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Open Thread Plus Cartoon Of The Week

By Joe Romm

"Open Thread Plus Cartoon Of The Week"

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110 Responses to Open Thread Plus Cartoon Of The Week

  1. rollin says:

    That cartoon says it all, the people ahould not be happy with the level of climate leadership. What is proposed is small and will have little effect. Since when did America become small? It didn’t, so that is indicative of the real direction of the country.

    • Bob Geiger says:

      What Obama proposes is substantial. Of course, we have a long, long way to go. But this is the most ambitious move on climate in our history. Let’s see if we can build on it.

    • 6thextinction says:

      He lost me when he pushed natural gas, which is not a bridge to clean energy, but a u-turn. Investment in it will create its carbon and its disastrous leaks for years, as well as a long-term infrastructure. Don’t fall for it or accept it. Push hard for the true clean energy–solar and wind.

      • Joan Savage says:

        This is awkward. I lobby against fracking for gas and I buy electricity from a wind farm, but I have yet to see any wind turbine or solar panel advertised as, “Made with 100% recycled copper.”

        • 6thextinction says:

          That’s not a comparable reason for rejection.

          • Joan Savage says:

            I can’t bring myself to call wind turbines and solar panels “true clean” as long as global demand for newly-mined copper drives a disgusting amount water pollution.

          • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

            I don’t think that there are yet any ‘perfect’ solutions. Mind you, large-scale mining is another hideous capitalist blot that must go, along with much else, if we are to create a truly sustainable civilization. In the end we must, humanely, reduce our population to one or two billion, and the best way to do that is by making equality of wealth and opportunity one of our highest values.

          • 6thextinction says:

            Your concerns are valid, but we’re getting way off topic here, which is response to Obama’s speech, and his enthusiasm for natural gas to power us, and thereby fracking.

    • mulp says:

      When have all those environmentalist gone out and really fought for what they say they believe and gone door to door saying “you need to vote for tax hikes to give your children and grandchildren a better future”?

      Have you gone out and campaigned for tax hikes, substantial tax hikes???

      We need big gas tax hikes without regard to climate or environment or equity simply to fix the decaying bridges that are increasingly likely to be closed abruptly if they don’t fall first. Here in NH, the situation is desperate, but the Republicans blocked funding to fix roads and bridges because they refuse to allow tax hikes to restore the gas tax back to the real value it was in 1994 when it was last hiked.

      In Virginia the proposal was to eliminate the State gas tax and make up the revenue with higher taxes on food.

      In the past decade, Republicans have repeatedly talked of cutting the gas tax even as the highway trust funds are less and less able to fund even the minimal road work.

      So, seriously, how many people have you personally convinced to vote for tax hikes? Not give lip service to, but actually vote for tax hikes on gasoline which should be a slam dunk. If you have sold the voters on gas tax hikes, now you can sell a significant carbon tax – let us know when you have the winning pitch that makes people demand the candidates promise to vote for a carbon tax.

      Let me know when the Republican presidential debate has just one candidate stating he will demand a carbon tax, and all the other say “he is a danger to the American way of life” like they did with Ron Paul.

      Obama campaigned for tax hikes back to less that any Republican since WWII and the voters voted in opposition to any tax hikes. Ignore what they say and look at who they elected to Congress.

      Clinton forced Republicans to do what they said in the 90s and “balance the budget” but they were forced into it and immediately porked out on deficits as soon as he was gone. Even if Obama could force action, if Democrats lose control as they did in 2001, when he leaves office, it would all be for nothing.

      • rollin says:

        The government, corporations and academic elite want taxes on the poor and struggling. This whole sham will not work, it will just shift energy use around.

        What we really need is for corporations to pay their fair share of taxes and use that money to fund viable alternative energy and transportation. Corporations pay only 4% of federal taxes yet they have been given “citizenship” status lately. So if they want to be citizens, tax them like citizens. That would provide huge amounts of capital. If they want to play they have to pay.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      American didn’t become small-its ruling caste shriveled, morally, spiritually and intellectually. And the problems and dangers grew huge.

      • rollin says:

        Good call on this one Mulga.

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

          I still have great faith in Americans, despite the madness of their system and the inadequacies of their ruling elite, because I have faith in people everywhere, even those living under the worst conditions and most morally insane ruling castes, because I have faith mankind’s common humanity. We share 99.99% of our genes, and the vast bulk of our behaviour, hopes and aspirations, with one another, and even the worst Tea Party Mad Hatter is capable of seeing the light-eventually.

  2. Joan Savage says:

    There’s speculation that the heat wave in the western US might put ‘new colors’ on the weather map.

    Back in Southern Hemisphere summer (January), the Australian Bureau of Meteorology added new colours. The Aussie’s BOM colour scale has the black top off circa 50C (122F), with magenta 51C – 54C (123.8F – 129.2F) next up.

    Looks like Death Valley could qualify for BOM’s magenta, but the NOAA map uses a different color scale, so Death Valley is shown in scarlet for now.

    http://graphical.weather.gov/sectors/southrockies.php

    Small matter, but it would help if temperature maps were globally consistent.

  3. Pennsylvania Bob says:

    In his weekly radio address, President Obama said: “Remind everyone who represents you, at every level of government, that there is no contradiction between a sound environment and a strong economy — and that sheltering future generations against the ravages of climate change is a prerequisite for your vote.”
    Amen.

    • Pennsylvania Bob says:

      This is in today’s NYT but I can’t seem to copy the link here. Perhaps someone else can.

  4. Leland Palmer says:

    I took an informal poll among the people I work with, asking them if they had heard of Obama’s climate speech.

    Over half had not heard of it at all. Among those who had heard of it, only I knew the details.

    So, it’s a controlled press. We don’t have a free press, anymore. It’s a controlled, manipulated, biased, heavily propagandized corporate press.

    We need to understand that. This is not a conspiracy theory, this is conspiracy fact.

    Maybe we could build public support for bringing back ownership rules and the equal time rule, and applying those to cable TV.

    • Merrelyn Emery says:

      It is always a mistake to put all your eggs in the one basket, in this case private enterprise when their only goal is to make money, not disseminate information. Thankfully, people can still talk to each other, and while the elctricity is still on, can communicate through the new forms such as this. But it is now urgent that we recreate our communities through local grass roots planning so we can share info and make meaningful sense of events with conversation between equals, ME

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      You haven’t had a truly ‘free’ press for generations. It has been business-owned, progressively oligopolised and concentrated and ever more Rightwing, and that situation pertains throughout the capitalist West. The Web recreates the days of diverse opinion and real journalism, which is why the Obamatons hate it so much.

    • mulp says:

      No one can not know about public policy without purposely striving to not know.

      Here is the question I have: did you debate energy policy with your coworkers and friends and family?

      Or is that considered off limits political debate drive by partisan ideology?

      With the Internet, knowing no longer depends on it being printed in newspapers bought/read by everyone, or in the magazines, or on the radio, or on TV – news on just about everything is readily available over the Internet on demand, and directly from all the sources without filtering or editing.

      Broadcast and cable TV and radio deliver to their audience as close as possible the edited, filtered, and slanted news their audience wants as best as the management can determine based on ratings and polling.

      You are suggesting something that would work only if everyone were required to watch one hour per day of sanctioned truth. Enforced by ball and chain.

      • Leland Palmer says:

        Regarding debating climate change with my wife and immediate household- they’re utterly convinced of its reality, and have been for several years.

        I’ve made my position known at work, now and again. There is some positive reaction, some negative reaction, and a lot of criticism of my being “weird”.

        When I told them, one time, about the threat from methane hydrates, that was met with sheer disbelief, mostly. Young people were the most receptive, but even among that age group, they are concentrating on their careers and repeating conservative catch phrases about “accepting personal responsibility” and so on, rather than worrying about the climate.

  5. BobbyL says:

    I hope Obama hangs in their on his new more aggressive stance on climate. He is getting attacked from the right and from the more left of the left. If you put everything in the context that America has do to something fairly big by the 2015 international climate meeting to convince China and India that we are serious about addressing climate change, such as regulation of CO2 emissions from power plants, then I think Obama’s planned actions make a lot of sense. Sadly, I think the goal of staying under 2C has pretty much slipped away assuming an international climate agreement would not be implemented until 2020. For the moment I think we are left with the more ambiguous goal of doing as much as we can as soon as possible.

    • Superman1 says:

      “I think the goal of staying under 2C has pretty much slipped away”. Look at Anderson’s requirements for what it would take to achieve a limit of 2 C; that goal is purely wishful thinking. But, even if it were possible, Anderson says the body of climate experts places it in the Extremely Dangerous regime. So, we’re striving mightily to end up in the Extremely Dangerous regime??

      • SqueakyRat says:

        That’s because “Extremely Dangerous” covers a lot of ground.

      • dick smith says:

        Anderson makes two key assumptions that aren’t carved in stone.

        First, he assumes China’s emissions will peak in 2030. Their latest 5 year plan is for a 2025 peak year. That’s very good news.

        Second, he assumes we can’t do better than 3% year-over-year reductions in emissions without hurting the economy. I’ll defer to economists who read this blog, but that strikes me as dubious.

        Anderson makes many good points, but his case for complete doom-and-gloom depends has some out-dated assumptions on China, and some dubious economics.

        • Ken Barrows says:

          Please don’t defer to economists. That’s one reason the world is in a mess now.

        • Mark Belgium says:

          Dick, I disagree. First, china announcing peaking in 2025 instead of 2030 doesn’t mean a thing. How high that peak will be and the rate of reductions per annum are important. Second, Anderson refers to historic rates of reductions (France: nuclear, UK: gas instead of coal and the collapse of the former USSR ) to conclude that larger (needed)reductions are unprecedented. Reductions obtained be outsourcing energy intensive industry are hypocritical in a sense. Third, Anderson being a doom- and- gloom prophet is wrong. He just lays out the numbers and asks questions about the possibility to avoid a 2°C temperature rise. Nothing more, nothing less. Using very optimistic data (excluding slow feedback’s ). Cherry picking on a outdated peaking year of china and your personal beliefs about what rate of reductions are economically feasible wont convince me of the point you’re trying to make to discredit Anderson.

        • BobbyL says:

          Last I heard China is waffling on this and no longer is setting a year to reach peak emissions. As far as I know India has never set a year for peak emissions. With a population that is expected to surpass China soon and carrying out plans to bring electricity to everybody and build superhighways to connect their urban centers India might surpass China as the number one greenhouse gas polluter in the not too distant future.

        • Superman1 says:

          “his case for complete doom-and-gloom”. Anderson is not gloom-and-doom; if he were, he would focus his computations on 1 C, not 2 C, and focus his recommendations on 1 C as well. Additionally, he would correct for the exclusion of positive feedback mechanisms in the models on which he bases his computations. In my view, he is overly optimistic.

      • BobbyL says:

        I believe Anderson said 2C is between dangerous and extremely dangerous, but given that there is no specific definition of either term let’s just say things will probably be really bad for a lot of folks as well as animals of various species.

        • Superman1 says:

          What he is really saying is that once we achieve 2 C, the positive feedback mechanisms are sufficient to keep the temperature going in an upward direction. Given what we see in the Arctic today, I’m not sure that we haven’t achieved that situation now!

          • BobbyL says:

            That would seem to be a possibility. We don’t really know what the specific tipping points are with regard to temperature or exactly the speed at which the slow positive feedbacks will occur. The US has been gathering data on this situation in the Arctic.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      It is simply silly, and invites ridicule, to call Obama ‘Left’ in any meaningful sense of the word. He is probably the most Rightwing President in US history, following a pattern observable at least since Reagan, that each new US President consolidates the work of his predecessors in entrenching elite dominance, and then sets to on his own work to further that pathocratic suzerainty, at home and across the entire planet.

      • BobbyL says:

        Totally bizarre comment. Ever heard of Obamacare? Increased fuel efficiency standards for vehicles? Regulations on mercury emissions from coal plants? Reversal of Bush tax cuts on the very wealthy? Withdrawal from Iraq? Ongoing withdrawal from Afghanistan? Waivers from No Child Left Behind? Support for same sex marriage? Regulations on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants? Recent speeches on global warming calling for action? Appointment of liberals to the Supreme Court? Creation of an agency to protect consumers?

        • Superman1 says:

          We had one real alternative in the last two elections, and he was the better choice. But, on an absolute scale, I agree with Mulga. He is nowhere near what is needed to make a sea change.

