Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Obama Calls For Action On Global Warming: Is He Crazy?

Here it is a mere two weeks after the Election and Obama is already talking nonsense about carbon dioxide emissions and global warming. He is proposing what is essentially an increase in taxes (we all know any increased cost of producing energy, i.e. carbon credits, or cap and trade) will be passed on to the consumer. This will not just harm those producing electricity from the burning of coal, it will cost everyone, substantially. He is then proposing to take that money, tax-payer's money, and use it to fund the development of "alternative" forms of energy.

It is clear that Obama has fallen for the myth of man-caused global warming, hook, line, and sinker. This does not bode well for the future of Obama's reign in office.

Obama seeks immediate action to curb emissions
David R. Baker, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 19, 2008

(11-18) 17:46 PST LOS ANGELES -- In his first speech on global warming since winning the election, President-elect Barack Obama promised Tuesday to set stringent limits on greenhouse gases, saying the need is too urgent for delay.
Many observers had expected Obama to avoid tackling such a complex, contentious issue early in his administration. But in videotaped comments to the Governors' Global Climate Summit in Beverly Hills on Tuesday, he called for immediate action.

"Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all," Obama said. "Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response. The stakes are too high, the consequences too serious."

He repeated his campaign promise to create a system that limits carbon dioxide emissions and forces companies to pay for the right to emit the gas. Using the money collected from that system, Obama plans to invest $15 billion each year in alternative energy. That investment - in solar, wind and nuclear power, as well as advanced coal technology - will create jobs at a time of economic turmoil, he said.

"It will ... help us transform our industries and steer our country out of this economic crisis by generating 5 million new green jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced," Obama said.
Many people listening to Obama's speech Tuesday had waited years to hear it.
Schwarzenegger 'very happy'

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger convened the Global Climate Summit along with the governors of Florida, Illinois, Kansas and Wisconsin - states that have been developing their own global warming policies rather than waiting for federal action. Schwarzenegger clashed repeatedly with the Bush administration on climate policy and complained that the White House was dragging its feet on a looming crisis. He told the conference Tuesday that he welcomed a new approach from Washington and will work with Obama.

"Of course I am very, very happy," Schwarzenegger said. "This is so important for our country, because we have been the biggest polluters in the world, and it is about time that we as a country recognize that and that we work together with other nations in order to fight global warming."

Obama touted the idea of companies paying to emit greenhouse gases, a system known as "cap and trade," during the campaign. But many people had doubted he would make it an early priority as president.

Under such a system, the government would set an overall limit on greenhouse gas emissions and let companies buy and sell the right to emit specific amounts. The limit would decline over time.

Such systems are complicated to create. They're also controversial. Critics say they amount to a tax on energy use that would hurt businesses and consumers at a time when the economy is floundering.

But one business group threw its support behind Obama on Tuesday.
The U.S. Climate Action Partnership, which includes San Francisco's Pacific Gas and Electric Co. as well as several environmental organizations, started calling for government action on global warming two years ago. The group wants a cap and trade system as soon as possible, even though many of its members - such as oil giants BP and ConocoPhillips - emit large amounts of greenhouse gases.

"We stand united behind President-elect Obama's statement earlier today," said James Rogers, chief executive officer of Duke Energy, one of America's largest electric utilities. "Delaying this further doesn't make sense. And using the economy as an excuse is wrong. ... We can solve our economic and environmental crises simultaneously."

Paying for emitting carbons
A cap and trade system forces companies to pay for emitting greenhouse gases, effectively putting a price on carbon dioxide emissions. As a result, alternative energy technologies should become more cost-competitive with fossil fuels.

"At its core, it's very simple - we need a price on carbon," said David Crane, chief executive officer of NRG Energy, another Climate Action Partnership member. "We own coal-fired power plants. That's what we do for a living. We've been developing low- or no-carbon technologies as we look to the future. ... But again, we need a price on carbon, because it's not cheap."

Obama's four-minute, videotaped speech largely repeated elements of his energy plan from the campaign trail, saying the nation must cut greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050.

He repeatedly linked the fight against global warming to reviving the economy, saying the investment in alternative energy would put Americans to work.

Nuclear power, 'clean coal'
Obama also made a point of backing technologies that many environmentalists despise - nuclear power and "clean coal," which involves trapping and storing underground the emissions from coal-burning power plants.

