Archive for December, 2009

A Frack Job for Marcellus

Posted in 3. Energy with tags , , , on December 25, 2009 by talewis

It’s not quite the infinite-energy-from-tap-water-via-cold-fusion miracle that industrialists have been assuring us is just around the corner — the sudden scientific panacea that would painlessly and profitably avert our rush toward energy catastrophe. But hydraulic fracturing, invented by Halliburton and beloved of Exxon, is close. Continue reading


The Quote of the Age

Posted in 5. The End Game on December 12, 2009 by talewis

“For my entire life, world leaders have been negotiating a climate agreement. They cannot tell me they need more time. There is no more time.”

Christina Ora, a youth delegate from the Solomon Islands

to the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference.

Drill, Baby, WAIT!

Posted in 3. Energy with tags , , on December 12, 2009 by talewis

The company calls itself AltaRock, which translates roughly from the Nordish as “getting high on rocks.” With a $6 million grant from the U.S. Energy Department and $30 million in venture capital (translation: “lottery ticket”), the firm set out to show the world how to turn true geothermal energy — that is, the heat in deep rock — into a major source of alternative, renewable energy. On Friday, it showed the world how to abandon a project and make itself virtually invisible. Continue reading

Dumb and Dumber

Posted in The Failed State with tags , , , on December 8, 2009 by talewis

If you’ve ever heard a public-address system screech, you’ve heard a feedback loop in action. The microphone picks up a little noise, the amplifier makes it louder, sends it out through the speaker, whereupon it is picked up by the mike and amplified again until it turns into a primal scream.

Feedback loops are accelerating the impacts of the greenhouse effect on global climate. Increased amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, acting like the glass in a greenhouse, trap solar radiation near the earth’s surface, raising the temperature. As it gets warmer in the northern reaches where the tundra and taiga are permanently frozen, they start to thaw in summer. When they thaw they release large amounts of carbon dioxide, which increase the greenhouse effect. Feedback loop.

Feedback loops, most of them unforeseen, have accelerated the effects of global warming well beyond the worst-case scenarios of just a few years ago. The Paul Revere of global climate change, James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute, describes in the current edition of Newsweek how badly those scenarios — many of which he wrote himself — have been trampled.

Well, stupidity has feedback loops as well. Continue reading

Here We Go Again

Posted in The Failed State with tags , , , on December 1, 2009 by talewis

Another American president is trying to find a middle ground between the rock of the right-wing hawks and the hard place of the left-wing pacifists. Another American president is trying to be a little bit at war by dribbling troops into a far place, using borrowed money, to fight and die for no clear purpose. Another American president is trying to stake out high moral ground with both feet sunk deep in the sewer of a partnership with a corrupt government. Welcome to Afghanistan. Continue reading