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

          Bobby, what is called ‘Left’ in the USA, a society pushed further and further Right by its ruling elites, for decades, is not really Left in any meaningful sense. Your examples are, in my opinion, mere minutiae compared to Obama’s core activities, which are too well known to mention here. On the real ‘Left’ Obama is now increasingly being spoken of as the worst US President, so far. That is my opinion, also, he gaining extra ‘kudos’ for the sheer effrontery of the gargantuan distance between what he promised and what he has delivered. This difference of opinion is rooted in ideology, I freely admit.

          • Raul M. says:

            The level of foreseeable danger being the standard of his level of success as President is a tall order for any.
            But to slow the rise of the seas will take effort beyond any of the efforts of the past Presidents.

          • BobbyL says:

            To me, you have drained left and right in the US of all meaning. I think when you look at the entire political spectrum Democratic liberals and progressives are meaningfully to the left of center. I don’t think it makes sense to locate the center slightly left of the far left and say everyone else is on the right. In fact, the Democrats in the House are probably more to the left than they were in the past because so many districts are safe Democratic districts. But I understand that hyperbole is an important political tool so it is not surprising that the far left makes exaggerated claims to increase fund raising and gather more support. Why not claim almost everyone is on the right as result of the actions of a corporate ruling class? Who wouldn’t want to fight against that if they weren’t part of this so-called ruling class.

          • BobbyL says:

            My comment above should read “I don’t think it makes sense to locate the center slightly right of the far left.”

          • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

            Bobby, our difference of opinion is, I think, simply rooted in the fact that US politics have been pushed so far Right that what passes for ‘Left’ in the USA (and its vassals states in the Anglosphere)is Rightwing by any historical definition. Americans have been successfully brainwashed by the entirely Rightwing MSM and the advertising succubus into believing that a system that deliberately transfers wealth from the many to the few and increasingly neglects, often brutally, tens of millions, and keeps most of the population on the edge of financial ruin, is the envy of the world. What’s worse, the Left in the USA has been periodically purged, every twenty or thirty years or so, from the MSM, academia and public life, thereby exacerbating the disease. The result is near universal belief in the unbelievable, and ominpresent false consciousness, moral and intellectual.

  6. Joan Savage says:

    I have been wondering how the solar geomagnetic impacts relate to other concerns discussed at Climate Progress. Given that it is not a news item, I’m definitely opining.

    The sun has been more active lately. The warnings and watches usually include two kinds of impact, satellites and power grid fluctuations. A third, less commonly discussed, impact of geomagnetic pulses is corrosion of east-west oriented pipelines. It is not usually mentioned in the watches and warnings.

    Most of the recent space warnings and watches are for poleward of 60N degrees latitude, with a range of 55-65N degrees latitude. That demarcates a part of the world we might think doesn’t have a whole lot of power grid or telecomm, yet the polar region is an active area of oil and gas interests.

    Consider too that Helsinki (Finland), St. Petersburg (Russia), Anchorage, AK (US), Oslo (Norway), Athabaskan tar sands (Canada) are around 59-60N, with Aberdeen, Scotland, the home base for North Sea oil and gas, not much further south at about 57N.

    Finland is one country that takes seriously the possible impact of geomagnetic storms on pipelines and power grids. In addition to infrastructure in the higher risk 60N poleward area, their infrastructure is often on bedrock which doesn’t ground geomagnetic and electrical pulses as effectively as damp soils.

    For near real-time monitoring of space weather warnings I go to http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/alerts/warnings_timeline.html
    It’s pretty colorful this morning, though on other dates it can look blank!

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Fascinating stuff! The effects on pipelines are entirely new to me, but another marvelous example of ‘unknown unknowns’. Perhaps ‘marvelous’ is not quite right. And whatever happened to the denialists ‘New Maunder Minimum’. Has it gone the way of all their other banal maunderings?

  7. prokaryotes says:

    The number of people killed in cloudbursts and flash floods in Uttarakhand recently may cross 10,000 mark http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Uttarakhand-assembly-speaker-says-toll-may-cross-10000/articleshow/20831734.cms

  8. Jeff Huggins says:

    President Obama, Dr. John, and the Problem With the So-called “Line in the Sand” (and With Our Embracing It!)

    “If I don’t do it, you know somebody else will.”

    – Dr. John, ‘Such a Night’

    So, as we all heard on Tuesday, President Obama said that he’d only approve Keystone XL if it doesn’t “significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” He added, “The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward. It’s relevant.”

    This comment is about why that determining factor, that criterion, that “line in the sand” is not the sensible or credible or appropriate one (given what the President means by that criterion in relation to the matter of whether the tar sands oil will find its way to markets whether Keystone XL is built or not).

    First, I hope it’s clear to folks that this criterion, this way of assessing the issue (that is, making the ruling depend on the question of whether someone else will do something so that the same amount of oil will find its way to the marketplace anyway), is in no way consistent with the ideals and high moral rhetoric that the President uses, explicitly or implicitly, to represent the gravity of climate change. They are not in alignment. (This point was made quite well by Tim DeChristopher on TV the other night.)

    Second, how many times have you heard, as a rationalization for doing something, “If I don’t do it, somebody else will”? Although we’ve all heard that as an excuse offered by others, and most of us have ourselves pulled that faulty justification out of the hat once or twice (or at least have thought about it), we all know it to be a childish excuse, a cop-out, a rationalization. In essence, President Obama is saying this: If we don’t build the Keystone XL pipeline, the Canadians will get the oil to the marketplace via other means anyway; trains, other pipelines to their own coast (and off to China), or whatever. “If we don’t do it, somebody else will.” Or rather, he’s setting that question up at the very center of his criterion and decision. (It’s the same thing.) Put another way, he’s accepting that way of thinking as being logical and moral, and the only remaining question (once you accept that thinking) is the analytic one: Is it (or is it not) the case that the same amount of oil will make it to market either way, given what other people may or may not do?

