SOURCE: The New Yorker
by Elizabeth Kolbert
The industrial age miracle of phosphorus fertilizer production revolutionized agricultual yields. Today, humanity faces a twin crisis of the mineral's scarcity and the toxicity of the algae that it feeds with farm runoff.
Bill Minutaglio, a professor of journalism at the University of Texas, Austin, is the author of “City on Fire: The Explosion That Devastated a Texas Town and Ignited a Historic Legal Battle.”...The explosion in West, which killed at least 14 people, is now entering a dark pantheon of events in Texas, ones that will surely lead to debates in the state about government regulation and oversight — or the lack thereof. About what “public safety” really means, implies, entails. About Texas’ passionate history of pushing back at what some see as big-government intrusion — a trend that traces back to the regulation-free days of wildcatting in the oil patches.As before, there will be demands that Texas be willing to scrutinize companies so tragedies like the one in West never occur again. But if history is any guide, lawmakers and officials will still err on the side of industry and less so on the side of public safety. And there will be another West in the years to come.