Tom Friedman Calls For Mass Keystone Protests, Labels Obama Presidency ‘A Net Setback For The Green Movement’

One of the only national journalists to write regularly about the story of the century is three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Tom Friedman.

The centrist columnist pulls no punches in his Sunday NY Times column, “No to Keystone. Yes to Crazy,” which opens:

I HOPE the president turns down the Keystone XL oil pipeline. (Who wants the U.S. to facilitate the dirtiest extraction of the dirtiest crude from tar sands in Canada’s far north?) But I don’t think he will. So I hope that Bill McKibben and his coalition go crazy. I’m talking chain-themselves-to-the-White-House-fence-stop-traffic-at-the-Capitol kind of crazy, because I think if we all make enough noise about this, we might be able to trade a lousy Keystone pipeline for some really good systemic responses to climate change.

He notes we’re at a unique time in our history:

We don’t get such an opportunity often — namely, a second-term Democratic president who is under heavy pressure to approve a pipeline to create some jobs but who also has a green base that he can’t ignore. So cue up the protests, and pay no attention to people counseling rational and mature behavior. We need the president to be able to say to the G.O.P. oil lobby, “I’m going to approve this, but it will kill me with my base. Sasha and Malia won’t even be talking to me, so I’ve got to get something really big in return.”

But while he praises Obama for some key individual climate policies, overall he sees back-sliding:

Face it: The last four years have been a net setback for the green movement. While President Obama deserves real praise for passing a historic increase in vehicle mileage efficiency and limits on the emissions of new coal-fired power plants, the president also chose to remove the term “climate change” from his public discourse and kept his talented team of environmentalists in a witness-protection program, banning them from the climate debate. This silence coincided with record numbers of extreme weather events — droughts and floods — and with a huge structural change in the energy marketplace.

I discussed the origins of this ‘strategy’ here (see “Team Obama Launched The Inane Strategy Of Downplaying Climate Change Back In March 2009“).

What is the structural change in the marketplace that Friedman refers to? Why none other than our new frenemy, hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking) — along with “horizontal drilling at much greater distances.”

Together, they have produced “new, vastly cheaper ways to tap natural gas trapped in shale as well as crude oil previously thought unreachable, making cleaner energy alternatives much less competitive.”

But Friedman is no fracking flack. He sees the both sides of this two-faced fuel:

It’s great that shale gas is replacing coal as a source of electricity, since it generates less than half the carbon dioxide. As the oil economist Philip Verleger Jr. notes in the latest edition of the journal International Economy, these breakthroughs will also lead to much more oil and gas at lower prices, which will help American consumers, manufacturers and jobs. But, he adds, “it will be harder and harder to push for renewable energy programs as hydrocarbon prices fall,” and “the new technologies that allow us to tap shale oil and shale gas could release vast quantities of methane” if not done properly. Methane released in the atmosphere contributes much more to climate change than CO2.

And right now there is reason to worry about those high leakage rates (see “Bridge To Nowhere? NOAA Confirms High Methane Leakage Rate Up To 9% From Gas Fields, Gutting Climate Benefit.)”

What policies would Friedman like to see?

Nothing would do more to clean our air, drive clean-tech innovation, weaken petro-dictators and reduce the deficit than a carbon tax. One prays this will become part of the budget debate. Also, the president can use his authority under the Clean Air Act to order reductions in CO2 emissions from existing coal power plants and refiners by, say, 25 percent. He could then do with the power companies what he did with autos: negotiate with them over the fairest way to achieve that reduction in different parts of the country. We also need to keep the president’s feet to the fire on the vow in his State of the Union address to foster policies that could “cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next 20 years.” About 30 percent of energy in buildings is wasted.

Hear, hear! Speak, speak! Act, act!

Kudos to Friedman for his leadership on the climate issue.

60 Responses to Tom Friedman Calls For Mass Keystone Protests, Labels Obama Presidency ‘A Net Setback For The Green Movement’

  1. Omega Centauri says:

    Maybe I’ve been overly influenced by read TheOilDrum, but I can’t read statements like:
    new, vastly cheaper ways to tap natural gas trapped in shale
    these breakthroughs will also lead to much more oil and gas at lower prices
    with a straight face. In fact companies like Chesapeake have been driven to the verge of bankruptcy because fracking for natural cost costs much more than the current price of the commodity. The primary reason the industry is resorting to expensive decades old techniques, is because the price of oil has become high enough that it can be done profitably. But, even at these high prices, pipeline companies are not rushing to build an oil pipeline from North Dakotas Bakken shale oil region, they apparently don’t think the oil will be flowing long enough to justify the investment. I’ve seen some predictions that the price of oil will double by 2020.

    Other than that I agree with the gist of the article.

  2. Ken Barrows says:

    Thomas Friedman is also a “net set back for the green movement” unless you think corporate globalism is an effective strategy against climate change.

  3. Joe Romm says:

    No. Reporting on a trend is hardly the same thing as causing it to happen.

  4. Mike Roddy says:

    Does Friedman know about the NOAA and Howarth studies, showing no emissions advantage from natural gas? Either he doesn’t know- in which case you should educate him, Joe- or he and the Times can’t quite bring themselves to move away from fossil fuels. Koch, for example, is heavily invested in both coal and gas, and wants to perpetuate the “bridge fuel” myth as a way to stay in business. Media ignores the science and repeats it.

    As for Obama, he’s given us a little hope, all right- hope that he will change, and get away from his daddies at Exxon and Peabody. Actual White House climate performance so far has been barely distinguishable from Bush. Battered enviros celebrate those marginal victories. It’s time we went to the people, because President Obama does not work for us, or our future.

    Obama is human, meaning he’s capable of change. Kennedy and Eisenhower did. This time, the stakes are even bigger.

  5. Mike Roddy says:

    It’s the little wildcatters who take much of the losses from the gas fracking boom. It has been promoted by the big gas companies as a way to depress prices and persuade utilities to build gas plants, guaranteeing a captive market. Those plants last 40-50 years, and when they’re paid down costly gas will still be cheap enough for utilities to avoid bothering with wind and solar.

  6. Ken Barrows says:

    But he’s not a reporter, he’s an opinion maker and author. I just don’t think “The Lexus and the Olive Tree” is the way to go. Perhaps I should go back and read it again.

  7. I think the latest State Dept EIA on Keystone XL makes it easier for Obama to say “NO” to the pipeline — if he wants to.

    Basically it said that KXL isn’t needed to deliver either jobs or oil. Obama can say no to it for excellent climate reasons — like the need to avoid five billion tonnes of “CO2 lock in”. As IEA warns, “lock in” is the current battleground to save the climate.

    If Obama wants he could make the case that saying no to KXL won’t come with short-term costs that Americans care about but will also make a big climate statement while also avoiding long-term “CO2 lock in.”

    For those interested in the details, I wrote about it here:

  8. drt says:

    I’d gladly trade the Keystone Pipeline for a Hansen-esque comprehensive GHG fee & dividend program. My fact free perception is that the embedded energy in tar sands bitumen is so high that the GHG fee would make tar sands import no longer economically viable. If not, then the fee’s not high enough.

  9. Daniel Coffey says:

    I hate to sound like a broken record, but there is only one real answer: build the alternatives as fast as we can. We need large-scale solar PV, wind and geothermal. If people don’t have electricity with which to displace gasoline in electrified transportation, then they won’t be able to move that way. If electricity is dependent on natural gas, coal, and other unattractive energy sources, then GHG will continue.

    If you really want to hurt the oil and coal companies, build the alternatives to their profit centers. That way you have an option and are not forced to do what they wish.

    Somehow, getting people to show up to support wind and large-scale solar PV projects is against the ethos, but protesting where it will do no good and have no effect is lauded as the thing to do.