Obama told participants at the governors' climate conference that he would work with any country, state or business that wanted to fight climate change. Brazil, Canada, China, Chile, Mexico, India, Indonesia and the United Kingdom all sent representatives to the two-day conference.

"I promise you this: When I am president, any governor who's willing to promote clean energy will have a partner in the White House," he said. "Any company that's willing to invest in clean energy will have an ally in Washington. And any nation that is willing to join the cause of combatting climate change will have an ally in the United States of America."

E-mail David R. Baker at

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gas Hydrates: A Major New Source Of Natural Gas?

Is this Al Gore's worst nightmare? A huge new source of carbon dioxide - producing energy? This could make Sarah Palin look like Joan of Arc with her pipeline to transport natural gas from Alaska's North Slope to the lower 48 United States. I can already hear the howling and whining from environmentalists. Maybe if we really want to pull America out of this economic depression we should put tens of thousands of people to work producing this gas and building this pipeline immediately. Mr. Obama, are you listening?


Study Points to Major Source of Natural Gas in Alaska
By Juliet Eilperin Washington Post Staff Writer Wednesday, November 12, 2008; A06

Federal scientists have concluded that Alaska's North Slope holds one of the nation's largest deposits of recoverable natural gas in the form of gas hydrates, a finding that could open a major new front in domestic energy exploration.

Researchers have speculated for years that gas hydrates -- a combination of gas and water locked in an icelike solid that forms under high pressure and low temperatures -- could provide an important source of natural gas in the United States and worldwide.

Today the U.S. Geological Survey will release a study estimating that 85.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas can be extracted from Alaska's gas hydrates, an amount that could heat more than 100 million average homes for more than a decade.
Brenda Pierce, manager of the agency's energy resources program, called the find "groundbreaking" and said, "I don't want people to think our problems are solved, but this has real potential."

Part of the reserve's significance, federal officials said, is that gas companies will be able to tap into it with existing technology. A coalition of American and international experts conducted three tests on gas hydrates over the past five years in the United States and Canada and demonstrated that the gas can be extracted by reducing the pressure that binds them together. Gas hydrates have also been found in the Wyoming basin, Texas's western Gulf basin, and the San Juan basin in New Mexico and Colorado, as well as in several offshore areas.
"The assessment points to a truly significant potential for natural gas hydrates to contribute to the energy mix of the United States and the world," Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said in a statement. "This study also brings us closer to realizing the potential of this clean-burning natural gas resource."

The prospect of extracting methane from gas hydrates, some of which lie below the permafrost of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, worries some environmentalists.
Athan Manuel, who directs the lands program for the Sierra Club advocacy group, said that the refuge should remain "inviolate" and that tapping into gas hydrates can harm less-pristine areas as well.

"The process is still pretty damaging to ecosystems," Manuel said, noting that companies must inject water into the reservoirs in the same way they extract methane from coal beds in the West. "Bottom line, this is a very destructive way to extract natural gas."
Pierce said the government will examine the potential environmental effects of tapping gas hydrates as "the next step" in its analysis. "Like every resource, it's going to have impacts," she said.

USGS Director Mark Myers said the process is likely to be less damaging than coal bed methane extraction because water is more plentiful on the North Slope and it will not take nearly as many wells to extract the gas. "The water disposal is not nearly so environmentally challenging," he said.

As conventional sources of domestic natural gas continue to decline, energy companies are eager to exploit what Myers called "innovative supplies." In August, ConocoPhillips received $11.6 million in funding from the Energy Department to test its gas hydrate production technology on the North Slope, and company spokesman Charlie Rowton said yesterday that "both globally and for the domestic market, methane hydrates represent a potentially huge new source of natural gas."

Even if industry manages to extract natural gas from these reserves -- long-term tests on hydrates will take place between 2009 and 2011 -- it will be years before companies will be able to send this gas to the lower 48 states. Such shipments probably would take place via the natural gas pipeline that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) has championed, which will not be complete for at least a decade.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Michael Crichton Gone

What a shame, what timing. His writing, his insight, his intellect remain. Do a search on this blog and read more. In tribute, a humble hats off.

More on Michael Crichton: Predicted Demise of MSM in 1993
Written by P.J. Gladnick,
Wednesday, 05 November 2008

Michael Crichton passed away yesterday. Many of you might remember Crichton as the author of superb science fiction novels such as "Andromeda Strain" and "Jurassic Park." Fewer people will know Crichton as a prominent global warming skeptic. And very few of you out there might know that Crichton was also a prophet who predicted the demise of the mainstream media way back in 1993.

This seems like a good time to honor the memory of Michael Crichton by taking a retrospective look at his 1993 Wired magazine article titled "Mediasaurus" about the impending demise of the mainstream media (emphasis mine):
I am the author of a novel about dinosaurs, a novel about US-Japanese trade relations, and a forthcoming novel about sexual harassment - what some people have called my dinosaur trilogy. But I want to focus on another dinosaur, one that may be on the road to extinction. I am referring to the American media. And I use the term extinction literally. To my mind, it is likely that what we now understand as the mass media will be gone within ten years. Vanished, without a trace.

There has been evidence of impending extinction for a long time. We all know statistics about the decline in newspaper readers and network television viewers. The polls show increasingly negative public attitudes toward the press - and with good reason. A generation ago, Paddy Chayevsky's Network looked like an outrageous farce. Today, when Geraldo Rivera bares his buttocks, when the New York Times misquotes Barbie (the doll), and NBC fakes news footage of exploding trucks, Network looks like a documentary.

According to recent polls, large segments of the American population think the media is attentive to trivia, and indifferent to what really matters. They also believe that the media does not report the country's problems, but instead is a part of them. Increasingly, people perceive no difference between the narcissistic self-serving reporters asking questions, and the narcissistic self-serving politicians who evade them.

And I am troubled by the media's response to these criticisms. We hear the old professional line: "Sure, we've got some problems, we could do our job better." Or the time-honored: "We've always been disliked because we're the bearer of bad news; it comes with the territory; I'll start to worry when the press is liked." Or after a major disaster like the NBC news/GM truck fiasco, we hear "this is a time for reflection."

These responses suggest to me that the media just doesn't get it - doesn't understand why consumers are unhappy with their wares. It reminds me of the story of the man who decided to kill his wife by having a lot of sex with her. Pretty soon this beaming, robust woman shows up, followed by a wizened little man with a cane. He whispers to a friend, "She doesn't know it yet, but she has only two weeks to live."

It is this perception that the media, and our current concept of news, is outmoded, that I would like to address.
So for a moment, let's set aside the usual bromides about the press. Let's take it as given that the bearer of bad news is often executed; that all human beings have an appetite for gossip and scandal; that media must attract an audience; that bias is in the eye of the reader as much as in the pen or sound-bite of the reporter.

And let's talk instead about quality.
The media are an industry, and their product is information. And along with many other American industries, the American media produce a product of very poor quality. Its information is not reliable, it has too much chrome and glitz, its doors rattle, it breaks down almost immediately, and it's sold without warranty. It's flashy but it's basically junk. So people have begun to stop buying it.

Poor product quality results, in part, from the American educational system, which graduates workers too poorly educated to generate high- quality information. In part, it is a problem of nearsighted management that encourages profits at the expense of quality. In part, it is a failure to respond to changing technology - particularly the computer-mediated technology known collectively as the Net. And in large part, it is a failure to recognize the changing needs of the audience.

In recent decades, many American companies have undergone a wrenching, painful restructuring to produce high-quality products. We all know what this requires: Flattening the corporate hierarchy. Moving critical information from the bottom up instead of the top down. Empowering workers. Changing the system, not just the focus of the corporation. And relentlessly driving toward a quality product. Because improved quality demands a change in the corporate culture. A radical change.

Generally speaking, the American media have remained aloof from this process. There have been some positive innovations, like CNN and C-SPAN. But the news on television and in newspapers is generally perceived as less accurate, less objective, less informed than it was a decade ago. Because instead of focusing on quality, the media have tried to be lively or engaging - selling the sizzle, not the steak; the talk-show host, not the guest; the format, not the subject. And in doing so they have abandoned their audience.

Keep in mind that Crichton wrote this article in 1993 before many of us even heard of something called "the Net." And with newspapers now in freefall as more and more people are getting their news information from the Net, Crichton's predictions about the "Mediasaurus" now look incredibly prophetic.
Michael Crichton, R.I.P.