scharrison's blog

Fracking companies are dying, and leaving leaking wells behind

So much for the vaunted Free Enterprise system:

The day the debt-ridden Texas oil producer MDC Energy filed for bankruptcy eight months ago, a tank at one of its wells was furiously leaking methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. As of last week, dangerous, invisible gases were still spewing into the air.

By one estimate, the company would need more than $40 million to clean up its wells if they were permanently closed. But the debts of MDC’s parent company now exceed the value of its assets by more than $180 million.

Had another discussion recently about "flaring," wherein the oil/gas drillers burn gas in a spectacular display of sometimes 30 ft flames. I agreed that it was wasteful, but it's what you can't see that is the problem. Venting that gas without flaring it does much more damage than burning it off, and there is not nearly enough attention paid to this problem. Or the irresponsible behavior of the companies who should be forced to cap those wells:

SCANA lawsuit may signal the death of (new) nuclear power plants

A scam this big can only last so long:

A civil fraud class action lawsuit brought by shareholders against SCANA and its former top executives over the failure of its $9 billion nuclear power plant project in Fairfield County was settled Thursday for $192.5 million.

The lawsuit was filed in 2017, several months after SCANA and its junior partner in the ill-fated nuclear venture, Santee Cooper, a state-owned utility, announced on July 31 of that year they were abandoning the project that they had been promoting for years as a successful effort on the way to completion. The utilities also had been charging customers in advance for the unfinished nuclear reactors.

Bolding mine, because justice may not have been served yet. That last sentence refers to CWIP (Construction Work In Progress), a process that was shunned 30+ years ago, but utilities brought it back because nobody would loan them money for new nuke plants anymore. The shareholders got their settlement, but I have yet to see anything about ratepayers being reimbursed for their money collected. There should also be some criminal charges on deck, because this behavior is definitely fraudulent:

Draconian hedge fund makes move to purchase McClatchy

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Putting the Raleigh N&O and Char-O in a precarious position:

The refinancing of the company made Chatham — the principal owner of American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer supermarket tabloid — the largest debt holder in McClatchy.

Enter Alden Global Capital, a New York hedge fund that has become a major force in the newspaper business. In a surprise move on Wednesday, Alden filed an emergency motion in a U.S. Bankruptcy Court asking Judge Michael E. Wiles to stop Chatham from attempting to buy McClatchy through a credit bid, a transaction that would allow it to put the company debt it had assumed toward the purchase price.

Full disclosure: I don't know diddly about how bankruptcy courts operate, and I hope I never become learned on the subject. But I also believe in "learning from the mistakes of others," and Alden should be the last company allowed to control NC's flagship newspapers:

Business vs. health professionals: Kenan-Flagler steps in (it)

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Pushing for trade-offs that would cost lives:

The economic costs of the lockdown in North Carolina is hurting younger and middle-aged people harder, according to research released by the Kenan Institute on Tuesday.

It’s one of several findings coming out of a new framework devised by the Instiitute that aims to provide a cost-benefit analysis of reopening the economy amid COVID-19. The dashboard aims aggregates real-time, non-standard economic and public health data, highlighting the difficult tradeoffs between the virus and lockdown costs in a bid shape public policy.

I must admit to a healthy dose of skepticism after Kenan professor Michael Jacobs started stinking up the op-ed pages a few years ago, but it looks like that skepticism was warranted. Instead of just sticking to the business side, misleading health information is also on this "dashboard":

Tuesday Twitter roundup

COVID 19 infections align with other negative health outcomes suffered by minority families, thanks to a system that was designed to cater to the wealthy. Everything has a price tag, but not everybody can pay those prices.

Battle lines drawn between natural gas and renewable energy

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Coal is dead (or dying), but the fossil fuel industry is not:

For years, environmental activists and liberal policymakers fought to force utilities to reduce coal use to curb emissions and climate change. As the use of coal fades, the battle lines are rapidly shifting, with the proponents of a carbon-free grid facing off against those who champion natural gas, an abundant fuel that produces about half the greenhouse gas emissions that burning coal does.

Coal plants supply less than 20 percent of the country’s electricity, down from about half a decade ago. Over that same time, the share from natural gas has doubled to about 40 percent. Renewable energy has also more than doubled to about 20 percent, and nuclear plants have been relatively steady at around 20 percent.

I overheard a conversation recently about solar energy vs coal-fired power plants, and both of the people said they hoped solar energy would be become cheaper than gas or coal one day in the future. At which point I interrupted to explain that day was already here. "I haven't heard anything about that. Are you sure?" Yes, I am sure:

Tarheel Founding Fathers: John Williams

Williams began his revolutionary career as a Lieutenant Colonel of Orange County Minutemen:

British Colonel Donald McLeod began marching 1,600 Loyalists from Cross Creek, North Carolina, toward the coast, where they were supposed to rendezvous with other Loyalists and Redcoats at Brunswick, North Carolina. When Commander Richard Caswell (1729-89) and some 1,000 Patriots arrived at Moores Creek Bridge, near present-day Wilmington, ahead of the British Loyalists, Caswell positioned his troops in the woods on either side of the bridge, awaiting the British with cannons and muskets at the ready.

The British learned of the Patriot troops at Moores Creek in advance, but, expecting only a small force, decided to advance across the bridge to attack. The British Loyalists shouted, “King George and Broadswords!” as they moved across the bridge; they were swiftly cut down by a barrage of Patriot musket and cannon fire.

This was a critical victory, which effectively broke the Crown's control and influence in North Carolina. It also sent a strong message to those still "undecided" about which side to fight on. But even though the various district Minutemen thrashed the loyalists (including the much-feared Scots), they were deemed too expensive and disbanded in favor of local militias. Shortly thereafter Williams was commissioned as a full Colonel and commanded the 9th North Carolina Regiment in the Continental Army. They fought and froze through the Winter of 1777 in Valley Forge, and were disbanded in 1778. Later that year, as he was serving as a delegate to the Continental Congress, he wrote this letter to Robert Burton:

Internet platforms are (finally) cracking down on hate speech

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The Wild Wild Web ain't so wild anymore:

Within a 48-hour period this week, many of the world’s internet giants took steps that would have been unthinkable for them even months earlier. Reddit, which spent most of its life as a lawless free-for-all, banned thousands of forums for hate speech, including the largest pro-Trump forum on the internet.

Twitch — an Amazon-owned video-gaming platform not known for its political courage — suspended President Trump’s official account for “hateful conduct,” while YouTube purged a handful of notorious racists and punished a popular creator with a history of problematic videos. Facebook, under pressure from a growing advertiser boycott, took down a network of violent anti-government insurrectionists who had set up shop on its platform.

I'm sure the Covidiot-In-Chief will have some choice Tweets over this development, but it's been a long time coming. People who have limited their online experience to only Facebook and Twitter haven't felt the full force of racist and antisemitic trolls. Gamers in particular can be a nasty bunch, using intimidation and nastiness to help them win a stupid fricking game. And sometimes it gets genuinely frightening:

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