    By the way, if anyone wants an entertaining reminder of what “If I don’t do it, somebody else will” amounts to, watch Dr. John’s performance of ‘Such a Night’ in the great movie, ‘The Last Waltz’, Martin Scorsese’s movie about the Band’s last performance. And please read the lyrics. In essence, by setting the criterion as he has, President Obama is accepting Dr. John’s logic. What’s even worse, by accepting and embracing President Obama’s criterion, we’re accepting that logic too! (Of course, people who are doing that are doing so because they think the analytic answer will be in our favor, as it should be of course; but nevertheless, they are accepting the logic inherent in that criterion. That’s a problem, risky, and also not warranted given the big context and the nature of the matter at stake.)

    Third, and importantly (continued on next comment) …

    • catman306 says:

      Here’s a link to Dr. John, the Band, and Such a night:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Nz3EQXLA-Q

      • Jeff Huggins says:

        Beautiful

        Thanks again, catman306, for the link to the clip. The quality of that clip on YouTube is nearly as good as the original in ‘The Last Waltz’: what a great performance! Not only are the words “If I don’t do it, somebody else will” totally appropriate to describe the problem with President Obama’s paradigm on this, but the (wonderful) style of the song and performance is perfect for pointing out the moral “silliness” of the principle. And, just watching the piano part at the end is worth the effort. In any case, thanks again for the clip: I hope other readers, as well as Joe and Ryan and etc., all watch it. Cheers, Jeff

    • SqueakyRat says:

      I think “The Last Waltz” is about The Band’s farewell tour, not their last performance. Could be wrong, I suppose.

      • Jeff Huggins says:

        catman306, thanks for the link. SqueakyRat, thanks for the comment; ‘The Last Waltz’ is about the last performance — it took place at Winterland in San Francisco, and the performances were all filmed there on that night, except for one or two that were staged. One of the best things about the event — although I’m a great fan of the Band — were all the other performers who came to help: Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Dr. John, the list goes on and on. It’s a collection of performers that could not possibly be pulled together for a tour; indeed, it’s a miracle that they even came together on that one night. A truly great film. Van Morrison too. Neil Diamond. Michael McClure. And etc.

    • wili says:

      “If I don’t do it, somebody else will” indeed does not represent a very high moral standard.

      It would justify, for example, being the first to rape an inebriated girl at a frat party…

      Though the term was not originally applied to this particular rationalization, I think “the last refuge of scoundrels” fits rather nicely.

  9. catman306 says:

    After borrowing money from the rate payers with a prepay (for their nuclear power plants under construction until 2017) Ga. Power wants to raise the rates to pay for:

    “The company said it needs the rate increase to cover the costs of pollution controls, smart-grid technology, transmission lines and customer service.”

    Georgia Power Asks for 6% Rate Hike:

    http://onlineathens.com/local-news/2013-06-28/georgia-power-asks-6-rate-hike

  10. catman306 says:

    This idea is little late to generate a national movement, but our country seems to be politically fracturing. Pass it on.

    If you support the Federal System of government that we used to enjoy in the US, be sure to fly a US flag on the 4th of July.

    If you’d like to see the Federal Government broken up by ‘conservative’ political factions and BAU powers, don’t fly the flag.

    I bought a made-in-China flag at Walmart for $0.75 and left the bar code sticker in place.
    Did I spend to much?

    • Ken Barrows says:

      In the long run, the concepts of the “United States” and a stable climate will probably become incompatible.

      • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

        Expect near-term secession and fissiparous tendencies leading to five or six separate countries by 2030. Even earlier if some malignant outsiders finance and promote the disintegration, as occurred in Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union and Iraq and is occurring in Syria. Alternatively, military rule, perhaps retaining a veneer of civilian governance, repression of dissent, an Anschluss of Canada, and the usual global machinations, greatly raised in intensity. Pretty much deck-chair shuffling stuff.

    • Joan Savage says:

      People fly the flag for so many personal reasons, but I’m getting my mind around your idea.

      I have a flag that my father earned as a veteran of World War II.
      If he were still around, dad would say we are in crisis and should do something about it. I’m certain about that because I found among his papers some reprints on climate change, dated 1988.
      Twenty five years ago, o god.

      Okay, catman, I’m in.

      A caveat – I don’t display the flag in the rain, even though doing so would be painfully relevant.

      • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

        In our current circumstances, perhaps it would be permissible to fly the flag upside down, indicating our distress.

        • Joan Savage says:

          It did cross my mind, but that’s a sign of giving up. (I have not yet begun to fight! – John Paul Jones)

          As it happens, there’s a 60% chance of thunderstorms on the 4th, so this may be moot.

          FYI A veteran’s flag is large enough to cover a casket. It is too big for the average household’s flagpole. To display my dad’s, I attach it to the eaves.

          • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

            Surely a signal of distress is a sign requesting assistance, not indicating surrender. We all need all the help we can get, or give.

    • 6thextinction says:

      If a person really cares about global warming, they’ll stop buying new stuff; especially shipped from great distances.

  11. Jeff Huggins says:

    President Obama, Dr. John, and the Problem With the So-called “Line in the Sand” (and With Our Embracing It!) (CONTINUED)

    Continued from my earlier comment…

    Third, and importantly, the criterion that President Obama has expressed — the way he plans (apparently) to apply that criterion, that is, depending on the question of whether the oil will get to market anyway — does not represent leadership (if leadership means anything at all!), it does not account for other things he could and should do, and it potentially embraces a supply-side look at the matter that holds “supply” to be something that will happen no matter what, to meet “demand”. Let me explain.

    President Obama’s criterion and calculus — or at least the calculus that he may be setting up (the calculus that the State Department has already adopted) — is based on the question or notion that the tar sands oil will be developed and get to market in the same quantities without Keystone XL as it would with Keystone XL. If Keystone XL is not approved, the thinking goes, the same huge incremental amount of oil will be developed and brought to market via additional trains (coming into the U.S. or elsewhere), a different pipeline (within Canada, taking the oil to the Canadian coast for export), or whatever. But this reasoning suffers from one problem, among others: IF the President means what he says in his moral appeals and high-ideal-rhetoric, and if he is genuinely serious about the problem of climate change, and if he understands what ‘leader’ means, and if he understands the influential power of the bully pulpit and the need for improved public understanding of the climate change problem, then he should realize that he should be doing whatever he can to discourage, hinder (where he legally can), or even block (where he legally can) those same possible alternative pathways for the oil that his reasoning RELIES UPON for its “logic”.

