Archive for June, 2007

The nothingness that is the new energy bill

June 27th, 2007

Posted by: admin

First, as an aside, my favorite quote on the new web in a long time: ‘This is what happens, he suggests, “when ignorance meets egoism meets bad taste meets mob rule.”‘ From this review of Andrew Keen’s The Cult of the Amateur. I suspect Roger will agree with that sentiment as applied to blogs (the review specifically singles out blogs as fitting that mold). I actually don’t. I think it takes some combing, but some blogs provide just as much insight and detailed intellectual analysis on our societal issues as the best full-time “professional” commentators.

Second, you’ve probably realized that Prometheus is now in the midst of its normal summerly slowdown. We are academics after all, and we like to take the summers off. I (and probably Roger, despite his telling y’all that he was done) will be throwing posts up here and there throughout the summer, but it’s going to be slow until late August or early September.

Finally, to the subject of this post. For now I’ll let Thomas Friedman say it for me about the “new” energy bill that the Senate passed last week:

The whole Senate energy effort only reinforced my feelings that we’re in a green bubble — a festival of hot air by the news media, corporate America and presidential candidates about green this and green that, but, when it comes to actually doing something hard to bring about a green revolution at scale — and if you don’t have scale on this you have nothing — we wimp out. Climate change is not a hoax. The hoax is that we are really doing something about it.

Then again, the debate on this energy bill was a lot less about climate than about energy independence. Watching how hard it was to get even this pidly little bill passed, that Congress will address energy independence and climate simultaneously now seems as remote as ever. It really makes you wonder who is talking to the editorial page writers of the major papers, some of whom ate the bait and ponied up that this was a significant new change in energy policy. The weakness of this bill tells me more than ever that we better start thinking a lot harder about adaptation to anthropogenic climate change, lest we follow the fate of Jared Diamond’s not-so-shining examples.

Normalized US Hurricane Damages

June 25th, 2007

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

The following paper has now been peer reviewed and accepted for publication in the journal Natural Hazards Review:

Pielke, Jr., R.A., Gratz, J., Landsea, C.W., Collins, D., Saunders, M., and Musulin, R., 2007. Normalized Hurricane Damages in the United States: 1900-2005. Natural Hazards Review (accepted) Accepted Version in PDF

The dataset is available here.

Aren’t new problems always old problems?

June 12th, 2007

Posted by: admin

Congress is back at trying to reform the problematic National Flood Insurance Program. What’s curious is the claim that NFIP’s problems are recent and related to the 2005 hurricane season. This CQ article says:

The program, which provides virtually all water-damage insurance in the country, had to borrow that amount to pay out the unprecedented number of claims generated by Hurricane Katrina and the other 2005 storms that ravaged the Gulf of Mexico coast.

Lawmakers and experts say the 2005 storms revealed weaknesses in the program that must be addressed to put it back on sound financial footing.

The number of claims may have been unprecedented but the borrowing from the federal treasury to back up the insurance pool certainly was not unprecedented. And it is absurd to suggest that it took the 2005 storm year to “reveal weaknesses in the program.” The literature is deep on the NFIP’s problems and one of the biggest is that rate-setting isn’t protected from political tinkering, so NFIP can’t charge actuarially-sound premiums. So it’s nice to see that Congress is trying to address NFIP’s problems, but the question is will Congress protect NFIP from Congress?

A little percolation on energy policy

June 11th, 2007

Posted by: admin

Two things I noted today:

1- From the No S#%@! category, the Bush Administration seems eager to let everybody know that there will be no movement whatsoever on regulating carbon until January 2009 at the earliest. If you caught even a bit of the G8 news you already knew that (and somebody got me saying as much before G8). But apparently the Bush Administration wants to drive the point home, so last week they turned EPA Administrator Johnson loose at a House hearing:

U.S. President George W. Bush wouldn’t sign into law an anti-global warming bill that includes a so-called cap and trade program, the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator told U.S. lawmakers Friday.

During a congressional hearing, Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash. asked Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson if the president would sign into law legislation that would create the nation’s first cap and trade program aimed at specifically limiting climate change-causing pollutants.

