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Posing as a Bidder, Utah Student Disrupts Government Auction of 150,000 Acres of Wilderness for Oil & Gas Drilling

Amy Goodman, Democracy Now
In a national broadcast exclusive, University of Utah student Tim DeChristopher explains how he “bought” 22,000 acres of land in an attempt to save the property from drilling. The sale had been strongly opposed by many environmental groups. Stephen Bloch of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance said, “This is the fire sale, the Bush administration’s last great gift to the oil and gas industry.”

AMY GOODMAN: The Bureau of Land Management held a controversial auction Friday to sell oil and gas drilling rights to nearly 150,000 acres of wilderness in southern Utah. The sale had been strongly opposed by many environmental groups. Stephen Bloch of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance said, “This is the fire sale, the Bush administration’s last great gift to the oil and gas industry.”

A coalition of environmental groups opposed to energy development on public lands filed a lawsuit last week to block the auction. They struck a deal with the Bureau of Land Management that allowed the auction to proceed on the condition that the leases on the most contested portions of the land will not be issued for another thirty days, until a federal judge hears the case.

… AMY GOODMAN: … While many environmental groups launched campaigns to oppose the sale of the land, one student in Salt Lake City attempted to block the sale by disrupting the auction itself. Twenty-seven-year-old Tim DeChristopher posed as a potential bidder and bid hundreds of thousands of dollars on parcels of the land, driving up prices and winning some 22,000 acres for himself, without any intention of paying for them.

The Bureau of Land Management must now wait over a month before it can auction off these properties, but by then the bureau will no longer be run by the Bush administration.

Tim DeChristopher was arrested Friday and is scheduled to appear in court later today. He joins us in Salt Lake City.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Tim DeChristopher.

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: Good morning, Amy. It’s great to be here. I read your book last summer and really enjoyed it.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, thanks. Why don’t you start off by telling us what happened on Friday? What did you start off planning to do that day? Where were you?

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: I started off, actually, at a final exam at the university and went straight from there down to the BLM office. And I saw some protesters walking back and forth outside, and I knew that I wanted to do more than that and that this kind of injustice demanded a higher level of disruption. And so, I just decided that I wanted to go inside and cause a bigger disruption.

And from there, I found it really easy to get inside and become a bidder, and went inside and was in the auction room. And once I was in there, I realized that any kind of speech or disruption or something like that wasn’t going to be very effective, but I saw pretty quickly that I could have a pretty major impact on the way this worked. And it just took me a little bit of time to build up the courage to do that, knowing what the consequences would be. And so, I started bidding and started driving up the prices for some of the oil companies. And throughout that time, I knew that I could be doing more and could really set aside some acres to really be protected. And so, then I started winning bids and disrupting it as clearly as I could.
(22 December 2008)

Robert Rapier: Thoughts on the New Energy Team

Robert Rapier, The Oil Drum
In case you are just venturing out of your cave for the first time in a week, you are probably aware that President-elect Obama has announced his new energy team:

Obama names energy team

The team includes Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Chu as Secretary of Energy, former EPA head Carol Browner to fill the newly-created job of Energy Czar, and Lisa Jackson to head the EPA. The focus of this essay will be on Dr. Chu, but I will comment briefly on the others.

Lisa Jackson is trained as a chemical engineer (as was the outgoing Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman). It should go without saying that I like to see technical people in roles like this, where understanding science and data are both critical. Carol Browner, while not trained as a technical person, has a lot of administrative experience within the EPA. Incidentally, I once met Mrs. Browner, as she was the person who presented my research group with the 1996 Green Chemistry Challenge Award at the National Academy of Sciences for our work on biomass conversion to fuels.

