Archive for 2008 April

Methane Levels Jump: AGW to Accelerate?

According to a press release from NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmopheric Association), the percentage of methane in the atmosphere jumped sharply in 2007.

Could this be the beginning of the long-feared melting of the methane deposits frozen in permafrost?

Methane levels rose last year for the first time since 1998. Methane
is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, but
there’s far less of it in the atmosphere—about 1,800 parts per billion.
When related climate affects are taken into account, methane’s overall
climate impact is nearly half that of carbon dioxide.

growing industrialization in Asia and rising wetland emissions in the
Arctic and tropics are the most likely causes of the recent methane
increase, said scientist Ed Dlugokencky from NOAA’s Earth System
Research Laboratory.

”We’re on the lookout for the first sign
of a methane release from thawing Arctic permafrost,” said Dlugokencky.
“It’s too soon to tell whether last year’s spike in emissions includes
the start of such a trend.”

Nonetheless, the graph (called "Methane Trend") doesn’t look reassuring.


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Happy Birthday, Willie

Willie Nelson turned 75 today. Saw him perform last year at the Santa Barbara Bowl. He didn’t perform the song below, unfortunately, my personal fave, but never have I seen a performer more loved by an audience than Willie Nelson.

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A President: Somebody Who Will Tell You the Truth

By God, an issue has cropped up in this three-person race for the Presidency, and two candidates have shown themselves ready and willing to become Panderer-in-Chief, and one has not.

Numerous commentators have made the point:

James Fallows:

The pandering and ignorance-across-party-lines represented by the John
McCain-Hillary Clinton united front for a temporary reduction in the
gasoline tax should make Americans hold their heads in their hands and
moan. No one who has thought about this issue thinks that it will
actually reduce prices or — more important — help the the people
disproportionately hurt by $100+/barrel oil and $4 gasoline. And to the
extent it has any effect on America’s long-term approach to energy
policy, transportation, oil dependence, and climate change, the effect
will be perverse.

Ezra Klein:

Policy is hard. Lots of people come to different conclusions.
Unanimity is rare. Except on this gas tax holiday. Just about no one
thinks it a good idea. Conservative economists loathe it, liberal
economists loathe it, energy experts loathe it…it’s shameless
pandering of the worst sort. So is the media going to create a scandal
around McCain’s pander? Around Clinton’s copy-pander? Will they hound
them at press conferences, run segments about the derailed "Straight
Talk Express," bring on pollsters to ask whether Americans are tired of
being lied to?

Well, not quite.

Tom Friedman:

It is great to see that we finally have some national unity on energy
policy. Unfortunately, the unifying idea is so ridiculous, so unworthy
of the people aspiring to lead our nation, it takes your breath away.
Hillary Clinton has decided to line up with John McCain in pushing to
suspend the federal excise tax on gasoline, 18.4 cents a gallon, for
this summer’s travel season. This is not an energy policy. This is
money laundering: we borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi
Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas
tanks. What a way to build our country.

To his credit, Friedman then goes on to explicitly credit Barack Obama for resisting this pathetic pandering to the least-intelligent of voters. And yes, Obama deserves credit. If he loses, because he refuses to indulge in this nonsense, all I can say is — he gave us credit. Go Barry!

"That’s what you need from a President. Somebody who’s going to tell you the truth."

I ain’t ashamed to support that.


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Newt and Nancy: Together — for the First Time Ever!

Yours truly wasn’t thrilled with the first major TV ad from the Alliance for Climate Protection, because I think both Al Sharpton and Pat Robertson are frauds, each in his own way, but this one — featuring Nancy Pelosi and Newt Gingrinch — makes me smile. They look so cute together!

On a more serious note, I think southpaws should give Newt credit for the courage of his convictions. Take a look at this comments page from his pollster friend Whit Ayres’ Terra Rossa site and you’ll see his "conversion" on this issue was not greeted with acclaim…far from it. From his perspective, seems to me that Gingrich had little to gain and a great to lose. (Heck, Rush Limbaugh may never speak to him again.) I respect those who will take a risk for the sake of our climate.   

