Why a Cutback in Oil Production Is Sorely Needed

How deep is the hole the oil industry is currently stuck inside? To figure that out, you only need to look as far back as last week, which saw another two trainloads full of oil derail and storage numbers that put U.S. crude stocks at record highs

Every new pipeline leak or train derailment puts the environmental risk of moving ever greater amounts of oil into even sharper relief. At the same time, storage tanks that are bursting at the seams say everything you need to know about the troubled economic returns currently plaguing the energy business.

Despite a falling rig count, U.S. oil production is now running at more than 9 million barrels a day, its highest level since the early 1970s. In Canada, where companies are also slashing spending plans, total output this year is still slated to increase by hundreds of thousands of barrels a day.

Not long ago, hearing about those types of production gains would be music to the ears of investors. Today, the tune is decidedly more bearish. Increased crude production from shale plays and Alberta’s oil sands is only compounding the problems of an already glutted world oil market.

By most estimates, producers are pumping around 2 million barrels a day more than is needed to meet global demand. According to a recent analysis by Bloomberg, more oil is now being held in U.S. storage tanks than at any point during the last eighty years. The refusal of high cost marginal suppliers to put the brakes on production growth, let alone actually shut-in any output, suggests that oil prices, already cut in half since last year, could have even further to fall.

The dismal outlook for North American producers is once again being reflected in the price differential between benchmark U.S. crude and world oil prices. The spread between West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude, which was narrowing, is now beginning to open back up. The gap is particularly challenging for Canada’s oil sands producers, who can charge even less for every barrel of hard-to-refine bitumen

The more output that oil sands producers manage to churn out these days, the less their bitumen is worth. It’s clearly not a business model the market finds too attractive. The cool reception to a $1.5 billion share offering just announced by Cenovus is hardly bullish for the prospects of future financings. The way falling commodity prices are putting a hurt on balance sheets that’s grim news for the other companies that will surely need to tap the public markets before this current downturn shows any signs of turning around.

Further production growth also means more hundred-car tanker trains will be rolling through suburban neighbourhoods across the continent. With each one comes a growing risk of derailment, as well as the accompanying explosions like those that happened last week in northern Ontario and West Virginia.

Among the more disturbing aspects of those accidents is the involvement of new-and-improved tanker cars that are scheduled to replace the aging DOT-111 models. While Ottawa has just announced new regulations to make rail operators more accountable for spills by raising minimum insurance levels and requiring the bulking up of a compensation fund, such initiatives still won’t do anything to prevent more derailments from occurring. Indeed, rail shipments of crude, which have already quadrupled in Canada in the last few years, are expected to more than triple to 700,000 barrels a day by the end of 2016.

Instead of loading more surplus oil onto rail cars to be hauled to already over-stuffed storage tanks, both investors and communities across North America would be better off seeing the industry cut back on production. For companies that have already sunk a lot of money into drilling programs, however, cutting production will put their cash flow position into an ugly place. Although they may realize that less production would be good for everyone in the long run, getting out of their own way is proving tough to do. For the industry as a whole that will only serve to draw out the time before prices start to firm up. For the rest of us it means more oil trains will continue to roll through our back yards.

from Green – The Huffington Post http://ift.tt/1wyCPAD

Touching Photo Series Captures Dying Pit Bull’s First And Last Time Seeing The Ocean

When a photographer’s beloved pit bull got sick, she decided to take him on one last special trip so he could make a few more beautiful memories.

Zhenia Bulawka spent almost a decade with her cherished rescue dog, Mr. Dukes. But after falling ill, her pit bull found himself in the last stages of Grade III mast cell cancer last August, according to a blog post she wrote for The Dodo. While Mr. Dukes’ favorite activity was swimming in pools, the canine had never been to the ocean. So for his final adventure, the photographer and her boyfriend decided to bring Mr. Dukes, along with the couple’s other two dogs, Ruby and Violet, to see the ocean for the first time in Assateague, Maryland.

