David Roberts

David Roberts

Energy, politics, and more

David Roberts is a staff writer for Grist. You can subscribe to his RSS feed or follow him on Twitter or email him at droberts at grist dot org, if you're into that sort of thing.

Eco-friendly building materials: The new black

The New York Times discovers that the market for green building supplies (flooring, paint, etc.) is booming. As usual with puffy trend pieces like this, there is frustratingly little actual information, just a series of mini-profiles. One thing the piece does make clear is that this market is still the province of wealthy suburbanites. But, you know, the promise of economies of scale, blah blah ...

2006 predictions

Stuart Staniford over at Oil Drum offers some predictions for 2006 that are worth reading. I think he really lost his nerve here, though: Civilization Collapse, Rapture, Alien invasion, etc. I estimate the probability of any of these events in 2006 as being negligibly small. Aw, c'mon! More willing to predict The End, as always, is the indefatigable Jim Kunstler, who thinks 2006 ...

Al Gore tries to talk Billy into playing nicely with the other children

And other thoughts from a ‘clueless’ enviro.

As political junkies know, Grover Norquist -- a major player in the Republican establishment -- holds weekly breakfast meetings, attended by everybody-who's-anybody on the right. This is where much of the famed "message coordination" happens. It would take a brave Democrat to venture into that lion's den. I guess Al Gore is brave (stupid? foolhardy? running for president?). He attended last week's meeting to give a version of his basic PowerPoint presentation on global warming. According to Steve Hayward's account (via Ezra), Gore was charming and the presentation was impressive, but the Q&A session failed to dazzle. What bugs me about Hayward's post is this:

The real environmental debate

The stereotypical environmental debate is between people who favor "command and control" regulation (big government) and those who favor market mechanisms (small government). Democrats and most environmentalists are thought to be on one side, Republicans and "free market" environmentalists on the other. This is a woefully imprecise and outdated way of describing the current political landscape. It's a large and complex topic, too much to chew over in one blog post. But Kevin Drum, writing on an unrelated subject, nails perhaps the most salient fact: One of the underreported stories of the past few years is the evolution of the Republican Party from being the party of capitalism and free enterprise to being merely the party of whichever business interests can help Republicans get reelected. There's a big difference between being pro-market and being pro-business -- in fact, they're often diametrically opposed ....

Callahan leaves LCV

Deb Callahan, 10-year president of the League of Conservation Voters, announced today that she is resigning.

Russia, Ukraine, 'foreign oil', etc.

Russia attempts to use energy supplies as political tool; fails

Some folks -- take, for instance, me -- have argued that the whole hubbub over "foreign oil" is a bit of a red herring. Generally speaking, energy commodities are fungible, sold on the world market. If one producer (say, Saudi Arabia) suddenly refuses to sell to us, they'll just sell to someone else, and we can buy from that someone else. If we've got the money, eventually we'll get the oil. (The world's declining oil and natural gas reserves are, of course, a problem, but there's no need to add the sheen of xenophobia, however satisfying.) Others -- for instance, Bart in comments -- argue that as energy reserves decline, those who have oil and natural gas will start using them as political weapons. In effect, their political value will exceed their economic value. (And since the U.S. has much domestic demand and little domestic supply, we'll be screwed.) Right now the discussion is mostly theoretical, but in the past week we've had a bit of a test case. As you may have heard, Russia cut off natural gas supplies to the Ukraine. Supposedly, the move was a response to Ukraine's refusal to sign a new contract and pay much higher, Western-Europe-style prices. (Ukraine wants a three-month phase in of new prices.) But the subtext is political: Russia is ticked off about the Orange Revolution and Ukraine's desire to join the E.U. and NATO. While Ukraine is being asked to suddenly pay $230/cubic meter (up from $50), the more Russia-friend Belarus pays just $47/cubic meter. The U.S. State Department said this: