Is Obama’s call for more drilling bad messaging masquerading as cynical policy — or vice versa?

Return of the environmental-problem-that-must-not-be-named

One thing we know for certain — more domestic drilling starting now will have exactly the same impact on prices that the increased domestic drilling in the last two years had.  Zilch.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration has been making that precise point for years now (see EIA: Full offshore drilling will not lower gasoline prices at all in 2020 and only 3 cents in 2030!).

Even the media has started to report on this:  “Today, CNN Money tackles the bottom line: What would more domestic oil production do to the price of gas? In short, close to nothing.”

This drill drill drill thing is tired,” said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service, which calculates gas prices for the motorist organization AAA. “It’s a simplistic way of looking for a solution that doesn’t exist.

President Obama is more than aware of this — he himself noted, “Last year, America’s oil production reached its highest level since 2003.”  And somehow oil prices soared.  Yet in his Saturday radio address (transcript here, video below), he cynically called for more domestic drilling, including Alaska, which is ill prepared for a major spill:

Yes, while allowing that “there are no quick fixes to the problem,” the President actually said more domestic oil production was among the “few steps we should take that make good sense.”  Sad.

You’d think that an entire address dedicated to drilling, including drilling in the Gulf, might mention the BP oil disaster, at least in passing.  You’d be wrong:

I believe that we should expand oil production in America – even as we increase safety and environmental standards.

To do this, I am directing the Department of Interior to conduct annual lease sales in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve, while respecting sensitive areas, and to speed up the evaluation of oil and gas resources in the mid and south Atlantic.  We plan to lease new areas in the Gulf of Mexico as well, and work to create new incentives for industry to develop their unused leases both on and offshore.

We’re also taking steps to give companies time to meet higher safety standards when it comes to exploration and drilling.  That’s why my Administration is extending drilling leases in areas of the Gulf that were impacted by the temporary moratorium, as well as certain areas off the coast of Alaska.  And to streamline that permitting process, I am establishing a new team to coordinate work on Alaska drilling permits.

Of course, this is not so much a new policy as a reversion to Obama’s pre-BP-disaster policy [or is that “Obama’s pre-BP disastrous policy”].  But post-spill, one has to wonder about the need for streamlined permitting in Alaska, which would suffer mightily from any spill with far fewer resources available for cleanup.

For the record, caving on drilling was probably inevitable sooner or later given gasoline prices at this level and peak oil (and the Dems’ general semi-competence at coherent messaging).  But it is absurd to explicitly link the drilling to the possibility of lowering prices — as that validates “Drill, Baby, Drill.”  He truly is Barack ‘no narrative’ Obama.

Even worse, Obama is not merely adopting the GOP rhetoric — but getting nothing whatsoever in return for it.  Obama says we should “eliminate the taxpayer subsidies we give to oil and gas companies.”  Well, if you are planning to cave on drilling, how about at least getting the subsidy elimination as part of the deal?

The address offers three explicit ‘solutions’ — having the attorney general look into market manipulation, more drilling, cutting subsidies.  They solve nothing substantial about oil prices and don’t include any of the key medium-term solutions, including tougher fuel economy standards and the switch to renewable energy.  Obama does mention those at the end:

The American people shouldn’t be subsidizing oil companies at a time when they’re making near-record profits.  As a nation, we should be investing in the clean, renewable sources of energy that are the ultimate solution to high-gas prices.  That’s why we’re investing in clean energy technology, helping businesses that manufacture solar panels and wind turbines, and making sure that our cars and trucks can go further on a tank of gas – a step that could save families as much as $3,000 at the pump.

These are investments worth making – investments that will save us money, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and protect the health and safety of our planet.  That’s an energy policy for the future, and it’s what I’ll be fighting for in the weeks and months to come.

Notice he doesn’t say we should take the money from the oil companies subsidies and use it to invest in clean energy — because Senate Democrats have already decided the messaging is cleaner if all that money goes to deficit reduction rather than clean energy.  Whom the messaging Gods would destroy, they first make mad.

Will Obama actually fight to stop the deep cuts in clean energy that the Republicans will insist on to raise the debt ceiling?  We’ll see.  Maybe the deal Obama should have offered is more drilling in return for not cutting clean energy.  But that would require a strategy and a narrative.

Finally, “protect the health and safety of our planet” is the wrong message, even (optimistically) assuming that Obama is making some glancing reference to the environmental-problem-that-must-not-be-named.

Protecting the planet isn’t what most people care about.  Protecting the health and safety of our children — now that’s something everyone can get behind.  Of course, it’s not clear how you can protect the health and safety of our kids or our planet by drilling for more oil.

Bad messaging.  Cynical policy.  Tastes filling.  Less great.  Take your pick.

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62 Responses to Is Obama’s call for more drilling bad messaging masquerading as cynical policy — or vice versa?

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    After months of tepid poll numbers, Obama is gearing up for 2012, and playing the recent rush he’s been on. It began with his humiliation of Trump and continued with the death of Bin Laden. Unfortunately, our President’s idea of reaching out seems to always be to the middle, in this case the Independents that he thinks he can win over with this theatrical effort to slow gas price increases.

    It might be politics, I don’t know, but it’s not leadership.

  2. Roger Blanchard says:

    Americans in general are extremely ignorant of oil supply issues so they can be easily manipulated.

    It’s appealing for Americans to think that opening areas within the U.S. to oil exploration will increase U.S. oil production but I’d recommend everyone be prepared for decreasing U.S. oil production in the future even if every last acre of the U.S. is opened to oil development.

    In terms of Alaska, much of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) was opened to oil development by the Clinton and Bush administrations. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) had predicted a mean volume of oil there at roughly 10 billion barrels. First production started in around 2003. From 2003 to 2010, Alaskan oil production declined about 350,000 b/d and through the first 4 months of 2011, it’s down another ~73,000 b/d compared to the first 4 months of 2010.

    Last year the USGS had to downgrade their volume estimate of oil in the NPR-A to about 1/10th of their previous estimate. U.S. government agencies that assess oil reserves or predict future production have a terrible record of prediction. They like to be unrealistically optimistic. It makes people happy to hear their predictions.

    Meanwhile, the older fields in Alaska continue to decline. In the case of the Prudhoe Bay field, it has declined from 1.56 million barrels/day in 1988 to around 0.3 mb/d now. Alaskan oil production has declined from 2.02 mb/d in 1988 to a 2011 average of probably less than 0.6 mb/d.

    U.S. oil production increased in 2009 and 2010 largely due to developments in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico and the Bakken Shale region of North Dakota. I’m confident in predicting that deepwater GOM production peaked in 2010. Based upon my modelling of Bakken Shale development, it could peak as soon as 2015.

    A fundamental reason the price of oil has been rising in recent years is that global production has largely been flat. In 2005 global total liquid hydrocarbons (TLHs) production was 84.595 million barrels/day (mb/d) and in 2010 it was only 86.711 mb/d. That is a rise of only 2.50% over the course of 5 years.

    The production increase is actually deceptive because what has been increasing is largely natural gas liquids and ethanol production, both of which have much lower energy densities than crude oil. For the sum of crude oil + natural gas liquids + ethanol + condensate, which makes up about 97% of global total liquid hydrocarbons, the energy content has declined from 163.3 QBtu in 2005 to 158.9 QBtu in 2010.

    I expect to see $200/barrel oil by 2015 so it’s wise to be prepared for that.

    Roger Blanchard
    Sault Ste. Marie, MI

  3. Neal J. King says:

    I wonder how much this has to do with Democrats such as Senator Landrieu from Louisiana, who jumped on the “drill here / drill now” bandwagon?

  4. Leif says:

    A diet sure to starve Progressives. And I am getting damn hungry.

  5. Jeff Huggins says:

    Where Do They Get This Stuff?

    We — or at least some of us — thought that Obama was different, that he wasn’t just another politician who at some point would confuse us: Does he not get it, can he not tell it like it is, or is he just immersing himself in some silly game that demeans the whole system, reduces trust, and generates increasing cynicism about the system itself?

    There are different “levels” at which to think about human psychology. It’s interesting that there is a deep “hunger” to be told the straight scoop, to not be lied to, to be treated like an adult, to trust and be trusted, and so forth. At all times — and increasingly so these days — there are always LOTS of people who want honest, straight-talking, courageous, real-solution-oriented leaders. (Who wants to play a silly role in a foolish, self-defeating, unsustainable, society that can’t even name its main problems, let alone begin to address them? We can do better than that!) And, in every election cycle, there are the candidates who claim to be straight-talking, trustworthy, solution-oriented, effective leaders, not the usual politician-types. They make that CLAIM. But then they don’t deliver!

    Even as a straight-talking, truth-telling, courageous leader is just what a great deal of the public hungers for — and would be a breath of fresh air — and even as Candidate Obama promised to be that way, he doesn’t name our key problems, rarely talks about them, treats the public as if we’re dummies, tries to compromise with people who clearly won’t, and enters into “playing the game” that itself is losing credibility and creating cynicism about our very ability to function as a sane and reasonably wise society.

    Do they teach the “political approach” rather than the straight-talking-leader approach at Harvard Law School? Who are Obama’s advisors now-a-days anyway?

    Joe, can we rest assured that CAP’s leaders — John P and etc. — are straight-talking, well-informed, courageous tell-it-like-it-is people? Or are they, too, so much into the political game and “how things are done here in Washington” that we should give up on CAP too? It’s a serious question I’m asking.

    I find it strikingly odd that almost everybody — of people who claim to be wise and in-the-know — on the side that understands climate change to be the “problem of our time!”, and vitally important to address asap, proceeds to jump into, and defer to, the same-old standard game of politicking, lunches out, doing things “as they’re done in Washington”, and so forth. It’s as if a bunch of school children realized that their playground was burning to the ground and then agreed to “play tag” or “play hop-scotch” to decide whether and what to do about it, if anything.

    Where are the honesty, the straight-talk, the rigor, the vitality, the wisdom, the verve, the courage, the insight, the effectiveness? Are there any REAL adults in Washington?

    This is a topic that we shouldn’t let go of. President Obama is simply not cutting it on climate change and energy issues. It would be foolish and unproductive to pretend that he is. He either doesn’t “get it” or he’s adopting (for some reason?) an incredibly ineffective and counterproductive approach that is contributing to the diminishing of trust itself.

    So how do we get President Obama on the right track so we can make real progress and so we still might be able to vote for him for another term rather than voting for a third-party candidate or simply staying home on election night?



  6. Mike Roddy:

    Unfortunately, our President’s idea of reaching out seems to always be to the middle,

    I don’t think so. I think Obama wants to reach out to both ends of the spectrum at the same time. And he thinks that he can achieve this through some sort of mindless string matching algorithm. Throw in some nice Democratic-sounding phrases here, sprinkle a few Democratic-sounding figures of speech there, and whammo, you get a speech that is … neither here nor there, lying flat on the face.

    * * *

    Jeff Huggins:

    As David Smith said, “we’re broke, spine-less, and have no effective strategy.”


  7. MapleLeaf says:

    This is a pretty myopic and skin-deep move in my opinion.

    Have they aggressively tackled CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards yet?

  8. s/Democratic-sounding phrases/Republican-sounding phrases/

  9. Barry says:

    As Joe has consistently pointed out, and Roger (#2) fills in the details, everyone who follows US oil closely knows that more drilling isn’t going to make any significant change to oil prices.

    Big Oil, the GOP and Obama all know this. None are stupid or uniformed about this. However all three have reasons to push the false narrative.

    * Big Oil: loves the world record profits that come from oil supply shortfalls. Just look at the profits vs price per barrel. The higher the price per barrel the more billions they make even on declining production. But Big Oil doesn’t want to be either blamed or stopped in this money printing scheme of supply-outstripping-demand. So their narrative is the oil price is caused by not enough leases — aka the big bad government.

    * GOP: they fully understand what makes money for their Big Oil backers and what the game plan is. Blame the Dems and the Government for high prices…not the oil companies. And first and foremost deflect the discussion away from the alternative of building out renewables.

    * Obama: fully understands that Big Oil and GOP are trying to tag him and government in general as the bad guys to deflect anger and understanding from the real problem. He isn’t going to go down on that. My guess is that he is calling their bluff. “OK, Big Oil and GOP here are your permits, now show us the price drop.” At some point the reality of the oil situation has to make it down to public and my hopeful view on Obama is that he thinks the best way to wake up public is to expose the false narrative by giving them all the rope they are asking for.

    Of course the climate crisis will be made worse unless renewables are also built out along the way to lower price and provide an alternative. I think Obama can still have a positive climate-energy policy if he finds a way to get a lot of renewables built out. As Joe points out though he hasn’t made this linkage in public anyway.

  10. Bill W says:

    If Obama didn’t get a deal from this to pass removing oil subsidies in the House, then he has learned nothing from his past giveaways to Republicans. He cannot give them something they want and then hope they’ll return the favor. If he hasn’t learned that lesson by now, he really is Charlie Brown to the Republicans’ Lucy.

  11. Barry:

    My guess is that he is calling their bluff. “OK, Big Oil and GOP here are your permits, now show us the price drop.”

    Then why doesn’t Obama simply state that — ‘My fellow Americans, I am now calling the bluff of the GOP by giving them exactly what they ask for’? Why did he couch his “bluff-calling” as if he truly believes this nonsense himself?

    Are there people really so deluded in thinking that Obama is doing one thing when he’s clearly doing something completely different?

    What’s the CAP’s response going to be? Is Climate Progress just going to keep running more videos of ‘oh noes, this Republican said something outrageous’?


  12. MarkF says:

    Thanks Joe, when anything misleading/wrong/ related to climate/energy comes up I just come here, get the facts and deliver them to the other site.

    This tends to result in no response from the person with the bad information.

  13. Obama says what he thinks people want to hear. Anyone who believed his campaign promises has already been disillusioned. I’m past disillusioned and moving on to numb.

    I just can’t be emotionally affected by politics anymore. Too exhausting.
    We are in the age of Stupid, after all.

  14. Zetetic says:

    @ Barry #9:
    Sadly I have to disagree.
    As frank already pointed out @ #11 it doesn’t sound very much like a “calling their bluff” move. If prices drop the Repubs will take the credit and claim it was their “drill baby drill” policy. On the other hand, if prices don’t really drop Obama still get the blame for not doing more earlier. I’ve already seen a few commercials blaming Obama for not permitting additional drilling in the gulf even though such permits had already resumed a while back.

    I suspect the real issue is that Obama doesn’t either want to make the necessary changes to the oil and financial industries, or doesn’t want to fight the Repubs on the issue in order to be more “centrist”. Therefore rather than making changes that would make a real difference, we instead get increased drilling and promises to go after “illegal” trading practices even though most of the market problems are due to what is currently legal activities.

    It doesn’t seem a fair trade to sacrifice more of environment, and a little more of humanity’s future, for at best avoiding a fight with the right wing and their masters.

