in both chambers of Congress about legislation, noting he sees an opening for the measure sponsored by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and a companion plan in the House.
“There is a ways to go to get it together, but there is clearly an interest in moving this,” he said. “This is the kind of initiative that I think has a real chance to move forward and I certainly will work with Senator Shaheen and others to try and help make it work.”
The Shaheen-Portman plan, which sailed through the Senate’s energy panel with bipartisan support recently, contains an array of provisions to boost efficiency in buildings by improving codes, workforce training and other steps.
It also contains measures to help manufacturing plants become more efficient and boost conservation within the federal government itself.
The Energy Department posted Moniz’s 11-minute speech on YouTube:
It would sure be nice to know what exactly caused a fertilizer plant to explode in Texas last month, killing 14 people — especially given that 800,000 Americans live near similar facilities. But federal investigators are complaining to Congress that their work has been stymied by other government agencies, meaning the mystery might never be solved.
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board, in a letter released Tuesday, accused the Texas state fire marshal and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives of hampering its work by blocking access to key witnesses for three weeks after the massive blast — “an unprecedented and harmful delay.”
Board chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso wrote that the “incident site was massively and irreversibly altered under the direction of ATF personnel, who used cranes, bulldozers and other excavation apparatus in an ultimately unsuccessful quest to find a single ignition source for the original fire.” …
The chairman’s letter, dated May 17 and written in response to a request from [Sen. Barbara] Boxer [D-Calif.], is laced with frustration. Moure-Eraso pleads with the senator to intervene to help him and his team gain access to debris and other evidence removed by ATF and the fire marshal, along with West Fertilizer Co. records covering training of employees, chemical inventories and safety records.
“All indications are that the event was an industrial accident” rather than the result of arson, he wrote, questioning the rationale cited by ATF and the fire marshal for tightly controlling access to witnesses and evidence.
He described company documents “blowing around the site and exposed to rain and the elements. The ATF had no apparent interest in the documents.” Yet, he wrote Boxer, ATF agents refused to allow members of the safety board’s 18-person team in West to collect those documents.
Meanwhile, Reuters is reporting that at least 800,000 Americans live near one of hundreds of sites that store large amounts of ammonium nitrate, which investigators believe was the source of last month’s blast:
Reuters’ analysis of hazardous chemical inventories found schools, hospitals and churches within short distances of facilities storing ammonium nitrate, such as an elementary school in Athens, Texas, that is next door to a fertilizer plant. The Hiawatha Community Hospital in Padonia, Kansas, is less than a quarter-mile from one site and three-quarters of a mile from another. …
Some sites are in heavily urbanized areas. Acid Products Co. in Chicago, which reported storing between 10,000 and 99,999 pounds of ammonium nitrate in 2012, is surrounded by about 24,000 people.
The Chemical Safety Board’s report, expected in 12 to 18 months, could provide some answers about the causes of the West explosion — if the ATF folks get out of the way.
Here at Grist, climate change is our bread and melting butter. But this month, we’re feeling especially hot and bothered. As part of our in-depth look at the warming planet, we’ve compiled a list of the U.S. cities that we think will be in the hottest water as the mercury rises — in some cases, up to their foreheads.
A quick note about New Orleans: It’s hard not to include a city that’s already lost so much, but the Big Easy’s new $14.5 billion, state-of-the-art levee system is finally up-and-running just eight short years after Katrina. Some warn that the new system, designed to stop a once-in-a-century storm — the kind that seem to be coming about every other Thursday these days – is already out of date. But it’s better than nothing, especially when compared to the rest of the country, so we’re giving New Orleanians credit as most-improved. That said, here we go!Phoenix, Ariz. maliciousmonkey
The founders of Phoenix spotted a particularly dry stretch of desert and thought, “You know what this place could use? Golf courses.” Unfortunately, this town of 4.5 million has been getting hotter by almost a degree a decade since 1961; in 2011 Phoenix had 33 days over 110. In heat like that, air conditioning is a life-and-death issue, and that A/C runs on America’s electric grid. That’s scary enough, but the power on that grid comes from dams on the Colorado River — the same shrinking river that wets Phoenix’s enormous whistle. Then again, Phoenicians named their town after a bird that periodically bursts into flames, so they must have seen this coming.
