Welcome N.Y. Times readers to the debate of the decade: Technology development vs. deployment

Andy Revkin writes in the New York Times today (see here) about what I believe is the climate debate of the decade. He mentions me and by name (Note to self: Woo-hoo!).

This post will serve as an introduction to this crucial topic for new readers and old. I will devote many of the posts this week to laying out the “solution” to global warming, and a few to finishing off the debunking of the “technology breakthrough” crowd whose primary champion has been the Bush Administration but whose new champion is political scientist Roger Pielke (of recent Nature article fame). I hope you will stick around.

Why do I write so much about this topic of technology development vs. deployment — when it sometimes seems like I am arguing with people who mostly agree with me about the nature of the problem? Three reasons. First, I think we have run out of time to wait for some unknown techno-fix to save us. We either peak in global fossil fuel use by 2020 (or earlier) and then cut emissions sharply — as our top climate scientists have been telling us with increasing urgency (see here and here) — or our children and the next 50 generations face the inevitability of tens of feet of sea level rise, widespread desertification, loss of most species on the planet, and other miseries that cannot be adapted to any meaningful sense of the word (see this post).

Second, I helped run the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the US Department of Energy in the 1990s. That little-known billion-dollar office is the lead federal agency for both the development and deployment of most of the technologies needed to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Solar power, wind power, geothermal, LED lighting, efficient heating and cool, cogeneration, fuel cell cars, hydrogen, energy storage, advanced batteries, flywheels, ultracapacitors, hybrid vehicles, industrial efficiency, cellulosic ethanol (and its feedstocks), biomass gasification, high-temperature superconductors — you name it, we funded it. And the same for programs to accelerate the deployment of every one of those technologies into the market. (For two years before that, I worked for the Deputy Secretary of Energy, who oversaw all energy programs, including nuclear, “clean” coal, and natural gas.) I helped lead the Clinton administration’s effort to develop a climate technology strategy, encompassing both technology development and deployment.

One of the things that I learned at DOE is that technology breakthroughs that dramatically change how we use energy are incredibly rare — in my talks I defy listeners to name a single one that has occurred in the last quarter-century. Nobody’s ever done it. I have a long blog post on the “breakthrough myth” here (plus a longer discussion in my book) — and I will revist this in a few days. I also learned just how energy inefficient most homes, offices and factories are.

Third — and this is a key point for me that Revkin missed in his NYT story — there are actually three groups in this epic debate, not two. 1) There are people like me and Princeton’s Rob Socolow and the entire Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change who believe we have now (or soon will have) the technologies needed to stabilize atmospheric carbon dioxide levels at acceptable levels (below 450 ppm) — and that we must spend a lot more money on R&D into new technologies at the same time. 2) There are people who seem to recognize the urgency of the problem, like Jeffrey Sachs and Roger Pielke (both quoted in the NYT piece), but who think we need “a fundamentally new set of technologies” or “enormous advances in energy technology” to solve the problem.

3) There are the people who don’t really believe in the seriousness of the problem, but because doing nothing is a politically untenable position at this time, they offer the hope of new technology as the solution. For them, “new technology” is nothing more than a delaying tactic, and they don’t even bother to back up their words with significant increases in funding for R&D. This is what I call the “technology trap.”

The intellectual framework for the technology trap was laid out by GOP strategist Frank Luntz (see below). It then became the cornerstone of US “climate policy” thanks to President Bush (see the post Bush climate speech follows Luntz playbook: “Technology, technology, blah, blah, blah.”. Other key “delayers” who have embraced this delaying tactic are Newt Gingrich (see “Anti-environment, anti-technology Gingrich tries to rewrite history. Don’t buy it or his new book” and Bj¸rn Lomborg (see here).

A bit more on the origins of the technology trap. Conservative message maker Luntz realized that it could be politically dangerous to oppose any action on global warming, even if efforts to obfuscate the climate science were successful. Luntz lays out a clever solution to this conundrum in his 2002 “Straight Talk” memo on climate change messaging [a must-read for all concerned citizens]:

Technology and innovation are the key in arguments on both sides. Global warming alarmists use American superiority in technology and innovation quite effectively in responding to accusations that international agreements such as the Kyoto accord could cost the United States billions. Rather than condemning corporate America the way most environmentalists have done in the past, they attack us for lacking faith in our collective ability to meet any economic challenges presented by environmental changes we make. This should be our argument. We need to emphasize how voluntary innovation and experimentation are preferable to bureaucratic or international intervention and regulation.

That’s why I call this the technology trap, because the promise of new technology is used to delay action, rather than to foster action, on climate change.

You can see why we must all be very wary of people who say the solution is new technology. Even very well-meaning people like Sachs (who I will blog on later this week), may not understand how he is playing into the hands of the delayers by saying “we need a fundamentally new set of technologies” to solve the climate problem without destroying the economy. Anyone should be worried when they sound like the president’s Science Advisor, John H. Marburger III, who said in 2006:

It’s important not to get distracted by chasing short-term reductions in greenhouse emissions. The real payoff is in long- term technological breakthroughs.

Or when you sound like then Bush Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, who said in 2003

Either dramatic greenhouse gas reductions will come at the expense of economic growth and improved living standards, or breakthrough energy technologies that change the game entirely will allow us to reduce emissions while, at the same time, we maintain economic growth and improve the world’s standards of living.

Now just because the climate destroyer delayers at the Bush administration all push breakthrough technologies as their primary solution to global warming does not mean it is inherently a misguided idea [what am I saying — of course it does]. Well, it would be misguided even if they didn’t, as I will explain see this week. We don’t lack the technology to avert a climate catastrophe while sustaining global economic development. We merely lack the political will.

Stay tuned!

29 Responses to Welcome N.Y. Times readers to the debate of the decade: Technology development vs. deployment

  1. Rico says:

    I’m just a blogger and an interested amateur. And I don’t dispute anything you say. We do need to concentrate on deployment more than anything else. Not exclusively, of course, but more than anything else. And that requires policy shifts. And policy shifts require support. Thus, I think it’s important to pay attention to how the issue is framed. I’ve spent some time over at the Gristmill blog explaining my position. In short, it is this: there will be much more bipartisan support if the issue of renewable energy and energy conservation technology deployment is decoupled, at least partially, from the climate science argument. Renewable energy and energy conservation makes sense on several more levels than just climate change, but a lot of the resistance is based upon the myth that climate change is a myth. So why not bypass that resistance by re-framing the argument? After all, renewable energy deployment makes intrinsic sense in terms of energy independence, national security, the trade deficit, domestic jobs, and health.

  2. Paul K says:

    Quoting the Revkin article: “Mr. Sachs pointed to several promising technologies — capturing and burying carbon dioxide, plug-in hybrid cars and solar-thermal electric plants.” This illustrates the flaw in Joe’s recent denunciations. Joe considers all these current technologies because the are in the so called pipeline. The “other side” considers them breakthroughs. By incorrectly and misleadingly defining breakthrough, Joe is finding argument where none exists.

  3. Joe says:

    Rico — you are quite wrong about the bipartisan support if we decouple this from climate science. Many of us spent two decades pushing that line. Conservatives — including McCain — do NOT support clean tech deployment programs. In fact, they have consistently worked to cut them. This includes Reagan, Gingrich, Bush, and McCain.

  4. Joe says:

    Paul: Your argument is backwards — you haven’t been reading the debate posts:
    “By incorrectly and misleadingly defining breakthrough, THE OTHER SIDE is finding argument where none exists.”
    Solar thermal is commercial NOW.
    So are electric cars. Plug ins are on the road today!
    I will clarify all this in upcoming posts.

