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.

Gaghan’s Syriana not at all the feel-good film of the year

Syriana, written and directed by Traffic screenwriter Stephen Gaghan, is a brave and daunting piece of filmmaking. It plunges without apology into hot-button territory few …

Google Transit

I was going to write something about the just-debuted Google Transit -- a very cool new tool from Google that aspires eventually to have all the nation's local transit information in one easy-to-use tool -- but Jeremy Faludi went and did it for me. So go read that.

Montreal in a nutshell

Good quote:"You are watching 163 nations do an elaborate dance to try to make progress when the United States is sitting in the middle of the road trying to obstruct," said Alden Meyer, a representative of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a group that has long criticized the Bush administration's climate approach. "It's getting to be like Charlie Brown with Lucy holding that football," he said. "Every time, at the last minute, the U.S. pulls it away."

Syriana thoughts

My review of Syriana will be published tomorrow, but in the meantime, a few stray thoughts and links that didn't fit in it. First: Go see it. Really. Second, director Stephen Gaghan is a smart, articulate guy, and gives good interview. Check out this interview on AintItCool. Also worth reading is the transcript of this interview of Robert Baer (the ex-CIA agent whose book See No Evil inspired Gaghan) by Robert Siegel. Third, several reviewers seem aggravated by the complicated, hard-to-follow plot. They think it reduces the chances of mainstream success, which is probably true, that it reduces the chances that the movie's message about oil will sink in, which may or may not be true, and that it reduces the movie's artistic merit, which is certainly not true. Gaghan has said he made the plot convoluted and confusing on purpose. It's an artistic choice certain to reduce the movie's popularity, but I think it works. It tosses the viewer into action that seems like it's already ongoing -- like we missed the beginning and it will continue after we're gone, like we're getting a peek into places we're not supposed to see. Several strong and contradictory points of view fly past, making it hard to discern what's really going on, but that's how the world is. Gaghan said: I would travel around the world, I would meet people, and they would seem so certain of their point of view. Just articulate, brilliant, knowledgeable. An hour later, I would meet somebody articulating the exact opposite position. Brilliantly, nuanced, certain. And it was scary. Scary. Lots of people don't like to be scared and confused, so I can understand not enjoying the experience, but it's a mistake to think it reflects some sort of failing on Gaghan's part. Fourth, I would take issue with the conclusion of Oil Drum's Super G:

TIME’s vengeful mother of the year

Seems "Mother Nature" is likely to be TIME Magazine's Person of the Year for 2005.

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.