Creationist Says Oil's From God

While most scientists agree that oil is abiogenic, or formed from biomass, creationist John D. Matthews (credentials unknown) has a different theory: Oil comes from God. In Answers Research Journal, which is published by the creationist ministry Answers in Genesis (the same folks who reported on the creationist Girl Scout) Matthews argues that God made petroleum in right after he made the Earth, and that the oil moved during the great flood.

As evidence for his theory, Matthews offers Noah's Ark:

Some kind of oil derivative was used by Noah to waterproof the Ark. We also have to recognize that, in the pre-Flood landscape (although we do not have detailed descriptions in the book of Genesis), we do know that a wide range of minerals were available for human use. We read of gold, onyx, soil, building materials for cities, bronze and iron. The wide range of vegetation and the number of animal kinds also point to God who was liberal with his creative activity. So that although oil is not something simple (see earlier), the idea of God directly creating oil is not unreasonable when compared with other aspects of the young-earth creationist model.

Right. Read the Mother Jones story on evangelical oil prospecting here.

HT J-Walk blog.

Tanning Beds: Top Cancer Risk

Yet another reason not to fake bake: Today the World Health Organization elevated tanning beds' UV radiation from the "probable carcinogen" category to "carcinogenic to humans," its highest-risk designation. And if you're a young adult, it gets worse: A review of current studies found that artificial tanning before age 30 increases your melanoma risk by 75 percent.

This is pretty damning news for salons, but the industry seems to be rolling with the punches. The Toronto Star reports:

Steven Gilroy, executive director of the Joint Canadian Tanning Association, which represents 1,200 tanning salons across Canada, dismissed the international agency's report.

"When you dive into the research ... there is no increased risk," he said. The tanning industry has recently promoted the moderate use of artificial tanning as a way to boost vitamin D levels, which tanning proponents say may be associated with lower risk of some forms of cancer.

Yeah, except the WHO did dive into the research, and it found...a definitively increased risk. As for the Vitamin D argument, as I report here, we ain't buyin' it: Most people can get all the D they need from a supplement, with none of the cancer risk.

Eco-News Roundup: Wednesday, July 29

Blue-Marble-ish posts on our other blogs, for your Wednesday morning reading pleasure:

Obama not following doctor's orders? Obama's GP thinks the president is wrong about healthcare.

O'Reilly: oh, really? Bill O'Reilly thinks Americans don't live as long as Canadians because "we have ten times as many people as you do. That translates to ten times as many accidents, crimes, down the line." Really.

Cash for kidneys: The case for paying people to donate organs might be logical, but Kevin Drum isn't convinced.

Blue Dogs won't budge: Lawmakers who oppose a public healthcare option often represent the very districts that would benefit most from such a plan.

Phew, China and U.S. Sign Memorandum

After a series of negotiations that primarily focused on the economy, ace global ambassador Hillary Clinton managed to convince her Chinese counterparts to sign off on a "memorandum of understanding" in which the planet's #1 (China) and #2 (U.S.) polluters pledge to cooperate so that a comprehensive climate change agreement can be reached in time for December's Copenhagen climate conference.

But will the memorandum actually do anything? At this point, that's unclear. But at least it's a start, which is surely better than hardcore diplosquabbling, as was the case for Clinton in India last week.

My prediction: India will be the biggest thorn in America's side this December, and Brazil won't make the conference a cakewalk either.

The Not-So Fertile Crescent

Last week came news that the Colorado River may go dry. Could the Fertile Crescent be next?

Akio Kitoh of Japan's Meteorological Research Institute thinks so—he forecasts that the Crescent will disappear in this century.

Several factors have contributed to the depletion of the once-lush Mesopotamian marshes, where the Euphrates and Tigres rivers converge. Dams constrict water flow, drought grips the area, and Iraqis are increasingly draining the water for agricultural purposes.

There have been efforts to make the area fertile once again. But if conditions don't change dramatically, the cradle of civilization may eventually be no more.

Pro-Lifers Hijack Health Care Reform

One of the most controversial issues related to the health care debate currently raging in Congress is whether the government plan, like most private plans, should cover the cost of abortions. And compromise on the issue may be impossible as Republicans and some moderate Democrats continue their campaign to distract the public by focusing on divisive issues like abortion. Dana Goldstein of the American Prospect writes today about the smear campaign, disseminated by conservative media outlets like Fox News, to portray health care reform as a tacit approval of government subsidized abortion:

Abortion is far cheaper and safer than pregnancy and childbirth and prevents society from shouldering the cost of children parents aren't prepared to care for. President Obama has said his health-reform goals are to offer Americans more health choices, bring down costs, and make our society, as a whole, a healthier one. In that context, abortion coverage is a no-brainer.