  5. Earl Killian says:

    I think it is worth knowing that Joe’s position is actually somewhat in the middle of the debate, not an extreme. For example, Mark Lynas, in his book, Six Degrees argues that we need to get our act together by 2015 and stay under 400ppm, not Joe’s 2020 and 450ppm. James Hansen argues for shuttering all non-CCS coal plants by 2030. I think Joe believes these steps would be safer, but are not necessary, and are politically impossible.

    Six Degrees was reviewed by Real Climate:

  6. Earl Killian says:

    To augment Joe’s response to Paul K: there is a big difference between Research, Development, and Deployment. Research cannot be predicted or depended upon. It is an inquiry into the unknown. Development is the attempt to reduce the results of Research to practically through the engineering process. It is sometimes successful, and sometimes unsuccessful. One cannot depend upon it, but investors (e.g. venture capitalists) often bet upon it (knowing the odds, and hedging their bets). Development is usually over when you have a few prototypes that meet the development goals. Deployment is basically the scaling up of production of the results of Development. It is relatively more predictable than the first two, though there can still be glitches (mostly in achieving cost reduction targets).

    After Deployment comes the “learning curve” which typically yields cost reductions in manufacturing a technology, often for decades.

    In this classification, I believe we can only depend upon Deployment when crafting solutions to our greenhouse gas emission problem. One does not stop Research and Development. These *might* someday offer lower cost alternatives to the solutions we start deploying today. If they do, great. If not, we’re already on the track to a solution. However, to assume that Research or Development will arrive in time is sheer folly.

    Most startups are in the business of Development, not Research. Research is usually funded by governments and very large corporations (where the laws of large numbers begin to operate in their favor). If you see a startup doing Research, be very wary.

    Efficiency, PV, and Wind are technologies that are in the learning curve phase. EV batteries are also in the learning curve phase. Technologies such as CSP and PHEVs are both well developed and in the process of deployment. Fusion is an example of a Research phase technology.

    It is unclear to me where carbon capture and sequestration sits. I think of it as Development because the engineering does not appear to be finished based upon the FutureGen experience, but I am not familiar with everything out there on the CCS front.

    So my response is that one has to look at things more finely than just “in the pipeline”.

  7. Paul K says:

    I’m on your side in the deployment/development debate, my quibble about whether not readily available technologies are truly current notwithstanding. Your intention to post more on the specifics of accomplishing deployment is the best way to advance argument.

  8. Mauri Pelto says:

    Succinctly put Joe. I am very encouraged by the ramp up in deployment of wind energy, but it is a far cry from where it needs to go. I started teaching environmental geology in 1989, and Solar One a solar thermal plant was already operating in the Mojave Desert near Barstow, clearly not a new technology. Tidal power has long been an idea but would you consider the use of turbines at the bottom of the East River in New York or the recent deployment of floating buoys new technology or deployment? As the primary person measuring glacier mass balance in the North America, it is clear that in the last 25 years the average glacier has lost 20% of its volume. You are right it is time to deploy with a sense of purpose and urgency.

  9. David B. Benson says:

    Mauri Pelto — What about glacier mass balance for the 25 years before that? That is, starting in 1958 CE?

  10. Mauri Pelto says:

    Dave, the rate of mass loss of alpine glaciers was 4 m from 1955-1980 and 12 m from 1980-2006. This tripling is the global average, but applies accurately to the change in North America or the Alps.

  11. Heretic says:

    I think a few variables have been left out of your analysis: 1) the rapidly accelerating curve in technological development—for example, nanotechnology, which could result in currently unfathomable advances 2) the degree of government investment in the development of technology. In the NY times article you refer to (which is why I am here, BTW):

    [Jeffrey] Sachs pointed to several promising technologies — capturing and burying carbon dioxide, plug-in hybrid cars and solar-thermal electric plants. “Each will require a combination of factors to succeed: more applied scientific research, important regulatory changes, appropriate infrastructure, public acceptance and early high-cost investments,” he said. “A failure on one or more of these points could kill the technologies.”