Johnson simply replied, “No.”

In response, Inslee, a cap and trade policy proponent, criticized Johnson, saying he hopes Johnson has his prediction wrong.

“I hope you’re premature. I hope you haven’t checked with the president,” he said, during a hearing held by the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. “I hope you’re not authorized to say that.”

Two things caught my attention here. As far as I can tell, Johnson’s appearance before this House Select Committee was entirely voluntary [that's the first item of note] since this is a select committee with no legislation-writing authority, no subpoena power, no budget authority, and no jurisdiction over any federal agency. So Johnson’s willingness to appear was either:


From a Reader: Blog Intolerance

June 7th, 2007

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

[A long-time reader who wishes to remain anonymous asked us to post the following excerpt from a Joe Klein column in Time magazine. -Ed.]

This is not the first time this kind of free-range lunacy has been visited upon me. Indeed, it happens, oh, once a week to each of us who post on Swampland (Karen Tumulty, Jay Carney and Ana Marie Cox are the others). A reasonable reader might ask, Why are the left-wing bloggers attacking you? Aren’t you pretty tough on the Bush Administration? Didn’t you write a few months ago that George W. Bush would be remembered as one of the worst Presidents in history? And why on earth does any of this matter?

First, let me say that I really enjoy blogging. It’s a brilliant format for keeping readers up to date on the things I care about—and for exchanging information with them. . .

But the smart stuff is being drowned out by a fierce, bullying, often witless tone of intolerance that has overtaken the left-wing sector of the blogosphere. Anyone who doesn’t move in lockstep with the most extreme voices is savaged and ridiculed—especially people like me who often agree with the liberal position but sometimes disagree and are therefore considered traitorously unreliable. Some of this is understandable: the left-liberals in the blogosphere are merely aping the odious, disdainful—and politically successful—tone that right-wing radio talk-show hosts like Rush Limbaugh pioneered. They are also justifiably furious at a Bush White House that has specialized in big lies and smear tactics.

And that is precisely the danger here. Fury begets fury. Poison from the right-wing talk shows seeped into the Republican Party’s bloodstream and sent that party off the deep end. Limbaugh’s show—where Dick Cheney frequently expatiates—has become the voice of the Republican establishment. The same could happen to the Democrats. The spitballs aimed at me don’t matter much. The spitballs aimed at Harman, Clinton and Obama are another story. Despite their votes, each of those politicians believes the war must be funded. (Obama even said so in his statement explaining his vote.) Each knows, as Senator Jim Webb has said repeatedly, that we must be more careful getting out of Iraq than we were getting in. But they allowed themselves to be bullied into a more simplistic, more extreme position. Why? Partly because they fear the power of the bloggers to set the debate and raise money against them. They may be right—in the short (primary election) term; Harman faced a challenge from the left in 2006. In the long term, however, kowtowing to extremists is exactly the opposite of what this country is looking for after the lethal radicalism of the Bush Administration.

Curious quote from the recalcitrant

June 6th, 2007

Posted by: admin

It’s nothing new: rather than make better cars Detroit would lobby. So it’s no surprise that the big-3 chiefs are running to DC together to beg that they not be held to even the most milquetoast efficiency regulations. What is curious, though, is GM’s CEO’s choice of words:

“It looks like within the climate that’s being experienced now, it’s very likely there will be increases in CAFE,” Rick Wagoner, General Motors Corp. chairman and chief executive, said Tuesday in Wilmington, Del. “I think our concern is, let’s make sure that we also fix the real problems while we’re doing that.”

Of course he meant “political climate” not “Earth’s climate,” which makes his quote ironic. But what I’m really curious about is what he sees as “the real problems” that Congress should be addressing instead of getting America far more energy efficient than it is, both for climate and energy supply reasons. It never ceases to impress me that Detroit can scream and cry about how being forced to improve the efficiency of their product will lead to a loss of jobs, without being challenged in the slightest. As if fewer cars will be sold because the cars are made slightly more efficient? Somebody explain….