    In other words, even as the President claims that climate change is vitally important to face and address, and even as the President claims to be a leader, his present criterion-and-calculus is based on the idea of what “other people will do anyway” if Keystone XL is not approved. Yet that reasoning fails to recognize one key fact, which is this: The President ought to be doing whatever he can, within considerations of legality of course, to argue against, discourage, slow down, hamper, or even block those other avenues for the tar sands oil and, indeed, the idea of unlimited tar sands development itself! After all, what does leadership mean? And after all, an important part of leadership is taking steps towards an aim, even if not all of those steps work out. An important part of leadership is signaling and setting an example.

    IF the President is serious about trying to lead the way towards an international agreement to address climate change, then shouldn’t one of the first steps be to start doing things like this: publicly appealing — in polite but sincere terms, of course — to Canadians and to the Canadian government to slow the development of the tar sands, as part of his public announcement that he will not approve Keystone XL because of its likely influence on the problem?

    The President’s present criterion and calculus entirely overlooks this major aspect of his role, this major part of his responsibility, a part of his responsibility as president, and certainly a part of what “leadership” on this issue would call for.

    (To be continued in one last comment…)

    • Superman1 says:

      Jeff, This is pure Kabuki Theater, and your focus on one small aspect of supply is misplaced. Focus on reducing demand; it is the only approach that has the possibility of making the needed changes in the near-term to POSSIBLY avoid going over the cliff. Eliminate all non-essential uses of fossil fuel as early and as harshly as possible, by mandate if necessary, and the pipeline will evaporate.

      • Jeff Huggins says:

        SupermanI, I agree — of course — that demand is crucial. It’s not an either/or matter: we should focus both on demand (mostly) and supply too. In many ways, they go hand in hand, of course. But in any case, you’ve been reading many of my comments, and you understand that I’m focused much more than on supply. Indeed, my main focus is to try to get us to do the sorts of things necessary to set the stage for nominating and electing a Real Leader next time around, someone who will actually Lead the Way to address climate change (though more and more activism will undoubtedly be necessary in either case). Anyhow, thanks for your comment.

  12. Jeff Huggins says:

    President Obama, Dr. John, and the Problem With the So-called “Line in the Sand” (and With Our Embracing It!) (CONTINUED, PART III)

    Continued from my earlier comments…

    Also, the President’s criterion-and-calculus leave themselves wide open to another “argument” that some people have made already, others will likely make, and the President himself could possibly embrace if he is really out to rationalize a way to approve Keystone XL. At the end of the day, it could be argued that any single action on the “supply side” — even a large one — will have no impact on emissions, because the markets that supply fossil fuels will find a way to meet demand, so only actions on the “demand side” can be considered to actually address the problem. Put another way, someone might say, “Hey, without a tax on carbon, or without a cap, or without other sizable means to reduce demand (here we are talking about the uses of oil, not of coal), no action on the ‘supply side’ will make any difference. We don’t even need to take it to the level of trying to figure out whether trains or ships will be used to transport the oil that would otherwise have gone through the pipeline, nor do we even have to figure out if that oil would still come from the Alberta Tar Sands or if it would be replaced with oil from other sources (if Keystone XL weren’t built). No, if an action does not directly influence the ‘demand side’, it cannot be thought of as addressing climate change, because supply will somehow satisfy demand whether you build any single pipeline or not.”

    I won’t take the time here to refute that sort of narrow logic, but my point here is this: The criterion and calculus that President Obama set forth, and has implied, leaves itself wide open to that sort of argument. And that’s a problem, or at least a potential one.

    In closing, the problem is not only that the President has adopted (and also implied) a combination of criterion-and-calculus that is problematic and doesn’t fit with the gravity of the situation, or with the idea of leadership; the problem is also that most of the leaders of the climate movement and environmental organizations have accepted and embraced that criterion (even as they are aware of the earlier logic from the State Department!). Yikes!

    Indeed, although I can’t find the quote presently, in one of the recent articles I read that Bill (McKibben) has either explicitly said or strongly implied that the President’s criterion is the right one. That MAY be the case — although I would argue that it isn’t — if you use a very charitable interpretation of what one of Obama’s statements of his criterion was, and if you take it very literally and exclude all other context, including what we already know about how the government is thinking about the role of, “if we don’t do it, somebody else will”. But it’s certainly NOT the case if you consider the stakes involved, the context, what the government has already argued, and basic logic. In other words, the criterion-and-calculus that the President set forth, and has implied, is not the right one, and we are making a mistake in accepting and endorsing it.

    To be clear, I agree that the analysis, if done correctly, will (or should) obviously show that Keystone XL would allow/facilitate a pace of development of the oil deposits in Alberta that would otherwise not be achievable without Keystone XL. And, to be clear, I hope the government does the analysis honestly and correctly, and I hope the President denies approval to Keystone XL. (Yet how many times must we count on “hope”?) BUT, I don’t agree that the proposed criterion is the right one, especially when it’s combined with the sort of thinking that relies upon the question of whether the same volume of oil will make it to market whether Keystone XL is built or not. I think it’s a mistake — a potentially huge one! — that we rushed to accept the President’s criterion, and I hope we can correct and clarify our position ASAP, so we don’t get caught (after the fact) having to argue about the analytics with a President who has made the wrong decision.

    Thanks and Be Well,

    Jeff

    • Superman1 says:

      The Canadian government and the Canadian people will not allow their lucrative fossil fuel reserves to sit in the ground without bringing in substantial revenues, the Australian government and Australian people will likewise not allow the same for their substantial fossil fuel reserves, and most of all, the American people and the American government will never allow their fossil reserves to sit idly by while there’s money to be made.

      • Jeff Huggins says:

        Superman1, you sound pretty resigned to a constantly-warming climate. There are two different things: whether something will actually work; and whether it ought to be tried as one of the things that might work, or that are necessary in the mix, or that can help send a signal and set the stage for other stuff that will eventually work. We need to work on both demand (especially) and supply, and we need to both elect excellent leadership and apply leadership ourselves. And, the President should be using the bully pulpit and whatever other means, to call on and help influence other world leaders to help address climate change. Or rather, that’s the position we need to get ourselves in, with real leadership. Presently, the President hardly as any credibility to make such “calls to action” to other world leaders, of course. He can’t even decide what to do about Keystone XL — he’s too caught up in what the polls might say about it — so how can he have any credibility asking the Chinese leadership to do something that they might find hard, unpopular in China, or disadvantageous to their own “competitiveness”? We have nearly zero credibility, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t manage to do the sorts of things that will eventually get us there. Cheers.

