On the News With Thom Hartmann: California Is Suffering an Extreme Drought, and More

In today’s On the News segment: California is still suffering with an extreme drought; we already know what trade agreements do to our economy, but the proposed EU-US deal also poses a threat to our food safety; the Nuclear Regulatory Commission just solved one of the industry’s greatest dilemmas – where they can store all that radioactive waste; and more.

TRANSCRIPT:

Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of….science & green news…..

You need to know this. California is still suffering with an extreme drought. However, even if you don’t live in that state, you may still be at risk of living under similar conditions. According to EcoWatch.com, a new study says that at least ten cities in the United States have a high level of water vulnerability, and some on that list may surprise you. The Environmental Hydrology Laboratory at the University of Florida ranked 225 large U.S. cities on fresh water vulnerability and availability. While cities like San Antonio, El Paso, and San Jose were all considered at risk, Miami, Florida was the second most vulnerable on that list. Chicago, Atlanta, and Tallahassee are also at risk for water shortages, and cities near the smaller of the Great Lakes could have their own problems. To make matters worse, another new study from the Journal of Climate, says that there is a 50 percent chance that the entire Southwest could be facing a mega-drought that lasts more than 35 years. According to the author of that study, Toby Ault, “This is only the beginning. The further south you go, the drier the average conditions really are, and the risk [of drought] is greater.” Water is an absolutely necessity for life, but we’re not taking this risk seriously. Industrial farms and hydraulic fracturing are using up enormous amounts, and Big Business and Big Oil keep contaminating our waterways. We need to get smarter about protecting this vital resource, and we need to stop fracking and farming our water supply in to oblivion. Many societies before us have perished when water supplies disappeared, and if we aren’t careful, we could be next.

If you’ve ever visited Death Valley, you probably saw the mysterious “sailing stones” that leave trails across Racetrack Playa. If you haven’t, those stones seem to slide across a dried lake bed, and their movement has been blamed on everything from space aliens to the earth’s magnetic field. Well, science may have finally solved the mystery of the moving rocks, and unfortunately, there are no UFOs involved. According to a NASA scientist named Ralph Lorenz, ice embedded in these rocks is the most likely reason for their movement. Mr. Lorenz conducted an experiment by freezing rocks in a tray of water, and placing the block of ice in another tray of water with sand at the bottom. After doing so, he found that all he had to do was blow gently on the rocks to get them to move across the water, and they left familiar looking trails behind them. Lorenz and his research team then figured out that winter conditions in Death Valley produce enough water and ice to move the sailing stones and leave behind these tell-tale muddy trails. A little ice may not be as exciting as a space alien, but it’s still pretty cool that science could solve this mystery.

We already know what trade agreements do to our economy, but the proposed EU-US deal also poses a threat to our food safety. Three organizations, the Friends of the Earth Europe, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and the Compassion in World Farming organization, sent a letter to the EU Trade Commissioner about this trade deal. They wrote, “Fair, sustainable, and safe food could permanently be damaged by the transatlantic trade deal.” These groups are concerned that secret negotiations could weaken food safety standards in both regions. Consumers in the European Union may worry about hidden GMO contamination in food coming from the US. Here in the states, organic farmers and sustainable producers should worry about weaker regulations on GMOs and pesticides that could contaminate their crops. No trade deals should ever be negotiated in secret, and the transatlantic trade agreement is no exception. Whether it’s for the safety of our jobs or our food supply, let’s say no to all secret trade agreements.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission just solved one of the industry’s greatest dilemmas – where they can store all that radioactive waste. Last week, the commission quietly approved a new rule allowing nuclear waste to be stored above ground indefinitely. Instead of burying the spent fuel, which is also highly dangerous, containers can now be kept above ground indefinitely. Of course, the NRC ruling states that nuclear waste containers must be maintained and carefully guarded, but that doesn’t mean they will be safe from a natural disaster. The commission essentially made this ruling to prevent several plants from being denied new operating permits, as they would not have been able to meet waste storage regulations. Thanks to the NRC, those plants will continue to operate, and new nuclear facilities will be authorized. We only have to look to Fukushima to see how dangerous nuclear power is, but our regulators are pretending that such an event couldn’t happen here. The Energy Department says that a new storage site for nuclear waste will be established by 2048, but it’s anyone’s guess as to whether this decision will result in a disaster before then. We shouldn’t be building new nuclear plants, and creating more nuclear waste. The best way to keep us safe is to say “No Nukes” once and for all.

And finally… Forget about fracking, a team of scientists has come up with a way to make propane from bacteria. According to a new study published in the journal Nature Communications, a team of British and Finnish scientists have made completely renewable natural gas from E. coli – one of the common causes of food poisoning. One of the researchers said, “Although we have only produced tiny amounts so far, the fuel we have produced is ready to be used in an engine straight away.” The scientists say that commercial production of this propane is only ten years away. Rather than contaminating our water supply and destroying our environment with hydraulic fracturing, we could soon be using this natural gas in our grills, furnaces, and even vehicles. Considering that some of our most important medicine came from mold, it’s only fitting that the gas of the future comes from bacteria.

And that’s the way it is for the week of September 8, 2014 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.