Year 3, Month 11, Day 27: And The Big Fuel Said To Push On

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch shares a minor local story of no interest to anyone outside the affected area. Oh, wait…

ST. LOUIS • Barge industry leaders on Friday renewed their warnings of far-reaching economic losses in the Midwest if water levels on the Mississippi River continue to drop to levels that disrupt shipping.

Severe drought conditions coupled with the reduced flows expected from the upper Missouri River later this month have prompted the American Waterway Operators and the Waterways Council to warn that river commerce could come to a standstill by early December.

“Slowing down or severing the country’s inland waterway superhighway would imperil the shipment of critical cargo for export, significantly delay products needed for domestic use, threaten manufacturing production and power generation, and negatively impact jobs up and down the river,” said Craig Philip, chief executive officer at Ingram Barge Co., based in Nashville, Tenn.

Philip and other industry officials spoke during a Friday morning news conference in St. Louis, alongside Maj. Gen. John W. Peabody, commander of the Mississippi Valley Division of the Army Corps of Engineers, and Rear Adm. Roy A. Nash, commander of the Coast Guard’s 8th District.

Industry officials are calling on the administration of President Barack Obama to issue a presidential declaration to allow an emergency response to the “crisis.”

Peabody said the Corps of Engineers, which manages the waterways, has been bracing for the latest round of low water since the drought year of 1988. This year, the corps has been involved in “continuous dredging” since July — with up to two dozen dredges operating on the river at one time — and has been storing water where possible.

Move along, folks. Sent November 22:

The Mississippi’s steadily lowering water levels are part of a much larger story. The predicament of barge operators is linked with that of Midwest corn growers who watched helplessly as drought withered their fields, and with Vermont maple trees no longer making enough sap for syrup production. This story includes millions of acres of Colorado forest turned into kindling by invasive pine borer beetles, subsistence farmers in Bangladesh whose meager holdings are submerged by rising sea levels, and island nations now looking at relocating entire populations before their homelands disappear beneath the waves. Don’t forget to include the East coast, still reeling from the impact of superstorm Sandy.

It’s a story of the countless local and regional consequences of global climate change. Each community may feel these impacts differently, but to ignore their connections is to deny our shared humanity — and the future we must all face together.

Warren Senders

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