As smoke lifts on California’s coast, it lingers in Central Valley, where farm-workers have no refuge

Yahoo News – U.S.

As smoke lifts on California’s coast, it lingers in Central Valley, where farm-workers have no refuge

David Knowles, Editor      September 17, 2020

Scientists say satellite images show smoke from U.S. wildfires reaching Europe.
Hazardous smoke from wildfires across the West is presenting the latest danger for the men and women who pick America’s fruit and vegetable crops in a year when record heat and the coronavirus pandemic have already put their lives at risk.

 

On Thursday, while air quality improved in the San Francisco Bay Area, throughout much of California’s Central Valley it remained classified as “unhealthy” or worse. Under those conditions, residents are advised to stay indoors — but farm-workers don’t have that option.

“To be out in the fields, it’s like you can’t breathe,” Herman Hernandez, director of the California Farm-worker Foundation, told NPR.

The United Farm Workers, the nation’s largest farm-workers’ union, has been highlighting the poor working conditions caused by wildfires like the Basin Complex Fire, which has burned more than 162,000 acres near Big Sur, Calif.

The state requires employers to provide particle respirators or face masks when the air quality index reaches the “unhealthy” level of 151 parts per million, but thanks in part to the coronavirus pandemic, personal protective equipment is in short supply and many farm-workers have been going without it.

Oregon has no such mask regulations, but on Sept. 11 the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration sent a letter to employers urging them to halt outdoor work when the air quality index exceeds 151 and to allow “workers with underlying health conditions to stay at home.”

On Monday, the air quality index in Oregon topped 500 in many parts of the state, Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality said, prompting prompting Gov. Kate Brown to order the National Guard to distribute 250,000 Chinese-made KN95 masks to farm-workers and tribal communities, the Oregonian reported.

“Governor Brown’s goal is to make sure agricultural workers are protected from the health impacts of hazardous air quality, which is why she directed Oregon OSHA to issue guidance to employers last week,” Charles Boyle, a spokesman for the governor, told the Oregonian.

Farm laborers in California work in smoky conditions. (Courtesy of United Farm Workers)
Farm laborers in California work in smoky conditions. (Courtesy of United Farm Workers)

 

The short-term health effects of breathing wildfire smoke include chest pain, headaches, sore throat, fatigue, asthma attacks and an elevated heart rate. The longer-term effects haven’t been studied yet.

“Smoke from wildfires contains chemicals, gases and fine particles that can harm health,” California’s Department of Industrial Relations says on its website. “The greatest hazard comes from breathing fine particles in the air, which can reduce lung function, worsen asthma and other existing heart and lung conditions, and cause coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing.”

As in California, the majority of farm-workers in Oregon are Hispanic, a population that has been hit especially hard by the coronavirus.

“This makes this important and sizable population of our workforce potentially more vulnerable to the adverse effects of combined wildfire smoke and COVID-19 risks,” Dean Sidelinger, state epidemiologist at the Oregon Health Authority, said in a press release.

Since the wildfires began in Oregon, OSHA has filed 425 complaints on behalf of workers that allege working conditions in the fields are unsafe.

A farm in Colton, Ore., is engulfed by polluted air from the wildfires. (Stanton Sharpe/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A farm in Colton, Ore., is engulfed by polluted air from the wildfires. (Stanton Sharpe/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

 

In May, California allocated $125 million in aid to undocumented immigrants, many of whom work in the state picking the nation’s crops.

“Whether it’s wildfire, pandemic, drought or storm, farm-workers are out in the field,” Lucas Zucker, policy and communications director for the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy, told the Guardian. “It’s largely an immigrant workforce, many undocumented. Many are from indigenous communities from southern Mexico who face even greater barriers to accessing services and reporting labor issues.”

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 57 percent of farm-workers employed in the U.S. are Hispanic and of Mexican origin. The average total yearly income for farm-workers working full time is between $15,000 and $17,499, according to a report published by the U.S. Department of Labor.

In recent months, farm-workers have faced an unprecedented number of health risks, including the coronavirus pandemic and record-breaking heat across much of the West.

July survey conducted by the California Institute for Rural Studies found that agricultural workers in Monterey County were infected with COVID-19 at rates three times that of the population at large, National Geographic reported.

California, which has more scorched acreage this year than in any year in recorded history, is little more than halfway through what is now regarded as “fire season.” That means farm-workers in the Golden State will likely be dealing with smoke for months to come.

Gas Companies Are Abandoning Their Wells, Leaving Them to Leak Methane Forever

Bloomberg – U.S.

Gas Companies Are Abandoning Their Wells, Leaving Them to Leak Methane Forever

Mya Frazier               

 

(Bloomberg) — The story of gas well No. 095-20708 begins on Nov. 10, 1984, when a drill bit broke the Earth’s surface 4 miles north of Rio Vista, Calif. Wells don’t have birthdays, so this was its “spud date.”

The drill chewed through the dirt at a rate of 80 ½ feet per hour, reaching 846 feet below ground that first day. By Thanksgiving it had gotten a mile down, finally stopping 49 days later, having laid 2.2 miles of steel pipe and cement on its way to the “pay zone,” an underground field containing millions of dollars’ worth of natural gas.

The drilling rig arrived two months later, in early January. While 1985 started out as a good year for gas, by its close, more than half the nation’s oil and gas wells had shut down. How much money the Amerada Hess Corp., which bankrolled the dig, managed to pump out of gas well No. 095-20708 before that bust isn’t known. By 1990 the company, now called simply Hess Corp., gave up and sold it. Over the next decade or so, four more companies would seek the riches promised at the bottom of the well, seemingly with little success. In 2001 a state inspector visited the site. “Looks like it’s dying,” he wrote.

Gas wells never really die, though. Over the years, the miles of steel piping and cement corrode, creating pathways for noxious gases to reach the surface. The most worrisome of these is methane, the main component of natural gas. If carbon dioxide is a bullet, methane is a bomb. Odorless and invisible, it captures 86 times more heat than CO₂ over two decades and at least 25 times more over a century. Drilling has released this potent greenhouse gas, once sequestered in the deep pockets and grooves of the Earth, into the atmosphere, where it’s wreaking more havoc than humans can keep up with.

