Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 17, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

SCIENCE BLOGGING!....I feel like I should write something about Netroots Nation, but the truth is that I've only been to a single session so far, a (surprisingly) well attended caucus of science bloggers. There was nothing especially bloggable about the session, but I will say that I was a little surprised about how besieged people felt. "We're totally unorganized while conservatives are an unstoppable juggernaut." "They play offense while we play defense." "We'll be playing catchup for the next two decades." Etc.

Now, I guess interest groups always feel this way. But the funny thing is that if there's any area where this really isn't true, it's in the confluence of environmental and climate change policy (the main topic of conversation at the session). In these areas, liberals have an enormous, widespread, and well-financed set of both grass roots organizations (think Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, Al Gore, etc.) and public interest law groups that have been around for decades. Want to build a refinery, LNG port or nuclear power plant somewhere in the United States? Good luck. You'll be in court for the rest of your life. Coal-fired power plants aren't quite at the same stage yet, but they're getting there.

Or there's this: "The genius of the Republicans is that for every energy problem, the answer is always drilling in ANWR," said one attendee admiringly. "Maybe we should adopt some of their methods." Maybe, but after 40 years, we're still not drilling in ANWR. Likewise, conservatives may loathe the Endangered Species Act, but it's still around — and after 40 years of nibbling at it, even right-wing judges have barely made a dent in it. Long story short, maybe those devastating conservative methods aren't as devastating as we scare ourselves into thinking.

Now, obviously conservatives have had some successes, though for the most part they've come in the area of stealth legislation, not head-on battles on big ticket environmental issues (because they know they can't win those battles). What's more, the reason they haven't caused more havoc is because liberal interest groups have fought back hard. Complacency would be disastrous.

Still, it's taken Herculean obstructionism from the conservative machine over the past seven years just to hold on by their fingertips, a state of affairs that can't last forever. As they know all too well, when it comes to the environment, the science community is on our side, Hollywood is on our side, and the public is on our side (increasingly so, in fact). Conservatives will continue fighting a furious rearguard action, but just because they haven't surrendered abjectly doesn't mean they're gaining any serious ground. On this issue at least, it's liberals who are quite clearly on offense and conservatives who are on defense. Just ask any conservative.

I know it's natural for any interest group to feel like their opponents are an unstoppable monolith, but in this case it's really not true. It's just that winning big issues takes a long time. Liberals are pretty clearly on the winning side of this particular battle, and we ought to give ourselves a little more credit for keeping ourselves there.

Kevin Drum 11:13 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (44)

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The problem is that our perception of the magnitude of the challenge(s) we face is expanding at a greater rate than our perception of the magnitude of our successes.

And the same may be true in reality, i.e. our problems are getting worse quicker than our ability to beat the bad guys and solve them is growing.

Hence the fact that we could drive the GOP into utter oblivion tomorrow, and still see our globe drown from the melting of the ice caps.

Posted by: lampwick on July 17, 2008 at 11:30 PM | PERMALINK

Don't worry: in case of real environmental catastrophe, the Cornerites and Bruce Bartlett will be able to show that liberals were at fault.

Posted by: DonBoy on July 17, 2008 at 11:36 PM | PERMALINK

Want to build a refinery, LNG port or nuclear power plant somewhere in the United States? Good luck. You'll be in court for the rest of your life. Coal-fired power plants aren't quite at the same stage yet, but they're getting there.

Um...not sure I would be bragging too loudly about this.

Or are you conceding the conservative point that people on the left don't care about our economy as long as the snail darter and the spotted owl are safe and trial lawyers are making a fortune. You know, some of us still want jobs and to heat our homes and stuff...

Posted by: Just a Dude on July 17, 2008 at 11:41 PM | PERMALINK

"The genius of the Republicans is that for every energy problem, the answer is always drilling in ANWR," said one attendee admiringly. "Maybe we should adopt some of their methods."

Sounds like a bad-faith comment meant to f*** with people's minds, to me.

"Genius"? Give me a break.

Call it "stupidity," like we all do every day.

Posted by: Swan on July 17, 2008 at 11:41 PM | PERMALINK

If it's good news they want, go here:

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Posted by: jimvj on July 17, 2008 at 11:48 PM | PERMALINK

Two comments. First, one of the reasons progressives often seem to be playing defense is that we let conservatives frame the debate in a way that makes the liberal position look pessimistic. Liberals always seem to be against something, conservatives are in favor of something. Now it isn't that hard to turn the tables; conservatives are always whining about this and that, and no one likes a whiner.