    In short, what is needed, he said, is a “major overhaul of energy technology” financed by “large-scale public funding of research, development and demonstration projects.”

    He is here arguing for refining existing technologies. Whether he advocates the investment coming from private or public sources (which is not clear in the times article) is really besides the point. That decision will be made based upon political factors not the preponderance of evidence (i.e., no way McCain is going to go the public investment route). But, I think it is disingenuous to cast this whole debate in terms of investing in some magic bullet vs. using existing technologies, when it is far more nuanced than that. The crux of the debate is whether we should put all our eggs in one basket—emissions caps. For example, in a recent article in Scientific American called The Solar Grand Plan, the authors call for a level of investment that is probably more than all the money the government has ever spent on energy technology. Again, there would need to be a huge investment in research to improve existing technologies to achieve the goals of the plan. If you are going to debunk an argument, you should not start by building a straw man.

  12. David B. Benson says:

    Mauri Pelto — Thank you!

  13. Joe,
    You should make more explicit that you are not against R&D but are against the SUBSTITUTION of R&D for deploment of existing technologies. In your use of epithets etc, the substance of your position can sometimes get lost.

    Otherwise I’m glad that Revkin mentioned your critiques of Pielke etc. in his Week in Review article.

    By the way one of Pielke’s co-authors, Tom Wigley, was interviewed in NPR’s Living on Earth this week with no mention of criticisms of their position.


  14. Ronald says:

    What’s true is that the research, development and deployment of capturing and burying carbon dioxide, plug-in hybrid cars and solar-thermal electric plants would be helped by, as an example, putting a price on carbon. Those things that change the political and social conversation and then the economic climate of carbon/non-carbon energy help to speed those things along.

    All these arguments are additive.

    Get people to change their views of global warming, and you have added to the deployment of these technologies. Private companies are more likely to deploy this stuff with a better economic climate for non-carbon energy. That comes from the political and social changes. It would be great if all we needed was some technology improvements and then build it.

    We went to the moon in the 1960’s because of political leadership and then people’s interest in the program. Once we were there, people’s interest in the program went away and the NASA programs were cut.

    We need people’s interest to get the research, development and deployment. It would be great if it was easier, but it’s not.

  15. Publius2012 says:


    You list three groups of people in the debate: those who believe (1) we have or soon will have the technology to prevent catastrophe, (2) we need new technologies, or (3) it’s not a serious problem.

    I would like to put myself in a fourth group with Dr. James Lovelock who believe we have the technology but that catastrophe will be almost impossible to prevent. I believe that billions of people will die because of a blind faith in technology and our inability to stop burning fossil fuels, which is the basis for technology.

    For example, I just don’t see 95% plus people voluntarily being vegan…or our government making people pay the true cost of meat (about $100/lb)…do you? I’m assuming everyone here knows it would be impossible to stabilize CO2 w/o this behavioral change….and that this would be one of the EASY changes to prevent a collapse.

  16. David B. Benson says:

    Publius2012 — All that is required is about 1–2% of the world’s GDP. If that were forthcoming it would suffice.

    Unfortunately, so far it is not forthcoming.

  17. Robert says:

    I’d say most people are in a 4th group, equivalent to a drug addict. In their saner moments they know they should try and give up, but practically its far too difficult to contemplate.

    Almost without exception “normal” people that I meet (i.e. not the sad individuals that inhabit message boards late at night!) never discuss climate change. To them, its not interesting, not a threat and not an opportunity.

  18. Tom says:

    Robert – one way to get people talking about climate change would be for them to see its impact on their every day lives and to reward them for their efforts to do something about it.

    An example: A relative recently told me they had a ‘smallish’ carbon footprint, despite a 6,000 sq ft home in the Arizona desert, with a second 4,000 sq ft home near by. After all, she proudly pointed out she doesn’t drive her Lexus SUV very much and most days leaves the windows open rather than run the air conditioning.