Well No. 095-20708 is also known as A.H.C. Church No. 11, referring both to Hess and to Bernard Church, who like so many in California’s Sacramento River Delta sold his farmland but retained the mineral rights in the hope that they’d make his family rich. The Church well is a relic, but it’s not rare. It’s one of more than 3.2 million deserted oil and gas wells in the U.S. and one of an estimated 29 million globally, according to Reuters. There’s no regulatory requirement to monitor methane emissions from inactive wells, and until recently, scientists didn’t even consider wells in their estimates of greenhouse gas emissions. With the pandemic depressing demand for fossil fuels and renewable energy development booming, why should owners idle or plug their wells when they can simply walk away?

In the past five years, 207 oil and gas businesses have failed. As natural gas prices crater, the fiscal burden on states forced to plug wells could skyrocket; according to Rystad Energy AS, an industry analytics company, 190 more companies could file for bankruptcy by the end of 2022. Many oil and gas companies are idling their wells by capping them in the hope prices will rise again. But capping lasts only about two decades, and it does nothing to prevent tens of thousands of low-producing wells from becoming orphaned, meaning “there is no associated person or company with any financial connection to and responsibility for the well,” according to California’s Geologic Energy Management Division.

“It’s cheaper to idle them than to clean them up,” says Joshua Macey, an assistant professor of law at the University of Chicago, who’s spent years studying fossil fuel bankruptcies. “Once prices increase, they could be profitable to operate again. It gives them a strong reason to not do cleanup now. It’s not orphaned yet, although for all intents and purposes it is.”

The life cycle of the Church well exemplifies this systemic indifference. Hess’s liability ended when it sold more than 30 years ago; the last company to acquire the lease, Pacific Petroleum Technology, which took over in 2003, managed to evade financial responsibility entirely as the well’s cement and steel piping began to corrode. Letters from state regulators demanding that the company declare its plans for the well went unanswered. In November 2007 the state issued a civil penalty of $500 over Pacific’s failures to file monthly production reports on the well. Instead of paying, Pacific requested a hearing, at which a representative testified that there was still $10 million worth of natural gas waiting to be pumped and promised the company would secure funds, make necessary repairs, and start producing again. The state was unconvinced and demanded Pacific plug the well. Another decade passed. The company never pumped a single cubic foot of gas and made no effort to plug the well. (Representatives of Pacific couldn’t be reached for comment.)

If Church were the only neglected well, it would be inconsequential. But these artifacts of the fossil fuel age are ubiquitous, obscured in backyards and beneath office buildings, under parking lots and shopping malls, even near day-care centers and schools in populous cities such as Los Angeles, where at least 1,000 deserted wells lie unplugged. In Colorado an entire neighborhood was built on top of a former oil and gas field that had been left off of construction maps. In 2017 two people died in a fiery explosion while replacing a basement water heater.

These kinds of headline-grabbing episodes are anomalies, but all this leaking methane also has dire environmental consequences, and the situation is likely only to get worse as more companies fail. “The oil and gas industry will not go out with a bang,” Macey adds, “but with a whimper.” As it does, the wells it orphans will become wards of the state.

Days before the 33rd anniversary of Church’s spud date, in November 2017, Eric Lebel, a researcher with the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences at Stanford, arrived at the wellhead. The rusted 10-foot structure—a “Christmas tree,” as it’s called in the industry—loomed over him.

While Lebel knew the well’s depth, it was still hard for him to envision its scale. “If you don’t see it, you don’t think about it,” he says later. “What’s underground is impossible to imagine.” The Earth’s interior has been unfathomably scarred by hydrocarbon infrastructure, he says. For almost two centuries, since the drilling of the first gas well in 1821, the fossil fuel industry has treated the planet like a giant pincushion. The first U.S. gas well in Fredonia, N.Y., extended only 27 feet underground, but drilling since has gone ever deeper. Ten-thousand-foot wells like Church are common today.

Now imagine each of those pins in the global pincushion is a straw inside a straw. In Church’s case, the outer straw is 7.625 inches in diameter and made of steel, encased in cement; inside is a 2.375-inch-wide steel tube. The deeper the well, the more the heat and pressure rise. At Church’s deepest point, 10,968 feet, the temperature likely exceeds 200F. The weight of the Earth exerts more and more pressure as the well goes deeper—reaching about 5 tons per square inch at the bottom. That’s the equivalent of four 2,500-pound cars on your thumb. All of this puts a huge amount of stress on that underground infrastructure. As it breaks down, eventually it begins to leak.

Astonishingly, no one had even bothered to ask how much until the past decade. In 2011, Mary Kang was a Ph.D. student at Princeton modeling how CO₂ might escape from underground storage vessels after being captured and buried. She looked for similar models on methane and came up with nothing; some of the industry sources she spoke with were confident that it wasn’t much—and that even if it was, technology existed that could fix it. “It’s one thing to assume,” Kang remembers thinking to herself. “It’s another thing to go get empirical data.”

Kang went to Pennsylvania, where boom and bust cycles over the years have left a half-million gas wells deserted. Of the 19 she measured, three turned out to be high emitters, meaning they released three times more methane into the atmosphere than other wells in the sample. “There were no measurements of emissions coming out of these wells,” she says. “People knew these wells existed, they just thought what was coming out was negligible or zero.” By scaling up her findings, Kang was able to estimate that in 2011, deserted wells were responsible for somewhere from 4% to 7% of all man-made methane emissions from Pennsylvania.

Those findings inspired Lebel and other researchers in the U.S. and worldwide to start taking direct methane measurements. The industry responded by ignoring them and fought fiercely against the Obama administration’s efforts to start regulating methane emissions. (A 2016 rule requiring operators to measure methane releases at active wells and invest in technology to prevent leaks was summarily overturned by the Trump administration at the beginning of August.)

