Breaking news! At my breakfast this morning with Lester Brown, the man ordered a ham and cheese omelet. That's right. This alleged "environmentalist" is not ... a ... vegetarian. Press inquiries may be directed to me. Developing ...
Sigh: President Bush's latest spending plan is unlikely to substantially reduce US oil consumption in the short term because it slashes $100 million from federal programs promoting conservation and falls short of the commitment in last year's energy bill to make vast new investments in renewable and emerging technologies, like hydrogen fuel and solar power. I can hardly bear to discuss the rest of this story -- though it is an excellent piece of reporting. You should read it. To summarize: Bush's budget is de-funding and de-emphasizing energy conservation, very much deliberately ("Craig Stevens, a Department of Energy spokesman, said the White House's emphasis on new energy sources over conservation reflects the department's current priorities."). Renewables are getting less money even than they were promised in last year's energy bill. Most of the money for renewables is devoted to nuclear, specifically a "$250 million Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, designed in part to encourage developing nations to build nuclear power plants." He's increasing the Interior Department's budget for oil drilling, and assuming revenues from drilling in the Arctic Refuge. And on and on. Everything Bush said about energy in the SOTU was a farce. Nothing has changed.
Oy. I used to think the introduction of hybrid SUVs was generally a good thing -- with perhaps even greater potential for saving fuel than hybrid cars. But this New York Times article brings up a point I simply hadn't considered: Buying a fuel-efficient SUV makes it possible for car companies to sell big gas guzzlers without incurring any penalties under federal CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) standards. From the article: [E]very Toyota Highlander hybrid S.U.V. begets a hulking Lexus S.U.V., and every Ford Escape -- the hybrid S.U.V. that Kermit the Frog hawked during the Super Bowl -- makes room for a Lincoln Navigator, which gets all of 12 miles a gallon. Instead of simply saving gas when you buy a hybrid, you're giving somebody else the right to use it. This is vexing, to say the least.
I can't very well let a Tom Friedman column go by without comment, now can I? Today the Mustache grasps the rear end of our Vice President, carefully aligns it, and then gives it a swift kick. Well done.
Glimpsing the predicament of our moment, of "a human world newly and suddenly vulnerable to the forces of a changed planet," writer and artist team up to question the fantasy of human control over destiny. That's the tag line for "The Present Future: Paintings for a very hot planet," a showcase of paintings by Alexis Rockman, accompanied by an essay from Bill McKibben, in the latest issue of Orion Magazine. Check it out.
In other big news today, the WTO ruled that the European Union has to accept genetically modified food, like it or not. More specifically, it ruled that countries that have banned the import of GMOs have broken international trade laws, since such bans have insufficient "scientific basis." This is glorious news for the Bush administration, which is eager to pry open EU markets for America's copious output of GM crops. I don't know all the ins and outs of the ruling; it's an incredibly complex issue. I believe/hope our resident food expert will be chiming in soon with some more informed commentary. But on first blush, I tend to think Roger Pielke Jr. has it exactly right:
Three guesses who said this: Americans depend upon [oil] imports to fill the gap. No combination of conservation measures, alternative energy sources and technological advances could realistically and economically provide a way to completely replace those imports in the short or medium term. The answer will shock you. Oh, wait, no it won't. (via TP)
Early tomorrow morning, I'm interviewing Lester Brown. What should I ask him? Brown founded the Worldwatch Institute and the Earth Policy Institute, where he now serves as president. He's the author of the recently released Plan B 2.0, which is, as I said yesterday, the best big-picture summary of our environmental situation -- both the problems and the solutions -- I've ever read. (All in a slim 266 pages, not including the copious footnotes.) The entire book is online in both HTML and PDF form. But you should buy it anyway, just to toss a couple bucks EPI's way. Anyway, Brown is a legend in environmental circles; the Washington Post called him "one of the world's most influential thinkers." And I'm just some blogger. So what should I ask him?
Researchers discover treasure trove of new tropical species in Indonesia Just when we thought we’d colonized it all: Scientists have discovered a jungle in New Guinea’s Foja mountains that is home to hundreds of rare and dozens of previously unknown species of flora and fauna. Researchers were helicoptered into the Rhode Island-sized area and spent a month in a state of awe. Among their findings were a new species of honeyeater bird, a nearly extinct tree kangaroo, a rhododendron with blossoms the size of bread plates, and an aptly named bird of paradise that hadn’t been recorded since the 19th …