I am just not buying the happy theory that we have already passed through “The Great Filter” that prevents the rise of spacefaring civilizations. It completely overlooks the possibility that advanced technological civilizations become so enormous and voracious that they are very much at risk of depleting their resources and bringing about the ecological collapse of their planet long before they develop the capacity for interstellar travel.
That certainly seems to be the path that we’re on, unless we come up with a technological fix or finally develop the will to rely on less destructive forms of energy, neither of which seems to be happening anytime soon.
3 commentsSeptember 3rd, 2014 at 07:23amPosted by Eli
The Stop the War on Coal Act, H.R. 3409, was approved in a 233-175 vote, although as usual, the bill many Democrats described as anti-environmental still found some Democratic support — 19 Democrats voted for it.
The legislation is a combination of five bills that would overturn or prevent an array of regulations that Republicans say would harm the coal industry and the economy. Among other things, it would block the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other sources, and prevent rules on the storage and disposal of coal ash and limit Clean Water Act rules.
It would also prevent potential Interior Department rules to toughen environmental controls on mountaintop removal coal mining, and thwart other air emissions rules, including air toxics standards for coal-fired power plants.
So apparently imprisoning black and brown people in the name of the wars on drugs and terror is a-okay, but a war on rising oceans and poisoned air is cruel and unjust.
Amazing that after Macondo and Fukushima and Big Branch, not to mention multiple food and drug crises and a financial meltdown, Republicans can still get away with pretending that regulations are nothing more than profit- job-killing red tape that serves no useful function other than to punish corporations just for being corporations.
Scarecrow uses the failure of Japan’s nuclear regulatory regime to remind us of the critically important point that political corruption isn’t just about greedy corporations cutting shady deals to skim a little extra off of the public trough – when safety corners are cut because captive revolving-door regulators look the other way, people DIE. And sometimes it’s a lot of people.
But money almost always trumps morality and civic responsibility, and even simple humanity, thus making disasters and tragedies not just unavoidable, but inevitable.
2 commentsMarch 22nd, 2011 at 05:03pmPosted by Eli
The lead investigator for the presidential panel delving into the BP oil spill said on Monday that he had found no evidence that anyone involved in drilling the doomed well had taken safety shortcuts to save money.
Fred H. Bartlit Jr., a prominent trial lawyer hired to lead the panel’s inquiry, disputed the findings of other investigators, including plaintiffs’ lawyers and members of Congress, who have charged that BP and its main partners, Transocean and Halliburton, had cut corners to speed completion of the well, which cost $1.5 million a day to drill.
“To date we have not seen a single instance where a human being made a conscious decision to favor dollars over safety,” Mr. Bartlit said on Monday as he opened a detailed presentation on the causes of the April 20 disaster on a drilling rig off the Louisiana coast, which killed 11 workers and led to the biggest offshore oil spill in American history. “They want to be efficient, they don’t want to waste money, but they also don’t want to get their buddies killed.”
The only charitable conclusion I can draw is that when Bartlit says stuff like “we have not seen a single instance where a human being made a conscious decision to favor dollars over safety,” he means that favoring dollars over safety is institutional corporate policy. That I could buy.
Someone tell me again how the teabaggers are some kind of spontaneous populist uprising that reflects America?
Here’s one reacting to Baron Hill (not exactly a raging liberal as Democrats go) saying that man-made climate change is an indisputable scientific fact:
A rain of boos showered Mr. Hill, including a hearty growl from Norman Dennison, a 50-year-old electrician and founder of the Corydon Tea Party.
“It’s a flat-out lie,” Mr. Dennison said in an interview after the debate, adding that he had based his view on the preaching of Rush Limbaugh and the teaching of Scripture. “I read my Bible,” Mr. Dennison said. “He made this earth for us to utilize.”
Ah yes, Rush Limbaugh the noted climate expert. And other than the great flood, the Bible doesn’t really address climatology a whole lot.
This one is my personal favorite, though:
“This so-called climate science is just ridiculous,” said Kelly Khuri, founder of the Clark County Tea Party Patriots. “I think it’s all cyclical.”
“Carbon regulation, cap and trade, it’s all just a money-control avenue,” Ms. Khuri added. “Some people say I’m extreme, but they said the John Birch Society was extreme, too.”
Umm… yeah. But hey, if you really want to use that as your defense, I am willing to stipulate that the Tea Party movement is no more extreme than the John Birch Society.
But it’s not just me. Let’s go to the polls:
Those who support the Tea Party movement are considerably more dubious about the existence and effects of global warming than the American public at large, according to a New York Times/CBS News Poll conducted this month. The survey found that only 14 percent of Tea Party supporters said that global warming is an environmental problem that is having an effect now, while 49 percent of the rest of the public believes that it is. More than half of Tea Party supporters said that global warming would have no serious effect at any time in the future, while only 15 percent of other Americans share that view, the poll found.
And 8 percent of Tea Party adherents volunteered that they did not believe global warming exists at all, while only 1 percent of other respondents agreed.
Oh yeah, they sure are mainstream all right. As the NYT story points out, they believe what the energy companies that fund their movement want them to believe. On the plus side, at least they’ve read up on what to do when the entire planet is underwater.
BP is warning Congress that if lawmakers pass legislation that bars the company from getting new offshore drilling permits, it may not have the money to pay for all the damages caused by its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The company says a ban would also imperil the ambitious Gulf Coast restoration efforts that officials want the company to voluntarily support.
July’s decision halted development on billions of dollars in leases in the Arctic waters of the Chukchi Sea. Beistline found that the federal government didn’t follow environmental law before selling drilling rights. Among other things, he found the government had failed to analyze the environmental impact of natural gas development, “despite industry interest and specific lease incentives for such development,” according to court records.
The Obama administration is among those seeking clarification from Beistline, a rare recent case of the administration siding with the oil industry. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar asked the court to narrow the ruling so that another company, Statoil, which owns 16 Chukchi leases, could start seismic testing roughly 100 miles from the coast. Government attorneys told the judge that Statoil, a global oil company partly owned by the Norwegian government, would likely face “significant economic losses” if it couldn’t proceed with seismic surveying.
Statoil said Tuesday it might cancel the seismic tests it hoped to do in the Chukchi this summer because it remains unclear whether the company will be allowed to do the work.
Environmental groups said they were stunned by the administration move, which they said undercuts the administration’s recent decisions to put the brakes on Arctic exploration in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
And, they said, marine mammals such as whales and walruses can be harmed by the testing. The impact of such tests on marine life was one of the issues the court said the federal government failed to consider adequately before issuing the Arctic drilling leases.
Awesome. So nice to see the Interior’s deep concern for protecting the environment from the offshore oil industry.
Until now, President Obama and his advisers have been adamant that Congress should extend the expiring 2001 and 2003 tax cuts only for individuals making less than $200,000 and married couples making less than $250,000, leaving tax rates on upper-income earners to increase as scheduled on Jan. 1, 2011.
But when asked repeatedly on ABC’s “Good Morning America” whether he would recommend that Obama veto an extension of the upper-income tax cuts, Geithner refused to commit.
“If you extend particularly these tax cuts that only go to 2 percent of the highest-earning Americans, then there’d be a much higher probability they’ll be extended indefinitely,” Geithner said. That would dramatically drive up the deficit and be “a deeply fiscally irresponsible act,” he added.
But asked again whether he would commit to a veto threat against any legislation extending all of the Bush-era tax cuts for now, Geithner responded “no.”
This sounds an awful lot like the healthcare reform fiasco, where Obama repeatedly claimed to support the public option, but refused to commit to vetoing any bill without it. And after the way that turned out, it’s hard not to interpret a refusal to veto as a signal of tacit support.
