May oil futures are negative. People are paying other people to figure out how to store May oil production contracts:
Now might be a wonderful time to add a $0.50 or $1.00 per gallon gas tax.
Sorry about this morning’s OTR post, restoring my laptop’s hard drive after repair went long after I gave up and went to bed last night. I’ll post it Monday.
I’ve been pondering this renewable energy question off and on recently and figured I’d open it up to discussion to broaden my thinking.
The question is: if you pay a surcharge for renewable energy from your electricity provider, is it better to then be wasteful or at least a “big consumer” of that clean electricity in order to increase demand for clean electricity and thus spurring more investment in renewables, or should you try to be as energy-conscious as possible and not leave lights on, keep the thermostat down/up, etc.?
In this scenario, the electricity that comes in your house is technically a mix of renewable and dirty, but you pay a surcharge to have clean energy equal to your usage added to your provider’s feed. If every customer chose this option, all the electricity provided to your home would be from renewable sources.
My thinking is that, since demand increases investment/supply, it’s desirable to consume more electricity once you’re setup to pay the premium as described above. More investment in renewable energy is a good and a larger supply/higher percentage renewable in the renewable/dirty mix that my provider supplies is also a good. So except for wasting some money, it seems to me like wasting electricity is actually a good here.
If your supply is already 100% renewable (from a provider, not your own solar/wind/etc.), I’m undecided if it makes sense to be a “big consumer” or not. Again, increasing demand means more investment in supply in your locality and region, and provides the market/investors evidence that such demand might exist in other under-served areas. Since a major goal of us who pay the surcharge for renewable or are willing to pay higher rates or invest in infrastructure like solar is to make a better, carbon-free world, there, perversely, seems to be a clear incentive to be wasteful here too. But I’m not sure.
What think you?
Consider this a non-political open thread.
This is nice:
Natural gas producers in West Virginia no longer can drill on one person’s property to reach gas reserves under adjoining or neighboring tracts, the state Supreme Court said Wednesday in a much-anticipated ruling that gives additional leverage to residents struggling with the effects from the booming industry.
In a 5-0 ruling, the justices upheld a lower court ruling and jury verdict against EQT Corp., siding with two Doddridge County residents who had sued the state’s second-largest gas company.
Justice John Hutchison wrote that gas and other mineral companies must obtain permission from surface owners to use their land to reach reserves under other properties.
“The court will not imply a right to use a surface estate to conduct drilling or mining operations under neighboring lands,” Hutchison wrote. “The right must be expressly obtained, addressed, or reserved in the parties’ deeds, leases, or other writings.”
In the case, two people who live on a 300-acre farm in Doddridge County said EQT came onto their land to extract gas from underneath adjacent properties. The two people, Beth Crowder and David Wentz, warned EQT that the company would be trespassing. EQT entered the property anyway. Crowder and Wentz sued, and a local circuit judge ruled in their favor, and a jury two years ago awarded them nearly $200,000 in damages.
It’s insane that a company would be so brazen as to even take this to court, but, you know, West Virginia.
The Energy Information Administration has an interactive map of energy infrastructure with storm information. It looks like something that energy nerds could spend some time with even when we’re not expecting major storm disruptions. The graphic at the top of the post is a screen grab. Check out the real thing. Also lots of useful links to energy information on the page.
Open thread, also too.
Today’s climate change updates in the LALALALALALALA I Can’t Hear You file…
National Park Service officials have deleted every mention of humans’ role in causing climate change in drafts of a long-awaited report on sea level rise and storm surge, contradicting Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s vow to Congress that his department is not censoring science.
The document was supposed to report results of studies on the risks to National Park properties from sea level rise, which is one of the major proximate consequences of anthropogenic global warming. Stuff like this:
The report, titled, “Sea Level Rise and Storm Surge Projections for the National Park Service,” reveals that national treasures will face severe flooding if global greenhouse gases keep increasing. Some of its projections, according to the drafts, include:
This is the kind of information that would be useful — complete with an analysis of causes and mechanisms — to anyone trying to think how to protect America’s parks, and/or mitigate the damage that human action has set in train. Interior Secretary Zinke and his staff — and the Trump administration as a whole, and the GOP in toto — seem to think that not saying certain words means that what those words name won’t happen.
