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Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy


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Big Energy Continues to Enjoy Record Profits

In an announcement that surprised absolutely no-one, energy corporations continues to set records for quarterly profits.  The heavyweight, ExxonMobil, reported profits of $11.68 billion in three months.  Demand starting falling earlier this year.  It’s taken a while for oil and gas prices to follow, and they certainly haven’t fallen by similar percentages, but profits are still skyrocketing.

I wanted to spend some time discussing the language of the CNN-Money article.  One sub-headline reads: “Pricey oil cuts both ways”.  The richest among us continue to try to throw a pity party for themselves.  The only thing that results from high oil prices that oil corporations have to buy is their profits are less than they otherwise would have been.  The rest of us should be grateful that Exxon only made $11.68 billion.  It could have made even more!

In an attempt to parry criticism levied at corporations like Exxon, more articles like this one are starting to include descriptions of “where the money is going”.  The article touts the $7 billion Exxon spent on finding and producing more oil.  Interestingly, production still fell 8% from year-ago levels.  $7 billion just doesn’t get you what it used to, I guess.  The real problem isn’t locating new oil – corporations know where plenty of it is.  It’s the lack of refining capacity in the U.S.  Remember, a new refinery hasn’t been built in 30 years.

The article mentions $10.1 billion went to shareholders in dividends and stock buybacks.  It goes on to bring up all the taxes Exxon and others have to pay.   Waaaaaah!

In terms of governmental policy, the corporate welfare Exxon and others are enjoying should be shut down.  With demand continuing to increase and corporations working to keep supply down, their profits will continue to set records.  Why should the American taxpayer give them more of their hard-earned money?

Another point on corporations locating new oil and wanting more off-shore areas to be opened for lease: when will the corporate media bring up the fact that the Gulf of Mexico was opened up for leasing two years ago?  Oil and gas prices have shot up ever since.  Where’s the oil?  Where’s the relief at the pump?  The answer is easy: corporations are sitting on those leases, which helped cause the increase in price and thus in their profit.  Corporations have no real interest in increasing supply.  They’re sitting on a resource that is dwindling and they know it.  If Congress is stupid enough to open off-shore areas, prices will not go down.  The facts in the past two years bears that out.  It sounds really good right now while we’re all paying more than we ever have for gas.  The best way to bring down prices in the environment set up by the big energy corporations and their lackeys in our government?  Decrease demand.


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Random Pieces 7/31/08

I love “regular guy” John McCain. See, he hasn’t shown up to do his job as a Senator since April 9th, 2008. No committee hearings, no votes. No work at all. Ah, what a life! For the perpetually curious, how much salary has Sen. McCain received in that time period? $51,345.08. Just to put that in context, how much is the median household yearly income in America? $48,201.00. Yes, that’s correct: in just under four months’ time, John McCain has taken home more money than the median household does in an entire year. That’s how much of a regular guy John McCain is. It’s also another example of how Republicans throw away taxpayer money that could go to someone who actually wanted to do their job.

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I eagerly await the day when the “land of the free” includes the freedom to enjoy cannabis. Tax and regulate it, just like alcohol and cigarettes.

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States looking to save money in their budgets should be looking to energy efficiency instead of approving any new coal, natural gas, or nuclear power plants.

California has cut annual peak demand by 12 GW — and total demand by about 40,000 GWh — over the past three decades. The cost of efficiency programs has averaged 2-3¢ per kWwhich is about one fifth the cost of electricity generated from new nuclear, coal and natural gas-fired plants. And, of course, energy efficiency does not require new power lines and does not generate greenhouse gas emissions or long-lived radioactive waste.

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Memo to Congressional Democrats: when you quit capitulating to Mr. 23% on everything, maybe he’ll start taking you seriously. So the fake cowboy unveiled an overhaul of intelligence powers without consulting you first? Too bad. If only you had figured out how to exercise the oversight you’re obligated to do by that quaint antique, the Constitution, I might find some sympathy for you. I just don’t see the point in complaining about being hit by the stick that you chose to hand to the bully.

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Space News Items 7/30/08

NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander could get a mission extension. Managers are asking for 30 more Martian days of funding to continue digging in search of evidence of water and possibly life. As the article mentions, the rovers Spirit and Opportunity are still chugging around four years after landing. That won’t happen with Phoenix, but another 30 days of science would be awesome.

A planned Canadian satellite could search for Near Earth Objects (small asteroids, etc.) as well as U.S. and Canadian artificial satellites. To do both jobs, a new attitude control and tracking system will have to be developed and tested.

Space shuttle Atlantis’ launch date, originally scheduled for Oct.8, could be accelerated by four days.

Virgin Galactic unveiled its new mothership, WhiteKnightTwo, to the public on Monday. A large number of test flights, at least 40 according to Burt Rutan, will be necessary before the craft is used to launch passengers aboard SpaceShipTwo 65 miles above the Earth’s surface. When I have the money…

The International Astronomical Union continues to work on language and definitions describing bodies in our solar system.  Planets, dwarf planets, plutoids and major planets are on the latest list.  This is science folks: topics are under constant observation and change.  It part of what makes science so fun.


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Colorado Daily Asking CO-02 Candidates Questions: Afghanistan

The Colorado Daily has been asking the candidates of CO-02 about leading issues. I previously shared my thoughts on their responses to the Daily’s health care question. This time, the topic was Afghanistan. Note: this originally ran about one month ago. I became aware of this series only last week. Here is the original Daily webpage introduction. Here is their question:

Should the U.S. still be in Afghanistan, and why or why not? If so, what would some of your objectives for a successful mission be?

Jared Polis‘s answer was pretty good. He shared a 9/11 anecdote, questions why bin Laden remains free, discusses troop realignment as it relates to the number of troops in Iraq, and identifies drug production as one aspect of the Afghani reality that has unfolded. Jared also speaks to the need to protect human rights and secure womens’ resources in order to bring about a more balanced Afghani society. Jared’s approach to the Afghani state of affairs revolves around stabilization. Without stabilizing the region, progress won’t happen.

Will Shafroth‘s answer was just as good as Jared’s. He starts by calling for a reanalysis of our goals to determine if we have the capability to achieve those goals. He identified the Afghanistan approach as being better than Iraq (identifying allies, etc.), and recognizes the importance of implementing diplomacy first in any foreign affair. He employs what I consider to be the correct language with respect to Iraq: invasion and occupation. We are not conducting a war there and the more people recognize that, the sooner we can disengage and stop occupying the Iraqi people’s country. Like Jared, Will identifies restoring stability as a worthy goal, and his definition of success would include no reestablishment of Al Qaeda in the region.

Joan Fitz-Gerald‘s answer was good, but I think it was somewhat weaker than the other candidates’.   She begins by pointing out the unfinished mission of finding Osama bin Laden and preventing Al Qaeda from regrouping.  She cites the troop number differential between Iraq and Afghanistan, then shares an anecdote regarding women and sub-par civil projects the US constructed.  She identifies the importance of Pakistan (neither Jared nor Will did so).  I’m with her up to this point in her response.  It’s after this portion that I part ways.  Her solution would include finishing the military mission.  With respect to both bin Laden and Al Qaeda, I don’t think the mission is exclusively military.  The mission should include apprehension of suspected terrorists and letting established justice systems deal with them, if necessary.  Continuing to invade, kill and occupy foreign lands cannot be the de facto approach of our foreign policy.  Joan wants to know what the status of intelligence on bin Laden and Al Qaeda is, which I do agree with.  Then she brings up losing a PR war in addition to a military war.  In my opinion, Joan is utilizing immoral language to further policies.

Two days ago, I wrote about the right-wing extremist that shot up the church in Tennessee and identified violent language as an impediment to identifying and implementing policies that work for the American people.  There is no difference in my mind between the violent language that right-wing pundits use and the violent language that Democrats use.  Violent language is violent language, regardless of who uses it.  I think saying, “losing a PR war” is a horrible frame from which to operate.  It doesn’t exemplify progressive values of opportunity and equality in discussing Afghani policy.  The word “war” has been overused to an extreme degree.  Are there troops from separate nations lining up fighting with film and pens?  Of course not.

All three candidates sound like they’re fairly close on the Afghanistan issue.  I think their effectiveness in Congress in developing and implementing an updated policy is highly dependent on how they approach the issue.  Jared and Will are closer to matching my approach.


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Random Pieces 7/29/08

Gov. Ritter’s Energy Office is offering a suite of programs and financial support to tornado affected residential properties in Windsor. The GEO has announced four opportunities for support for those impacted by the tornado that touched down in Weld County in May 2008. GEO will help homeowners, renters, and builders save money and save energy as they rebuild their community through the following programs:

ENERGY STAR New Homes
Insulate Colorado
Energy $aving Partners
Solar Domestic Hot Water

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Dr. Reese Halter at AlterNet assesses our readiness for climate change: we’re not ready for it. The latest evidence supporting this view: the California wildfires that continue to burn out of control.

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A CNN article tries to look at the “reality” of bringing wind power to our electricity portfolio.  It contrasts some opposing view-points (which follows the corporate stenographers’ lazy methodology of he-said/she-said type reporting) but doesn’t go very deep into the subject.  It spends more time looking at government regulations, which will be necessary to fully flesh out the technology, than the technology itself.  In another typical fashion, it examines wind energy by itself under a microscope.  No mention of solar or geothermal power is made.  There is no examination of the big picture.  Thankfully, there are scientists and even some policy makers whose job is to look at the big picture.  Our portfolio must expand quickly from fossil fuels.  It can be done.  Will it?


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Gov. Ritter Declares 22 Colorado Counties as Drought Disasters

Gov. Bill Ritter is seeking federal disaster assistance for farmers and ranchers who are experiencing financial distress in 22 counties hit by drought and late-spring freezes. The level of drought in these counties range from moderate to extreme, as indicated by the U.S. Drought Monitor. The affected counties:

Adams, Crowley, Kit Carson, Park, Arapahoe, Douglas, Kiowa, Prowers, Baca, Elbert, Las Animas, Pueblo, Bent, EI Paso, Logan, Teller, Cheyenne, Huerfano, Otero, and Washington.

Here is a closer view of Colorado’s drought assessment.


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Denver Weather & Climate: July 2008

Crossposted at SquareState.

I’m sure those of us in the Denver metro area have noticed that July has been pretty warm this year. For those that are interested in details, a large ridge has established itself over these and other parts (a ridge is the opposite of a trough; troughs move air-masses around and ridges keep them in place). The result has been higher than climatological average temperatures and less than average precipitation.
The local NWS office has officially recorded 15 consecutive days of high temperatures of 90 degrees or more for Denver (at DIA). The record streak for Denver is 18 days. I’ve seen observations over 90 at Denver today, so add one to the streak. The high temperature should exceed 90 the rest of this week, so the record could be broken in a big way. Before I count those chickens, however, it’s instructive to look at the years still officially with longer streaks: 1987 (16 days), 2000 (17 days), 1874 and 1901 (18 days each). 2000 had a second streak later the same summer of 12 consecutive days of 90+ degrees.

If you were around in 2005, you probably remember July of that year was warmer overall. It didn’t have very long streaks of high temperatures, but it did have the most 100+ degree days in Denver history with seven, five of which happened in a row. Ugh!

What about precipitation? That’s not looking so good for Denver (again, officially at DIA now). As of the beginning of this year, 2002 stands as the driest year in Denver’s history. So far, this year is drier. And not only is it drier, it’s significantly drier. Take a look:

2002 2008 (inches)

Jan 0.48 0.08

Feb 0.32 0.18

Mar 0.53 0.17

Apr 0.23 0.32

May 0.94 1.56

Jun 1.45 0.73

July thru 26th 1.39 0.24

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Total 5.34 3.28

Difference -2.06

Keep this in mind: one or two storms can make up this entire difference. A heavy rainstorm or snowstorm right over the station at DIA can significantly add to this year’s total. 2008′s numbers aren’t the end of the world. But they’re definitely worth noting.

I’m also left wishing once again for a robust mechanism to get town-by-town results from across Colorado. How do Durango, Grand Junction, Pueblo and Greeley compare, for instance? Such things take money and time, though…


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Random Pieces 7/28/08

George W. Bush continues to set record after record. Five of the worst deficits? They’re Bush’s and his extremist allies in Congress. This year’s deficit will amount to around $482 billion. Bushies are of course trying to spin the number, citing two worse deficits in our history, based on percentage of GDP. There’s a lot of that going around as the economy tanks and businesses post record-setting losses themselves. It’s only the third worst yearly deficit ever! Brought to you by folks who convinced voters they were fiscally responsible. One more reason not to vote for McCain and dozens of other candidates.

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One out of five bridges in the US is 50 years old or older, according to American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. Why is 50 years worth mentioning? Engineers design bridges to last 50 years. And the amount of traffic using those bridges far exceeds what was estimated 50+ years ago. Last year, a bridge collapse in Minnesota killed 13 and injured 144 people. And yet the same conservatives who have run up record deficits continue to argue that we shouldn’t invest in our national infrastructure. Indeed, immoral corporations like Halliburton and Exxon are gleefully accepting corporate welfare while our infrastructure edges closer to failure.

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So someone went to a church in Tennessee with a shotgun and killed two people while injuring seven others.  Who is this person?  Another psychotic white male.  He was pissed off at “liberals and gays” and frustrated he couldn’t find a job.  He believes that all liberals should be killed.  Where did he get such crazy thoughts?  Unsurprisingly, his reading included Bill O’Reilly, Mike Savage and Sean Hannity.  Their writings and general use of language, along with other extremist right-wingers, have been identified as infused with violence.

I recommend reading Jeffrey Feldman’s “Outright Barbarous” to get a clearer idea of this – he takes a short stroll through right-wing pundit-land and examines their rhetoric.  His conclusion: that the level of violence in their rhetoric prevents any real discussion of the issues we all face today.  I’m actually surprised even more outbursts like this haven’t been seen.

I’m curious if Jim David Adkisson will be charged as a terrorist.  Based on the fact that he’s not brown and doesn’t have a Muslim-sounding name, I doubt it.

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Recent Energy News Pieces

After a short break, I’m catching up on some things. There have been quite a few energy-related news articles. I’ll discuss them below.

First, from Friday came news that both John McCain and Bob Schaffer have made up quite a bit of ground in polling done on their respective races in Colorado. Gas prices and potential solutions were cited as having influence in the movement. One factor ties the two together: Coloradans’ view that drilling in shale or off the US coasts will have an effect of gas prices. Not enough is being done, in my opinion, to challenge that false viewpoint. The Republican Machine (newspapers, radio and TV) continues to peddle opening up new lands for lease as a mechanism to reduce oil and gas prices.

What’s wrong with that? Oh, just the fact that Big Energy already owns 68 million acres of land which they could already be drilling. Except they’re not. And they’ve owned this land for years now. Had they drilled, more oil and natural gas would currently be available for market. Read closely: they didn’t drill. And they didn’t drill for a reason. See, by purposefully restricting resources from getting to the market at the same time that demand has kept growing, the value of the resources has grown exponentially in the past five to ten years. But the corporate media has absolutely no interest in ensuring citizens know the entire story. How many times have you seen/read/heard about the vast tracts of land energy corporations already own but won’t drill? The only locations I’ve encountered it are on progressive media.

So it doesn’t take much thought to realize that opening up more land wouldn’t do a thing to reduce gas prices. And let’s make sure we’re very clear on this: taxpayers own the land that the Big Energy corporations want. If we lease those lands and they go undeveloped, Americans are poorer for it.

To the point of the articles: if Colorado and other states vote for folks like Bob Schaffer and John McCain, energy prices will not go down. They’ve demonstrated how beholden they are to energy corporations their entire careers. They’re the cause of the gas prices we now pay because they pushed a pro-corporate energy policy. Why give them more time to prevent us from enacting real solutions like moving renewable energy technologies to market and reducing our dependence on foreign fuels?

A vote for McCain or Schaffer is a vote to keep gas prices high. It’s really that simple.


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Random Pieces 7/24/08

After years of producing vehicles that get better fuel economy for European customers than they did for American customers, Ford is finally going to retool American factories to produce and sell the same vehicles stateside. This comes as Ford struggles to reduce costs and just posted its worst quarter in its 105-year history. Ford lost $8.7 billion in its 2nd quarter.

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The paragon of personal responsibility, Rush Limbaugh, tried to take Sen. Ken Salazar to task over oil-shale drilling saying Salazar “and his fellow Democrats are still preventing America from using our own resources to lower gas prices and create new jobs”. No Rush, it’s been conservative blowhards like yourself that have prevented policies that would keep gas prices low. If renewable energy research had received any fraction of the corporate welfare dollars handed over to oil corporations in the past 30 years, US consumers would be demanding far less oil and gas. Oh, and more and better paying jobs would have been created along the line too.

Way to take responsibility for policies you’ve advocated for, Rush.

It’s interesting to note how conservatives are pushing for drilling when the technology to do so isn’t perfect yet. They’re taking the opposite stance with regard to global warming by saying we shouldn’t take action until technologies (models) are perfect. Drilling through shale and off our coasts will not reduce the price of gas. Part of the problem getting that message across exists within consumers: they want instant gratification and drilling sounds like it might deliver. So they’ll support it without thinking of the problems.

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