    A carbon price would change that. This relative of mine pays far less for water and electricity than I pay in metro NYC, yet she lives in a basically uninhabitable climate. Does that make sense? If her electricity bill rose 200 percent over the next couple years, I bet she’d change her behavior far more drastically. That change in demand has to be part of the equation to address these problems.

    The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the Northeast will put a minimum price of $1.86/tonne next year on carbon dioxide emissions from utilities. That’s a great first step, but already politicians are warning that utilities better not pass along the cost. I would have thought that was the entire point. Make consumers feel the pain.

    The flip side of that pain is that a carbon price will for the first time reward consumers who conserve.

    In turn, renewable energy becomes much more competitive.

    But we really need a policy that changes behavior, and we probably need one that changes it pretty radically. Nicholas Stern said in his report on climate change to the UK Treasury that the social and environmental cost of carbon dioxide was more $100/tonne. It seems we have a very long ways to go. We need to raise dirty energy prices quite sharply to overcome what Stern called the greatest market failure in history.

  19. Shannon says:

    Okay, it’s clear that the people posting here know what they’re talking about. I don’t. I’m just a very, very concerned working mother of two young children who reads a lot – way too much for comfort. I’ve made a lot of changes to our lifestyle, pretty much dragging my husband along by his hair, joined a few action groups, donated what little money I have, written, signed petitions, etc. I’ve also been collecting information.

    I’m going to step out on a limb and chance that I’ll sound hopelessly naive at best and a blithering idiot at worst in the hope that someone might have some suggestions. This is what I’ve been kind of mulling over doing with this information: Would a class action lawsuit demanding that the government agencies charged with protecting our health and welfare actually do so – and now! – work? This would include, of course, that these agencies must be provided the resources to do their jobs.

    I mean, all the literature is out there about the impact of putting economic advancement over common sense, not to mention American and global health and welfare, but I think people are overwhelmed by the little they’ve heard, while they still remain largely uninformed. I read recently that what we’re able to do on a personal level won’t accomplish much, that the change really has to take place in our policies. I don’t know how true that is, but I think (assuming it is true) that people, myself included, have no idea how to affect policies in any meaningful way. I realize there are related lawsuits going on now, but I’ve not heard of anything that deals with the entire issue – granted that I don’t know if such a thing is even possible. My idea is that an action of this type would allow ordinary people – people who feel powerless – to become involved in something, which I think many people would look to do if such an option was presented, and, further, would draw attention to the subject, providing education and motivation in addition to action.

    In any case, I thank you most sincerely for your efforts and I will go on from here and start reading the information you provide and see just how much I can raise my level of discomfort and fear.

  20. Barry says:


    I’d like to include my comment from the NYTimes piece in question. It discusses the latest research by Professor Stephen Pacala that i find very hopeful. His latest data says that less than 8% of humanity is responsible for 50% of ghg emissions. If so, it radically changes the perceived math of who needs do what to reign in emissions. The people who need to cut most are also the ones least seriously impinged on by cuts and the people most able to afford alternative technologies.

    I notice you mention Rob Socolow in this post, Pacala’s partner in the “Stabilization Wedges” paper. And i see from searching your site that you’ve discussed Pacala and the “Wedges” a fair bit. So i’m interested in your take on Pacala’s latest research and some of the implications it brings up for how to proceed.

    Glad to have found your site.


    Andy, you start your post with:

    “A world with 6.7 billion people…needs far more energy options than it currently has, almost everyone agrees.”

    We can easily allow 6 billion of these folks to continue using the energy they do now with little or no risk to the climate or peak oil. We could do all this while dramatically cutting ghg emissions. The reason is that 90% of humanity is responsible for less than half of global ghg emissions.

    The entire energy and ghg emissions problem is caused by the remaining 10% of humanity trying to carry out unsustainable “big lives”.

    As I’ve mentioned in other comments, the latest research by Professor Pacala (co-author of “Stabilization Wedges” paper) says less than 8% of humanity is responsible for 50% of ghg emissions.