        • BobbyL says:

          I thought Obama was on target morally with his speech. By far the most important part was his decision to regulate emissions from power plants. As he has said, we need a global compact to fight climate change. His decision to regulate power plant CO2 emissions could give him the credibility he needs to convince China and India to reduce emissions sooner rather than later. Whether Keystone would lead to more emissions or not is based on hypothetical arguments. The Keystone decision lacks the clarity that regulating emissions from power plants has.

          • Jeff Huggins says:

            BobbyL, the degree to which regulating emissions from power plants and approving/denying Keystone XL have an influence on credibility, depends (in both cases) on whether they are done, and how. As far as I know, the actual regulations and targets the President and EPA have in mind for the power plant regulations are not determined (although I haven’t been following that closely, but I certainly haven’t seen or heard the specifics), so that is still an open question in terms of the degree of credibility it will give the President (or the U.S.). And, if he approves Keystone XL, that will most certainly diminish — greatly — any credibility he gains from his power plant actions, because BOTH are necessary in two senses: they are necessary to the task at hand, and they are also necessary if his actions are to be consistent with his “moral appeals” and high rhetoric. So we’ll see.

    • Brian Smith says:

      Since your screed is based on assuming that Obama supports the idea that “if we don’t do it, somebody else will”, would you please give a link to any such statement by the President?

  13. Theodore says:

    If you have not yet heard of Glasspoint, you should look into it. It is a solar steam company that provides solar steam generation equipment for the oil industry, to pump up the thick oil. They put the troughs into a greenhouse. The advantages of doing so are (1) no wind to blow the reflector out of position, (2) no dust on the mirrors, (3) no abrasion of the mirrors from wind-blown sand and (4) low cost derived from the lightweight mirrors, which have the reflective surface right on the face.

    Combine this idea with a pyramid-shaped greenhouse and a central receiver at the vertex. No central post would be needed to mount the receiver, which could have a flat hot spot on the bottom. The receiver could be supported with supports in the edges of the pyramid, and the pipes could go up this way too.

    Tell me this is a good idea. I need to hear some of that.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Well it sounds good to me. Pyramids are also symbolic of human achievement and the persistence of human civilization.

  14. Nell says:

    There are two types of growth: getting bigger is the most common use of the word. Another type is development… eg personal growth

    The stuff we need to do to save civilization, more less as we know it, is of the second type… and we’d need to do this even without climate chaos

    The engines for getting bigger are sputtering

    Population growth is leveling off.
    Almost all of our natural resources are past or fast approaching peak production. Decreasing availability of water is a real biggie (think Ogallala Aquifer).

    Damping our drive to consume more and more must be addressed, but I think that must be done at the grass roots level and has already begun.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      ‘Getting bigger’ growth is the modus operandi of the cancer, and capitalism exactly mimics cancer in its drives and refusal to acknowledge the safe limits to growth, and the end-stage towards it is inexorably heading. In nature growth and development occur in accordance with natural limits imposed by the environment. Outgrow your environment and your population crashes, as will happen with us if we do not do it ourselves, humanely. And to do so absolutely requires the total rejection of endless growth, insatiable greed, mindless materialism and consumption and grotesque and wicked inequality. In other words, the euthanasing of capitalism.

    • wili says:

      It is long past time that we stopped using the word “growth” as a metaphor for everything we see as desirable–personal ‘growth,’ spritual ‘growth’…

      What exactly is ‘growing’? Will it grow forever? What is this growth displacing?

      It has always been a rather poor metaphor in these areas.

      Why not ‘spiritual integration’? ‘personal development’? Aren’t these closer to what we really mean.

      The only reason we default to the inappropriate and really rather idiotic term ‘growth’ here is because we are all deep inside a cancerous ideology that sees nearly all growth as automatically and unquestionably good–indeed the highest good imaginable.

      Time to start taking the steam out of that faulty and earth-destroying construct, and stop using ‘growth’ to mean ‘that which is desirable and good.’

  15. Joan Savage says:

    US Airways spokesman Todd Lehmacher said the airline now knows that its Boeings can fly at up to 126 degrees, and its Airbus fleet can operate at up to 127.

    CBS/AP/ June 29, 2013, 3:07 PM
    Punishing heat wave hits western U.S.

  16. Jeff Huggins says:

    Think About It — a Clarification

    Why is it that the “If I don’t do it, somebody else will” justification for doing something is morally problematic?

    Why is it that this justification expresses the exact opposite of what ‘leadership’ means?

    (Some readers may want to refer to my earlier comment, titled ‘President Obama, Dr. John, and the So-called “Line in the Sand” (and With Our Embracing It!)’, as context, although it’s not necessary to do so.)

    Consider a simple example. Imagine five boys standing around, all looking at a gold pocket-watch hanging out of a man’s back pocket, and the man is not paying attention. One of the boys thinks, “If I don’t steal it, one of my friends will.” Should he steal it, then? Of course not. Whether or not it is true that one of the other boys will steal the watch if he doesn’t — and thus the man way well lose his watch either way — the boy should not steal the watch. Why is that?

    Of course, it’s because the watch should not be stolen — by anyone. The “If I don’t do it, somebody else will” justification — or rather rationalization — is just a sneaky excuse for doing something that shouldn’t be done in the first place, by anyone (or at least by anyone in the situation in question).

    If it is true that nobody should further/expand the production of Tar Sands Oil in Alberta — not the Canadian government, not Canadian oil companies, not American oil companies, not anybody — and that IS the case, of course (or at least it is the case according to Dr. Hansen and Joe and Bill McKibben and most of us here — then the logic of “If I don’t do it, somebody else will” falls completely apart. It dissolves, it disappears, it can’t withstand any real moral scrutiny whatsoever! Think about it.

    Not only that, but consider how well the “If I don’t do it, somebody else will” philosophy aligns with the notion of leadership or with the idea of considering a problem to be addressed (such as climate change) as a major moral problem.

