Reflections of Opal and Why Trump’s Response to Maria’s Monumental Strike on Puerto Rico is, Thus Far, Vastly Inadequate

As a veteran of the U.S. Army National Guard, I’ve responded to my fair share of natural disasters. And having responded to some of the costliest and most devastating storms to strike the U.S. in the 90s, I know what it means when damage estimates, as they do now with Maria, hit a range of 30-95 billion dollars. When you get reports that evacuees are fleeing Puerto Rico with many saying they will never return.

It means total devastation of infrastructure requiring an equally unprecedented level of response to effectively manage a disaster of a class that we are not presently used to dealing with. And without an effective response, you get exactly what we are seeing now — refugees fleeing what has become, through neglect, a sacrifice zone.

(Editorial note — too little, too late.)

The present response to Maria by the Trump Administration is comparable to the level of response to Hurricane Opal. Opal was a devastating storm in its own right. But the damage inflicted by Opal was more than an order of magnitude less than the damage inflicted by Maria. Our response, therefore, must be equal to the level of harm and dislocation inflicted by the disaster. 5,000 troops and FEMA responders for Maria is, therefore, about 45,000 short of the mark.

Moreover, we can absolutely say that failure to pre-position an adequate number of troops, supplies and ships leading up to this disaster, a failure to secure a means of entry into Puerto Rico for troops and other emergency relief workers, a failure to establish law and order in devastated regions, and a failure to adequately and in a coordinated manner work to re-establish infrastructure and communications on the island is leading to a combined expanding disaster and mass exodus.

Reflections on the Effective Response to Opal

Back in 1995, when category 4 Hurricane Opal was roaring toward the Florida Panhandle packing 150 mph sustained winds, I received word of my mobilization while sitting in Shakespeare class, interrupted from listening to the lilting voice of my professor recite the bard in the idyllic halls of Flagler College.

It was October 3rd. And with the storm expected to make landfall sometime early on October 4, troops were already being called in. Units were already prepping. And supplies were already being pre-positioned.

My unit, an Infantry Company based out of Sanford Florida, possessed air mobile capabilities. This meant we linked up with a helicopter unit, mounted up, and performed the functions of air cavalry and air assault. A majority of the unit were ex-Rangers or Special Ops types serving out their retirement in the Guard. The rest were mostly ‘green’ college-age kids like me and a number of police officers, public servants, and school teachers. Our commanding officer was a Bank exec — your archetypal citizen-soldier. Our ranking NCO was a company first sergeant and ex-Ranger who’d served multiple tours in Vietnam.

(When hurricane Opal made landfall along the Florida Panhandel, it became the third most costly hurricane to ever strike the U.S. at the time. Hurricane Maria [above] was larger than even Opal — which at the time was considered to be one of the largest strong storms to strike the U.S. Its impacts devastated the entire island of Puerto Rico — not just a single long stretch of coastline. In dollar estimates, Maria is presently ten times more costly than Opal. However, with the economy of Puerto Rico less vibrant than that of the Florida panhandle, comparative damages are far more extensive. Image source: Commons.)

In the event of war, our mission was to support the 82nd Airborne. But in this peace-time disaster relief operation, our goal was to put first boots on the ground in the disaster area. To assess damage, establish rule of law and order, establish communications, secure key infrastructure, protect life and property, and to establish secure points of entry for disaster relief supplies and technical relief personnel such as medical professionals, engineers, and FEMA personnel.

The lessons-learned from devastating Hurricane Andrew were fresh on our minds as we readied for a hit that some thought could be as bad or worse.

A Far More Effective Mobilization and Response

For my part, mobilization meant cramming my individual gear into my personal vehicle — a 50 mpg Honda CRX — and making an unexpected drive from St. Augustine to Sanford to join with my unit on the afternoon of October 3. As with the environments around most hurricanes, the weather at the time was fair. But a tall, white outflow plume could be seen far off to the west.

Arrival at the unit was met with the usual flurry of activity. Most of our supplies had already been sent out on two and a half ton trucks to a pre-position location in the Pan Handle, but far enough away from the expected path of the storm not to put the unit at serious risk. We drew weapons, communications equipment, and packed up on food and water. Someone issued water purification tablets. I was the radio guy for my platoon — which was a recon platoon modeled after similar units in the U.S. Army’s Ranger divisions. So I picked up that heavy thing and loaded out with the necessary lithium batteries.

Flooding can be seen from the air as a U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations, DHC-8 prepares to land in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, September 22, 2017. U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo by Kris Grogan. More than a week after Maria, the situation in Puerto Rico is arguably getting worse. After a few days of a well organized response and relief effort following Opal, impacted regions had already begun to recover.

We piled into our two and a half ton trucks — which we called duces — and headed out.

By late that evening we arrived at a local school gym in some small town inland in the panhandle. Spreading out on the floor of the gym — we mostly slept. This is a habit you pick up on real quick in the military — sleep when you can, because you don’t know when you’re going to get it next.

Outside, the winds picked up, and tree limbs fell to the ground as Opal’s outer tropical-storm-force bands lashed over our location.

As soon as conditions had relented early that morning, we were loading up into our trucks and running out to a local tar-mac. Helicopters were waiting at the airport. Some of us, including me, piled into the ‘copters. The rest formed a convoy that would attempt to forge a land route out to the beaches along the far western Panhandle. Places like Destin Beach, Fort Walton Beach, and Gulf Breeze near Pensacola.

But those of us on the helicopters would be first in to the disaster area.

Opal had weakened as it roared into the coast. Still packing 115 mph winds, the storm had pushed a massive 15 foot storm surge through the region we were now approaching. From the air, we could see large sections of barrier islands that were literally cut in half. A one-mile section of coastal highway 98 was completely taken out by the surge. Most barrier islands were park beaches. But damage to homes along waterways and the shore line was immediately apparent. In parts, the homes had been completely removed from their foundations as if they were never there in the first place.

(In Navarre Beach, storm surge damage from Opal was quite extensive. In places, homes were washed across barrier islands and into the sound. Image source: Maria’s impacts were far more widespread and severe.)

Power lines and trees were down everywhere and damage was extensive — if no-where near rivaling the wind-caused devastation of Andrew. Most causeways to the islands appeared to have suffered extensive damage and it appeared that the convoy was going to have a tough time getting in.

After getting a visual assessment from the air, we located a relatively clear landing zone in Destin and set down. Immediately, we began to set up a forward base of operations while sending out patrols into the nearby cities. In the hardest hit sections, we placed armed guards at intersections as a show of force to reassure the public and prevent looting. Residents who’d stayed had lost power entirely. Many were grilling all the food in their refrigerators — engaged in an odd kind of block party where once the food was gone, it was uncertain when one would get more. We handed out some of the water we had (a few pallets had come on the ‘copters) and let people know where we were setting up aid locations for food, water, and medical attention.

We were initially very concerned about individuals needing immediate medical attention or those trapped in buildings. But at our location, it appeared that most people were fortunate — aside from the odd scrapes, bruises and gouges. Most residents near the immediate coast appeared to have gotten out before the massive storm surge rolled in, which was a blessing.

Reports of looting at a local car dealership came in and our platoon dispatched a squad to secure the area, apprehend and detain looters, and secure car keys so that no vehicles were stolen. And that was all on day one.

Over the next few days we slowly re-established order and rapidly widened the aid chain. It was a rough hit, but not as bad as Andrew, and it looked like the region was on the road to recovery.

Quantifying the Urgent Need for a Larger Response

Hurricane Opal inflicted 5.1 billion dollars of damages — mostly to the Florida and Alabama coasts and inland due to very heavy rainfall totaling up to 15 inches. The storm killed 63 people. In total, 3,500 National Guard troops and 700 police officers were mobilized to respond to the disaster. As you can see from the above account, much of this mobilization effort occurred prior to the storm striking land.

In contrast, Hurricane Maria has inflicted far greater damage over a much wider region. Total damage estimates for Maria now range between 30 and 95 billion dollars. Maria’s winds were close to 150 mph at landfall and the thunderstorms associated with this very powerful hurricane dumped as much as 40 inches of rain over Puerto Rico. As of one week and a day following Maria striking Puerto Rico, the Department of Defense had only mobilized 4,500 troops. Members of the U.S. Congress, meanwhile, recommend sending 50,000 — which would be an appropriate response. 

Due to a failure to immediately mobilize the forces necessary to deal with such a massive disaster, Puerto Rico remains on its knees. Reports are coming in that looting is expanding even as people grow desperate after being unable to access food, water, electricity and controlled climates for more than a week. Many homes have been destroyed and the homeless are mostly destitute and without help as disaster relief organizers blunder about trying to reach them. Meanwhile, thousands are leaving a Puerto Rico that looks, increasingly, as if it was basically abandoned for at least one week following one of the most devastating strikes by a hurricane in the Caribbean on record.

To be very clear, this thus far totally inadequate response to Maria is a failure of leadership at the highest levels.


Hurricane Maria Could Be a 95 Billion Dollar Storm for Puerto Rico

50,000 Troops Needed for Puerto Rico

U.S. Response to Puerto Rico Pales Next to Haiti Quake

Hurricane Opal

Hurricane Maria

Hurricane Opal Floods Florida

Hurricane Maria Dumps 40 Inches of Rain on Puerto Rico

Evacuees Leave Puerto Rico by Cruise Ship — Some Doubting They Will Ever Return

Leave a comment


  1. wili

     /  September 29, 2017

    Even for you, this is a particularly outstanding post, a wonderful combination of your personal experience and you razor-sharp and always well informed analysis. Thanks.

