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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Beyond the Headlines

Air Date: Week of March 21, 2014

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Wyoming is the largest exporter of coal in the US . State officials don’t want to adopt new science standards which would teach children about climate change. (Bigstockphoto.com)

Host Steve Curwood digs beyond the news headlines with Peter Dykstra publisher of Environmental Health News, ehn dot org and the Daily Climate, and discovers how some shale developments could be guilty of over half of the deadly sins and which state believes scientific ignorance is truly bliss.

Transcript

CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth, I'm Steve Curwood. We turn now to our guide to the world beyond the headlines, Peter Dykstra. He's the publisher of DailyClimate.org and Environmental Health News - that's EHN.org, and joins us on the line from Conyers, Georgia. Hi there Peter.

DYKSTRA: Hi Steve. This week I’m going to get a little Biblical on you.

CURWOOD: Uh-oh.

DYKSTRA: There’s a great climate website, it’s called DeSmogBlog, it’s based in Vancouver, Canada. They had an item last week that really knocked me over. Reporting on Congressional testimony, it was revealed that 36 percent of all the natural gas extracted in North Dakota during the month of December was flared off. That means it was burnt, it was wasted, it was just tossed into the atmosphere.

CURWOOD: That’s not a number to be proud of, but where does the Bible come in?

DYKSTRA: Well, I’m thinking of the Seven Deadly Sins. There are versions of the Seven Deadly Sins in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, and, of course, also in Wikipedia, which is technically considered to not be part of the Bible. I started thinking about how many of the Seven Deadly Sins are covered by wasting 36 percent of the energy that you drill out of the ground.

CURWOOD: And remind us, please, what the Seven Deadly Sins are.

DYKSTRA: The Seven Deadly Sins are: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony.

CURWOOD: Let’s see. When it comes to natural gas, I think we can take “wrath” off the list, “lust” and “envy”, but...

DYKSTRA: But maybe not the other four. You’ve got greed, sloth, pride and gluttony – tapping into a major energy source that may have huge environmental baggage anyway, and then tossing away a third of it, more than a third, even while the prices for natural gas and propane in this country have shot through the roof this winter. That’s four out of seven deadly sins in one operation. In fairness, though, the US isn’t the worst waster of gas...that honor goes to Russia.


More than a third of all the natural gas collected in North Dakota in December was flared off and wasted. (Bigstockphoto.com)

CURWOOD: OK, Peter. Now, what else do you have for us?

DYKSTRA: We’ll go to the state of Wyoming. The state has taken a very bold stance against the teaching of science. The state legislature and Governor Matt Mead have blocked Wyoming from adopting what’s called the Next Generation Science standards. That’s a series of guidelines that were drawn up by a nationwide team of science educators about a year ago.

CURWOOD: So what’s their beef?

DYKSTRA: Well beef’s big in Wyoming, but coal is much, much bigger. Wyoming is far and away the biggest coal-producing state, with almost 40 percent of the nation’s total output. And the Next Generation Science Standards would teach school kids about climate change, and in Wyoming that would cause some pretty strong political blowback. The Governor and the State School Board chair are big climate skeptics, the key legislator in all this said that, and this is a quote, “There’s all kinds of social implications involved in that and I don’t think it would be good for Wyoming.”

CURWOOD: It sounds like he’s saying that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

DYKSTRA: Yeah, he’s saying knowledge is dangerous, and maybe he’s also saying that ignorance is bliss. And of course, that works every time, doesn’t it?

CURWOOD: OK, Peter, before you go, what’s on the calendar this week?

DYKSTRA: Steve, there’s some high-profile environmental disaster anniversaries this week: the Three Mile Island nuclear plant partial meltdown was 35 years ago; the Exxon Valdez oil spill was 25 years ago, but one of the biggest disasters is one that very few people know about.

CURWOOD: And that would be?

DYKSTRA: Well, 58 years ago this week, Congress approved construction of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, a canal for flood relief and a shipping shortcut from New Orleans to the ocean.

CURWOOD: But better known for helping flood New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

DYKSTRA: Yes, that’s right. The Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, MRGO, better known by its adorable little acronym of “Mister Go,” was a shipping shortcut out of New Orleans but it also was a storm surge shortcut into New Orleans. It was closed down a few years after the Katrina disaster.

CURWOOD: Ah yes, a very big barn door closed after a very big horse got in.

DYKSTRA: That’s right.

CURWOOD: Well, there are links to all these stories at our website, LOE.org. Peter Dykstra is the publisher or DailyClimate.org and Environmental Health News - EHN.org. Thanks, Peter.

DYKSTRA: Thanks, Steve. Talk to you next week.

 

Links

The Daily Climate

Environmental Health News

Peter Dykstra

 

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