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Global Warming

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Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands. The U.S. got clobbered. Three category 4 or 5 Atlantic hurricanes of startling intensity, a record for any single season, whacked the country. Records were also set for rainfall and destruction. Two of those mega-storms, Irma and Maria, their power intensified by waters growing ever warmer thanks to... Read More
Greeting Climate-Change Victims With a Man-Made Dystopia
When I first talked to the three Honduran men in the train yard in the southern Mexican town of Tenosique, I had no idea that they were climate-change refugees. We were 20 miles from the border with Guatemala at a rail yard where Central American refugees often congregated to try to board La Bestia (“the... Read More
Inaction Equals Annihilation
Not since World War II have more human beings been at risk from disease and starvation than at this very moment. On March 10th, Stephen O’Brien, under secretary-general of the United Nations for humanitarian affairs, informed the Security Council that 20 million people in three African countries -- Nigeria, Somalia, and South Sudan -- as... Read More
There are the terrorists, who get attention out of all proportion to their actual clout, and then there are those with big-time clout -- I think of them as the terrarists -- who get almost no attention at all. Back in May 2013, I came up with that term and here’s how I described those... Read More
Trump’s Carbon-Obsessed Energy Policy and the Planetary Nightmare to Come
Scroll through Donald Trump’s campaign promises or listen to his speeches and you could easily conclude that his energy policy consists of little more than a wish list drawn up by the major fossil fuel companies: lift environmental restrictions on oil and natural gas extraction, build the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, open more... Read More
One small aspect of a trip I took to El Paso, Texas, back in the 1970s remains in my mind: the weather. No, not the weather in El Paso, which is more or less the same much of the year, but the weather on the local television news. I remember watching a weatherman begin his... Read More
The Past Battles the Future at Seneca Lake
Let’s amend the famous line from Joni Mitchell’s “Yellow Taxi” to fit this moment in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. There, Big Energy seems determined to turn paradise, if not into a parking lot, then into a massive storage area for fracked natural gas. But there’s one way in which that song... Read More
Welcome to the asylum! I’m talking, of course, about this country, or rather the world Big Oil spent big bucks creating.You know, the one in which the obvious -- climate change -- is doubted and denied, and in which the new Republican Congress is actively opposed to doing anything about it. Just the other day,... Read More
The Real Story Behind the Oil Price Collapse
Many reasons have been provided for the dramatic plunge in the price of oil to about $60 per barrel (nearly half of what it was a year ago): slowing demand due to global economic stagnation; overproduction at shale fields in the United States; the decision of the Saudis and other Middle Eastern OPEC producers to... Read More
How Energy Coordination on One Continent Could Bring the Planet to Its Knees
It’s a ritual long familiar to observers of American politics: presidential hopefuls with limited international experience travel to foreign lands and deliver speeches designed to showcase their grasp of foreign affairs. Typically, such escapades involve trips to major European capitals or active war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, however, has... Read More
How Big Oil Is Responding to the Anti-Carbon Moment
Around the world, carbon-based fuels are under attack. Increasingly grim economic pressures, growing popular resistance, and the efforts of government regulators have all shocked the energy industry. Oil prices are falling, colleges and universities are divesting from their carbon stocks, voters are instituting curbs on hydro-fracking, and delegates at the U.N. climate conference in Peru... Read More
Think of it as the uncertainty principle. By the nature of things, doubt, the unknown, and uncertainty are naturally part of the big picture in science, especially when it comes to creating “models” of the future. As Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway showed in their blockbuster book, Merchants of Doubt, the giant oil companies (following... Read More
The Climate for 2015
It was the most thrilling bureaucratic document I’ve ever seen for just one reason: it was dated the 21st day of the month of Thermidor in the Year Six. Written in sepia ink on heavy paper, it recorded an ordinary land auction in France in what we would call the late summer of 1798. But... Read More
Whatever you may imagine, “peak oil” has not been discredited as a concept, a statement no less true for “peak fossil fuels.” Think of them instead as postponed. We are, after all, on a finite planet that, by definition, holds a finite amount of oil, natural gas, and coal. Sooner or later, as such deposits... Read More
A Global Warming President Presides Over a Drill-Baby-Drill America
Considering all the talk about global warming, peak oil, carbon divestment, and renewable energy, you’d think that oil consumption in the United States would be on a downward path. By now, we should certainly be witnessing real progress toward a post-petroleum economy. As it happens, the opposite is occurring. U.S. oil consumption is on an... Read More
“The industry’s position was that there was no ‘proof’ that tobacco was bad, and they fostered that position by manufacturing a ‘debate,’ convincing the mass media that responsible journalists had an obligation to present ‘both sides’ of it.” Using a handful of scientists as their expert witnesses, the major tobacco companies also denied the science... Read More
Like Big Tobacco, Big Energy Targets the Developing World for Future Profits
In the 1980s, encountering regulatory restrictions and public resistance to smoking in the United States, the giant tobacco companies came up with a particularly effective strategy for sustaining their profit levels: sell more cigarettes in the developing world, where demand was strong and anti-tobacco regulation weak or nonexistent. Now, the giant energy companies are taking... Read More
Call it a nightmare that passes for good news. Recently, the New York Times optimistically headlined a front-page piece by reporters Coral Davenport and Steven Erlanger, "U.S. Hopes Boom in Natural Gas Can Curb Putin." It offered an eerie overview of where the administration of the president who came into office committed to reversing global... Read More
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