    • eleggua

       /  September 29, 2017

      Yes, indeed. Great work, Robert. Thanks so much for sharing the personal experience and perspective.

    • Loni

       /  September 30, 2017

      Indeed, a well done account of how we have in the past, and should be now, reacting to this staggering event. It is obvious to anyone so informed, that events of this scope are going to be the new normal, thus, we need to come up to speed asap in our recovery efforts.

      ‘Actions speak louder than words’, I pray we are not witnessing, “Make America great again”, become nothing more than a campaign slogan. Americas’ compassion IS one of the great things about her. Let that compassion measure up to the task.

      • There is definitely a dearth of response. This is not the usual level of response we would see from this kind of event happening on U.S. soil or even in neighboring countries, for that matter. The failure is coming from Trump.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Wili. A shift from the usual focus for now. But the situation is getting critical.

  2. Henri

     /  September 29, 2017

    Tropical forests are now carbon sources rather than sinks. I haven’t read the actual study but this sounds really ominous.

  3. eleggua

     /  September 29, 2017

    ““Well, maybe from where she’s standing, it’s a good-news story. When you’re drinking from a creek, it’s not a good-news story. When you don’t have food for a baby, it’s not a good-news story,” Cruz told CNN’s “New Day,” referring to the plight of Puerto Ricans, many of whom have received little or no aid thus far. “When you have to pull people down from their buildings — I’m sorry, but that really upsets me and frustrates me. You know, I would ask her to come down here and visit the towns, and then make a statement like that, which frankly, it is an irresponsible statement.

    “Damn it, this is not a good-news story. This is a people-are-dying story. This is a life-or-death story. This is a ‘there’s-a-truck-load-of-stuff-that-cannot-be-taken-to-people story.’ This is a story of a devastation that continues to worsen because people are not getting food and water,” she continued. “It is not a good-news story when people are dying, when they don’t have dialysis, when their generators aren’t working and their oxygen isn’t providing for them. Where is there good news here? … I’m really sorry, but you know when you have people out there dying, literally, scraping for food, where is the good news?””

    • Greg

       /  September 30, 2017

      She needs to be listened to acutely. Robert nails it. We need a massive response especially this late in the game for an island with a population about the same as Los Angeles and an area larger than Delaware:

      • eleggua

         /  September 30, 2017

        “I am done being polite. I am done being politically correct. I am mad as hell.”

        A chorus of that asap. We are all her; we are Puerto Rico; we are Bangla Desh; we are Queensland; we are Brasil; we are Gaia.

        We are all dying and ‘they’ are killing us with their inefficency and bureaucracy and willful ignorance and lack of compassion and lack of decency.
        We must stop ‘them’; “they” must become us; they must recognize what we all know: they are us, or else they must step aside now and let us resolve our problems together.

      • eleggua

         /  September 30, 2017

        • eleggua

           /  September 30, 2017

          The rant that inspired a chorus of “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

          “All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, ‘I’m a HUMAN BEING, God damn it! My life has VALUE!’ So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!’ I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell – ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad!… You’ve got to say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: “I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”

          (From ‘Network’, written by Paddy Chayefsky.)

    • She sounds like she’s at the end of her rope. Poor lady. Must be so tough to manage when you don’t get the necessary support and constituents lives are put in jeopardy.

  4. eleggua

     /  September 29, 2017

    I’m not fascinated by it; it’s vile, disgusting and life-threatening.

    ‘What is that haze over the Bay? The science behind it is fascinating’
    September 28, 2017

    “…Meteorologists say the haziness is essentially a result of pollutants, and the color depends on atmospheric temperatures.

    These green house gases spewed from car tailpipes and factories often get swept into the Central Valley and into the South Bay and mixed higher into the atmosphere by ocean breezes on cooler days….

    The nitrogen oxides and other volatile organic compounds in the air appear grayish at the start of a hot day when it’s cooler, a precursor to smog. If things heat up, they get cooked by the sun, a chemical reaction occurs and they turn a little yellow, a little brown, forming smog.

    The haze is hovering close to the ground on land as well, but is more visible over the bay because it’s mixed with moisture.

    “It’s pollution and basically it’s a visual indicator of why people should try to take carpool or public transit instead of driving to work,” says Charley Knoderer, the supervising air quality meteorologist with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.”

    (Hat tip to DT Lange.)

  5. wili

     /  September 30, 2017

    Stupid question: Might all that extra population become a strain on the already beyond-strained resources on the island? Or would the continue to mostly live on the ships that brought them over?

    • The simple answer is no.

      50,000 is a small additional burden, would only remain for a brief while, and, in general population doesn’t drive unsustainability. Harmful use and consumption of resources is the primary driver.

  6. Suzanne

     /  September 30, 2017

    Thank you Robert for this incredible post. I especially appreciate you sharing your personal experiences on the frontline of Opal.
    ______________________ ________________ __________________
    At the Guardian today…”Methane emissions from cattle are 11% higher than estimated”.

    Emissions of the greenhouse gas methane from livestock are larger than previously thought, posing an additional challenge in the fight to curb global warming, scientists have said.

    Revised calculations of methane produced per head of cattle show that global livestock emissions in 2011 were 11% higher than estimates based on data from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC).

    • wili

       /  September 30, 2017

      Yeah. Saw that. Bad, bad bad….more and more sinks are turning into sources…every one is kind of a double ‘positive’ ie exacerbating feedback…not good at all.

      As r would say I’m sure…even more reason to double and quadruple our efforts to slay the fossil-death-fuel dragon that is the primary purveyor of the deadly heat machine unleashed on the world.

    • Thanks so much for the kind words, Suzanne. Methane source estimates can range a pretty wide gambit. But animal ag is presently an issue that needs to be addressed. Impact not as harmful as FF, overall, but still a problem.

  7. Thanks,Robert

  8. Keith Antonysen

     /  September 30, 2017

    Thank you Robert, I have used your article as a reference for a comment to Tasmanian Times.

    • eleggua

       /  September 30, 2017

      Thanks for sharing that piece, Keith, written by Chris Harries. The article and comments are all worthwhile; the discussion there is impressive.

      “…that extremely dense form of energy – fossil fuels – that were gifted to us by millions of years of geological history…” – Chris Harries

      Someone asked me why that stuff belonged in the ground, why we should leave it there.
      Best I could come up with, “would you dig up your grandparents’ remains and throw them in the trunk of your car?” Those fuels really are “fossils”, and we all come from the same tree.

      ‘Earth Had Life From Its Infancy
      Canadian rocks that are almost 4 billion years old contain signs that organisms were already around on the young planet.’
      Sep 27, 2017

      “.(A)lmost 4 billion years ago..the landscape would have been very different. The Earth was a hellish place that had only just acquired a firm crust. Its atmosphere was devoid of oxygen, and it was regularly pelted with asteroids. There were no reindeer, whales, polar bears, or lichen. But according to new research, there was life.

      In a rock formation called the Saglek Block, Yuji Sano and Tsuyoshi Komiya from the University of Tokyo found crystals of the mineral graphite that contain a distinctive blend of carbon isotopes. That blend suggests that microbes were already around, living, surviving, and using carbon dioxide from the air to build their cells. If the two researchers are right—and claims about such ancient events are always controversial—then this Canadian graphite represents one of the earliest traces of life on Earth.

      The Earth was formed around 4.54 billion years ago. If you condense that huge swath of prehistory into a single calendar year, then the 3.95-billion-year-old graphite that the Tokyo team analyzed was created in the third week of February. By contrast, the earliest fossils ever found are 3.7 billion years old; they were created in the second week of March……

      “As far back as we can look for direct evidence of early life, we are finding it.””

      • Keith Antonysen

         /  September 30, 2017

        My comment has now been moderated and is at #102.

        • eleggua

           /  September 30, 2017

          You’re welcome. A lot of interesting, good stuff in the Tasmanian Times, starting with this quote from the masthead.

          “The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

          And this piece by Dr Shamshad Akhtar, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) and the Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

          ‘Preparing to live sustainably alongside increasing natural risks’
          29.09.17 5:10 am

          “The past few weeks have been a grim reminder that natural disasters know no borders. They can strike countries at opposite ends of the globe simultaneously and whether in Asia or North America, the images of people and livelihoods being swept away are disturbing. Intense monsoon floods, typhoon Hato, tropical storm Harvey and hurricane Irma, all raise questions about what more can be done to both mitigate the risks of extreme weather conditions and improve relief operations.

          Disasters are becoming more frequent and intense. The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in its recent report Disaster resilience for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Leaving no one behind shows natural disasters were responsible for the loss of two million lives and cost the region’s economy $1.3 trillion between 1970 and 2016. Over ninety per cent of deaths were due to earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones and floods. The poor and vulnerable bore the brunt of these disasters, suffering a death toll five times higher than the rest of the population…..

          The report offers a clear set of recommendations on how to build resilience and reinforce sustainable development in the region. ….”

      • I’m curious what you found useful in that particular article. It’s the same anti renewable energy garbage that has been endlessly regurgitated for the better part of the past 15 years trying to pose as pro-environmentalist.

        • eleggua

           /  September 30, 2017

          I see what you’re saying; thanks for the wake up call. There’re micro parts that are ok but overall it’s jive. I misinterpreted the angle of the pullquote and completely misinterpreted the gist of the piece. A bit tired yesterday after a long, heavy week of memorials and hospital visits, and not on point. No excuse, though. Thanks for catching that and thanks again for setting me straight.

