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.

Inside Participate.net

An insider shares the backstory

Wondering what's up with Participate.net, the social-action community run by Participant Productions, the film production company behind Good Night, and Good Luck and Syriana? Over on Worldchanging, Micki Krimmel offers an insider's view. Interesting stuff. (For all you CMS geeks out there, turns out Participate is run on Drupal and actively involved in developing new modules for it.)

EPA analysis of clean-air plans 'not as useful as one could hope'

Another nonpartisan agency calls B.S. on Clear Skies

In April, Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.) threatened to block the nomination of Stephen Johnson as EPA chief until the agency agreed to compare three plans to cut power-plant pollution: his own, a bill from James M. Jeffords (I-Vt.), and Bush's "Clear Skies" legislation. Clear Skies contained weaker pollution targets and longer timelines for compliance. So the EPA did the analysis and reported that -- whaddya know! -- the other plans cost too darn much and Clear Skies is the best bang for the buck. Now the Congressional Research Service has issued a report confirming what was widely suspected: The EPA was full of shit. The Environmental Protection Agency's Oct. 27 analysis of its plan -- along with those of Sens. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.) and James M. Jeffords (I-Vt.) -- exaggerated the costs and underestimated the benefits of imposing more stringent pollution curbs, the independent, nonpartisan congressional researchers wrote in a Nov. 23 report. ... The administration's "Clear Skies" legislation aims to achieve a 70 percent cut in emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide after 2018, while Carper's and Jeffords's bills demand steeper and faster cuts and would also reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, which are linked to global warming. The Bush plan would also cut emissions of neurotoxic mercury by 70 percent, while Jeffords's bill reduces them by 90 percent. "Although it represents a step toward understanding the impacts of legislative options, EPA's analysis is not as useful as one could hope," the Research Service report said. "The result is an analysis that some will argue is no longer sufficiently up-to-date to contribute substantially to congressional debate." In circumspect bureaucratese, "not as useful as one could hope" pretty much translates to "full of shit." Now, recall:

Limbaugh on global warming

Rush’s opinion, for what it’s worth.

Want to read something truly, truly bizarre? Here, via Chris Mooney, are Rush Limbaugh's thoughts about the recent study showing that Atlantic Ocean currents are shifting. The strangest thing about it is that he summarizes the science pretty well. He's explaining the science, quoting from news reports, and then, out of nowhere ... Now, you might be asking yourself, "Okay, how is global warming causing this cooling?" Well, the first thing you have to understand is that global warming explains everything! Global warming explains why Bush sent troops to Iraq. Global warming explains what happened to New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina. Global warming is said to be the reason for everything. Global warming is a political issue. Global warming is a political issue, and as such, it cannot die; it will not die. It is an issue that leftists around world are carrying in their hip pockets and trumpeting from their mouths as a means of doing their best to destroy or weaken capitalist industrial societies. And then it's back to summarizing the science. He doesn't even seem to be questioning the science, or skeptical about it. Nor does he seem to notice that the science is directly at odds with his well-worn political screed about global warming. There's no sign of cognitive dissonance. It makes my brain hurt. And then this:

Does the world have room for two Bonos?

Thom Yorke to meet Tony Blair on climate change

Apparently, Radiohead singer Thom Yorke was asked by Friends of the Earth UK to meet with Tony Blair about climate change. Uh, what? And supposedly he wrote about it on his blog, although I can't find the entry there. I can only find it quoted in the press. Here's a bit of it: Friends Of The Earth have asked me whether I would meet Tony Blair at Downing Street to discuss what our government is not doing about climate change. I don't know if this will ever happen for certain. It is rattling around in the back of my mind and concerns me a lot. I have no intention of being used by spider spin doctors to make it look like we make progress when it is just words. ... Blair has been uttering nonsense lately about Kyoto and such, real la la stuff... looks like the American right have finally eaten his mind. Why on earth would I meet this man? Or perhaps that is exactly why I should. But i dont have powers of persuasion, i just have temper and an acid tongue. The American right has finally eaten Blair's mind. Indeed. In other news, damn I can't wait for that new Radiohead album.

Jeepers, Reapers

The reapers are back, still too clever for their own good

Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus -- yes, yes, the reapers -- want you to know that environmentalism's not only dead, but possibly responsible for the coming apocalypse. Noting that in Montreal the Bush administration has yet again derailed climate efforts, and the Blair government has yet again acquiesced thereto, the reapers pin the responsibility right where it belongs: on ... greens? But the stalemate over addressing global warming highlights the failure of neither Blair nor Bush but rather of environmentalism and the politics of limits. Picture me here doing a double-take-and-rub-eyes, a la Jon Stewart.

Brief for Bush

Let’s go through this one more time.

A couple of enterprising students have uncovered a confidential brief (PDF) from the IPCC to George W. Bush. It'll never work. Too many pages.

Rocío Romero and the L.V. prefab house

I missed this short New Yorker piece about architect Rocío Romero and her L.V. prefab house. It's probably been blogged a zillion times, but whatevs: it's interesting. My ears especially perked at this bit: Romero originally thought that the primary market for the L.V. would be California, but most of her customers have turned out to be in the East or in the Midwest. The first kit Romero sold was to a couple in Virginia, Barry Bless and Jennifer Watson, who put it on a six-acre site in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Bless, a musician, and Watson, an architectural photographer, finished their house this past March. They did much of the construction work themselves, and it took about a year; the final cost was ninety-five thousand dollars. The couple christened their L.V. the Luminhaus. As soon as it was done, they put up a Web site filled with Watson’s photographs of the house amid fall foliage and winter snow, offering the house for rent at eight hundred dollars a week. In six weeks, it was booked for the rest of the year. My lust for modernist prefab knows no bounds.

SUV sales are down

Pretty sharply:Sales of all new vehicles in the United States were off 2.8 percent in November from a year ago, with Detroit automakers bearing the brunt of the industry slowdown, according to Autodata Corp. Sales of some SUVs were off more than 50 percent from last year. Meanwhile, U.S. sales by Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. continued to surge.What can I do but refer back again to this post.

Hedgehogs, predictions, and peak oil

What’s a prediction worth?

A few days ago, Kevin Drum pointed to a Louis Menand review of a book called Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know? by psychologist Philip Tetlock. I haven't read the book, but the review is fascinating, and I highly recommend you read it before (or instead of) the rambling thoughts that follow. Tetlock's basic thesis, based on a multi-decade study, is that expert predictions are no better -- and often worse -- than random chance or the predictions of casual news consumers. Just like everyone else, experts display confirmation bias, underestimate their past mistakes, and fall for basic probability errors. Ah, fuel for anti-elitists everywhere ... This is not a new psychological finding -- laymen often express surprise at it, but psychologists have known for years that experts are no more reliable than anyone else. But one new insight Tetlock brings to the table relates to Isaiah Berlin's famous distinction between hedgehogs (which know a lot about one thing) and foxes (which know a little about a lot of things). From the book: