Thursday, April 25, 2013


Just out of morbid curiosity, I just calculated the power of that fertilizer factory in Texas. I came up with the equivalent in explosive power of about 113 tons of TNT, or:

The full war-loads of six B-52 heavy bombers

About 200 Tomahawk cruise missile warheads

Roughly 15,600 NATO-standard 6-inch artillery shells

1,476 16-inch shells from an Iowa-class battleship's main battery (which is actually more shells than a battleship's full war load)

Five and a half of the Army's old Davy Crockett tactical nukes.....

Not quite what you would want sitting next door to a school, eh?

This is why DHS worries about fertilizer.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Boston, MA vs West, TX

This is a brief post, just because this thought has been bugging me all day....  Two douchebags with jihadi ideas in their heads and some homemade bombs blow up the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring-- what, 170?--and we turn over every stone in six towns to find it should be. 

Some douchebags in Texas decide to flout federal laws that have been in force for decades, because obeying would cost them money, and as a result get sloppy with explosive chemicals and blow a small town off the map, killing 14 people and injuring we don't even know how many....

One is a national tragedy, and the other is ultimately going to be written off as an 'industrial mishap.'  Are the douchebags in Texas really any less evil than the douchebags in Boston, for all that their motivation to save a buck on safety and upkeep was so banal? 

Actually, not to moralize, but alhough it lacks the visceral horror of the Boston tragedy-- which is murder by two guys whose sole goal was death and havoc, plain and simple-- IMHO the Texas thing is in some ways worse because it was ENTIRELY PREVENTABLE.  We can't blame a McVeigh or an abdel-Rahman or a bin Laden or a Tsarnaev for this. 

In my experience working in the environmental industry, stuff like the West fertilizer plant explosion doesn't happen unless you have a really serious and ingrained climate of sloppiness, lack of maintainance, and safety provisions that are just plain missing, all of which can usually be blamed on management's bad decisionmaking and wilful neglect, and that in turn is usually due to either management not caring, not understanding (two problems we have a lot more of nowadays, since plant managers USED to be mostly engineers rather than MBAs), or not  wanting to spend the money.  That OSHA hadn't been to the plant since 1985 isn't an excuse-- you're supposed to follow these procedures becasuse they will help prevent disasters, not because OSHA might fine you a few thousand dollars. 

Just for clarification, there's a lot more to OSHA than just "lift with your legs, not with your back," hardhats, and safety railings.  Most of the requirements for safe storage and handling of explosive, flammable, and toxic materials are part of OSHA.

That's all I've got tonight....