Second, perhaps the primary reason progressives are winning the environmental debate has to do with education. Conservatives were so busy trying to stamp out sex education and evolution in our schools, they failed to notice environmental education. Anyone educated in America in the last 40 years or so understands concepts like resource depletion, pollution, and dare I say, global warming. And we brought those messages home to our parents as well.

The take home message is that yes, we must continue to fight these battles head on, but more importantly, we must prepare future generations with the honest education that prepares them to be good citizens.

Posted by: Dave Brown on July 17, 2008 at 11:57 PM | PERMALINK

Except, Kevin, that it isn't only about rational or even emotive arguments. The right-wingers who really care about this have more money than God, and they're really persistent.

Outside of that, you and lampwick are right.

Posted by: Altoid on July 18, 2008 at 12:07 AM | PERMALINK

Last year at Yearly Kos I ehard some moron repeat the Bushism "We haven't built a new refinery in 20 years!"

I responded to all in that forum we haven't because we don't need to. It's a mature industry. In the 1990s oil companies in this country shut down 15% of refinery capacity to prop up prices. No oil company needs to plow up greenfields when they have ample acreage in brownfields they already own to build what any add'l facilities they need without more EPA approvals.

Having said that there's whole of the blogosphere that seems terrified of winning. These people are not adults no matter their chronological age and aren't ready to govern.

Posted by: markg8 on July 18, 2008 at 12:12 AM | PERMALINK

Just a Dude wrote; “some of us still want jobs and to heat our homes and stuff...”

In reality Republicans don’t give a damn about jobs. It’s fine to throw people out of work as long as you’re boosting the bottom line. Think of all the plant closures and jobs outsourced that the Republicans think are just fine. It’s only a crime if you eliminate jobs to protect the environment or, for Christ’s sake, to prevent the destruction of civilization as we know it.

In the seventies (God, I’m old) I worked as a volunteer on the Reserve Mining case in Minnesota. This was a taconite plant that was dumping its tailings (laden with what we thought was asbestos, but turned out to be a near asbestos compound) into Lake Superior. The choice was whether Reserve Mining (owned by what were than the major American steel companies) would switch to dumping the tailings at milepost 7 (their choice) or mile post 20 (our choice). They lambasted us for not caring about the ordinary worker or the economy of the north shore of Minnesota. It was effective. They won and got everything they asked for. Within a year they shut the plant down anyway because it wasn’t making enough money. Guess all those jobs weren’t so important after all.

Posted by: fafner1 on July 18, 2008 at 12:35 AM | PERMALINK

"Want to build a refinery, LNG port or nuclear power plant somewhere in the United States? Good luck. You'll be in court for the rest of your life. Coal-fired power plants aren't quite at the same stage yet, but they're getting there."

Fucking awesome! I can't wait till we're at the point where we have no energy at all in this country. WooHoo! High five, everyone!

Posted by: Brad on July 18, 2008 at 12:41 AM | PERMALINK

You forgot one of the biggie interest groups that (mostly) is turning towards being proenvironmental, major Christain groups. We have a green Pope, and a split in evangelicals, into creation care versus otherwise.

The one big negative, is public fear over over energy prices, and future availability of energy. This is potentially pretty significant, and mostly works against us.

Posted by: bigTom on July 18, 2008 at 1:20 AM | PERMALINK

Being on the side of clean water, clean air, and warm fuzzy animals isn't really controversial when the economy is doing well and it isn't perceived as affecting individuals.

It's when fish start competing for water or electricity, or clean air laws force expensive retrofits or gasoline additives, or drilling for oil or strip mining coal is perceived as a way to reduce energy prices, or science spending is perceived as pork, or wetlands laws hem in the growth of cities and raise real estate prices, or roadless areas are seen as raising the cost of wood products.

Most environmental laws are seen by most people as expendable luxuries we may have to sacrifice if times get bad or they start effecting us directly.

Also: Refinery retrofits may be necessary, but new refineries don't really make sense if you believe in peak oil. LNG and nuclear power are supported by many environmentalists.

Posted by: B on July 18, 2008 at 1:28 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, the LNG port opposition issue is a sticky wicket.

A la Peak Oil, as you may (or may not) be aware, the U.S. hit Peak Natural Gas at the start of this decade, and North American hit Peak NG a couple of years ago.

If you want something besides coal and nuclear without MASSIVE and most likely hugely unsuccessful attempts at electric conservation, you're going to have to get more gas from overseas.

