Big Oil Cheers as Trump Plans to Open National Parks for Drilling
Trump taps well of protest with calls for more drilling in national parks https://t.co/y0DnUwpGJL— Reuters Top News (@Reuters Top News)1484159037.0
The president-elect plans to open up federal lands for more energy development and, according to Reuters, energy companies and industry lobbyists are already expecting a flurry of new federal drilling and mining leases with the incoming administration.
"This opportunity is unique, maybe once in a lifetime," Jack Gerard, president of the Washington DC-based American Petroleum Institute lobby group, told the news service in regards to increased access to federal leases.
Vast quantities of oil, natural gas, coal and uranium are tucked away in government-owned national parks and forests, wildlife refuges and tribal territories from the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico.
As Reuters noted, under the Obama administration, oil output on federal land made up about a fifth of the national total in 2015, down from more than a third in 2010. Onshore drilling leases also fell about 15 percent.
However, Trump campaigned on a promise to "unleash America's $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves." He has accused Obama of "denying millions of Americans access to the energy wealth sitting under our feet" by restricting leasing and banning new coal extraction.
The U.S. government owns roughly 640 million acres of land, and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) manages most of it. In December, Trump nominated U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke of Montana, a climate change skeptic and coal mining advocate as head of the department.
As it happens, The Wilderness Society calculated that 90 percent of the lands held by the Bureau of Land Management, a bureau of the DOI, is already open to oil and gas development. Most of these lands are in the West and Alaska.
At the same time, with crude oil prices above $50 a barrel, a drilling boom is in sight. As Bloomberg reported, U.S. shale producers are starting to hire back workers after sharp cutbacks in recent years and have added rigs to the shale patch in North America.
Even though Trump has previously said that he wants to keep public lands "great" and is "not looking to sell off land," that doesn't mean the leasing of public lands and waters for energy production is off the table.
Trump's own Energy Independence website states, "Rather than continuing the current path to undermine and block America's fossil fuel producers, the Trump Administration will encourage the production of these resources by opening onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands and waters." He also plans to end the "war on coal" and intends to scrap emissions regulations issued by the Obama Administration, such as the Clean Power Plan.
Trump's advisors are also seeking to privatize Native American reservations, which sit on an estimated 20 percent of the nation's oil and gas, along with large amounts of coal reserves. These resources are worth nearly $1.5 trillion.
Trump Advisors Plan to Privatize Native Lands to Tap Into Oil Rich Reservations @EcoWatch https://t.co/atC5leZmgl #Trump @NRDC @sierraclub— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1480960213.0
In an effort to safeguard the environment, President Obama recently designated about 1.6 million acres in Utah and Nevada as national monuments. He also banned new drilling in federal waters in parts of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.
Republican lawmakers, however, have vowed to undo the measures. For now, it looks like the Right's "Drill, Baby, Drill" ethos is back on.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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Listen:<iframe style="border: none" src="//html5-player.libsyn.com/embed/episode/id/17278520/height/45/theme/standard/thumbnail/yes/direction/backward/" height="45" width="100%" scrolling="no" allowfullscreen webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen oallowfullscreen msallowfullscreen></iframe><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2021/01/college-course-teaches-students-how-to-be-climate-leaders/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Yale Climate Connections</a>.</em></p>
By Daniel Raichel
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