          “At some point we need to get past the popular romantic view that non-sustainable society can be powered via renewable energy.”

          Is it me or is that statement just plain goofy?
          A sustainable society can be powered via renewable energy; a non-sustainable society wouldn’t be powered by renewable aka sustainble energy.

        • It was kind of deceptive and I can understand how it would draw people in.

          The notion that you can’t run modern energy systems on renewables is a bunk argument. It’s also a bunk argument when someone states that providing electrical and transportation services with renewables is ‘business as usual.’ It’s the exact opposite of business as usual. People stating this are intentionally muddying the water and seeking to confuse critical issues.

          The study focuses too much on thermal capacity and a load of other nonsense. Primary energy generation for electricity and transport accounts for more than 90 percent of present fossil fuel emissions. Thermal capacity is much smaller and can be replaced by concentrated solar, electric heaters, biomass and others.

          I guess my general statement would be — beware those saying you can’t replace fossil fuel with renewables. To deal with this problem it’s something we simply must do. Getting off business as usual is all about supporting a renewable energy transition.

        • eleggua

           /  October 10, 2017

          I should have been paying better attention.

          “beware those saying you can’t replace fossil fuel with renewables. ”


    • Reads like an infomercial for renewable energy denial and soft climate change denial…

      Sorry, Keith, but the article is full of the usual fossil-fuel centric worldview misinformation and anti-renewable energy nonsense. You can run modern society on renewable energy. It is cheaper and less harmful. Energy density is not a rational constraint due to the fact that battery energy density improves with scaling and innovation along a technological learning curve and due to the fact that electric motors are far more efficient than ICEs. The false labeling of these facts as ‘masculine fantasy’ is complete BS which amounts to little more than simple name-calling. Taking the misinformation link down.

    • Thanks, Keith. I had a concern RE misinformation in the parent article, so sorry to say I took the link down.

      • Keith Antonysen

         /  September 30, 2017

        I didn’t like the main article either Robert, so understandable.
        Tasmanian Times mainly has articles scathing of neo con politics; but, is open to any citizen journalist.

        • Ah. Got it. Thanks for the context.

          I’m sensitive to this kind of massaging as it appears to me to be specifically targeted to divide environmentalists and renewable energy advocates. So many assumptions that are nonsensical are embedded as well.

          In my view, the messaging should be additive. We want renewables and lower consumption. But we should be clear that renewables themselves enable less consumption and can help to promote more sustainable mindsets. If we support more responsible technologies, it enables us to synergies more responsible farming, sustainable land use, and forest and ocean conservation. We set all our values in line in this way.

  9. John McCormick

     /  September 30, 2017

    Trump failure:

    The National Weather Service, hurricane hunters and track modelers were certain the eye of Maria would pass close to or over Puerto Rico four days before it hit as a cat 5. Where was the preparation and stationing of needed supplies before landfall? A tragic failure of a failed president.

    • wili

       /  September 30, 2017

      “Where was the preparation and stationing of needed supplies before landfall?” Exactly.

    • Forecasting for Maria was certainly better than for Opal. Opal was fast forming and fast moving. Maria, though large, was slower moving and had a more easy to predict path. This should have provided a decent window for planning and prep efforts.

  10. eleggua

     /  September 30, 2017

    More rain and humidity for Puerto Rico instead of a needed respite.

    Tropical Weather Outlook
    NWS National Hurricane Center Miami FL
    800 PM EDT Fri Sep 29 2017
    For the North Atlantic…Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico:

    2. A tropical wave is producing cloudiness and showers over the
    northeastern Caribbean Sea and the adjacent Atlantic waters.
    There are no signs of organization and upper-level winds are not
    currently conducive for development. However, conditions could
    become a little more favorable for some development next week while
    the wave moves toward the west-northwest. This system is expected
    to bring locally heavy rains over the northern Leeward Islands,
    including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
    * Formation chance through 48 hours…low…near 0 percent.
    * Formation chance through 5 days…low…20 percent.

    • eleggua

       /  September 30, 2017

      Maria and current weather in Puerto Rico do not bode well for near-future health there.
      Here’s what’s up in Houston post-Harvey.

    • generativity

       /  September 30, 2017

      Best hopes for good rain, bringing moderate temps, clean water and rinsing.

    • Nothing formed thus far, thank goodness.

      • eleggua

         /  September 30, 2017

        Next five daze look ok re: major storms however the rain for Puerto Rico and the V.I. might further impact the current situation there.

        “A Flash Flood Watch in effect for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands through late Sunday night.”

        200 PM EDT Sat Sep 30 2017

        2. A tropical wave interacting with an upper-level low is producing
        a large but disorganized area of cloudiness and showers extending
        from the eastern Caribbean Sea northward across the Lesser Antilles
        to the nearby Atlantic waters. Environmental conditions are not
        favorable for development and tropical cyclone formation is not
        forecast. This system is expected to move west-northwestward to
        westward at 10 to 15 mph during the next few days bringing locally
        heavy rainfall over portions of the northern Leeward Islands and the
        Greater Antilles during the next several days. A Flash Flood Watch
        in effect for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands through late
        Sunday night.
        * Formation chance through 48 hours…low…near 0 percent.
        * Formation chance through 5 days…low…near 0 percent.

  11. kay

     /  September 30, 2017

    Thanks for this, Robert. Trump is still talking about Puerto Rico’s debt. The man is sick in the head. We should bring them to the mainland to live while the island is repaired. I have spare bedrooms in my home and would gladly take a family in. I don’t know how money helps in the immediate when there is nothing operational over there. Maybe I am naive, but I think they need to get them all to the mainland asap.

  12. wili

     /  September 30, 2017

    Gotta put some music in here, in the apparent absence of our beloved COBob:

  13. redskylite

     /  September 30, 2017

    RS – Thanks for documenting and talking us through this shocking & traumatic episode, not sure if anyone has shared this offering from the Human Impact Lab at Concordia University.

    As someone who worked with graphs, visual aids in a capacity planning field, before retirement, it says a thousand words to me. I can understand it not being popular with those who do not want to face the truth, and that the accuracy can be debated – but it sums up the fix we are in and the time we have to attack it. I have shared it with all I know, hope it brings home the urgency. This is among the best visual aids I have seen, kudos to Concordia for having the guts of putting it up.

    “The science has been done and the data is clear. Climate change will disrupt everything about how we live, with catastrophic effects; but what the science and the data have failed to do is win over the public mind. There is a disconnect between what we know about climate change from the scientific data and people’s perceptions of it will impact their lives – within their lifetime (and their children’s lifetimes). The missing piece of the puzzle is story.

    We need to reimagine how we tell the story of climate change and how we can use the data we already have to tell the story in vibrant new ways. We need to move beyond just print and video and start experimenting with the medium, the disruption system and the methodology behind these stories. The time to 2º is short and we are not winning the battle for the public mind. We need to start questioning why.

    How can we bring the story of climate change to life in different ways both technically and conceptually so people can better understand what all this big data really means? How do we make the big data of climate change local and personal but also take it out of the private conversations and move it into public spaces?”

  14. Abel Adamski

     /  September 30, 2017

    Slight digression back to EV

    However over all an excellent article giving one of the best knowledge and analysis of the Auto and EV industry I have seen

    • Abel Adamski

       /  September 30, 2017

      Key takeaway
      Solid state future
      Dyson is developing two solid-state batteries, which don’t contain liquids like the lithium-ion batteries used in smartphones and electric cars. In theory, these batteries are safer, can be recharged more quickly and can hold a charge for longer.
      Japanese auto-firm Toyota announced earlier this year that it hopes to have cars with solid-state batteries on sale by 2020 – the same time frame as Dyson.
      While carmakers are battling to develop the best batteries, they are also fighting to secure enough of the key minerals used to manufacture these power packs.
      VW is scrambling to secure long-term supplies of cobalt, a vital component of rechargeable batteries. The world’s largest carmaker has asked cobalt producers to submit proposals by the end of September to supply VW with the key mineral for up to 10 years from 2019.

      VW has accelerated its EV ambitions following the “dieselgate” scandal and plans to invest more than $24bn in zero-emission vehicles by 2030. It aims to ramp up EV production to 3m a year by 2025.

      Others, such as Nissan, are buying up battery capacity to secure supply for future EV demand.

      • It’s a race between new battery design innovation and economies of scale. Present lithium batteries are more compact, energy dense, and far less expensive than they were years ago. If Dyson can get new batteries out of the lab and effectively produce them to scale, then great. But even if that happens, the present lithium batteries will continue to improve. Toyota and Dyson are arriving late to this game. So they will need very compelling and material advances to beat out present economies of scale in non solid state batteries. So the question for me is — are the advantages of solid state strong enough to beat out the present advantages of simple scaling and in line innovation? I find that a little doubtful.

      • Overall, there’s a huge thrust for more EVs on the way. The auto industry is being shaken to its foundations.

        • eleggua

           /  September 30, 2017

          That’s raises the question, were the auto manufacturers privy years ago to what Exxon knew then re: fossil fuel madness?

        • Mblanc

           /  October 2, 2017

          I have read that solid state is theoretically better, so it is great if it comes off, another sign of the imagination and money being put in.

          Went to a little museum in my home town yesterday, it had a Mini with an electric motor in it, built in 1965! It is a bit of a pity that no one put any serious money into EVs a long time ago, I guess it speaks to the innate conservatism of the auto makers, and the highly profitable nature of FF motoring for them.