Louisville, Ky.Ryan Freitas
The only major American city getting hotter faster than Phoenix is Louisville, where the temperature has risen a sweltering 1.67 degrees per decade since 1961. A big part of Louisville’s problem is the startling lack of trees. Trees shade a mere 10 percent of the urban center, just a quarter of what experts say the town needs. Imagining the Kentucky Derby when it gets too hot for horses is bad enough, but if global warming takes our bourbon, shit gets real.
Honolulu, HawaiiClick to embiggen.Daniel Ramirez
Shocker alert: As sea levels rise around the globe, a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific might not be the ideal place to pitch your beach blanket — and because of the oddities of sea level rise, Honolulu could be looking at even more water than other coastal cities. At least climate models predict fewer typhoons, so that’s good for Honolulu, right? Wrong. The ones that hit will be bigger and last longer (that, I believe, is what she said), and paradise is square in the crosshairs. The only thing hotter than a Hawaiian Tropics sunscreen ad may be the actual Hawaiian Tropics.
Miami, Fla.Click to embiggen.Claudio Lovo / Shutterstock
Like everywhere else on the Atlantic seaboard, Miami faces stronger and more frequent hurricanes, but that’s just the tip of the melting iceberg. If sea levels rise according to projections, Miami’s aging sewage system will be utterly destroyed, and the city’s famous South Beach neighborhood will be underwater in a few short decades. If Miami Vice were set in the year 2050, Crocket and Tubbs wouldn’t be driving a Ferrari down Ocean Ave. — they’d be rowing it through a heaving sea of human poop. For their sake, I just hope cocaine floats.
Barrow, AlaskaClick to embiggen.U.S. Coast Guard
You wanna talk tough? The Inupiat people have been living in Barrow, one of the most unforgiving parts of the planet, for 1,500 years. Have you seen Thirty Days of Night? They fought off a whole army of vampires – and not the pretty-boy Twilight kind. But climate change is a more frightening enemy. The Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the planet: Barrow’s ice is receding so quickly that the Mythical Northwest Passage has dropped the “Mythical” sobriquet, and traditional native foods are disappearing. The only thing thriving? Scientists, who arrive in droves to study the catastrophe. I wonder if climatologists taste like seal?
San Diego, Calif.Click to embiggen.Jeff Rivers
You know that giant statue of the sailor kissing a nurse on the San Diego waterfront? Good thing it’s 50 feet tall: They might be able to keep their heads above sea level. San Diego is a Navy town, but Coronado Island, across the water from downtown, will be underwater in most climate change projections. Die hard San Diegans may stay if Coronado goes, but the Navy may jump ship taking with it the 100,000 sailors and marines based there. Here’s hoping the town fathers have some tricks up their sleeves, because visiting Ron Burgundy reenactors won’t be enough to float that economy.
New York, N.Y.Michael Tapp
In a 1949 Marvel comic, pointy-eared, sometimes-super-villain Submariner flooded the New York City subways, bringing the city to its knees. In 2012, that villain was Superstorm Sandy. Climate models predict larger and more frequent storms pummeling the Eastern Seaboard, and the world’s capital, built in a marsh over a system of thoughtfully placed tubes, makes it a hurricane playground. A proposed state-of-the-art levee system could save the city from future storms, but the price could be as high as $29 billion. Are we really expecting Congress to cough up $29 billion for climate change? More likely, the hipsters in Greenpoint will have to find some retro snorkels, slap on couture hip-waders, and double-wax their handlebar mustaches against a style-crushing tide.
The Entire State of TexasClick to embiggen.agrilifetoday
Devastating droughts caused by rising temperatures have Texans’ ten gallon hats running on just a couple of quarts. Ranchers are struggling statewide, and farmers who once grew melons and cotton are looking to get by on algae. Meanwhile, ever more powerful hurricanes are a growing menace. And then there are the biblical plagues. It’s a veritable perfect storm for perfect storms. Yes, Texas, we know everything is bigger here, but can you build a wall big enough to keep out climate change? Can you shoot a hurricane? If any state could, it would be you, but let’s face it: One way or another, you’re getting messed with, big time.
South Paris, MainePatrickClick to embiggen.
Climate change would seem to be the last thing South Parisians had to worry about — they already live in South Paris, land of the disappointed tourist (“South Paris? I love buttermilk baguettes, Y’all! Wait, Southwest Maine?”). But South Paris is also home of the company that makes Flexible Flier sleds, and sledding sans snow isn’t nearly as much fun as it sounds. South Parisans might not be too worried about climate change, but as in Findlay, Ohio, where they make winter tires, and Batavia, Ill., where they make snow shovels, business-as-usual will cease to exist, and soon.
Park City, UtahMark StevensClick to embiggen.
Visitors to Park City should probably prep for disappointment. Climate models predict the complete loss of Park City’s famous snowpack by 2100 – surely a painful notion for a town that once hosted Winter Olympic events. There is hope, though. Maybe tourists will keep coming for the 3.2 beer, or the odd chance of meeting an Osmond. Runners up for this spot include Vail, Colo., which might lose skiing, but will still have I-70, so people can stop by on their way east to Kansas City; and Columbia Falls, Mont., which may need a new motto, as “Gateway to Glacier National Park” loses its spark without the, y’know, glaciers. How does, “Gateway to Columbia Falls Aluminum Company,” look on a bumper sticker?
Coming next: The 10 cities that will be sitting pretty in a warming world.
I was optimistic when I began reading the Washington Post op-ed on climate change by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), current chairman of the House Science Committee. He began with a plea for a thoughtful and objective discussion of climate science. But like Lucy snatching the football away from Charlie Brown, he quickly dashed my hopes as he proceeded to provide a one-sided view of the state of climate science.
Rep. Smith neglected to acknowledge that the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and 18 U.S. professional scientific societies [PDF] agree that climate change is real and that carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases from human activities are now the primary driver of it. He also forgot to mention sea-level rise, which is already increasing the risk from every storm to coastal communities in Massachusetts and around the nation. There was no mention of the shift in rainfall patterns to more extreme downpours, or that the ocean’s chemistry is changing [PDF] as it warms up and absorbs carbon dioxide.
The extreme weather events of the past few years go unmentioned in Rep. Smith’s piece. Americans have watched homes engulfed by wildfires, crops decimated by drought, and infrastructure twisted like a pretzel during Superstorm Sandy. Last week, an analysis estimated that U.S. taxpayers paid a $96 billion bill for cleanup after climate-related disasters in 2012 alone. I recently launched a new House Natural Resources Democrats app that shows the costs of extreme weather, both in terms of dollars spent and lives lost.
Curiously, Rep. Smith’s climate piece ignores the global temperature records of NOAA and NASA that show 2010 as the hottest year on record since 1880, and the decade ending in 2009 as the hottest decade on record. He also ignores the results of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study conducted by independent — and formerly skeptical — scientists who also found that global land temperatures have been increasing and that heat-trapping gases are driving that rise. Instead, he relies on a temperature record produced by U.K. scientists that he [PDF] and other Republicans have previously — falsely, it turns out — accused of conspiring to alter temperature data. Choosing the temperature record that best fits your argument, especially when it is from a group you questioned just a few years ago, hardly seems objective.
I would welcome, as Rep. Smith writes, a “legitimate evaluation of policy options” by Congress for dealing with climate change and its impacts. Indeed, it was my honor to lead then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, where we held more than 80 hearings and a rigorous bipartisan discussion on both climate science and climate solutions. Sadly, when Tea Party Republicans took control of the House in 2010, one of the very first things they did was eliminate the Select Committee.
One thing I learned in hearing after hearing in the Select Committee was how investing in climate solutions will create jobs in America. The public has learned the same lesson. That is why there is such strong support for improving energy efficiency and using more wind, solar, and natural gas, all ways to reduce carbon pollution. Rep. Smith failed to mention any of those technologies. He instead focused on the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry dirty tar sands from Canada to a tax-free haven in the Gulf of Mexico. From there, Canadian oil giant TransCanada may export that oil to other countries. That would leave America with all the environmental risk and little economic reward while increasing emissions of dangerous heat-trapping gases that are warming our planet.