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“Gas Tax Holiday” Will Flop, Experts Say

Now that the would-be Panderer-in-Chief, Hillary Clinton, has joined with Republican candidate John McCain in calling for a "gas tax holiday" this summer, the Wa-Po’s "Fact Checker" asks: Will it work?

Short answer: no.

Why? Two words: supply and demand.

Some economists say that a nationwide "gas tax holiday" would have
even less impact on gas prices than temporary state moratoriums, such
as the one passed by Illinois in 2000. "It’s basic economics," said
Leonard Burman, director of the Tax Policy Center,
a non-partisan thinktank. "Gas is always in very short supply during
the summer, which is why prices go up. In order to reduce the price,
you would have to increase supply, but that is difficult over the short
term, because the refineries cannot add capacity."

James Hamilton, professor of Economics at the University of
California-San Diego, said that most of the benefits from a temporary
tax moratorium would likely go to producers rather than consumers. He
said that states that suspend gas taxes are able to respond to rising
demand more efficiently than the country as a whole, because gasoline
supplies can be easily moved from one state to another.

"Prices would certainly rise to the market-clearing level," said
Hamilton. "I would expect the price [of gas] to go back to very close
to where it was before [the tax cut], in which case consumers would not
see any benefit."

Turns out Obama did vote for such a gas tax holiday back in 2001, when he was a member of the Illinois legislature, but both he and the consumers in Illinois were disillusioned by the result, which proved all but meaningless — a three percent savings for some consumers.

A poll by the Chicago Tribune showed that only 28 percent of motorists
believed that they were actually paying less for gas as a result of the
temporary suspension of the tax. Obama has changed his mind
dramatically on the tax cut since voting for it back in 2000 in
Illinois. On the campaign trail Monday in North Carolina, he described
the proposal as a "short-term quick fix that we can say we did
something even though we’re not really doing anything."

A politician who learns from experience, and doesn’t leap to pander! No wonder he’s become a target.

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The Storm (we can’t see)

A new poem from Charles Simic, current poet laureate of the US, on an oncoming storm we cannot seem to see…is this about AGW? You can decide for yourself…


I’m going over to see what those weeds
By the stone wall are worried about.
Perhaps, they don’t care for the way
The shadows creep across the lawn
In the silence of the afternoon.

The sky keeps being blue,
Though we hear no birds,
See no butterflies among the flowers
Or ants running over our feet.

Trees, you bend your branches ever so slightly
In deference to something
About to make its entrance
Of which we know nothing,
Spellbound as we are by the deepening quiet,
The light just beginning to dim.

(photo "Before the Storm" from Andrew Lee, of the UK, a pro on Flickr)


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On the Hood (until the end)

…new issue from the Department of Rock and Roll Will Never Die. It’s a band called Matt Mays and El Torpedo. hailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia…

It all began without warning
On a strange winter’s morning
The sky turned red
The vibrations went dead
With these terrible songs on a rainy day
The pressure just started to fall
Your scene doesn’t do anything for me
It doesn’t do anything at all

I don’t care anymore
People tell me I should
They’re out lookin’ for hits
I’d rather lay on the hood of an old car
with my girlfriend
And my real friends
Until the end


Download on_the_hood.mp3

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Earth Day Jokes

No one does political stand-up today better than Bill Maher, who has the temerity to joke about everything, even Earth Day…(his latest show hasn’t posted yet, but will soon).

Anyone still celebrate Earth Day? That was on Tuesday, the 22nd….I think they should move the date of Earth Day, because anyone who cares about the earth is still high from 4/20.


I saw a poll that explained a lot. Like why global warming and the environment isn’t a big issue in the campaign. 47% of Democrats said that global warming should be a top priority. Which is pathetic. 12% of Republicans said that global warming should be a top priority. So we have two parties, the lame, and the super-lame…

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McCain, Hillary Ignore Law (of Economics)

A lot of environmentalists have criticized GOP presidential candidate-to-be John McCain for calling for an elimination of the Federal gas tax for this summer, arguing that such a cut would encourage fossil fuel consumption and lead to emission of more greenhouse gases.

Maybe, maybe not. A much simpler argument against that pandering exists, simpler even than the fact it will never pass (nobody in D.C. stands in the way of the highway and roads lobby for long).