          The Faustian pact the automakers have had with FF is breaking now, and once people realise just how cheap these things are, to use and maintain, the pact is over. It is just a matter of how fast it can happen, imho.

          Those auto giants will have to get used to the thinner profits from their business, if they are to survive at all.

          Anyway, enough sermonising, that is a lovely piece RS. You don’t often see devastation on this scale, it is heart-breaking how long it has and is taking, to get relief in.

  15. Abel Adamski

     /  September 30, 2017

    An excellent article on Bloomberg
    Puerto Rico Stumps Trump
    A “great builder” should be able to manage the logistics of storm recovery.

    Donald Trump will always tell you that he is a “great builder.”

    “You can go ahead and speak to the guys who have 400-pound wives at home who are jealous of me,” he told me several years ago. “But the guys who know me know I’m a great builder.”

    A month before he announced his presidential candidacy in 2015, Trump smacked around the people he knew would become his opponents as folks who “can’t build”:

    He brought it up again when he announced his presidential bid on June 16, 2015: “I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me.”

    The master builder was also a central character in his books.

    “I’m a great builder,” Trump wrote in “Great Again,” his 2016 treatise about what ails America and how he would fix it. “I’ve built buildings all over the world. I’ve had tremendous success.”

    Getting skyscrapers, hotels and golf courses built requires myriad planning and management skills. Developers create and monitor supply chains so that building materials can get to construction sites. They assemble capable work crews and deploy them against deadlines and budgets. They come up with architectural plans, often from scratch, and have the foresight and imagination to balance beauty and practicality. They deal constantly with hurdles, surprises and complexities.

    These are precisely the business and administrative skills that could be of great use today in Puerto Rico, which has been flattened by a pair of hurricanes and is mired in a humanitarian crisis.

    Yet President Trump waited days to even acknowledge there was a problem in Puerto Rico. When he finally addressed the crisis on Monday, he did so via a series of Twitter free-for-alls that emphasized the island’s debt quagmire rather than specifics about how his administration would relieve the hardships of 3.4 million people who are without electricity, have limited phone service, and are struggling to secure scanty supplies of water, food and gas.

    But the White House set this response in motion more than a week after Hurricane Maria ripped across the island, on the heels of Hurricane Irma. Trump, who has waxed poetic about engineering a vast overhaul of U.S. infrastructure, seems stymied by the challenge of resuscitating tiny Puerto Rico’s roads, bridges and power grid. Thousands of cargo containers stocked with relief supplies are piling up on docks in San Juan because there is no way to transport them to the island’s interior.

    “We’re literally starting from scratch,” Trump complained on Friday, in response to widespread criticism, including from members of his own party, about his lackadaisical management of the Puerto Rico crisis. “Nobody has ever seen anything like it.”

    A guy who campaigned on the notion that he is a singularly great businessman, dealmaker and builder shouldn’t be hamstrung by a crisis like this one. Rather than throw up his hands and complain, he should be strutting his stuff, finding innovative ways to build new supply chains and distribute goods and services. He should be rallying people to the cause.

    Unless, of course, he’s not really who he says he is.

    Campaign speeches, shot through with promises and partisan appeals, differ from the mundane but crucial work of managing essential services. Good governance — whether the left or right is in charge — may be shaped by values, but it is defined by process.

    Trump isn’t, shall we say, a “process person,” as his history shows. New York’s real estate community has never considered him to be a premier developer. The Trump Organization is a mom-and-pop operation. Trump drove the biggest business he ever ran, his casino company, into the ground.

    He loves recounting how he developed the Wollman Rink in New York’s Central Park, bragging that his business savvy led to the completion of a project that had stumped City Hall. But note, the Wollman Rink is an ice-skating rink. I repeat, a skating rink. It is not a landmark project. Getting an ice-skating rink up and running isn’t as complicated as, say, helping to rescue Puerto Rico.

    It’s not only Trump’s skill set that’s wanting. His priorities are off, too. He cares about self-promotion more than problem-solving, or delivering on campaign promises.

    The nuts and bolts of health-care policy eluded the president, and Puerto Rico’s struggles appear not to interest him either. His observations on the territory’s problems are preschoolish. Puerto Rico, he said on Friday, “is an island. Surrounded by water. Big water. Ocean water.”

    Trump has been much more animated about positioning himself amid the racially charged debate he ignited over how professional athletes voice their opinions on issues of social justice.

    Perhaps the president tilts this way because he’s more interested in marketing than building, and more interested in campaigning than governing. He’s sensitive to these distinctions, of course, and whenever they surface always tries to spin them in his favor.
    There’s still time to embrace your inner builder, Mr. President. Puerto Rico needs a builder, not a marketer.

  16. Abel Adamski

     /  September 30, 2017

    Food for thought, it’s all about water and heat

    Many experts think that most human conflict is attributable to competition for scarce natural resources — food and water. A drought in the Middle East is seen as one factor contributing to the intractable war in Syria. Hungry and thirsty people tend to go on the move in search of food and water. Climate change may be partially responsible for the refugee crisis overwhelming Europe and causing a spike in nationalism there.

    Americans who might like to think such problems can’t happen in their country may be surprised when millions of their countrymen begin moving in large numbers away from low lying coastal areas subject to flooding and cities lacking an adequate supply of water. The disruption within American society could also lead to significant conflicts as the competition for scarce housing and jobs pits people against one another.

    Phoenix is a cautionary tale for why rational people should begin planning now for the effects of climate change. But will they? If past history is any guide, the prospects for such appropriate decision making are dim and getting fainter by the day. The world could learn a lot from rereading The Three Little Pigs.

  17. Abel Adamski

     /  September 30, 2017

    I don’t know if it was posted here previously, but an important read

    Hidden Costs of Climate Change Running Hundreds of Billions a Year
    A new report warns of a high price tag on the impacts of global warming, from storm damage to health costs. But solutions can provide better value, the authors say.

    Extreme weather, made worse by climate change, along with the health impacts of burning fossil fuels, has cost the U.S. economy at least $240 billion a year over the past ten years, a new report has found.

    And yet this does not include this past month’s three major hurricanes or 76 wildfires in nine Western states. Those economic losses alone are estimated to top $300 billion, the report notes. Putting it in perspective, $300 billion is enough money to provide free tuition for the 13.5 million U.S. students enrolled in public colleges and universities for four years.

    In the coming decade, economic losses from extreme weather combined with the health costs of air pollution spiral upward to at least $360 billion annually, potentially crippling U.S. economic growth, according to this new report, The Economic Case for Climate Action in the United States, published online Thursday by the Universal Ecological Fund.

    “Burning fossil fuels comes at a giant price tag which the U.S. economy cannot afford and not sustain,” said Sir Robert Watson, coauthor and director at the U.K’s Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research.

  18. Abel Adamski

     /  September 30, 2017

    From a comment on Climate redskylite
    Even the cruise companies are doing their bit

    Royal Caribbean International said its Adventure of the Seas cruise ship will carry 3,800 passengers from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. A company spokesman said the cruise line is providing the passages free of charge and that travelers were registered with the help of local officials.

  19. eleggua

     /  September 30, 2017

    “This week, a powerful delegation of women leaders from communities affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma occupied Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office on Capitol Hill.

    While his staff were eager for us to leave, the delegation stayed to share their stories and to demand the Senator acknowledge the role of climate change and the fossil fuel industry in making these storms worse.”

  20. Abel Adamski

     /  September 30, 2017

    Mazda and Toyota will work together to design EVs

    Six months ago, Toyota showed off a customized electric, self-driving Lexus. Just yesterday, the auto maker revealed an update to the vehicle line with new Lidar and deep learning AI that can better see objects around the car and predict safer paths on the road. Today, the company is announcing a new joint development agreement between Toyota, Mazda and auto component supplier Denso for the production of electric vehicles. The three companies are also forming a new company, EV C.A. Spirit Co., Ltd., to manage the collaboration.

    In the statement, Toyota said there are “increasingly stringent policies to help reduce greenhouse gases” around the globe, leading to new regulations to ensure the production of electric vehicles. The agreement between the three companies will cover many different models like mini-cars to passenger vehicles, SUVs to light trucks. Mazda will contribute its planning and computer modeling-based know how, while Denso will become the go-to for electronics technologies.

    The newly formed company will research the common architecture needed in EVs, verify the resulting performance of vehicles created by the collaboration and judge the final product for viability. Ultimately, Toyota sees the joint initiative as a way for Mazda and Toyota to share resources and “avoid the commoditization of EVs.” It also hopes to create a way for other automakers and suppliers to join in, which could lead to a whole new standards-based way of making electric vehicles.


    Standards is the key, especially in charging facilities and connectors

  21. Spike

     /  September 30, 2017

    It is currently a problem in several countries that “leaders” are in very senior positions who have little or no interest or aptitude for doing the stuff which leaders are supposed to do – many seem to regard is as boring tedium. It’s a particularly acute problem in the US, UK and Australia. Canada has stepped back a little after Harper’s depredations.

    Instead people are electing blowhards who rant and rave, who supposedly “tell it as it is”, promoted by dark money and hostile foreign interests, and aided by archaic electoral systems. I keep wondering why people elect these monsters, and think it is a product of both success and failure, in the same society at the same time – that is inequality. Those who have done very well pay for and elect monsters that will shore them up and promote their interests (fossil fuels, bankers, big Ag, big Pharma, inherited wealth etc..), and that will strut and posture in the way that many successful wealthy people wrongly regard leadership to consist of. Those at the bottom think things can’t get any worse, that a “strong” posturing leader a la Mussolini is the prescription, are convinced to believe their country is under attack, and find some solace in the worshipful community of flag worshipping and waving frauds with no genuine patriotism in their being.

