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The catastrophic chain of events that water and power authorities are working to prepare for amid the desertification of the Colorado River basin would amount to a "complete doomsday scenario," harming water and electricity supplies for millions, according to new reporting from The Washington Post.
While the Biden administration earlier this year ordered water use cuts in Arizona, Nevada, and parts of Mexico that use water from the rapidly shrinking Colorado River, officials in the region are examining how they can keep Lake Powell and Lake Mead—the largest human-made reservoirs in the U.S.—from reaching dangerous "dead pool" status, in which water levels would drop so low that water no longer flows downstream.
"You're not going to have a river... It would be a catastrophe for the entire system."
According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, with Lake Powell's surface already having fallen 170 feet, the reservoir is even closer to reaching "minimum power pool" status.
If water levels drop another 38 feet in Lake Powell, which is currently a quarter of its original size, the surface could approach the tops of eight underwater openings allowing Colorado River water to pass through the Glen Canyon Dam.
"The normally placid Lake Powell, the nation's second-largest reservoir, could suddenly transform into something resembling a funnel, with water circling the openings," reported the Post.
That would force turbines which supply 4.5 million people with electricity to shut down, likely triggering financial struggles for people across southwestern states. The standard rate for low-cost power generated by Glen Canyon Dam is $30 per megawatt hour, but with the dam already producing 40% less power than it originally did, customers this past summer faced prices as high as $1,000 per megawatt hour as they sought electricity on the open market.
The latest projections of the Bureau of Reclamation show that minimum power pool status could be reached as early as next July.
Tom Buschatzke, director of Arizona's Department of Water Resources, told the Post that dead pool status would amount to "an ecological disaster," with the region's agricultural sector cut off from a crucial irrigation source.
"You're not going to have a river" in the case of Lake Powell reaching dead pool, he said. "It would be a catastrophe for the entire system."
As government officials announced over the summer that water levels could approach the dam's underwater openings by next July, the Bureau of Reclamation also announced it was supporting studies to examine whether authorities could make modifications to the dam, such as drilling tunnels at river level.
"There was a time in my professional career that if anybody from Reclamation ever said that, they'd be fired on the spot," said Jack Schmidt, an expert on the river at Utah State University who worked on the U.S. Geological Survey during the Obama administration.
Schmidt told the Post that the fact such a possibility has been raised denotes "a huge sea change telling you how different the world is."
Jeff Goodell, author of the book The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World, suggested that the aridification of the West—made 40% worse by planetary heating and the continued extraction of fossil fuels, according to one recent study—has left the Colorado River unable to provide water and power to the millions of people who have come to rely on it.
"The problem with massive projects like Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Dam," tweeted Goodell, "is they were engineered for a climate that no longer exists and will never return (at least not on human timescales)."
Rapper Kanye West drew shocked reactions on Thursday when he went on a pro-Hitler rant during an appearance on Alex Jones' InfoWars show.
Even though West has made multiple baldly anti-Semitic remarks in the past, he seemed to take even Alex Jones aback when he said that he sees "good things about Hitler" and encouraged people to stop demonizing Nazis.
Many observers posted shocked reactions on Twitter and warned that West's rants should not be dismissed as just another celebrity meltdown.
"We're all gawking at Kanye saying he sees 'good things about Hitler' but I can't escape the absolute dread that people who know no better and look up to this man and stumble upon this interview will be moved, even on the margins, by him," wrote Politico reporter Sam Stein. "This is not a clown show. It's dangerous."
NBC News reporter Ben Collins made a similar argument and warned about the dangers of West having the ears of former President Donald Trump, who is currently the frontrunner to be the Republican Party's nominee in 2024.
"Honestly I'm not sure what to do here," he wrote. "I cannot tell you how unbelievably antisemitic this Kanye West Infowars interview is. This is straight up, old fashioned Naziism being mainstreamed from celebrities who are in the ear of the last U.S. president."