Paul Mulshine of The Star-Ledger (in New Jersey) explains. Bluntly. Watch out for this guy in a dark alley.

McCain came out with a proposal the other day that was every
bit as clueless as his many gaffes on Iraq. He wants to
suspend the federal gas tax for the summer driving season.

"The effect will be an immediate economic stimulus,
taking a few dollars off the price of a tank of gas every
time a family, a farmer or trucker stops to fill up,"
McCain said.

No, it wouldn’t. McCain is failing to take two
things into account:


And demand.

The supply of gasoline during the summer months is
limited by refinery capacity. If demand rises, as it
traditionally does in the summer driving season, the price
will remain roughly the same even if the federal gas tax of
18.4 cents a gallon is lifted, says Len Berman, director of
the Tax Policy Institute in Washington.

"The elasticity in supply is very low, so a cut in
the gas tax is mostly just going to translate into higher
prices," said Berman.

Florida officials tried the same stunt several years ago,
says Fred Rozell of the Oil Price Information Service, the
national authority on oil prices, based in Lakewood. They
cut the state gas tax, but prices failed to drop
accordingly. Why? It’s hard to tell, said Rozell. Maybe
people were driving more or maybe the service station owners
were just pocketing the difference.

"The state spent all this money to see if gas
stations actually chopped the price off," said Rozell.
But the results were inconclusive.

And when it comes to cutting the federal gas tax, Rozell
agreed with Berman that the supply for the coming summer is
already set, so cutting the tax would not necessarily lead
to a drop in prices.

Update: Now Hillary has joined McCain in calling for the elimination of the gas tax this summer. How low will she go? Once again, sound bite politics trumps the environment…and common sense.

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Barack on the Verge of Triumph in Pennsylvania

Though still trailing in the polls, the possibility of eking out a victory in Pennsylvania and deep-sixing Hillary Clinton has Obama backers, including me, hoping and praying. Some examples:

A reporter from the UK Telegraph reports on the excitement:

In an effort to rebut Mrs Clinton’s charge that he
does nothing more than give "woop-de-doo speeches", Mr Obama reeled off
economic statistics about Scranton being an economic "shambles".

But the sense of almost divine mission around
his candidacy remains. When a woman shouted "We need you", Mr Obama
responded: "I know. I’m coming."

Toby Harnden offers a how-it-could-happen scenario, with numerous examples. Here are two:

5. Many Democrats want this to be over. There’s a fear out there
that John McCain could be gaining traction because the Democratic race
has dragged on. Voters in New Hampshire handed Clinton an unlikely win
because they wanted the race to continue and didn’t see why one victory
in Iowa should seal it. Pennsylvanians may do the opposite and hand
Obama an unlikely win because they don’t see why Puerto Rico – or
super-delegates – should decide.

6. The growing sense that Obama
cannot lose the nomination – this is linked to 5. In the six weeks
since Texas and Ohio there has been a steady bleed of super-delegates
to Obama and the match-up polls with John McCain do not give weight to
Clinton’s argument that she is more “electable”. The decisive victories
she needs do not seem to be on the horizon – she’s way behind in North
Carolina while in Indiana (which she has to win) she’s level.

Politico finds some amazing voter registration stats:

According to the Secretary of State’s office, since January about
217,000 new voters have registered for the April 22 primary, the vast
majority of whom signed up as Democrats.

In Philadelphia, by far the state’s largest city, more than 12,000 new
Democrats were added to the rolls in the final week before the March
registration deadline, compared to just 509 Republicans.

That statewide Democratic surge has been accompanied by a flood of
party-switching. More than 178,000 voters have changed their party
status since January — and the Democrats have captured 92 percent of
those voters.

In Delaware County, a Philadelphia suburb once home to a storied
Republican machine, nearly 14,000 voters have switched their party
affiliation to Democratic since January compared to just 768 who became

And this evening on NPR, Hillary was given a chance to speak but didn’t respond, while Barack got in a quick phone interview, and in his quiet-but-firm way, left no doubt about who was the better candidate. He sounds completely at ease, relaxed, which makes his understated criticisms all the more telling. 

Barack on All Things Considered before Pennsylvania primary


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