    It’s entirely predictable that these individuals will fail when confronted with genuine and complex problems, and things go from bad to worse over time as they degrade the institutions they are responsible for as people of ability are sacked, or leave in disgust with destruction of institutional competence, memory, and purpose. New recruits fail to be adequately inculcated into the ethos and organisation of a successful and competent body, thinking that chaos and dysfunction is the natural order. We in the UK now suffer this very severely, and it may partly explain the hopeless Brexit nostalgia that thinks “things aren’t as good as they were in the past”.

    It’s notable that the most successful and genuinely prosperous and inclusive nations currently are those that have tackled inequality in a broadly consensual fashion with highly representative democratic institutions and strong respect for localism, judicial autonomy and functioning expert institutions. I hope that the good citizens of your great country can use what levers remain to wrest back control of your destiny from these fools and malevolents; you have, in my opinion, a far better chance than my own benighted island.

    • eleggua

       /  September 30, 2017

      “…people are electing blowhards who rant and rave, who supposedly “tell it as it is”, promoted by dark money and hostile foreign interests, and aided by archaic electoral systems.”

      Check out this character. Interesting mix of blowhardness and apparently solid ideals.
      Not mentioned in the NYT article, he’s been accused (and cleared) of bribery, and threatened the New Zealand Herald reporter that broke the bribery allegations.
      “I’ll beat him up, beat the death of him.””

      “Wetex Kang, a Malay-Chinese immigrant beekeeper, may be the first Asian candidate to represent the Maori Party of New Zealand, but at times he sounds more like a certain American president.

      I think we can make this country great again,” he said last month while driving through the electoral district of Botany in Auckland.

      That phrasing is intentional — Mr. Kang says he admires President Trump’s brash ability to grab attention. Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Kang is a political newcomer who at times says exactly what he is thinking. And Mr. Kang calls himself a “semi-self-made millionaire” who believes the country should be run like a business.

      But when it comes to policy, his vision of national greatness sounds decidedly different: “I’m standing for a true voice for immigrants. I stand for bridging the inequality in this country, and helping the tangata whenua realize their true potential,” Mr. Kang, 44, said, using the Maori word for the original inhabitants of New Zealand……”

  22. Jack Polonka

     /  September 30, 2017


    Out of curiosity, what was the National Guard unit that you where serving in?


    Jack Polonka

  23. Abel Adamski

     /  September 30, 2017

    Update on US Military and FEMA response. (Good thing the Pentagon has been planning for the impacts of Climate Change)
    And the political drama

    San Juan Mayor Rebukes Trump Administration for Rosy Comments on Relief Effort

    • Suzanne

       /  September 30, 2017

      And then the Malignant Narcissist-in-Chief attacked her this morning on Twitter.

      Okay..I am going to try to set my politics aside for one moment to say….This very mentally disordered POTUS is incredibly dangerous to the U.S.A and to the World.. His disorder makes him completely unqualified..unfit..and to unstable to be POTUS.
      This is not about his politics..this is a fact about his mental/emotional illness.

      • eleggua

         /  September 30, 2017

        “.this is a fact about his mental/emotional illness.”

        Exactly. Unbelievable wow, this latest spew of twatter.

        That crap says a lot about the institution and the office it represents. We’ve a disconnected power structure. There’s no good reason why someone should be able to feel so emboldened to say that crap and know that there’s nothing anyone can do about it except complain. And the complaints are only fodder for more spew. Time to change the power structure, peacefully, globally.

  24. Suzanne

     /  September 30, 2017

    At the NY Times…”A day in the life of battered Puerto Rico”

  25. Genomik

     /  September 30, 2017

    This article claims the Pacific Northwest will fare relatively better with climate change as it’s cool and wet with mountains as well.

    That’s possible in some respects as they mention but nowhere is safe. I suspect there won’t be many trees left in 30 years from drought and fire. The guy who helped me understand risks of climate change moved to Alaska but Alaska may see extreme changes and I suspect it’s trees will burn and perhaps silt will wash into rivers affecting fish as well.

    Those who try to move near the ocean also have to worry about the Cascadia fault which launches a massive tsunami every 200 years with the last on over 200 years ago.

    Overall it’s really hard to determine where is safe in a changing climate.

    • wili

       /  September 30, 2017

      People in the area also have to factor in the findings from this recent study, though I’m not sure how much eastern equatorial Pacific influence the eastern Pacific further north:

      The linked reference indicates that most current state-of-the-art ESM projections underestimate the warming of the eastern equatorial Pacific, which is one hallmark of high climate sensitivity. However, the reference concludes that uncertainties mean that this trend cannot yet be stated as an absolute certainty and it recommends further research on this matter:

      S. Coats & K. B. Karnauskas (18 September 2017), “Are simulated and observed 20th century tropical Pacific sea surface temperature trends significant relative to internal variability?”, Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1002/2017GL074622

      Abstract: “Historical trends in the tropical Pacific zonal sea surface temperature gradient (SST gradient) are analyzed herein using 41 climate models (83 simulations) and 5 observational datasets. A linear inverse model is trained on each simulation and observational dataset to assess if trends in the SST gradient are significant relative to the stationary statistics of internal variability, as would suggest an important role for external forcings such as anthropogenic greenhouse gasses. None of the 83 simulations have a positive trend in the SST gradient, a strengthening of the climatological SST gradient with more warming in the western than eastern tropical Pacific, as large as the mean trend across the 5 observational datasets.

      If the observed trends are anthropogenically forced, this discrepancy suggests that state-of-the-art climate models are not capturing the observed response of the tropical Pacific to anthropogenic forcing, with serious implications for confidence in future climate projections.

      There are caveats to this interpretation, however, as some climate models have a significant strengthening of the SST gradient between 1900-2013 C.E., though smaller in magnitude than the observational datasets, and the strengthening in 3 out of 5 observational datasets is insignificant. When combined with observational uncertainties and the possibility of centennial timescale internal variability not sampled by the LIM this suggests that confident validation of anthropogenic SST gradient trends in climate models will require further emergence of anthropogenic trends. Regardless, the differences in SST gradient trends between climate models and observational datasets are concerning and motivate the need for process-level validation of the atmosphere-ocean dynamics potentially relevant to climate change in the tropical Pacific.”

      (Thanks as often to ASLR at ASIF for link and text)

    • Not with the recent summers we’ve been having. High amplitude ridge formation during summer is presently shifting wet summer climates to hotter and drier.

    • Mblanc

       /  October 2, 2017

      Genomik, if you find anywhere safe, could you let us know? 🙂

  26. wili

     /  September 30, 2017

    Brazil’s worst month ever for forest fires blamed on human activity

    “September saw more fires than any month on record, as experts say uptick is due to expansion of agriculture and reduction of oversight and surveillance”

  27. Suzanne

     /  September 30, 2017

    What is so shocking to me is how many fewer resources were allocated to the U.S Virgin Islands and to Puerto Rico post compared to what was sent to Haiti post earthquake. I just don’t get it.

  28. Syd Bridges

     /  September 30, 2017

    I remember Hurricane Katrina before it hit Florida and it obvious that after Florida it was very like;y to reintensify and make landfall in the Gulf, as waters were very warm. Yet no early evacuation or preplacement of resources was done, and the slow motion train wreck unfolded before our eyes. The same with Maria and Puerto Rico, with a major strike seeming probable days in advance, nothing was done. Your stirring story or preparedness for Opal shows what can and should be done. But that was Clinton: this is Trump. Haiti was Obama, this is Trump.

  29. Allan Barr

     /  October 1, 2017

    Damn Robert, you have done so much good over your young life so far, thanks for sharing your insights, am sure there are many like me who truly appreciate it.

  30. wili

     /  October 1, 2017

    “Lost weekend: How Trump’s time at his golf club hurt the response to Maria”

    (Sorry, again I don’t have a subscription to WaPo so can’t access the whole article to provide further quotes…but if any kind poster could step in to do so again, it would be most appreciated.)

    • Shawn Redmond

       /  October 2, 2017

      Here ya go Wili
      Lost weekend: How Trump’s time at his golf club hurt the response to Maria
      By Abby Phillip, Ed O’Keefe, Nick Miroff, Damian Paletta
      September 30, 2017 at 9:15 AM

      At first, the Trump administration seemed to be doing all the right things to respond to the disaster in Puerto Rico.
      As Hurricane Maria made landfall on Wednesday, Sept. 20, there was a frenzy of activity publicly and privately. The next day, President Trump called local officials on the island, issued an emergency declaration and pledged that all federal resources would be directed to help.
      But then for four days after that — as storm-ravaged Puerto Rico struggled for food and water amid the darkness of power outages — Trump and his top aides effectively went dark themselves.
      Trump jetted to New Jersey that Thursday night to spend a long weekend at his private golf club there, save for a quick trip to Alabama for a political rally. Neither Trump nor any of his senior White House aides said a word publicly about the unfolding crisis.
      Trump did hold a meeting at his golf club that Friday with half a dozen Cabinet officials — including acting Homeland Security secretary Elaine Duke, who oversees disaster response — but the gathering was to discuss his new travel ban, not the hurricane. Duke and Trump spoke briefly about Puerto Rico but did not talk again until Tuesday, an administration official said.
      Administration officials would not say whether the president spoke with any other top officials involved in the storm response while in Bedminster, N.J. He spent much of his time over those four days fixated on his escalating public feuds with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, with fellow Republicans in Congress and with the National Football League over protests during the national anthem.
      In Puerto Rico, meanwhile, the scope of the devastation was becoming clearer. Virtually the entire island was without power and much of it could be for weeks, officials estimated, and about half of the more than 3 million residents did not have access to clean water. Gas was in short supply, airports and ports were in disrepair, and telecommunications infrastructure had been destroyed.
      Federal and local officials said the lack of communications on the island made the task of assessing the widespread damage far more challenging, and even local officials were slow to recognize that for this storm, far more help would be necessary.
      “I don’t think that anybody realized how bad this was going to be,” said a person familiar with discussions between Washington and officials in Puerto Rico. “Quite frankly, the level of communications and collaboration that I’ve seen with Irma and now Maria between the administration, local government and our office has been unprecedented.”
      “Whether that’s been translated into effectiveness on the ground, that’s up for interpretation,” the person added.
      Unlike what they faced after recent storms in Texas and Florida, the federal agencies found themselves partnered with a government completely flattened by the hurricane and operating with almost no information about the status of its citizens. The Federal Emergency Management Agency struggled to find truck drivers to deliver aid from ports to people in need, for example.
      “The level of devastation and the impact on the first responders we closely work with was so great that those people were having to take care of their families and homes to an extent we don’t normally see,” said an administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want his statement to be interpreted as criticism of authorities in Puerto Rico. “The Department of Defense, FEMA and the federal government are having to step in to fulfill state and municipal functions that we normally just support.”
      Even though local officials had said publicly as early as Sept. 20, the day of the storm, that the island was “destroyed,” the sense of urgency didn’t begin to penetrate the White House until Monday, when images of the utter destruction and desperation — and criticism of the administration’s response — began to appear on television, one senior administration official said.
      “The Trump administration was slow off the mark,” said Rep. Darren Soto (D), the first Florida lawmaker of Puerto Rican descent elected to Congress. “. . . We’ve invaded small countries faster than we’ve been helping American citizens in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.”
      Trump’s public schedule Monday was devoid of any meetings related to the storm, but he was becoming frustrated by the coverage he was seeing on TV, the senior official said.
      At a dinner Monday evening with conservative leaders at the White House, Trump opened the gathering by briefly lamenting the tragedy unfolding in Puerto Rico before launching into a lengthy diatribe against Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) over his opposition to the Republicans’ failed health-care bill, according to one attendee.
      After the dinner, Trump lashed out on social media. He blamed the island’s financial woes and ailing infrastructure for the difficult recovery process. He also declared that efforts to provide food, water and medical care were “doing well.”
      On the ground in Puerto Rico, nothing could be further from the truth. It had taken until Monday — five days after Maria made landfall — for the first senior administration officials from Washington to touch down to survey the damage firsthand. And only after White House Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert and FEMA Director Brock Long returned to Washington did the administration leap into action.
      Trump presided over a Situation Room meeting on the federal and local efforts Tuesday, and late in the day, the White House added a Cabinet-level meeting on Hurricane Maria to the president’s schedule.
      White House aides say the president was updated on progress in the recovery efforts through the weekend, and an administration official said Vice President Pence talked with Puerto Rico’s representative in Congress, Jenniffer González-Colón, over the weekend. Trump spoke to Gov. Ricardo Rosselló after Maria made landfall and again Tuesday; he spoke to González-Colón for the first time Wednesday.
      The administration still fumbled at key moments after stepping up its response. A week after landfall, Trump still had not waived the Jones Act, a law that barred foreign-flagged vessels from delivering aid to Puerto Rico. Such a waiver had been granted for previous hurricanes this year.
      Asked why his administration had delayed in issuing the waiver, Trump said Wednesday that “a lot of shippers and . . . a lot of people that work in the shipping industry” didn’t want it lifted.
      “If this is supposed to be the ‘drain the swamp’ president, then don’t worry about the lobbyists and do what’s needed and waive the act,” said James Norton, a former deputy assistant homeland security secretary under President George W. Bush who oversaw disaster response for the agency. “We’re talking about people here.”
      Trump waived the law Thursday.
      After getting good marks from many for his administration’s response to Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, Trump has struggled to find the right tone to address the harsher reviews after Maria. He has repeatedly praised his administration’s actions, telling reporters Friday that it has “been incredible the results that we’ve had with respect to loss of life” in Puerto Rico. The official death toll is 16, a number that is expected to rise.
      “We have done an incredible job considering there’s absolutely nothing to work with,” Trump said as he was leaving the White House for another weekend at Bedminster.
      At the same time, he said that “the government of Puerto Rico will have to work with us to determine how this massive rebuilding effort . . . will be funded and organized,” and he referred to the “tremendous amount of existing debt” on the island.
      Trump’s top disaster-response aides have blanketed television in recent days in an attempt to reset the narrative. Duke, the acting DHS secretary, told reporters Thursday outside the White House that Puerto Rico was a “good news story.” The comment seemed to unleash pent-up fury from at least one local official, after days of offering praise to the Trump administration in an apparent effort to secure more federal help.
      “I am asking the president of the United States to make sure somebody is in charge that is up to the task of saving lives,” San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said at a news conference Friday. “I am done being polite, I am done being politically correct. I am mad as hell. . . . We are dying here. If we don’t get the food and the water into the people’s hands, we are going to see something close to a genocide.”
      Trump’s rosy assessment of the federal response has also contrasted sharply with the comments of federal officials on the ground.
      Army Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, who was named this week to lead recovery efforts, told reporters Friday that there were not enough people and assets to help Puerto Rico combat what has become a humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of the storm.
      The military has significantly stepped up its mobilization to the island commonwealth, with dozens more aircraft and thousands of soldiers bringing “more logistical support” to a struggling recovery effort that has been delayed by geographical and tactical challenges.
      Buchanan said that Defense Department forces have been in place since before the storm lashed Puerto Rico but that the arrival of additional resources is part of the natural shift in operations. Sometimes troops act ahead of the local government to meet needs, but they were also waiting for an “actual request” from territorial officials to bring in more resources. Buchanan will bring together land forces, including the Puerto Rico National Guard, to begin pushing into the interior of the island, where aid has been slowed by washed-out roads and difficult terrain. The Navy previously led the military response in Puerto Rico.
      “No, it’s not enough, and that’s why we are bringing a lot more,” the three-star general said of the resources in Puerto Rico thus far.

      Arelis R. Hernández in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and John Wagner and Joel Achenbach in Washington contributed to this report.

      • Abel Adamski

         /  October 2, 2017

        I will emphasise
        The administration still fumbled at key moments after stepping up its response. A week after landfall, Trump still had not waived the Jones Act, a law that barred foreign-flagged vessels from delivering aid to Puerto Rico. Such a waiver had been granted for previous hurricanes this year.
        Asked why his administration had delayed in issuing the waiver, Trump said Wednesday that “a lot of shippers and . . . a lot of people that work in the shipping industry” didn’t want it lifted.

        “If this is supposed to be the ‘drain the swamp’ president, then don’t worry about the lobbyists and do what’s needed and waive the act,” said James Norton, a former deputy assistant homeland security secretary under President George W. Bush who oversaw disaster response for the agency. “We’re talking about people here.”
        Trump waived the law Thursday.

        That law is one of the reasons for Puerto Rico’s economic difficulties, the US shipping companies have them over a barrel and charge like wounded bulls, everything is expensive as it has to be imported, especially the diesel which of course also has to be imported to run their power generation

    • Abel Adamski

       /  October 2, 2017

      Also the article comparing the Haiti response

      U.S. response in Puerto Rico pales next to actions after Haiti quake

      After an earthquake shattered Haiti’s capital on Jan. 12, 2010, the U.S. military mobilized as if it were going to war.

      Before dawn the next morning, an Army unit was airborne, on its way to seize control of the main airport in Port-au-Prince. Within two days, the Pentagon had 8,000 American troops en route. Within two weeks, 33 U.S. military ships and 22,000 troops had arrived. More than 300 military helicopters buzzed overhead, delivering millions of pounds of food and water.

      No two disasters are alike. Each delivers customized violence that cannot be fully anticipated. But as criticism of the federal government’s initial response to the crisis in Puerto Rico continued to mount Thursday, the mission to Haiti — an island nation several hundred miles from the U.S. mainland — stands as an example of how quickly relief efforts can be mobilized.

      By contrast, eight days after Hurricane Maria ripped across neighboring Puerto Rico, just 4,400 service members were participating in federal operations to assist the devastated island, an Army general told reporters Thursday. In addition, about 1,000 Coast Guard members were aiding the efforts. About 40 U.S. military helicopters were helping to deliver food and water to the 3.4 million residents of the U.S. territory, along with 10 Coast Guard helicopters.

      Leaders of the humanitarian mission in Haiti said in interviews that they were dismayed by the relative lack of urgency and military muscle in the initial federal response to Puerto Rico’s catastrophe.

      “I think it’s a fair ask why we’re not seeing a similar command and response,” said retired Lt. Gen. P.K. “Ken” Keen, the three-star general who commanded the U.S. military effort in Haiti, where 200,000 people died by some estimates. “The morning after, the president said we were going to respond in Port-au-Prince . . . robustly and immediately, and that gave the whole government clarity of purpose.”

      Rajiv J. Shah, who led the U.S. Agency for International Development during the Haiti response, said he, too, was struggling to “understand the delays.”

      “We were able to move more quickly in a foreign country, and with no warning because it was an earthquake, than a better-equipped agency was able to do in a domestic territory,” he said.