    If President Obama approves Keystone XL under the logic that “the oil will make it to market in the same volumes even if I deny approval to Keystone XL, so I might as well approve it”, he will have done two related things: He will have lost moral credibility and any moral “authority” that might attend it, because he did essentially the same thing as a boy who would steal a pocket-watch under the logic that, “If I don’t do it, my friends will.” That is, he will have done something (furthering the production of oil from the Alberta tar sands) that nobody should do. Note that IT DOES NOT MATTER (to the question of whether Obama should do it) that somebody else might or will produce the oil in the same volumes, just as it does not matter (to the question of whether the boy should steal the watch) if one of the other boys will steal the watch anyhow.

    Second, President Obama loses the moral credibility and “authority” to ask or urge someone else (for example, the Chinese) not to do something, because he subjects himself to the same faulty excuse he used: “If we don’t do it, somebody else will.”

    Indeed, if everybody uses that logic, the moral imperative (in this case, to reduce the development and production of oil) will never get accomplished. (Well, nature will accomplish it for us, but too late.) You can see why, in the example of the boys and the pocket-watch.

    The problem is, President Obama has adopted a criterion that (at least in the way he sees it) acknowledges and accepts the logic of “If we don’t do it, somebody else will”. He is supposedly awaiting the analysis, that is, the State Department’s determination as to whether a rejection of Keystone XL would likely result in lower production than an approval, based on what other people will do. But he has accepted the logic itself; he has accepted that consideration (what will happen “anyway”) as a central consideration — indeed, THE central consideration. That’s a problem. An even bigger problem is that we — most of the leaders of the climate movement, and most of the environmental organizations — seem to have accepted and even applauded the President’s proposed criterion, warts and blemishes and all.

    Indeed, I would say that the President’s speech was actually incoherent — its different elements did not cohere — from a moral standpoint, especially considering what he said about his way of thinking about Keystone XL (but also for other reasons). Thematically, and appropriately, he said (in essence) that it is our moral obligation to address climate change. But then in a different passage, he set a criterion having to do with how he will judge the Keystone XL question that, given how he looks at it, will involve and invoke (as a central, determining consideration) the question of whether someone else will do it if we don’t. Thus, his speech was a moral appeal that included — on a central (“key”) issue — an appeal to an invalid (from a moral standpoint) type of justification. He hasn’t made the decision yet, supposedly at least, but the stage he has set, the criterion he has asked us to accept, is morally and logically flawed.

    Cheers,

    Jeff

    • Brian Smith says:

      Since your screed is based on assuming that Obama supports the idea that “if we don’t do it, somebody else will”, would you please give a link to any such statement by the President?

      “…he has accepted that consideration (what will happen “anyway”) as a central consideration — indeed, THE central consideration”. Care to share the evidence, without the convoluted speculation?

      • Jeff Huggins says:

        Brian, thanks for your comment. The indication that this is the President’s stance is in the phrase “net effects”, with an emphasis on the word ‘net’. We can be sure, I hope (and in any case, he has said it) that the President knows that burning oil itself increases GHG emissions, and Keystone XL would transport a heck of a lot of oil over its lifetime on an absolute basis. If you don’t “net” the matter, analytically speaking there is no (and was never any) question that the amount of oil over the lifetime of the pipeline, and the corresponding emissions, are immense. The only way there is even a question, given the criterion that the President offers, is if they are considering the matter in “net” terms, that is, how much oil would get to market by other means if the pipeline isn’t built, versus how much will get to market if it is built? And, as you know (I assume), that is how the State Department has looked at things, and indeed why it gave a favorable report in the first place. (The State Department is part of the President’s administration, so to speak, so I believe it is fair to hold him partly accountable for the way they approach things, and in any case, it is a sound assumption — given his use of the word ‘net’ — that he is including such considerations in his own evaluation of the matter.) And indeed, leaders of the climate movement, as well as environmental organizations, have also interpreted his meaning that way: as evidence, they have engaged in the analytical battle over whether Canada would really be able to build another pipeline if Keystone XL weren’t approved, or whether it would be possible and economic to bring the same amount of oil across the border in trains. They and we celebrated when the BC government said ‘no’, temporarily at least, to the Enbridge pipeline, in part for the reason that it demonstrated the fallacy of the assumption that the oil will make it to market whether Keystone XL is built or not. For these and other reasons, it’s a sound assessment, I believe, that the President is admitting/allowing this ‘net’ question into a central position in his calculation. (In other words, although I don’t agree with this way of looking at things morally speaking, I think it’s a good bet that the President is looking at things this way, and he has so much as said so by using the word ‘net’.) That said, if (against all this) you can explain why you think it is NOT the case, I’m eager to hear it. Or, if you can manage to get a direct quote from the President one way or another, that would be welcome too. But I doubt the President will ever sing with Dr. John ‘Such a Night’, with the lyrics, “If I don’t do it, somebody else will”. He’s not that explicit when it comes to talking about a principle that can’t hold water, morally speaking.

        Thanks for your comment, though.

        Cheers for now,

        Jeff

      • Jeff Huggins says:

        Brian, one more thing, to be clear. (I reread your comment and wanted to make sure I’m clearly conveying something.) My point is NOT that the President has already decided that “If I don’t do it, somebody else will.” That is, he hasn’t already decided (or at least, he hasn’t said so) that the same volume of oil will be produced and sold whether or not Keystone XL is approved. That analysis is yet to come — that analytic question is yet to be answered. (The State Department answered it, erroneously, and many people are asking the State Department to reassess the matter, including the EPA.) Instead, my point is this: The President has admitted, invoked, and implied that consideration into a central, crucial place in his decision-making criterion and calculus. He has said (in effect) that this will be his way of deciding. He has adopted that “principle”, and now he is supposedly awaiting the facts of the matter. What I’m saying is that the “principle” itself is wrongheaded and invalid, morally speaking. I hope that clarifies that, as far as it goes.

        Thanks again, Jeff

        • Brian Smith says:

          I think you should get out more. I know I should.

          • Jeff Huggins says:

            I agree, Brian, but in this case, given that you asked a good question in fairly assertive fashion, I felt I should at least respond. Anyhow, it was 106 deg. F here today — 104 even as I write this in the late afternoon — so (for today) I don’t mind writing in-between my attempts to keep the plants alive. I can only stay outside so long. That said, I agree with your point generally, so off for now …

          • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

            I get out in six months- Parole Board willing.

