Briefly

Stuff that matters


Peak foiled

There’s a lot more oil to keep in the ground all of a sudden.

Spanish oil company Repsol just announced that it has made the largest onshore oil discovery in the United States in 30 years: a find of 1.2 billion barrels beneath Alaska’s North Slope.

“Keep it in the ground” has become a rallying cry for climate and environmental activists in recent years, and they’re particularly intent on stopping Arctic drilling. A study published in Nature in 2015 argues that all Arctic oil needs to stay underground if we’re going to have any hope of keeping global warming below 2 degrees C, the point at which scientists think the shit will really hit the fan.

If there’s anyone still waiting for peak oil to save us from climate change, get over it. People just keep getting better at finding crude. If anything can get us out of this mess, it won’t be a scarcity of fossil fuels but an abundance of creativity. The same innovative capacity that allows humans to keep expanding the amount of oil that can be pumped out of the earth can also create laws to stop the flow and cleaner technologies to use instead.

We better get moving, though, because otherwise this new batch of oil could start flowing in 2021.


I'll stick with the salad

Okja promises gorgeous scenery, gruesome animal slaughter, and a whole lotta tears.

Imagine you have a pet that’s been genetically engineered to be delicious meat. The people who engineered said pet are eventually going to come after it for its intended purpose — what do you do?

This is the premise of Okja, the new film from Snowpiercer director Bong Joon Ho. Mija is a tween desperately trying to save her giant, genetically-engineered pet pig, Okja, from the hands of corporate butchers. It’s a guaranteed heartwrencher set against the lush mountains of South Korea.

In an interview with the New York Times, director Bong Joon Ho disclosed that he’d visited a Colorado slaughterhouse to prepare for the film’s graphic scenes. The experience pushed him to go temporarily vegan — and he wants to convey those horrors to the audience. “I wanted to inflict certain psychological pain [on the audience] because in reality, that’s what the animals go through,” he said.

Certain scenes succeed so well in this regard that the film was initially turned down by multiple studios. Netflix, however, will be streaming the film starting on June 28. Keep your tissues close and your tofu closer.


Climate change for dummies

This professor made a climate change PowerPoint for Trump, and it will make you smile.

Ken Schultz, a political science professor at Stanford University, shared the presentation on Twitter over the weekend.

The snarky explainer lays out climate change in terms President Trump can understand — you know, golf, big/beautiful walls, and YUGE Electoral College victories.

Check out the hilarious thread below:

So simple, even a Trump can understand.


ICYMI

It’s ‘Energy Week.’ Here’s how Trump could convince America to care.

The White House has cooked up several themed weeks, including “Infrastructure Week” and “Tech Week,” to refocus our attention from distractions — like the Russia investigation — to the president’s agenda.

This week, Trump will attempt to train eyes on his “America First” plan and away from the dramatic showdown over health care in the Senate. He’s unlikely to be successful. After all, there’s nothing like energy policy to get people excited! (Alas, we kid.)

Here are a few tricks he could use to drum up additional interest:

  1. Rent a big ol’ blimp emblazoned with “America First Energy Plan.” Park it over the Capitol to literally overshadow the health care debate.
  2. Actually devote some Donald J. Trump tweets to energy policy — instead of, ya know, Russia and Hillary Clinton’s collusion with the Democrats.
  3. Pay Melissa McCarthy to perform a dramatic reading of the energy plan in the style of Sean Spicer. The crowd loves that bit; 28 million views on YouTube!
  4. Propose adding solar panels to the U.S.-Mexico border wall. Oh wait — Trump already did that.

Still Rickin', Still Rollin'

Al Franken had to explain the scientific method to Rick Perry.

During his Thursday testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee about his department’s 2018 budget request, Minnesota Senator Al Franken decided to take Energy Secretary Rick Perry to task for statements he made on Monday.

Perry claimed that most changes in climate are due to “naturally occurring events, the warming and the cooling of our ocean waters, and some other activities” rather than CO2. What?

“Don’t you think it’s okay to have this conversation about the science of climate change?” Perry said. “What’s wrong with being a skeptic about something … that’s going to have a massive impact on the American economy?”

Franken was quick to point out that Perry is describing our old friend “the scientific method,” the type of skeptical analysis that is “exactly how science works.” Scientists have exhaustively debated and examined the cause of increasing global temperatures and concluded that, yes, it’s man-made climate change. The warming oceans are the result of climate change, not a cause of it.

“There’s no peer-reviewed study that doesn’t say this is happening,” Franken said.


into the void

EPA science adviser says clearing board of experts leaves ‘huge void.’

On Monday, 38 of the EPA’s research advisers found out that their terms, set to end in August, would not be renewed.

One of them is Elena Craft, a senior health scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund. “It creates a huge void in terms of scientific capacity,” Craft told Grist. “Systematically gutting these committees is essentially cutting off access to some of the greatest science advisers really in the world.”

The purge will leave 11 members on the Board of Scientific Counselors’ subcommittees. The latest move follows sweeping cuts to federal agencies in April. The empty seats on the EPA’s advisory board are expected to be filled with a more industry-friendly bunch.

Craft said that after the announcement, Robert Kavlock, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s research arm, told the advisers in a phone call that he expected the board to pay less attention to climate change.

The board of experts has counseled the EPA on its research programs for two decades. Last year, the board’s subcommittees recommended that the agency work on engaging with communities in its clean-air programs and investigate environmental risks from toxic chemicals. All this advice comes free of charge.

“For an agency that is slated to have its budget cut fairly significantly, cutting out all of the free labor and free help doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense,” Craft said.


Actually What

We broke down Trump’s baffling speech on the ‘solar wall.’

In a speech this week in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, President Trump discussed one of his favorite topics: The Wall, which may one day be festooned with “beautiful” solar panels.

Let’s attempt to understand what he said, one clause at a time:

  1. “We’re thinking about building the wall as a solar wall so it creates energy and pays for itself.” A comprehensible, if flawed, premise.
  2. “And this way, Mexico will have to pay much less money and that’s good, right? Is that good?” Less is certainly closer to “nothing,” which is the amount that Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto has agreed to pay for the wall.
  3. “You’re the first group I’ve told that to.” No, you’re not.
  4. “Solar wall. Makes sense. Let’s see. We’re working it out. We’ll see. Panels, beautiful. The higher it goes the more valuable it is. Pretty good imagination, right? Good? My idea! So we have a good shot.” W H A T
  5. “That’s one of the places that solar really does work. The tremendous sun and heat. It really does work there. So we’ll see what happens.” This is impossible to argue with: There is certainly a non-negligible amount of sun and heat around the U.S.-Mexico border, solar will “work there” (as it does everywhere), and we have no choice, unfortunately, but to “see what happens.”