  15. ShellyT says:

    This *is* sad but it should surprise no one. Obama has kept none of his environmental/climate change campaign promises from 2008. He’s desperate to get re-elected and has always been a friend of Big Oil and Big Coal. He’s also semi in love with T. Boone Pickens. Obama has always thrown a hopeful bone to environmentalists while giving fossil fuel companies everything they want and more. Does this Republican really deserve re-election just because we think he can’t possibly mean half of what he says?

    Yes, he knows better. He also knows gas prices should get even higher to switch to renewables. He doesn’t care.

    Age of Stupid, absolutely.

  16. ToddInNorway says:

    Opening more area in Alaska for drilling now is completely symbolic. The fact is that the oil&gas drilling industry is working flat-out both onshore (and soon offshore) in N. America, and has more than enough attractive prospects outside of Alaska to keep them busy for a long time, without so much as sending one drilling rig to Alaska the next 5 years. So Obama opens Alaska, and industry sends 1-2 drillings to the new areas in the next 5 years. BFD. This is a poker game in which Obama will force industry itself and its mob of on-salary politicians to show their cards, which are a collection of ignorance and bluff.

  17. ToddInNorway:

    Again, if Obama is trying to call their bluff, why didn’t he simply say so?

    The pro-appeasement and pro-compromise keep giving a variety of inconsistent excuses for Obama’s facepalm behaviour: ‘oh, he needs Republican support to do what he really wants to do’, ‘oh, he’s calling the Republicans’ bluff’, ‘oh, he has more pressing problems at hand’, …

    Enough with these excuses. No more excuses.


  18. Mothernaturebatslast! says:

    If “DRILL BABY,DRILL” coming from President Obama does not show the bankruptcy of electoral politics in this country, I don’t know what would.
    To hypothesize that he is calling the Oil Company’s bluff is to give credit where no credit is due. Copenhagen Failed. President Obama and the Senate did not even try. BUSINESS AS USUAL means the WE ARE ALL TOAST!

  19. Mike Roddy says:

    Bill W, you’re right. The only explanation I can think of for Obama’s behavior is that the Republicans are not going to negotiate with him anyway. Instead of being motivated by justice and reason, the Congressmen’s main goal appears to be to please the constituents who are telling them, as Kunstler put it, “get that [snip] out of the White House!”.

  20. paulm says:

    Obama does not get it…..

  21. If voting actually made a difference, it would be illegal …

    I have no faith in the Democratic party nor in the President to behave in any manner more responsible than the Republicans. The battle to save humankind from its own self-generated catastrophe is lost and shall remain so from here on out regardless of what happens at the polls in 2012, 2016, 2020 and so forth.

    President Obama has become an extremely good Republican president. Fool me once, shame on you … fool me twice, shame on me. But what other option is there in 2012?

    The failure of democracy in regards to climate change, peak oil and overpopulation is comparible to the failure of democracy in the 19th century during the many decades leading to the Civil War.

    There is no happy ending to the human tragedy. Might as well accept that the worst possible outcome has become the inevitable outcome.

  22. Peter M says:

    Mike Roddy

    your , “get that [snip] out of the White House!” seems to have been the republican party’s goal since the election was over in 2008. If Obama ‘does not he this’ by now he is a hopeless case.

    On the climate crises- he is I am sure well aware of what is going to happen. If reelected to a 2nd term, the incidences of heat waves and floods of biblical proportions is likely to continue and intensify. But Obama like most of the American public is not noticing anything wrong, its just ‘weather’. Since the public is not clamoring for change – Obama will do nothing-, he lacks the courage. I even doubt if the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials saw water lapping at their steps, or a CAT 4 storm trashing greater NYC- Obama would NOT say it was caused by climate change.

    Since we are at peak oil- drilling will do little to bring down prices. They may fall again, but to under $3 A Gallon, not going to happen. And will in time breach $5 by 2016.

  23. A question: What exactly is Obama’s view of the laws of physics?

    It’s looking as if Obama thinks that this ‘laws of physics’ thang is just another political interest group, and just like any interest group, its anger can be assuaged with a few kind words, and it can then be safely ignored until it comes back with more lobbyists in the beltway.

    I think a career in law and politics, both of which involve copious amounts of horse-trading, can conceivably lead to that sort of view of physical laws.


  24. @#7 Maple leaf: Yes, tackling CAFE standards was something Obama did in 2009:

    There were supposedly working on another rule-making after that, but I’m not sure where that stands:

  25. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    What has happened, over the years since 2008 is analogous, in my opinion, to what happened in the UK after 1997 and Australia after 2007. In the first case, Tony Blair, who had posed as a ‘reformer’, was elected in a landslide, which you get with ‘first past the post’ vopting(Harper has just got a ‘landslide’ with 40% of the 60% of Canadian adults who bothered to vote-ie Canada gets a far Right, denialist, regime, with the support of 24% of the adult population). He then governed as if the tired, corrupt and vicious Tory regime that he replaced was still in power. Day after day, month after month, year after year, the ‘Hope Fiends’ of the day in the UK waited patiently for a ‘Labour’ Government to emerge, but they were totally betrayed. Blairism was like Clintonism, a putsch by the top dogs to drag the ‘Left’ Party further and further Right, with the usual policies of total service to the rich, neo-imperialist violence in the non-Western world and non-action on climate destabilisation maintained. Blairism culminated in the aggression and bloodbath in Iraq, after which he slunk off to the life of a rich man, as his services to the rulers of the planet were richly rewarded.
    In Australia we went through the same process with Rudd and now Gillard after 2007. A vile and clapped out far Right regime, the Howard pathocracy, was firmly rejected, followed by a ‘Labor’ Party that, while promising change, when in power governing in exactly the same manner as its predecessor, and keeping even the most wicked policies firmly in place, not to mention the merely imbecilic ones.
    So, too, has it been with Obama. Blair and Obama were masters of high rhetoric, making fooling ‘some of the people all of the time’ that much easier. Rudd/Gillard, alas, possess the charisma of road-kill, thus Rudd was rolled mid-term and Gillard is a certainty to disappear once the voters get a chance. I’ve always been of the opinion that Obama was a fraud from the beginning, and part of the plan is to so dishearten Democrat voters that they stay at home in 2012 delivering the White House back to the Republicans. They certainly stayed away last November. While in power Obama is pursuing the Bush agenda almost completely, certainly in the neo-imperial wars to seize control of the planet’s hydrocarbon resources. The inaction on climate destabilisation serves the interests of precisely the same capitalist bosses that all US Presidents must obey. Obama is your Blair, and as the UK is learning, under the extreme Right Cameron regime (who posed, can you believe the cheek!, as ‘Red Tories’-God they must have laughed at that)that is prosecuting a campaign of class vengeance unseen even under Thatcher, what you must fear is ‘What comes next’.

  26. Sasparilla says:

    I have to go along with the folks who are pointing out this is a Obama 2012 move plain and simple to somewhat defang the “their preventing us from drilling…blah blah blah message that the GOP was already pounding” – target audience would be independents, so that they think the administration is doing something and the GOP message falls like a thud on them for the most part.

    As was pointed out by many, they could have done / handled this so much better – but they haven’t handled anything when it comes to energy and getting for giving well, so this isn’t new.

    My personal opinion is that we (humanity and the U.S. in particular) will suck every last drop of petroleum from the earth that we can get to – this was a move coming at some point, I’d rather have it done under Obama in 2011 than President Bachmann (or whomever) in 2013, just wish they could have gotten more mileage out of it.

    Sad to see, but inevitable.

  27. Pythagoras says:

    Everything that Obama says from here on out until November 2012 will be targeted to the 10% of voters in Ohio that will decide who wins or loses the Electoral College.

    Obama is no dummy…he knows how to count. It makes no sense to be right on the science but then out of power and sitting on the sidelines.

  28. Neven says:

    Well, for me as a European it became clear pretty soon that Obama was pulling the wool over American eyes. All the drama, all the ‘yes, we can’, all the ‘OMG, he’s just like Martin Luther King’, was just pulling the heartstrings, just to get elected.

    Obama is a puppet, a whore of several industries (most notably Goldman Sachs). And people who really believe he will do anything differently than GW Bush, are just deluding themselves. There are no two political parties in the US, it’s a scam. There is just one party hiding behind an extremely successful divide-and-conquer strategy. Sure, some politicians might really have some integrity and mean well, but most of them are only interested their true master, and it isn’t the American people.

    At the core of the true master’s power is the economic concept that growth can and should be infinite. If ClimateProgress is not tackling this issue and not taking on every wrong and evil politician (not just the right wing ones, but Obama and the Dems too), it will never achieve its goals and be part of the solution.

    Sorry to be so blunt, this is the best AGW blog by far, but the liberal slant has got to go. You and the whole world needs something entirely new.

    Wake up!

  29. sault says:

    Wow, Neven… that was a very poignant something or other. Anyway, I agree with the people posting here that argue this is purely for the 2012 election. It’s not cynical and several posters here have pointed out that this new drilling is mostly symbolic. The President did this to keep the energy debate from devolving into the usual nonsensical crap it usually does this time in an election cycle. The Republican presidential candidates will spout on and on about how Obama is strangling the oil markets and making Joe Public pay more at the gas pump. They’ll probably even say that he’s doing it on purpose just to throw red meat to the base (and boy are they base) voters.

    The President is heading off INSERT REPUBLICAN NOMINEE NAME HERE’s baseless energy policy at the pass with a token gesture. With how misinformed the average voter was in 2010, I think this is Obama learning a thing or two about the type of messaging machine he will be going against in the election. If the media wasn’t a bloated and biased pile of infotainment and people actually thought about the real issues for more than 10 seconds, he wouldn’t have to do stuff like this, but that’s not the kind of country we live in. With a viable response to the “drill baby drill” distraction, it might be possible to get the public to understand a little more about the energy issue. The President should at least trade drilling for the repeal of the oil industry tax breaks and preservation of clean energy funding. That might not be possible with congress the way it is, though. We’ll just have to look at how the tax break repeal votes go in the Senate. The real agenda should be to get a lot of those teabaggers out of congress so that some progress can be made in 2013, because meaningful, or even token action on climate/energy/environmental issues is IMPOSSIBLE with the group of fanatics that run the Republican Party right now. Obama knows where the votes are, we just need to give him the votes and be more clear about what we want out of his second term.

  30. Zetetic says:

    @ Pythagoras #27:
    That problem with that argument is that nearly everything Obama is doing, with the exception of killing Bin Laden, is in fact unpopular with the public, just as is nearly everything the Republicans are doing. So it’s not really about getting votes.

    Most of the public supports the idea of lowering gas prices, they don’t care much how it’s done. Obama could have placed limit orders on gas speculation and tightened other aspects of market trading, and it would have had a nearly immediate effect on lowering gas prices. Much of the public would have been overjoyed with that, but not the corporations. So Obama didn’t do that, instead the public got empty promises and gestures that only benefit the oil companies.

    Most of the public supports protecting the environment, but cap-and-trade in a Democratic controlled Congress was allowed to die and instead we get increased coal mining and drilling in sensitive environmental areas.

    Obama could solve the budget problem by pushing for the “People’s Budget” as proposed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus. It would decrease military spending, close tax loop holes, add higher tax brackets, and increase spending on the environment, infrastructure, education, renewable energy/efficiency, and social programs. Oh, and it would eliminate the deficit and creates a surplus by 2021, Ryan’s plan doesn’t until 2040. Obama’s plan adds 7 trillion to the deficit, one trillion more than Ryan’s heinous plan does. All of these proposals in the People’s Budget are things that the majority of the public even among the Republican base supports by a wide margin, but Obama and the Republicans pretend that it doesn’t exist.

    If Obama is really concerned about voters then why isn’t he supporting proposals that have overwhelming public support, but which corporate interests oppose? Because he knows that the Democratic base won’t vote for Republicans and a 3rd party has no chance, so he doesn’t care about them as long as he doesn’t get the public too upset. The Republican party feels the same way about their base.

    Finally, what good is it if he he gets reelected at the price of sending the country (and probably the planet) down the tubes in the name of “compromise”, other than for himself?

    @ Neven:
    Respectfully, that has in fact been a frequent issue on this blog. Just look at the articles on “Ponzi Scheme”.

  31. Bill Waterhouse says:

    Obama has decided not to lose the 2012 election because of gas prices. And he can’t do anything on climate unless the Dems hold the Senate and make gains in the House. Part of the strategy is to get the Reps so far to the right they fall off a cliff. I think/hope we’ll see a different Obama after the election.

  32. Joan Savage says:

    Watching the Obama video clip, what came to mind are the small businesses for which the abrupt jump in gasoline costs for a operating a delivery van or service vehicle meant they were not going to hire somebody in the past year. I see a fair number of small business folk hanging in, doing the grunt work, instead of hiring.
    My city’s water meter readers still walk from house to house because the city can afford only one electronic-read vehicle. Our snow plows and dump trucks are old, carefully maintained. Until we have the small business hiring, etc, the tax base (sales and property) is not going to be enough to get replacement equipment.
    Opening up offshore and Alaskan reserves definitely looks like a sop to special interests or the GOP in general, but the intentions to control gas price jumps could be very appealing, and not just to Ohio. Remember the people who had to quit marginal pay jobs when they couldn’t afford the commute from a rural home?
    The title of the CP blog includes the word “insider” but I’d like to toss in the “from the sticks” perspective now and then.

  33. “No matter how cynical you become, it is never enough” said Lily Tomlin.

    Hence the Lily Tomlin rule of political truth: “The most cynical explanation is the most correct.”

  34. paulm says:

    can we get this guy to make a film about the climate crisis?


  35. Neven says:

    Respectfully, that has in fact been a frequent issue on this blog. Just look at the articles on “Ponzi Scheme”.

    I agree, that was a great piece. But it was just a first step. Everything still revolves around GDP growth, and the way GDP is measured hasn’t changed one bit (it’s still a scam). This is the root cause, and if it isn’t tackled, none of the symptoms (AGW, peak oil, global recessions) will be solved. Check out the website for the Center of the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

    The Republicans are not the enemy. The enemy is US (as in you and me).

  36. Lore says:

    Roger @2 makes a nice summation of what we face. From here on out it’s all just political kabuki theater. I couldn’t even imagine why anyone would want to be President knowing what’s coming down the pike in the next 6 years? Other then the media attention grabbing, self aggrandizing, clueless ones that is.

    Our top leaders have got to realize that at this point there will not be enough energy, of the fossil fuel variety, in quantities needed for the world to reach escape velocity into the transitional alternatives of the future. Especially given the current and growing world population requirements. Already economic excuses are being used to defund or restrict essential programs. Imagine how restrictive budgets will be in 3-5 more years when everyone finally figures out we’ve reached all limits. We may not be shot down yet, but engine one is on fire and number three is smoking while champagne is being served in business class.

    In addition climate inertia is already in motion making any efforts to slow, let alone stop, some of the worse and yet to be known outcomes at this point futile.

    Could it be our world leaders are just buying time so as not to create panic?

