Minor earthquakes near Texas oilfields aren’t related to fracking — it’s the injection wells, folks — phew!

Just cause folks believe cats can fly doesn’t mean they do

Dozens of small earthquakes occurred in central Texas over a two-year period, and 23 of them were close to injection wells where waste water from energy extraction was pumped deep underground for disposal…

The study used temporary seismographs to detect earthquakes of magnitude 1.5 or higher in a geologic area called the Barnett Shale, a swath of land the size of England that includes Dallas and Fort Worth…Earthquakes with magnitudes of 1 to 3 would be felt by few people, and only under particularly favorable conditions, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Study author Cliff Frohlich of the University of Texas at Austin located 68 earthquakes in this area, more than eight times as many as the U.S. National Earthquake Center found over the same period from November 2009 to September 2011.

Of those, 23 were located within about two miles of high-volume injection wells that pumped more than 150,000 barrels per month of water underground, Frohlich wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences…

Drilling never causes earthquakes,” Frohlich said in a telephone interview. “Fracking almost never causes earthquakes … While there are probably millions of hydrofracking jobs, only a few have caused earthquakes and they’ve all been little tiny earthquakes.”

Frohlich theorized that injection of water only triggers an earthquake if a nearby fault is “experiencing tectonic stress” – that is, the fluid underground might relieve the stress by getting the fault unstuck, causing a mild earthquake…

Not that procedures used for years will attract the kind of attention reserved for a process already decided in the minds of some of my peers among enviros to exist just this side of Armageddon. Reality may be a political pain; but, that has to be dealt with fairly no matter which side of an environmental confrontation you’re on.

Frohlich’s hypothesis BTW has been considered by scientists in earthquake-prone regions as a useful proposal to release significant dangerous pressures along tectonic faults in a series of little earthquakes instead of the Big One.

Resolving the LIBOR corruption scandal

In order to work well, markets need a basic level of trust. As Alan Greenspan said, in 1999, “In virtually all transactions we rely on the word of those with whom we do business.” So what happens to a market in which the most fundamental assumptions turn out to be lies? That is the question in a scandal that has roiled the banking industry all summer.

The LIBOR (London Inter-bank Offered Rate) index is the most important set of numbers in the global financial system. Used as a benchmark for interest rates around the world, it’s assembled by asking a panel of big banks to estimate what it would cost them to borrow money today, if they had to. Hundreds of trillions of dollars in derivatives, corporate loans, and mortgages are pegged to these rates. Yet we now know that for years LIBOR rates were rigged. Barclays has agreed to pay nearly half a billion dollars to regulators for its manipulations, and a host of other big banks are under investigation for similar misdeeds.

Rigging LIBOR was shockingly easy. The estimates aren’t audited. They’re not compared with market prices. And LIBOR is put together by a trade group, without any real supervision from government regulators. In other words, manipulating LIBOR didn’t require any complicated financial hoodoo. The banks just had to tell some simple lies…

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Big Bay Area refinery fire ends — economic disaster marches on

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

A fire that shut Chevron Corp’s Richmond plant, the second-largest refinery in California, was extinguished early on Tuesday as fears of a months-long closure caused a 25-cent spike in regional gasoline prices.

The fire that spewed flames and a column of smoke high above the densely populated industrial suburb of east San Francisco Bay shortly after 6 p.m. local time on Monday was contained by 11 p.m. and then extinguished, Chevron said. Officials have allowed a small controlled burn to continue…

“Safety officials are allowing a small controlled burn as a safety measure to reduce pressure. This is helping to ensure more hydrocarbons don’t escape,” Chevron spokesman Lloyd Avram said.

A delicate way of saying they’re burning off the crap that continues to escape.

An order for more than 100,000 nearby residents to remain indoors had been lifted, and local transit stations had reopened, authorities said. About 200 people have sought medical help, complaining of respiratory problems…

In Richmond, where residents have long lived in the shadow of one of the oldest refineries in the United States, some wondered if it would sharpen debate between residents, who worry about the environmental impact of the plant, and politicians who often seek more tax revenues for the declining industrial city…

Any lengthy disruption in production could affect the supply of fuel on the West Coast, particularly gasoline, due to the difficulty in meeting California’s super-clean specifications. The region also has few immediate alternative supply sources.

