Katrina: A 10-Year Review

by Walter Brasch This week is the 10th anniversary of the destruction of the southeastern gulf coast by Hurricane Katrina. More than 1,800 people died. There is no estimate for the number of pets and wildlife. Damage was estimated at more than $100 billion. About 80 percent of New Orleans was flooded. In Mississippi, the water surge flooded as much as 10 miles from the beaches. The Category 3 storm should not have caused that much damage, but it exposed poorly-designed levees that should have protected New Orleans. Sanctimonious critics, many of them conservative politicians, claimed that if the residents had evacuated New Orleans like they were ordered, the death toll and suffering would have been significantly less. What they … Continue reading

Canned Pleasure: The Thrill of the Kill

By Walter Brasch Would you like to go to Zimbabwe, kill and behead a lion, just like that dentist from Minnesota or the physician from Pittsburgh recently did? They paid about $50,000 each for that experience. How about a black rhino, an endangered species? A professional hunter from Dallas, Texas, won a $350,000 lottery to stalk and kill that animal in southern Namibia. In the 1950s, there were about 70,000 black rhinos. There are now fewer than 2,400, most of them killed off by the human predators. If giraffes are your thing, you can go to South Africa and, like a woman from Idaho, kill the world’s tallest animal, pose with it, and post it onto your Facebook page. But, … Continue reading

Citizen-Journalist Fined for Telling the Truth

  by Walter Brasch   Vera Scroggins of Susquehanna County, Pa., was found to be in contempt of court, Thursday, and fined $1,000. Her offense? She tells the truth. Truth is something that apparently has bypassed the court of Judge Kenneth W. Seamans, who retired at the end of 2014, but came out of retirement to handle this case. The case began in October 2013. Scroggins, a retired real estate agent and nurse’s aide, was in Common Pleas Court to explain why a temporary injunction should not be issued against her. That injunction would require her to stay at least 150 feet from all properties where Cabot Oil and Gas had leased mineral rights, even if that distance was on … Continue reading

Divesting America of Ozone-Destroying Energy Sources

  by Walter Brasch   Long before the price of gas and oil began to plummet, socially conscious churches, universities, non-profit organizations, and local governments began to divest themselves of fossil fuel stock and shock the fossil fuel industry to understand the environmental and public health concerns. The World Council of Churches, which represents about 590 million Christians in 520,000 congregations, decided in July that to continue to hold fossil fuel stock would compromise its ethics, and recommended that the 349 member denominations consider divesting oil and gas stock. Six of the eight Anglican dioceses of New Zealand and Polynesia, and four dioceses in Australia divested their portfolios of fossil fuel stock. In the United States, the United Church of … Continue reading

The Fracking Boom is a Fracking Bubble

  by Walter Brasch   Gas prices have plunged to the low $2 range—except in Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, the prices at the pump are in the mid-$2 range. That’s because Gov. Tom Corbett and the legislature imposed a 28-cent per gallon surcharge tax. Until 2019, Pennsylvanians will be paying an additional $2.3 billion a year in taxes and fees—$11.5 billion total—to improve the state’s infrastructure. In addition to the increased tax on gas at the pumps, Pennsylvania motorists will also be spending more for license registrations, renewals, and title certificates. For far too many years, the state’s politicians of both major parties, preaching fiscal austerity—and hoping to be re-elected by taxpayers upset with government spending—neglected the roads, bridges, and other … Continue reading

How Americans Came to Oppose Fracking

by Walter Brasch   For the first time since high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as nonconventional fracking, was developed, more Americans oppose it than support it. According to a national survey conducted by the independent non-partisan Pew Research Center, 47 percent of Americans oppose fracking, while 41 percent support it. This is a 7 percent decline in support from March 2013, and a 9 percent increase in opposition. The poll also reveals those who support fracking tend to be conservative men over 50 years old with only a high school education, and living in the South. However, support for fracking has decreased in all categories, while opposition has increased. Fracking is the controversial method of drilling a bore … Continue reading

A Fracking Good Letter

    by Walter Brasch   The oil and gas industry has retreated from its entrenched position to have the public delete the “k” in “fracking,” and write it as “frac’ing” or “fracing.” Those who have been the strongest advocates for fracking scorned and mocked those who place the “k” in the word. The problem is that without the “k,” the word sounds like “frasing.” However, the first use of the word “fracking” can be traced to an oil and gas journal article in 1953. As hydraulic horizontal fracturing became a standard to extract gas and oil about 2008, anti-fracking activists began using the word—with the “k”—in advertising, social media, and public protest campaigns that slyly bordered on the obscene—“Frack … Continue reading

Arsenic-Laced Coffee Good for You

  by Walter Brasch   You’re sitting in your favorite restaurant one balmy September morning. Your waitress brings a pot of coffee and a standard 5-ounce cup. “Would you like cream and sugar with it?” she asks. You drink your coffee black. And hot. You decline her offer. “Would you like arsenic with it?” she asks. Arsenic? You’re baffled. And more than a little suspicious. “It enhances the flavor,” says your waitress. “I really don’t think I want arsenic,” you say, now wondering why she’s so cheerful. “It really does enhance the flavor—and there’s absolutely no harm in it,” she says. “But it’s arsenic!” you reply. “That’s rat poison. It can kill you.” “Only in large doses,” she says. “I’ll … Continue reading