Sunday, May 18, 2008

Australia Coal-Mine Floods Raise Costs of Cars, Planes, Washers

(Bloomberg) -- At about 1 a.m. on Jan. 19, some of the heaviest rains in a century caused the Nogoa River in Queensland to burst its banks, sending 32 billion gallons of water into one of the largest coal mines in Australia.

``It was like watching Niagara Falls,'' said Peter Westerhuis, 46, general manager of operations for the mine's owner, Ensham Resources Pty. ``It filled the whole pit up in five hours.''

Almost four months later, two of Ensham's six coal mines, along with others owned by companies including Melbourne-based BHP Billiton Ltd., remain submerged. The greatest damage was in the Bowen Basin, the source of 40 percent of the world's steelmaking coal. As production fell, the price of coking coal tripled to a record $300 a metric ton last month, raising costs for the steel that goes into automobiles, airplanes and washers.


NVDL: We have no idea what we are in store for. Who would imagine something happening like the above story. The weather is impacting on its own on our energy resources, but some of the most direct impacts are coal mines flooding and Gulf oil rigs being wrecked or damaged by Category 5 Hurricanes. This sort of thing forms part of the unexpected 'multiplier effect' which causes our collective troubles to accelarate in strange and unexpected and frankly disturbing ways. I had a conversation this afternoon and a friend of mine said frankly, "I don't want to think about that stuff. I'd rather just feel happy." Here's more unexpected stuff coming out of the woodwork.

Ants swarm over Houston area, fouling electronics

By LINDA STEWART BALL, Associated Press Writer

DALLAS - In what sounds like a really low-budget horror film, voracious swarming ants that apparently arrived in Texas aboard a cargo ship are invading homes and yards across the Houston area, shorting out electrical boxes and messing up computers.

The hairy, reddish-brown creatures are known as "crazy rasberry ants" — crazy, because they wander erratically instead of marching in regimented lines, and "rasberry" after Tom Rasberry, an exterminator who did battle against them early on.

They have ruined pumps at sewage pumping stations, fouled computers and at least one homeowner's gas meter, and caused fire alarms to malfunction. They have been spotted at NASA's Johnson Space Center and close to Hobby Airport, though they haven't caused any major problems there yet.

Exterminators say calls from frustrated homeowners and businesses are increasing because the ants — which are starting to emerge by the billions with the onset of the warm, humid season — appear to be resistant to over-the-counter ant killers.

"The population built up so high that typical ant controls simply did no good," said Jason Meyers, an A&M doctoral student who is writing his dissertation on the one-eighth-inch-long ant.

It's not enough just to kill the queen. Experts say each colony has multiple queens that have to be taken out.

At the same time, the ants aren't taking the bait usually left out in traps, according to exterminators, who want the Environmental Protection Agency to loosen restrictions on the use of more powerful pesticides.

And when you do kill these ants, the survivors turn it to their advantage: They pile up the dead, sometimes using them as a bridge to cross safely over surfaces treated with pesticide.

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