Sadly, of course, carbon dioxide don’t care if Mr. Zinke doesn’t want to pay attention to its radiative properties. The atmosphere in bulk isn’t somehow going to get rid of the last 20 years of CO2 ppm increase just because Republicans shout at it. The ocean isn’t going to turn around in its tracks because Deadbeat Donnie, the orange hemorrhoid-cream salesman now sadly infesting the White House wiggles his ample posterior over a putt (that he’ll miss) on some seaside golf course.
King Knut knew better, even if he had to make the live demonstration to prove it too his court.
And then there’s Exhibit B:
Dead Man Walking Trump/GOP Corruption Poster Child Scott Pruitt won’t be dynamited out of his office at the EPA without attempting to gut one more Obama-era accomplishment, the increase in fleet fuel efficiency requirements for American light trucks and cars:
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt announced Monday that he would revoke Obama-era standards requiring cars and light trucks sold in the United States to average more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025, a move that could change the composition of the nation’s auto fleet for years.
This is no surprise from Pruitt, of course, who never met a fossil he didn’t want to burn (and whose long term livelihood and political ambitions turn entirely on making sure Big Carbon loves them some Scott). It will be challenged in court, and California may yet save the day.
Before that gets settled, though, two thoughts:
First: this is a reminder that you cannot trust oligopoly capital under any circumstances. The new standards were negotiated over a quite a long time with the big automakers, and they signed on to the Obama deal. As soon as Trump was elected, they reneged:
Pruitt’s decision reflects the power of the auto industry, which asked him to revisit the Obama administration’s review of the model years 2022-2025 fuel-efficiency targets just days after he took office.
The Auto Alliance (these guys) will tell you that they’re all about clean transportation — just look at their home page! But it took them less than a month (see p. 4) into the new guy’s term to write to the Trump administration and seek a do-over. You could have had these guys put up Agamemnon’s pledge and they’d have backed out on this deal as soon as they got the chance.
So: moral one. Don’t trust anyone with that much cash on the line until you have at least one of their kidney’s in pawn. And maybe not even then.
Moral two: this is how big US industries die. I’m sure it will be nice for those who pay for their hookers and blow by selling SUVs that the gravy train will run a few years longer. But the rest of the world isn’t completely ignorant of climate change and, more immediately, the insane and expensive toll that air pollution takes on their cities.
I’m old enough to remember the ’70s, when the Big Three US automakers discovered in a shocking short time just how destructive it could be to miss the next technological and design shift. Fuel efficient and alternate fuel vehicles are not just coming; they’re here. If the US-based auto industry wants to let China or whoever get one, two, three generations ahead of domestic production, that’ll happen. And those companies and vehicles will roll, and ours will straggle behind.
Again: our kleptocratic leaders can say what they want. Shortsighted corporations can grab for the next dollar, and miss next year’s millions. Don’t change a thing.
So, in sum: this is one dumb move on every level, and puts yet more pressure on an already breaking climate system. But I don’t think that a change in US fleet standards is nearly as big a deal as Pruitt et al. wish it were. Much of the world doesn’t give a shit about our stupidity, and the creation of a more efficient transport system is already on rails (sorrynotsorry). ISTM that this move is mostly a surrender of crucial industrial ambition and opportunity to other regions and will have only a minor effect on emissions going forward.
IOW: Trump, Pruitt, the Republicans and Big Auto just punched America in the nuts, for all the joy it brings them.
Also too: King Knut was a pretty smart guy.
Images: Joseph Mallord William Turner, Calais Pier, 1803.
Jan Steen, The Sacrifice of Iphigenia, 1671.
Time for another thread, I’d say, and I don’t have the functioning synapses to come up with anything new to say about the moral and intellectual crater that is both the Republican Party and the right’s public intellection bunch. (Did you know that Ron Johnson’s mug is being considered as the “After” portrait in the upcoming “Don’t Eat Tide Pods” campaign? Or that Rod Dreher’s thought leading crunchy conservative Christianity is racist to its root?)
So here I’m just going to lock and load some stuff I’ve kept open in my browser, waiting for the moment to foam in rage over here. Think of this not so much as considered analysis (don’t think of it as all). Rather, it’s a very partial catalogue of how much damage decades of GOP anti-government, and worse, anti-society sabotage has done. A goad, perhaps, though I hope no new one is needed, to crush these sorry f**ks come November, and forever after.