  37. Zetetic says:

    @ Neven:
    I agree with your assessment of the idolization of GDP (look at China’s “ghost cites” for example), it’s absurd. Unfortunately I’m afraid that things will have to get a lot worse before their is any change on that front, most people are far too attached to their dogmas.

    Thanks for the link BTW.


    @ Lore:
    I don’t think that it’s about avoiding panic, I think that it’s more about not rocking the political boat. Frankly I don’t think that many of them are willing to even admit that there is anything to panic over. Denial is a remarkable psychological defense. Many of those that do realize a need for concern probably figure that they’ll be gone by then, so just let someone else deal with the mess later. “Why risk my carrier now?” they’ll just figure.

    Also I believe that renewables can be deployed with enough speed to make a long term difference, but there is too much money and power aligned against such changes. For example, if the USA had devoted the last 10 years of it’s time and money into a smart grid and an intelligent energy policy instead of pointless wars, the USA would be a large part of the way into energy independence. But that isn’t something that the fossil fuel companies or the “defense” contractors wanted to see happen.

    IMO the Republican leadership also wanted the wars not just to blowup foreigners and to get favors from large companies, but because they want to give the appearance of a bankrupt federal government so they can then scare people into shutting down most of the government (except the military) and have all of the unemployed federal workers contribute to driving the wages for American workers down.
    The GOP’s Absurd Plan for the Economy: Lowering YOUR Wages
    Just look at the way the Repubs are also trying to overturn child-labor laws (and closing public schools) on the grounds that American children don’t need as much education as they used to. Or how they are gutting labor unions. The last thing the Republican leadership (as opposed to it base) wants is to actually solve the country’s problems. The only thing I’m left wondering is how many of the Democrats are in on the plan and how many are just along for the ride?

  38. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I don’t buy the ‘Obama must tack Right, or lose’ rubbish. The Clinton, Blair, Rudd/Gillard tactic of ‘triangulation’ just moves the political debate further and further Right. The forces of evil, in the even more Rightwing parties and the MSM simply move further Right, as you see from the Tea Party obscenity, the destruction of one society after another in Europe at the hands of the bankster pathocrats and the physical destruction of one Islamic society after another in order to control their hydrocarbon wealth. If Obama is not prepared to say’ I reject elite rule by pathocrats, and I intend to govern for all Americans, and all humanity, including those yet unborn’,then he is a waste of space. I say that such a platform, appealing to the best instincts of the best amongst us, would prevail. It’s certainly worth a shot, but Obama is, of course, not, nor has he ever been, the man to carry it forward.

  39. Sasparilla says:

    Lore, that’s an interesting angle on things. If it really was too late would our leaders tell us – I highly doubt it…that said I don’t think we’ve reached that point yet…

  40. Andy says:

    You state that: “Of course, this is not so much a new policy as a reversion to Obama’s pre-BP-disaster policy [or is that “Obama’s pre-BP disastrous policy”].”

    I don’t believe this is correct. Pre-BP, Obama’s administration was caving under the heavy load of strong public support for more drilling in federal waters by paving the way for new lease sales in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic east coast. Neither of these areas are now on the table. They were removed after BP and they remain out of the picture.

    New lease sales are announced every few years in the Gulf of Mexico. Some of these are areas whose prior leases have expired and others are in deep water in the central and western Gulf that have remained unleased because of a lack of interest. They’re in deep water that until recently was untapped. Nothing new there.

    The leases in the National Petroleum Reserve, formerly the Naval Petroleum Reserve, are also nothing new (the area was set aside as a source of navy ship fuel many decades ago). This area was opened to exploration and production under Clinton. Clinton did this to head off what would have become unfettered access, an Oklahoma style land rush, to these pristine lands under the upcoming Bush Jr. presidency. Clinton’s administration opened the area but with ample protections of especially important wildlife areas such as around Teshukpuk Lake. Areas my major professor and fellow students did research on to document their importance in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

    Bush Jr. tried to eliminate many of the protections Clinton put into place and succeeded in some areas. Obama reinstalled some of those protections and they remain in place.

    You sometimes paint Obama as being little different than Bush.

    [JR: You are confusing me with some commenters. I’ve never suggested anything like this in a single post, let alone the totality of posts. I can’t put all my content into every post.]

    But you need to dig a little deeper to get the real picture, which is that Obama is saying one thing; which will get the absolutely brainless idiot Republican Street off his back and take the wind out of the sails of those Washington blow-hards, while doing something completely different. Obama is denying the oil industry what it wants most – unfettered access to the east coast of Florida and the U.S. and any and all of the Artic. Obama has taken a chapter from the Republican play book. He’s saying one thing and is doing another.

    Progressives often cut their nose off to spite their face. We need to get over our need for constant “parental” assurances from the White House that they have our backs.

  41. caerbannog says:

    OT but even juicier than the news about bin Laden’s porn stash!


    Climate study gets pulled after charges of plagiarism
    By Dan Vergano, USA TODAY

    Evidence of plagiarism and complaints about the peer-review process have led a statistics journal to retract a federally funded study that condemned scientific support for global warming.

    The study, which appeared in 2008 in the journal Computational Statistics and Data Analysis, was headed by statistician Edward Wegman of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Its analysis was an outgrowth of a controversial congressional report that Wegman headed in 2006. The “Wegman Report” suggested climate scientists colluded in their studies and questioned whether global warming was real. The report has since become a touchstone among climate change naysayers.

    The journal publisher’s legal team “has decided to retract the study,” said CSDA journal editor Stanley Azen of the University of Southern California, following complaints of plagiarism. A November review by three plagiarism experts of the 2006 congressional report for USA TODAY also concluded that portions contained text from Wikipedia and textbooks. The journal study, co-authored by Wegman student Yasmin Said, detailed part of the congressional report’s analysis.

  42. Richard Brenne says:

    Mulga Mumblebrain (#38) – You write that “Obama is, of course, not, nor has he ever been, the man to carry it forward.”

    I agree with your vision as always. Who do you think are some of the people who could carry that vision forward in the U.S., Australia, Canada, European and other countries?

    I think that you’re in the Frederick Douglas (American abolitionist) position of being spiritually, morally, ethically and intellectually correct. I don’t know but I’m guessing Douglas might’ve seen Lincoln as also somewhat hopeless and hapless at first.

    Lincoln couldn’t have succeeded without Douglas’ (and others’) vision, but Douglas vision couldn’t have been realized without a Lincoln. So again, do you see any Lincolns on the horizon, including ones who would surprise perhaps themselves and the rest of us by growing into that position?

    And maybe all leaders grow into becoming a Cyrus the Great (banned slavery throughout Persia 2400 years before Lincoln in the U.S.), Pericles, Ashoka the Great (no relation to Cyrus – Pericles and Ashoka went from waging war to waging peace and ushering in golden ages, especially Ashoka for women and the poor) Lincoln, Churchill or Franklin Roosevelt.

    And as an addendum to the abolitionist/civil rights metaphor: While it and WWII (in a variety of ways) are two of the only and best metaphors for change on a large scale we have, no metaphor is perfect and the scale of what we face by comparison is perhaps best and most eloquently expressed by our good friend Ian at comment #79 on the Weekend Open Thread 6 posts below. I agree with Ian’s scorched-earth representation of the differences in scale, but I still think those metaphors and examples are helpful because we have so few others and that would leave us blowing smoke rings of ethereal abstractions without them. Here’s Ian’s comment though, because it’s still thought-provoking and something I’ve felt as well. Ian is very perceptive but might not be the most helpful read in a Depression and Psychiatric Ward:

  43. MarkB says:

    It’s pandering to public ignorance on the topic on an issue that is of high importance to the Independent voting bloc. Most people erroneously believe more domestic drilling will lower gas prices noticeably. Media hasn’t done its job in correcting that misconception. I recall Obama making this point during 2008, citing a study by Bush’s on Department of Energy, only to cave a few months before the election, as the “Drill Baby Drill” chants and fear of high gas prices overwhelmed any critical thought on the topic.

    Even McCain is on record stating more drilling won’t lower gas prices to any noticeable degree, but his flip flop came sooner, only days after a poll was released in 2008 showing strong support for more drilling.

  44. Roger says:

    So, with all the above wisdom, how long are we climate cognoscenti going to mostly watch, and make wise comments, from the sidelines?

    Do we have so little power? Or do we merely need to stretch our wings?

    Why not brainstorm about what individuals can do to turn this around?
    And I don’t mean changing light bulbs. Let’s step it up 10 notches!

    Warm regards,


  45. Colorado Bob says:

    OT –

    TOKYO—Substantial damage to the fuel cores at two additional reactors of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex has taken place, operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Sunday, further complicating the already daunting task of bringing them to a safe shutdown while avoiding the release of high levels of radioactivity. The revelation followed an acknowledgment on Thursday that a similar meltdown of the core took place at unit No. 1.

    Workers also found that the No. 1 unit’s reactor building is flooded in the basement, reinforcing the suspicion that the containment vessel is damaged and leaking highly radioactive water.
    ” The temperature inside the core reached 2,800 degrees Celsius in six hours, causing the fuel pellets to melt away rapidly. ”

    2,800 C = 5,072 F

    The melting point of stainless steel is 2750 F.

    If you want a good way of thinking about these melt downs , think back to the movie “Alien”, the acid blood melting through the decks of the “Nostromo”.

  46. John McCormick says:

    RE # 31

    Bill Waterhouse, you said:

    “Obama has decided not to lose the 2012 election because of gas prices.”

    His next smart move.

    That might offend a few CP contributors but its simple truth belies the simple fact that the President has become the ace of manipulation. The repugs have not been able to trap him in the corner and he is pounding them with his “rope-a-dope” technique.

    An Obama second term will free him to be the President he promised back in 2008. We CP commentors might be entirely fixed on AGW and peak oil/energy policy but there are many other of-the-moment fights going on in America and a repug in the White House and repug House and Senate will kill unions, food, air and water protection….any progressive idea… and run this country into the dirt.

    Anyone who thinks it will be easier or more honest, if Obama loses his re-election, needs to get their head on straight.

    John McCormick

  47. John McCormick says:

    RE # 25

    Mulga: you said:

    “I’ve always been of the opinion that Obama was a fraud from the beginning, and part of the plan is to so dishearten Democrat voters that they stay at home in 2012 delivering the White House back to the Republicans.”

    Well, that is one opinion you can keep to yourself.

    In fact, I am beginning to see a motif in your comments that relies on daggers and not reality.

    You don’t understand how sharply divided we Americans have become and more so since the global pathocrats bought up MSM. We Americans are always on the verge of swinging towards the simplest, pain-free solution to an problem we have. Repugs have one message: get gubmint out of the way.

    As world oil supplies run down, Exxon and their cabal are ready to head for the oil shale in the Rocky Mountains and coal to liquids in the Midwest…you know Exxon is already advertising on US cable that it is developing oil sands to meet oil demands.

    We are about a decade away from a US frenzy to create a domestic synfuels industry and the kind of people who would make that happen are the repugs
    Obama must defeat in 2012.

    Getting from “here to there”, in national politics, requires an educated and involved electorate. We’re a bit lean in that department. But, it is foolish to say the Democrats have a plan to deliver the White House back to the repugs.

    Enough of that nonsense Mulga!

    John McCormick

  48. Mike Roddy says:


    I agree with you about the need for a steady state economy, and better metrics for economic health. For example, forests and minerals have an accounting value of zero until they are “harvested”.

    Problem is, Americans are not enlightened enough to make that shift. We’ve been brainwashed to think that we will always have bigger and better cars, houses, and gadgets, and that somehow this mission is important.

    Further complicating things are the banks, who depend on growth, and control the media. I don’t know who has more juice in Washington- the banks or the oil companies- but it should not be as impossible as it is to expect leadership that is willing to stand up to them.

    Growth is going to slow and reverse anyway. Our best hope is to educate people about our enormous GHG problem. Climate Progress is my beacon here.

  49. Zetetic says:

    Odd. I still fail to see any explanation from those defending Obama’s actions as to how exactly his allowing increased drilling in an environmentally sensitive area is a more effective solution for gaining public support than actually lowering oil prices right away by enacting speculation limits.

    I keep seeing people repeating the mantra that he’s just doing it for votes, but no real justification for it over other actions that would have had public support. How strange then that, once again, he only took the option that benefited corporations at the expense of the environment. Obama himself even touched on the issue of oil speculation in public, but took no action. Do you really think that most people that vote for him will be doing so because of increased drilling in the Arctic over a year from now, when most of the public will have forgotten about it? For the few people that do remember, he won’t be getting the credit for any drop in gas prices, it will be the Republicans declaring victory claiming that it was their policy and that Obama kept the prices high by not doing it sooner until he was “forced” to do so by the GOP.

    Again and again, Obama has chosen actions that are in fact not supported by the public, but are supported by corporate interests, so where exactly is this pandering to the voters? Why no mention from Obama of the People’s Budget even though poll after poll shows a majority of the public supporting it’s proposals, over Ryan’s plan? Why does he only offer “Ryan-light” as the only alternative budget instead?
    Increased coal mining? Where was the big voter support for that?
    Firearms in national parks? Where was this big ground-swell?

    As for him finally acting as more of a Democrat in his second term, another often repeated mantra, again where is the evidence for this? If this was true then why the hell didn’t he do so when he still had a Democratic majority in both houses? Why waste the opportunity when he had it earlier? Working with the Repubs and insurance companies for health care reform and dropping the public option, in a Democratic controlled congress? Letting cap-and-trade die in a Democratic controlled congress even though most of the public supports action on climate change? Additionally even if that is his plan, do those of you defending Obama’s actions really think that he’ll finally get to do what he “really wants” if the Republicans still control at least one of the houses after 2012, when he didn’t take such actions earlier?

    Granted Obama will certainly be a better choice than anyone the Republicans are going to be offering, but I still see no evidence that he’ll be anything more than the lesser of two “evils”. Meanwhile the USA just keeps sliding further downhill.

  50. Roger:

    Why not brainstorm about what individuals can do to turn this [situation] around?
    And I don’t mean changing light bulbs. Let’s step it up 10 notches!

    Canadian blogger Greenfyre is trying to start a discussion on formulating a loose world-wide strategy for climate communications, but with little success so far. You may want to go over and help jumpstart the discussion — and invite anyone else who’s interested too.


  51. Ed Hummel says:

    I think Obama’s problem is that he really believes all that junk about American Exceptionalism and the American Dream. But if that’s not true, then he really is a cynical hyper-politician who only cares about getting re-elected and staying in power as some have noted. Many here still talk about his strategy to beat the Republicans next year and that he needs to win because he’d be better than anyone the Republicans can offer. That’s like saying it’s better to crash into a wall at 80mph rather than 100mph. But on the whole, I think that all this talk about his motivations, etc. are irrelevent to the real problems we face. I hate to day this, but it seems to me that the days of any semblance of a republic in this country (and probably in any other country) are probably already passed.

