Could I Please Get a Ryan Avent/Greg Ip Only Feed to the Economist’s Free Exchange?

Right-wing drivel is fine: if it did not contain right-wing drivel, it would not be the Economist:

Labour markets: How to fix unemployment | The Economist

But quality right-wing drivel, please! Free Exchange is, right now, a very good brand: don't ruin it!

Seriously: these may be the two most pig-ignorant paragaphs ever published by the Economist:

[S]tart-ups keep the economy dynamic, competitive, and innovative. But they are also a primary engine of job creation, and not just in Silicon Valley. This suggests there is scope for policy to support these ventures. Start-ups may lead to lots of job creation, but also to job destruction because they often go bust. Some start-ups need to fail, but many others do not expand due to their limited access to capital. Poor information on small, new firms means that credit is more expensive and less available compared to larger, older firms.

Or, if the government really wanted to spur small firm hiring it could tackle health care costs. Providing benefits to employees is getting increasingly expensive—especially for small firms who face relatively large administrative costs and a smaller pool of workers (driving up premiums). This may depress the ability of a small, new businesses to hire new people (or at least hire full time staff instead of contractors). Perhaps the new health care legislation will ease the burden small firms bear providing benefits, but I doubt it. It’s too soon to tell, but I suspect the law may have made the problem worse...

They give me the sinking feeling that the author has no clue about what U.S. policy is--neither policy toward start-ups, nor policy toward health care.

Nic Lenoir’s Market Close Observations


From Nic Lenoir of ICAP

Since I just got back today after 5 days away, I will say little since I need to reflect a bit more on the price action.

Until I send a more complete market overview tomorrow, there are a few things I want to point out: The market data is atrocious and yet we fail to accelerate lower. I have highlighted the past two weeks how the 1,040/1,050 are should provide strong support here and so ar so good. We remain core short from 1,126 but feel rather pleased to be out of tactical positions so the chopping around the lows does not give us any headaches. I still believe we should see 1,085/1,100 at the minimum before selling off more aggressively.



Beyond noting the daily support for the S&P and concurrent support for the DAX tested and held today, the intraday volume and month end activity into tonight's close is worth noting: 200,000 ESU0 (mini S&P) futures traded in the last 10 minutes. Even this may very well be simple month end activity, expect most algos out there to take good note of the volume spike on the uptick. The market kept trading strong in after hours and more could be expected on the back of this. Should this play out it could give the momentum necessary for us to go kiss 1,100 goodbye before moving lower. In terms of economic data the work my friends Julian Brigden and Jonas Thulin were kind enough to share with me more than comforted my very doom outlook for the next 2/3 quarters, so we will be looking at reloading tactical shorts into the rally should it materialize.



Good luck trading,

Nic

Update on the Gulf Oil Spill


Washington’s Blog

 

Oil Tests Positive for Dispersants in the Mississippi Sound

The Press-Register notes today:

Lumpy, degraded oil collected in the Mississippi Sound has tested positive for several of the main ingredients in the Corexit dispersant used in connection with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, according to scientists working for a New Orleans-based lawyer.

Officials with the federal government and BP PLC have maintained throughout the oil spill that no dispersant products have been used near shorelines in Alabama or Mississippi.

***

Marco Kaltofen, part of the group of scientists who found the oil in Mississippi Sound, said it was impossible to determine when the dispersant had been applied to the oil. Results from the tests, which were conducted in a Colorado laboratory, indicated the oil was from the Deepwater Horizon well, he said.

***

“EPA samples found only one indication of dispersant near shore in Louisiana. That location was sampled several times with no other detection,” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Terri White said in a Monday e-mail. “There is no authorization to apply any dispersant at this time. If anyone has information about this, they need to report it immediately so it can be investigated and referred to law enforcement.”

***

Smith, the lawyer who funded Kaltofen’s sampling expedition, discounted the notion that dispersants had not been used near shore.

“I personally saw C-130s applying dispersants from my hotel room in the Florida Panhandle. They were spraying directly adjacent to the beach right at dusk,” said Smith. “Fishermen I’ve talked to say they’ve been sprayed. This idea they are not using this stuff near the coast is nonsense.”

Other tests are coming back positive for dispersant as well.