So here they come, in no particular order:
According to the CDC, the average life expectancy at birth in the U.S. fell by 0.1 years, to 78.6, in 2016, following a similar drop in 2015. This is the first time in 50 years that life expectancy has fallen for two years running. In 25 other developed countries, life expectancy in 2015 averaged 81.8 years.
The article acknowledges the impact of the opioid epidemic on those figures but notes that cross-country comparisons reveal systemic failures that make the disaster so much deeper here. And then there’s the way we treat — or don’t — our elderly:
It is widely accepted that the accessibility and quality of medical services strongly affect life expectancy among the elderly and elderly Americans fall behind their counterparts overseas when it comes to being able to get and afford the health care they need.
This may seem surprising given that Americans over 65 enjoy universal health insurance coverage under Medicare. But as valuable as Medicare is, it provides far less protection against the cost of illness, and far less access to services, than do most other Western countries. In a recent cross-national survey, U.S. seniors were more likely to report having three or more chronic illnesses than their counterparts in 10 other high-income countries. At the same time, they were four times more likely than seniors in countries such as Norway and England to skip care because of costs. Medicare, it turns out, is not very good insurance compared to what’s available in most of the western world.
Next: that GOP assault on environmental regulation and protection?
Yeah — that’ll kill grandma. Via a Harvard School of Public Health a press release, “Short-term exposure to low levels of air pollution linked with premature death among U.S. seniors”:
Short-term exposures to fine particulate air pollutionand ozone—even at levels well below current national safety standards—were linked to higher risk of premature death among the elderly in the U.S. according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health….
Certain subgroups were particularly vulnerable to short-term air pollution. Among Medicaid-eligible (a proxy for low income) recipients, the mortality increase linked with increased PM2.5 was three times higher than that of people not eligible for Medicaid. Women and nonwhites also faced a mortality risk that was 25% higher than those who were male or white. Poverty, unhealthy lifestyle, or poor access to healthcare may play a role in such disparities, the researchers speculated.
Hey! Ho! Coal is all-American, while solar panels need to get way more expensive before all that nasty sunlight wrecks certain major-GOP-donors’ balance sheets.
I could write this every week. Hell, with eleven school shootings in the first twenty four days of 2018, I could write this every 48 hours or so and twice on Wednesdays. But once again we find that the tree of liberty thrives especially on the blood of children.
This one’s old (I’ve had it open for while, but still, from the Tampa Bay Times,In Harm’s Way “/Gun injuries and deaths among Florida kids have spiked. One child is shot every 17 hours.”
The analysis found that, between 2010 and 2015, nearly 3,200 kids 17 and younger were killed or injured by firearms. Put another way, a child in Florida was shot, on average, every 17 hours.
From 2010 through 2015, the number of kids killed in gun-related incidents rose nearly 20 percent. Injuries from guns jumped 26 percent from 2014 to 2015 alone….
About 80 percent of the youths shot between 2010 and 2015 were teenagers, the Times analysis found. But some were far younger. Nearly 30 children under age 5 went to the hospital for gun injuries each year.
Most of the injured or dead were boys. A disproportionate share — roughly two-thirds — were black. Black boys were two times more likely to be shot than white boys in 2015, the analysis found.
In the hospital data, most cases were categorized as accidents, assaults or self-injury.
Accidents accounted for about 45 percent of all incidents — and were by far the fastest-growing category. The uptick: nearly 50 percent between 2010 and 2015.
Read the whole thing. It’s heartbreaking — and an essential account of how gun-fundamentalism is literally killing kids.
Onwards. To the question of what did they know and when did they know it — asked of the oil industry about the risks its product posed to global climate — the answer is, pretty much all they needed a very long time ago, as reported in this piece in The Guardian (h/t Adam Silverman, who forwarded it to me) “On its 100th birthday in 1959, Edward Teller warned the oil industry about global warming.”
