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On the News With Thom Hartmann: Chemical Spill in West Virginia Traveled Farther Than Realized, and More

The spill had a bigger effect than realized.

In today’s On the News segment: Last year’s massive chemical spill in West Virginia had a much bigger effect than anyone realized; someday we could see roads that clean up pollution; our government just approved Monsanto’s next generation of herbicide-tolerant GMOs; and more.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.


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

You need to know this. Last year’s massive chemical spill in West Virginia had a much bigger effect than anyone realized. According to a new study by U.S. Geological Survey researchers, the 10,000 gallons of MCHM – the chemical responsible for contaminating drinking water in West Virginia – actually traveled as far as Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio. While it may seem obvious that the chemical made its way downstream, researchers say that crude MCHM was found nearly 400 miles away from the incident. The USGS researchers explained that these findings are very important when it comes to spill response in the future, and what role the U.S. government should play when contaminated water crosses state lines. In addition to proving the importance of oversight, the Freedom Industries spill showed how easily weak regulations on one chemical plant can threaten the lives of many Americans. We already know that inadequate safety precautions left 300,000 people without drinking water, and now we know that those weak standards impacted people hundreds of miles away as well. This massive spill is a prime example of why strong federal regulation and enforcement are important, why it takes a federal response to deal with an environmental disaster. Chemical leaks don’t stop contaminating waterways at state boarders, just like oil spills don’t stop having an environmental impact at the state line. That’s why we have to come together as a nation to prevent these disasters, to deal with the ones that occur, and to hold the perpetrators accountable. No state can deal with these issues alone. Perhaps someone should remind the Republicans about this before they do away with all of our vital environmental regulation.

We’ve already heard about roads that can create solar energy, and thanks to a new discovery, someday we could see roads that clean up pollution. Scientists have found a new type of asphalt that can actually capture and store carbon, and amazingly – it’s affordable. These findings were published recently in the journal Applied Materials and Interfaces, and they could provide a way to clean harmful carbon out of our atmosphere. The material was discovered by scientists trying to find ways to keep carbon dioxide from natural gas wells out of our environment. They discovered an asphalt powder that can adsorb carbon molecules at room temperature and hold 114 percent of its own weight in carbon. In a news release about the findings, one of the researchers said, “This provides an ultra-inexpensive route to a high-value material for the capture of carbon dioxide from natural gas streams.” This purpose alone could go a long way towards protecting our environment, but the implications for the future make it a much more important discovery. Building roads that fight global warming may sound like science fiction, but before we know it, they could be science fact.

Despite many warnings about Roundup-resistant genetically modified crops, our government just approved Monsanto’s next generation of herbicide-tolerant GMOs. According to, last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the sale and planting of dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybeans. A Cornell University study found that exposure to the herbicide dicamba can cause serious health issues like shortness of breath, muscle weakness, and changes in the central nervous system. However, thanks to the USDA, we may soon be exposed to 88 times more dicamba on soybeans and 14 times more on cotton. And, the latest genetic modification will likely mean a future of dicamba resistant weeds, just like the weeds that became resistant to Roundup. Does it really take a rocket scientist to see how this will end up? If we keep allowing Monsanto to introduce these herbicide-resistant GMOs, weeds will become more resistant, and we will be exposing ourselves to more powerful and more prevalent chemicals. We have to stop this dangerous cycle before it’s too late.

If you find yourself posting lots of selfies on social media, science says that you may be a narcissist. A recent study from the Ohio State University examined 800 men between the ages of 18 and 40. After the participants’ answered questionnaires about their behavior and social media activity, researchers were able to determine the link between posting pictures of yourself and narcissistic behavior. The lead author of the study, Jesse Fox, said, “It’s not surprising that men who post a lot of selfies and spend more time editing them are narcissistic, but this is the first time it has actually been confirmed in a study.” He added, “The more interesting finding is that they also score higher on this other antisocial personality trait, psychopathy, and are more prone to self-objectification.” Posting the occasional self-portrait is normal, but posting a constant stream of selfies may be a sign of mental illness. Or, it may just be a sign that some of us are spending way too much time with smart phones and computers.

And finally… If you’ve been priced out of the market for today’s electric vehicles, Chevy may have a plan for your next car purchase. General Motors has released their new plan for the Bolt, which is their concept electric car designed for “attainability, not exclusivity.” In other words, the Bolt may soon be Chevy’s electric vehicle for the masses. The new vehicle will also have the ability to self-park once the driver is out of the car and let us use an app to direct the car to return and pick us up at the same location. The Bolt will have a 200-mile extended range that should give buyers comfort about being stranded, and it will compete with Tesla’s Model III, which will have a similar price tag. At $30,000, the Bolt and the Model III are still somewhat pricey, but they are thousands cheaper than current electric models, and they will help more Americans make the switch to green vehicles. Mary Barra, the new Chief Executive of GM, said, “Chevrolet believes electrification is a pillar of future transportation and needs to be affordable for a wider segment of customers.” Just like Nissan’s electric Leaf and Tesla’s Model III, the Bolt will put electric vehicles into the hands of millions more Americans and help our nation take a big step towards a cleaner, greener future.

And that’s the way it is for the week of January 19, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.