    Really, is this what environmental thinking has become?

  10. Daniel Coffey says:

    Dr. Hansen is a very smart guy when it comes the problem of global warming, but he has not thought thru what such a tax structure would actually do. Follow the money. What you will discover is that prices will rise and people will have more money to pay higher prices – to the same businesses that they have always paid money.

    Such a tax doesn’t get things built, as the market is drained and the status quo is sustained.

  11. Daniel Coffey says:

    Natural gas – the bridge-fuel to nowhere.

  12. Bill Wilson says:

    I admire Tom for his great work. I think saying no to KeystoneXL offers last best hope of getting and using every last pool of now dirty carbon on the planet. Tax will be built into carbon industry as citizens pay for use that will still grow but hope I am wrong. I think the known harms of Keystone and Tar sands extraction from cancers 10 times higher than normal downstream and with us all living downstream the socialized costs are just too high. Corruption of our State Dept. and government is clear as they continue to take industry data proven wrong.

  13. BobbyL says:

    As poor as Friedman was in analyzing the situation in Iraq he has been a breath of mainstream media fresh air when it comes to global warming. He has almost redeemed himself. If only more of the high profile columnists and pundits shared his concern and understanding about the climate change situation which seems to be on the brink of completely spiraling out of control (assuming it hasn’t already).

  14. Sasparilla says:

    Great point here Joe. Mr. Friedman has been there with us all along the way it seems….some common sense regarding climate change and in a national newspaper too! It almost seems like a miracle considering how things are in most of the media. I like his call on the last 4 years as a net set back for the environmental movement – as it has been – and it has been an unmitigated disaster for the climate change movement (compared to where it was in 2008 & what was expected).

    Hopefully Obama actually does something serious with the EPA coal plant carrot he’s dangled for effect (I have my doubts about anything more than window dressing for overall coal cutbacks). It’d be good to know if Mr. Friedman knew how tight the noose has been getting with regards to the time we have left before nature takes over (seems like most folks outside the movement don’t get that at all), maybe he does.

  15. Thomas Rodd says:

    This post and comments thereon are — to me — somewhat confused and confusing.

    If the Keystone Pipeline is “game over” for the climate, how could it be wise, as Friedman argues, to trade pipeline approval for a carbon tax? (To which idea, I say, “dream on” – a Friedman specialty.)

    How do you build a long-term mass movement to address climate change by getting folks to agree that a proposed pipeline is demonic and merits the most radical, line-in-the-sand protests, and then find merit in the suggestion that losing that fight could help win the larger and war.

    This may be an example of how demonizing, line-in-the-sand, “game over” rhetoric and thinking is problematic strategically.

  16. Sasparilla says:

    I get you’re point, it doesn’t instantly do anything – you need time for the effects to start digging in – and it doesn’t close existing fossil fuel plants (you need the EPA with teeth to do that – it would work better together with the EPA as a 1, 2 punch – knock out Coal over 10 years and then Gas after that). Immediately, all of a sudden people would just pay a lot more for what they were getting before.

    On its own it would hasten the market transition, on purely price points, of the switchover to Wind and Solar for new power generation installations (since they would become cheaper in relative terms) – instead of end of the decade transition we’d be there immediately (if the tax was sufficiently high). None of this appears nearly fast enough though.

  17. EDpeak says:

    Ah yes, Friedman, the man who was so outraged that France did not go along with Bush’s criminal and mass-murderous invasion of Iraq that he thought it would be good if France was booted off the Security Council for it. Yes, yes, he’s a prominent opinion maker and I don’t blame CP for quoting him on climate matters, and he does say a few sensible things quoted above.

    Despite his poor performance elsewhere I’ll give him his due: good for him for calling for vigorous activism including civil disobedience. And up to that point CP’s positive spin on TF’s writing, I can’t fault (don’t hold your breath for Friedman calling for “go crazy” civil disobedience against planetwise corporate rule and economic paradigms, based on short term profit maximization as one’s god, that in turn pushes energy policies leading to long term climate disaster..When will TF say the Corporate Capitalist Empire has no clothes?)