Teller’s task that November fourth was to address the crowd on “energy patterns of the future,” and his words carried an unexpected warning:
Ladies and gentlemen, I am to talk to you about energy in the future. I will start by telling you why I believe that the energy resources of the past must be supplemented. First of all, these energy resources will run short as we use more and more of the fossil fuels. [….] But I would […] like to mention another reason why we probably have to look for additional fuel supplies. And this, strangely, is the question of contaminating the atmosphere. [….] Whenever you burn conventional fuel, you create carbon dioxide. [….] The carbon dioxide is invisible, it is transparent, you can’t smell it, it is not dangerous to health, so why should one worry about it?
Carbon dioxide has a strange property. It transmits visible light but it absorbs the infrared radiation which is emitted from the earth. Its presence in the atmosphere causes a greenhouse effect [….] It has been calculated that a temperature rise corresponding to a 10 per cent increase in carbon dioxide will be sufficient to melt the icecap and submerge New York. All the coastal cities would be covered, and since a considerable percentage of the human race lives in coastal regions, I think that this chemical contamination is more serious than most people tend to believe.
…After his talk, Teller was asked to “summarize briefly the danger from increased carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere in this century.” The physicist, as if considering a numerical estimation problem, responded:
At present the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen by 2 per cent over normal. By 1970, it will be perhaps 4 per cent, by 1980, 8 per cent, by 1990, 16 per cent [about 360 parts per million, by Teller’s accounting], if we keep on with our exponential rise in the use of purely conventional fuels. By that time, there will be a serious additional impediment for the radiation leaving the earth. Our planet will get a little warmer. It is hard to say whether it will be 2 degrees Fahrenheit or only one or 5.
But when the temperature does rise by a few degrees over the whole globe, there is a possibility that the icecaps will start melting and the level of the oceans will begin to rise. Well, I don’t know whether they will cover the Empire State Building or not, but anyone can calculate it by looking at the map and noting that the icecaps over Greenland and over Antarctica are perhaps five thousand feet thick.
They knew. The foundations of this reasoning had been well known, wholly established physics since no later than 1895. I’m guessing Pruitt and Zinke and the rest know too, and they don’t give a tinker’s damn, because there’s money and power in black gold, and not nearly so much in the breeze and the stray photon. Climate change kills; it creates refugees (including within the US); it sparks conflict; it wrecks lives — all these sorrows attend us now, and there’s more to come. Maybe some, or even most of what’s past couldn’t have been prevented, along with some of what’s to come — but we aren’t even trying now at the federal level, and that misery is all on the Grotesque Old Party.
Happy now, y’all?
Anyway, that clears out a few windows. Let me leave you with an essay I found profoundly moving to read, Masha Gessen’s account of identity and memory and above all on choice. This isn’t a tale of woe or miserable political behavior (though both form much of the context for Gessen’s account). It is rather a credo, and, quietly, subtly, a call to arms. I know Masha a bit, and count her a friend; she’s certainly someone I hugely admire, and whose courage leaves me awestruck. Anyway, better to end in her company than in the slough within which reading all the bad news above would confine us. So, from The New York Review of Books, “To Be, or Not to Be“, this taste:
…Suketu Mehta, in his Maximum City, wrote:
Each person’s life is dominated by a central event, which shapes and distorts everything that comes after it and, in retrospect, everything that came before. For me, it was going to live in America at the age of fourteen. It’s a difficult age at which to change countries. You haven’t quite finished growing up where you were and you’re never well in your skin in the one you’re moving to.
Mehta didn’t let me down: this assertion appears in the very first pages of his magnificent book; also, he moved to America at the same age that I did. And while I think he might be wrong about everyone, I am certain he is right about émigrés: the break colors everything that came before and after.
Svetlana Boym had a private theory: an émigré’s life continues in the land left behind. It’s a parallel story. In an unpublished piece, she tried to imagine the parallel lives her Soviet/Russian/Jewish left-behind self was leading. Toward the end of her life, this retracing and reimagining became something of an obsession. She also had a theory about me: that I had gone back to reclaim a life that had been interrupted. In any case, there are many stories to be told about a single life.
Have at it, y’all.
Images: Claude Monet, Camille Monet on her deathbed, 1879
Vincent van Gogh, Factories at Asnières, Seen from the Quai de Clichy, 1887
John Frederick Peto, Pistol, Gate Latch, and Powder Horn, 1887
D. Howard Hitchock, Halemaumau, Lake of Fire, 1888.