Picture of the week

Condi in a Tesla

I give you Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, riding in a Tesla electric car: More gape-worthy Tesla pics here. More about Rice here. (thanks LL!)

Cutting carbon by 80% by 2050

Continuing the debate

Recently, in the post "Global Warming and the vision thing," I criticized the use of numbers in advocating policies, arguing instead on behalf of concrete images. Jon Warnow, a Step It Up 2007 organizer, responded to my post, and I thought it would be appropriate to give him the benefit of a separate post, along with my reply:

'A politics of reason faces a strong headwind'

I’ve been Gored in my own neighborhood

"A politics of reason faces a strong headwind." These were Al Gore's words last night, at New York's 92nd Street Y, where I had the unique pleasure of seeing him interviewed by Charlie Rose. The main topic of discussion was Gore's new book, The Assault On Reason, which not surprisingly is #1 on Amazon's bestseller list ("It's not about K-Fed," Gore was quick to chime in). Apart from offering a scathing critique of the Bush administration, the book lambastes the shallowness of today's media -- the amount of time spent on Pamela Anderson versus, say, the still ravaged landscape of New Orleans. And Rose, it was refreshing to see, did not fall into the trap, as did Diane Sawyer, of lobbing the precise sort of vacuous soundbites that Gore goes after in his book. It was also pretty stunning to hear a man as versed in the details of the Federalist Papers as he is in the melting rates of the Antarctic ice shelf. In response to the Rose question, "When did the decline of reason begin?", he skipped seamlessly through a history of the Enlightenment, the emigration of those ideas to a fledgling nation across the pond, and the firm establishment of reason in the founding fathers' design of the U.S. government. He talked about the dawn of television -- a box with flickering lights that Americans sit motionless in front of for about 3.5 hours a day -- and the accompanying decline in substantive media. I won't go into all the details here, or try to regurgitate the conversation, but suffice to say I was duly impressed.

Cap-and-trade is looking like duck-and-cover

A rejoinder to Environmental Defense

Can any of Environmental Defense's three main points stand up to scrutiny? ED: A carbon tax can be gamed as easily as a carbon trading scheme. CTC: A carbon tax may be subject to gaming, but cap-and-trade positively invites it. USCAP concedes that some allowances will be given out (not auctioned) at the outset, which means protracted, high-stakes negotiations ("a giant food fight," a leading utility executive called it) over free allowances that will be worth billions. How will these be allocated? What baseline year? Watch earth burn as the polluters jockey for the baseline giving them the most allowances! With a carbon tax, by contrast, any tax preferences or exemptions will at least be visible and locked in, and thus potentially removable. This difference is part of why former Commerce Undersecretary Robert Shapiro wrote recently that carbon taxes, compared to cap-and-trade, "are much less vulnerable to evasion and market manipulation, providing a more stable and transparent system for consumers and industry alike."

Not to Mention It’s Wildly Inhumane

Critics say U.S.-Mexico border fence could threaten wildlife, cause flooding The U.S. government is moving forward with plans to build 700 miles of fencing along the Mexican border, but opposition is swelling faster than the Rio Grande after a rainstorm. This week, the International Boundary and Water Commission said the fence could not only cause flooding but could, in effect, redraw the U.S.-Mexico border, which lies in the middle of the river. Oopsy! Farmers are concerned about the project’s effects on irrigation, and local businesses fear it will offend Mexican investors and customers. And wildlife advocates worry about the damage …

Use the Enforce, Kook

Environmental enforcement has declined under Bush, says new report Well, knock us over with a feather: since the Bush administration began running the joint, industries committing environmental violations have been investigated less, penalized less, and sued less, says a new report from watchdog group Environmental Integrity Project. The Department of Justice has filed fewer than 16 lawsuits per year against polluters since Bush took office; the last three years under Clinton saw an annual average of 52 lawsuits. Between fiscal years 2002 and 2006, polluters shelled out $81 million per year in civil penalties; between 1996 and 2000, they ponied …

Gore watch

The media continues to prove his new book right

As I mentioned the other day, there’s a certain irony to the fact that Al Gore is out touring behind a book about the decline of reasoned public dialogue, since his emergence on the public scene inevitably elicits paroxysms of the shallowest, bitchiest, most vacuous commentary of which our punditariat is capable — and that’s saying something. Today brings examples so telling they hurt. I mean literally hurt. You’ve been warned. Start with this dazzlingly obtuse column by Slate’s Jack Shafer, who misses Gore’s point so fundamentally one can only gape. Shafer seems to think, based on … well, god …

Noam Chomsky on ethanol

He ain’t fer it

So darn shrill: A leading goal of US foreign policy has long been to create a global order in which US corporations have free access to markets, resources and investment opportunities. The objective is commonly called “free trade,” a posture that collapses quickly on examination. It’s not unlike what Britain, a predecessor in world domination, imagined during the latter part of the 19th century, when it embraced free trade, after 150 years of state intervention and violence had helped the nation achieve far greater industrial power than any rival. The United States has followed much the same pattern. Generally, great …

Bush's dumb luck on emissions

They went down because of random factors, not Bush

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions dropped 1.3% in 2006, as the Energy Information Administration reported yesterday. President Bush immediately took credit: "We are effectively confronting the important challenge of global climate change through regulations, public-private partnerships, incentives, and strong economic investment." [Please, no laughing.] In spite of the fact that Bush has actually gutted programs aimed at the promoting clean energy technologies, last year's emissions dropped because of:

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