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.

A more holistic energy discussion

Energy use matters as much as — or more than — energy supply

Of the many ideas Amory Lovins has pushed into our cultural dialogue, here's one of the most important, one that everyone involved in energy debates should take to heart: It is not energy that people want; it is the services energy provides. The obsessive focus of energy debates on supply -- nuclear or wind? clean coal or hydrogen? -- is so narrow as to distort. The way we use energy is just as important: How do we store it? Transmit it? Where do we live? How do we get around? How can the same services be provisioned with less energy? How much is wasted? The whole energy system is the proper focus of our attention. Not a new point, obviously, but worth repeating, as it leads to very different policy debates and outcomes.

'Eco-terrorism': Informants and enablers

Are FBI informants prodding people into committing ‘eco-terrorism’?

This is not a particularly new subject, but: When exactly does an informant cross the line into entrapment? As readers of my obsessive "eco-terror" blogging know, the big indictment brought recently against 11 people crucially …

Built Ford? Tough.

Bill Ford axes a third of his workers, hailed as hero

Despite TIME's fellatial cover story and Wall Street's predictably giddy reaction, it is not in fact good news that Ford Motor Co. is going to sack 30,000 employees. CEO Bill Ford doesn't deserve the lion's share of the blame for this, since the decline has been going on for decades, but it nonetheless seems a little macabre to treat him like a hero. And upper management at Ford deserves a hell of a lot more contempt and pink slips than they seem to be receiving. Anyway, I was brewing up a long post about all this, but over on Sciencegate, Paul Tullis did it for me. So go read what he said. Particularly this:

Progress Report on energy and the environment

The Center for American Progress sends out a daily email, the Progress Report. Though obviously left-leaning, it's always fact-packed, and a great way to keep up on the day's news. Progress Report is doing a series on the real state of the union, in advance of the President's speech. Today's is on energy and the environment. Check it out -- lots of good stuff, familiar to Gristmill readers but nicely crammed into a few short paragraphs.

Al at Sundance

As we all know, Al Gore is at the Sundance film festival as we speak, promoting his new movie. "But Dave," you're wondering, "what's he wearing?" I can help: Here are some photos -- set one, set two -- of Al at Sundance. Yeah, that's him ... two over from James Van Der Beek. (via The Hotline)

West Wing, nuclear, and blah blah blah

Sunday’s West Wing was rather ham-handed with its nuclear critique

I just watched West Wing from this past Sunday. It was, to say the least, overtly anti-nuclear. (Incidentally, WW is a strange case, TV-wise. It started out great under Sorkin, then declined precipitously once he left, hitting its nadir in last year's season, the sixth. But this season it's come roaring back, with a presidential campaign inserting new blood and pulling the action outside the White House. It's been absolutely top-notch television lately. Naturally, NBC, noting that quality was on the rise, cancelled it. Bastards. Now where was I?) I have mixed feelings about nuclear myself -- mostly bad -- but I gotta say WW was pretty ham-handed with it. The Republican candidate, Vinnick, had a few lines to make the pro-nuclear case, but on the whole everyone on the show took it as accepted fact that nuclear is not safe to have in populated areas. They were also pretty ham-handed with the critique of Bush's handling of Katrina. From the moment something goes wrong, President Bartlett is in total control, even micromanaging the personnel and technical details of trying to repair the nuke facility. He asks if enough buses are available to evacuate the area (cough) and prompted to appoint a czar to coordinate the government agencies, says, "You're looking at him" (cough). A little overboard.

Is smart growth a political secret weapon?

It’s catching on in traditionally right-leaning exurbs

Bossman Chip forwarded me an interesting piece from the Michigan Land Use Institute: "Could Smart Growth Tip the Next Presidential Election?" Having read through it, the headline seems rather, uh, optimistic. But there's some interesting stuff about the role smart-growth proposals played in the victory of Tim Kaine (D) in the Virginia governor's race, and the general lay of the political land in fast-growing exurbs:

'Eco-terrorism': Nomer or misnomer?

What is terrorism exactly?

What is terrorism? I've been skeptical about the talk of "eco-terrorism" because, to me, a crucial ingredient of anything worthy of the term is deliberate targeting of civilians for injury or death. Since the alleged "eco-terrorists" explicitly aim to avoid any harm to a human being, "terrorist" seems a misnomer. But am I right about this? Is there a commonly accepted definition of "terrorism"? I suspect the DOJ has one in mind, given Gonzalez's very specific language in his press conference: The perps "worked together with extensive planning to influence the conduct of government and private businesses through the use of coordinated force, violence, sabotage, intimidation, and coercion." The Wikipedia page on the definition of terrorism is instructive:

State-level energy policy

The Bush administration's intransigence on climate change and energy use has been widely lamented. But part of me thinks it may turn out to be a good thing in the long run. Why? Because it's driving states to innovate energy policy. "In a way, the left is controlling that agenda," said Amy Myers Jaffe, associate director of the energy program at Rice University in Houston. "They're just implementing it at the community and state level." Saying "the left" is slightly misleading, since although most states passing their own energy policies are blue, many have Republican governors -- indeed, many of the policies are being driven by Republican governors, including Schwarzenegger in California and Pataki in New York. In fact, I'd guess that citizens of almost any state would welcome these sorts of policies; they are not, strictly speaking, "partisan." Energy policy becomes partisan at the national level through the influence of industry lobbies. But as the states go, so eventually goes the federal government. It just takes time.

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