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.

Paul Martin (that's the Prime Minister of Canada, folks) on Arctic Refuge drilling

opposes it in a speech to businessfolk

Thanks to reader EM for drawing our attention to a speech given by Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin to the Economic Club in New York on Oct. 6. He begins with lots of happy talk about the many shared interests of Canada and the U.S., and concludes by raising two problems. The first is familiar to devotees of Canadian politics: trade disputes, namely over softwood lumber and beef. The second -- and this, I must admit, came as a surprise to me -- is U.S. desire to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Martin objects on environmental grounds. The cynic in me assumes there must be some other angle here. Perhaps he's maneuvering on behalf of Canadian energy producers. I'm not sure. Maybe someone more familiar with Canadian politics can educate us in comments. Anyway, here's the relevant passage from the speech:


Bamboo has become something of a fetish among green types, particularly in certain quarters. While it may not be the environmental cure-all it's sometimes made out to be, it does have a lot going for it. It regenerates in a mere three years and is endlessly adaptable. The preceding was just an excuse to show you: 1000 Things Made of Bamboo.

Why did New Orleans drown?

It was short-sighted politics, and they’re still with us

Don't miss "The Slow Drowning of New Orleans," a knock-out piece of political history from the Washington Post's Michael Grunwald and Susan B. Glasser. I've read a lot of material lately about hurricanes and the Gulf Coast, and nothing I've seen does a better job of traversing the long history of short-sighted political blundering that made the catastrophe inevitable. The tale begins in the 1700s, and no one -- local, state, or fed, Democrat or Republican -- ends up blameless. The details are rich and varied, but at its root the story is about government's crippling inability to deal with long-term threats. The drowning of New Orleans was caused by complex factors of weather, geography, history, politics and engineering, but it was at heart a tragedy of priorities -- not just Vitter's, but America's. For years, it was common knowledge in Louisiana and Washington that New Orleans could be destroyed by a hurricane. But decision makers turned away from the long-term investments that might have averted a catastrophe, pursuing instead projects with more immediate payoffs. Some of those projects made the city more vulnerable. There you have it. If you want the political logic behind it, look no further than this short passage:

Arctic refuge video

This summer, the Treasure America project went up to the Arctic Refuge in search of purely economic reasons why drilling there is a bad idea. Watch this 12-minute video to see what they came up with. (Hat tip to Nick Aster at TriplePundit, who tagged along with the group.)

Nonlinearity and you

Melting polar ice cap bodes ill — very ill

I didn't manage to get to it during the week, but don't miss this Mike Davis essay over on Tom's Dispatch. It's about the seemingly obscure subject of "nonlinearity," a word that may just end up being featured prominently on humanity's tombstone. "Humanity, R.I.P. Should have payed attention to nonlinearity." Specifically, it's about a study -- mentioned in Daily Grist last week -- revealing that the Arctic ice cap is melting earlier in the summer, not fully re-freezing in the winter, possibly caught in an irreversible self-reinforcing cycle, and headed to final and complete disappearance by 2060. This is some scary shit. First, nonlinearity:

GAS Act passes

amidst much drama

Holy drama, Batman! So, as we mentioned in the Daily Grist, the House voted today on Rep. Barton's Gasoline for America's Security (GAS) Act (PDF) (gag on the Orwell, gag on it!). It's a big fat wet kiss to the energy industry, easing Clean Air Act provisions to streamline refinery development and codifying the President's ability to suspend clean-air standards in a state of emergency. It's a bunch of crap they couldn't get into this summer's already craptacular energy bill. To boot, yesterday the House Rules Committee blocked an attempt to include a provision raising CAFE standards. Well, once again the Republican leadership held what is supposed to be a five-minute floor vote open for nearly 50 minutes, ruthlessly twisting arms and bribing recalcitrant members. Ultimately they jammed the thing through, on a 212-210 vote. They buttonholed lawmakers for last-minute lobbying as Democrats complained loudly that the vote should be closed. Finally two GOP lawmakers switched from "no" to "yes," giving the bill's supporters the margin of victory. "Is this the House of a Banana Republic?" Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., shouted at one point, expressing his frustration about the GOP holdup of the final tally. As the vote came to an end opponents chanted in unison, "Shame! Shame! Shame!" I'm beyond knowing whether they'll pay any political price for this kind of overt corporatism and disrespect for democratic process. But the country's appetite for House Republican corruption and insensitivity is rapidly declining. I've been burned too many times thinking maybe we've reached the tipping point. But ... maybe we've reached the tipping point. (GCC has more.) (TAPPED has still more.) (Wow! Watch this amazing video of the vote. Unbelievable.)

Arctic reality check

The Wilderness Society has been sending out some great email bulletins about the details of the proposed Arctic Refuge drilling legislation. Now they're all online in one place: check out the Arctic Reality Check. Here are the four main points: Opens the entire 1.5 million-acre Coastal Plain for oil development, and mandates a minimum of 200,000 acres for the first lease sale. Weakens and sidesteps important environmental protection laws and standards. Dresses up weak or meaningless "protections" to sound good. Limits oversight by the public, the judicial branch, and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

SUV nation

Looks like more old people are going to die: Chrysler is doubling its SUV offerings over the next three years, including the radical Dodge Nitro model coming next year with flared fenders and fuel-friendly V-6. GM is counting on a new crop of full-bodied SUVs arriving next year to drive its comeback. And though the models are still big, GM designers burnished the edges to make them look smaller. By 2010, the number of SUVs on the market will increase 24 percent to 109 models, while just 44 different hybrids will be offered by then, according to auto researcher J.D. Power. Even Toyota, the hybrid leader, is building a $1 billion pickup-truck plant in Texas where analysts expect it to build a new -- and bigger -- version of its Sequoia SUV. Despite pain at the pump, 56 percent of Americans refuse to downsize and will stick with the wheels they've got, according to a new survey by consultant AutoPacific. "We haven't turned into wimps overnight," says AutoPacific's George Peterson. "People still like a tough-looking SUV." ... "For hybrids to have a double-digit market share," says Power's Jeff Schuster, "we'd essentially have to run out of fossil fuel." Sigh.

From Britney to BoKlok

The booby/baby dilemma Celebs. How they confound us. One minute you hear that Britney is willing to leave her breasts bare for … well, anything, but in this case a hurricane recovery fund. Next minute …

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