BP Tells Experienced Gulf Fishermen that They Don't Know the Difference Between Oil and Seafloor Muck

 

The Pensacola News Journal notes:

Recreational fisherman Mark Fuqua, 47, of Pensacola, who has fished the waters from Destin to Pensacola most of his life, discovered just how big the mess is on the first day he struck out to drop a line in the water since the fishing ban was lifted two weeks ago.

 

After a day of fishing in several areas of the bay on Wednesday, his boat, anchor and cast net were covered in oil.

 

"I've never seen anything like it," he said. "I was fishing in front of Palafox Pier and pulled up my anchor, and it looked like it had black mud on it. I reached down to try to wipe it off and it was all greasy, like greasy sand."

The anchor was dropped in 20 feet of water.

 

[Scott Piggott, who heads the Escambia and Santa Rosa cleanup operation for BP] said the reports from fishermen about finding oil often are not reliable.

"I've heard accounts of people who hold up their anchors that have this black stuff on it," he said. "I can't tell you how many times we've gotten reports from fishermen with sightings of sheen and oil. Ninety-nine percent of the time, these reports turn out to be organic material."

 

Fuqua said Piggott's statement "sounds typical."

"BP is really counting on that out-of-sight, out-of-mind thing. It's there and they know it," he said. "They need to be exposed and made to do something about it."

Sure, and the oil plumes and dispersant which experienced scientists think they are finding in the Gulf are really just kelp, and the dead animals which people see are really just sleeping, and the rashes and breathing problems coastal residents exposed to the dispersant are suffering are really just allergies.

Mission (Not) Accomplished on Oil Spill

 

You've probably heard that BP has capped the oil well and the almost all the oil has been cleaned up, right?

Meanwhile, back in the real world:

  • A tidal wave of oil is, supposedly, about to hit shore: "A 200-foot-by-2-mile swath of oil is going to make landfall on Grand Isle in the next couple of days"

As oil industry expert Bob Cavnar writes today:

Admiral Allen announced today that BP's fishing job being undertaken on their Mississippi Canyon Block 252 well has been called off due to total failure. You'll recall that I disagreed with the procedure when it was announced on the 21st, believing it was unwise and risky. After now attempting to fish out the drill pipe (actually 3 pieces) for several days, they have called off the job after completely failing at achieving their goal. Previously, Adm. Allen had said that they wanted to get all the drill pipe out before pulling the BOP (which I also think is unwise), and replacing it with the BOP from the DDII before completing the relief well.

***

They're going to pull the damn BOP anyway. That's right, they're going to pull the BOP anyway. What's amazing is that they're pulling it with an estimated 3,000 feet of drill pipe hanging in a set of rams, as well as two other smaller pieces in the stack and God knows what else. Admiral Allen said they're setting an overpull limit of 80,000 pounds over stack weight to pull it free, worried that more would dislodge the casing hanger and packoff that are supposedly in the casing hanger. They couldn't get the camera in that far down, but they still continue to assume that all that is somehow still in place after the well blowing out and flowing for 87 days, probably right through where they say the packoff is set. Not likely. Allen says they're going to actually try to pull the drill pipe, still hung in the rams and then, while suspending the BOP above the casinghead, cut the drill pipe with ROVs and drop it back in the well.
Probability of success of getting that done? Almost zero.

As Rick Steiner told Dan Froomkin this week:

I smell politics all over it. The only plausible explanation is they were in a rush to hang the 'Mission Accomplished' banner.

BP's Crude Oil May Be Radioactive

 

New Orleans attorney Stuart Smith knows something about radiation from oil drilling:

Smith is well known for his role as lead counsel in an oilfield radiation case that resulted in a verdict of $1.056 billion against ExxonMobil for contaminating land it leased from the Grefer family in Harvey, Louisiana –– and attempting to cover it up.

***

The court stated that from June 1986 to March 1987, “Exxon officials intentionally withheld information,” and that the company “knew the [radioactive] scale posed a direct danger to the physical health of those workers.” Oilfield waste, or TERM, is primarily composed of radium, a highly radioactive chemical element. Exposure to radium is known to cause a variety of devastating illnesses, including cancer. Radium’s impact on the human body is particularly acute because it is similar chemically to calcium –– and as such is frequently absorbed into bones after entering the body.

