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The Candidates and Climate: A Persistant Air of Surreality

Alex Steffen, WorldChanging
Watching the U.S. presidential debates felt like an exercise in describing the problems of another planet altogether.

Consider this exchange: …

… Note that neither candidate, both supposedly standard-bearers for straight talk and change, puts the planetary crisis in anything like the proper perspective. Both candidates gave pandering, half-answers: for supposed climate champions, neither gave the kind of answers that will either inspire the American people nor prepare the kind of mandate we’ll need to take action of the proper scale.

Now, of course, being an armchair candidate is the easiest thing in the world, but still, I wish one of them had said something more like this:

“Thank you for that question.

We hear a lot about climate change and other environmental problems these days, and that makes sense, because we place a planetary crisis of historic proportions. Humanity’s future is at stake.

We know that we must change our economy, if we’re going to avoid catastrophe. We need to slash our greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impacts, and that means we’re going to have to change the ways generate energy. We’re going to have to change how we get around. We’re going to have to change the way we build. We’re going to have to change the way we grow food, and manage forests, and run our factories. We’re going to have to change everything.

(7 October 2008)

Presidential Energy Debate Fact Check #1: Is Offshore Drilling the Answer?

Professor Cutler Cleveland, The Oil Drum

TOD editor Nate Hagens writes:
Senators Obama and McCain are both aware that energy is central to Americas future. However, they differ on the details, and since confidence and authority can sway peoples beliefs, it is important, as always, to ‘check the facts’. In last nights debate, Obama, while acknowledging the US holds 3% of world oil reserves but uses 25% of world oil production, implied we will be unable to become ‘energy independent’ and need to ‘change the way we view energy in our lives’. In contrast, while McCain agreed on ‘ridding ourselves of dependence on foreign oil’, his discussion of the “Drill Here Drill Now” strategy implied that such a plan would achieve both lower prices and more energy independence. How much of the energy debate issues are ‘politics’ vs. facts?

Below the fold is a guest commentary by Professor Cutler Cleveland, providing a needed ‘fact-check’ on recent political claims being made on offshore drilling.


In the run-up to the election, this is the first in a short series of brief fact-checking exercises regarding the major energy issues in the campaign.

Senators McCain and Obama have expressed support for increased offshore oil drilling as part of their respective plans for energy. Senator McCain specifically suggests that opening offshore waters in the U.S. to oil exploration will (a) significantly increase domestic production, and (2) put downward pressure on oil prices.

Is this true? The short answer is no.
(8 October 2008)

The Myth of Election Year Price Manipulation

Robert Rapier, The Oil Drum
It seems that every election season, conspiracy theories arise that the oil companies are trying to bring down gasoline prices in order to influence elections. The thinking is that oil companies tend to favor Republicans (true) and that they bring prices down to help Republican candidates. When I hear this sort of talk, I try to explain to people that U.S. oil companies control so little of the world oil market that there isn’t much they can do to influence prices. They simply don’t have the stroke that people think they have.

But a poll in 2006 showed that nearly half of Americans thought Bush had successfully manipulated prices down as the election approached:

Almost half of all Americans believe the November elections have more influence than market forces. For them, the plunge at the pump is about politics, not economics.

Retired farmer Jim Mohr of Lexington, Ill., rattled off a tankful of reasons why pump prices may be falling, including the end of the summer travel season and the fact that no major hurricanes have disrupted Gulf of Mexico output. “But I think the big important reason is Republicans want to get elected,” Mohr, 66, said while filling up for $2.17 a gallon. “They think getting the prices down is going to help get some more incumbents re-elected.”

No doubt that incumbents like to see gas prices falling ahead of an election. But having any real power to influence price is a different matter.
(8 October 2008)

Latin leftists gloating over ‘Comrade’ Bush’s bailout

Tyler Bridges, McClatchy Newspapers
They don’t call him President Bush in Venezuela anymore.

Now he’s known as “Comrade.”

With the Bush administration’s Treasury Department resorting to government bailout after government bailout to keep the U.S. economy afloat, leftist governments and their political allies in Latin America are having a field day, gloating one day and taunting Bush the next for adopting the types of interventionist government policies that he’s long condemned.

“We were just talking about that this morning on the floor,” said Congressman Edwin Castro, who heads the leftist Sandinista congressional bloc in Nicaragua. “We think the Bush administration should follow the same policies that they and the International Monetary Fund have always told us to follow when we have economic problems — a structural adjustment that requires cutting government spending and reducing the role of government.

“One of our economists was telling us that Bush has just implemented communism for the rich,” Castro said.

No one in Latin America has been making more hay of Bush’s turnabout than Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez
(7 October 2008)

New U.S. intelligence report warns ‘victory’ not certain in Iraq

Jonathan S. Landay, Warren P. Strobel and Nancy A. Youssef | McClatchy Newspapers
A nearly completed high-level U.S. intelligence analysis warns that unresolved ethnic and sectarian tensions in Iraq could unleash a new wave of violence, potentially reversing the major security and political gains achieved over the last year.

U.S. officials familiar with the new National Intelligence Estimate said they were unsure when the top-secret report would be completed and whether it would be published before the Nov. 4 presidential election.

More than a half-dozen officials spoke to McClatchy on condition of anonymity because NIE’s, the most authoritative analyses produced by the U.S. intelligence community, are restricted to the president, his senior aides and members of Congress except in rare instances when just the key findings are made public.
(7 October 2008)