No, really. Because he has cheerfully embraced Michael Grunwald’s happy propaganda story about how the oil is all dissolving and everything’s going to be fine and the environmental impact isn’t really a big deal at all (um, right). He also appears to embrace Grunwald’s assumption that any dead animal carcasses that are not obviously covered with oil must therefore have died of natural causes. Either that or he’s incredibly dishonest, but surely that can’t be true, right?
Some birds were oiled and died, always a sad sight. But according to Time magazine, the number of birds killed is — so far — less than 1 percent of the avian casualties of the Exxon Valdez. And to date, only three oiled mammal carcasses have been recovered. Three.
Wow, three sure is a small number, isn’t it? Maybe there isn’t anything to worry about after all!
But if you look at the actual report (PDF) from the Deepwater Horizon Response site (which probably has best-case numbers, and of course doesn’t count dead animals that weren’t recovered), you see that while there were only three oiled mammal carcasses, there were 64 overall. Still not a huge number, but bigger than Jonah’s carefully-parsed figure by a factor of 21. And mammals are the smallest of the categories encompassed by the report. There are 504 dead sea turtles, and 3455 dead birds (but that’s nowhere near the number of birds killed by the Exxon Valdez spill, so that’s okay). But no count of the number of dead fish, or shrimp, or oysters, much less damage to coral reefs and other deep-sea habitats, or even the number of Gulf residents and cleanup workers sickened by dispersants or oil fumes or tainted seafood.
But hey, we only found three dead mammals with oil on them, so that proves that this is just those crazy tree-hugging liberals getting hysterical again and trying to take away everyone’s jobs! I’m surprised Jonah didn’t cite the lack of seal, otter and walrus casualties as proof that BP’s environmental response plan is working perfectly.
Tony Hayward attempts to spread blame across the drilling industry like his failed rig has spread oil across the Gulf of Mexico:
BP maintains that it alone does not deserve all the blame for the April 20 accident and its aftermath, and it intends to pursue legal action to have drilling partners share in the cost of containment and cleanup. Those partners include Transocean, which operated the rig; Cameron, which built the blowout preventer that failed to shut down the well; and Halliburton, which cemented the oil drill into place underwater.
“It is clear the accident was the result of multiple equipment errors and human error involving many companies,” Hayward said in the webcast.
Hayward also defended his record on safety. “Safety, people and performance have been my watchwords,” he said. “We’ve made significant progress.”
Wow. Way to man up and accept responsibility, Tony. Even if we grant the rather shaky premise that Transocean, Cameron and Halliburton did shoddy work, it was BP calling the shots, and BP that made all of the fatally bad safety-last decisions that led inevitably to disaster.
It was BP that chose a wellbore design without seals or a liner – and then chose to skip the acoustic test which would have detected any flaws in Halliburton’s cement job. It was BP that falsely claimed that BOP failures were “inconceivable” and declined to install a backup unit. It was BP that cut corners on testing the BOP and ignored the presence of rubber sealant in the drilling fluid. And it was BP that ignored all the warning signs of dangerous pressure and replaced the drilling mud with seawater.
In short, even if there were quality issues with Transocean, Cameron and Halliburton, BP deliberately turned a blind eye to potential problems in order to get the Deepwater Horizon pumping as quickly as possible, and now eleven people are dead and the entire Gulf ecosystem may be dying. Heckuva job, Tony.
BP’s CEO, Tony (I want my life back!) Hayward is testifying today before a House Committee, and he just received a heartfelt apology from one of his most loyal subjects. Joe Barton (R. Texas) just apologized to BP.
The Republican Party’s quintessential oil Congressman, Barton told Hayward how shameful it was that the Obama Administration would “shake down” BP by demanding that it give up dividends to shareholders and instead set aside a small fraction of their net revenues to the greedy Gulf folks who’ve been only slightly inconvenienced by losing their jobs, their livelihoods, and their environment. Never mind that BP agreed to this on its own, because it knows or fears it’s legal liability may eventually become worse.
