On the News With Thom Hartmann: When Big Oil Pays for Its Disasters, the Environment May Recover, and More

In today’s On the News segment: When Big Oil is forced to pay for its disasters, the environment has a much better chance to recover; the recent earthquake in Southern California cost over a billion dollars in damages and left more than 100 people injured; Nixon’s War on Drugs demonized marijuana, but science keeps finding new benefits of that miracle plant; and more.

TRANSCRIPT:

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

You need to know this. When Big Oil is forced to pay for their disasters, the environment has a much better chance to recover. Twenty-seven square miles of wetlands along the Texas coastline have been preserved using funds from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation recently purchased the 17,000 acre Powderhorn Ranch using about $38 million dollars from BP’s fines and other conservation group funding. That purchase will protect the salt marshes, oak forests, and pristine wetlands of Texas’s coastline, and it will provide a buffer for storm surge and sea level rise that pose a threat to that state. The Wildlife Foundation had been trying to purchase the land for over three decades, but was unable to raise the funding until BP was forced to pay. This is exactly why it’s so important to prevent corporations from privatizing gains and socializing losses. So many of the natural disasters caused by the fossil fuel industry have been left to taxpayers to clean up, and it was only the massive scale of the BP spill that prompted large fines and settlements. When we divert tax dollars to clean up a corporation’s mess, we make that funding unavailable for other important functions. By forcing Big Oil to pay for their disasters, we are able to clean and protect our environment without depriving our government of the tax dollars needed to operate. And, we raise the cost of business for the fossil fuel industry, and force them to do more to prevent another disaster. Texas’s newest wildlife preserve is proof that fining oil companies can be a success, but we shouldn’t wait until the next disaster to make Big Oil pay up. Let’s make them pay in advance for the destruction they cause by instituting a tax on carbon. To find out more, check out our new video “Carbon” at GreenWorldRising.org.

The recent earthquake in Southern California caused over a billion dollars in damages and left more than 100 people injured. However, a federal nuclear inspector says that the next earthquake could cause a much more serious problem. Michael Peck was the lead on-site inspector for the Diablo Canyon Power Plant in San Luis Obispo County, and he says that plant may not be safe from the jolt of a nearby earthquake. According to Mr. Peck’s report, the Shoreline fault discovered in 2008 poses a serious risk to the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, but the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says everything is fine. That fault line is only 650 yards from the plant’s reactors, and another fault lines lies just three miles away. Mr. Peck’s report says that the structure of Diablo Canyon was never changed after the discovery of the more-distant fault line, let alone the Shoreline fault on which the plant nearly sits. The 2011 Fukushima disaster showed exactly what an earthquake and tsunami can do to a nuclear plant, and it’s unimaginable that we’re not doing more to prevent a similar event here at home.

Nixon’s War on Drugs demonized marijuana, but science keeps finding new benefits of that miracle plant. A recent study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine says that states that have legalized medical marijuana have seen a 25 percent drop in prescription overdose deaths. In fact, the longer that a state keeps this policy, the lower the rate of overdose. According to the researchers, after one year of legalized medical marijuana, these deaths dropped by 20 percent. However, after five years, prescription overdoses declined by 34 percent. The majority of these overdose deaths – about 60 percent – occur in patients who are prescribed opioids for pain. Because marijuana provides effective pain relief without the danger of overdose, many patients are making the switch. Other recent studies have shown that marijuana is also effective at treating nausea, providing relief to cancer patients, and more. It’s no wonder that Big Pharma has made every effort to keep this natural remedy illegal.

There are so many trains carrying oil in North Dakota that farmers are having trouble getting their crops to market. There is a huge problem backlog of trains carrying soybeans, wheat, sugar beets, and other crops, but trains full of oil from the Bakken shale region are being allowed to sail through. In a recent interview with the New York Times, Senator Heidi Heitkamp explained that this backlog is not just a regional problem. She said, “The inability of farmers to get these grains to market is not only a problem for agriculture, but for companies that produce cereals, breads, and other goods.” A recent study from North Dakota State University says that farmers stand to lose more than $160 million dollars because of the railway congestion. The cost to food producers who use these crops may be even higher. Oil doesn’t expire, and we sure as heck can’t eat it. There is absolutely no reason why oil trains should be prioritized over important food crops. We better fix this problem, and do it fast, before the fruit of our nation’s bread basket rots while Big Oil rakes in more profits.

And finally… Humans take almost twice as long as other primates to reach maturity. For decades, scientists have been trying to figure out exactly why we take so much longer to grow up, and they may have finally answered the question. According to a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, humans grow more slowly because so much energy is being consumed by our brains. In fact, 44 percent of all our energy during infancy and 87 percent during childhood is used only on mental development. Because our brains use so much fuel, there is less glucose left over to support physical growth. The next step in this research, measuring exactly how much energy that other primates use for brain function, will be difficult. However, scientists believe that this theory is well supported by their research. This study brings a whole new meaning to the term “brain food,” and shows just how important it is to make sure kids have adequate nutrition.

And that’s the way it is for the week of September 1, 2014 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.