Meanwhile, scientists trudged on. So far researchers have measured emissions at almost 1,000 of the 3.2 million deserted wells in the U.S. In 2016, Kang published another study of 88 abandoned well sites in Pennsylvania, 90% of which leaked methane.

Internationally, researchers tracked increasingly bad news. German scientists discovered methane bubbles in the seabed around orphaned wells in the North Sea. Taking direct measurements of 43 wells, they found significant leaks in 28. In Alberta, researchers estimated methane leaks in almost 5% of the province’s 315,000 oil and gas wells. In the U.K., researchers found “fugitive emissions of methane” in 30% of 102 wells studied. Such findings are both a threat and an opportunity, says Lebel, who considers abandoned wells the easiest first step to cutting methane emissions globally. That’s what brought him to Church in the first place.

According to his field logs, Lebel spent his first hour on site building a secure air chamber using a Coleman canopy tent draped in tarps, which he held in place with sandbags. Inside the tent, fans effectively created a convection oven of rapidly circulating air. As he worked, a farmer who leases the land wandered over. Be careful, he warned Lebel. Sometimes fire comes out of that well. Just yesterday he’d seen a plume of flames erupt from it, he said.

At 3:41 p.m., using an instrument that resembles a desktop computer with an abundance of ports, Lebel took his first methane measurement. “We knew right away it was a major leaker,” he recalls. It exceeded the instrument’s threshold of 50 parts per million almost immediately. Lebel collected air samples in tiny glass vials to take back to his lab. The analysis was damning: Two hundred and fifty grams of methane were flowing out of the well each hour. A rough calculation shows that over a decade and a half the Church well had likely emitted somewhere around 32.7 metric tons of methane, enough to melt a sizable iceberg.

Despite the flurry of recent research, the full scale of the emissions problem remains unknown. “We really don’t have a handle on it yet,” says Anthony Ingraffea, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Cornell who’s studied methane leaks from active oil and gas wells for decades. “We’ve poked millions of holes thousands of feet into Mother Earth to get her goods, and now we are expecting her to forgive us?”

There’s no easy way to bring up the thousands of feet of steel and cement required to carry gas out of a well as deep as A.H.C. Church 11. That means the only way to keep the well from leaking is to fill it up. Plugging a well costs $20,000 to $145,000, according to estimates by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. For modern shale wells, the cost can run as high as $300,000.

On a Wednesday morning near the end of June 2018, a crew of workers from the Paul Graham Drilling & Service Co., hired by the state of California after Pacific Petroleum failed to respond to years of notices, arrived at the well site. As they would on any job, they first dropped a “string,” a lengthy metal cable, into the well; in ideal circumstances, it’d be a straight shot to the bottom. But not that day.

Well records indicate that a “packer,” a ring-shaped device used to create a seal between the outer and inner straws of gas wells, had been installed about 7,000 feet down. It would have to come out first, or they wouldn’t be able to get the cement all the way to the bottom. When they tried to pull out the packer, the string broke.

The tiny packer, just 2.5 inches wide, stayed stuck for weeks. As the crew tried to get it out, tubing inside the well broke—“structurally compromised due to corrosion,” they told California’s Department of Conservation in the work log they submitted. They were forced to go “fishing,” using specialized tools to retrieve the tubing, piece by broken piece. But the packer was still in there. Eventually they used even more specialized tools to grind it away.

It wasn’t until July 26, almost a month after workers arrived at the Church site, that they were able to start “running mud,” the industry term for pumping cement into the outer straw. This straw had been purposely perforated to allow oil and gas to flow from the pay zone into the well. The plugging cement is supposed to accumulate upwards as more gets pumped in. But if it leaks off into that porous pay zone, no matter how much mud the team runs, it simply disappears. Unless the cement and other sealants reached every nook and cranny, the site might continue to leak.

Thankfully, Church filled easily, requiring 36,500 pounds of cement. The unforeseen difficulties added $171,388 to Paul Graham’s original estimate, raising the total bill to $294,943, more than double the crew’s $123,555 bid. (Neither the cleanup company nor the state representatives who oversaw the work responded to interview requests.) Ingraffea examined the myriad work orders from the job and called it a “well from hell.”

By late August, almost two months after they arrived at the Church site, the crew had cut off the Christmas tree and welded a half-inch-thick steel plate to the top of the wellhead. It had taken nine days longer to fill the well than it had to drill it in the first place. Looking across the landscape today, it’s as though Church never existed.

The atmospheric evidence, of course, shows otherwise.

The cost to plug just California’s deserted wells—an estimated 5,500—could reach $550 million, according to a report released earlier this year. While not an insignificant price tag, the real shock would come if the industry collapses and walks away for good. In that doomsday scenario, the costs to plug and decommission 107,000 active and idled wells could run to $9 billion. And yet so far in 2020, California has approved 1,679 new drilling permits.

“We make the same mistake over and over again,” says Rob Jackson, a professor of Earth system science at Stanford who oversees Lebel’s work. “Companies go bankrupt, and taxpayers pay the bills.”

Congressional efforts to create a well-plugging program for cleanup are stalled. Meanwhile, oil and gas companies have made trillions of dollars in profits over the past century and a half while enjoying relative impunity. On federal lands, where oil and gas companies actively drill, bond levels haven’t been adjusted for inflation since 1951, when they were set at $10,000 for a single well and $150,000 for however many wells a single operator controls nationwide. In California a company drilling 10,000 feet or more needs only $40,000.

Even spending all the billions of dollars required to plug the world’s millions of deserted wells won’t stave off environmental catastrophe. The vast heat and pressure of the Earth’s subsurface—the same forces that crushed dinosaur bones into hydrocarbons in the first place—mean that no plugging job lasts forever. Scientists and engineers debate how long cement can survive in the harsh environment of the Earth’s interior. Estimates typically fall from 50 to 100 years, a long enough time horizon that even some of today’s biggest oil and gas companies may no longer exist, but short enough to be uncomfortably within the realm of human comprehension. No regulations require states or federal agencies to measure emissions after wells are plugged.