Seriously, what the hell is wrong with these people???
If BP is the responsible party under the law, they’re to pay for everything.I do worry that this idea of making them make a huge escrow fund is going to make it less likely that they’ll pay for everything. They need their capital to drill wells. They need their capital to produce income. … But this escrow bothers me that it’s going to make them less able to pay us what they owe us. And that concerns me. … [I]t bothers me to talk about causing an escrow to be made, which will — which makes it less likely that they’ll make the income that they need to pay us.
Obama needs to be tougher about holding BP accountable… without harming them in any way.
PAUL: I think whoever owns the property can do with the property as they wish, and if the coal company buys it from a private property owner and they want to do it, fine. The other thing I think is that I think coal gets a bad name, because I think a lot of the land apparently is quite desirable once it’s been flattened out. As I came over here from Harlan, you’ve got quite a few hills. I don’t think anybody’s going to be missing a hill or two here and there.
Sure, who needs stupid hills, right? They’re always getting in the way of stuff and they’re hard to build on.
For an encore, maybe Paul can go down to the Gulf and tell them that he doesn’t think anybody’s going to be missing a few miles of shoreline here and there either.
Stopping offshore drilling is not a realistic option, the senator said.
“Now we are not going to stop drilling in the Gulf tomorrow, folks. Let’s be realistic. There are 48,000 wells out there. One of them went sour. About 30 percent of our transportation fuel comes from the Gulf. You think Americans are going to suddenly stop driving to work tomorrow? Do you think people are going to stop driving the trucks to deliver the goods to the department stores? Not going to happen,” said the Massachusetts Democrat.
This goes beyond the strictly political argument I’ve heard from staffers, which says that drilling is part of Senator Kerry’s energy legislation only because it may help pick up Republican support. It remains to be seen whether that political calculation will pay dividends or end up costing the bill more support than it gains.
The bit about halting drilling ‘tomorrow’ is a straw-man designed to make opponents of offshore drilling seem extreme. While some groups are calling for a pause on new permits, and others may be advocating taking steps to shut down currently operating offshore rigs, I haven’t seen anyone argue that we should stop drilling ‘tomorrow.’
Thanks, Big John. Way to be a fierce advocate for the environment and brand the Democrats as the let’s-not-destroy-any-more-ecosystems party.
MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell: Some of the scientific estimates, Mr Dudley, have been vastly hugher. The Perdue scientist Steve Wereley said that as much as 100,000 barrels a day – 4.2 million gallons of oil every day were leaking. Could it be that bad?
BP’s Dudley: Andrea, it’s not anything like that, and I find those statements alarming. I think they’re alarming to the people on the Gulf Coast. I think it actually damages the Gulf Coast. There are people now saying, “I don’t want to near Florida, Alabama, Mississippi.” Those beaches are clean, the fishing is good. I think it’s actually hurting the local economy with that sort of alarmist statements. No. I think it’s highly unlikely oil will actually reach the beaches of Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi.
It’s a well-known fact that the leading cause of fish kills is actually alarmist scientists. Sea life is very sensitive to bad vibes, you see.
A proposal to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean as early as this summer received initial permits from the Minerals Management Service office in Alaska at the same time federal auditors were questioning the office about its environmental review process.
The approvals also came after many of the agency’s most experienced scientists had left, frustrated that their concerns over environmental threats from drilling had been ignored.
Minerals Management has faced intense scrutiny in the weeks since the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. An article in The New York Times reported that it failed to get some environmental permits to approve drilling in the gulf and ignored objections from scientists to keep those projects on schedule.
Similar concerns are being raised about the agency’s handling of a plan by Shell Oil to begin exploratory drilling in the Arctic’s Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.
The Shell plan has stirred controversy for many years among environmentalists and advocates of the endangered bowhead whale, which is legally hunted in the area for subsistence by Alaska Natives.