    My family used to be in that 8%. We’ve been working for years to reduce our emissions to get out. We’ve made huge percentage cuts in a few years and life is still very good. The refusal of other eight-percenters to take responsibility and make some luxury reductions is pathetic. We have the least to lose and the most money to make the changes with.

    So, all this talk about Manhattan Projects, Marshall Energy Plans and nukes everywhere is only needed if the other 92% of humanity want to risk the climate and take lots of energy restrictions and financial pain to support the hyper-emissions of this tiny minority.

    An alternative proposal: the world create a system where the highest-emitting 10% of humanity are temporarily required to cut their energy/emissions down to “luxury-lite” levels of the 90th percentile. According to Pacala’s research, that would give the world a 25-30% ghg cut right off.

    The deal continues: once a robust low-ghg energy infrastructure is in place, this 10% can resume their “big lives”.

    Instead of “flat taxing” carbon and causing real pain for everyone except the wealthy, we could avoid some of that widespread economic misery. I imagine a majority of humanity would be glad to sign up for such a plan.

    The money freed up from heating their driveways and flying to watch glaciers melt in Greenland would quickly find it’s way into alternative energy installations and venture capital. Very quickly.

    After a few decade the ghg emissions would be dramatically lower, the alternative energy infrastructure would be fully funded and online, and the wealthy would be raking in the big bucks from all those returns on “new energy” investments that are now powering the world.

    The alternative we are pursuing of destroying the climate while trying to fix the problem by carbon-taxing the poor will never work socially, economically or politically.

    What will it be? “Luxury-lite” for a few…or financial pain and climate chaos for everyone else?

    Can we at least have the conversation, Andy, about exactly what chunk of humanity really needs to cut emissions to save the climate and avoid peak oil nightmare scenarios?

    That really would be a new direction in the climate change debate.

  21. Barry says:

    Forgot the links to Pacala’s stuff:

    Here’s a quote from his talk:

    “The 3 billion poorest people…emit essentially nothing. The take-home message here is that you could increase the emissions of all of those people by putting diesel generators or anything you wanted into their lives and it would not materially affect anything I’m going to say for the rest of this talk. In other words, the development of the desperately poor is not in conflict with solving the climate problem, which is a problem of the very rich. This is very, very important to understand.

    In contrast, the rich are really spectacular emitters….the top 500 million people emit half the greenhouse emissions. These people are really rich by global standards. Every single one of them earns more than the average American and they also occur in all the countries of the world. There are Chinese and Americans and Europeans and Japanese and Indians all in this group.”

  22. Your link about Lomborg is broken, but I think I digged it up with Google. Is this the correct article?

  23. Joe says:

    I fixed it, thanks.

  24. David B. Benson says:

    Shannon — I doubt anybody here knows the answer to your question. I suggest you take it to an organization which has conducted similar lawsuits in the past.

  25. JMG says:

    Shannon — alas, courts have held repeatedly that governmental stupidity even to the point of suicide is not a tort for which a citizen has a case. You won’t get past first base, in fact, because you have no standing as the law defines it (a particularized, concrete harm for which the law has a remedy).

    Climate chaos is the ultimate example of how the takeover of government by fictitious people (corporations) has served to divest real person of essentially any rights. The utility with the grandfathered, inefficient coal plant spewing tons of CO2 into the air every day has a property right that the law will protect — if you take direct action against the coal plant, you will go to jail or be killed by a rent-a-cop protecting the corporation’s property and its property right to pollute and destabilize the climate.

    You, on the other hand, have no property right to a livable world — sorry.

    Our legal system is derived from a time when the world seemed “empty” (especially if you overlooked all the non-white people or considered them subhuman) and has advanced very little since then.

    All you really need to know to understand the dire state of our legal system, vis a vis any attempt by actual persons to use it to the disadvantage of corporations is this: the same supreme court that has never found the death penalty unconstitutional, despite voluminous evidence of a system riddled with gross errors and intractable racism, has found a $4M punitive judgment against an automaker a violation of the company’s right to due process (where the company was selling cars that had been damaged and repainted as “brand new”).