While little is being done to prevent methane from creating catastrophic warming, less is being done to prevent water contamination. Researcher Kang, now an assistant professor of civil engineering at McGill University, worked as a groundwater monitoring consultant before getting her Ph.D. In 2016 she published a paper with Jackson showing that California’s Central Valley, where a quarter of the nation’s food is produced, has close to three times the volume of fresh groundwater as previously thought. Such good news came with an urgent caveat: Nineteen percent of the state’s wells came close to these aquifers. “It’s definitely a threat and something that needs protection,” Kang says. “There’s so much we don’t know.”

What we do know is scary enough. “The cement will deteriorate,” says Dominic DiGiulio, a senior research scientist for PSE Healthy Energy, an Oakland, Calif.-based public policy institute, who worked for the Environmental Protection Agency for more than three decades in subsurface hydrology. “It’s not going to last forever, or even for very long.” A.H.C. Church lies in the Solano Subbasin, part of the Sacramento Valley Groundwater Basin. Almost 30% of the region’s water comes from subsurface sources, according to a 2017 report from the Northern California Water Association. “Given sustained droughts, groundwater resources are going to be very important in the coming decades,” DiGiulio says. “California is going to need these resources.”

Among the hundreds of pages of records chronicling the well’s spud, activity, and plugging, the one consistent name was Bernard Church. One afternoon this summer, I called the phone number listed on the most recent document, from a 2004 inspection, and reached his wife, Beverly Church. She now lives in Walnut Creek, Calif., about 40 miles southwest of the well site, and she told me her husband had died nine years earlier.

He and their family never became rich. Holders of mineral rights can lease them back to oil and gas companies and receive royalties on what their wells produce. But because so little had been pumped from Church, none of the 20 or so family members who eventually held a stake wound up with much. “We didn’t make any money off of it,” Beverly says.

That’s not an uncommon outcome, explains Kassie Siegel, director of the Climate Law Institute at the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity. “Every once in a while someone might” get rich, she says. “But it’s not a thing. Big Oil is getting rich. For individual, ordinary people, it’s all risk and no reward.”

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McEnany has the wrong answer on Trump’s secret health care plan

MSNBC – MaddowBlog

McEnany has the wrong answer on Trump’s secret health care plan

Asked about health care policy, McEnany said those seeking meaningful answers should “come work here at the White House.”
By Steve Benen      September 17, 2020
Image: White House Press Secretary McEnany holds the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany at the daily press briefing at the White House on Aug. 4, 2020.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters file

Donald Trump has spent literally telling Americans he has a terrific health care plan, which will deliver better results at a lower cost, that’s nearly ready for its release. At a town-hall event on Tuesday, the president went so far as to boast, “I have it all ready. I have it all ready…. I have it all ready.”

But there’s still no plan, no blueprint, no outline, no bill, and no reason to believe anything the Republican has to say on the subject.

At a Capitol Hill hearing yesterday, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) asked several leading Trump administration officials, each of whom work directly in the health care field, whether they had any idea what the White House’s health care plan entails. Federal testing czar Brett Giroir, Robert Kadlec, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS, and CDC Director Robert Redfield all answered the same way: they had no idea.

Soon after, during a press briefing, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany fielded some questions about this elusive plan and who’s working on its creation. The former Trump campaign aide didn’t seem to appreciate the line of inquiry.

“I’m not going to give you a readout of what our healthcare plan looks like and who’s working on it. If you want to know, come work here at the White House…. As I told you, our Domestic Policy Council and others in the White House are working on a healthcare plan, the President’s vision for the next five years — and if you want more, come join us here.”

Part of the problem with such a posture is that journalists aren’t the only ones who want to know about Trump’s secret health care plan. There’s an election coming up, and millions of American families need to know what kind of health security — or lack thereof — they’ll have in the coming years.

They can’t all get jobs in the White House, just to understand what the president’s secret plan may or may not entail.

But the other part of the problem is that McEnany and Team Trump may be losing sight of why White House press briefings exist.

Decades ago, the White House fielded the same questions from different reporters about basic daily developments: What’s the president’s opinion about x? What does the president intend to do about y? Is the president prepared to support z? And so on.

In 2020, however, press briefings are … different. Kayleigh McEnany introduces propaganda videos. She calls on representatives of fringe websites to ask politically satisfying “questions.” She heckles actual journalists. She shows a clip of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at a hair salon — and plays in a loop, over and over again.

But ask the president’s principal spokesperson a question about health care policy, and the answer is simple: those seeking meaningful answers should “come work here at the White House.”

ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, a former president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, recently made the case that White House press secretaries should hold regular briefings, “but not like this.”

Trump may end up at Rikers Island by the end of 2023 if he loses re-election

Salon – Politics

Trump may end up at Rikers Island by the end of 2023 if he loses re-election: legal experts

Travis Gettys, Salon                         
Donald Trump
Donald Trump.  Donald Trump Getty Images

 

If President Donald Trump loses re-election, he could find himself the first ex-president to be charged with a crime.

More than a dozen investigations are already under way against Trump and his associates, so his potential legal exposure is “breathtaking,” according to New York Magazine columnist Jeff Wise.

“You might think, given all the crimes Trump has bragged about committing during his time in office, that the primary path to prosecuting him would involve the U.S. Justice Department,” Wise wrote. “If Joe Biden is sworn in as president in January, his attorney general will inherit a mountain of criminal evidence against Trump accumulated by Robert Mueller and a host of inspectors general and congressional oversight committees. After the DOJ’s incoming leadership is briefed on any sensitive matters contained in the evidence, federal prosecutors will move forward with their investigations of Trump.”

Trump could try to pardon himself on his way out of the White House, which would certainly complicate matters, but Wise believes that Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. would likely charge the president with falsifying business records and tax fraud.

“To build a fraud case against Trump, Vance subpoenaed his financial records,” Wise wrote. “But those records alone won’t be enough: To secure a conviction, Vance will need to convince a jury not only that Trump cheated on his taxes but that he intended to do so.”

Unfortunately for the president, his former attorney Michael Cohen and longtime accountant Allen Weisselberg have already signaled they’re willing to cooperate with prosecutors and both would have strong evidence to prove Trump’s intent.

“Once indicted, Trump would be arraigned at New York Criminal Court, a towering Art Deco building at 100 Centre Street,” Wise wrote. “Since a former president with a Secret Service detail can hardly slip away unnoticed, he would likely not be required to post bail or forfeit his passport while awaiting trial. His legal team, of course, would do everything it could to draw out the proceedings.”

Accounting for those legal delays, experts told Wise that Trump would likely go on trial by 2023 and last no longer than a few months, and the president’s own supporters have already been persuaded to convict former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

“Trump’s conviction would seal the greatest downfall in American politics since Richard Nixon,” Wise wrote. “Unlike his associates who were sentenced to prison on federal charges, Trump would not be eligible for a presidential pardon or commutation, even from himself. And while his lawyers would file every appeal they can think of, none of it would spare Trump the indignity of imprisonment.”

“Unlike the federal court system, which often allows prisoners to remain free during the appeals process, state courts tend to waste no time in carrying out punishment,” he added. “After someone is sentenced in New York City, their next stop is Rikers Island. Once there, as Trump awaited transfer to a state prison, the man who’d treated the presidency like a piggy bank would receive yet another handout at the public expense: a toothbrush and toothpaste, bedding, a towel, and a green plastic cup.”

BP Says the Era of Oil-Demand Growth Is Over

Bloomberg – Business

BP Says the Era of Oil-Demand Growth Is Over

Rakteem Katakey                            

(Bloomberg) — BP Plc said the relentless growth of oil demand is over, becoming the first super-major to call the end of an era many thought would last another decade or more.

Oil consumption may never return to levels seen before the coronavirus crisis took hold, BP said in a report on Monday. Even its most bullish scenario sees demand no better than “broadly flat” for the next two decades as the energy transition shifts the world away from fossil fuels.

BP is making a profound break from orthodoxy. From the bosses of corporate energy giants to ministers from OPEC states, senior figures from the industry have insisted that oil consumption will see decades of growth. Time and again, they have described it as the only commodity that can satisfy the demands of an increasing global population and expanding middle class.

The U.K. giant is describing a different future, where oil’s supremacy is challenged, and ultimately fades. That explains why BP has taken the boldest steps so far among peers to align its business with the goals of the Paris climate accord. Just six months after taking the top job, Chief Executive Officer Bernard Looney said in August he’d shrink oil and gas output by 40% over the next decade and spend as much as $5 billion a year building one of the world’s largest renewable-power businesses.

That’s because he suspects oil use may already have peaked as a result of the pandemic, stricter government policies and changes in consumer behavior. BP’s energy outlook shows consumption slumping 50% by 2050 in one scenario, and by almost 80% in another. In a “business-as-usual” situation, demand would recover but then flatline near 100 million barrels a day for the next 20 years.

Read: BP Walks Away From the Oil Super-major Model It Helped Create

BP isn’t the only big oil company adapting its business to the energy transition. Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Total SE and others in Europe have announced similar pivots toward cleaner operations as customers, governments and investors increasingly call for change.

Three Possible Futures

BP’s report comes ahead of three days of online briefings starting Monday on its clean-energy and climate strategy. The study considers three scenarios, which aren’t predictions but nevertheless cover a wide range of possible outcomes over the next 30 years and form the basis of the new strategy Looney announced in August.

The “Rapid” approach sees new policy measures leading to a significant increase in carbon prices. The “Net Zero” course reinforces Rapid with big shifts in societal behavior, while the “Business-as-usual” projection assumes that government policies, technology and social preferences continue to evolve as they have in the recent past.

See also: New EU Climate Plan Brings End of the Combustion Engine Closer

In the first two scenarios, oil demand falls as a result of the coronavirus, the report shows. “It subsequently recovers but never back to pre-Covid levels,” according to Spencer Dale, BP’s chief economist. “It brings forward the point at which oil demand peaks to 2019.”

That contrasts with what many others are forecasting. Russell Hardy, chief executive officer of trading giant Vitol Group, said on Monday that oil demand is poised for 10 years of growth before a steady decline. He predicts consumption will return to pre-virus levels by the end of next year.

BP’s outlook last year contained a scenario called “More energy,” which had oil demand growing steadily to about 130 million barrels a day in 2040. There’s no such scenario this time.

“Demand for oil falls over the next 30 years,” BP said in the report. “The scale and pace of this decline is driven by the increasing efficiency and electrification of road transportation.”

Covid Impact

The pandemic shattered oil consumption this year as countries locked down to prevent infections from spreading. While demand has since improved, and crude prices with it, the public health crisis is still raging in many parts of the world and the outlook remains uncertain in the absence of a vaccine.

The impact, including lasting behavioral changes like increased working from home, will affect economic activity and prosperity in the developing world, and ultimately demand for liquid fuels, according to BP. That means it won’t be able to offset already falling consumption in developed countries.

Demand for liquid fuels is seen falling to less than 55 million barrels a day by 2050 in BP’s Rapid scenario, and to around 30 million a day in Net Zero. The drop is mostly in developed economies and in China. In India, other parts of Asia and Africa, demand remains broadly flat in the first scenario but slips below 2018 levels from the mid-2030’s in the second.

Other points in the energy outlook:

The Rapid scenario has carbon emissions from energy use falling by around 70% by 2050, while they drop by more than 95% in Net Zero. Business-as-usual sees them peaking in the mid-2020’s.Demand for all primary energy — the raw materials from which energy is derived — increases by about 10% in Rapid and Net Zero in the period, and by around 25% in the third scenario.In Rapid, non-fossil fuels account for the majority of global energy from the early 2040’s.Growth in China’s energy demand slows sharply relative to past trends, reaching a peak in the early 2030’s in all three scenarios.Renewable energy — excluding hydro — increases more than 10-fold in both Rapid and Net Zero, with its share in primary energy rising from 5% in 2018 to more than 40% by 2050 in Rapid and almost 60% in Net Zero.Natural gas consumption is seen broadly unchanged to 2050 in Rapid and around 35% higher in business-as-usual. Demand falls by about 40% by 2050 in Net Zero.