It's that simple

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 18, 2008 at 1:36 AM | PERMALINK

Hence the fact that we could drive the GOP into utter oblivion tomorrow, and still see our globe drown from the melting of the ice caps. Posted by: lampwick on July 17, 2008 at 11:30 PM | PERMALINK

It's almost worth it.

Posted by: e henry thripshaw on July 18, 2008 at 1:53 AM | PERMALINK

On another note. Bush took wolves off the endangered list in March and in 118 days 109 wolves have been killed just outside Yellowstone. And now there is to be organized aerial hunts along the borders of the park. Such a sport, eh? There are only about 1400 wolves in the park at best. They are planning on slaughtering whole packs at a time. No mind that there is compensation to any rancher for cattle killed.
Makes me sick, just like the aerial hunts in the 70's in Alaska for big game like elk, moose, bear. The hunters would land, cut the head & horns or paws if a bear and leave the carcass. Disgusting.

Posted by: Scotia48 on July 18, 2008 at 2:01 AM | PERMALINK

Two words: CAFE standards.

Posted by: Ben V-L on July 18, 2008 at 3:05 AM | PERMALINK

Al Gore gives us 10 years to wean ourselves entirely from fossil fuels.

Deep offshore drilling in the Gulf will yield less than a 1% increase in the world's proven reserves of oil and gas (a 40 year supply at best). The same for ANWR. Teh same for the recent find of the cast of Brazil. These marginal increases are a distraction from the real task.

Nuclear is a risky and dangerous technology that cannot be readily shared with other nations. The supply of easy Uranium will not last beyond the century and requires fossil fuels to mine and transport.

Democrats and Republicans can both benefit from a massive program to industrialize solar energy on a grand scale to meet all our energy needs. Many new business and employment opportunities will result.

We can cover less than 0.5% of the continental US to produce twice the electricity we currently use to power transport, manufacturing, communications and clean living. This can be done with existing technology currently in use at Nevada Solar One and other sites.


Posted by: deejaayss on July 18, 2008 at 4:11 AM | PERMALINK

Correction:

Deep offshore drilling in the Gulf will yield less than a 1% increase in the world's proven reserves of oil and gas (a 1/2 year supply at best). The same for ANWR. The same for the recent find off the coast of Brazil. These marginal increases are a distraction from the real task. Our own government's Energy Assessment Office suggests that the proven reserves of oil in known fields worldwide will last around 40 years at current usage.

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Posted by: xxinyaow on July 18, 2008 at 5:11 AM | PERMALINK

True, we greenies can obstruct. But every positive proposition we have on energy requires either taxes or other peoples' capital, on the largest scale. All we have is conservation.

Disclaimer, I'm Australian. We've spent a generation wanting to be you. Dreaming of being you. Pretending to be you. In consequence we wind up as a wart of population with giant mineral resources, which will cost the world more than you want to think about, because the world will have to pay us for the oil imports to mine them. No solutions here, and no sense of superiority, honestly.

The bitter pill is, the Web is no solution either. It has assisted activism somewhat, true, but we can blog till we drop and it won't change much.

But there are a couple of things that won't be wasted, I believe.

This first is to volunteer. For anything helpful, really. Try to help those in your locality who will be critically affected by petrol prices. Organize a car pool, rent a bus for a weekend for a bulk shopping trip. Offer your services at the town hall, or whatever you have. No help is too menial to offer. I'm psyching myself up for it, and I'm a pathological recluse.

The second is to do your homework on the national energy options. There are plenty of business and government sites with real numbers. Learn the math. Start a study group. Obsess on it. Be prepared to give a stump speech, impromptu, at any time. In a few months, and I say this with no disrespect, you will have opinions worth having. Start a diary.

The third is, vote for Obama. And when he gets in, sign up for his Clean Energy Corps, or whatever Corps seems best. Then recruit for it; set up a trestle in the shopping mall or on campus, and promote it.

See, there is one thing for sure about the Obama administration. He may be remembered for many things, but inevitably, Barack Obama will be the first of the Oil Crash Presidents, and he will be remembered first, for good or ill, for how he handled that.

There are two tasks appointed unto him. One is to make the first hack at what I'll call the sustainability-industrial complex. Horrible phrase, I hate it, but I don't have a better. It won't be a pretty sight. It will involve a lot of rich people getting richer, when by all justice they should be doing community service. Much of it will go on behind closed doors, though less with Obama than most, I hope. You won't have much of a say in it - though you may have some if you've done that homework.