  31. wili

     /  October 1, 2017

    And just to complicate matters further:

  32. Abel Adamski

     /  October 1, 2017

    To place another perspective from the military point of view, a little jaundiced, but still valid.
    The military has been preparing for and been involved in many natural disasters, pity Congress has been crippling their preparedness for climate change as what we have experienced is something their researchers would have been identifying as high risk
    TH: So, it seems like everybody has blasted Trump administration’s response to the Puerto Rico crisis. Has that criticism been fair?

    JH: No, I don’t think so. First of all, there was a fair amount of anticipatory action that is not being recognized. Amphibious ships, including the light amphibious carriers Kearsarge and Wasp and the amphibious landing ship dock Oak Hill were at sea and dispatched to Puerto Rico ahead of the hurricane’s impact.

    These are large ships that have large flight decks to land and dispatch heavy-lift CH-53 helicopters to and from disaster sites. They also have big well-decks — exposed surfaces that are lower than the fore and aft of the ship — from which large landing craft can be dispatched to shore carrying over 150 tons of water, food and other supplies on each trip. These are actually the ideal platforms for relief operations owing to their range of assets. The ships, due to their designs to support Marine amphibious landings in war zones, also have hospitals onboard to provide medical treatment on a large scale. That these ships were in the area should be viewed as a huge positive for the administration and the Department of Defense.

    • Abel Adamski

       /  October 1, 2017

      But what they didn’t have was the trucks, the machinery to clear and repair roads, the corps of engineers to rebuild bridges and port facilities.
      Even the containers of food and supplies left standing were in that position because the wholesalers and store keepers who would have sent the trucks to collect once roads were clear did not have the power for their shops and for the refrigeration

  33. Kassy

     /  October 1, 2017

    Tesla is Shipping Hundreds of Powerwall Batteries to Puerto Rico

    In a continued streak of goodwill during this year’s devastating hurricane season, Tesla has been shipping hundreds of its Powerwall batteries to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Since the hurricane hit on 20 September, much of the U.S. territory has been left without power — about 97 percent, as of 27 September — hampering residents’ access to drinkable water, perishable food, and air conditioning. The island’s hospitals are struggling to keep generators running as diesel fuel dwindles.

    Installed by employees in Puerto Rico, Tesla’s batteries could be paired with solar panels in order to store electricity for the territory, whose energy grid may need up to six months to be fully repaired. Several power banks have already arrived to the island, and more are en route.

    Debuted in 2016, the latest Powerwall model has a capacity of 13.5 kWh.

    According to Engadget, Tesla is currently working with local organizations to identify the best locations for the power banks.

    As the New York Times reported, restoring power to Puerto Rico will be both difficult and expensive: “Transformers, poles, and power lines snake from coastal areas across hard-to-access mountains. In some cases, the poles have to be maneuvered in place with helicopters.” Tesla’s Powerwall systems could provide lifesaving energy while those repairs are in process.

    In addition to supplying power in electricity-sparse places, the Powerwall system also holds promise in helping us wean off of fossil fuels and use more clean energy. Tesla recently acquired solar cell-production company SolarCity in order to produce photovoltaic cells for use with the Powerwall.

  34. Allan Barr

     /  October 1, 2017

    Some pretty good info here Robert. If you had the time would really love for you to read it and give me your thoughts.

  35. Tigertown

     /  October 2, 2017

    What is BREEAM? Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method.

    “BREEAM, developed by the renowned building science center BRE (Building Research Establishment), measures the sustainability of construction projects, infrastructure, and buildings in a variety of key categories: energy, health and well-being, innovation, land use, materials, management, pollution, transport, waste, and water. Projects then receive ratings of either Pass, Good, Very Good, Excellent, or Outstanding.”

    This one new administrative facility in Britain, due to design and construction methods has been certified as Outstanding, the highest rating available according to the world’s leading sustainability assessment standard, BREEAM.

  36. Kassy

     /  October 2, 2017

    A bit of comic relief.

    witter users criticized Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator Brock Long in droves Sunday, after he called the disaster relief effort on Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria “the most logistically challenging event” for the U.S.

    Try to think of a couple of examples then check if they were mentioned here:

  37. Entropic man

     /  October 2, 2017

    The US Navy has been moving ships away from the Atlantic into the Pacific in response to deteriorating relations with China and North Korea. There is also an ongoing commitment in the Middle East and a current NATO exercise off Scotland.

    Could the limited Navy response to the Puerto Rico disaster be due to lack of ships as much as lack of political will?

    • Abel Adamski

       /  October 2, 2017

      It is not just Naval Military obligations, but the actual bodies and heavy equipment. So much is already committed to Texas, Florida, and other States, not just for Harvey and Irma, but also all the flooding and forest fires they have been experiencing and having to handle.

      Studies/judgements are going to have to be made over the coming years about allocation of funds for rebuilding etc as the Tax package which is for the Billionaires reduces the Governments income and capacity to fund disaster relief, Flood insurance, farm insurance,and whether the government can afford to be insurer of last resort for properties along the coast

      This is just the easier early precursors as brutally callous as that appears

  38. entropicman

     /  October 2, 2017

    During the Great Famine in Ireland (1845-1848) the British government put £10 million into poor relief over four years. That was 5% of Britain’s national budget at the time.

    Nevertheless, out of 8 million people in Ireland , 1 million people died and the British government has been condemned ever since for its inadequate response.

    Can the US do less for Puerto Rico?

    • entropicman

       /  October 2, 2017

      Now I think of it, the Irish Great Famine has a modern lesson to teach.

      In the 1830s Commissions were set up to build workhouses and distribute food to the poor in need. The ssystem was designed to cope with a one year crop failure, which happened about once a decade.

      This system worked well enough that there were few deaths after the 1845 crop failure. It then overloaded when the 1846 and 1848 crop also failed.

      Abel Adamski suggests that the same has happened in the US. A system which can respond successfully to a single event has been overloaded when four come along at once.

      The underlying assumption that disasters come one at a time with time to regroup between them is now obsolete.

  39. John McCormick

     /  October 2, 2017

    This may have already been posted:

    An iceberg 4 times the size of the island of Manhattan has broken off West Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier, the fastest melting glacier on the continent. (9/23/2017)

    Stef Lhermitte, a satellite observation specialist at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, took to Twitter on Saturday share a photo depicting the alarming event.


  40. Mblanc

     /  October 2, 2017

    A really nice piece I found on the growing momentum behind EV’s. Here is one nice part…

    ‘In September, electric-bus-maker Proterra claimed a record for the longest distance traveled by an EV on a single charge, with a 1,101.2-mile test drive on a track in Indiana using a bus with a giant 660 kilowatt-hour​ pack.

    Sure, if you pack a big enough battery into a vehicle, you can always increase the overall range, but the important thing to note is the miles-per-kWh number for this record: 1.67. In September 2016, Proterra’s record was 603 miles with a 440 kWh pack, or 1.37​ miles per kWh, while the 2015 number stood at 258 miles from a 257 kWh pack, or 1 mile per kWh.

    In two years, Proterra managed a dramatic range increase, but most people didn’t read anything about it. Nonetheless, these sorts of advances — and what they mean for the transportation industry — are not escaping the notice of the industry’s big players. In fact, they’ve been watching for them all along.’


    Also, the Guardian has a good angle on vehicle-to-grid tech.

    ‘Nissan and one of the UK’s biggest challenger energy suppliers, Ovo, will offer the “vehicle-to-grid” service to buyers of the Japanese carmaker’s new Leaf from next year.

    After installing a special charger in a customer’s home, the supplier will take over the management of the car’s battery, with owners able to set a minimum amount of charge they want for driving the next day. Ovo will then automatically trade electricity from the battery, topping it up during off-peak periods when power costs around 4p per kilowatt hour, and selling it at peak times for around four times as much.

    The Ovo chief executive, Stephen Fitzpatrick, said the savings would cover the £350-£400 annual cost of charging an electric car. “Being able to feed back into the grid will mean that customers will be able to drive for free,” he said.’

  41. Suzanne

     /  October 2, 2017

    New blog post at WU this afternoon…”A Dramatic Increase in Annual Average Temperatures For U.S. Cities this Decade”.
    And from something Dr. Masters wrote in September 2016:

    ” … I don’t recognize the climate anymore. I mean I look at the weather maps in the morning sometimes afraid of what I’m going to see. It’s just gotten so insane. The climate of the 20the century is gone. The climate I knew is not here anymore. We’re in an entirely new climate regime, and it is extremely intense.”

    – Dr. Jeff Masters

  42. 0000

     /  October 2, 2017

    Nothing new to the readers here, but more evidence and a nice summary:

    Siberian volcanic eruptions caused extinction 250 million years ago, new evidence shows.
    Oct 2, 2017. New York University

    A team of scientists has found new evidence that the Great Permian Extinction, which occurred approximately 250 million years ago, was caused by massive volcanic eruptions that led to significant environmental changes.

    The study, which appears in the journal Scientific Reports, reports a global spike in the chemical element nickel at the time of extinction. The anomalous nickel most likely came from emanations related to the concurrent huge volcanic eruptions in what is now Siberia. These eruptions, the researchers say, are associated with nickel-rich magmatic intrusions — rocks formed from the cooling of magma — that contain some of the greatest deposits of nickel ore on the planet.