(Updates with BP briefings in the seventh paragraph, Vitol CEO comments in the 10th.)

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

An ominous map shows the entire West Coast with the worst air quality on Earth as historic wildfires spew smoke

Insider

An ominous map shows the entire West Coast with the worst air quality on Earth as historic wildfires spew smoke

A thick layer of wildfire smoke tints the skies orange in San Francisco, California, on September 9, 2020. <p class="copyright">Katie Canales/Business Insider</p>
A thick layer of wildfire smoke tints the skies orange in San Francisco, California, on September 9, 2020.  Katie Canales/Business Insider.
  • The US West Coast has the worst air quality in the world due to wildfire smoke across California, Oregon, and Washington.
  • Maps of air-quality index measurements show hazardous levels of particulate matter from wildfire smoke across the entire West Coast.
  • Research has linked particulate matter from wildfires to heart and lung problems, increased hospital visits, and worse flu seasons.
  • The EPA recommends residents stay indoors with filtered air, keep physical activity levels low, and wear an N95 respirator if they have to go outside.

The West Coast has the worst air quality on Earth right now, as nearly 100 active wildfires — including three of California’s four biggest ever recorded — spew smoke.

Particulate matter from the smoke has made the air unhealthy to breathe all along the coast, as this map from air-quality monitoring company PurpleAir shows.

<p class="copyright"><a href="https://www.purpleair.com/map" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:PurpleAir" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">PurpleAir</a></p>PurpleAir

The numbers in the colored circles indicate the air quality index (AQI) detected by various monitoring sensors across the country. AQI is a metric measuring the level of pollutants in the air and how hazardous those levels are to human health, as determined by guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency.

A higher AQI indicates more pollutants in the air and a greater health hazard. The EPA considers any AQI above 150 to be unhealthy for all people. Anything above 300 is considered a “health warning of emergency conditions.”

The EPA does not make recommendations for AQI levels above 500, since they’re “beyond index.”

But PurpleAir’s monitors around Salem, Oregon, reported AQIs as high as 758 on Friday morning.

Those levels are comparable to some of the worst days for air quality in Dehli, India — the world’s most polluted city, according to the nonprofit Berkeley Earth.

Satellite imagery shows fires and smoke along the US West Coast, September 8, 2020. <p class="copyright"><a href="http://rammb.cira.colostate.edu/ramsdis/online/loop_of_the_day/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:CIRA/NOAA GOES-West" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">CIRA/NOAA GOES-West</a></p>Satellite imagery shows fires and smoke along the US West Coast, September 8, 2020. CIRA/NOAA Goes – West

None of PurpleAir’s monitors at other locations across the globe were reporting AQIs anywhere near 400 on Friday morning.

Fires have burned millions of acres and forced mass evacuations

California has been battling blazes for several weeks following a dry lightning storm on August 16 that ignited hundreds of fires. The state’s Doe Fire in the Mendocino National Forest is now the biggest in history at more than 471,000 acres. California’s third- and fourth-biggest fires ever are currently burning, too.

Firefighters keep an eye on the Creek Fire along state Highway 168, September 6, 2020, in Shaver Lake, California. <p class="copyright"><a href="https://newsroom.ap.org/detail/CaliforniaWildfires/18fc201319634de9b82eb2b6148e2186/photo?Query=creek%20AND%20fire&mediaType=photo&sortBy=arrivaldatetime:desc&dateRange=Anytime&totalCount=718&currentItemNo=11" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo</a></p>Firefighters keep an eye on the Creek Fire along state Highway 168, September 6, 2020, in Shaver Lake, California. Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo.

In California, more than 3.1 million acres have burned so far — an area more than 100 times the size of San Francisco and far more than any other year on record. Fire season doesn’t normally peak until late September.

In Oregon, meanwhile, fires spanning more than 1 million acres have forced about 40,000 people to evacuate. Flames encroaching on the Portland metro area prompted Mayor Ted Wheeler to issue a Fire Emergency Order on Thursday evening.

More than 500,000 acres have burned in Washington.

In total across the West Coast this fire season, at least 25 people have died.

The fires have spread quickly because forests are dried out by years of record heat. Some blazes are emitting so much smoke that they create their own weather systems, and the haze has tinted the skies orange and red over San Francisco and other parts of the coast.

Particulate matter from smoke has serious health consequences

The AQI numbers on PurpleAir’s map refer to the quantities of tiny particulate matter in the air — specifically, particles that measure 2.5 micrometers across or less. These are known as PM2.5.

Wildfire smoke carries many of these invisible particles, which come from the buildings and vegetation fires burn as well as chemical reactions in the gases it produces.

When humans inhale these particles, they can penetrate deep into the lungs and even the bloodstream. Research has connected PM2.5 pollution to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and premature death. In healthy people, it can irritate the eyes and lungs and cause wheezing, coughs, or difficulty breathing.

The map below, from the EPA’s air-quality monitoring website, shows a band of dangerous PM2.5 pollution along the West Coast (similar to what PurpleAir is reporting). The circles are color-coded by AQI ranges: Green indicates good air quality, while maroon indicates “hazardous” conditions with an AQI above 300.

<p class="copyright"><a href="https://gispub.epa.gov/airnow/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:AirNow.gov" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">AirNow.gov</a></p>AirNow.gov

“Decades of research have shown that elevated air pollution exposure is associated with a number of adverse health impacts, including compromised immune systems,” Erin Landguth, an associate professor at the University of Montana’s School of Public and Community Health Sciences, told The New York Times.

She added that research indicates that “after bad fire seasons, one would expect to see three to five times worse flu seasons.”

A 2017 study found that hospitals saw a 7.2% increase in admissions for respiratory issues following wildfire smoke events that produced two or more days of moderate PM2.5 pollution.

To reduce exposure to particulate matter, the EPA recommends people stay indoors with filtered air (ideally in a room with few windows or doors and an air purifier), keeping windows and doors closed. Physical activity levels should remain low, and those who must go outside should wear an N95 respirator. Those masks have been in short supply this year, however, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

What he really thinks: Trump mocks Christians, calls them “fools” and “schmucks”

Salon – Politics

What he really thinks: Trump mocks Christians, calls them “fools” and “schmucks”

David Cay Johnston, Salon           
Donald Trump
Donald Trump with thumbs up in front of elderly white congregation in church Drew Angerer/Getty Images/Salon

 

Michael Cohen’s book about his years as Donald Trump’s fixer is a clarion call to Christians to wake up; recognize the man many of them revere as a heavenly agent is a religious fraud; and act.

Trump loathes Christians and mocks their faith, but pretends to believe if it suits his purposes.

In Disloyal, published today, Cohen shows how Trump is a master deceiver. He quotes Trump calling Christianity and its religious practices “bullshit,” then soon after masterfully posing as a fervent believer. In truth, Cohen writes, Trump’s religion is unbridled lust for money and power at any cost to others.

Cohen’s insider stories add significant depth to my own documentation of Trump’s repeated and public denouncements of Christians as “fools,” “idiots” and “schmucks.”

In extensive writing and speeches, Trump has declared his life philosophy is “revenge.” That stance is aggressively anti-Christian. So are Trump’s often publicly expressed desires to violently attack others, mostly women, and his many remarks that he derives pleasure from ruining the lives of people over such minor matters as declining to do him a favor.

Cohen describes himself as an “active participant” with Trump in activities ranging from “golden showers in a sex club in Vegas” to corrupt deals with Russian officials.

The author offers new anecdotes about Trump’s utter disregard for other people and his contempt for religious belief. Cohen’s words should shock the believers who were crucial to his becoming president, provided they ever read them.

By denouncing the book Trump has ensured that many of those he has tricked into believing he is a deeply religious man will never fulfill their Christian duty to be on the lookout for deceivers.

None of the evangelicals I have interviewed in the past five years knew Trump has denounced in writing their beliefs and written of the communion host as “my little cracker.”

Trump detests Christianity

Despite the irrefutable evidence that Trump detests Christianity and ridicules such core beliefs as the Golden Rule and turning the other cheek, America is filled with pastors who praise him to their flocks as a man of God. Trump himself has looked heavenward outside the White House to imply he was chosen by God.

Pastors who support Trump were scolded two years ago by Christianity Today, a magazine founded by Billy Graham, for not denouncing Trump as “profoundly immoral.” Many evangelical pastors then attacked the magazine rather than following the Biblical exhortation to examine their own souls.

Cohen writes that as a young man who grew up encountering Mafioso and other crooks at a country club he fell into the “trance-like spell” of Trump, whom he describes as an utterly immoral, patriarchal mob boss and con man.

Trump is “consumed by the worldly lust for wealth and rewards,” Cohen writes, which puts him at odds with the teaching of Jesus Christ about what constitutes a good life.

“Places of religious worship held absolutely no interest to him, and he possessed precisely zero personal piety in his life,” Cohen writes.

Prosperity gospel embraced

Cohen explains that the only version of Christianity that could possibly interest Trump is the “prosperity gospel.” That is a perverse belief that financial wealth is a sign of heavenly approval rooted in 19th Century occult beliefs that is anathema to Christian scripture.

Many actual Christians regard the prosperity gospel as evilChristianity Today, calls it “an aberrant theology” promoted by disgraced televangelists including Jimmy Swaggart and Jim and Tammy Baker.

Early in Trump’s aborted 2012 presidential campaign, Cohen writes, he was ordered to reach out to faith communities. Soon Paula White, now the White House adviser on faith, proposed a meeting at Trump Tower with evangelical leaders. Cohen writes that Trump liked White because she was blonde and beautiful.

Cohen said that among those attending were Jerry Falwell Jr., who recently resigned in disgrace over sex and greed allegations as head of Liberty University, and Creflo Dollar, who solicited donations for a $65 million corporate jet and who was criminally charged that year with choking his daughter. Dollar said those charges were the work of the devil.

Once the evangelical leaders took their seats, Cohen writes, Trump quickly and slickly portrayed himself as a man of deep faith. Cohen writes that this was nonsense.

Laying on hands

After soaking in Trump’s deceptions, the leaders proposed laying hands on Trump. One purpose of laying on hands is to call on the Holy Spirit for divine approval.

Cohen was astounded when Trump, a germa-phobe, eagerly accepted.

“If you knew Trump as I did, the vulgarian salivating over beauty contestants or mocking Roger Stone’s” sexual proclivities “you would have a hard time keeping a straight face at the sight of him affecting the serious and pious mien of a man of faith. I knew I could hardly believe the performance or the fact that these folks were buying it.

“Watching Trump I could see that he knew exactly how to appeal to the evangelicals’ desires and vanities – who they wanted him to be, not who he really was. Everything he was telling them about himself was absolutely untrue.”

To deceive the evangelicals, Cohen writes, Trump would “say whatever they wanted to hear.”

A perverse epiphany

Trump’s ease at deception became for Cohen an epiphany, though a perverse one.

In that moment, Cohen writes, he realized the boss would someday become president because Trump “could lie directly to the faces of some of the most powerful religious leaders in the country and they believed him.”

Later that day, Cohen writes, he met up with Trump in his office.

“Can you believe that bullshit,” Trump said of the laying on of hands. “Can you believe that people believe that bullshit.”

Cohen also writes about Trump’s desire, expressed behind closed doors, to destroy those who offend him. Trump has said the same, though less vividly, in public.

“I love getting even,” Trump declared in his book Think Big, espousing his anti-Christian philosophy: “Go for the jugular. Attack them in spades!”

He reiterated that philosophy this year at the National Prayer Breakfast. Holding up two newspapers with banner headlines reporting his Senate acquittal on impeachment charges, Trump said, “I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong. Nor do I like people who say, ‘I pray for you,’ when they know that that’s not so.”

Trump spoke after Arthur Brooks, a prominent conservative, told the breakfast meeting that “contempt is ripping our country apart.”

