February 22, 2012

The Coming Storm

Living on sunshine, current and ancient:

Now, in the last hours of the cheap oil economy, the forty year miracle of the Sunbelt boom dwindles and a fear of approaching darkness grips the people there like a rumor of Satan. The long boom that took them from an agricultural backwater of barefoot peasantry to a miracle world of Sonic Drive-ins, perpetual air-conditioning, WalMarts, and creation museums is turning back in the other direction and they fear losing all that comfort, convenience, and spectacle. Since they don’t understand where it came from, they conclude that it was all a God-given endowment conferred upon them for their exceptional specialness as Americans, and so only the forces of evil could conspire to take it all away.

February 19, 2012

Dragging the NYT Into the 21st Century

Art Brisbanes’s public editor column this week is LOL funny. I mean, who’s heard the word “portal” in the same sentence as “web” or “internet” or “newspaper” or “journalism” since about 2002? The concept has changed, become more sophisticated, to be sure, but it still represents a basic assumption of interactivity, i.e. feeding the medium what it demands.

I’m not criticizing Brisbane (I’ll do that in another post later). Instead, I’m fascinated that he’s pointing out this failure to use the medium well at this late date. It cannot be that the collective mind of The New York Times does not understand the interactive, socially-driven, (multi)medium of the internet. It must be that the collective mind of the Times does not care — it (the mind) being The (by God) New York Times.

Brisbane’s advice — be a transparent, interactive portal — was sound in 2002. Today, it reads like the proverbial yellow clipping found stuffed in an old wall — a curious, archaeological find.

There are many things the Times does very well on its web site. And I’m impressed that, so far, its pay model seems to be working. But its web product still holds readers at arm’s length. It is still a lecture rather than a conversation.

February 19, 2012

Our National Debate On Energy

Well, our debate really has nothing to do with energy:

A counterattack being planned by the Obama re-election team in Chicago is expected to point out, among other things, Mitt Romney’s actions to raise gas taxes when he was governor of Massachusetts. And Mr. Obama’s Democratic allies on Capitol Hill are eager to renew a nationwide discussion about tax subsidies to oil companies.

“House Republicans are very good at using every argument they can to shield oil companies from paying their fair share,” said Representative Steve Israel of New York, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “They have been relentless and fearless protectors of oil company profits.”

Republicans on Capitol Hill say they are eager to criticize the president as gas prices rise, in part with a flurry of legislation aimed at increasing domestic production.

They also plan to use Mr. Obama’s decision to block the immediate construction ofKeystone XL, a 1,700-mile pipeline that would stretch from Canada to the Gulf Coast. A Republican bill was passed by the House on Thursday to expand offshore drilling and force a permit to be approved for the pipeline.

In an interview, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House whip, mocked Mr. Obama’s claim to want an “all of the above” energy policy.

“He says it in his State of the Union, and then a week later he kills Keystone,” Mr. McCarthy said. “I think energy is going to be one of the major issues in this election, and it’s going to peak in two months.”

February 17, 2012

Ideology 1, Science 0

Knowledge is what we want it to be for ideological reasons:

The most sensational parts of the documents — and much of what has been confirmed independently — had to do with global warming and efforts to spread doubt into what mainstream scientists are saying. Experts long have thought Heartland and other groups were working to muddy the waters about global warming, said Harry Lambright, a Syracuse University public policy professor who specializes in environment, science and technology issues.

“Scientifically there is no controversy. Politically, there is a controversy because there are political interest groups making it a controversy,” Lambright said. “It’s not about science. It’s about politics. To some extent they are winning the battle.”

A 2010 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences surveyed more than 1,300 most cited and published climate scientists and found that 97 percent of them said climate change was a human-made problem. Yet, public opinion polls show far more doubt in the American public.

February 3, 2012

Then Something Miraculous Happens

Even if we have 100 years of natural gas … then what?

Mr. Obama keeps telling nationwide audiences that “we have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years.” That is just not true. If he believes it then he is either 1) getting treasonously bad advice from dishonest advisors or 2) not reading reports issued by his own agencies or 3) just making shit up. This was the same week, by the way, when the US Department of Energy dropped its estimate for the Marcellus shale gas play by 66 percent, while the estimate for all US shale basins went down 42 percent. The shale gas industry is another Ponzi bubble that is about to founder on a scarcity of investment capital. Just watch.