The trip was captured in a moving photo series.

Bulawka and Ruby in the ocean.

“[Mr. Dukes’] initial reaction seemed to be intimidation — as if he was confused by this endless ‘swimming pool’ which made so much noise,” Bulawka told The Huffington Post of her pooch’s first response to the ocean, but noted he became fascinated by what he saw. “He was transfixed. Perhaps he was mesmerized by the waves.”

Bulawka’s boyfriend, Christian Valiente, sharing a dog-safe sandwich with Mr. Dukes.

Sadly, Mr. Dukes died a month after the trip. The photographer recently decided to share her photos series in a memorial blog post.

“Every moment spent with him was the best — he was that cool … Cherish every moment spent with loved ones — be they two-legged or four,” she told HuffPost in an email. “The memories created will be with you, always.”

Bulawka holding Violet, one of her dogs.

While losing her best friend was hard for the photographer, she says that photo project was a necessary undertaking. She wanted to both commemorate Mr. Dukes, while smashing the negative stereotypes regarding pit bulls.

“With so much stigma surrounding pit bull-type dogs, I just wanted to convey something that portrayed them in a positive light,” she said. “They don’t deserve mistreatment and are worthy of human love and kindness.”

Mr. Dukes and Ruby, who had their ears cropped before Bulawka rescued them, with Violet.

Bulawka taking her dogs for a walk on the beach.

It’s been a few months since Mr. Dukes’ death, but Bulawka says that the memories of his big personality will never fade.

“Dukes loved life! He was the most eager to get the day started — always on a mission,” she said. “Dukes had so much purpose. He never let a second go to waste.”

(Photo series continues below.)
The view along the beach.

Valiente relaxing with Ruby.

Ruby, sleeping.

Violet at the door.

Bulawka’s bracelet, featuring two dogs modeled off Mr. Dukes and Ruby.

Bulawka on the beach with her three dogs.

Valiente and Mr. Dukes on the beach.

To see Zhenia Bulawka’s photo series in its original form, click here.

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Sorry, But Your Dog Can’t Remember That Fun Game Of Fetch

Sorry to break it to you, but your dog probably has no recollection of that fun game of fetch the two of you played yesterday. And that yummy treat you gave him just minutes ago? Even that has probably gone poof!

The truth is, a dog’s memory just isn’t very good. And a new study suggests that the same is true for 25 other animal species, from bees and birds to big mammals. Their recall of specific events disappears within minutes or even seconds.

“When it comes to short-term memory, it seems to work almost the same for all animals,” Dr. Johan Lind, a professor of ethology ethology at Stockholm University in Sweden and the study’s lead author, said in a written statement. “It’s a bit surprising that apes do not remember better than rats, but the results are clear. Human memory stands out because it is so susceptible, anything seems to stick in the memory for a very long time.”

For their study, a “meta-analysis” of previous research, Lind and his colleagues analyzed nearly 100 studies in which captive animals performed a short-term memory test. In the first part of the test, an animal is briefly exposed to some visual stimulus — a red dot, for example. After a brief delay, the animal is shown the same stimulus a second time, along with one or more additional stimuli — a black square, for instance. If the animal is able to identify the original stimulus, it is rewarded with a treat.

The animals didn’t quite ace the test. In fact, average memory span across all species was a paltry 27 seconds. Bees’ memories lasted about 2.5 seconds, chimps about 20 seconds. Dogs came out on top, but their memories dried up after only 70 seconds.

In contrast, previous research showed that humans who performed the memory task could remember that little red dot when tested a couple of days later, National Geographic reported.

“You can remember the name of a subway station, where you put you mobile phone or if your daughter laughed at your joke during breakfast,” Lind told The Huffington Post in an email. “In contrast, when non-human animals remember something for a long time, it is probably only possible for biologically relevant stimuli so that the event taps into a specialized memory; like the location of food for a caching animal… or perhaps the sound or looks of your offspring.”

In other words, he said animals may have two kinds of memory systems: one that retains information about events for a brief span of time, and another that retains long-term memories only for specific types of information.

Lind thinks that only humans have an “open memory system” that can store any type of information long-term, including memories for specific events — called “episodic memories.” But other scientists who were not involved in the meta-analysis think it’s a bit premature to rule out the possibility that non-human animals can remember events too.

“The study of episodic memory is crucial, since it is still under debate whether other animals can retrieve memories of personal past events in the same way humans do,” Dr. Gema Martin-Ordas, who studies animal and human cognition at Newcastle University’s Institute of Neuroscience in England, told National Geographic. She added that “it might be too early to argue that humans are the only ones who are able to mentally travel back and forward in time.”

The review was accepted for publication in the journal Behavioural Processes.

from Green – The Huffington Post http://ift.tt/1Bqnfay

China’s Wild Giant Panda Population Grows, According To New Census

BEIJING (AP) — Wild giant pandas in China are doing well.

The latest census by China’s State Forestry Administration shows the panda population has grown by 268 to a total of 1,864 since the last survey ending in 2003.

Nearly three quarters of the pandas live in the southwestern province of Sichuan. The remaining pandas have been found in the neighboring Shaanxi and Gansu provinces.

“The rise in the population of wild giant pandas is a victory for conservation and definitely one to celebrate,” said Ginette Hemley, senior vice president of wildlife conservation for World Wildlife Fund.

Hemley credited efforts by the Chinese government for the increase. The survey shows 1,246 wild giant pandas live within nature reserves. There are 67 panda reserves in China, an increase of 27 since the last survey.

“The survey result demonstrates the effectiveness of nature reserves in boosting wild giant panda numbers,” said Xiaohai Liu, executive program director for WWF-China.

But the survey also points to economic development as a main threat to the rare animal. It says 319 hydropower stations and 1,339 kilometers (832 miles) of roads have been built in the giant panda’s habitat.

WWF said it is the first time that large-scale infrastructure projects such as mining and railroads get referenced in the survey. Traditional threats such as poaching are on the decline, WWF noted.

China began surveying its giant pandas in the 1970s. The latest census began in 2011 and took three years to complete.

The number of giant pandas in captivity grew by 211, more than double the previous survey figure, according to the census released Saturday.

from Green – The Huffington Post http://ift.tt/1DDFDvN

Chris Christie Backed Law That Lets Him Divert ExxonMobil Settlement From Environmental Cleanup

Only three months before New Jersey agreed to accept $250 million in cash from ExxonMobil to settle claims the oil giant sullied public land, Gov. Chris Christie was still signaling a hard line. The governor called the ecological damage from the firm’s refining operations “staggering and unprecedented,” and his administration continued to pursue a state lawsuit seeking nearly $9 billion in damages.

from Green – The Huffington Post http://ift.tt/1wxr4u2

The Eiffel Tower Just Became A Little More Green. Here Are 8 Other Landmarks That Did It First

Two wind turbines have been successfully installed on the Eiffel Tower to offset some of the structure’s energy use, renewable energy company UGE and the public service authority in charge of the iconic landmark announced this week.

The two turbines, which were placed 400 feet above ground level, are expected to produce 10,000 kWh annually. This will offset the power used by commercial activities on the tower’s first floor, according to UGE. The turbines are of the vertical axis variety, as opposed to the larger and more common horizontal axis turbines that rotate like traditional windmills, and they are painted to match the tower.

The project is part of a larger efficiency upgrade that also includes LED lighting and rooftop solar panels on a visitor pavilion.