    In order to have a good government in a republic, there must be an active and informed citizenry. Otherwise, the republic devolves into some sort of feudal or fascist arrangement, as we are seeing happen in the US and in other so-called democracies, where the rich elite, as personified by multi-national corporations in our present society, control everything and rape the planet for their own self-agrandizement and power while conning the general population to go along for the ride as long as the supplies of everything hold out. We’re in the situation now where all the supplies are running out and the masses are getting restless. The best example of where we might be headed is probably Paris of 1789-91 as far as I can tell, only we won’t have much of a verdant countryside to escape to once the beheadings subside.

    I’m becoming more convinced with each passing day that the only way out of complete chaos and all the uncontrolled barbarism and mayhem that it implies is the implementation of some sort of martial law that forces the masses to do what is necessary to survive as a society with the mimimal means required to keep as many people alive as possible under whatever environment develops. I know that such an arrangement demands enlightened and respected leadership. History shows that what kind of leadership a society gets is always a crapshoot, but sometimes it actualy is possible to get such a thing. I strongly feel that our situation today demands such an arrangement since leaving people to their individual freedoms to pursue their own dreams (or schemes) has become a luxury that humanity simply cannot afford on a planet of 7 billion individuals competing for dwindling resources.

    I know others such as J H Kunstler have said that our society will most likely devolve into local affairs, and he may be right. By local societies competing for still dwindling resources just lead to further disruptions and the further dwindling of resources as they are destroyed in conflict using who knows what weapons that are still available. Personally, I can’t see anything like an organized, peaceful martial law situation happening in the US in the next few years simply because it goes against everything that this country and society have come to assume about how life should be lived. So I only foresee a fall directly into anarchy and conflict on all scales of social contact. I also don’t see Obama or anyone else presently in government who would have the courage to tell the American people that the 60 year party is officially over and to immediately re-order society in ways that must be done to help mitigate climate, energy, and economic problems while easing the problems of societal contraction to a level that eventually must become sustainable in whatever environment is left us over the next few hundred years.

    There are probably many, if not most, that take issue with my positions, but I would ask everyone who objects to make an honest and informed assesment of where we’re at and where the best sciece tells us we’re headed before condemning anything I have to say. The American experiment in democracy has its high ideals and in many ways has been a noble effort to better the lot of the average human. But being tied to an economic system that looked at the Earth as simply an unlimited supply of “resources” that would eventually make everyone materially well off rather than as humanity’s home planet, shared with millions of other species in an inter-dependent web of life, that for all we know may indeed be unique in the observable universe, insured that we would reach our current predicament, especially when one takes human nature in a nominally free society into account, no matter how clever or intelligent we think we are. I would be the first one to rejoice if I’m proven completely, or even partially wrong in the coming years. But I really can’t see anything to make me doubt what has taken me over 40 years to conclude. I would welcome anyone to try and prove me wrong based only on the realities that we already know exist based on sound science and not on some assumptions about human potential or debunked economic or social theories, all of which tend to be based on flawed intitial assumptions about the human species.

  52. John McCormick says:

    RE # 50

    Ed, your explanation of the “blocking high” is a standout among all CP comments.

    Your comment in # 50, on this thread, is not:

    “Many here still talk about his strategy to beat the Republicans next year and that he needs to win because he’d be better than anyone the Republicans can offer. That’s like saying it’s better to crash into a wall at 80mph rather than 100mph.”

    You are right to be angry with the performance of the Dems and White House since the 2008 election but you do not give enough criticism to the background politics that led to the disappointments and failures. Sen. Max Baucus and others we can both name are more to blame than the President.

    Senate filibuster rules govern our democracy. It is not the fault of the White House that all of our hopes, wishes, demands and ideas are not codified.

    There is more going on in this nation, today and for the next generation, than AGW. Yes, it is the ultimate show stopper but we all have to survive other decisions that will greatly affect our lives. Think of Supreme Court appointments, for one.

    John McCormick

  53. Sailesh Rao says:

    The first step in overcoming any addiction involves surrender. The addiction that we face is humanity’s collective need to consume ever more. Just like the Europeans, the Japanese and the Americans before them, more and more Brazilians, Indians, Russians and Chinese also want those suburban McMansions with two car garages, automobiles and meat at every meal. And the depredation of the natural wealth of the planet is accelerating. The financial collapse that occurred in 2008 was a potential moment for such a surrender as our precarious world economic edifice came crashing down, but the Elites strong-armed Bush and Congress to open the public purse strings, bail them out and prop up that Rube Goldberg contraption. And, once inaugurated, Obama went along with this daylight robbery at the public treasury, aided and abetted by his Goldman Sachs alumni at the Treasury department.

    The only thing that is certain about our current state of affairs, with the continued siphoning of financial wealth by the moneychangers, is that the next collapse is coming and it will be bigger than 2008. For, there is not much left in the Biosphere to support the ever escalating demands of the world economy. Perhaps, the next collapse may constitute a come-to-Jesus moment for the addicts? From that standpoint, Obama’s strategy to feed the addiction is probably the best as any other approach will only cater to the addict pretending that he isn’t really hooked and can continue to careen from one high to the next without repercussions.

  54. Richard Brenne says:

    These are all great comments. While John McCormick has done the best job of finding occasional overstatements, every comment is fundamentally sound and mostly true, IMNOTSOHO.

    The difference is that they lie along differing axis of the idealism to realism scale.

    Mulga, Ed Hummel and Sailesh are three of the best idealists we could ever hope for, and as I point out in my comment at #41 they are like Frederick Douglas.

    John McCormick and Roger are like our Abraham Lincolns asking, “Okay, what do we do about this right here and right now where we are?”

    My efforts to be precise (okay, anal) mean I have to point out a mistake I made in my comment at #41 where I wrote to Mulga “I agree with your vision as always.” It is his overall vision I agree with, not his indictment of Obama, which to me can only be written after his administration is over. The point I made there is that the most intelligent and caring of leaders can be transformed when they come to power, especially if an existential crisis explodes in their face like the Civil War or WWII.

    Franklin Roosevelt was not nearly as liberal in his first term as he was approaching his second term when he had to take the wind out of liberal populist Huey Long’s sails, moving farther to the left to do so.

    Harry Truman was derisively called the “Senator from Pendergast” meaning the machine that ran Missouri politics, but soon he held the war profiteers feet to the fire more than any American Senator ever has, saving American taxpayers many billions and improving the quality of the soldiers’ gear in the process.

    I would never bet against nor want to bet against the redemption of anyone.

    One of the best comments among all these great one’s was John McCormick’s at #44 pointing out how great Ed Hummel’s comment was about the mechanism for how global warming is changing weather extremes. John seems to me to be right about most other things here as well, which doesn’t mean that others are completely wrong, as I say they might just be more idealistic.

    And so Ed, I’ve agreed with you about virtually everything else (and I agree with all your subsequent paragraphs in another masterful essay) but I’m going to agree here with John and say that your metaphor that voting for Obama is like driving a car into a concrete wall at 80 mph while voting for the Republicans would be like 100 mph is not quite accurate. I’d say voting for Obama if he transforms himself as we hope (and for those of us who pray, pray) could be like driving into a concrete wall at 50 mph hopefully with the best car, seat belts and airbag – maybe survivable.

    Voting for any of the Republicans is like driving into that same concrete wall at 220 mph – probably not.

  55. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    John McCormick, #47 and 48, if you really believe that a second-term Obama will be any different from a first term Obama, then I have a bridge that you might be interested in purchasing. Richard Brenne, I cannot think of any politician in the US or Australia who is not, in my opinion, absolutely in thrall to the money power, the real rulers in all capitalist societies. Only an outsider could do it, but, naturally, he would be thwarted by Congress, the money power, its MSM, the courts, and, if necessary, the Dealey Plaza Option. The political system is irredeemable, and the Trojan Horse Presidency of Obama is the most irrefutable evidence of that fact so far. Any constructive action must be outside organised, capitalist owned and controlled mainstream politics.

