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.

Bill Gates bets on ethanol

I don't think Tom Philpott is going to be happy about this. Industrial corn, as far as the eye can see ...

Polar bears drowning

I thought this new Greenpeace commercial was kind of a cutesy joke. But no: Turns out polar bears really are drowning. (Yeah, it's subscription only, so there's an excerpt below the fold.)

Ford kudos

Say what you will about the fuel-efficiency of their vehicle fleet -- it looks like Ford did the right thing this time.

The dynamics of Arctic Refuge drilling in Congress

A subscription-only article in Congressional Quarterly adeptly summarizes the complicated dynamics at work in Congress right now. Arctic Refuge drilling hangs in the balance. A long excerpt below the fold.

China

Can China’s government balance an economic boom with environmental degradation and public protest?

By now it should be clear that China is the big story of the 21st century, in geopolitics generally and global environmental health in particular. Last week saw yet more news of grassroots protest in the country, this one "improperly handled" by police, who killed up to 20 villagers. The general outline of China's story is one of rapid economic growth, rapid growth of environmental degradation, rapid growth of political dissent, and genuine uncertainty about whether the communist government can keep all these balls in the air without a) acceding to democracy, or b) imposing harsh, country-wide political suppression. It's hard to overstate the degree of complexity and uncertainty involved here, or the stakes. Depending on where you look, you can find signs that economic growth will continue or run up against hard limits, that environmental degradation will accelerate or that the government will leapfrog past the woes of West's industrialization, that political unrest will spread out of control or calm down as prosperity spreads, that the government will lose control or manage the transition smoothly. Nobody really knows, and as Gristmill readers will recall, the experts' predictions are no more likely to come true than those of a reasonably educated observer. That said, I commend you to this post from Anne-Marie Slaughter (or rather, a unnamed friend of hers who lives in China and works in the environmental movement there). It's a great rundown of the role environmental issues are playing in China's political dynamic. A long excerpt is below the fold, but you should, as bloggers are so fond of saying, read the whole thing.

Gas prices

It's an open question how much gasoline prices affect gasoline consumption. But apparently gas prices are pretty tightly correlated with something else. Click to find out what. (Via Tapped)

This legislator brought to you by …

Ever wondered why there's so little effort at the federal level to pressure automakers to improve auto efficiency? Ever suspected that the auto industry might be calling the shots? Well just to set your mind at ease, check out this story of a freshman House member whose "Dear Colleagues" letter to fellow legislators contains talking points from an auto-industry memo -- verbatim, in the same font. One wonders whether we even need the middle men. Just get an industry rep up in there! (via The Plank)

Chemicals and cancer

There's a piece in the NYT about the connection -- or lack of connection -- between trace chemicals in the environment and cancer. The conclusion, broadly speaking, is that science doesn't yet know enough to make a firm link, but conventional wisdom has nonetheless settled on a rather unwarranted degree of paranoia. One Brit doctor claims cancer rates -- if tobacco-related cancers are screened out -- have actually been falling for 50 years, and goes so far as to say firmly: "Pollution is not a major determinant of U.S. cancer rates." A couple of folks have blogged about this. For my part, I'm a little leery to take it at face value, given the reporter's history. (See this old Nation piece on Gina Kolata's excessive deference to the big corporations she covers.) Still, nothing is quite so screwed up and off-base as Americans' sense of the risks they face (car crashes, people. car crashes.), so anything that can take the edge off the latest overblown fear is a good thing in my book.

Great minds, etc.

Yesterday I wrote about America's shame in Montreal. Today, the New York Times, which clearly knows a good idea when it sees one, is running an editorial called "America's Shame in Montreal."

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