The Eiffel Tower might be lighting a greener path in Paris, but there are other landmarks in cities around the world that have undergone updates to become more environmentally friendly. Here are eight of them:

The White House
white house solar
President Jimmy Carter famously had solar panels added to the White House roof in 1979. The panels, which were intended to heat water, were removed after Ronald Reagan took office. With little fanfare, the George W. Bush administration installed the White House’s first active solar electric system in 2002. President Barack Obama installed another set of panels in 2014.

Vatican City
vatican solar
Solar Panels were installed on the roof of the 6,300-seat Paul VI Audience Hall in the Vatican in 2008. During his papacy, Benedict XVI made calls for greater environmental protection, and his successor, Pope Francis, has acknowledged manmade climate change and lamented a “culture of waste.”

London’s Tower Bridge
tower bridge led
In 2012, London upgraded the lights on its iconic Tower Bridge to more energy-efficient LEDs. “The spectacular view of Tower Bridge from my office in City Hall is one of my favorites in London,” London Mayor Boris Johnson said in a 2011 statement announcing the project. “It’s fantastic to now be able to crack on with this work to make it even better, brighter and greener and at no cost to the taxpayer.”

The Empire State Building
empire state building
New York City’s Empire State Building underwent a significant renovation in 2009 that included retrofitting the skyscraper to be more energy efficient. It received LEED Gold certification in 2011, making it the tallest LEED-certified building in the United States. The building’s retrofit reduced energy consumption by an estimated 38 percent, and put it in the top 25 percent of the most energy-efficient U.S. office buildings.

Berlin’s Reichstag Building
Built in the late nineteenth century, the home of Germany’s parliament was damaged in a 1933 fire and by allied bombing during World War II. It fell into disuse after the war, but a rebuilding was completed in 1999 and it once again hosts the legislature of a unified Germany.

Along with a glass dome that lets in natural light, the building has a biofuel-powered combined heat and power system that produces about 80 percent of the building’s electricity and 90 percent of its heat. The building also has photovoltaic solar panels on the roof and low-flow water fixtures.

George Washington Bridge
george washington bridge lights
In 2009, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey finished upgrading the George Washington Bridge’s light “necklace” to energy efficient LEDs. The Port Authority estimated that the upgrade would cut 260,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

Rio de Janeiro’s Christ The Redeemer Statue
christ the redeemer
LED lights have illuminated Rio’s famous mountaintop statue of Christ since 2011.

Sydney Opera House
sydney opera house
The Sydney Opera House has implemented several steps to improve the facility’s sustainability, including more efficient air conditioners and lighting, along with a cooling system that uses seawater and saves millions of gallons of drinking water annually.

from Green – The Huffington Post http://ift.tt/1AmXFxB

Level of pollutants accumulated in the body linked to obesity levels

Scientists have confirmed that there is a relation between the levels of certain environmental pollutants that a person accumulates in his or her body and his or her level of obesity. Subjects with more pollutants in their bodies tend to have higher levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, which are important risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

from Top Environment News — ScienceDaily http://ift.tt/1LWhDpF

Dirty Pig Pulls Over Man, Takes Bribe (VIDEO)

Let’s hope no one squeals.

A Bradford, Maine, man was cruising along last Sunday when an officer of the hog stopped his vehicle.

“What’s up, big guy?” the man in the vehicle says during the 51 second confrontation.

It’s clear the swine isn’t taking any beef, snorting and sniffing at the man until finally, the terrified driver feels he has no other choice but to offer a bribe.

“You want a cookie?” the man asks.

The pig accepts and the man is allowed to continue on his way.

After reaching out to his superiors, owners Stacey and Brian — who identified the rogue pig as Buster — came to the animal’s defense.

“We made him our buddy,” Brian told WAIBI. “In the summertime, he gets daiquiris and deserts for breakfasts and then he gets some grain and what not, whatever we can come up with and he’s just part of the bunch. He hangs out. Does campfires with us in the summer and in the winter time, he runs amok and startles the neighbors.”

Running amok? Startling neighbors? It’s time we got these crooked hogs off our streets.

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