Farewell. The Flying Pig Has Left The Building.

Steve Hynd, August 16, 2012

After four years on the Typepad site, eight years total blogging, Newshoggers is closing it's doors today. We've been coasting the last year or so, with many of us moving on to bigger projects (Hey, Eric!) or simply running out of blogging enthusiasm, and it's time to give the old flying pig a rest.

We've done okay over those eight years, although never being quite PC enough to gain wider acceptance from the partisan "party right or wrong" crowds. We like to think we moved political conversations a little, on the ever-present wish to rush to war with Iran, on the need for a real Left that isn't licking corporatist Dem boots every cycle, on America's foreign misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq. We like to think we made a small difference while writing under that flying pig banner. We did pretty good for a bunch with no ties to big-party apparatuses or think tanks.

Those eight years of blogging will still exist. Because we're ending this typepad account, we've been archiving the typepad blog here. And the original blogger archive is still here. There will still be new content from the old 'hoggers crew too. Ron writes for The Moderate Voice, I post at The Agonist and Eric Martin's lucid foreign policy thoughts can be read at Democracy Arsenal.

I'd like to thank all our regular commenters, readers and the other bloggers who regularly linked to our posts over the years to agree or disagree. You all made writing for 'hoggers an amazingly fun and stimulating experience.

Thank you very much.

Note: This is an archive copy of Newshoggers. Most of the pictures are gone but the words are all here. There may be some occasional new content, John may do some posts and Ron will cross post some of his contributions to The Moderate Voice so check back.


Friday, October 28, 2011

The Ogallala Aquifer

By BJ Bjornson

I hadn�t heard of Charles Pierce until a couple of days ago when he was referenced a couple of times over at Balloon Juice, but I am glad that I�ve started reading him.  There is an excellent, if somewhat long read on his blog now regarding an issue that I�ve seen mentioned every now and again, and which will become far more important in the very near future, the Ogallala Aquifer.

Under the high plains of the midwest, there is a resource called the Ogallala Aquifer, which is a subsystem of a huge underground mega-system called the High Plains Aquifer. It is made of permeable layers of sand, sandstone, and gravel within which are contained billions and billions of gallons of water. The nature of the aquifer geology makes the water easy to pump. The system covers 174,000 square miles beneath eight different states, ranging north-south from North Dakota to Texas, and from Nebraska in the east all the way west to parts of New Mexico. Nebraska depends most vitally on the water found in the aquifer. And there are two concerns about the aquifer that ought to be serious concerns in our politics, but that aren't. One of them isn't being treated as a concern at all. The other is not being treated seriously, but instead as a slogan and one more litmus test by the Republican presidential candidates, and as some sort of nuisance complaint by a Democratic administration that appears to be falling down on the job.

The first problem is that portions of the aquifer are running dry. The second is that Trans-Canada, the Canadian oil giant, wants to run a pipeline through a portion of the aquifer in Nebraska. How you feel about that depends entirely on how much you trust oil companies these days, because your State Department appears to be taking a dive on the question, and your Environmental Protection Agency is dodging it entirely.

Make no mistake. You screw with the Ogallala Aquifer and you screw with this nation's heartbeat. Twenty percent of the irrigated farmland in the United States depends upon it. Pumping the water from it is all that has kept the Dust Bowl from coming back, year after year. Any damage to it fundamentally changes the lives of the people who depend on it, their personal economies, the overall national economy, and what we can grow to feed ourselves. Absent the aquifer, and the nation's breadbasket goes back to being a prairie, vast grasslands that the people who first crossed them referred to as a desert. You end up with dry-land corn and some dry-land wheat. And the aquifer is far easier to empty than it is to fill. The technology to fully exploit it has existed only since the 1950's, and portions of it are already dangerously low. It won't be fully recharged until the next Ice Age.

The whole thing is worth reading, and it is worth remembering that this is a subset of a much larger problem that�s becoming more common everywhere.  Water is only renewable to the extent that you don�t take more out a system than can be replenished by it, and in far too many cases, we�ve been doing just that, not just for drinking and bathing, but to cool our power plants and water our lawns (okay, no lawns where I live, but you know, in general).  Even worse is how it gets used for things like fracking and processing bitumen from the tar sands, which doesn�t just suck up the water resources available, but contaminates it so it can�t be recycled for other uses later.

This is already the source of actual armed conflict in many places, and it is an issue that will only spread as climate change shifts rainfall patterns.

1 comment:

  1. Very soon wars are going to be about water not oil. If the Ogallala Aquifer dries up or is contaminated the US will still be able to feed itself. India has nearly depleted it's aquifer which is necessary to feed millions. Saudi Arabia has depleted it's 10 thousand year old aquifer which allowed it to feed it's own people for years. The depletion or contamination of the Ogallala Aquifer would mean the US couldn't help them out.