This would be just another cry from the fringes if it weren’t mainstream Republican thought on climate change. It’s a disappointing fall for the party that once saw President Nixon launch the EPA, President George H.W. Bush introduce a cap-and-trade system, and Sen. John McCain write a market-based climate bill.
Yet last Congress was easily the most anti-environmental session in history. House Republicans even put the scientific finding that climate change is real up for a vote, and then voted against reality. So far in 2013, we’ve seen the same story, with Republicans pushing Keystone XL, blocking the EPA nominee, and questioning climate science at every turn.
This cycle of climate-change denial and fossil-fuel boosterism won’t end until Americans demand that it does. Demand action; demand reality; demand it now.
Like sparring siblings, China and the United States — the world’s two biggest carbon dioxide emitters — keep passing the climate-action buck back and forth: “Why should I cut emissions if they don’t have to?” Well, China is either the more mature of the pair, or just majorly sucking up to Mama Earth. The country is reportedly gearing up to set firm limits on greenhouse-gas emissions, seriously weakening one of the U.S.’s go-to excuses for climate inaction.
China’s powerful National Development and Reform Commission has proposed an absolute cap on emissions starting in 2016. The proposal still needs to be accepted by the Chinese cabinet, but experts say the commission’s influence makes it likely to pass. China today also announced the details of trial carbon-trading programs that will roll out in seven regions by 2014. In February, the country had said it would implement a carbon tax, but backed off a few weeks later, saying it will wait until early next year to get started on that.
The commission’s carbon-cap proposal calls for Chinese emissions to peak in 2025, five years earlier than previously planned. RenewEconomy explains:
China has already pledged to cut its emissions intensity – the amount of Co2 it emits per economic unit – by up to 45 per cent by 2020. The significance of an absolute cap is that it promises to rein in emissions even if the economy grows faster than expected.
A Chinese carbon cap could shake up future international climate negotiations, The Independent reports:
It marks a dramatic change in China’s approach to climate change that experts say will make countries around the world more likely to agree to stringent cuts to their carbon emissions in a co-ordinated effort to tackle global warming. …
“Such an important move should encourage all countries, and particularly the other large emitters such as the United States, to take stronger action on climate change. And it improves the prospects for a strong international treaty being agreed at the United Nations climate change summit in 2015,” added Lord [Nicholas] Stern, [chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics.]
The 2015 summit will take place in Paris. Previous U.N. climate talks have played out according to a familiar pattern: high hopes giving way to deadlock and failure. When the world’s largest emitters refuse to agree to limits on emissions, it makes the commitments of smaller countries somewhat pointless. U.K. Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey told The Independent:
I’m really much more confident than many people about our ability to get an ambitious climate change deal done in 2015. Obama in his second term clearly wants to act on this and there has been a fantastic and dramatic change in America’s position. Taken together with China’s change, the tectonic plates of global climate change negotiations are really shifting.
Barack Obama’s advocacy group, Organizing for Action, has been calling out Republican climate skeptics in Congress, but climate activists are not impressed. They’re planning to crash OFA events and push the group to fight the Keystone XL pipeline.
350.org and CREDO Action, the political arm of the company CREDO Mobile, are leading the charge. OFA is bracing for it. From BuzzFeed:
OFA circulated a set of talking points to its members for use in dealing with unruly activists. The document, obtained by BuzzFeed, includes information on the science behind climate change and the president’s environmental positions, and ends with a section titled “Keystone Talking Points.” …
The talking points come with a warning: “Volunteers from Credo Action or other organizations may attend your planning session and want to demand that we work on the Keystone XL pipeline.” …
“We understand that there are groups and individuals who would like to work to influence the President and the State Department on a variety of environmental decisions, but OFA’s plan is to do great organizing on building clean energy locally, turning up the heat on Congress and helping individuals and communities switch to clean energy,” the document reads. “They are more than welcome to work with those groups, but we encourage all volunteers to be part of our work and the mission of changing the conversation on climate!”
OFA asks its members to point to the State Department review process when asked about the pipeline.
Organizing for America defended itself to The Washington Post:
In an e-mail, OFA spokeswoman Katie Hogan noted the group already mobilized its members to both engage lawmakers on global warming and press for confirmation of Environmental Protection Agency administrator-designate Gina McCarthy.