    But then his “go activism!” comes along with nonsense like it would lower the globally set price of oil if we drill more? Please. He should know better. And probably does. But he goes on about “lower prices” (wrong) and “much more oil” (global oil suplly “much more”? Wrong. Of course he doesn’t say “global” but doesn’t say “domestic” either)

    And myth about “less than half” of cola’s emissions. Try: more than half, when fully honestly accounted for.

    Yes he admits “if not done properly” methane will leak. De facto, it means lip service to and hand wringing about we should do it more “properly” each time research or accidents suggests it’s even worse, instead of opposing fracking.

    So no, he’s not fracking flack” He’s a fracking “he says/she says” enabler. It would be nice if, instead of getting the kid gloves treament, Friedman was treated on CP like the enabler that he is.

  18. David F Collins says:

    You got it right. It’s not worth reading.

    Nevertheless, we truly do not know where facile fool prices will go. And wherever they go, they will not stay there very long. Like a former girl-next-door, they shore do slip around!

  19. peter anderson says:

    The idea that by approving the Keystone tarsands pipeline, Obama wins the political support for something more meaningful and good is a complete shibboleth that just will not die regardless for the fact that is does no such thing. The only thing that Obama buys by approving tar sands is the loss of the biggest decision that he has complete control over. The oft discussed existing power plant rule if adopted would only shift production from coal to gas, which current data strongly indicates would actually increase net greenhouse gas emissions.

  20. Sasparilla says:

    I think what was being said here Thomas is that with regards to Obama the XL is probably as good as approved – but the message was to get the protests out there, the support out there so that maybe we can push the administration to make some lemonade from this lemon (the XL) and push Obama to actually put some teeth into this mythic EPA proposal he’s talking about – up to now he hasn’t acted like true climate change issues matter in the slightest, protests can do that (much have they have done on the right).

    The previous strategy where we just rely on Obama’s good judgment has been an unmitigated disaster regarding pure climate change decisions.

  21. BobbyL says:

    Here is what Hansen said about game over: “the principal requirement [to have any chance of getting back a stable climate] is that coal emissions must be phased out by 2030 and unconventional fossil fuels, such as tar sands, must be left in the ground.”…”if the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over.” It should be noted that his call for coal emissions to be phased out by 2030, has gotten completely lost. Who is calling on China (which account for 47% of all coal usage) and all other countries to stop burning coal by 2030? Hardly anybody but Hansen as far as I know. If coal burning isn’t completely phased out within the next 17 years according to Hansen it would seem that trying to Keystone is pointless, at least if the goal is returning to climate stabilization.

  22. Lisa Wright says:

    Kudos to Joe Romm for truly caring about the impossible issues we face, waking people up and making us pay attention to the difficult place where climate and energy needs meet.

    Even more Kudos for doing all this even while recovering from surgery.

    I’m against the open-air experiment of high volume horizonal hydraulic fracturing with long laterals (aka “fracking”)but I’m not hating on Friedman for his commmentary. I think he would be just as happy as I would be to see the natgas “bridge” closed down. It is way past the time to get off FFs and move our energy into the 21st century. Fracking just keeps the old model going, when we need new ones– we HAVE new ones. I would rather “sacrifice” now by weathering the rocky adjustments of energy conversions than do nothing to meaningfully change the trajectory.

    That said, what Mr. Friedman and other opinion-makers like him do not appear to comprehend is that for many of us, allowing the oil and gas industry access to and use of one’s land– using such invasive, risky methods– is like allowing a creepy boyfriend to marry your beloved daughter. Maybe he makes a lot of money, maybe he’s charming, but as soon as he takes what he wants, you KNOW that guy is getting the hell out of Dodge.

