David Roberts

David Roberts

Energy, politics, and more

David Roberts was a staff writer for Grist. You can follow him on Twitter, if you're into that sort of thing.

The Arctic Shuffle

One: One questioner pointed out the tepid support for ANWR from oil companies, "leading some on Wall Street to say this is more of a political issue than an energy economics issue." Another person pointed out that Norton's forecast of a million barrels a day from ANWR was "somewhat underwhelming." Two (via EE): If geologists were to decide that there were only three thimbles of oil beneath area 1002, there would still be something to be said for going down to get them, just to prove that this nation cannot be forever paralyzed by people wielding environmentalism as a cover for collectivism. Three: It's not about oil any more, it's about political power, and if they have to piss on one of the country's last untouched places to prove their wankers are bigger, they'll do it.

Arctic Refuge drilling to be attached to defense appropriations bill

Oh crap. From Congressional Quarterly: Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Ted Stevens said Thursday that House and Senate appropriators have agreed to attach drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to the Defense bill in conference, though it is unclear if he can muster the 60 votes needed to end a filbuster on the legislation that the move would provoke. "We've agreed to put ANWR on it so we'll just have to wait and see what's going to happen," said Stevens, R-Alaska. "The leaders of the subcommittee on both sides have agreed. They will support it so I think it will pass." ... Stevens, a staunch supporter of energy exploration in ANWR, had outlined a gambit Wednesday to link drilling in the region to hurricane relief aid that also will likely be attached to the Defense spending measure (HR 2863) in the hope that Gulf Coast lawmakers would vote with him. Tying the measure to support for the troops makes voting to sustain a filibuster doubly hard. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., made it clear to Senate leaders earlier this week that ANWR drilling cannot pass in the House on the budget savings package, and suggested using the Defense Appropriations conference report as the alternate vehicle, according to a Senate GOP aide. ... Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., who voted against the Senate budget savings package largely because of his opposition to ANWR drilling, said it would put him in a difficult position if ANWR were attached to the final Defense spending bill. "I have a clear position on ANWR. I have a clear position on supporting our troops," Coleman said. ... Some Democrats attacked Stevens' plan Thursday. "Like Ahab, certain Republicans are so dedicated to a lost cause that they have lost their reason in the process," said Rep. Ed J. Markey, D-Mass., in a statement. Markey said adding ANWR to the Defense appropriations bill would slow down the approval of funding for the troops. "Let us hope that those who captain the Senate will turn this ship around before it founders on a filibuster," Markey said.

More Pombo rumbling

Hmm ...

Stevens

Yesterday I posted some of an article from Congressional Quarterly about the mad rush by some Congressfolk -- particularly Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) -- to get Arctic Refuge drilling passed this year. They sense that this is their last chance. I really encourage you to go read it if you haven't already. It's quite eye-opening. Stevens is aiming to put Gulf hurricane relief and refuge drilling together in the same bill (either the budget bill or the defense appropriations bill), so lawmakers have to vote for both or against both. "It's going to be awfully hard to vote against [hurricane aid]," Stevens said. "If it's in there, maybe people will vote with me on ANWR." Take a moment and really think that over. Stevens is talking about holding aid to desperately needy people hostage in order to shove through a drilling provision contrary to the repeatedly expressed preferences of the majority of Americans. By now this kind of stuff barely raises an eyebrow -- Stevens obviously feels no shame openly discussing it -- but that doesn't make it any less venal.

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.