Saturday, January 5, 2013

Drought Threatens the Mississippi River, Your Gas Tank, and Pantry

A coyote suns on the bed of the Mississippi river.
A coyote suns on the bed of the Mississippi river.
Earl Griffin, Contributor
Activist Post

The mighty Mississippi river is beautiful to behold, terrible in its fury, and of tremendous importance for shipping. The United States is both fed and fueled by the commodities shipped on that great river.

Like any river it depends upon the run off from regular rain to sustain it. Ongoing, persistent, and worsening drought interrupts the regular feeding of the Mississippi.

In the photograph above a coyote rests in the sun on the bed of the Mississippi river. Notice in the background the red buoy laying on its side on the dry ground. It should be floating in the water marking the channel for the boats navigating the river.

Drought now threatens shipping via barge traffic on the Mississippi river. According to the Army Corps of Engineers, “Commerce on the river could come to a halt between Jan. 5 and Jan. 15, when the nine-foot draft required for most towboats will fall to an eight-foot draft,” (JOC).

Have you ever seen towboats moving barges deliberately up and down the river? It is a sight to behold. Each fuel barge holds 30,000 barrels of fuel. A towboat may have as many as six going at once. For those of you counting, that is 180,000  barrels of fuel being moved by a single boat. That one boat is typically operated by a crew of just six.

Keep in mind that a barrel of fuel holds 42 gallons. A single barge moves 1,260,000 gallons of fuel at a time. A towboat handling six barges at once is moving 7,560,000 gallons of fuel.

A tow boat moving corn up and down that critical waterway may easily handle thirty barges at once. Each barge holds 1,500 tons of corn for a total of 45,000 tons (more than 1,750,000 bushels) of corn carried in thirty barges.

A barge on the inter-coastal waterway. This is the same kind of barge used on the Mississippi river.

There are hundreds of towboats moving many more hundreds or thousands of barges on the Mississippi river everyday. It is difficult to imagine the volume of food and fuel being moved gently along that river. Food and fuel that may stop moving if the Mississippi’s water level continues to drop.

If river traffic stops – everything stops.

Think about that a moment. If, for whatever reason, barge traffic on the Mississippi river stops moving, the commodities that Americans depend on also stop. There is no other infrastructure in place to move that much food and fuel. There isn’t enough road to hold all the trucks that would be required. Never mind that there are neither trucks nor drivers enough to move it anyway. There aren’t enough trains either.

Oh some of it would go on road and rail, and the cost of moving it would go way up. Remember, each towboat is crewed by six people. That is to say that just six people are being paid wages to move all of those commodities per boat. It would take far more than six to move an equivalent amount of goods by road or rail.

If barge traffic stops, you can expect the price of food and fuel to go up. If barge traffic stops for more than a few days, you can expect the price of food and fuel to to through the roof followed by shortages of both.

What will you do if you can’t get fuel? I expect you will do the same thing the rest of us will – walk or stay home.

What will you do if there are food shortages? When food is in short supply people get hungry. Hungry people grow desperate in short order. Desperate people do desperate things – like riot in the streets and perpetrate violence on other people.

It is outside the means of most people to prepare for an ongoing fuel crisis. It is a good idea to keep your vehicle’s tank full if you think fuel may be in short supply. Beyond that, you can certainly keep a few cans of gas or diesel handy, but for most of us that is about it.

The same is not true for a food crisis.

There are many foods that will store well for years at a time if put up properly: Rice, beans, cooking oil, wheat, powdered milk, and sugar are a few examples. If you buy it in bulk and store it yourself there is a great deal of money to be saved for your effort. If money is less important to you than your time, there are many companies who will be glad to ship it to you already packaged.

Are you a gardener? If so – great! If not, this is a great year to learn to garden. In doing so, you become less dependent upon a system that appears to be less and less dependable. I believe there is no greater path to self reliance than growing your own food.

The Mississippi river is very low. Traffic on the river may be halted if it drops any more. Is this just a short-term problem? Will 2013 bring an abundance of rain, or will it be yet another drought-plagued year? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts the river will be at a historic low on January 15, (

If drought conditions persist through the year, shipping on the nation’s important waterways -  including the Mississippi river - may become an ongoing problem.

More and more the weather is less predictable; less reliable. Climate change, geo-engineering, and solar maximum are all possible influences on global weather patterns. In the end, the cause of unpredictable weather is less important to practitioners of self-reliance than the reality that we face: If we are to ensure that our families have access to the basic necessities of life, we must must not rely on the unreliable.

We must rely on ourselves.

Cited in this Article:

This article first appeared at Barking Window

Earl Griffin's site Barking Window presents news that affects us all. Real news. Real issues. You’ll like some of the sources. You’ll hate others. You’ll probably feel the same about the articles. But it’s all here for a reason – to inform. You won’t find partisanship here. You will find news that defies the right/left paradigm. You will find articles critical of government and industry. More still, you will find news here that rails against tyranny – in all its ugly guises. Make Barking Window part of your day, everyday.

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Anonymous said...

Nice alert, thank you for pointing out the importance of the mighty miss. It's horrible how this stuff seems to happen at exactly the worst possible time.

Anonymous said...

Much of this is threatened by the decision of the Corps of Engineers to reduce dredging activity on the Lower Mississippi River (LMR), specifically at the three ...

More cost effective to blame us (phony global warming geoengineered drought)then dredge the river like they HAVE TO every year to remove silt.

Anonymous said...

"It's horrible how this stuff seems to happen at exactly the worst possible time."

When things are MADE to happen they will always come at the worse possible time thus their purpose.

And you see it as they want you to as you think "it's horrible this stuff SEEMS to happen" ZZZZZZZ

Anonymous said...

The damns put on the MS,Ohio, ILL, TN & Missiour rivers dont help the natural flow, the Missiour alone should be adding bilions gal a day to the MS river but they wont release it,why?
Next lets look at weather mod being done by our gov, military, the Duponts & others who have interest in starving ppl & making more dependent on the gov to survive. China has even stated they made it snow in a major city that caused all kinds of problems for days costing the ppl lots of money & lost production & & other aminals, now ask what the heck is really going on? Is this mamn made or have man screwed with Mother Nature so much that the MS River is losing water into large under ground caverns as the earth quakes seem to be increasing all along the Mississippi Rviver fron North to south? Lot of un answered questions & our gov knows more that we do!

Anonymous said...

An excellent article for putting things in perspective, thanks for the post Mr. Griffin.

One thing though from the article - "What will you do if you can’t get fuel? I expect you will do the same thing the rest of us will – walk or stay home."

If more people were aware of the full range of options for fuel there would be a fairly simple 3rd option - convert a diesel engine vehicle into a consumer gas system(often called wood or coal gas, which can also be called "producer gas" depending on how it's used).

Gasoline engines or any combustion engine can be converted but it's easiest with diesel engines since they are designed to burn numerous types of fuel(liquid, solid, gaseous, etc.).

All it takes is a canister of some kind(water heater, oil or other large gallon drum, etc.), a steel/iron plate and some piping, and a small fan if you want maximum efficiency, plus some minor fabricating skills.

Then all you need is flammable material like wood to start a fire at the bottom of the canister, heating the steel/iron plate above it on which other combustible materials(wood or coal most often) rest, causing them to "smolder" and release carbon.

That carbon combines with oxygen and becomes flammable Carbon Monoxide which you then pipe into the combustion chambers of the engine, using the fan to help for greater efficiency.

From then on all you need is flammable materials for fuel and you will never be hurt by gas/oil shortages again.

Although doing it yourself means you must be careful if built correctly they carry no more risk than any gasoline combustion engine.

The Nazi's had around 1 million consumer gas civilian vehicles during WWII in order to save oil for military vehicles, and aside from a handful of incidents mostly caused by human stupidity they proved to be quite safe and reliable.

The oil companies shut down the development of both consumer and producer gas systems after WWII due to lack of profit on their part, claiming they were very "unsafe" and inconvenient.

You will have to stop and "refuel" more often than with a gas or diesel system obviously, but having fuel independence is worth a little less convenience in my opinion. And during a drought especially there is plenty of combustible material make use of.

Then again you could also theoretically convert a combustion engine to run on water, but I haven't quite figured that out myself yet so I can't help with any instructions on that, and the people who have allegedly done it have been silenced by the energy industry so they won't help much either.

Regardless though there are in fact many more options than just staying home or walking(or using a bike), the average people just have no idea about most of those other options or have been taught to dismiss them as "junk science".

The "Mad Max" scenario is only a possibility for those who haven't educated themselves on the full range of options.


m said...

Stock up on food, drink and supplies a little at a time or a lot at a time but STOCK UP.

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