    Who in their right mind wants to trust known bullies, obfuscators and con-men with their water, land and air quality? Tom–would you enjoy having a noisy, dirty rig on your lawn? Because that is what committing to lengthening the shale-gas bridge is condemning people to. The gas industry has conducted themselves in the most egregious and underhanded manner, with their astro-turf “grassroots” groups, their PR machines that try to torpedo local control and attack individuals and groups who get in their way, and have even worked to manipulate research findings to their own ends.

    How come the methane leakage problems,air/water quality problems,cementing problems– and the myriad issues affecting people who live near gas wells were not solved before being foisted upon innocent people?

  23. Carol says:

    Very well said Ed—thank you.

  24. fj says:

    obama has to show some spine and quick.

  25. Mike Roddy says:

    I agree. Maybe Climate Progress is getting needy, too. Friedman is better than all of the NYT columnists except Krugman, who rarely talks about climate, and doesn’t bring up fracking.

    NYT is getting like the Bush Administration with “message discipline”. Translation: The oil companies are running low on product, and need gas to stay in business. Make sure they get it. Ignore studies about emissions comparable to coal, and claim that better regulation and disclosure will make fracking safe.

    It’s a disgrace. Climate Progress needs to recognize the factual irrelevance of mainstream media when it comes to climate coverage, and should suggest other options.

  26. Joe Romm says:

    That is just too absurd by half. TF has said the capitalism emperor has no clothes 4 years ago! You might check out this post!
    I am a purist on the science, of course, but think it is counterproductive to also be a purist on the politics, whatever that would mean. This ain’t the French Revolution..

  27. Alex says:

    If we were really brave, we’d make the dividend partly an actual return on investment. Apply some funds to helping lower income folks deal with the higher prices, yes. But put the rest toward consistent incentive programs for improved technologies, and education on accessing those incentives.

  28. Joe Romm says:

    I love Krugman, but he has dialed back on climate and Friedman hasn’t.

    The MSM is not factually irrelevant when it comes to moving the public. Still, I have been pursuing other options for those who have been paying attention.

  29. Solar Jim says:

    If hydraulically-fractured-derived fossil gas were not indemnified from federal law (such as Safe Drinking Water) the manipulated market pricing would be much higher at present. Fracturing is one of the desperate and fraudulent strategies of the fossil/fissile end game.

  30. EDpeak says:

    Indeed I remember reading that, and TF quoting you. It’s clear you sincerely like him as a person. It’s clear you have no intention of being biased. I hope you will listen to someone who sincerely admires your blog and work who says you’ve often been kinda soft on TF. Give him all the praise he deserves when he gets something right, but be a little tougher when he gets something wrong. Like “it will lower oil prices” or, if TF really wanted to be honest about corporate capitalism globally being ecocidal, then TF should be a purist on the science, like you

    And that science says NG is a bridge fuel to nowhere, and would lock us in (infrasctructure) with the long-term effects being…well do I need to quote CP?

    And that’s just regular NP.. fracking is even worse than “regular old fashioned” NG. That’s what being a science purist would be for TF. That’s what true calling the corporate run economic emperor naked would be.

    Mike Roddy has it right, “and claim that better regulation and disclosure will make fracking safe. It’s a disgrace.”

    NYT readers deserve better than “if not done properly. Methane released in the atmosphere contributes much more to climate change than CO2” And CP readers a fortiori deserve better than “if not done properly”. On climate, TF is not the worst, we’re not saying that. And he’s said a few good things. But “if not done prpoperly” does not deserve praise, and in fact, deserves criticism from CP as being, on fracking a sort of”on the one hand…but on the other hand” enabler. He’s a fracking Enabler. Even putting aside 100,000s dead Iraqis, if TF want praise or an even decent legacy on his env writings, he’s gonna have to do much better than that. Here’s to disagreeing without being disagreeable. Peace, thanks for listening, and thanks for your invaluable CP blog.

  31. Solar Jim says:

    “We need the president to be able to say to the G.O.P. oil lobby, “I’m going to approve this, . .”

    The man, although capable of composing a paragraph, is as conflicted and corrupt in concept as the “all of the above” administration. Furthermore, we do not need his opinion on the duty of protest or civil disobedience.

  32. Solar Jim says:


  33. Lisa Wright says:

    Krugman on Fracking in NYTS (Google for whole bit):
    “Fracking — injecting high-pressure fluid into rocks deep underground, inducing the release of fossil fuels — is an impressive technology. But it’s also a technology that imposes large costs on the public. We know that it produces toxic (and radioactive) wastewater that contaminates drinking water; there is reason to suspect, despite industry denials, that it also contaminates groundwater; and the heavy trucking required for fracking inflicts major damage on roads.”

    Investors Business Daily reported: “‘Krugman claims the “fracking boom in Pennsylvania has had hardly any effect on the state’s overall employment picture.'”

  34. Tami Kennedy says:

    Simply put, with Obama we’re ‘fracked’ irregardless of his weakening pipeline stance.

  35. Joe Romm says:

    I’d like any national MSM columnist who wrote very regularly on climate, but he is the only one in the whole damn country!!!

    Shouldn’t that sort of thing be encouraged? I’m not sure any column by anyone, including me, is beyond quibbling. If I thought he said something really wrong, I’d say so, but I’ll leave quibbling to those who like that sort of thing.

  36. thanes says:

    If there are carbon-free alternatives that cost less after the carbon tax, the individual will choose those and still get the carbon-tax dividend, right? Solar and wind become more attractive, high mpg transport becomes more competitive.
    I don’t think I see your point. Could you clarify?

  37. BobbyL says:

    As long as climate activists are using Hansen’s “game over” quote about tars sands oil as justification for opposing Keystone they should follow Hansen all the way, that is, game would also be over for any chance of climate stabilization if shale gas and oil is used, ie, no fracking, and if coal burning continues past 2030. Also, it would help put things in perspective. The biggest challenge appears to be stopping coal burning after 2030, particularly since almost half of coal burning occurs in China, and India like China is planning on building hundreds of new coal-burning plants. The second biggest challenge would seem to be stopping fracking because shale gas is found around the world. The easiest challenge (although still extremely difficult) would be to stop tar sands oil from being used since there appear to be only two places where there are large deposits, Canada and Venezuela.

  38. thanes says:

    But note, Hansen said about four years ago not one new coal plant should be built in the US, and in fact, that’s what’s happened. Here in Georgia, in fact, we are retiring 15 of the worst plants in the country.

  39. thanes says:

    Joe, it’s just hard to swallow TF’s sentence saying the pipeline should be approved.
    But since when has Krugman dialed back? Do you mean number of mentions? Nothing worse I hope.
    Glad you’re back. Neuroendocrine tumors are a lot better than the other kind. If I prayed, it would be for you,

  40. BobbyL says:

    The US is doing surprising well at reducing coal usage, probably mostly because the price of natural gas has dropped below the price of coal. Unfortunately, from a global perspective the opposite his happening. Coal use has been increasing. The biggest reason is China’s increased use of coal. And let’s not praise the US because Obama has plans to ship huge amounts of coal to China. When it comes to global warming it doesn’t matter if our coal is burned here or in a foreign country, the same amount of carbon dioxide will be emitted.

  41. Lisa Wright says:

    I have probably been kvetching about fracking longer than most of you…or at least as long. So when you say: “NYT readers deserve better than ‘if not done properly. Methane released in the atmosphere contributes much more to climate change than CO2’ And CP readers a fortiori deserve better than ‘if not done properly'” I think you need to consider where folks like TF get his info from.

    With boostering headlines like “EDF, Chevron Agree Natural Gas Fracking Here to Stay” what are the folks in the MSM to think? A lot of careful think-tanking, from the far right to the progressive left, has put us where we are right now, and the fact that Joe Nocera, Jon Entine and Tom Friedman are all singing in perfect harmony on fracking is no accident.

