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.

Oil and meth

Turns out oil rig workers are using meth, getting fired, and driving up oil prices

Well, of all the things I might have thought would affect oil prices, here's one that never occurred to me: apparently a growing number of oil-rig crews are meth users. Ben Dell, analyst at Sanford Bernstein, said the issue was serious enough to have an impact on international oil prices. He said: "With a third of all rig crews in the Rocky Mountains having methamphetamine problems, it's difficult to get a crew that's not high." Seems that sodium hydroxide, one of the main ingredients of meth, is used to reduce the acidity of drilling mud, and thus easily available on rigs. Random drug tests are now the order of the day, people are getting fired right and left, and it's increasingly hard to find workers. This comes at an awful time for an industry whose workforce is aging: "Most industry groups put the average age of employees at 49, with 50 percent expected to retire in the next five to 10 years." Tweaking, it turns out, is not really what you want in an oil-rigger: "Meth is particularly dangerous for oil and gas workers because meth users go through a wide range of emotions including the Superman stage during which they believe themselves to be invincible," Mr Walsmith added. "Believing oneself to be invincible when working with hundreds of tons of steel and thousands of pounds of explosive pressure can maim or kill in an instant." Crazy. How about instead of drilling in the Arctic Refuge, we offer drug counseling on oil rigs? Probably have roughly the same effect on oil price. (via The Watt)

Arctic Refuge drilling: Down the rabbit hole

Liberal opposition to drilling is reason enough to support it for some folks

The Senate Energy Committee voted today to include Arctic Refuge drilling in a massive budget reconciliation proposal, which will make it filibuster-proof. The fate of the budget reconciliation is not totally clear, but the odds are looking pretty grim. Our own Amanda Griscom Little will be writing more about this later in the week. If you want to do something to try to stop it, the Wilderness Society has your standard online petition going. Sigh. As a political issue, I find the Refuge rather mystifying.

Global warming, in capsule form

In the midst of a long post on Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer's coal-to-liquid-fuel plans, Oil Drummer Stuart Staniford provides a handy one-paragraph-long roundup of evidence on global warming. The next time someone you know asks about it, just cut and paste this paragraph and send it to them. Warming cliff notes! [W]e are reaching the point where we can see that we are starting to make massive, probably irreversible, changes to our climate. The glaciers are in full retreat almost everywhere, the Arctic is melting (with total melting of the summer sea ice possible, though not certain, as early as 2020), the permafrost is melting, and releasing large amounts of methane, which is a very powerful global warming gas, while in the last thirty years, droughts have doubled due to warming, hurricanes are much more intense all over the globe, and are showing up in places they never did before in recorded history. Scientists have been projecting changes in ocean circulation, and lo-and-behold, they are starting to show up, including changes to the North Atlantic Circulation, although major change here was previously thought unlikely this century. There is some possibility of changes in deepwater circulation destabilizing methane hydrates in the ocean, particularly in South East Asian deeps. Oh, and the Greenland ice sheet is now melting much faster than climatologists expected, and the West Antarctic ice sheet is starting to collapse, though again, this was previously thought unlikely. Also paleoclimatological studies have made it clear that in the past the climate abruptly flipped between modes, sometimes with dramatic change in as little as three years. And we are making rapid changes in carbon dioxide, known to be critically important in regulating the temperature of this sensitive climatic system for a century now. As he says, "maybe there's some scientific doubt still on any individual piece of the picture, but the gestalt is starting to look extremely alarming." Yes.

Rebuilding: the cock-up is underway

Unsurprisingly, the Bush administration is already screwing up reconstruction

It's a couple weeks before Halloween, but if you're looking for a nice horror story, try the LA Times piece on post-Katrina reconstruction. You know how sometimes President Bush makes big, rousing speeches full of earnest declarations, with his chest all puffed out, making that one annoying hand gesture, and then in subsequent weeks adds several carefully staged photo-ops, and then his administration doesn't follow up on anything and whatever the subject of the speech was descends into chaotic factionalism and incompetence because, really, what Bush likes is feeling like he's being Historical and he doesn't care for the nuts and bolts of governing at all? Yeah, this is one of those times.

I’m so, like, over it

You know what's really boring? Affected, world-weary cynicism from post-collegiate hipsters. Didn't that go out in the 90s? (via TH)

WC action

Worldchanging is doing a book. And hiring. FYI.

Peak oil hits USA Today

There's nothing particularly new in it, but it's the front page of USA Today, so I feel obliged to link: "Debate brews: Has oil production peaked?" It's typical mainstream journalism, scrupulously "balanced" in that it gives both sides equal time and makes no effort to evaluate their respective credibility or the validity of their claims. But it's a complex topic, so I guess that's the best we can expect. I suspect the average reader will come away from the piece thinking, "Ho hum, another group of alarmists crying about another alleged apocalypse ... wonder what's on TV?" Which is another way of saying: Peak oil won't have bite until it hurts average people, directly and for a sustained period of time. Such is life.

Rise Up Sweet Island

A recommendation from Jamais at WC sent me back to Rise Up Sweet Island (it drifted across my radar a while back but I never took a close look). I'm glad he flagged it, because it's pretty amazing. It's part of a larger site called Notes from the Road, a travelogue/blog with superb original photography from amateur traveler Erik Gauger. Sweet Island is a narrative about a tiny West Indian island called Guana Cay, the pristine coral reefs around it, a proposal for an "ecologically sensitive" golf course on it, and the corruption and absurdity that ensue. It's difficult to summarize but fascinating to read and sumptuously illustrated. Check it out.

Mooney on TPMCafe

For the past week, on TPMCafe's Book Club, they've been discussing Chris Mooney's book The Republican War on Science. It's been a great back and forth among Chris and several guests, including Roger Pielke Jr. and Lawrence Krauss. The reader comments, as usual on that site, have been literate and insightful. Head on over and start scrolling down.

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