Jeet Heer, a progressive journalist at The Nation, also noticed that West's rant went beyond his previous stated hatred of Jews and into something even darker.
"Kanye's new interview is well beyond even antisemitism," he wrote. "It's pure Nazism."
This sentiment was echoed by Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY), who has regularly called on more lawmakers to speak out against the mainstreaming of anti-Semitism.
"This is Nazism," he wrote. "When are we going to say ENOUGH?"
And Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill said that people needed to stop seeing West as a man struggling with mental illness and to understand that he has simply become an advocate of evil.
"Ye is a terrible person," he wrote. "He’s not misunderstood. This isn’t just mental illness. He's trash."
President Joe Biden greeted President Emmanuel Macron at the White House on Thursday with full-scale military honors and a pledge to uphold the "unwavering" US-French alliance ahead of talks on Ukraine, China and a looming trade dispute.
Service members from the marines, army, air force and even a detachment of soldiers in 18th-century Revolutionary War garb paraded in front of the White House. Artillery fired off a 21-gun salute, sending puffs of white smoke into the clear, chilly December sky.
Standing on a red-carpeted podium with Macron, Biden said "France is our oldest ally, our unwavering partner in freedom's cause."
Like Biden, Macron noted that the two countries had stood side by side through many wars. Referring to the Western alliance helping Ukraine to confront the Russian invasion, Macron said "we need to become brothers in arms once more."
Sitting by a cozy fire in the Oval Office, Macron also said the "first topic" of talks would be Ukraine, which is now in its 10th month of war, with mammoth economic and security spillover for Europe and the United States.
But Macron also highlighted he wanted to raise a thorny dispute on US-EU trade, pleading for "synchronization" to avoid conflict.
Will US 'kill' EU jobs?
The visit certainly symbolizes how Washington and Paris have buried last year's bitter spat over the way Australia pulled out of a French submarine deal in favor of acquiring US nuclear subs instead.
However, Macron has made clear, in unusually blunt language, that he wants to confront Biden over the issue of trade.
On his first day of the visit Wednesday, when he toured NASA headquarters, Arlington National Cemetery and met US lawmakers, the French leader surprised his hosts with a bitter attack on Biden's signature policy to boost the US green economy, saying it would "kill" European jobs.
On Thursday, right before arriving at the White House, he repeated his criticism in an ABC television interview where he said Biden's policy would remove "a level playing field."
The legislation, called the Inflation Reduction Act or IRA, is set to pour billions of dollars into environmentally friendly industries, with strong backing for US-based manufacturers. The White House touts the IRA as a groundbreaking effort to reignite US manufacturing and promote renewable technologies, while breaking Chinese dominance in the field.
However, European Union governments are crying foul, threatening to launch a trade war by subsidizing their own green economy sector.
Macron told Biden it is "extremely important precisely to have close coordination" as the US and EU forge ahead in the booming green economy.
Working towards a carbon neutral economy means "creating a lot of jobs, which means investing a lot in our economies, and we have to synchronize our action," he said.
US advances in the clean energy economy will help Europeans too, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre insisted.
The IRA "presents significant opportunities for European firms as well as benefits to EU energy security. This is not a zero-sum game."
Menu and music
Aside from the trade dispute fireworks, most of the visit revolves around kindling the long, if often slightly prickly US-French diplomatic friendship.
The state dinner at the White House will return grand-scale entertainment to Washington in a way not seen since the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the capital's typically busy schmoozing scene.
Grammy-award-winning American musician Jon Batiste will perform at the banquet, which the White House said will kick off with butter-poached Maine lobster, paired with caviar, delicata squash raviolo and tarragon sauce.
The main course features beef and triple-cooked butter potatoes, before leading to the cheese course of award-winning US brands, and finally orange chiffon cake, roasted pears with citrus sauce and creme fraiche ice cream.
Washing all that down will be three different wines -- all from US vineyards.
© Agence France-Presse