But at least there's no radiation being released from BP's oil spill in the Gulf, right?

Well, as Smith wrote on August 4th:

This is directly from the EPA website discussing oil drilling activity:

“These processes may leave behind waste containing concentrations of naturally-occurring radioactive material (NORM) from the surrounding soils and rocks. Once exposed or concentrated by human activity, this naturally-occurring material becomes Technologically-Enhanced NORM or TENORM. Radioactive materials are not necessarily present in the soils at every well or drilling site. However in some areas of the country, such as the upper Midwest or Gulf Coast states, the soils are more like to contain radioactive material.”

 

“Radioactive wastes from oil and gas drilling take the form of produced water, drilling mud, sludge, slimes, or evaporation ponds and pits. It can also concentrate in the mineral scales that form in pipes (pipe scale), storage tanks, or other extraction equipment. Radionuclides in these wastes are primarily radium-226, radium-228, and radon gas. The radon is released to the atmosphere, while the produced water and mud containing radium are placed in ponds or pits for evaporation, re-use, or recovery.”

 

“The people most likely to be exposed to this source of radiation are workers at the site. They may inhale radon gas which is released during drilling and produced by the decay of radium, raising their risk of lung cancer. In addition, they are exposed to alpha and gamma radiation released during the decay of radium-226 and the low-energy gamma radiation and beta particles released by the decay of radium-228. (Gamma radiation can also penetrate the skin and raise the risk of cancer.) Workers following safety guidance will reduce their total on-site radiation exposure.”

It’s time BP comes clean as to the levels and amounts of radioactive material released from this oil spill.

Here's the EPA website which Smith is quoting.

This is not to say that radiation is being released from the well at dangerous levels for the general public. Obviously, BP and the government should be pressed to release all radiation test results (or to do them if they haven't already). I haven't heard any information indicating dangerous levels, and I'll assume for now that radiation levels in the Gulf as a whole are low and not much more than background levels.

However, for the clean up workers, and when it is concentrated in landfills, crude oil from the Gulf might be a real health threat. As Smith writes:

This is all bad enough at the spill and cleanup sites, and it’s not nearly the near-term danger of all the toxins in the oil-dispersant stew. But it can become a danger when you start concentrating it in normal landfills. Remember, oil was exempted from hazmat regulations for political reasons, not because it’s not hazardous.

 

And, as far as we can tell, nobody is even testing the BP waste going into those landfills and if the oil company knows radiation levels, we can expect them to keep it secret. Hey, this is the company that required a Congressional order and a Federal Court Subpoena just to release video of the spill … we have no way of knowing what else they’re not telling us.

 

And it’s not comforting that the EPA, which allowed BP to use toxic dispersant to hide the oil and is now minimizing what’s left through bogus science, and the Coast Guard, which allowed dispersant use even in excess of what the EPA approved, are in charge of all this. And the EPA knows better, of course.

Confirmed: Corexit Still Being Sprayed in the Gulf

 

Veteran chemist Bob Naman says that Corexit is still being sprayed in the Gulf, and that he found 13.3 parts per million in Cotton Bayou, Alabama.

As I pointed out last week:

Parts per million might not sound like much.

But the EPA has found that exposure to 42 parts per million killed 50% of mysid shrimp within 4 days (and most of the remaining shrimp didn't last much longer).

 

In response to Naman's findings, the mayor of Orange Beach - the town located on Cotton Bayou - said that the City would conduct its own, independent tests:

The City's test results have now come back, showing 66 parts per million of dispersant.


The City Engineer for Orange Beach - Kit Alexander - also states that the EPA sets the screening level for dispersant at 750 parts per million (see above video). In other words, the EPA doesn't even test for Corexit at concentrations of less than 750 ppm, even though Corexit at much lower concentrations kills marine life.

I have personally been copied with emails sent to the Coast Guard documenting continued spraying of Corexit.

And yesterday, toxicologist Dr. Ricki Ott sent [an outstanding] letter to the EPA which summarizes evidence of ongoing use of dispersants in the Gulf.