“It has been made clear since our first day as an organization that we support the President’s plans from comprehensive immigration reform, to reducing gun violence to climate change, including the completion of the State Department [Keystone XL] review,” Hogan wrote. “Just last week OFA held almost 100 action planning sessions on climate change in communities across the country to talk about the action that can be taken right now to call out members of Congress for denying that climate change is a man-made problem.”
Um, Hogan, pointing out that you’re pointing out that Republicans aren’t taking climate change seriously is kinda missing the point.
Gulf Coast oil refiners and chemical processors say that a lot, but regulators are doing precious little to rein in what the industry euphemistically calls “upset” emissions.
Upset emissions are inadvertent releases of chemicals by industrial operations when something goes awry. And things seem to go awry awfully frequently. An ExxonMobil refinery in Baton Rouge, La., was averaging two accidental releases every week during one grim stretch.
That’s according to an analysis by The Center for Public Integrity, which found that upset emissions are more prevalent than industry admits or government knows. Some highlights from the center’s investigative report:
[A 411-barrel chemical leak last year] has played out again and again at the sprawling, 2,400-acre ExxonMobil Baton Rouge complex, which encompasses an oil refinery and a chemical plant, and dwarfs the Standard Heights community. The leak marks the 1,068th upset emissions event at the compound in the last eight years, according to a database of incident reports compiled by the Bucket Brigade. Of these events, 172 involved benzene, a carcinogen that can trigger headaches, dizziness and rapid heart rate.
Exxon’s chemical plant had 265 of all incidents. At the refinery, the data show 803 accidental releases over these years; at its height, the facility averaged two a week. …
The steady hazards extend far beyond Baton Rouge. In the Gulf states of Texas and Louisiana, the vast number of plastics, power and gas plants provide an on-the-ground case study of a national problem.
“Non-routine” upset emissions have become regular occurrences at oil refineries, chemical plants and manufacturing facilities.
The upset emissions can pose serious health risks, but the oil and chemical companies say there’s nothing to worry about.
Dr. Mark D’Andrea, at the University of Texas Cancer Center, began tracking 4,000 residents exposed to the poster child of all upsets — the “40-day Release” at the BP refinery, in Texas City, which belched 514,795 pounds of benzene and 20 other pollutants throughout the spring of 2010. Earlier this year, D’Andrea unveiled preliminary data showing the residents have “significantly higher” white-blood cell and platelet counts than their Houston counterparts. The data suggests BP’s release may have increased their risk of developing such cancers as leukemia, the doctor says.
In a statement, BP says it does “not believe any negative health impacts resulted from” its 40-day release. “To our knowledge, the University Cancer Centers’ pilot study does not support a claim for any plaintiff alleging injury from that flaring and has no relevance to those claims,” the company wrote, referring to pending litigation filed by 47,830 residents and workers against BP alleging health ailments caused by the release. D’Andrea has not been hired as an expert witness for either side in the case, but has testified in pre-trial discovery.
For more, read the full report in all its grotesque glory.
It often seems like teenagers are powered mainly by social media, so it only makes sense that a group of high school students would build a car that really was. This 1967 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, converted to an electric car by at-risk students from five Kansas City high schools, will turn Twitter mentions and Facebook likes into wattage to complete a 1,000-mile trip to Washington, D.C.
The students are attending a run by nonprofit Minddrive, which admits 30 students per year who are “slipping through the cracks of the ‘traditional’ educational system.” The students work with engineers and mentors to convert old vehicles to run on electricity.
This educational trip is all about connecting: students connect what they learned in the lab to what they see in the real world, and they must connect with other students and people along the way or they don’t move on to the capital. The “social fuel” needed to complete the trip has been assessed at 71,040 watts. An Arduino computer connects the drive train to the cloud and registers in live time the wattage of a Twitter follow, for instance, with a value of 5 watts. A Facebook like is worth only 1 watt.
It makes a kind of sense, though — social media requires electricity, electric cars require electricity, and changing the way we use transportation requires cooperation and communication. We’re willing to buy it. Or at least, we’re willing to tweet at these kids so they don’t get stranded somewhere in Kentucky.