    The “throw only some of the people half-way under the bus” stance our “environmental” leaders are taking on fracking is precisely where Obama, Moniz et al are leading us, with the added muscle of MIT Energy Initiative, John Deut$h at Cheniere Energy, Bill Gates and Daniel Yergin.

    So why on earth would TF want to bother with inconvenient truths of spoilsport climate scientists when decades of DOE R&D have already been sunk into fracking? Yee haw, pardners! Now THAT dog will hunt! (So what if it keels over from heat exhaustion and dehydration.) THERE IS YOUR ANSWER.

    “EDF, Chevron Agree Natural Gas Fracking Here to Stay, Part Ways on Fugitive Methane Emissions and Short-Term Impacts of Shale Boom”

    “EDF, having done the analysis, sees natural gas as better than the alternatives under lots of scenarios if we can get the total amount of natural gas that we pull out of the ground, we can get the fugitive emissions from all parts of natural gas infrastructure, down below 1 percent,” Krupp said. “That’s what the math shows.”

    If if if. So meanwhile, many of these guys, including TF, are just doing their little Texas Two-Step around the boom-bust, pollution, and climate change stuff.

  42. Ed Leaver says:

    Nice article. Thoughtful and reasoned. Would it be possible to insert hotlinks to your numerous and welcome references? Thanks!

  43. TKPGH says:

    Here is Pittsburgh, I attended a Young Professionals In Energy event where former State Senator John Pippy, now a full-time coal lobbyist, declared that coal will become the dominant fuel world-wide, should the price for gas go up. Subsequent to that I got up close and personal with Gov. Corbett’s chief energy coordinator, who, when I asked, said he has not seen the IEA’s assertion that two-thirds for our known reserves need to stay in the gound before 2050. When I showed it to him, he dismissd it completely. The Corbett administration has completely sold out to the fossil fuel industry. They get everything, but helping the solar industry is idelogically unpalatable, because it involves mandating that someone pay to help it out.
    The Republicans are liars of the first order: they say they hate picking winners and losers, but that is just what’s happening. They clain to be job creators, but Corbett’s stand of solar is keeping a lot of people from working. And Pippy, a former environmental engineer, has just plain sold out. Unless there a real breakthrough in the use of coal for power that we don’t know about, he’ll use his personality and connections to run us down a rat hole.

  44. Joe Romm says:

    ???? He says it shouldn’t be approved.

  45. Mark E says:

    The gascos have to do two things: (A) inflate their “proven reserves” to prop up outside investment and stock prices, and (B) rapidly incur their capital costs to drill just to preserve their leases. (Google “oil gas well shutin” to see what I mean)

    If they drilled slowly, the commodity price would remain high. But then the next guy would drill too. So the game is to leverage other peoples money to drill and shut in as many wells as you can. Once the resource is all under lease, then the real fun begins, as they start turning down the flow to ramp up the price. Competitors can’t jump in, after all, so why not run an embargo against our own people to make even bigger record profits?

  46. Mark E says:

    After the US banned the pesticide DDT in response to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and the early environmental movement, guess who remained the world’s biggest producer of DDT?

    The US! We just exported it.

    Before we congratulate ourselves on reducing domestic coal use, suppose we stop exporting the stuff?

  47. Mark E says:

    Just wish people would chain THEMSELVES to things, instead of expecting others to do so.

  48. Coilin MacLochlainn says:

    Joe, – I am writing to wish you a speedy recovery from your operation. To your good health and a long life! We need you! When I read your five stages of grief in reverse, I was amazed to find that it is a perfect fit for me and, for the record, I am now at four: Anger, though probably closer to Rage, and I am rapidly going into five, Denial, as I cannot believe the world will not do enough to save life on Earth. In reality, without swift and universal action, we face wipeout. Joe, you are doing more than most to inform and motivate and I want to take this opportunity to thank you so much for all your great work. Long may it continue.