If every American were going to be covered by government-funded health insurance, we wouldn't be debating this topic. While constantly grandstanding on abortion, our political elites have been surprisingly adept at making sure women with the ability to pay -- in other words, the daughters, sisters, and girlfriends of politicians -- will always have access to abortion. But by maintaining a system full of inequities, in which women with fewer options and resources are more likely to rely on the new public plan, Democratic leaders have allowed abortion opponents, once again, to hijack a policy debate. And that, sadly, is uniquely American.

More than torpedoing compromise, though, pro-lifers from both sides of the aisle are actively trying to get abortion spiked from any bill that moves through Congress. Last month, 19 Democrats wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying that they would not “support any healthcare proposal unless it excludes abortion from the scope of any government-defined or subsidized health insurance plan."

And President Obama is staying out of it. Louisiana Republican John Fleming claimed recently that "by being silent on this issue [Obama is] actually making an affirmative statement in favor of taxpayer abortions." That wouldn't be so bad, but instead it's something much worse. As Ezra Klein points out today, the health care discussion is being run by centrist Democrats and conservative Republicans. So by staying silent on the issue, Obama is not effectively condoning government subsidized abortion; he's letting it die on the table.

A Supposedly Fun Thing That Seems To Kill Whales

Guest blogger Mark Follman writes frequently about current affairs and culture at markfollman.com.

I took notice back when David Foster Wallace chronicled the cultural dark side of going on a cruise. But ultimately it’s the environmental dark side of the industry that makes me know I’ll Never Do It at All.

Over the weekend, an adult fin whale—a threatened species in Canada—turned up dead in the waters at a cruise ship terminal in Vancouver. The rare marine giant was impaled on the bow of the “Sapphire Princess,” a Princess Cruises’ ship arriving from Alaska.

Eco-News Roundup: Tuesday, July 28

Today's science, health, and environment posts from our other blogs:

Above the law? James Ridgeway on the possibility of jury nullification in the abortion doctor killing case

File under "totally obvious": Texting while driving is a pretty bad idea.

The problem with private: Health insurance companies are all well and good if you're healthy, but they avoid sick people like the plague.

Hype alert: Climate change denialists are trying to spin scientific uncertainty into proof that global warming is a hoax. Here's why they're wrong.

Should Kosher Veggies Be Organic?

It's a sign of the times when the Orthodox Union starts taking its cues from the Certified Organic crowd. After 2000 years of formalized Jewish dietary law, Israel's top Rabbi has threatened to revoke the kosher status of vegetables deemed excessively sprayed. 

Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, the country's top religious authority, said he would yank veggies' blanket kosher seal of approval over "insane quantities" of insecticides. Although even the man with the plan acknowledged that there is no precedent for decertifying fruits and vegetables, he said that health hazards alone make spraying a religious concern. (Kashrut, the body of law dictating what is and isn't kosher, forbids eating any known poison.)

Besides being a good green initiative and probably long overdue, there may be some business sense in this. Only 21 percent of people who buy kosher food do so for religious reasons; the rest choose kosher for its perceived health benefits. Because Jewish law forbids mixing dairy and meat, most desserts and snacks contain neither, making them an easy choice for vegans and vegetarians. Kosher animals aren't fed other animals' parts, and their care and slaughter is strictly supervised. Finally, many buyers simply believe that the religious certifiers do a better job than the government at keeping food clean and safe. The laws are literally so complicated, the main certifying body in America runs a hotline.

Eco-News Roundup: Monday July 27

Blue Marble-ish stories from our other blogs:

Commodifying Carbon: Turning carbon into just another commodity might not be a bad idea.

Making Lemonade: Congress is so close on the healthcare bill... yet so far.

In With the Old: The new drug czar, like the old one, still thinks marijuana is dangerous.

Global What? Despite George Will, the globe IS still warming.

Fat Cats: Kevin Drum is putting his kitties on a diet. Predicted Inkblot response: hiss!

Making Changes: Is healthcare reform wilting? David Corn opines.

Cougar Convention: Cougars are setting up a den in Palo Alto.