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Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

The Bottom Line — Introduction

Friday, January 28th, 2011


I’d like to start a series of articles concerned with where you consider your “Bottom Line”.


“Bottom line” refers to the final, determining consideration in a decision. It’s the grit or core of a subject; usually the basic or most important factor, consideration, or meaning. It shows a net positive or negative result — in your business, your career, your life. Let’s extend this to include: your community, the country, our society in general.


Not only am I interested in where your bottom line is, but also your opinions on things I think can and cannot be considered a bottom line item. So, let’s keep the “nice article” comments to a minimum and let me know how you feel about these items. Agree? Agree with reservations? Disagree? Disagree, but with some modifications, maybe? State your opinion. Take a side.   


Our society as a whole has gotten too — materialistic, commercialized, egocentric, and electronic gadget oriented. Should we refocus? And if so, to what? And how?


Have our brains been rotted out by our music, video games, advertising, and focus on ourselves instead of on our environment, community, children, and things outside of ourselves? What can we do to change things? Is it worth it, or are we “too far gone”? Have we reached the point in our civilization, like that of the Roman Empire, where the only direction to go is down? Can we pull ourselves back up to the top and fresh air and sunshine? Or has the rope rotted through and it’s only a matter of time before we drop into the dark abyss?  


In case you haven’t noticed, we’re raping the earth of her resources, polluting her water, land and air at an increasing rate. It may come as a shock, but there’s no place else to go. Once the earth has been ruined, it’s too late. We’re stuck.


How much longer can we ignore our own in our attempt to have the biggest, newest, best? Does the pig at the top realize others underneath can’t breathe?  Have we lost sight of the meaning of life, if we ever had it?


Millions of years ago, reptiles, in the form of dinosaurs, ruled the earth. They gave way to mammals, which over thousands of generations, led to Homo sapiens taking their turn as the ruling class. If we don’t change our evil ways, will a new ruling line emerge? Will we be supplanted by the insect kingdom? Will giant cockroaches rule? Will the billions of insects inhabiting the world be the only ones able to live amidst the polluted, resource sparse environment our world is heading towards?  


The big question remains — do we still have time to stop the decline? Or will the human race be just another blip, too small to notice, on the timeline of our universe?


Strike Three for BP?

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010


BP has been responsible for at least two major disasters involving oil and North America. First, on MARCH 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez tanker, skippered by Captain Joe Hazelwood, ran aground on Bligh Reef, spilling more than 11 million gallons of crude oil in Prince William Sound.


Then in April of 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused by a wellhead blowout spewed at least 4,200,000 US gallons per day over an Area of 2,500 to 68,000 square miles. It’s been called the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.


That’s two strikes. Is BP headed for strike three?


In college I took an electronics lab. We joked about creating an “anticipation” gate; one that knew the result before the inputs had been given. I don’t want to jump into the race before the starting whistle, but BP has shown what it thinks of maintenance, preventative or otherwise. So, where’s the light of the anticipation gate going to come on?


Somewhere on the Alaskan pipeline of course. Reports have been surfacing recently about the horrendous leaks, lack of regular maintenance, and BP’s continued usage of a pipeline designed to last only for 15 years; it was built in the 1970’s. But when the line continued to be profitable its use was continued for several more decades. Was maintenance stepped up for this antiquated system? Were newer and more efficient warning systems put in place in case of failure? By BP? Surely you jest. Profit is king here, not personnel or the environment.


According to workers, high pressure gas lines aren’t inspected frequently enough and are being “run to failure,” risking a leak and a major explosion. A document, obtained by ProPublica, shows that as of Oct. 1, 2010 at least 148 BP pipelines on Alaska’s North Slope received an “F-rank” from the company. From the company itself! Inspections have determined that more than 80 percent of the pipe wall is corroded and could rupture, releasing toxic or flammable substances. In addition, the company’s fire- and gas-warning systems are unreliable, the giant turbines that pump oil and gas through the system are aging, and some oil and waste holding tanks are on the verge of collapse. Typical BP?


In an e-mail, BP Alaska spokesman Steve Rinehart said the company has “an aggressive and comprehensive pipeline inspection and maintenance program,” which includes pouring millions of dollars into the system and regularly testing for safety, reliability and corrosion. He said that while an F-rank is serious it does not necessarily mean there is a current safety risk and that the company will immediately reduce the operating pressure in worrisome lines until it completes repairs.


Reduce the pressure, not stop the flow and do the needed maintenance?


Kovac, a BP mechanic and welder, said some of the pipes have hundreds of patches on them and that BP’s efforts to rehabilitate the lines were not funded well enough to keep up with their rate of decline.


“They’re going to run this out as far as they can without leaving one dollar on the table when they leave,” Kovac claims.

In 2010, before the enormous costs of the Gulf spill created an estimated $30 billion in BP liabilities, the company eked out more “efficiencies” in its Alaska budget. It said it would maintain record high funding for new projects and major repairs while reducing its budget for regular maintenance, according to a letter that BP Alaska President John Minge sent to Congress in February 2010. The letter said holding-tank inspections will be deferred and replacement of one pipeline will be postponed; flows through that line will be reduced “to mitigate erosion.”


So, not only is preventive maintenance something BP only gives lip service to, but they also have either not done or are ignoring failure analysis reports.