    Thanks to your efforts, it is likely that renewables will very soon begin to create wealthy communities, at which point there will be a sudden realisation that maybe we are not doomed after all, that we can actually beat this thing, and prosper. There will be a blossoming of hope and a rush of sustainable development as people realise we can reverse climate change after all, with a massive effort.

    Obama will suddenly get very talkative, claiming credit for all sorts of things, including putting the tar sands out of business. The New York Times will rediscover the popularity of green blogs and its business pages will overflow with news from the energy front.

  49. Mark E says:

    Thanks for sharing Coilin. I bounce between all the stages, myself but I continue to draw closer to what for me is the sixth:

    Story telling is

    (A) an essential ingredient to whatever magic starts the uninitiated on the long road of self-education

    (B) what the survivors need most, so that whatever emerges on the backside of the fossil fuel age over the long, long, long term….. they won’t repeat our mistakes.

    For example, you usually hear the Noah story told in terms of going forth to “subdue” the earth like we are in battle with it, and the highest ideal in this version of the story is to squeeze the earth for everything we can.

    Much less often is this a story of steady-state economics, with longterm ecological stewardship as the highest ideal.

    My dream is for the survivors to based their culture on steady-state economics and ecological stewardship. If they don’t, well…..

    Lessons are repeated until learned.

  50. Mark E says:

    I’d love to see the list of offending criteria in the spam filter. Anyway, check please

  51. Bonnie Crawford says:

    We should not always have to be begging President Obama to do the right thing!!!

  52. SecularAnimist says:

    Joe Romm wrote: “I’d like any national MSM columnist who wrote very regularly on climate, but he is the only one in the whole damn country!!!”

    Well, George Will is a “national MSM columnist” who writes regularly on climate.

    I don’t like him much, though.

  53. Joe Romm says:

    Actually even he has cut down.

  54. Coilin MacLochlainn says:

    Bonnie, – recently there have been many messages, here on Climate Progress and on many other sites, suggesting that Obama ‘can’t do everything.’ That strikes me as very odd. I am writing from the Republic of Ireland in Europe where, readers might like to know, the President of the United States is regarded as the most powerful man on Earth. I think pretty much the same view is held all over the world.

    Given that there is a lot of truth in this description, it is absurd for anyone to suggest that President Obama cannot make a difference or be the prime mover on climate change. Yes, he can!

    Sure, US Congress is gridlocked because of Republicans who receive their campaign funding from big oil. But President Obama can still make climate change the top priority of his second term, he can use the bully pulpit, he can implement a raft of measures that do not need ratification by US Congress, these have all been described over and over and over. It’s not like Obama doesn’t know all this; of course he does!

    When the President of the United States sets out his vision, every nation on Earth sits up and takes note. It is sad that we actually have to beg Obama to speak out and to take action. He is clearly a man who is hesitant and somewhat fearful, but that’s all relative; after all, he is the most powerful man on the planet, he can move mountains if he wants, which in this day and age means the United States of America and all of its allies around the world; so he needs to act on his vision, be the game changer, ensure that his legacy is transformative long-lasting and critical to the future of the planet. But yes, we do need to give him as much support as humanly possible, and that brings me full circle to your plea for leniency.

  55. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Friedman’s piece is a real ‘Parson’s egg’, but a great improvement, as such, on his previous work. The enthusiasm for fracking is madness, but at least he acknowledges that its main purpose is to delay and derail renewables.

  56. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Look what happened to JFK, when he ‘changed’.

  57. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Obama is just the front-man, who announces policy decisions made by his owners, nothing else.

  58. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Maybe that is the problem. Now, where is my knitting..?

  59. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It’s just another confidence-trick, but, first, you have to breathe deep on the ‘Hopium pipe’.

  60. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    More proof that the powers-that-be, the money power that owns and controls all capitalist states, simply wants the disaster to occur. No-one can, conceivably, be so dumb and ignorant not to see the writing on the wall at this end-stage, ergo this is no tragic ‘accident’.