The not-so-mighty Mississippi

When you see some of the crazy “issues” being raised in this presidential election instead of leadership on climate change, doesn’t it make you want to scream? Not only are we going to have massive crop failures as a result of this ongoing drought, we aren’t even able to ship the crops we have when shipping channels like the formerly-mighty Mississippi are drying up:

Companies operating along the Mississippi River are seeing a drastic cut in business as severe drought lowers water levels and makes shipping increasingly difficult.The drought, which now covers more than 1,000 counties across the US, has dropped water levels 50 feet below last year’s levels in some places. Last winter’s lack of snow, the absence of any major tropical storms from the Gulf of Mexico, sweltering temperatures, and the lack of rain this spring and summer are to blame for the shallow water.

The Mississippi is a major trade conduit through the central U.S. Barges, which are often cheaper to operate than trains or trucks, carry goods such as grain, corn, soybeans, steel, rubber, coffee, fertilizer, coal, and petroleum products in and out of the interior of the country.

As the water levels fall, barges have run aground near Vicksburg, Mississippi, where the water is already less than 5 feet deep, and shipping companies have been forced to curtail their business. The Wall Street Journal reports:

‘It’s causing headaches all up and down the river system right now,’ said Martin Hettel, senior manager of bulk sales for AEP River Operations, a St. Louis-based barge company.Mark Fletcher, owner of Ceres Barge Line of East St. Louis, Ill., said about 70% of his 220 barges aren’t being used now. First, the drought cut crops, reducing demand for shipping. Now, low water levels are making it more costly to ship.

‘It’s not good if you are in the barge business right now,’ he said. ‘In the last 60 days, you’ve watched a whole lot of money go out the window.’

Some river ports have been forced to close temporarily or shut down parts of their operations because of the low water levels. At the port of Rosedale in the Mississippi Delta, port director Robert Maxwell Jr. said water levels are about 50 feet below what they were last year, when flooding shut down the port. If the water falls any lower, there was a ‘high likelihood’ he would have to close, he said. One of the port’s public loading docks is inoperable, with equipment normally in the water now hanging the air. The Army Corps of Engineers is supposed to come this week to dredge, where heavy equipment is used to dig out sediment from waterways to make them passable for shipping.

Behind the scenes

As Digby points out, everything you see happening right now is about the Grand Bargain.

Someone sent me this today, and it involves the usual Third Way/neocon suspects:

Dear Friends,
Tomorrow at 2:00 PM at the National Press Club we will be launching The Campaign to Fix the Debt.  This unprecedented coalition will mobilize business, civic and thought leaders from both parties, and people across America, in support of a comprehensive debt deal.  The campaign will make clear the consequences of not enacting such a plan, and educate the country about the benefits of dealing with these challenges responsibly and thoughtfully.


The launch of The Campaign to Fix the Debt will include remarks by Co-Founder Erskine Bowles, as well as from our Co-Chairmen, Judd Gregg and Edward Rendell, among several other supporters and allies.  See below for a full list of participants in tomorrow’s event.


We hope you can join us at the event.  If not, we encourage you to go to find out more about the campaign or tune into C-SPAN 3 to watch the launch live at 2:00 PM.


WHO:         Erskine Bowles, Co-Founder, The Campaign to Fix the Debt
Dave Cote, Chairman & CEO, Honeywell
Senator Judd Gregg, Co-Chair, The Campaign to Fix the Debt
Maya MacGuineas, President, The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget
Senator Sam Nunn, Co-Chairman, The Concord Coalition; Co-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Nuclear Threat Initiative
Pete Peterson, Founder and Chairman, The Peter G. Peterson Foundation


Steven Rattner, Chairman, Willett Advisors
Governor Ed Rendell, Co-Chair, The Campaign to Fix the Debt
Alice Rivlin, Former Director, OMB; Founding Director, CBO
Paul Stebbins, Executive Chairman, World Fuel Services
Ambassador Bob Zoellick, former President of the World Bank
WHEN:       Tuesday, July 17th, 2:00 – 3:00 PM ET


WHERE:      Zenger Room, The National Press Club, 529 14th St. NW, 13th
                    Floor, Washington, DC 20045

Drill, baby, drill

I got out my drill and installed two sets of shutter blinds in my kitchen today — which brought down the temperature by about ten degrees. And I felt so productive!

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