          • Brian Smith says:

            Hope springs eternal. They’re never going to let you out.

    • Joe Romm says:

      Based on the speech, I don’t think he’ll approve kxl.

      • 6thextinction says:

        That was the message I got. We need to keep up the pressure, though, and impress upon him we also reject natural gas fracking.

      • Jeff Huggins says:

        Joe, I hope you’re right. I don’t know what to think — that is, what to predict — about what he’ll do these days. Yet it was interesting to see an article that quoted from a wide range of articles, many by the pipeline and oil folks, and just about an equal number of folks felt that the speech meant that he wouldn’t approve KXL as the number who felt that it indicated that he would approve KXL. The rather vague KXL element of the speech is somewhat of a Rorschack (spelling?) test for the audiences, I’d say. But we’ll see. That said, if he does approve it, our complaints at that point will be pretty much “limited” to the analytic determination of whether the same amount of oil will flow either way, because most people seem to have accepted his criterion for the decision, which embraces that as a relevant factor. Cheers for now. Jeff

        • Joe Romm says:

          Why talk about Kxl at all if he were going to approve it? I’d say its about 70-30 now.

  17. Paul Magnus says:

    Hey we knew this was around the corner. Next is the airline industry… were going to have to adapt much faster than we thought.

    The rate of acceleration of the deteriorating biosphere is matching the unprecedented injection of GHGs in to the atmosphere.

    Insurance Firms Warn of the ‘Uninsurable’ Future of Climate Change

    http://ecowatch.com/2013/insurance-firms-warn-uninsurable-future-climate-change/

    “It warns that the speed at which global oceans are warming is threatening the industry’s ability to sell affordable policies around the world, with parts of the United Kingdom (UK) and the U.S. state of Florida already facing “a risk environment that is uninsurable.”

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      And so, all those actuaries and the Big Brains of the Business Elect can only understand the catastrophe as a matter affecting profits, not the ticking of the Doomsday Clock for their own children. Why are business-people so fecking amoral?

  18. Nell says:

    Just saw Promised Land.
    Matt Damon is brilliant.

  19. fj says:

    Poor people first

    Obama aims to spread electricity to more Africans

    http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-76508286/

  20. Brooks Bridges says:

    Yet another major event on the near horizon:
    Peak Oil.

    Ted Patzek seems highly credible (credentials given at beginning) and is sort of the Anderson of Peak Oil – no nonsense facts.

    http://www.texasobserver.org/questions-for-tad-patzek/

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Peak ‘Cheap’ Oil, Peak ‘High EROEI Oil’ was in 2005, was it not?

  21. Brian Smith says:

    No mention of Obama’s climate speech on the Sunday shows and, as far as I saw, no mention of climate change in the heavy,though brief, recent MSM coverage of the current western heat wave. No mention during the POTUS Africa tour, unless I missed it, of climate/agriculture, climate/energy, climate/migration or climate/politics/conflict…issues that have risen to the top within African governments.

    Letterman did a commendable job of having Tim DeChristopher on and letting him carry the conversation, the one bright spot lately. Chris Hayes & Maddow have climbed in the ring occasionally but not really put up much of a fight. George Zimmerman is more important. Immigration reform, gay marriage rights and abortion are more important.

    This is where it’s been for a long time and that’s where it will stay without an intervention a lot stronger, and apparently a lot sexier or bloodier, than the speech we put our hopes on and got – and watched fall on deaf ears.

    I have said my piece here before, basically suggesting a Manhattan Project of public climate education that networks the efforts of thousands of climate leaders and organizations. There are any number of approaches to structuring an alliance for this purpose – and reason to believe that, with enough money behind it, a determined, long-haul media campaign could significantly increase public understanding of climate.

    At bottom is the reality that public ambivalence and ignorance persist and we are on track to see climate as a non-issue in the midterms. This may guarantee the electoral safety of House Republican AGW deniers and their backers. The science is not understood, the risks are not understood, the scientific consensus is disbelieved, and big oil & gas are very much in control of TV messaging.

    Allowing this to go on and on and on and on is both insane and unnecessary. The climate movement has been described by social science as the largest social movement in history by a long shot, but the grassroots remains Balkanized. Stakeholders are balkanized. Not to say that collaboration isn’t on the rise, but why not take it to the next level? Maybe all the separate efforts will inevitably saturate the American brain and cause a spontaneous critical mass of concern. Can that happen soon enough for anyone here?

    If major airtime for science-based climate reality and the web of related global challenges just never arrives, who’s fault will that be? The Koch brothers, or the PR campaign for climate that never happened?

  22. Brian Smith says:

    Terrific climate cartoon by Brian McFadden in today’s NYT.

    http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2012/07/08/opinion/sunday/the-strip.html?ref=sunday#1

  23. Mere speculation. Cutbacks in non-essential consumption and deep cutbacks in the fossil fuel sector combined with strong growth in renewables, infrastructure repair and so on could lead to an adequately prosperous economy and a healthier planet.

  24. Ken Barrows says:

    Now that’s mere speculation. World GDP has been highly correlated with world energy use (and emissions). Yes, trend is not destiny, but don’t assume wonderful growth is consistent with protecting the climate. If it is, great. If it’s not, the climate comes first.

  25. prokaryotes says:

    Indeed! Germany is just doing that – “Energiewende”. Clean tech has advanced to a major economic sector in Germany, for some years now.

  26. Superman1 says:

    Note how your reply was removed from its context.

  27. wili says:

    Perhaps we need a new definition of ‘strong economy.’

    An economy that is in the process of destroying itself and the planet is not strong. Any more than an athlete pumped up on so many steroids that he is rapidly destroying his body is really authentically strong.

    In both cases, short-term performance may give the appearance of strength, but there is no real strength there, just short-term, artificial enhancement.

    I’m not sure we even know what an authentically strong economy would look like, but steady-state and de-growth economists are at least thinking about it.

    Everyone else is living in lala-land.

  28. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Excellent points Wili but I think we must go deeper than that. The ‘economy’ is not a thing, it is merely a construct in the same way that money is a construct; the real thing is value. A bag of spuds is nothing to a rich man but extremely valuable to a poor woman desperate to feed her kids, ME