  56. Ed Hummel says:

    John and Richard, I guess I got a little too excited with my wall crashing example. Just frustration over the possibilities that seemed to have been frittered away by a very gifted individual who happens to be in a position of great power, even with limitations. Maybe I held him in too high regard in 2008 (as I gather many people did from comments here and in other places I’ve read and heard) and my comments are just those of a “lover scorned” to use a probably lousy metaphor. Richard, maybe your comment of 50mph with extra safety features would be more apt, though deep down I’m still uneasy about the president’s true intentions. I must say that I agree 100% with both of you about keeping the Republicans out of the white house since they would just accelerate the coming of the disasters and make it virtually impossible to have any hope for any meaningful mitigation.

    I do have one more point to make in reference to what John said about the senate being principally responsible for the blown chances to do anything meaningful over the last two years. I feel strongly that had Obama done some real arm-twisting a la LBJ, or even some real schmoozing a la RWR, or some combination a la FDR, he could have gotten the votes. I don’t know if it’s just not in his nature, or if he’s not as talented as we think he is, or if he just couldn’t bother. Only he knows why he was so passive when the Waxman Markey bill slid over to the Senate, and why he keeps refusing to talk about climate change directly when he’s got an immense amount of backing to drawn on and cover himself with from all the most esteemed science organizations in the country and the world. Joe keeps bringing this up all the time, and I find the president’s non-actions inexcusable, no matter what his reasons or motives. Anyway, I humbly accept the critique and will try to control my frustration and anger in the future, or maybe just stick to the science and stay away from the politics which always frustrates me anyway.

  57. John McCormick says:

    RE # 57

    Ed, you are a comprehensive thinking person. Your comment is a strong statement of that fact. I value you.


    To all Americans who are ready to write off President Obama as their candidate, please be realistic about the next four years of post-election presidency. We Americans are hanging by a thread because we are near paralyzed with fear about our future and I am not just thinking about the economy.

    Our federal and personal debt are unsustainable and we realize that. Wages are not increasing as cost of living is. Middle Americans are beginning to understand the cost of globalization in terms of employment opportunities. Jobs are not coming back to America.

    Climate change is not front and center for families struggling with higher education costs and mortgage payments. We climate hawks believe the future for America is bound to renewables, efficiency, EVs and workers moving closer to their jobs. Most average Americans are carrying too much debt to buy an EV and selling their house, in order to move closer to their job, is not working either.

    We Americans who care about our children’s future MUST think comprehensively and with reason. Third party candidates are, in 2012, a waste of effort and money. Sorry. That will not change in 2016. A progressive third party candidate will have to raise a billion dollars…not thousands of door knockers.

    President Obama is not Tony Blair. He is a highly educated street organizer. He gets it…across the board. And, he sees the death trap repugs have planned for middle class and the poor (e.g. the possible repug nominee, Mitch Daniels, gov of Indiana is about to sign legislation to zero out state funding for planned parenthood. Indiana women on medicaid would not have access to preventive health care. How’s that for a snapshot of the future.

    I plead with those who might abandon President Obama in 2012 to consider how much more damage we will do to our children’s future than we already have.

    The politics in Australia may have poisoned the well for some (or all) progressive Australians but we progressive Americans will one day have to look into the mirror and wonder what we will say to our children if we did not vote for Obama on November 7, 2012.

    Ed Hummel, your knowledge of atmospheric science is a gift you can share early and often with all of us.

    John McCormick

  58. Richard Brenne says:

    Another great round from great thinkers and writers.

    John (#58) – Another great summary. With Ed as your thoughtful chief of staff and primary advisor and Mulga the crazy-haired almost ex-friend you need to listen to as much as anyone and who you can never invite to the White House (although Lincoln invited Douglas to the White House, an immensely meaningful gesture for the time), I’d vote for you anytime.

    Mulga (#56) – Is the bridge the one from Australia to New Zealand? Another masterful paragraph, Mulga, and probably accurate, though John, myself and others have the right to hold onto our hopes and the deed to that bridge.

    Our best hope will probably be organizing our own communities at the local level, closer to the tribes of around 150 that have worked best for most generations of human societies compared to the 310 million in America and 7 billion globally. What that will look like is anybody’s guess – mine is in my novel and screenplay you can rip to shreds or if you prefer your cats can.

    Ed Hummel (#57) – You are so right about so much so often that you never need to apologize, especially to me. As John says you are a comprehensive thinker, and I guess it takes one to know one because John is also. Your second paragraph is a masterful summary of Obama’s lack of balls or arm-twisting or an uncomfortable combination of the two.

  59. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    No Richard, it’s the Sydney Harbour Bridege, sold as often as the Brooklyn Bridge. I apologise for being intemperate. I still think voting in 2012 for Obama is, like a secomd marriage, ‘The triumph of hope over experience’, but I was curt and impolite, for which I am sorry. I plead, in mitigation, the extenuating circumstance of just having come from perusing ‘The Fundament’, where the hatemongering was even more frenetic than usual. Normally I wouldn’t get too worked up over foreign politics, but those of the USA effect everybody on the planet. I know that it’s barmy, but I would suggest getting someone to run against Obama in the Democratic primaries, to see if an insurgency can be ignited, but withdraw if unsuccessful. The Republican choices are, indeed, worse, on the surface than Obama, but there have been surprises. I mean Nixon did beneficial stuff that no-one suspected that he would from his record. And perhaps John is correct and I am wrong, and Obama will prove a different character in his second term. We will see. I’m just pacifying myself listening to Richter play Chopin, in whose repertoire I think he has been undervalued. I have him up there with Rubinstein as my favourite Chopinists, and they were good friends. Rubinstein said that Richter was a ‘gigantic musician’ and ‘an intellectual who thought with the piano’. Now why can’t we get people like either of those two into politics?

  60. Richard Brenne says:

    Mulga (#60) – Just to illustrate that my sophistication relative to yours includes not just politics but also piano, I didn’t know Andy Richter was a Chopsticksinist, though I am a big fan of the piece.

    You, together with Ed and the other finest commenters here or anywhere, never need to apologize to me about anything.

    The one-millionth thing you’ve been right about, by my counting, is that Nixon, while a horror-show in Southeast Asia, Watergate, siccing the IRS on his enemies and in many other ways, was the president who treated Native Americans best (according to Native American historians I’ve asked), got the problems of over-population better than any president (according to over-population expert Al Bartlett), created the EPA and OSHA, promoted the earned-income tax credit and welfare reform more progressive than Clinton’s, opened relations with China, furthered detente with Soviet Union, signed the clean air and water acts, etc, etc, etc.

    What American president has done as many progressive things since? How about all of them put together?

    Now it is true that the country was far more liberal then and that Nixon inherited liberal Lyndon Johnson’s Congress. Also Nixon was a president responsive to the parades that he saw forming during his administration that he then grabbed his baton and marshmallow hat to lead (and a more soulless drum major there has never been). Each of the movements I mention had a groundswell of grassroots support that Nixon probably thought were both growing and a meaningful trend.

    Thus we need to create such groundswells and do all we can to try to elect leaders who will also be responsive to them. I’m thinking our best shot at doing this is about 10,000 lifetimes from now, give or take a few.

    And if you’ve watched any clips from Donald Trump’s show it’s hard not to notice that Meatloaf is a pretty gigantic musician as well.

  61. John McCormick says:

    I feel I am in good company this morning.

    John McCormick