As if it’s not enough that bees provide honey, wax, ecosystem balance, and tragic endings to Macaulay Culkin movies, researchers in Croatia are using the insects to locate the unexploded landmines that litter the Balkan landscape. They don’t call it a “hive mind” for nothing.
The program, led by honeybee behaviorist Nikola Kezic, trains bees by feeding them sugar water laced with small quantities of TNT. I actually didn’t realize that bees had a sense of smell per se, but apparently they have not only a sense of smell but a PERFECT sense of smell, according to Kezic. So they quickly learn to associate the smell of explosives with the presence of food.
In theory, this means that swarms of trained bees will throng to areas with hidden unexploded mines, allowing officials to dispose of them before they accidentally take off someone’s leg. In practice, it’s a little hard to do this thing at scale. “It is not a problem for a bee to learn the smell of an explosive, which it can then search,” Kezic says, “but training their colony of thousands becomes a problem.” And a few bees alighting on a land mine, while the rest of their compatriots visit innocuous flowers nearby, does not make for a very effective detection tool.
Still, it’s a good idea if Kezic can pull it off. Why design new tech to find landmines when nature has already built you hard-carapaced, networked sniffing machines that can fly out of danger in an explosion?
Los Angeles got a new mayor this morning: City Councilmember Eric Garcetti beat City Controller Wendy Greuel, a fellow Democrat, more handily than expected in a historically low-turnout race (a pathetic 19 percent of L.A. voters cast ballots). He takes office July 1.
Garcetti, a Rhodes scholar and L.A.’s first Jewish mayor, has big shoes to fill: Will he carry on current Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s celebrated efforts to combat L.A.’s image as a smog-choked, car-worshipping, freeway-entangled sprawlsville?
So far, the signs point in that direction. Some have criticized Garcetti for being too friendly to business interests, but he sees working with developers as a necessary component of the smart-growth strategy he’s pursued to revitalize once-blighted areas of Hollywood, Echo Park, and Silver Lake, his home turf.
Villaraigosa did not endorse a candidate in the race. But Garcetti earned the support of the Sierra Club, which called his environmental record “unmatched”:
He authored the nation’s largest green building ordinance, the nation’s largest local clean water initiative, and legislation making L.A. the nation’s largest city with a solar feed-in-tariff. He nearly tripled the number of parks in his district by finding innovative ways to create 31 new neighborhood parks. He led the effort to pass the plastic bag ban and Low Impact Development Ordinance.
In an interview with Zócalo (in which he also revealed that the chupacabra fills him with terror), Garcetti said the toughest political fight he’s endured was a failed campaign to create veloways, bicycle lanes along the freeway: “Probably would have been a really bad idea for asthma and health to have bike lanes alongside five-lane freeways … It’s a wonder I’m in politics.”
But he’s still a big backer of bike culture. At a mayoral forum last year, Garcetti pledged his commitment to CicLAvia, a recurring event that closes miles of L.A. streets to cars. He said he hopes to make it a permanent monthly tradition. At the same forum, “Garcetti thanked cyclists for introducing bike culture, urban farmers for introducing community gardens, [and] business owners for repurposing dead alleys” and “reiterated his commitment to the human experience, pointing to mass transit as an opportunity to embrace geographical equity so that bus riders in South L.A. have the same opportunity to enjoy public art, comfortable transit stops, and shade as other passengers.”
So far, so good to our ears.
May hasn’t gone so hot for some of the sharing economy’s most promising entrepreneurs. 2012 might have hinted of challenges to come, but so far 2013 has overdelivered. In the last two weeks, New York regulators and courts have essentially shut three of these companies down, at least temporarily.
SideCar Technologies, a donation-based rideshare start-up, ceased its New York business after a judge said even free rides from the company would violate the city’s laws governing cars-for-hire, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Then last week, RelayRides, which allows car owners to rent out their vehicles, came under fire from the state Financial Services Department for what officials called “repeated false advertising and violations of insurance law, which are putting the public at risk.” Basically: RelayRides told car owners that the company’s insurance policy covered them 100 percent in the case of a car renter, say, mowing down a pedestrian, but the car owners could actually be found liable.
