I'm listening to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) talk to Thom Hartmann on Air America. Sanders is arguably the best senator in decades, and understands, as he just explained, that we need to transform our energy system toward renewables. But he also said something to the effect that "we have to get gas prices back down." I can't blame him -- particularly in his state of Vermont, rural people are getting slammed by high gas prices, because they have to drive long distances. His main explanation of high prices (with which Thom Hartmann, an important progressive radio talk show host, seems to agree) is based on 1) oil companies ripping us off, 2) speculators pushing up the price of oil, and 3) OPEC keeping a lid on production. While all of those are certainly a problem, and a windfall profits tax that Sanders advocates is certainly in order, if the Senate's most progressive voice is not discussing the problem that the supply of oil is beginning to decline, then I don't see how carbon pricing is going to fare well. In the long run, people will get hysterical as their oil expenditures increase, as I argued in what I will now call Part 1 of what may become a series on oil hysteria. We need to push a mandate on turning the American car fleet into an all-electric fleet, and we need to construct a national high-speed rail and light rail network.
McCain on the long-term solution to dependence on foreign oil: Nuclear! Despite what those “extremist environmental organizations” tell you. And despite the fact that only 2 percent of our electricity comes from oil.
Arguably, a far superior cousin to Earth Day: No Pants Day. It may seem to be an innocuous, juvenile ritual devoid of underlying political intentions, but neglecting one’s trousers provides unavoidable commentary about global warming. Conversation starter: “My legs are hot … and so is the planet.” (Bringing up body hair and deforestation is optional.) After all, “When large groups of people parade around in public without their pants, amazing things are bound to happen.”
Alberta's tar sands got yet another huge black eye this week when as many as 500 ducks died after simply landing on a giant pond full of highly toxic oil sands tailings. Only five were said to have survived their toxic plunge. A member of a Canadian environmental watchdog group described the water found in the ponds as follows: Drinking a glass of water from a tailings pond would be like drinking a diluted glass of oil or gasoline. Whether the bitumen is cooked in situ while still underground or scraped off, carted away, and processed elsewhere -- either process requiring both huge amounts of energy and water -- millions of tons of global warming pollution are produced and nearly unfathomable amounts of toxic wastewater and tailings are left behind. Indeed, it is estimated that producing one barrel of oil from tar sands requires between 2 and 4.5 barrels of water. Last year alone, the Alberta tar sands industry was permitted water withdrawals totaling a staggering 119.5 billion gallons.
Two new coal-fired power plants will not be built in western Kansas due to a failed attempt to override the governor’s veto. The coal-plant saga began when a state environment official last year rejected Sunflower Energy’s permit to build the new plants — the first such rejection in the U.S. on the basis of carbon dioxide emissions. State legislators who had backed the plants responded by passing two different bills that would have allowed the coal plants to proceed and would have stripped state environment officials of the authority to deny such permits. But the state’s governor, Kathleen Sebelius (D), …
The right-wing Heartland Institute has been making a big fuss about "500 Scientists with Documented Doubts of Man-Made Global Warming Scares." Five hundred skeptical scientists? Sounds bad! Kevin Grandia at DeSmogBlog had the radical idea of actually contacting the scientists, to see if they are being accurately characterized by Heartland. You see where this is going, right? In less than 24 hours, Grandia received three dozen outraged replies from scientists who didn’t know they were on the list and wanted to be removed. At this point the number is up to 45. Here’s a representative quote, from Dr. David Sugden, …
(I write this post with some sadness. I would not have expected a major progressive politician who obviously cares about global warming to propose a gas tax holiday, which has no public benefits whatsoever and at the same time undermines the entire rationale behind a national climate strategy that includes, as it must, a pricing mechanism for greenhouse gases. Kudos to Sen. Obama for opposing this absurd proposal -- double kudos because it might cost him a few votes.) The gas tax holiday proposed by McCain and Clinton is indefensible. That, of course, is why just about every independent observer has criticized it. The Washington Post and, separately, Huffington Post have catalogued an impressive list of serious critiques, starting with the rather obvious point that in a demand-driven price shock, a gas tax holiday probably won't even save consumers a penny -- it will just enrich the poor, suffering oil companies:
You know we're living in strange and perverse times when ExxonMobil can post a $10.9 billion quarterly profit and still fall short of expectations. This past quarter marked the second most profitable quarter ever for the most profitable company in the history of the world -- a 17 percent increase in year-on profits. And like its competitors at BP and Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon managed to increase its profits despite no increase in production. (Funny what happens when the price of oil literally doubles.) Nevertheless, Wall Street was disappointed and the company's shares fell sharply in early trading yesterday.
Is it possible to divert war spending into green investment? (David is skeptical.) The current military budget for fiscal year 2008 is around 650 billion dollars, not including supplemental requests, which so far have been made every year since the Iraq war started. That $700 billion-plus total compares to the around $400 billion of military spending in 2001. Given the current unpopularity of the Iraq war, would it really be politically impossible to gain public support for reducing our military budget back to pre-Operation Clusterf*ck levels? (I'd like to see much deeper cuts, but let's look a mere $300 billion reduction for the moment.)
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