Opponents have argued that an oil spill would be virtually impossible to contain, given the region’s remoteness, its severe weather and ice and limited onshore support.
But it also raised questions about future leasing plans in the Beaufort and Chukchi at the time the agency was deciding whether to allow Shell to go forward on leases it had purchased. The Shell project received critical initial permits from Minerals Management last fall, though it still needs several final approvals.
The G.A.O. found that the Alaska branch deliberately avoided establishing consistent guidelines for determining whether future leases would cause significant environmental impacts in the Arctic — a finding that could require further examination and delay or prevent drilling.
In case you need more proof of just how completely unhinged and, well, kind of evil Republicans are…
We have some new national polling coming out tomorrow on offshore drilling. The most astounding number from the poll? 28% of Republicans said the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico made them more likely to support drilling off the coast to an equal 28% who said it made them less likely to be supportive. 44% said it made no difference to them and that’s understandable, but why would an oil spill make you more supportive of drilling?
The only two explanations I can think of are:
1) “Fuck you, liberals! Anything that drives them this crazy must be a good thing.”
2) “Now that I’ve seen the offshore drilling worst-case scenario… it’s not so bad, really. Losing an entire coastline every once in a while seems like an acceptable risk to me.”
Scarecrow has a great post about just how badly Obama and the Democrats have sold us out on healthcare, and how pathetic our supposed “reform” is when compared to the rest of the developed world, and Drew Westen decries Obama’s abject lack of leadership. I think the root cause is the same: Our government has become so completely captive to corporate donors that it is literally almost impossible to pass any bill that might harm corporate interests in any way.
As the increasingly discouraging healthcare “reform” process plays out, the endgame makes the most sense when you remember that the Prime Directive for Obama and most of Congress is this:
First, do no harm… to the insurance companies.
This is why single-payor is off the table (and how many of today’s public option advocates wouldn’t prefer single-payor if they thought it was attainable?) – it would kill the insurance industry outright (aside from the much smaller business of providing gap coverage), whereas a correctly managed (i.e., small or unsuccessful) public option would only wound them.
The fundamental problem is that the starting point has never been “How do we improve healthcare for our constituents?”, but rather, “How do we make sure this doesn’t hurt the insurance industry?”
People complain that we are buying — importing from the Middle East — oil and gas. And then they find out that we have it all right here. We don’t have to do that. If their argument there is “Well, we don’t want to use oil and gas because we think it pollutes” — which it doesn’t — but if that’s their argument, then why are we willing to import it from Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East?
No, not the Bush Doctrine about how invading countries for no good reason is Teh Awesome, I’m talking about the one that’s like the Peter Principle on steroids, where incompetence and criminality are rewarded with money and advancement instead of scorn, unemployment, or jail time. Chris Bowers spells it out:
The past year has revealed a comprehensive philosophy of government championed by conservatives and moderates when they oppose major progressive economic reforms. I call it “crime and reward.” The philosophy is summed up as follows:
The flaw in progressive legislative proposals is that they don’t give enough money to the corporations that caused the problem(s) which overall legislative effort is supposedly trying to solve.
It applies in all major cases. Check it out:
1. The way to lower health care costs is to give companies that have increased health care costs even more money….
2. The way to fix climate change is to give the companies that are the main cause of climate change even more money….
3. The way to fix the financial crisis is to give the financial institutions that caused the financial crisis even more money….
On the three major areas of public policy that were addressed by the federal government over the last twelve months–health care, climate change, financial crisis–the “moderate” solution has consistently been to give hundreds of billions of dollars to the corporations that caused climate change, the financial crisis, and skyrocketing health care costs. It is a crime and reward ideology. When powerful private sector companies cause major national and global problems, the “moderate” solution is to give those who caused the problem hundreds of billions of dollars.
Crime and reward. Through a conservative-moderate alliance, it is the system of government under which we live, even in the era of the Democratic trifecta.
