Monday, December 31, 2018

Daily Flaring of Natural Gas in Permian Equates to Exhaust Emitted by 2.7 Million Cars Daily

Perhaps you've read that although individuals are being exhorted to "save the planet," corporations are the biggest polluters:

Suzanne Goldenberg (2013, November 20) Just 90 companies caused two-thirds of man-made global warming emissions. The Guardian, Exxon and BP among companies most responsible for climate change since dawn of industrial age, figures show

he climate crisis of the 21st century has been caused largely by just 90 companies, which between them produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the dawning of the industrial age, new research suggests.
The companies range from investor-owned firms – household names such as Chevron, Exxon and BP – to state-owned and government-run firms.
The analysis, which was welcomed by the former vice-president Al Gore as a "crucial step forward" found that the vast majority of the firms were in the business of producing oil, gas or coal, found the analysis, which has been published in the journal Climatic Change.
This article from the Guardian is dated now but the findings still hold true, as illustrated in this rather shocking fact about flaring of natural gas in Texas:
Rebecca Elliott (2018, December 27). In Booming Oil Field, Natural Gas Can Be Free. The Wall Street Journal,

One option for Permian operators with too much gas is to light it on fire, a practice known as flaring. Flaring levels reached record highs in the Permian last quarter, when companies burned an average of 407 million cubic feet a day, according to analysis of public data compiled by Rystad Energy, an energy consulting firm.

That has serious environmental consequences. The resulting greenhouse-gas emissions are equivalent to the daily exhaust emitted by about 2.7 million cars, according to estimates from the World Bank and Environmental Protection Agency.
The exhaust from 2.7 million cars produced daily by producers flaring gas in Texas alone!



Jan 28, 2013 - Fracking Wastewater Can Be Highly Radioactive By Rachel Morgan, Times Online 28 January 13. [excerpted] Its contents remain mostly a ...

Fracking Hazards Obscured in Failure to Disclose Wells By Benjamin Haas, Jim Polson, Phil Kuntz and Ben Elgin - Aug 14, 2012 ... Majia's Blog: Fracking Poses ...

Below are two articles that explore two ways fracking is destroying our environment. The first concerns the role of fracking in producing massive sink holes that ...

Apr 8, 2015 - Read the headlines and discover how much water drought-wracked California wastes onfracking, while ALLOWING injection of fracking waste ...

Oct 3, 2015 - "A federal judge in Wyoming on Wednesday blocked Interior Department rules setting stricter standards for hydraulic fracturing on public lands.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Complex Ethical Questions Raised in Pre-Natal Screening

I've mentioned that I believe the film Children of Men is most prescient in predicting the future. It imagines a dystopian world where vital fetuses have become an impossibility.

In the 1950s, many scientists studying the biological effects of radiation anticipated a future where too many radiation-induced errors in the human genome would impede healthy human reproduction.

Today, autism's de novo mutations and the plummet of men's sperm quality in developing economies appear as portents of this line of dystopic imagining. 

Consider for example this study examining trends in sperm count:
Hagai Levine, Niels Jørgensen, Anderson Martino-Andrade, Jaime Mendiola, Dan Weksler-Derri, Irina Mindlis, Rachel Pinotti, and Shanna H. Swan (2017). Temporal trends in sperm count: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis. Human Reproduction Update, pp. 1–14, 2017. doi:10.1093/humupd/dmx022 

ABSTRACT: There was a significant decline in SC between 1973 and 2011 among Unselected Western (−1.38; −2.02 to −0.74; P < 0.001) and among Fertile Western (−0.68; −1.31 to −0.05; P = 0.033), while no significant trends were seen among Unselected Other and Fertile Other. Among Unselected Western studies, the mean SC [SPERM CONCENTRATION] declined, on average, 1.4% per year with an overall decline of 52.4% between 1973 and 2011..

Trends for TSC [TOTAL SPERM COUNT) and SC were similar, with a steep decline among Unselected Western (−5.33 million/year, −7.56 to −3.11; P < 0.001), corresponding to an average decline in mean TSC of 1.6% per year and overall decline of 59.3%. Results changed minimally in multiple sensitivity analyses, and there was no statistical support for the use of a nonlinear model…

WIDER IMPLICATIONS: This comprehensive meta-regression analysis reports a significant decline in sperm counts (as measured by SC and TSC) between 1973 and 2011, driven by a 50–60% decline among men unselected by fertility from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Because of the significant public health implications of these results, research on the causes of this continuing decline is urgently needed….
This study was a META-ANALYSIS so it looked at the results of 7,500 empirical studies on sperm counts and therefore came to its conclusions based on evaluation of the results of those 7,500 studies.

In this context of concern over the viability of human life, we see that prenatal screening raises complex ethical questions about the valuing and guarding of human life.

Screening, on the one hand, may help prevent future suffering, but on the other hand it ushers in a new eugenics where we value only the most perfect forms of life. Here is a relevant discussion of the impact of pre-natal testing on Downs syndrome rates in the US illustrating the pursuit of (imagined) perfection.

Interestingly, one study in Canada (here) found that poor and immigrant women were more likely to be screened than affluent citizens, a finding which illustrates how this new eugenics can be inflected with race and economics.

In Japan, the Mainichi is reporting a significant increase in the overall rate of prenatal screening here:

Norikazu Chiba (2018). Number of prenatal screening tests in Japan jumps 2.4 times in 10 years. The Mainichi, 
According to their estimates, the ratio of pregnant mothers who received such exams was 2.7 percent of the total in 2006, and 15.2 percent among those aged 35 or older. These figures jumped to 7.2 percent and 25.1 percent, respectively, in 2016. 
By test type, the number of maternal serum screenings, which test for chromosome abnormalities from the composition of the mother's blood, doubled from about 17,500 in 2006 to about 35,900 in 2016. 
Meanwhile, the number of NIPT, which is capable of examining DNA fragments of the fetus in the mother's blood at a high level of accuracy, has been steadily increasing since 2013, when it was introduced on a clinical trial basis by the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
The consequences of this new eugenics have not been broadly discussed because decision-making is individuated as each mother decides whether to screen and how to interpret results and act upon them.

In the US there is grave concern among autism advocates that identification of "autism" susceptibility genes will be used to eradicate people who are different but not deficient.

There are complicated ethical issues that are raised, but for me the biggest concern is how the risks from catastrophic environmental degradation are individualized in the biological bodies of our most vulnerable yet important members, DEFLECTING attention away from the conditions of possibility for biological life to thrive or fail.


Japanese Geneticists on Radiation (1957). Science, New Series, Vol. 126, No. 3263 (Jul. 12, 1957), pp. 68-69. Stable URL: Accessed: 27-11-2017 15:24 UTC "From what has been pointed out above, we are led to conclude that any amount of radiation, however small it may be, is deleterious to the heredity of man. Although a certain dose has been set as 'permissible' for people engaged in the operation of X-rays and radioactive apparatus or substances, this is only aimed at the safety and health of those people themselves. However, as far as the genetic effect on their descendants is concerned, there is no theoretical limit below which danger may be entirely excluded."


Majia's Blog: Autism and Ionizing Radiation
May 23, 2014 - Diagnoses of autism are increasing and more researchers are concluding that environmental causes are contributing in significant ways to the ...

Majia's Blog: Autism and Exposure to Excess Ionizing Radiation: Is ...
A number of you have asked about the reaction to my paper on autism and ionizing radiation delivered at an international conference on autism in Cyprus: My paper argued for a systemic approach to understanding autism that deconstructed the idea that the body is separate from its environment: ...

Majia's Blog: Could Ionizing Radiation Play a Role in Autism? studying the effects of low-levels of ionizing radiation, I began to suspect a link to autism. I have found a possible mechanism. NK CD 56 cells are very radiosensitive and they have also been implicated as dysfunctional in children with autism. Maybe there is a connection here? Below are the steps I used in making this ...

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Blue Glow in New York and at Fukushima Daiichi

Did you see the pictures of New York's blue skyline?

Today I read in the WSJ an account of how that blue light was produced:
Erin Ailworth (2018, Dec 28). Why Was the Light That Flooded New York City’s Sky So Blue?. The Wall Street Journal,

The eerie, neon-blue light that bathed the New York City skyline Thursday night resulted when tens of thousands of volts fed a fire at a electrical-utility substation. 
The voltage created an electrical field strong enough to strip electrons from atoms, and those freed electrons formed a soup of negatively and positively charged particles called a plasma, according to Scott Collis, an atmospheric scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, near Chicago.

“Because you have all this energy in a plasma with all these charged particles running around, sometimes they will hit other atoms and that energy causes these atoms to emit light,” Dr. Collis said.
I recommend going to the WSJ article and taking a look at their diagram representing how the electrical field from the substation stripped electrons from atoms, creating a plasma state allowing positive charged electrons to circulate freely.

The article explains that collisions of these energetic electrons release energy with emitted light contingent upon colliding elements. In the case of the NY electrical fire, the article cites a "mix of metals" and oxygen and nitrogen in the air as producing the blue glow.

What struck me when viewing the imagery from the NY event was the similarity to the "blue glow" captured at the Fukushima Daiichi plant (in building 4) April 13, 2012 as illustrated below:

April 13, 2012