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.

Maass on the real price of oil

I keep meaning to say something insightful about the Peter Maass essay "The Price of Oil" that ran in the NYT last weekend. But it looks like I'm never going to have time, so instead I'll just say: go read it. His basic thesis is this: [E]very barrel of oil that is not extracted from America must be drilled from someone else's backyard, often with little regard for the consequences. Because our appetite for energy has grown over the decades, new drilling, along with the damage it tends to create, has not been halted; it has been outsourced. The same could be said of wretched working conditions, oppression of women, manufacturing pollution, and on and on. We have, to a large (though not total) extent, banished these ills from North America. But our consumption habits rely on their existence in other countries. This is a knotty moral situation, and it's not clear what the answer is. As far as I can tell, the American people are totally unequipped and temperamentally disinclined even to wrestle with it. But there it is. His secondary thesis is that North American environmentalism is thus a form of hypocrisy, and maybe we should build more oil wells off Florida and in the Arctic Refuge, so people know what the true cost of oil is. I find that rather silly -- some environmental protection is better than none -- but I suspect it was just a rhetorical flourish on Maass' part.

Wiretaps, spying, and ‘eco-terrorism’

By now, every sentient being in the country is -- or should be -- familiar with the story of the Bush administration's warrantless wiretaps, as revealed by the New York Times. (Turns out the NYT has been sitting on the story since before the 2004 election. Thanks.) I won't get into the details here, as they have been, and are being, covered extensively in other media outlets and blogs. I'll just return again to a subject I've written about before. Does anyone still think that "eco-terrorism" is just a bit of rhetoric, a casual turn of phrase? Americablog brings word that the Pentagon has been spying on campus gay groups that oppose the military's "don't ask, don't tell policy." Homo-terrorism? The FBI has been spying on "groups active in causes as diverse as the environment, animal cruelty and poverty relief." After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, John Ashcroft, who was then attorney general, loosened restrictions on the F.B.I.'s investigative powers, giving the bureau greater ability to visit and monitor Web sites, mosques and other public entities in developing terrorism leads. The bureau has used that authority to investigate not only groups with suspected ties to foreign terrorists, but also protest groups suspected of having links to violent or disruptive activities. But the documents, coming after the Bush administration's confirmation that President Bush had authorized some spying without warrants in fighting terrorism, prompted charges from civil rights advocates that the government had improperly blurred the line between terrorism and acts of civil disobedience and lawful protest. Does anyone still doubt that the current proprietors of the executive branch will spy on domestic political enemies under the guise of "protecting us from terrorism"? How many separate points of evidence are required, exactly, before it becomes politically acceptable to say that in public? It's not paranoia if they're really watching you, and at this point, environmental activists should assume, until it is otherwise demonstrated, that they are being watched.

Defense bill fight brewing

This Hill article (via Tapped) is a nice summary of the current state of affairs around the defense bill. A major fight could be brewing, as Republicans consider a modified "nuclear option" and Dems consider a filibuster. The issue is fraught with political risks for Democrats. A conference report cannot be amended. Because the House has already passed the measure, the conference itself has been vitiated and the report could not be recommitted. Thus, a successful point of order against the ANWR provision would kill the bill and force Republican leaders to create a new conference committee or pass an extension beyond the current Dec. 31 expiration to keep the Pentagon operating. Under that scenario, or a successful filibuster, Democrats could leave themselves open to accusations of shutting down the Defense Department and denying money to American troops on the ground in Iraq. What is the Republican defense for this grossly anti-democratic maneuver? Republicans argued that Democrats had used similar means to achieve their ends when they held power. Just like your grade school teacher taught you.

Raincoast responds to Eric de Place

Several days ago, periodic Gristmill contributor Eric de Place of Northwest Environment Watch wrote a post assessing the Raincoast Conservation Foundation's purchase of hunting rights along a broad swath of coastal forest in British Columbia. What follows is a response from Chris Genovali, Executive Director of the Raincoast Conservation Society. ----- While the rest of the global conservation community applauded Raincoast Conservation Society's purchase of commercial trophy-hunting rights throughout a vast region of British Columbia's central coast, Eric de Place of Northwest Environment Watch (NEW) chose to produce an opportunistic hit piece targeting this cutting edge initiative. The article was extremely uninformed and exhibited a significant lack of understanding of grizzly-bear biology, as well as the ecological, political, and cultural context in which Raincoast's initiative has occurred. But it is easy for an armchair critic like de Place to take pot shots from his ivory tower "think tank" when his criticism is based on such superficial arguments.

Earth to Dover, come in, Dover

Good news: A federal judge has squashed the Dover, Penn. school board's attempt to teach "Intelligent Design" in science classes. You can read the ruling (PDF). Here's a snippet: To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions. Nice. (via Pharyngula)

Inhofe and Robertson

Chris Mooney relates an amusing exchange between Pat Robertson and James Inhofe on the 700 Club a while back. I'll just add for the record that while I cannot speak for all environmentalists, I do not worship "the creeping things, the four-legged beasts, the birds and all that." Indeed, I have no god at all -- a possibility of which Robertson and Inhofe seem incapable of even conceiving.

Stevens and the defense bill

Update [2005-12-19 14:47:12 by David Roberts]: Oops, I forgot the obvious: To try to stop this thing, please write your Senators. As forecast last week, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) managed to get Arctic Refuge drilling attached to the defense spending bill. He couldn't wrangle it into the budget reconciliation bill, so this is his last-ditch effort. He has said: Katrina will be on this [defense] bill. That's what makes the defense bill a little bit attractive because Katrina will be there. It is going to be awful hard to vote against Katrina. The levees will be paid for when we drill in ANWR. The House passed the bill in a "bleary, pre-dawn vote" this morning (they must be so proud of themselves). Now everything comes down to the vote in the Senate. Democrats have promised to filibuster the bill. "I don't have any hesitation to be a part of a filibuster," said Democrat Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. "This is a fight worth waging." This is really end-game time, folks. Below the fold, I've put some quotes from people reacting to Stevens' bid, culled from various sources (Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, news reports, etc.).

TIME person(s) of the year

Turns out Mother Nature is not, in fact, TIME's Person of the Year, as was rumored. Instead, the honor goes to Bill and Melinda Gates and ... Bono.

Meatrix 2

is coming ...

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