    All the discussion above about the three or four groups of people are totally irrelevant — the only group that really matters is the group of people who, regardless of their own views, direct the great, amoral corporate entities that do not care in the least whether we have a world to leave to the next generation — they only care about their stock price. That is the law–their sole mission is to produce the greatest possible return to shareholders, and that does not include anything for the planet.

  26. Jim Prall says:

    My response to Shannon’s question would have to be a lot more positive than JMG’s. No, we can’t just sue to make the Bush administration do a 180 and now offer real leadership on climate. But there have been actual suits filed in recent times: thirteen states got together to sue the E.P.A. to insist that it begin to regulate CO2 as a pollutant. Massachussets was the lead plaintiff. They won the first round with a federal judge ruling that the EPA could not deny that CO2 emissions are a form of pollution that leads to harm to the plaintiff states. Now the EPA has missed the deadline to propose something – anything. So the group of states are back in court.

    If you feel you can’t influence the White House, how about getting involved at the state level? Find out where the senators for your state and the House rep. for your district stand on support for wind and solar, ending subsidies to oil and coal, instituting cap-and-trade or a carbon tax. The last vote on the energy bill fell ONE VOTE short of ending a right-wing filibuster (59 senators for, but 60 needed to block the filibuster, or to override Bush’s threatened veto.)

    So if you happen to live in a state that harbors one of these climate clowns like James Inhofe (R-OK), Larry Craig (R-ID), or Ted Stevens (R-AK) who still think CO2 doesn’t trap heat and that Jim Hansen, Andrew Dessler and Joe Romm are dangerous pinkos who want to destroy us all… then you’ve got your work cut out for you. Get the message out to everyone in your area that these dinosaurs are dragging us down and holding up the green revival that will save, not destroy, our economy, if we let it get started.

    You can look up who is your senator at and you can learn more about the voting records on these topics from groups such as the League of Conservation Voters

    If you are so fortunate as to live in a state with someone less regressive in Washington – great. You can influence how far they may be prepared to move in congress by phoning or emailing their office about specific issues. You can read about what issues are before both houses on political blogs or on the senate and house websites themselves. There is a search page on each one, so I’ve been able to find every pending bill or amendment that mentions a particular term like “carbon capture” or “photovoltaic”.

    Another inspiring, if blood-pressure-raising, account is Robert Kennedy Jr.’s book _Crimes Against Nature_. RFKjr is an environmental lawyer who files class action lawsuits against foot-dragging government bureaus as his main occupation in life. His book points out that Bush has gone out of his way to ensure no corner of the federal government should ever lack a doctrinaire political appointee at the top, typically one untrained in the science needed to understand what the department actually does. Other books that bring out further aspects of this are Al Gore’s recent _Assault on Reason_, Chris Mooney’s _The Republican War on Science_ and anything by Sheldon and Rampton at the Center for Media and Democracy who work to expose the role of the P.R. industry in creating “spin” on every policy issue we face. My favorite title of theirs is _Toxic Sludge is Good for You_ (loved the title so much I had to read it – then I was drawn to all their other work.)

    JMG has a point that big corporations really call the shots in Washington – it’s insane how much money corporations donate to almost every member of Congress. We need to do something about that too. Didn’t we do “campaign finance reform” in the 70’s – and again in the 80’s? Looks like another round is due.

  27. Jim Prall says:

    Sorry, that should read “anything by Stauber and Rampton”

  28. Shannon says:

    Thank you….

  29. Biofuelsimon says:

    Hey David,

    Thinking about the way we use energy are is one of those things which is not sexy or exciting, unlike breakthrough technology, but it is one of the things that we can all do. I recently saved a quarter of a tank of gas (value about £12) by taking longer over a long trip. The saving to me is small, but it was easy.