His second task is to revive American volunteerism. You know he's red-hot for it. When the the cohesion of the economy is at stake, and it will be, then people will set their own interests aside. And help old people out with insulation and heating oil this winter, hoist sandbags on the levee, lay rail track and raise wind turbines, whatever it takes. Obama is already talking up a volunteer ethic, and those who volunteer will be an elite of sorts; because they didn't wait for the market to sort it out, nor for the government cavalry to come. More like they showed up to shovel horseshit for the cavalry. They'll be the ones who got things done, in the end.

And who am I to lecture you? I've watched generation after generation of young people show up and speak out, for the environment, for Aboriginal land rights, against uranium, for global economic justice ... and were derided and marginalized for it every time by the institutional spokespeople and the press; instead of having their fire and talents co-opted and utilized with gratitude. Who was right and who was wrong about uranium or globalization is beside the point - that's what science and democracy are there for. The point is that the fraction of determined spirits is a resource that we throw away, every time. Obama sounds like a freaking Martian because he's the one person taking practical civic engagement seriously.

So then all we have is conservation, informed opinion and mutual and civic interest.


Posted by: Jonathan Burns on July 18, 2008 at 7:54 AM | PERMALINK

The problem is we no longer have time left, or at least not more than the length of a presidential term. Those obstructions must be swept away of civilization dies.

Posted by: MNPundit on July 18, 2008 at 8:00 AM | PERMALINK

I would sure like to know where all this winning by environmentalists is going on. In California and the PNW the salmon are rushing towards extinction. Local foods that were once too cheap to monitor are now pricey gourmet items. Logging on steep slopes caused massive landslides and contributed to massive floods in western Washington last fall. Half of Hood Canal is a dead zone for half the year now.

38 years after the Schafer Commission, marijuana is still illegal. Rightwingers are relentlessly pushing towards bans on birth control. 100,000 people die each year in our hospitals because of medical errors and 40 million of us can't afford healthcare, which may be a blessing in disguise, considering the flakey drugs pushed by drug companies. I'm not seeing the big victories for reason and science in all of this.

Frankly, I think Kevin has drunk the kool-aid on this. Nuclear reactors are not being built because they're not money-makers, not because of environmentalist opposition. Where people think there's a buck to be made, environmentalism gets steamrolled as usual. Look at the Exxon Valdez case, the oil industry in Louisiana, the Canadian goldmines in our west, the continued construction of freeways, the failure to clean up Superfund sites, the sudden decline in the bees, water issues in the west...

I'll give more credit for winning when I see some actual wins.

Posted by: serial catowner on July 18, 2008 at 8:21 AM | PERMALINK

Dependence on foreign oil has brought us $4 gasoline. Demand for oil will keep rising and continue to push the price up in the future. The US does not have enough oil reserves to meet the rising demand. Continuing down the current path will keep gas prices high.

We need to switch to alternative energy sources that can provide energy that is less expensive and less damaging to our environment.

Posted by: bakho on July 18, 2008 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

right-wing judges have barely made a dent in it

They're going after the commerce clause and federal control in general. We could win 99% of the legal battles and in the end lose the clean air and water act and the ability to act on the national level period.

Basically the stakes are high everywhere and conservatives know that patience is important. Say you are interested in protecting a certain wetland, encouraging denser suburban development, or keeping a roadless area roadless. Well, the conservative ANWR strategy (monotonous persistence) eventually works. You can't easily undevelop wetlands, move urban growth boundaries inward, or create an acknowledged wilderness out of patchwork of clearcuts.

Environmental concerns are just a speed bump. Most of the advances we ever made (wilderness, parks, clean water act, etc.) were locked in when economic interests were still small.

Posted by: asdf on July 18, 2008 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

Great post Jonathan at 7:54.

Posted by: e henry thripshaw on July 18, 2008 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

But environmentalists have not been able to win on the really key issues. CAFE standards were castrated decades ago, any attempts at reconstructive surgery stopped. Various tax credits for renewables have to be renewed two years at a time (as opposed to mineral and oil depletion allowances which are so ingrained I've never noticed you questioning them). In short any attempts to seriously promote efficiency or solar energy have been successfuly crippled by the conservative movement since the days of Jimmy Carter. (The Carter example is partially Carter's own fault. He chose to waste most of his political capital promoting coal, putting a lot more funding for coal than renewables in both his original proposal and what he finally got through.) Wind has managed to become the fastest growing energy source in spite of the all the tripwires strung in its path, but still does not produce much of our power.

A factory to produce solar in the dollar per watt range would require around a billion dollar investment, much bigger than the cost of factories that can mass produce wind turbines. That is why the subsidies that have helped bring wind prices to the point where they are competitive with natural gas have not done the same for solar energy.

Back in the 70's Barry Commoner suggested the Federal Government institute a policy where it buy as many solar cells for Federal buildings and projects as full life-cycle analysis suggested would be cheaper than or equal to the cost of fossil fuels - in short buy solar cells in any case where the long term costs to the government was zero or less.

If that had been the done the government would have saved money, and installed solar PV would probably be $3 a watt or less today. You can thank industry lobbyists and the conservative movement for this not happening.

Posted by: Gar Lipow on July 18, 2008 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

You neglect to mention The Great Wedge Issue--Creationism. The push by the Wingnuts to teach Creationism in schools is based on the prevailing belief that "I didn't come from no monkey!" and is merely the lead-in to an overall anti-science agenda, with an ultimate goal of an American theocracy. The anti-evolutionists have been very well funded and well-connected with (especially) Republican politicians, including the President (I think all sides should be taught"). The current crop of "academic freedom" bills before state legislatures single out evolution, but several also include the wingnut hot topics of global warming and stem-cell research.

Posted by: mark on July 18, 2008 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin quoted someone:

Or there's this: "The genius of the Republicans is that for every energy problem, the answer is always drilling in ANWR," said one attendee admiringly. "Maybe we should adopt some of their methods."

OK, how about this:

For every energy problem, the answer is always harvesting free, limitless solar, wind and geothermal energy and using it with maximum possible efficiency.

Al Gore is absolutely correct. The commercially exploitable wind and solar energy resources of the USA are more than sufficient to provide several times as much electricity as the country currently uses -- more than enough for all current needs, plus electifying our transportation system.

The current generation of wind turbine, concentrating solar thermal, and photovoltaic technology is plenty good enough to do the job, and while the technology is constantly improving (and indeed there are major breakthroughs at hand, ie. thin-film solar and micro-wind turbines) there is no reason to delay large-scale deployment of existing technologies.

Similarly, we should immediately begin to fully exploit existing technologies for efficiency improvements, passive solar and geothermal heating and cooling of buildings, electric rail, pluggable-hybrid electric-biofuel vehicles, etc.

We can and must phase out ALL fossil fuel use, as well as toxic and dangerous nuclear power, as quickly as possible, and transition to an energy economy based on 100 percent clean, free, limitless energy. The future of the human species depends on it.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 18, 2008 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

Gar Lipow wrote: "A factory to produce solar in the dollar per watt range would require around a billion dollar investment, much bigger than the cost of factories that can mass produce wind turbines."

Not necessarily. Check out Nanosolar. They have a factory in California and another in Germany, where they are manufacturing their new thin-film photovoltaics, which are "printed" on rolls of substrate rather than made from crystalline silicon. They are aiming for prices below a dollar per watt and because of their manufacturing technology, the cost of the factories is considerably lower than that of conventional PV factories.

Cheap, distributed photovoltaics are one of the emerging "disruptive" energy technologies that will radically alter the way we produce and use electricity, much as the networked personal computer revolutionized "data processing" and the cell phone revolutionized telecommunications.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 18, 2008 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK
Want to build a refinery, LNG port or nuclear power plant somewhere in the United States? Good luck. You'll be in court for the rest of your life.

Thanks, again, for repeating right-wing propaganda. The reason those things don't get built in the US has nothing to do with lawsuits before building, but with economic viability. (Now, in the case of nuclear power plants, the prospective risk of lawsuits if they should fail is a real factor in that, which is why the industry keeps pushing for absolute liability shields more than anything else—that's the real barrier, not NIMBY efforts.)

Posted by: cmdicely on July 18, 2008 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

"The reason those things don't get built in the US has nothing to do with lawsuits before building, but with economic viability."

The the absolute CERTAINTY of being dragged into a hundred-million dollar lawsuit and having your project delayed 15-20 years counts as a noticeable factor in economic viability.

Posted by: Sebastian on July 18, 2008 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

Sebastian wrote: "The the absolute CERTAINTY of being dragged into a hundred-million dollar lawsuit and having your project delayed 15-20 years counts as a noticeable factor in economic viability."

