Thursday, May 27, 2010

Accountability at MMS

Steve Benen in The Washington Monthly writes:

For eight years, we saw an administration in which officials were kept on the job, regardless of job performance. Indeed, in many bizarre instances, we had a president who'd promote those who failed.

There's more accountability now.

Democratic sources say the Obama administration has fired the head of the U.S. Minerals Management Service in response to blistering criticism over lax oversight of offshore drilling.

The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity before the official announcement, tell The Associated Press that President Barack Obama will announce the decision Thursday.

I guess this answers the question of whether "anyone in the government [will] be fired" as a result of the disaster in the Gulf.

Of course, whether anyone at the energy companies -- BP, Transocean, Halliburton -- might also lose their job remains to be seen.

Liz Birnbaum's departure, after less than a year at the Interior Department, comes just 10 days after the White House also accepted the resignation of Chris Oynes, the top Interior Department official who oversees offshore drilling for the MMS.

Given the damage to the Minerals Management Service during the Bush/Cheney era, and the breathtaking corruption that became the norm at the agency, it stands to reason the staff departures aren't finished yet.

Again, not sure what there is to say about a disaster of this magnitude.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The BP disaster

Don't really have anything to say about the British Petroleum, Halliburton, and Transocean disaster... except for, well, BP broke part of the planet. This is why we need regulation, no matter how much we kick about it. This spill is, quite literally, an unimaginable, long term catastrophe.

So, if you want to keep up with the news, check out The Oil Drum for great, smart, educated reporting.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010

NASA scientist Thorsten Markus: Earth thinning on top

Thorsten Markus, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, has been using a NASA satellite – called ICESat – to track the thickness of sea ice around Earth’s poles. He said the thick, multi-year ice is getting thinner.

"We are able, for the first time really, to measure the sea ice thickness at large scales. Previously, the only means, really, was to drill holes through the ice. Results from ICESat have shown that just since 2003, when ICESat was launched, the sea ice thickness has decreased by over two feet. The thick, multi-year ice has decreased by over 40 percent during that time...Sea ice is white and it reflects most of the sunlight back into space, in drastic contrast to the dark ocean. Therefore, changes in the sea ice cover have a significant effect on the global energy balance."

In other words, less sea ice could cause more warming. The satellite Markus uses – ICESat – was retired in early 2010 after 7 years collecting data in Earth orbit. ICESat-II will launch in 2015. Until then, Dr. Markus will use what’s called Ice Bridge – aircraft in flight over the polar regions – to measure and track changes. In addition to the sunlight it reflects, Dr. Markus said that as salt water freezes to form sea ice, at a large scale it impacts weather and climate.

Thorsten Markus joined NASA Goddard Space Flight Center first as a post-doc and then permanently as a research scientist. His research interests include remote sensing of the polar regions and the use of remote sensing data to study polar processes.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bamboo Bash video!

Check out fun video of our NYC Bamboo Bash with Teragren!

Interiors & Sources on NSF Sustainability Standards

From the always excellent Interiors & Sources, an article on the New Sustainability Standard for Resilient Flooring:

NSF International, an independent, not-for-profit standards developer, has developed a new Sustainability Standard for resilient floor coverings. As products with sustainability claims continue to enter the market, certification of these products to national standards allows specifiers and purchasers to make better decisions when selecting products such as floor coverings...

Certification by a third-party, independent certifier enables manufacturers of flooring products to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability. NSF/ANSI 332 uses a point-based system in which manufacturers achieve one of four levels of certification—conformant, silver, gold and platinum—with conformant status meeting entry level criteria and platinum adhering to the most strenuous requirements. Products are evaluated against the standard using five key criteria: 1) product design, 2) product manufacturing, 3) long-term value, 4) corporate governance, and 5) innovation.