Brooks went on: “We’re like a couple on the rocks in this country…Ask God to take political contempt from your heart. And sometimes, when it’s too hard, ask God to help you fake it.”

Everyone in the room rose to applaud Brooks except Trump, though he finally stood up as the applause died down.

Taking the microphone, Trump said, “Arthur, I don’t know if I agree with you… I don’t know if Arthur is going to like what I’m going to say.”

Trump then said he didn’t believe in forgiveness. That is just as Cohen wrote: “Trump is not a forgiving person.” Trump’s words at the prayer breakfast made clear that he rejects the teaching of Jesus at Luke 6:27: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”

The question pastors should raise in their Sunday sermons, the question Cohen’s book lays before them, is how can any Christian support a man who mocks Christianity, embraces revenge as his only life philosophy and rejects that most basic Biblical teaching—forgiveness.

Samuel L. Jackson Hits Donald Trump’s Supporters With A Damning Question

HuffPost – Politics

Samuel L. Jackson Hits Donald Trump’s Supporters With A Damning Question

Lee Moran                         

 

Samuel L. Jackson— never shy about slamming Donald Trump— asked a damning question about the president’s supporters on Friday’s episode of “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

The actor, who was standing in for comedian Jimmy Kimmel as guest host, listed just some of the scandals that Trump has caused in only the last week.

He then asked: “Who can still be voting for this guy after all the stuff that has gone down on his watch?”

“The fact of the matter is that Donald Trump is dangerous for our country,” Jackson later added, cutting to a spoof Trump campaign ad detailing the possible side effects of voting for the president.

Trump’s spotty record on manufacturing jobs

Yahoo Finance – Politics

Trump’s spotty record on manufacturing jobs

Rick Newman, Senior Columnist             

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is visiting swing-state manufacturing regions to bash President Trump’s record on factory jobs. “President Trump has broken just about every promise he’s ever made to American workers and he has failed our economy and our country,” Biden said in Warren, Mich., on Sept. 9. Voters will hear a lot more of that. Biden specifically points to a manufacturing recession in 2019, the increased offshoring of jobs under Trump, and a slower pace of job creation under Trump than under the last three years of the Obama administration.

While running for president in 2016, Trump promised to “bring back manufacturing,” which may have helped him win crucial Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. Did he bring it back? The answer could very well determine who wins those states—and the White House—in 2020.

Business shutdowns associated with the coronavirus recession have hammered manufacturing, like many other sectors. Manufacturers have lost 720,000 jobs since February, though employers have been slowly rehiring since May. But some voters may give Trump a pass on the coronavirus and try to assess his record on manufacturing during the first three years of his presidency, before the virus upended things.

From that perspective, Biden’s criticism largely holds up. Trump claims to have created the “greatest economy ever” before the coronavirus arrived, which is a comical exaggeration. In many respects, the U.S. economy grew at a similar pace from the last three years of the Obama administration into early 2020. Overall employment growth slowed a bit under Trump, but wages rose, which is typical of an expansion moving from middle to later stages. On manufacturing, however, one factor—Trump’s trade disputes with China and other countries, and the protectionist tariffs he imposed on many imports—may have caused a manufacturing slowdown and undermined the promises Trump made in 2016.

After taking a huge hit during the 2007-2009 recession, manufacturing recovered at a consistent pace from 2010 to 2015, as the following charts show. There was a slowdown toward the end of Obama’s second term, but manufacturing output picked up again near the end of 2016 and continued into 2018. Then another slowdown occurred in 2019. Biden calls that a manufacturing recession, and technically, that’s correct, since it entailed two consecutive quarters of declining manufacturing output. Production recovered in the third quarter of 2019 but dipped again in the fourth quarter, before output plunged in 2020 amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Graphic by David Foster
Graphic by David Foster
Graphic by David Foster
Graphic by David Foster

 

During the manufacturing slowdowns in 2015 and 2019, hiring flattened out—but manufacturers didn’t start laying off workers. That’s probably because CEOs saw the softness as temporary, rather than the start of another recession. They turned out to be right. Production and employment picked up after each slowdown.

Graphic by David Foster
Graphic by David Foster
Blame the trade war

Biden blames the Trump tax cuts for the modest manufacturing recession in 2019, claiming they gave manufacturers an incentive to move some production overseas. But Trump’s trade wars were probably the more likely cause of the 2019 slowdown. Trump began imposing tariffs on many Chinese imports, along with steel and aluminum from other countries, in 2018, and most of these nations imposed their own retaliatory measures on U.S. exports. By 2019, the trade war some analysts expected to peter out was escalating, instead. Trump ultimately slapped tariffs on about $361 billion worth of imported goods, imposing a cost of about $57 billion on the U.S. economy, according to the American Action Forum think tank.

Before the coronavirus contraction, Trump could credibly that manufacturers created about 100,000 more jobs during the first three years of his presidency than during the last four years of Obama’s. The Trump tax cuts may have helped a bit, by boosting after-tax income at most companies. But Trump also benefited from the recovery he inherited, with many deep scars of the prior recession finally healing by the time Trump took office. And there’s no evidence of manufacturing jobs that had left for other countries returning to the United States during the last three years, as Trump promised.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden arrives to speak during a campaign event on manufacturing and buying American-made products at UAW Region 1 headquarters in Warren, Mich., Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Factoring in the coronavirus shutdown, manufacturing has lost 237,000 jobs during the entirety of Trump’s presidency, which still compares fairly well with the performance of other presidents. On the Yahoo Finance Trumponomics Report Card, Trump still ranks third out of the last seven presidents on manufacturing employment. That’s because the manufacturing sector lost even more jobs at the same point in the first term of Presidents Obama, both Bushes and Reagan. During Obama’s second term, things got better, with manufacturers adding 386,000 jobs.

Biden says he’ll do better than Trump, through tax incentives meant to punish companies sending work overseas and reward those reopening closed factories here at home. Biden also says he’ll establish more muscular Buy America policies for the federal government than Trump has. Factory workers hear these types of promises every four years, and sometimes decide to give the promiser a shot. That helped Trump in 2016, but now he’s the one who has to prove he kept those promises.