Wind turbine "farms" and concentrating solar thermal power plants can be built faster and cheaper than coal or nuclear, with none of the toxic pollution or risks, and once they are built the "fuel supply" is free and endless. And large-scale deployment of cheap distributed photovoltaic panels, like those now being manufactured for municipal-scale utility applications by Nanosolar, will drastically reduce the need for large centralized power plants of any kind.

In "15-20 years", coal and nuclear power plants will be nothing but an economic liability for anyone foolish enough to invest in them today.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 18, 2008 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

Al Gore maybe could lose a few pounds, but I wouldn't call him enormouse, Kevin.

Posted by: K on July 18, 2008 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK
The the absolute CERTAINTY of being dragged into a hundred-million dollar lawsuit and having your project delayed 15-20 years counts as a noticeable factor in economic viability.

In the same sense as the CERTAINTY of having facility being eaten by invisible dragons does. The problem, in either case, is that the asserted factor does not exist.

Posted by: cmdicely on July 18, 2008 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

How dare you insult the eminent statesman Albert Gore by writing "In these areas, liberals have an enormous, widespread, and well-financed ... ( ... Al Gore...)". Mr Gore is not poor, and, yes, he is a tad overweight, but "enormous" and "widespread" indeed.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on July 18, 2008 at 7:24 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, teh funny here would be Kevin listens to the science types, hears they are seriously alarmed...and decides they're a bunch of chicken-littles, cackling in needless alarm about a situation that is really just hunkey-dorey.

Back to the drawing board, Kevin.

Posted by: serial cataowner on July 18, 2008 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin

You are confusing NIMBY with science.

NIMBYism is pretty powerful. NIMBYism is stopping Cape Wind (wind farm off Senator Kennedy's Cape Cod Retreat) just as much as it stopping new nuclear stations or LNG plants.

Science? It gets a look in when it serves powerful political interests.

Intelligent Design. Global Warming Denial. Overfishing (in blatant disregard of scientific advice). Manned Mars Journey (ditto: the overwhelming majority of planetary scientists are for more probes, providing real data, now). Pesticides (the suppression of biological evidence of amphibian death is well documented: the scientist in question against the leading corn crop herbicide has more or less lost his career).
'Access Roads' based on 'historic access' throughout US national parks (which happen to be enormously important biological refuges).

Drilling has already begun in the Alaska National Bird Reserve, which is a critical breeding ground for hundreds of key bird species and was set aside by President Clinton (in agreement with Congress) allegedly forever.


Everywhere science is standing, but only just, against political and profit-oriented corporate interests.

A future Republican appointed Supreme Court will almost certainly circumscribe further the Endangered Species Act.

Posted by: Valuethinker on July 19, 2008 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

"Want to build a refinery, LNG port or nuclear power plant somewhere in the United States? Good luck. You'll be in court for the rest of your life."

Swell.

Posted by: Steve Sailer on July 19, 2008 at 11:13 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin

You have, in this post, perpetuated many annoying myths of conservatives.

The facilities you cite are getting built. 'No new refineries' is because oil companies have doubled the size of existing refineries, and bought up and closed many smaller, inefficient ones. Look at the returns for Apache or Valero: if this was a restricted entry business, their profitability would be far higher.

'no new nukes': that has been NIMBYism, rather than science or environmentalism per se. And, in addition, economics- -Wall Street hated the cost overruns associated with nuclear projects. With US government subsidies, the new applications for nuclear licenses are being submitted, now.

LNG ports are getting built. The problem is again economics: the price of LNG has doubled (more than) as the Japanese are having problems with their nuclear reactors, and are buying Atlantic LNG to fuel their alternative power stations. So gas is just not flowing into the US-- US domestic gas production is also rising due to new drilling technologies ('tight gas' production).

Can we stop kidding ourselves that the threats to nature and the environment in the US have done anything but get way, way worse in the last 25 years? Yes the Endangered Species Act etc. have slowed things down, but the environmental degradation continues apace.

Posted by: Valuethinker on July 20, 2008 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Why is population growth never mentioned as a factor in environmental degradation?

Posted by: bosun on July 20, 2008 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

bosun

Because 300 million Americans consume far more resources than 1.4 billion Chinese or 1 billion Indians. And roughly about as much resources as 550m million Europeans.

The problem is not population per se but rather how we use resources, and how much pollution we emit.

For what it's worth, population growth worldwide has gone from 3% pa c. 1960 to 1% pa now, suggesting that population growth is slowing down.

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