Energy & Environment

Energy & Environment

There's Something in the Air ...

Not being trained in economics, political science or anthropology, I can speak only as an amateur observer. Still, it's clear that a lot of people are sensing the same thing: There are monumental changes taking place around us.

One hardly knows where to begin, but certainly the radical restructuring of the global finance system is one place. Beyond that, the quasi-nationalization of U.S. and European banks and insurance companies, and perhaps even of the American auto industry, all mean that the economic landscape will appear very different a year from now, or even three months from now. Or sooner.

New Orleans: The New Atlantis

Stop Trying to Rebuild a City That is Being Reclaimed by the Sea

ST. PAUL — While many people have dismissed Al Gore and his ilk as tree-hugging liberals bent on curbing our way of life, there is one thing he is dead right about. Something strange is happening to the earth’s climate. Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav, and the tsunamis in the Asian Pacific may be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of imminent climatic threats to the world, and should give us pause to consider whether or not rebuilding New Orleans is really such a good idea.

While Gustav’s bark proved to be much worse than its bite, the fact that the collective consciousness viewed it as a serious enough threat to halt a political convention over a thousand miles away speaks volumes. People are genuinely concerned about whether New Orleans can survive as a city. With each successive season, and despite Herculean feats of engineering, the sea takes a little more of the city back into its bosom.

Beijing's Design: Smart, Chic and Green

China called upon the world community of gifted talent to build and design the most magnificent, green, tech-savvy buildings that you've ever seen, all done with Chinese thoughtfulness. There's no way that London will be able to have so many new sports stadiums built by so many renowned architects.

The three main tennis courts in the Olympic Forest Park are dodecagons, with each of the 12 sides serving as a stand. The stands, in turn, look like petals of a lotus flower. Taking into account the size of the tennis ball and its high speed, the architects designed steep stands that give fans the best line of sight, according to Zheng Fang, chief architect of the Shenzhen Design Consultant Corporation.

Republicans Have Energy Move Up Their Sleeves

Now that Bush has rescinded his father's executive order banning offshore oil drilling, only the legislative ban stands in the way. And that ban expires on Oct. 1, the start of the new fiscal year. The Democrats have the votes to extend it, but the Republicans will filibuster it and there is no way the Democrats can get 60 votes to stop the filibuster.

So the Dems are threatening to put the extension of the offshore drilling ban in as an amendment to the continuing resolution (CR) needed to keep the government running. If the Republicans filibuster the CR, the Democrats feel they would profit from the resulting shutdown, just as they did in 1995-96.

Where's Al Gore?

Anyone can champion the Earth when it's easy, yet too many remain silent when it's hard. The forces behind oil are taking charge in the great energy debate and global warming has virtually disappeared, even from its strongest advocate.

I have supported Al Gore for a generation but am profoundly troubled by his silence and absence from the great debate during this election year. Gore did not run; Gore did not endorse when it mattered; Gore did not push his issues during the primaries; Gore did not challenge the phony gas tax holiday idea; Gore does not challenge the Mother Earth of all flip-flops and sellouts from John McCain, who went from pretending to be a global warming leader to being the great shill for oil company profits.

The Earth Is Losing to the Oil

John McCain says drill, drill, drill, nuke, nuke, nuke, which is a policy of fraud, fraud, fraud, pollute, pollute, pollute. The man who used to be John McCain as a champion of fighting global warming has become the J.R. Ewing of the campaign as a shill for oil companies raking in their dough and offering bromides to expand their profits.

The party that used to be the Democratic Party now calculates political maneuvers about how much drilling they will accept, and goes on another of its famous, ridiculous, lengthy recesses without doing anything to stimulate the economy or stand up for the people or the earth on energy.

Rational Exuberance

Driven by high fuel costs, many of us are moving from the suburbs back to urban centers, sparking a period of urban renewal that billions of dollars in public funding and decades of urban planning failed to accomplish. In essence, many of us are driving less and living more. Telecommuting and shorter workweeks are also evolving trends. Recently, some local municipal governments have started giving employees the option of working a four-day week to help them reduce fuel costs. Suffolk County, N.Y., approved a measure recently to allow workers to adopt a flextime four-day workweek or take furloughs to cut down on commuting.

Finding ways to do more with less not only makes economic sense, it could help ease our dependence on foreign oil, and reduce the harmful environmental consequences of hydrocarbon pollution. Because we feel we need their oil, we lack the real leverage to encourage countries like Saudi Arabia from spreading radical Islam, a direct sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East. With oil prices sky high, at least some of the windfall profits these nations are making go directly to funding terrorists. Moreover, most of us, whether or not we call ourselves conservationists, agree that global warming is a real thing. Any measures that we can take to reduce our consumption and waste will make our planet a more livable place, and may prevent catastrophic changes in the environment.

McCain on Energy: Everything But the Kitchen Sink

High gas prices are coming in handy for the Republican Party and for John McCain. Months ago, before energy became the No. 1 voter issue, McCain was preparing for a battering on the economy. No matter how hard he planned to run from President Bush, under GOP stewardship in at least the last six years we have seen a credit crunch, the skyrocketing price of oil, the decline of the dollar, accelerating debt and deficit and more. Even McCain knew that all the talk about earmark reform wasn't going to get him out of that tight spot.

But suddenly the throw-the-bums-out trajectory of the economic narrative has changed — now drilling is back in fashion and the Democrats who control the Congress look like they are stonewalling. House Republicans staged Day Two of their "historic floor protest," and they have quite a way with words, as McCain presses Barack Obama to call the Congress back to vote on new drilling.

Energy on Energy

A great deal of energy is being spent on the energy debate, and for good reason. Right now, it is the hottest issue of the campaign.

Republicans have refused to leave the House chamber as a way to protest congressional inaction. They have taken to this issue like a dog to a bone, and they are not letting go.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has signaled to members of her caucus that they are free to vote their own way when they come back into session after the Republican convention. But congressional inaction might seal the fate of some of her most vulnerable members before they get the chance to vote against her.

No Little Plans

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is quoted in the morning newspapers saying, “I am here to save the planet.” In other word, no drilling offshore. No drilling in ANWR. No drilling where the oil is.

Pelosi is doing a slew of media interviews to promote her new book, Know Your Power. Haven’t had a chance to read the book, but I am sure it will be an interesting read.

And it is good to know that her current political goal is something small, like saving the planet. No. 2 on her list is achieving world peace and No. 3 is curing the common cold. It should be pretty much all achievable for her. After all, she knows her power, as the book says.