Like the song – what is there to say? Federal officials, Congress-creeps keep giving away billion$ to Big Oil to support everything from modernization to research. Our corporate demi-gods do little of either.

This crap refinery is 110 years old. It was the latest thing around – before World War 1. Now, the capitalist mantra of supply-and-demand kicks in and we can watch prices go up through the pall of smoke still hanging over northern California.

Lawsuit settled for $3.8 million — Lawyers want $4.7m in fees

Early last year, Toyota agreed to settle the class-action lawsuit with about 2,500 people who complained that high intensity discharge headlights in the second-generation Prius sometimes turned off for no reason…By settling, Toyota avoided having to go in front of a jury or declaring a recall…

Now, five law firms representing plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against Toyota over the alleged defects say the firms have a right to collect $4.7 million in attorneys fees on the $3.8 million settlement…

Lead firm Girard Gibbs, in a July 30 brief, said the judge with the U.S. Court of Appeals’ Ninth Circuit didn’t properly account for the actual amount billed by the lawyers, which Girard Gibbs estimated at $1.25 million for its 2,900 hours — that’s $431 an hour — and which the other four firms collectively estimated at $1.85 million. No, we’re not sure where the other $1.6 million is coming from either.

The judge estimated that the settlement – which involved cash reimbursements for bulb replacements made within the last five years and extended warranties – was worth about $3.8 million, and that the attorneys had a right to 20 percent of that figure…

So, the judge in the case figured the lawyers were worth about $760K. The lawyers want over six times that amount.

I don’t think those lawyers are worth the powder to blow ’em to Hell.

Fire destroys Missouri mosque – 2nd blaze at the same center in 5 weeks

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

A mosque in southwest Missouri burned to the ground early Monday in the second fire to hit the Islamic center in little more than a month, and investigators spent the day combing through the wreckage searching for evidence of arson.

No injuries were reported, but the Islamic Society of Joplin’s building was a total loss after the blaze…the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office said. As of late Monday, nobody had been arrested in connection with the fire.

Either fire.

Investigators from the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and the Jasper County Sheriff’s department were at the scene all day Monday, moving the rubble with a bulldozer and other equipment…

While investigators did their work, a small group of Muslims gathered for an evening prayer on the lawn of the destroyed building.

“This is what we stand for,” said Dr. Ahmed Asadullah, a member of the Islamic Society of Joplin. “Freedom of religion. Freedom of speech…”

Theoretically, that’s what all Americans stand for. Theoretically.

…A fire reported…July 4 has been determined to be arson, but no charges have been filed. The FBI has released a video of a suspect caught on surveillance video and offered a $15,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in that fire.

Michael Kaste, special agent in charge of the Kansas City office of the FBI…said it was too early to say if there was surveillance video available from the Monday fire. The Jasper County Sheriff’s office said earlier Monday the video equipment had been destroyed. The FBI was encouraging anyone with information about either fire to call authorities…

A local Christian church has offered the use of their church to the Muslim congregation while they sort out what it’s like to belong to a religion in America that’s obviously not acceptable to some local bigots.

Man sets flat on fire drying underpants and socks in microwave

Our apartment dweller should have attended

A man had to be led from his flat after a fire started when he tried to dry his underpants and socks in the microwave.

Firefighters were called to the blaze on Market Street in Weymouth, Dorset, after concerned neighbours heard a fire alarm…Residents from the block of flats led the man to safety from his second floor apartment following the fire at 10.45pm yesterday.

The flames were quickly put out by two firefighters wearing breathing apparatus.

A Dorset Fire and Rescue spokeswoman said: “The fire involved two pairs of underpants and two pairs of socks which the occupant had tried to dry by placing in the microwave.

The fire safety message here is to stop doing stupid things with devices which can ignite your underwear.