Saturday, June 01, 2013

The Weight/Wait

On the Stop It! side of addressing the climate crisis, everybody seems to be waiting for the shoe to drop on the Tar Sands Oil Pipeline, with the assumption that sometime soon President Obama is going to approve its extension from Canada to the Gulf.

The issues involved continue to be clarified in opposition, however.  Bill McKibben has been leading a vocal and demonstrative opposition on the basis of the effect on climate of a lot more carbon burned from dirty tar sands oil, a stand backed up by the premier scientific voice on climate, James Hansen, although he seems to be more focused on promoting a carbon tax that would be especially high for tar sands oil and the like.

But this week President Obama's former advisor on climate matters, Van Jones, was especially aggressive in his opposition to the pipeline.  In media statements and a YouTube video, he is calling out President Obama on the issue.  He joins others in asserting that tar sands gunk is especially dangerous, that spills of it are proving impossible to clean up, and that the jobs it will create are minimal, with less than 50 non-temporary jobs.   He also asserts that the idea that this oil contributes to U.S. energy independence is false--that there is no guarantee the oil will stay in the country--he asserts that it will probably end up in China.

Also the 350 organization (McKibben's) claims in an email that "big chunks" of the favorable environmental review of the pipeline issued by the U.S. State Department (their clearance--and Obama's--are necessary because the pipeline crosses from another country, Canada) were written by a client of the very company that is building the pipeline.  This consultant, Environmental Resource Management, not only has TransCanada as a client, it is" a dues-paying member of the American Petroleum Institute, big oil’s top lobbying group that has spent millions trying to get Keystone XL built."

There's a lot of politics going on, and possibly institution-building, but the issue is serious.  For example, Organizing for America--the former Obama for America--is building support for addressing climate change, but is notably not opposing the pipeline.  Other organizations, including, are trying to organize demonstrations and civil disobedience, even if the pipeline is approved.

All this in the week that President Obama remarked that he has no patience with climate crisis deniers, but amidst criticism that his actual efforts are insufficient. Jonathan Chiat put this in perspective, as noted in this report:

However, others argue that Obama has been a good steward of the environment. As New York's Jonathan Chait pointed out, under Obama, carbon dioxide emissions have fallen, vehicle emissions standards have gone up, and the government has poured tons of new funding into green technology and research.

"The assumption that Obama's climate-­change record is essentially one of failure is mainly an artifact of environmentalists' understandably frantic urgency," he said. "The sort of steady progress that would leave activists on other issues giddy does not satisfy the sort of person whose waking hours are spent watching the glaciers melt irreversibly."

Even Gore gave Obama some credit, saying he'd "accomplished more than any president before him" in combating climate change.

Meanwhile, it's worth noting that positive steps in replacing the need for fossil fuels is proceeding significantly, though they don't get much press.  Solar power is becoming better and cheaper, wind power is contributing more and more to electricity generated and used, and electric cars are coming down in price, to be competitive with the fossil fueled.

In terms of addressing the climate crisis with clean energy initiatives, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander made a strong speech in support last week.  This is not new for Alexander, but it's news for a Republican to take the climate crisis seriously.  Alexander is one of the few who hasn't recanted.  It remains to be seen however how influential his position actually can be.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

May Baseball

As May ends, my teams are diverging.  After a series of improbable victories, climaxed by the first inside the park home run ever to win a game in San Francisco, the Giants are stumbling.  Some key injuries are hurting them (including to Angel Pagan, who hit that homer and hasn't played since) but they are really struggling away from their home field. That could prove fatal to their season--because with those injuries, they spend most of the month of June on the road.

Still, at just a couple of games above .500, they're in second place in their division.  While the Giants reel, the Pittsburgh Pirates rock.  They are 13 games above .500--but in their division that's good enough only for second or third place.

For the past several years, the Pirates have had a run of wins and spectacular play, especially in the first part of the season.  And then every year, they've collapsed just as spectacularly.  That it might not happen this year is suggested by the ways they've been winning--which is every way.  They're winning with early offense, and with come from behind.  They're winning with starting pitching, and especially relief pitching.  If their winning ways continue, analysts may point to Tuesday night's game as the tip-off.  They won 1-0 in the 11th inning over the Detroit Tigers, a formidable team (managed by the guy who managed the last great Pirates teams, Jim Leyland.) That kind of win suggests a solid team. Then Wednesday they beat the Tigers again, surprising them with a flurry of late offense, 5-3. Update: Then they did it again--once again in the same series, the Pirates beat the Tigers 1-0 in the 11th inning. The Pirates could finally be for real this year.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Weekday Update

From: Doonesbury.   Click comic to enlarge to readable size.

Meanwhile, Andy Borowitz reports on the meeting between Senator McCain and Syrian rebels: Syrian Rebels Urge McCain to Get Over Losing to Obama: 

 SYRIA (The Borowitz Report)—During a meeting yesterday with Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), Syrian rebels told the senator that he still seemed “really bitter” about losing the 2008 election to President Obama and advised him to “get over it.”