But the issue really came to a head this week, when a New York judge deemed vacation rental middle-people Airbnb illegal in New York City and New York state. Airbnb’s services violate laws against underground and underregulated hotels, as well as a state-wide ban on short-term rentals enacted in 2011. Airbnb is now lobbying in Albany to change the law, but the East Village host who rented out his apartment for a few days and was made an example of got slapped with a $2,400 fine.
Last year, California cracked down on ridesharing and car-hire start-ups. The state hasn’t shut them down — it’s looking for a way to regulate them within the current system — but it’s asking a lot of the same questions about insurance and liability that are vexing New York.
“It’s a blow for an industry still trying to gain credence with an insurance industry that’s largely still baffled of its very existence,” wrote Richard Nieva at PandoDaily. Of the company’s troubles, RelayRides CEO Andre Haddad said in a statement: “Innovation, by its nature, does not always fit within existing structures.”
These peer-to-peer services definitely don’t — in fact, in a lot of cases, they’re a direct challenge to local business and governance. To some extent, this clash isn’t just expected; it’s a necessary growing pain. After all, services like RelayRides and Airbnb have really wormed their way into our decaying economy.
If I can’t get a cheap place to stay or hail a quick, easy ride, that’s annoying and expensive for me. But that’s nothing compared to the potential consequences for people like my friend Kate, who is underemployed but making a decent wage driving for Lyft. The sharing economy has become just that — an economy — and a lot of people rely on it not just for convenience, but for a living.
Last year, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said the site has “helped thousands of people stay in their homes” during times of economic uncertainty, by providing them with another income stream.
The regulated economy has failed Kate and people like her. The sharing economy hasn’t. That’s power. And the more these start-ups become enmeshed in the socioeconomic fabric of an individual place and leverage it, the more powerful they will become.
Will that involve some following of the laws? Well, yes, sure. Maybe smaller, more nimble and more localized start-ups could better navigate these laws — or maybe it’ll take the sheer muscle of national and even international operations to bust past stodgy regulators and crappy municipal codes. Either way, there may be some bumps on the road toward sharing economy bliss, but the road’s still there.
Whatever oil and gas true believers want to think, the world is doing this solar power thing. It’s getting cheaper and cheaper to make solar panels, and the panels are getting more and more effective. For example: A team in Australia just built a gigantic printer that spits out solar cells at a rate, Gizmodo reports, of about 33 feet every minute.
It’s not even particularly complicated technology, according to the researchers. Gizmodo writes:
[The printer system] utilizes only existing printer technology to embed polymer solar cells (also known as organic or plastic solar cells) in thin sheets of plastic or steel at a rate of ten meters per minute. “We’re using the same techniques that you would use if you were screen printing an image on to a T-Shirt,” project coordinator and University of Melbourne researcher Dr David Jones said in a press release.
This particular type of cell isn’t the most efficient, but it’s the type that lends itself to uses where you need a little flexibility — solar windows, bags, or tents, for instances. And now it’s also the easiest type to make. You could probably even print a solar-powered T-shirt that said “Eat it, oil.”
Bad news, Fage fans and Chobani lovers (we’re gonna call you “Chobuccaneers”). All that Greek yogurt you’re eating is creating a toxic byproduct: gallons upon gallons upon gallons of acid whey.
This is the same whey that Miss Muffett so enjoyed. Apparently she was a fish-hating sociopath in addition to being an arachnophobe. Modern Farmer reports:
It’s a thin, runny waste product that can’t simply be dumped. Not only would that be illegal, but whey decomposition is toxic to the natural environment, robbing oxygen from streams and rivers. That could turn a waterway into what one expert calls a “dead sea,” destroying aquatic life over potentially large areas. Spills of cheese whey, a cousin of Greek yogurt whey, have killed tens of thousands of fish around the country in recent years.
No one’s quite sure what to do with all this whey, and the industry isn’t reporting exactly where it’s all going. Ideas for disposing of it include:
The latter two ideas involve separating out the useful protein and lactose from the whey before using it. But they need to figure something out, because you know America’s not about to give up Key Lime Crumble Chobani. Mmm. Chobuccaneers, attack!