While I don’t know nearly as much about Browner and Jackson, Dr. Chu has a very long public record. I have been searching through his various publications, speeches, and presentations to get a good picture of the man.
(22 December 2008)

More proof Holdren is a great choice

Joseph Romm, Gristmill
Pielke, Tierney, Lomborg, and CEI diss Obama science adviser

Science advisor pick John Holdren gets global warming. Although he is wildly overqualified for the job compared to anybody a GOP President has named in recent memory — heck, Holdren was president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science — the deniers and delayers have their knives out.

NYT “science writer” John Tierney has assembled critiques from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), Bjorn Lomborg, and Roger Pielke, Jr., in one of his classic science articles disinformation screeds, “Flawed Science Advice for Obama?” The first thing to say is that if Tierney, Pielke, Lomborg, and CEI all disagree with you on any point related to climate, energy, or science, you can sleep soundly knowing with 100% certainty you are right.

Lomborg and Pielke are probably the two most debunked non-deniers in the world — though in fact Lomborg is a denier-equivalent and Pielke is a delayer-equivalent, as I’ll discuss below. And it is perhaps telling that Tierney — a non-scientist — did not manage to find a single scientist to quote dissing Holdren.

Tierney is easily the worst science writer at any major media outlet in the country. Pretty much every energy or climate piece he writes is riddled with errors and far-right ideology, including this one.
(22 December 2008)

US Environmental Protection Agency faces eleventh-hour shake-up

Emma Marris, Nature
Scientists voice concerns as small-scale projects fall from favour.

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Research and Development (ORD), home to most of the agency’s scientists, may be facing a significant reorganization just one month before President-elect Barack Obama takes office.

According to an employee of the ORD — who asked to remain anonymous to avoid reprisals — a department-wide staff meeting on 18 December reiterated plans mooted in recent months, including abandoning many small projects led by a single principal investigator (PI) in favour of broad, multi-agency, multi-disciplinary projects. It is not yet clear when these changes will take place.

The move is seen by many scientists not as sensible streamlining, but rather as an attempt to push through Bush administration objectives before the keys to the White House are passed to Obama.
(19 December 2008)

Will Energy Efficiency Stimulus Distract America from the Real Task at Hand?

Adam Zemel, Breakthough Institute
The Efficiency Trap will be easy to fall into–it is politically expedient and it lies at the intersection of energy and economic issues that propelled voters to pull the lever for Barack Obama in the first place.

An efficiency stimulus plan seems at first glance to be an unadulterated good: it puts Americans to work, saves energy and money, and cuts greenhouse gas emissions, all with investments that should pay for themselves. But there are reasons to be nervous about the overwhelming focus on energy efficiency by green leaders and Obama’s top energy and climate advisors. This narrow focus threatens to distract from the critical work ahead: overcoming the technology gap that exists between the current state (and cost) of today’s clean energy technologies and fossil fuels.

An efficiency program will not create the new industries that the American economy needs to increase employment and productivity in the long term. An efficiency program will not create new exports that will bring global capital in to the American economy. And, equally as important as short term stimulus, America needs to have a plan to achieve those objectives as quickly as possible as well.

Obama’s primary focus must be on making clean energy cheap — what Google calls RE

Global energy demand will triple by 2050 as the world population grows to nine billion humans. This means that even if the whole world heads toward European levels of efficiency, with those in the developing world increasing their emissions as they develop and America achieving efficiency gains the same level as those in the EU, then by 2050 we end up with 9 billion people each emitting 10 tons of carbon a year, or 90 billion tons of annual carbon dioxide emissions. Clearly, efficiency can only play a limited role in a prosperous and equitable clean energy future.

The central challenge of any pursuit of a new global clean energy economy is bringing nascent clean energy technologies into the market as quickly as possible.
(19 December 2008)
Cornucopianism from the liberal side. The usual arguments against cornucopianism apply.

What’s surprising here is the inaccurate portrayal of US energy policy as favoring efficiency. Au contraire. Most scientific work has emphasized energy sources. Although scientists usually admit that efficiency and conservation are the quickest, most cost-effective responses to the energy problem, they point out that research dollars are directed towards new sources of energy.