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.

More on CAFE and gas taxes

A response to a response to a response, only better than it sounds

Hm, looks like this post on CAFE standards stepped into quite a vigorous ongoing conversation. I want to address Matt's response, but first let me recommend some other background reading: Brad Plumer makes basically Matt's argument: gas taxes are better and more direct than CAFE. Brad DeLong agrees. Ezra Klein thinks Brad and Brad are wrong (read the comment thread, it's good): CAFE is preferable. Kevin Drum also writes in defense of CAFE. Andrew Samwick says neither CAFE nor gas taxes actually reduce gas consumption much. A report from the National Academy of Sciences argues that CAFE standards have, in fact, worked. Our own Clark Williams-Derry discusses a report concluding that CAFE standards are counterproductive. Hm. Confusing. Anyhoo, Matt responds to my accusation of the dread policy literalism by trying to frame his gas tax proposal in terms of "broad values and coalitions." It's the right spirit, but I don't think it works. Here's what he says:

Hybrid tax credits

A great rundown on the hybrid-related tax credits in the energy bill over on Hybridblog.

More on hurricanes and global warming

Pielke Jr. responds

Roger Pielke Jr. has made something of a career out of studying societal response to hurricanes (see him quoted liberally here). He's made something of a side career out of arguing that greens should -- as a matter of ethics, science, and policy -- refrain from using severe weather events like hurricanes to raise alarm over global warming and (thereby) advance their preferred energy policies. I happen to disagree with him on that, but his position, being somewhat infuriating to greens, tends to get caricatured and vilified a lot. So, let's let him speak for himself. He responded to my post on hurricanes and global warming with a post on his blog. I responded in turn with the following email:

To CAFE or not to CAFE?

Are fuel-efficiency standards a smart way to reduce oil consumption?

Fareed Zakaria has a nice rundown of the many ways our hunger for oil distorts our foreign policy and makes a mockery of our efforts to fight terrorism and spread democracy. At the end, he briefly mentions solutions: It's true that there is no silver bullet that will entirely solve America's energy problem, but there is one that goes a long way: more-efficient cars. If American cars averaged 40 miles per gallon, we would soon reduce consumption by 2 million to 3 million barrels of oil a day. That could translate into a sustained price drop of more than $20 a barrel. ... I would start by raising fuel-efficiency standards, providing incentives for hybrids and making gasoline somewhat more expensive (yes, that means raising taxes). Matt Yglesias thinks that fuel-efficiency (CAFE) standards -- however beloved by greens and progressives -- are a bit of a red herring:

Interview with Alex Steffen, part one

Worldchanging editor discusses optimism and technology

[editor's note, by Dave Roberts] This is part one of a three-part interview. Part two is here and part three is here. In April, I sat down for a long, wide-ranging conversation with Alex Steffen, executive editor of the (now newly incorporated and redesigned) Worldchanging.com. Gristmill readers likely need no introduction to Worldchanging, an online salon of activists and thinkers dedicated to the proposition that "another world is here" -- that the tools and techniques we need to reverse the global malaise already exist and await only our imagination and willpower. If it isn't on your daily reading list, it should be. Originally, I was going to run this interview alongside a rather ambitious long-form piece of my own, but as time has passed -- and I really can't believe how much time has passed -- it's become clear that said piece is indefinitely postponed. Since I have a baby due [checks calendar] three days ago, it's unlikely I'll soon have time to return to it. Lest it get even older, I'm going to go ahead and run it here. There's lots of good stuff in it, but it's very long, so I've broken it into three parts -- I'll publish the first today and the others in coming days. In part one, we discuss optimism, technology, and the open-source movement.


Nothing new in this short profile of William McDonough, but as a confirmed McDonough fanboy, I feel obligated to link to it.

Bush's respect for nature

Nothing he wants to go affirming to the UN

Uh oh, this doesn't sound good. The Bush administration, whose pro-business policies on climate change have long rankled environmentalists and U.N. delegates, has done it again. The United States is pressing to scrap a proposal to have world leaders gathering in New York next month express "respect for nature." Eh, pardonne moi? That phrase was included in a draft statement of principles to be agreed to by 175 heads of state and government attending a Sept. 14 United Nations summit on poverty and U.N. reform. The statement invited leaders to embrace a set of "core values" that unite the international community, including respect for human rights, freedom, equality, tolerance, multilateralism and respect for nature. Is there some confusion in the Washington Post offices? Is this some kind of treaty? Mandated CO2 emissions cuts? Banning of toxic chemicals? Compensating poor nations for the effects of climate change? The offending phrase would place no fresh legal or financial burdens on U.S. taxpayers... WTF?! ...but the Bush administration voiced concern that it would distract attention from the main goal: reforming the United Nations. WTF!? Um, wait, so, 175 nations are gathering in New York to work on U.N. reform. To start off, they want to affirm their shared principles. Bush is okay with this. Human rights? Sure. Equality? Yup. Multilateralism? Ah, what the hell. Respect for nature, though? C'mon. Let's not go off the rails! Ric Grenell of the U.S. mission to the United Nations said the phrase "is too broad a subject, and if we had to define the multiple ways the U.S. government respects nature, the document would be too long and way off its original intent." Oh, gosh, the ways we respect nature ... don't get us started! No, really. Don't. We mean it.

Hurricanes and global warming

Where’s the line between scientific accuracy and effective advocacy?

It's hard to know what to say about the ongoing disaster in New Orleans (good coverage here). Good luck to all our readers there. It sounds like it's not going to be as bad as feared, which is some comfort. For a glimpse at how bad it could have been, read Mooney's prescient AP piece from three months ago. And for a lament about the woeful lack of preparation, read his followup: "prescience sucks." Katrina is sure to reignite the ongoing debate over hurricanes and global warming. A few thoughts on that debate below the fold.

From Size to Spies

It’s not the size of the turtle, it’s how you save it Photo: WiLDCOAST. “My man doesn’t need turtle eggs,” says the sultry model in a controversial Mexican ad campaign, which urges men to stop buying the alleged aphrodisiacs and help save the endangered sea creatures. But does he need a Hummer H2? Money-mouth co-location Two climate-change skeptics just bet climate expert James Annan $10,000 that the globe would cool this decade. Meanwhile, peak oil Pollyanna John Tierney bet gloomy oil expert Matt Simmons $5,000 that oil wouldn’t top $200 a barrel by 2010. Way to up the apocalyptic ante. …

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