On the other hand, maybe it only looks like a “reward.” Maybe it would be more accurate to say that this is just another demonstration of the criminals’ continuing ability to call the shots, just as they have for the previous eight years, and probably much longer.
Regardless of the cause, it’s a compelling illustration of just how broken and corrupt our political system has become when placing the public good over the corporate good becomes impossible, if not unthinkable.
I sure hope so, ‘cuz it sounds way cool. Basically, it’s an electric car plan where you buy everything but the battery, and there’s an infrastructure with not just charging stations, but switching stations, where you can get a low battery swapped out quickly and completely rather than waiting for it to charge up.
I’m rooting for ’em, but I have no idea if it’s really feasible, especially on a national scale. That’s a lot of charging and switching stations to build, and they don’t even have a car yet.
The stimulus package about to be passed by Congress is one of the biggest spending bills in US history, and environmentalists are crowing that they got a decent share. Roughly $60 billion of the $789 billion package will be devoted to spending on clean energy, environmental projects, and scientific research. “Overall, this will be by far the biggest investment in new green technologies that we’ve ever seen from the federal government,” says Gene Karpinski, head of the League of Conservation Voters. “And that’s good for our economy and for our environment.”
Details of the conference package released on Thursday show that spending on green causes did not decrease significantly in the process of creating a compromise bill. “I thought we fared pretty well,” says Marchant Wentworth, a legislative representative for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Is it true that these are monster funding increases for everything green that we believe in? Yes it is.”
“This is unbelievable,” says Josh Dorner, a spokesman for Sierra Club. “This is an unprecedented investment in building a clean energy economy. The Clinton Global Initiative, about a year or so ago, their big challenge was to get spending on energy efficiency to reach $1.5 billion, total, in all of America. And this bill, just on federal buildings, has $4.5 billion. It’s just kind of sinking in that this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity, and Congress and President Obama really stepped up to the plate.”
Is it wise to be that obviously happy? Shouldn’t they at least act disappointed so they can push for more funding later? Greenpeace demonstrates how it’s done:
“We’re not impressed overall,” says Kert Davies, the research director for Greenpeace. “It seems in the prioritization of things, environmental matters got the short end of the stick.”
But Davies acknowledges that the stimulus is a way to “start the green economy and create green jobs.” He also sees the comprehensive climate change bill that Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, has promised to push through his committee by the end of May as another opportunity to get the country on the right track environmentally. “I don’t think it’s the last bite at the apple.”
That’s more like it. Still, it’s hard to blame the greens for being a little giddy over a win, considering they basically just lived through eight years of continuous wedgies.
Apparently, making coal “clean” uses so much energy that you end up needing 25% more coal to compensate:
In fact, because carbon capture requires a roughly 25-percent increase in energy from the coal plant, about 25 percent more coal is needed, increasing mountaintop removal and increasing non-carbon air pollution from power plants, he said.
My question is, would that be considered a bug or a feature for the coal-producing states that the clean-coal gospel panders to? I mean, not only does clean coal make coal magically okay, but it means coal consumers would have to buy 25% more of it. It’s a win-win!
(Why yes, I am assuming that environmental impacts are not a consideration – why do you ask?)
“The governor did have a tanning bed put in the Governor’s Mansion,” Roger Wetherell, chief communications officer of Alaska’s Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, confirmed to this newspaper. “It was done shortly after she took office [in early 2007] and moved into the mansion.”
The home tanning bed in the Governor’s Mansion in Juneau adds a trivial fact among the many, big and small, coming to light about the right-wing’s latest celebrity, McCain’s gamble to try and wrestle the election away from Democrat Barack Obama, but one that – tug the thread – leads to other questions about elitism, ethics, public health and the insufferable phoniness that plagues politics and politicians.
The good news is: According to McCain campaignlogic, this makes Sarah Palin the country’s foremost expert on solar power.