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.

Climate change in the news

2005 saw historic levels of attention

Matthew Nisbet takes a look at media coverage of climate change and finds that "in 2005, climate change received its second highest level of news attention historically." We can probably thank the G8 summit, the ginormous hurricane season, and the Montreal summit for that. It will be interesting to see whether we've entered a period of sustained interest or if it will fall off next year. Climate change still gets less press attention than the Pope, though. People's fascination with the Pope never fails to baffle me. But then, I spend most of my time these days baffled. I wonder what the Pope's stance on climate change is? (via Mooney)

Dare to dream

Is Pombo in trouble?

This little light of Pete’s

In Congressional Quarterly, via reader SCB: Light it up, and don't fret about the electric bill. When House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., flips the switch tomorrow to light the Capitol Christmas tree, "significantly less energy will be used thanks to the first-time addition of Light Emitting Diode (LED) holiday lights." So says Senate Energy Chairman Pete V. Domenici, R-N.M., whose home state not only produced this year's giant tree but also is home to Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, a leading center of research and development for LED lighting. Domenici said the bulbs use about 90 percent less electricity than traditional holiday lights and last 20,000 hours (the equivalent of more than 100 holiday seasons). Guess someone had better take them off carefully after New Year's and stuff them away for next year. Thanks, Pete! That energy bill? Forgiven! In other CQ news, the cover story this week is called "Getting a Grip on Carbon." Sadly, I can't read it, since I'm not a subscriber.

Charity gift certificates

All you folks worried about rampant materialism this holiday season should check out charity gift certificates. It's just what it sounds like: You buy a GC and the recipient goes to the website to choose what charity they'd like to donate to. Here's the environment section.

Another one falls for AP6

A surprisingly non-wacky column on Tech Central Station about the developments in Montreal, by Ronald Bailey (via H&R). It's non-wacky, but I also think it makes a mistake -- a mistake made all too often over the last five years -- namely: Believing in the Bush administration's good intentions when they say something that flatters your ideological preconceptions. (See: liberal war hawk.) Specifically, Bailey notes that several participants in the Montreal meetings are pushing the notion that economic development and environmental protection can go hand in hand. For instance:

Prius and oil, part deux


About a week ago I did a short post on Prius/oil-related matters that seemed to irritate a few folks. I hadn't noticed until today that our occasional contributor (and pundit nonpareil) Clark Williams-Derry posted a response. He seemed to be approaching the question the same way some other people did, so I thought I'd offer a reply. To recap: A Wall Street Journal editorial (sub.) said this: Petroleum not consumed by Prius owners is not "saved." It does not stay in the ground. It is consumed by someone else. Greenhouse gases are still released. Treehugger's Lloyd Alter said (I paraphrase): What a jerk. I said (again paraphrasing): Yes, he's a jerk, but on this narrow point, he's right. Several commenters thought I was making a point about the futility of energy conservation generally. But I wasn't -- the point is about oil in particular. Bart, and at greater length Clark, mentioned the "rebound effect," whereby reduced demand lowers price, which subsequently raises demand. Both of them make the point that although the rebound effect is real, demand only bounces back about 30-50%. So, while using less oil may not make the total efficiency gains you'd want, it does make some efficiency gains. It does save some oil. To which I say: For "energy" generically, yes. For electricity, yes. For something like coal, where supply is plentiful, yes. But oil?

Obama ’08?

As a confirmed Obamaphile, I feel obliged to note that speculation is afoot.

Sacramento Bee on pineros

A must-read investigation into the lives of foreign guest workers in America’s public forests

Speaking of must-read pieces of journalism, don't miss the Sacramento Bee's three-part story about pineros. Pineros ("men of the pines") are the Latinos that do the dirty, exhausting work in America's forests. A nine-month Bee investigation based on more than 150 interviews across Mexico, Guatemala and the United States and 5,000 pages of records unearthed through the Freedom of Information Act has found pineros are victims of employer exploitation, government neglect and a contracting system that insulates landowners - including the U.S. government - from responsibility. The treatment of these workers is bad enough on its own, but is particularly egregious in the context of a government-run guest-worker program, on public land. The Bee's package is not just a superior piece of journalism but a fine piece of web design -- it's an attractive site with judicious use of flash, audio, and video. Really a model to aspire to for all you budding environmental journalists out there. Read it.

Stellar BusinessWeek package on climate change

Things are a’changin’ in the business world

BusinessWeek has a large and informative package of stories on the changing climate (har!) around climate change, both in the business world and in the halls of government. There are too many stories even to summarize here -- just go browse around. One positive notion that crops up in several stories is that federal limits on CO2 emissions are inevitable. The science is solid and public opinion is squarely behind it, and in those circumstances there's only so long politicians can drag their feet (though a shout out here to the Bush administration, which has been amazingly effective at stalling, a perverse accomplishment of sorts). Businesses are already busy planning for it. By planning and preparing now, [Cinergy CEO Jim] Rogers believes he'll position his company ahead of its competitors and make a positive contribution to the environment. In the utility sector, where plants take years to build and remain online for five or six decades, that has long-ranging consequences. "Rather than all of a sudden having huge increases [when regulation hits], we need to smooth it out over the long term," says Rogers. "I want to make sure the decisions I make today on this C02 issue ensure that leaders of this company five decades from now will look back and say 'I'm really glad that guy positioned us that way'." Also of particular interest -- and a refreshing change from typical media reports that say "business is coming around" but provide only scattered anecdotes -- BusinessWeek, Climate Group, and a panel of judges ranked companies based on their action so far on climate change. You can see a list of the top 10 overall performers as well as lists of the best management practices, best individual performers, and best financial-services companies. This is a fantastic, comprehensive, balanced set of stories, and hopefully it will reach the right people. It's hard to see sometimes, especially weeks like this when the U.S. is busy shaming itself at the Montreal conference, but the tide really is turning on global warming.

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