Tag Archives: environmental issues

Why the climate and environment will always lose…

Sentences like this from The Atlantic about political machinations in the White House surrounding the issue:

…she had prepared a policy document based on a short-lived interagency process designed to reach an internal consensus on climate policy, but the process got stalled and the document was languishing…

Read that again so you can absorb all the ‘activity as a substitute for progress’ goodness. That’s almost a verbatim description of Sir Humphrey’s method of making sure nothing gets done in government.

And remember, these are the guys who are supposed to be pro-environment.

When corporate and environmental leaders…went…for a late spring 2009 meeting with Emanuel, they could see that he didn’t much care about climate change. What he cared about was winning — acquiring and maintaining presidential power over an eight-year arc…He saw no point in squandering capital on a lost cause…At the USCAP meeting, Emanuel made his views clear: “We want to do this climate bill, but success breeds success,” he said. “We need to put points on the board. We only want to do things that are going to be successful. If the climate bill bogs down, we move on. We’ve got health care.”

This time we really mean it. It’s totally safe. Really. Trust us.

Ah, timing is everything.  While we continue to see the Gulf of Mexico implode from BP’s ineptitude, a number of natural gas drilling companies have set their sites on the upper Delaware River in the hopes of extracting gas from Marcellus shale formations.

Needless to say, there are concerns that any drilling might foul the river and affect the entire basin.

But rest easy, Mr. and Mrs. America:

The drilling industry says the process is safe, resulting in no large-scale environmental impacts.

“I think we, as probably most in industry, feel that, while those concerns need to be addressed,” says Bryan Lastrapes of Shell, “we don’t think they are a problem.”

Oh…well, that certainly should put us all at ease.  And by ‘those concerns need to be addressed’ they mean ‘we’ll need to fund some piss-ant ‘environmental center’ somewhere to get the hippies off our back so we can get down to serious business.

By the way, the process of extracting the oil is called ‘fracking‘.  You BSG fans out there can feel free to use the term in clever ways to highlight our precarious situation.

UPDATE:  Coincidentally, Slate.com put up an article about ‘extreme energy’ on Friday that I’ve just seen.   The relevant bit on my little piece of heaven?

Natural gas is supposed to be an easy form of energy—it burns more cleanly than petroleum, and the United States has vast supplies. In recent years, discoveries of reserves locked in shale rock in Texas (the Barnett Shale) and in the Appalachians (the Marcellus Shale) have spurred a boom. But shale gas is also tough energy. The gas is produced via fracking—fracturing the rock with water and chemical solvents to loosen up the gas molecules. The environmental risk? The water mixed with solvents could filter into underground aquifers. Inconveniently, the Marcellus Shale overlaps with the watershed of the New York City region. And then there’s the matter of earthquakes. Last year, experts in Texas grew concerned when rare seismic activity was detected in areas where natural-gas drillers had been fracking.

Kvick Tänkare

Now that I’m back to kind of a regular schedule I can enjoy keeping up with my blogroll.

Jason has a kick-ass post about cognition in snakes that involves putting them in a weightless environment.  I’m tired of these mother-flippin’ snakes on this mother-flippin’ Soyuz capsule.

Mike Bennett is starting part 2 of his vampire novel podcast Underwood and Flinch.  I’ve recommended it before so I’m sure you’ve all listened to it but in the off chance you’ve ignored my previous recommendations, it’s not too late to catch up with part 1.  Mike is a great audio performer and storyteller.  There’s none of that namby pamby Twilight sort of vampire in here.  Good stuff.

Brit Hume is an asshat.  My god.  Are lobotomies required to work at Fox news?

Sven talks about how small countries can think about defense.

Amazing video of that volcano in Iceland.

Oh…how I wish this was a real movie…

Unfortunately it was just an entry in a contest.  Still, a guy can dream. Go to the website and check out the close up shots to see all the B-movie awesomeness

And finally, I’m the motha-flippin’….

Drill Baby Drill!!!

And ye shall reap what you sow.  After hearing the oil lobby prattle on about how we need to drill anywhere and everywhere there’s a chance to find oil…

The oil leak triggered by a deadly rig blast off the coast of Louisiana has the potential to cause more environmental damage than the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, one of the largest ecological disasters ever recorded, some observers say.

And since environmental arguments have always had very little traction with the rabid business lobby let’s hear about how this is going to hurt small business owners.  You know, the ‘engine of our economy’.

Experts said the spill could also destroy the livelihood of commercial fishermen and shrimp catchers and impact recreational fishermen. According to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the state’s fishing industry is worth $265 billion at dockside and has a total economic impact of $2.3 trillion.Tourism also could take a blow if beaches are fouled.

Virginia’s governor seems intent on not letting this little detail get in the way of lowering gas prices a few pennies a decade from now (maybe).  He’s just reaffirmed his support for drilling off his coast.

i·ron·ic [ahy-ron-ik]

When a senator of a state which suffered catastrophic flooding and hurricane damage (which will likely become more common due to climate change) urges the president to jettison climate change legislation.

China to the world: Drop Dead!

Fascinating article (of unknown credibility or reliability) in the Guardian about the recent Copenhagen talks.  You really should read the whole thing but the author, who claims to have been present at the special meeting as Obama and a couple of other world leaders tried to hammer out a last minute deal:

it was China’s representative who insisted that industrialised country targets, previously agreed as an 80% cut by 2050, be taken out of the deal. “Why can’t we even mention our own targets?” demanded a furious Angela Merkel. Australia’s prime minister, Kevin Rudd, was annoyed enough to bang his microphone. Brazil’s representative too pointed out the illogicality of China’s position. Why should rich countries not announce even this unilateral cut? The Chinese delegate said no, and I watched, aghast, as Merkel threw up her hands in despair and conceded the point. Now we know why – because China bet, correctly, that Obama would get the blame for the Copenhagen accord’s lack of ambition.

I am certain that had the Chinese not been in the room, we would have left Copenhagen with a deal that had environmentalists popping champagne corks popping in every corner of the world.

…as the Chinese delegate insisted on removing the 1.5C target so beloved of the small island states and low-lying nations who have most to lose from rising seas. President Nasheed of the Maldives, supported by Brown, fought valiantly to save this crucial number. “How can you ask my country to go extinct?” demanded Nasheed. The Chinese delegate feigned great offence – and the number stayed, but surrounded by language which makes it all but meaningless. The deed was done.

Also, check out James Fallows’ comments on the story here and here.

I think it’s pretty clear that addressing climate change on the national level just ain’t gonna happen until things get really bad.  While we can all talk about doing what we can, ultimately I’m not sure it makes a difference.  How many car pool trips do I need to take to offset the new Chinese coal plant being built every week?

Of course there are intermediate levels of government between the citizen and the nation state.  Local mayors and state governors can recommend changes to their laws which have a wider impact on carbon (and other) emissions which might be worthwhile and individual citizens have a better chance to influence their local government than at the federal level.  The U.S. Conference of Mayors is working towards that goal.  I’m not familiar with their program so can’t really talk about it but it seems like a good way to deal with frustration at the national level.