Wednesday, January 7, 2015

3 simple reasons why Keystone XL is a bad idea (and what we should do when we approve it)

1. Allows precious North American petroleum resources to be sent to China

I’m not an anti-export guy. I actually think international trade, over time, is a good thing. But we have to think carefully when it comes to energy. Sometime in the next 50 to 150 years we will have to have moved from carbon-based energy sources to cleaner sources and renewables.  Allowing a North American resource, as nasty and cruddy as it is, to be more easily shipped overseas, especially to a major rival like China, seems un-wise. I was talking to my WWII-vet father-in-law about this and he said it reminded him of the stories of the USA selling scrap metal to the Japanese in the 1930s only to have it come back to us as bombs.

2. Oil prices will rise

Contrary to what many say, the additional supply from tar sand oil will not have the typical affect of increasing supply thus lowering prices. That’s because not all oil is equal. Tar sand oil is about the most difficult, and expensive, to extract and refine. It’s not like North Sea oil or West Texas oil or Saudi oil. That oil that is easy to get out of the ground and easy to refine. Because of the costs to extract and refine what essentially starts as a think tar-y sand, a barrel of tar sand oil needs to trade for upwards of $70-$80. Right now a barrel of oil is under $50.

3. Ignores the property rights of middle-Americans

It’s bad enough when the local or federal government imposes eminent domain to take land for roads or other interests that serve the common good. But here we have a situation where a company from another country is petitioning our government to allow them to use U.S. citizens' private land. Sure, some of those landowners are okay with it, especially with the bribes payments they'll receive. But not everyone is in favor.

Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m a knee-jerk-reactionary-tree-hugging-card-carrying-liberal. Except I’ve misplaced my card somewhere. I think I must have left them in the pocket of my cargo pants when I stripped down at Burning Man back in 1999.

Anyway, I’ve been to the anti-KXL rallies. I’ve written letters and all the other do-gooder crap. And I also think the main-stream green movement maybe picked the wrong "line-in-the-sand" issue with Keystone XL. What makes Keystone XL a bad idea is not the pipeline itself. Sure, every pipeline brings environmental risks, but there are so many pipelines crisscrossing the country all over the place, many in worse locations, that are older and are a greater risk to the environment. What makes Keystone XL bad is not Keystone XL itself but what it will lead to.

It’s thus a fairly complex issue and not a good political “sound bite” issue. It's easy to pick it apart with environmental studies that only look at the pipeline. And there is the constant argument over jobs. It’ll create lots of jobs or it will create few jobs. In an economy as large as ours the number of jobs this thing creates will be rounding error regardless of whose estimates you use. And the real winners, the oil companies, stand to gain tens of billions of dollars. Yes, that is a billion with a ‘b.’ The math is easy, really. There are literally billions of barrels of oil locked up in those tar sands. By making it easier to get it out, they can sell it on the international market for $10-$15 more per barrel while saving a few dollars with cheaper shipping (pipeline vs rail or truck). At $20 per barrel times a billion or ten, the profits are amazing. That is who wins. Royal Dutch Shell. Exxon-Mobil. And PetroChina. The last one is the listed arm of state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation. I really don't like the idea of a Chinese government-owned company standing to reap a windfall while it despoils our environment to send refined oil back to itself. It's a huge subsidy and back in the good old days, when one country took the resources of another we called it colonialism.

Here's what we should do

But beyond all that, what I’d rather see is a way for both sides to get past their bullshit posturing and come together. Here’s an idea: If we approve Keystone XL, tax the shit out of that nasty dirty oil. Ship it to China for China to pay the export duties. Use that revenue to ramp up our wind, solar, and yes, nuclear, energy capabilities. Congress has to, HAS TO, get out of its current bi-polar mess and start to govern again. The Tea-party fascists need to go home. And yeah, we need new leadership on the liberal side too. Pelosi and Reed had their chance and we see what happened. They can go home teach at some local university.

We need creative leadership in Washington DC not a bunch of demigods looking out for personal, party, and corporate interests. Remember, it's supposed to be "We the People..."

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pope: Dogs can go straight to hell!

Maybe you saw this article a few days ago where the Pope said that our doggies will make it to heaven.

Well, turns out that isn't quite the case. According to an update, the Pope really didn't say it all all. And based on the facts of this new article, plus what I make up in my head, it appears to suggest the Pope may have said something analogous to another Pope, perhaps condemning our furry friends to eternal damnation.

I base my conclusion from today's standards of investigative journalism and a closer reading of the original article in the New York Times which contained this gem:

During a weekly general audience at the Vatican last month, the pope, speaking of the afterlife, appeared to suggest that animals could go to heaven, asserting, “Holy Scripture teaches us that the fulfillment of this wonderful design also affects everything around us.”

Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper, analyzing the pope’s remarks, concluded he believed animals have a place in the afterlife. It drew an analogy to comforting words that Pope Paul VI was said to have once told a distraught boy whose dog had died: “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.”

Dolly the Dog: Heaven on Earth!
Thanks, Corriere della Sera, for setting a new standard in journalism. And thanks, New York Times, for just passing on whatever you feel like!

The point is not to debate whether dogs will or won't find their way to heaven. The point is that the standards of journalistic integrity, and getting the story right, no longer seem to apply. The New York Times misquotes the Pope? That seems like a big deal. Or used to be it would have been. I'm guessing no one really cares that much about the error. I'm not sure if that is a reflection of the decline of the mainstream media or the Pope. But that's another essay.

Today the news is all about getting 'clicks' and eyeballs to generate ad revenue. Perhaps more-so that in the past. I'll spare you, dear reader, another analysis of the Rolling Stone gang rape story except to say, holy shit what a colossal mess that created.

It used to be you could discern the reputable newspapers, like the New York Times, from the sensationalist. And the evening news on television, the news you could trust, was a loss-leader to get us to tune into a particular network so we'd watch whatever entertainment came next. But that was back when we didn't have a gagillion channels, networks, etc., we didn't have a 24x7 news cycle with hours to fill, and when we had to actually get up out of our chairs to change the channel. Not anymore.

The so-called mainstream media no longer exists. It's dead, or on life support at best, as local and national news programs have gutted their investigative journalism efforts to save money. Now we get all our news from Facebook, and Buzzfeed, and Reddit, and from our friends' text messages, and from celebrity tweets. Our 'news' is passed to us from agenda setting right and left wing 'pseudo-news' blogs, and the like, with little regard for accuracy.

If you hadn't realized it yet, I'm telling you now: We just can't believe everything we see here in the Matrix. Maybe you'll be one of the lucky ones and Santa will leave you a personal fact checker in your stocking. Otherwise the truth will be only what you hope it to be.

Meanwhile, it's buyer beware, friends.