SEC Refuses To Sue Moody’s Over Computer „Glitch“ Which Inflated Ratings By 1.5-3.5 Notches On Thousands Of CDOs


Another day, another SEC farce. Today, Schapiro's captured henchmen sent a notice to credit rating agencies about internal conduct and methods the firms use to determine the riskiness of financial products. As the alternative was to pursue a fraud enforcement action, in this particular case against Mark Zandi's Moody's, one can see why the SEC opted out for the action that would not implicitly open it up as well to like legal treatment by millions of investors, who had kinda, sorta hoped that the SEC would not allow this kind of fraud in the first place. As Housing Wire reports, "the SEC announcement stems from an inquiry by its enforcement division into whether Moody's Investors Service violated registration provisions or anti-fraud provisions of federal securities laws." Additionally, "the commission notes that Dodd-Frank gives federal district courts jurisdiction over SEC enforcement actions that allege violations of the anti-fraud provisions of the securities laws." In other words, while the SEC is a toothless, gutless, corrupt POS, others may take offense to this lack of responsible action and sue Moody's directly. And what is the reason for the SEC investigation? Why, a computer "glitch", which "inadvertently" raised the ratings of various CDOs by up to 3.5 notches! Housing Wire notes: "The SEC inquiry stems from allegations that a Moody's computer coding error improved, "by 1.5 to 3.5 notches," the credit ratings for certain debt obligation notes." Yet having been caught with its pants down was not enough for Moody's to actually fix the "glitch" - "shortly thereafter during a meeting in Europe, a Moody's rating committee voted against taking responsive rating action, in part because of concerns that doing so would negatively impact Moody's business reputation." And people are surprised that wholesale market manipulation occurs on a day to day basis, with the ongoing blessing of the SEC...

From Housing Wire:

The report also notes the Dodd-Frank Act amended the securities laws to require nationally recognized statistical rating organizations (NRSROs) to "establish, maintain, enforce, and document an effective internal control structure governing the implementation of and adherence to policies, procedures, and methodologies for determining credit ratings," according to a release from the SEC.


"Investors rely upon statements that NRSROs make in their applications and reports submitted to the commission, particularly those that describe how the NRSRO determines credit ratings," said Robert Khuzami, director of the SEC's division of enforcement. "It is crucial that NRSROs take steps to assure themselves of the accuracy of those statements and that they have in place sufficient internal controls over the procedures they use to determine credit ratings."

All of this of course is irrelevant: as long as the institutional investors continue to be uberlazy, and refuse to do their own work, when instead they can offload it to such mutants as Moody's, why not? And if at the end of the day, they can blame the rating agency for (complicit) fraud, corruption and incompetence, so much the better: after all it will merely deflect attention from their own sorry, and overpaid behinds.

The Varieties of Unemployment

The Varieties of Unemployment - Project Syndicate: BERKELEY – We hear from surprisingly many quarters these days that governments in Europe and North America, and their central banks, should give up on the expansionary policies they have pursued to try to create jobs. The high unemployment currently afflicting the North Atlantic, critics of government stimulus maintain, is not cyclical but “structural,” and thus cannot be alleviated by policies that boost aggregate demand.

Let me be the first to say that structural unemployment is a true and severe danger. When people who in other circumstances could be happy, healthy, and productive members of the workforce but lack the skills, confidence, social networks, and experience needed to find work worth paying for, we obviously have a problem. And if unemployment in Europe and North America stays elevated for two or three more years, it is highly likely that we will have to face it. For nothing converts cyclical unemployment into structural unemployment more certainly than prolonged unemployment.

But is that true today? Does it look right now as if the biggest problem facing the economies of Europe and North America is structural unemployment? It does not.

Let us remember what structural unemployment looks like. The economy is depressed and unemployment is high not because of slack aggregate demand generated by a collapse in spending, but instead because “structural” factors have produced a mismatch between the skills of the labor force and the distribution of demand. The structure of demand by consumers is different from the jobs that workers are capable of filling.

For example, suppose that you have many workers qualified and skilled to work in construction, but households have decided that their houses are more than large enough, and wish to fill them with manufactured goods. This would produce structural unemployment to the extent that the ex-construction workers could not do things in manufacturing that would make it worthwhile for manufacturing firms to hire them.