    “The Siberian volcanic eruptions and related massive intrusions of nickel-rich magmas into Earth’s crust apparently emitted nickel-rich volatiles into the atmosphere, where they were distributed globally,” explains New York University geologist Michael Rampino, the paper’s senior author. “At the same time, explosive interactions of the magma with older coal deposits could have released large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane, two greenhouse gases, which would explain the intense global warming recorded in the oceans and on land at the time of the mass extinctions. The warm oceans also became sluggish and depleted in dissolved oxygen, contributing to the extinction of many forms of life in the sea.”

  43. Suzanne

     /  October 2, 2017

    Just when you thought this day couldn’t get any sadder…After several weeks of tragedy and destruction…
    Rock musician Tom Petty dead at 66 from an apparent massive heart attack. One of my favorite rockers…

    The Traveling Wilbury’s “End of the Line”

  44. Off topic, but…
    i´ll have to admit that I was wrong. I thought that Zika showed birth defects in Brasil and not in previous epidemics because of the huge difference in population afected. But it turns out that it did mutate:

    • Abel Adamski

       /  October 3, 2017

      Considering most of the Control chemicals are mutagens, is that a factor. ?
      Mutagens promote mutation

      • Would seem evidently so, but technically how do you tell? What is the “normal” mutagenic rate? What is “normal” compared to. Does “normal” change? etc. This can lead to quibbling along the lines of climate denier tactics. Sigh.

      • The most used control chemicals (against Aedes aegypti) in the Northeast Brasil, where the epidemics started, are Cipermetrina and Deltametrina, which act in the sodium canals of cells and aren´t mutagenic, as far as I known. Looking on what pesticides were used in the region, it seems that Pyriproxyfen was also sprayed in water, and that one IS a mutagenic, so yes, it´s possible that it was the cause. But this is a virus, and those mutate easily even without the presence of mutagens (and where in the world isn´t contaminated with those, nowdays?), so there´s no way to be sure (as far as I can see).

  45. Abel Adamski

     /  October 3, 2017

    As Roy Orbison’s empty chair rocks along

  46. Vic

     /  October 3, 2017

    Ongoing drought conditions were broken in some parts of Queensland yesterday as heavy rainfall beset the Wide Bay region deluging the farming community with up to 340mm of rain, smashing it’s wettest October day record by 60mm.

    “Really needed that rain, we just didn’t need it that hard or that fast,” the Chairman of Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers said.

    “Seasons are not seasons anymore … storms seem to be more ferocious, downpours seem to be a lot harder.”

    • Vic

       /  October 3, 2017

      This strawberry farmer is eating what he can after floods swamped his property at Bundaberg.
      Supplied: Michael Meiers

  47. Abel Adamski

     /  October 3, 2017
    Your airliner may be flying electric within a decade
    The auto industry is going electric. Is aviation next?

    Major European carrier EasyJet announced Wednesday that it is teaming up with U.S. startup Wright Electric to build an all-electric airliner.
    The aircraft they have in mind would handle short routes of 335 miles or less — think New York to Boston or London to Paris.
    EasyJet, a budget airline that specializes in shorter flights, said the new aircraft would cover 20% of its passenger journeys.
    The airline said it has been working closely with Wright Electric this year and it hopes to have an electric commercial aircraft flying in the next decade.
    “We can envisage a future without jet fuel and we are excited to be part of it. It is now more a matter of when not if a short haul electric plane will fly,” said EasyJet CEO Carolyn McCall.
    Wright Electric was founded in 2016 by a team of battery chemists, aerospace engineers and electric vehicle experts from NASA, Boeing (BA) and Cessna.
    It received funding from Harvard University and startup incubator Y Combinator, which helped fund Dropbox, Reddit and Airbnb. EasyJet did not reveal the financial terms of its partnership with the startup.
    Jeffrey Engler, the chief executive of Wright Electric, said that working with EasyJet is “a powerful validation of our technology approach.”
    EasyJet said the startup has already demonstrated its first two-seater plane, showing it can make the technology work on a smaller scale.
    Electric planes could be a game changer for airlines, because fuel is one of their biggest costs.
    They are also better for the environment.

    “Just as we have seen with the automotive industry, the aviation industry will be looking to electric technology to reduce our impact on the environment,” McCall said.

  48. Vic

     /  October 3, 2017

    “More than 40 Catholic institutions are to announce the largest ever faith-based divestment from fossil fuels, on the anniversary of the death of St Francis of Assisi.
    The sum involved has not been disclosed but the volume of divesting groups is four times higher than a previous church record, and adds to a global divestment movement, led by investors worth $5.5tn.”

    “In a symbolically charged move, the Italian town of Assisi will also shed all oil, coal and gas holdings the day before a visit by the Italian prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, to mark St Francis’s feast day.”

  49. wili

     /  October 3, 2017

    Not directly connected, but something Facebook users should be aware of:

    “Russians took a page from corporate America by using Facebook tool to ID and influence voters”

    “Russian operatives set up an array of misleading Web sites and social media pages to identify American voters susceptible to propaganda, then used a powerful Facebook tool to repeatedly send them messages designed to influence their political behavior, say people familiar with the investigation into foreign meddling in the U.S. election.

    The tactic resembles what American businesses and political campaigns have been doing in recent years to deliver messages to potentially interested people online. The Russians exploited this system by creating English-language sites and Facebook pages that closely mimicked those created by U.S. political activists.

    The Web sites and Facebook pages displayed ads or other messages focused on such hot-button issues as illegal immigration, African American political activism and the rising prominence of Muslims in the United States. The Russian operatives then used a Facebook “retargeting” tool, called Custom Audiences, to send specific ads and messages to voters who had visited those sites, say people familiar with the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details from an ongoing investigation…

    Targeted people might also have directed that same disinformation — whether intentionally or not — to people linked to them on social networks, such as their friends on Facebook…

    …modeling shows that these ads were seen by roughly 10 million users. An estimated 44 percent were seen before the Nov. 8 election…”

  50. wili

     /  October 3, 2017

    For some rare good news:

    “Catholic church to make record divestment from fossil fuels”

    “More than 40 Catholic institutions will make largest ever faith-based divestment, on the anniversary of the death of St Francis of Assisi

    The sum involved has not been disclosed but the volume of divesting groups is four times higher than a previous church record, and adds to a global divestment movement, led by investors worth $5.5tn.”

  51. The US Is Paying Big Oil to Keep Fossil Fuels Profitable
    Subsidies are keeping “zombie energy” alive.
    Stephen Leahy
    Oct 3, 2017
    ‘Zombie oil’ that ought to stay in the ground is kept alive thanks to federal and state governments in the US feeding it billions of dollars. This is oil consumers don’t need, and that oil companies therefore wouldn’t touch without these subsidies, a new analysis published in Nature Energy reveals.
    Subsidies are not cash handouts. They’re a mix of tax breaks, tax credits, and regulations that forego government revenue, transfer liability, or provide services at below-market rates. Another significant subsidy takes the form of uncompensated government costs for fixing roads damaged by heavy fracking trucks. Governments justify these as supporting economic growth and job creation.
    About half of 800-plus untapped US oil fields (what’s widely called “zombie energy”) would be too costly to drill when oil is $50 a barrel, report co-author Peter Erickson, senior scientist at the US Center of the Stockholm Environment Institute, told me in a phone interview. Oil has averaged just under $50/barrel for the last 24 months.
    The analysis looked at the impact of $4 billion a year in production subsidies given to oil companies. Study authors argue this money encourages companies to drill oil fields that would otherwise be unprofitable. That would likely produce 17 billion barrels and, once burned, add 7 billion tonnes of additional climate-heating carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere by the year 2050.
    In the US, the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases (behind China), CO2 emissions for 2016 totalled 5.2 billion tonnes.
    For untapped fields that would be profitable even without receiving government funds, subsidies just pad the oil industry’s bottom line. For oil producers in Texas, subsidies boost profits by 11 percent, said Erickson. “Who wouldn’t want an 11 percent bump in salary?”
    “This is oil we don’t need and it takes the US further away from its climate goals of reducing CO2 emissions,” he said.
    The US is awash in oil and has become a major exporter since Congress lifted the crude oil export ban December 2015. By late September of this year, the US was exporting 1.5 million barrels of crude oil a day to 20 different countries, including China and Brazil. That translates into 30 million gallons of gasoline leaving the US every day.
    While $4 billion is a lot of money, it’s only part of the estimated $20.5 billion a year giveaway to the oil, gas, and coal industries, according to a separate new report published today by Oil Change International, a nonprofit based in Washington DC. At least $6 billion of this is from state governments.
    “These industries have permanent subsidies at least seven times greater than what renewable energy receives,” said report author Janet Redman in an interview.
    In 2009, countries in the G20 (including the US) pledged to reduce fossil fuel subsides, acknowledging that they distort markets, impede investment in clean energy sources, and frustrate efforts to address climate change. The Trump administration has already reversed the few modest curbs that had been put in place by President Obama, like increased royalty rates, and is working to open up more public lands to oil and gas exploration, such as the 19.6 million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
    Last week, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry proposed new government pay-outs to the coal industry that’s losing market share to cheaper natural gas and renewables.
    Redman isn’t surprised. In the 2015-2016 federal election cycle, oil, gas, and coal companies spent $354 million in campaign contributions and lobbying, and received $29.4 billion in federal subsidies in total over those same years—an 8,200 percent return on investment, the report said.
    Both parties are recipients of those campaign contributions. Many members of Congress have close ties to the industry, Redman said.
    President Trump’s push to position the US as a major exporter of fossil fuels doesn’t take into account “the environmental damage and costs, nor how it harms human health,” she said. In that sense, the public is paying for Trump’s “energy dominance” with their health, and with their taxes.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: