Copyright Gary Edward Nordell, all rights reserved. Powered by Blogger.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

WM Essay #106: Warren Buffett Is Now A Bad Guy

Warren E. Buffett has long been an example of a 'good guy' capitalist, because his Berkshire-Hathaway mega-corporation has made tons of money for investors without the common evils of the fascist oligarchs – think Mitt Romney and Bain Capital Ventures – such as off-shoring jobs and profits, draining employee pension funds, closing viable factories and-or towns, and ripping off investors. Nor has Buffett spent billions lobbying against clean-air standards, shrinking education, and suppressing the vote, like the Koch Brothers continue to do.

Many wondered why Buffett and Berkshire-Hathaway paid a steep price for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad in November 2009 – the stock was around $75/share, the offer was around $100/share. People figured that Buffett had some plan, that his record is such that he knows what he is doing, we all should watch closely and learn from the 'Wizard of Omaha'.

Well, recent events have provided a shape to Buffett's plan, and unless stopped, Buffett's new project will double pollution from coal on the planet in the next few years.

The Powder River Basin in Wyoming & Montana contains one of the largest deposits of coal in the world. 'PRB' coal currently supplies 40% of the fuel for electric power plants east of the Rockies, but as coal plants are replaced by natural gas, the market is rapidly shrinking. So the coal industry decided to sell coal to China, which has no pollution standards and little natural gas resources. China is bringing online a newly-completed coal-fired power plant every week.

The Union Pacific and BNSF railroad lines run north and west thru the Powder River Basin toward the old Northern Pacific transcontinental route that runs west to Seattle and Puget Sound. Hauling the coal to the Pacific Ocean for trans-shipment to China looks so simple.

Long way to go, though. And a Very Bad Idea, mostly having to do with pollution here in the U.S.A.

You have seen the recent news visuals of the pollution in China's interior cities reaching readings of ten times the level allowed by United Nations air quality standards. We can't do anything about their smog, not even when the dirt-clouds in China float across the Pacific Ocean and make the skies of California and Arizona and Washington State and British Columbia turn brown.

The first pollution problem here in the U.S.A. is already occuring during rail transport. Doubling and tripling coal traffic by rail will also double and triple the pollution along the rail lines. Coal is transported in uncovered hopper cars. According to recent BNSF testimony, each loaded rail car loses from 500 to 3,500 pounds of coal dust per trip. The two daily coal trains to Puget Sound run about 120 cars, so anywhere from 120,000 to 840,000 pounds of coal dust are deposited along the rail lines - every day. Divide by the roughly 1,200 miles of travel, and that is 70 pounds of pollution per mile - every day. The proposed Gateway Pacific coal port will add 18 train trips per day, and if the Longview facility is approved, that will add another 14 trains per day.

Warren Buffet's railroad is planning to deliver as much 12,000 pounds of toxic coal dust over each mile of rail line, each and every day for the next twenty years. That is six tons of pollution daily to every mile, including farmer's fields, school yards & playgrounds, running streams, back yard clotheslines, pristine wetlands, and sparkling white country churches.

The second pollution problem here in the U.S.A. is at the planned port facilities. The Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point near the Canadian border would be twice the size of the largest existing coal port in North America. Gateway's plans for mitigating the coal dust problem is to dampen the acre-sized million-ton piles of coal with water from the Nooksack River, without mentioning that the dirty water will flow back into the river and into Bellingham Bay, and in any case not help at all on windy days.

And all this is predicated on no accidents or environmental disasters whatsoever.

The proposed $643 million Millennium Bulk Terminals coal-export facility is at Longview, Washington - fifty miles up the Columbia River. The proposed coal-export facility at Point Morrow in Oregon is 250 miles farther up the Columbia River; ocean-going vessels cannot reach Port Morrow, so the plan is to load the coal from railcar to river barge, mosey downriver to Port St. Helens (25 miles upriver from Longview) and transfer to bulk cargo vessels bound for China.

Adding 400 boat visits per year and untold barge trips up and down the Columbia River per day is no concern of Peabody Coal, the railroads, or the terminal operators. (Pacific International Terminals is owned by Carrix, which is 49% owned by Goldman Sachs; Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway owns 6% of Goldman Sachs.)

But environmentalists are quite concerned, and calculate that building and operating the three proposed West Coast coal export facilities will add 200 million tons of CO2 to Earth's atmosphere each year, which is roughly equivalent to all the carbon-dioxide emissions of all the volcanoes on the planet.

Warren Buffett will soon be a world-class polluter, and his days as a capitalist 'good guy' are over.
Copyright 2013 by G.E. Nordell, all rights reserved

Thursday, November 07, 2013

November 2013 Quotations (62)

"It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority."
~~ Benjamin Franklin [1706-90]

"We are destined for better things."
~~ dreamt the morning of 29 October 2013 by G.E. Nordell

"Thinking is a momentary dismissal of irrelevancies."
~~ R. Buckminster Fuller [1895-1983]

"I couldn't wait for success, so I went ahead without it."
~~ Jonathan Winters [1925-2013]

"Our 'neoconservatives' are neither new nor conservative, but old as Babylon and evil as Hell."
~~ Edward Abbey [1927-89]

"Turn on, tune in, drop out." ~~ phrase coined in the 1960s by Marshall McLuhan [1911-80] and popularized by Dr. Timothy Leary [1920-96]

"There are no moral phenomena at all, only a moral interpretation of phenomena."
~~ Friedrich Nietzsche [1844-1900]

"The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities."
~~ Ayn Rand [1905-82]

"Together, we're going to finish the job [that] we started."
~~ President Obama on the new Obamacare video [1:31], 1 October 2013

"Men argue. Nature acts."
~~ Voltaire [1694-1778]

"You can't get spoiled if you do your own ironing."
~~ Meryl Streep

"It has been the fate of our nation not to have ideologies but to be one."
~~ historian Richard Hofstadter [1916-70]

"Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies."
Friedrich Nietzsche [1844-1900]

"Life is like a coin. You can spend it any way [that] you want, but you only spend it once."
~~ Lillian Dickson [1901-83]

"It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan."
~~ Eleanor Roosevelt [1884-1962]

"Pressure is something [that] you feel when you don't know what you're doing."
~~ football great Peyton Manning

"Whenever you hear a man speak of his love for country, it is a sign that he expects to be paid for it."
~~ H.L. Mencken [1880-1956]

"Being an adult means accepting those situations where no action is possible."
~~ mystery author John D. MacDonald [1916-86]

"The only interesting answers are those which destroy the questions."
~~ Susan Sontag [1933-2004]

"You have to climb to reach a deep thought."
~~ Polish poet Stanislaw Lec [1909-66]

"If you're the smartest person in the room, find another room."
~~ Michael Dell

"The trouble about man is twofold. He cannot learn truths which are too complicated; he forgets truths which are too simple."
~~ Dame Rebecca West [1892-1983]

"The most profound relationship [that] we'll ever have is the one with ourselves."
~~ Shirley MacLaine

"There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign."
~~ Robert Louis Stevenson [1850-94]

"The long-term accomodation that protects marriage and other such relationships is forgetfulness."
~~ Alice Walker

"The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted."
~~ D.H. Lawrence [1885-1930]

"We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion. The great task in life is to find reality."
~~ Iris Murdoch [1919-99]

"There is no more miserable human being than one to whom nothing is habitual but indecision."
~~ William James [1842-1910]

"Crime is art for lazy people."
~~ rapper CeeLo Green

"To live a life free from sorrow, think of what is going to happen as if it had already happened."
~~ Epictetus [55?–135? C.E.]

"All the world's a stage, and most of us are desparately unrehearsed."
~~ playwright Seán O'Casey [1880-1964]

"It's easy to become a millionaire – start out as a billionaire, and then buy an airline."
~~ Richard Branson

"Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat."
~~ F. Scott Fitzgerald [1896-1940]

"It isn't the mountain ahead that wears you out; it's the pebble in your shoe."
~~ Muhammad Ali

"If the dinosaurs had had a space program, they would not be extinct."
~~ Carl Sagan [1934-96]

"What is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."
~~ Ernest Hemingway [1899-1961]

"In other centuries, human beings wanted to be saved, or improved, or freed, or educated. But in our century, they want to be entertained."
~~ Michael Crichton [1942-2008]

"Is not life in itself a thing of goodness, irrespective of whether the course [that] it takes for us be called a 'happy' one?"
~~ Thomas Mann [1875-1955]

"[We] need to raise the minimum wage so that nobody who's working full time lives in poverty."
~~ economist Robert B. Reich

"Resolve to be thyself, and know that he who finds himself loses his misery."
~~ Matthew Arnold [1822-88]

"Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it."
~~ Helen Keller [1880-1968]

"There is no hope for the satisfied man."
~~ Frederick G. Bonfils [1861-1933], founder of the Denver Post newspaper

"The first condition of immortality is death."
~~ Polish poet Stanislaw Lec [1909-66]

"You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do."
~~ Eleanor Roosevelt [1884-1962]

“Life is a mirror - what you see out there, you must first see inside of you.”
~~ Wally 'Famous' Amos

“A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”
~~ Carl Sagan [1934-96]

{on cinema}: “The eye licks it all up instantaneously, and the brain, agreeably titillated, settles down to watch things happening without bestirring itself to think.”
~~ Virginia Woolf [1882-1941], in 1926

"Everyone's a coward about something."
~~ line from the Oscar-winning war movie "The Hurt Locker" [2008]

"I used to be self-conscious about my height, but then I thought 'F*** that, I'm Harry Potter'."
~~ Daniel Radcliffe

“True wisdom lies in gathering the precious things out of each day as it goes by.”
~~ E.S. Bouton

"That government is best which governs least."
~~ Henry David Thoreau [1817-62], in the first paragraph of the 1849 essay "Civil Disobedience"

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light not our Darkness, that most frightens us."
~~ Marianne Williamson in her 1992 book "A Return To Love"; quote used by Nelson Mandela in his 1994 inaugural address

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."
~~ first appeared in the 1981 'Narcotics Anonymous' basic text (and often mis-attributed to Rita Mae Brown or Albert Einstein [1879-1955] )

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader."
~~ John Quincy Adams [1767-1848]

"When a person can no longer laugh at himself, it is time for others to laugh at him."
~~ psychiatrist Thomas Szasz [1920-2012]

"Fear, like love, is difficult to explain after it has subsided, probably because it draws away the veils of illusion as it disappears."
~~ playwright Arthur Miller [1915-2005]

"If you can speak about what you care about to a person [that] you disagree with without denigrating them or insulting them, then you may actually be heard."
~~ Amy Poehler

"Art is never finished, only abandoned."
~~ Leonardo da Vinci [1452-1519]

"Man is born to live, not to prepare for life."
~~ Boris Pasternak [1890-1960]

"The music is all. People should die for it. People are dying for everything else, so why not for the music?"
~~ Lou Reed [1942-2013]

“Free speech is a danger to the neo-con fascists, which is why they suppress it. Our best weapon is to speak freely and loudly and often.”
~~ G.E. Nordell

"Life works to the extent that we keep our agreements."
~~ Werner Erhard

{each set of posted quotations are then posted at the Working Minds website, alphabetical by author}