A failure analysis report should have been done on the pipelines, holding tanks, and all warning systems. These reports give the standard period between maintenance inspections and repairs, and also give the rate of failure over time. So, BP knew at the beginning when the pipes, turbines, holding tanks, and warning systems would begin to fail. Replacement of any and all parts should have begun well before the anticipated failure time. But the pipeline has been running for over 15 years longer than it was designed for. Can anyone say catastrophic environmental disaster?


So, there are some of the facts about the vaulted Alaskan Pipeline. In my opinion, it’s an accident (or disaster) waiting to happen. Will we wait until after the catastrophe to react? Probably. Should we? No.


And this doesn’t take into account minor spillage in the past. Other ruptures have occurred, but weren’t “big” enough to gather much notice. But newspaper articles in 2000, 2004, and 2006 reported these spills. So, maybe in essence, BP has already gotten its third strike.  


Here in the United States we have the “Three Strikes” law. It states if you are brought to court for breaking the law, the third time you go to jail — do not pass go, do not collect your stock dividends, just get acquainted with a nice, dark cell. If the disaster I’ve contemplated above happens, will this happen to anyone at BP?


Of course not. Big business will prevail. BP may hang out someone else to twist in the wind, but as a whole they will accept no responsibility for the lives they’ve ruined, the environment they’ve spoiled, or the corruption they’ve allowed to control their motives.


Should BP be held responsible for the clean-up of a rupture in the pipeline? Of course. Should they be required to clean up after themselves? Of course. Will they continue to ignore any laws they think hinder their God given right to make a profit at any expense. (Drum roll.) Of course.


Is there a solution to this problem? Yes, but’s it’s a long process, will include changes many people (mostly greedy business people) will fight tooth and nail against, and will cause many short term problems.


Over the next months, I’m going to start two series: “The Bottom Line”, and “Simplify”. The first will address how we Americans) need to define where and what we stand for. The second will address things we all can do to simplify our lives. Materialism, corruption, and the breakdown of social traditions and customs are leading us to the edge of the void. I, for one, don’t want to go there. Do you?   








The Good Side of a Disaster

Friday, October 15th, 2010


It shouldn’t have to take a disaster to bring communities, agencies, and governments together. If there’s a good side to the Chilean mining disaster it’s that it brought together multiple groups and nationalities to save 33 trapped miners.  The Chilean mining disaster had a successful conclusion – all the miners returned alive. But, the causes of the disaster still need to be addressed, and dealt with.


While I couldn’t find what caused the actual mine collapse, I did find articles on why the miners were trapped so far underground. The 33 miners, trapped 2,300 feet below ground, climbed the emergency ladder inside a ventilation shaft, but only got 1/3 of the way to the top. The San Esteban Mining Company had never finished the emergency exit ladder, so the miners had no way to the surface.


Having an escape passage is good. Never finishing it, is short-sighted and, not very intelligent. A breach of the four degrees of safety. (See prior post Putting Safety First.)   


In addition, miner Mario Sepulveda remarked, “but when we got here, the energy was cut off and there was no ventilation.” Another unintentional safety breach, or willful neglect by Alejandro Bohn and Marcelo Kemeny, the owners of the San Esteban Mining Company?


President Sebastian Pinera vowed to overhaul labor safety regulations and bring to justice those responsible for the accident, whether they are part of the company or part of the government. A needed and necessary vow, but will it be followed up on? Time will tell.


Those performing the rescue Part of the operation following a disaster should be able to:

-  Size up the scope and requirements of the situation.

-  Identify resources as they become available.

-  Deploy those resources in a coordinated manner.

- Continue the size-up, assessment, and deployment process on an ongoing basis as more becomes known.


 Even under the scrutiny of the media and most of the world, the people in charge of rescuing the trapped miners did well. The following tasks:

- size up the scope and requirements of the situation;

- identify resources as they become available;

- deploy those resources in a coordinated manner;

- continue the size-up, assessment, and deployment process on an ongoing basis as more becomes known;

Were all performed by the rescue team with positive results.


Under the scrutiny of the media and most of the world, the people in charge of rescuing the trapped miners did a commendable job.


Despite the valiant efforts that returned them to the surface, the miners may still experience, in addition to their physical aches, pains, and light sensitivity; psychological & physiological symptoms, such as:

-  Irritability or anger. Denial. Loss of appetite.

-  Blaming others. Mood swings. Headaches, chest pain.

-  Isolation, withdrawal. Diarrhea, Stomach pain, nausea.

-  Fear of recurrence. Hyperactivity. Feeling stunned, numb, or overwhelmed.

-  Increase in alcohol or drug consumption. Feeling helpless.

-  Nightmares. Concentration and memory problems.

-  Inability to sleep. Sadness, depression, grief.

-  Fatigue, low energy.

So though the miners are back on the surface, they may still have a ways to go before everything in their lives returns to normal. But, thankfully, they will have the chance to recover.


But if safety regulations had been followed, the emergency exit ladder would have been finished, kept in good repair, and would have brought the miners to the surface with a minimum of trouble and hardship. Safety regulations should be kept up to date in accordance with technological advancements. And it goes without saying safety equipment and passages should be finished and maintained to keep them at 100% efficiency. The good part of this disaster is that people came together to save other human lives. The bad part is that it never should have happened in the first place.