In that case, we would expect to see construction depressed: firms closed, capital goods idle, and workers unemployed. But we would also expect to see manufacturing plants running at double shifts – the money not spent on construction has to go somewhere, and, remember, the problem is not a lack of aggregate demand. We would expect to see manufacturers holding job fairs, and when not enough workers showed up, we would expect to see manufacturers offering higher wages to attract workers into their plants, and then raising prices to cover their higher costs.

The size and duration of the excess unemployment of ex-construction workers might be substantial and long lasting. It might require significant time to retrain construction workers and plug them into social networks in which they become good manufacturing workers. We might see prolonged and high unemployment in the construction sector, and in regions that had seen the biggest previous construction booms.

But depression in the construction sector and unemployment among its ex-workers would be balanced by exuberance in the manufacturing sector, rising prices for manufactured goods, and long hours and high wages for manufacturing workers

That is what “mismatch” structural unemployment looks like – and it is not what we have today, at least not in Europe and North America. In the past three years, employment in construction has shrunk, but so has employment in manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, information distribution and communications, professional and business services, educational services, leisure and hospitality, and in the public sector. Employment is up in health care, Internet-related businesses, and perhaps in logging and mining.

In the United States, the past three years have seen employment fall from 137.8 million people in July 2007 to slightly less than 130 million in July 2010 – a decline of 7.9 million during a period in which the adult population grew by six million. What we have witnessed is not a shift in demand into sectors lacking an adequate number of qualified and productive workers, but rather a collapse in the level of aggregate demand.

This may well look like structural unemployment in three years. In three years, we may well see labor shortages, rising wages, and increasing prices in expanding sectors, accompanied by high unemployment elsewhere in the economy.

But that is not our problem now. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

The Market Ticker – Here Come The Shills (Social Security)

Yes, let's divert attention from the real issue, as politicians and their hacks are known to do:

This campaign strategy won't stop huge Democratic losses in a year when the economy is the dominant issue, but it surely will reinforce Republican fears that the deficit commission is nothing but a political trap. Mr. Obama wants the GOP to support entitlement reforms in exchange for tax increases, but when they do he'll pocket the revenue and slam the GOP for the entitlement "cuts."

If you read the rest of the article, you'll find not one peep about where the real problem lies.

Oh, don't get me wrong.  Social Security is huge mess, not the least of which was caused by administrations on both sides of the aisle post-Grace Commission literally stealing the tax revenue and spending it, but at the same time refusing to consolidate the liability on the government balance sheet.

Only in government is such a thing legal.  In the private sector games such as this lead to "instant indictment (and lawsuits) - just add lawyer."

But in the government sector keeping two sets of books isn't only not a criminal act, it's how government does business.  And while it's bad in the Social Security arena, the real problem is with Medicare - a program that The Right - that is, George W Bush - radically expanded.

See, Social Security will run out of (alleged) bonds to redeem in 2039, or whatever it is this year.  Those bonds, of course, aren't really bonds - if they were you could sell them anywhere.  But you can't sell them to anyone but Treasury, and Treasury has no money.  So to "redeem" or "sell" those bonds Treasury is going to have to issue some new ones in exactly equal amount into the public market, and who knows what the rate of interest will be that will be demanded on those.

(ed: Of course government could promote a stock market crash to scare everyone into government bonds when necessary, or even worse, do things that might tread awfully close to the line of confiscating private retirement accounts and forcing them into Treasuries.  Oh wait - we have seen that before and have heard rumors of it in the future, haven't we?  Keep your eyes open on this one - it's coming.)

But while Social Security will formally go "into the red" within a few years on a continual basis, and thus be an immediate and permanent contributor to formal budget deficits (as opposed to off-balance-sheet ones, where it has been operating now for a couple of decades) the real mess is coming in Medicare - which is being intentionally ignored.

Simply put, there's no way we can fund what was promised with Medicare.  We can manage to find ways to do it with Social Security - the simplest is not to remove the cap on tax payments, as doing so would cause the indexing to move up (negating much of the benefit.)  No, the simplest is to raise the retirement age.  While Social Security is simply a tax and entitlement (that is, a welfare benefit) on a legal basis, if you try to get rid of it Granny will likely reach for her shotgun.  It is the "don't let them do that" meme that the Democrats have used for last 20 years to instead hide the truth - that is, bluntly, to lie about how Social Security is (or in this case is not) funded.

But Medicare is an insoluble problem.  We simply cannot, as a matter of public policy, give every older person who needs one a new hip.  Nor can we afford hundreds of thousands of dollars per-person for treatment of obesity-related diseases (primarily cancer and diabetes and their complications) and other similar maladies - some of which are products of old age, but many of which are products of lifestyle choices.

The simple fact of the matter is that we have to have a very public debate over exactly what sort of medical backstop you're entitled to from our society, with the facts and figures laid out.  This must become immediately self-funding, and that debate then has to result in tax and spending policy, with hard enforcement created by an absolute bar on cost-shifting and budgetary games as are currently played by Congress.  That is, Medicare has to be entirely isolated and self-funded - with no outside Congressional support - and no ability to either raid the funds or supplant them.

We either do this or within the next 20 years it will blow up in our face as the Boomers both retire and become sicker.  Trying to "bend the curve" by limiting reimbursements to doctors won't do it.  The simple fact of the matter is that we are technologically capable of doing things in the medical trade that we cannot pay for when it comes to providing them to everyone.  We can either ration by price or ration by scarcity, but we cannot avoid rationing of these expensive medical treatments and remedies.

I prefer to ration by price but my preference in this regard is "soft."  What I find unacceptable is the incessant lying by our government, and others including medical practitioners, in the making of the claim that we can avoid the rationing entirely.

That simply can't happen.

The average person earns $2.25 million in his or her lifetime - before taxes.  One man in two will get cancer in his lifetime, one in three women.  Many of those cancers are easily-treated and reasonably-inexpensive, but a whole lot of them are not - they're insanely expensive whether you survive the disease or not.  Other chronic conditions are similarly expensive.

It is, in fact, quite easy to run up a medical bill that exceeds the entire earnings potential of the average American during his or her lifetime.  Note that this is before tax and actual living expenses, so this is in fact a bill that is at least three times, and likely four or five times, actual disposable income.

We can't cover that folks. 

This is not about compassion, it is about math.

We have (once again) written checks with our mouths that we cannot cash with our hands and minds, and yet we refuse to talk about it and have a frank discussion as Americans about where the line truly has to be - and what we will accept as Americans in order to move it from where it is now - the impossible - to where it will wind up.

Yes, I know this is the "Third Rail" of American Politics - even more so than Social Security.

But whether we want to step on it or not, that light you see in the distance is, in fact, a train.

When You Don’t Spend Any, the Velocity of Money becomes Zero

Edmoney is tracking the allocation and spending of education-related stimulus grants. The map is here. Some states have gotten the funds into circulation better than others. Selected states below (GA was highlighted by them):
  1. California, 78%
  2. New Jersey, 63%
  3. Georgia, 62%
  4. Indiana, 60%
  5. Oklahoma, 50%
  6. Mississippi, 42%
  7. Massachusetts, 41%
  8. Michigan, 41%
  9. Kentucky, 39%
  10. Pennsylvania, 35%
  11. Ohio, 29%
  12. New York, 25% (but NYC 60%)
  13. Texas, 25%

The Last Minute Ramp Job Dissected


How do you prevent a 5% drop in a month (which as Credit Trader points out is precisely what the last minute ramp achieved)? A reader explains:

approx 175k ESU0 traded between 3:59 and 4:00 - $9.1B notional.  in the 16 minutes between 3:59 and 4:15 just under 300k contracts traded total (12% of full day / overnight volume --- 200% of the previous 5 trading days) for total of $15B notional

And now you know. Beginning tomorrow, the stock market will open at 3:59 pm and close at 4:15 pm . Traders rejoice as this will open up whole new unexplored avenues to kill time during the day with trips to Scores and Baltusrol.

Is BP’s Gulf Oil Radioactive?


New Orleans attorney Stuart Smith knows something about radiation from oil drilling:

Smith is well known for his role as lead counsel in an oilfield radiation case that resulted in a verdict of $1.056 billion against ExxonMobil for contaminating land it leased from the Grefer family in Harvey, Louisiana –– and attempting to cover it up.

***

The court stated that from June 1986 to March 1987, “Exxon officials intentionally withheld information,” and that the company “knew the [radioactive] scale posed a direct danger to the physical health of those workers.” Oilfield waste, or TERM, is primarily composed of radium, a highly radioactive chemical element. Exposure to radium is known to cause a variety of devastating illnesses, including cancer. Radium’s impact on the human body is particularly acute because it is similar chemically to calcium –– and as such is frequently absorbed into bones after entering the body.

But at least there's no radiation being released from BP's oil spill in the Gulf, right?

Well, as Smith wrote on August 4th:

This is directly from the EPA website discussing oil drilling activity:

“These processes may leave behind waste containing concentrations of naturally-occurring radioactive material (NORM) from the surrounding soils and rocks. Once exposed or concentrated by human activity, this naturally-occurring material becomes Technologically-Enhanced NORM or TENORM. Radioactive materials are not necessarily present in the soils at every well or drilling site. However in some areas of the country, such as the upper Midwest or Gulf Coast states, the soils are more like to contain radioactive material.”

“Radioactive wastes from oil and gas drilling take the form of produced water, drilling mud, sludge, slimes, or evaporation ponds and pits. It can also concentrate in the mineral scales that form in pipes (pipe scale), storage tanks, or other extraction equipment. Radionuclides in these wastes are primarily radium-226, radium-228, and radon gas. The radon is released to the atmosphere, while the produced water and mud containing radium are placed in ponds or pits for evaporation, re-use, or recovery.”

“The people most likely to be exposed to this source of radiation are workers at the site. They may inhale radon gas which is released during drilling and produced by the decay of radium, raising their risk of lung cancer. In addition, they are exposed to alpha and gamma radiation released during the decay of radium-226 and the low-energy gamma radiation and beta particles released by the decay of radium-228. (Gamma radiation can also penetrate the skin and raise the risk of cancer.) Workers following safety guidance will reduce their total on-site radiation exposure.”

It’s time BP comes clean as to the levels and amounts of radioactive material released from this oil spill.

Here's the EPA website which Smith is quoting.

As Scientific American noted last November:
What scientists call naturally occurring radioactive materials—known by the acronym NORM—are common in oil and gas drilling waste, and especially in brine, the dirty water that has been soaking in the shale for centuries. Radium, a potent carcinogen, is among the most dangerous of these metals because it gives off radon gas, accumulates in plants and vegetables and takes 1,600 years to decay.

***

Federal laws don't directly address naturally occurring radioactivity, and the oil and gas industry is exempt from federal laws dictating handling of toxic waste ....
The American Petroleum Institute recognizes radiation as a common enough problem in petroleum production to sell a variety of publications on the topic, such as:
And some argue that the deeper you drill, the more likely that the oil will be radioactive. As Newsweek reported in March:
Environmentalists argue that we can achieve energy independence by cutting demand and ramping up renewables. They add that the thousands of gallons of mud deepwater drilling unearths contain toxic metals—mercury, lead, and cadmium—that may end up in the seafood supply. The water that comes up from wells contains a toxic mix of benzene, arsenic, lead, and various radioactive pollutants, according to studies by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
This is not to say that radiation is being released from the well at dangerous levels for the general public. Obviously, BP and the government should be pressed to release all radiation test results (or to do them if they haven't already). I haven't heard any information indicating dangerous levels, and I'll assume for now that radiation levels in the Gulf as a whole are low and not much more than background levels.

However, for the clean up workers, and when it is concentrated in landfills, crude oil from the Gulf might be a real health threat. As Smith writes:

This is all bad enough at the spill and cleanup sites, and it’s not nearly the near-term danger of all the toxins in the oil-dispersant stew. But it can become a danger when you start concentrating it in normal landfills. Remember, oil was exempted from hazmat regulations for political reasons, not because it’s not hazardous.

And, as far as we can tell, nobody is even testing the BP waste going into those landfills and if the oil company knows radiation levels, we can expect them to keep it secret. Hey, this is the company that required a Congressional order and a Federal Court Subpoena just to release video of the spill … we have no way of knowing what else they’re not telling us.

And it’s not comforting that the EPA, which allowed BP to use toxic dispersant to hide the oil and is now minimizing what’s left through bogus science, and the Coast Guard, which allowed dispersant use even in excess of what the EPA approved, are in charge of all this. And the EPA knows better, of course.

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