An old friend alerted me to the presence of Robert Bryce’s articles on Counterpunch. Bryce is the author of “Power Hungry: The Myths of ‘Green’ Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future”, a book whose agenda you can figure out from the scare quotes around Green. Apparently, according to the blurb on Amazon.com, Bryce rules out wind and solar power as ineffective and insists that “The world isn’t using too much oil. It’s not using enough”. Furthermore:
Bryce makes a strong case for heavier reliance upon natural gas, a relatively clean and readily available carbon fuel, as a bridge technology: “The smartest, most forward-looking U.S. energy policy can be summed up in one acronym: ‘N2N’,” for “natural gas to nuclear power.”
Forward-looking? Natural gas? The stuff that comes to the surface through fracking? And nuclear power???? The energy source that, according to Alexander Cockburn, is being foisted on us in the name of a non-existent climate change threat? Here’s Bryce talking up nuclear power in a New York Times op-ed:
All energy and power systems exact a toll. If we are to take Schumacher’s phrase to heart while also reducing the rate of growth of greenhouse gas emissions, we must exploit the low-carbon energy sources — natural gas and, yes, nuclear — that have smaller footprints.
And, just as a reminder, here’s Alexander on nuclear power and global warming alarmism:
The world’s best-known hysteric and self promoter on the topic of man’s physical and moral responsibility for global warming is Al Gore, a shill for the nuclear industry and the coal barons from the first day he stepped into Congress entrusted with the sacred duty to protect the budgetary and regulatory interests of the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Oakridge National Lab. White House “task forces” on climate change in the Clinton-Gore years were always well freighted by Gore and his adviser John Holdren with nukers like Lawrence Papay of Bechtel.
Maybe if Gore had included a pitch for Schumacher’s “small is beautiful” mantra, it would have passed muster with our intrepid if inconsistent journalist.
Bryce is a scholar at the Manhattan Institute in New York, arguably one of the most reactionary think-tanks in the country that was launched by CIA director William Casey in 1978. It includes William Kristol on the board of trustees. Perhaps Cockburn looks benignly on Manhattan Institute scholars since they are climate change skeptics just like him. The Koch brothers contributed $1,525,000 to the Manhattan Institute between 1999 and 2009. I guess there’s no surprise there.
The Institute publishes City Journal, a magazine that along with Commentary and Kristol’s own Weekly Standard helps to define the intellectual agenda of the ultraright in the U.S. The current issue has an article by paleoconservative Victor Davis Hanson on California’s water problems. Unsurprisingly, he takes the side of agribusiness against environmentalists worried about wildlife using the same kinds of arguments that have been deployed in the past about the spotted owl, the snail darter, et al: “What is clear in this confused mess is that concerns for salmon and smelt now endanger a vast California agribusiness sector that provides thousands of jobs, earns the state billions in revenue, and ships produce worldwide at a time of global food crisis.” Will Victor Davis Hanson’s name be the next to grace the pages of Counterpunch? One has to wonder.
I know that consistency is the hobgoblin of petty minds but Counterpunch does tend to frown on the extraction of oil from Tar Sands in Canada. On August 9th of this month, they published an article by Brian L. Horejsi that starts off:
Some time in the very near future – perhaps as early as this fall - President Obama and administration insiders will approve the construction of the massive Keystone XL pipeline. With the stroke of that pen the gates will open to the flow of about 700,000 barrels of the most costly and toxic oil on earth from below the no longer quiet boreal forests of Alberta to Oklahoma and the Gulf of Mexico. He will make that decision on the back of pressure from Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, personal pressure from Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper whose home happens to be in Alberta, and under intense pressure from a coalition of republicans and democrats whose election campaigns have benefited from millions of dollars contributed by the oil and gas industry.
Meanwhile Bryce debates Bill McKibben on the PBS News Hour, making the case for Tars Sands oil production: http://www.tarsandsaction.org/mckibben-debates-keystone-xl-pbs/
I understand that Counterpunch likes to spice up their issues with the musings of rightwing slugs like Paul Craig Roberts, but is there any real value in Bryce’s articles? There’s a long jeremiad against wind energy titled T. Boone’s Windy Misadventure that takes issue with the “corporate” promotion of wind turbines that emit low-frequency noises that wreak havoc with your psyche, kill golden eagles, etc. One wonders if Bryce will ever find the occasion to submit an article to Counterpunch defending another initiative of T. Boone Pickens, namely drilling for natural gas using hydrofracking. Here’s Robert Bryce telling Wall Street Journal readers about the wonders of hyrdrofracking:
America Needs the Shale Revolution
June 13, 2011
Wall Street Journal
The U.S. is on the verge of an industrial renaissance if—and it’s a big if—policy makers don’t foul it up by restricting the ability of drillers to use the technology that’s making a renaissance possible: hydraulic fracturing.
The shale drilling boom now underway in Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and other states is already creating jobs, slashing natural-gas prices, and spurring billions of dollars of investment in new production capacity for critical commodities like steel and petrochemicals. Better yet, it’s spurring a huge increase in domestic oil production, which has been falling steadily since the 1970s.
Despite the myriad benefits of the low-cost hydrocarbons that are now being produced thanks to hydraulic fracturing, the media, environmental groups and politicians are hyping the possible dangers of the process, which uses high-pressure pumps to force water, sand and chemicals into shale formations. Doing so fractures the formation and allows the extraction of natural gas or petroleum.
Mostly Bryce’s articles on Counterpunch might seem unobjectionable since typically they debunk claims made for Ethanol, a “Green” energy source that will ultimately threaten food production near and far. But there’s one titled Bamboozled About Energy that really clues you in what he is about:
It has taken the US more than a century to build a $14 trillion economy – an economy that is based almost entirely on abundant supplies of oil, coal, and natural gas. No matter which of the “green” energy technologies that are now being hyped – electric cars, solar panels, wind turbines, etc. – will make a dramatic dent in US or global energy consumption for decades to come.
Moving the US and world economies away from hydrocarbons will take most of the 21st century and trillions of dollars of new investment. That’s the reality – and it doesn’t take a degree in physics or even a hand-held calculator to confirm it.
Make no doubt about it. This is the voice of big business defending the status quo. We may not need T. Boone Pickens’s approach to wind energy but surely we need a way out of fossil fuel production if the planet is to have a future, at least based on the calculation that climate change will lead to monstrous flooding in some areas of the planet and drought in others that will cost millions of lives.
Speaking of which, I have a sense that Counterpunch’s co-editor Jeff St. Clair is aware of the threat based on a link he posted to Facebook a while back. It led to this New Yorker article:
Nowadays, whenever there’s an Irene-like event—a huge storm, a terrible flood, a killer heat wave—the question is raised: was this caused by global warming? The very frequency with which this question is being asked these days should make people take notice, but the answer that comes back is usually squishy enough to allow them to forget about the issue until the next disaster occurs, at which point the process starts all over again. The problem here, as several commentators have pointed out this weekend, is that the question being posed is not the question we should be asking.
The standard answer to the question “Was Irene (or the recent flooding along the Missouri River, or the current record-breaking Texas drought, or [choose your own favorite example]) caused by global warming?” is: No one event can be definitively attributed to climate change (though in some cases, you can get pretty close). Hurricanes fall into the category of “weather,” which is driven partly by large and predictable forces and partly by those that are stochastic, or random.
How about posing the question this way: Are more events like Irene what you would expect in a warming world? Here the answer is a straightforward “yes.” In fact, experts have been warning for years that New York will become increasingly vulnerable to storm surges and flooding as the planet heats up. In 2009, the New York City Panel on Climate Change, appointed by Mayor Bloomberg, concluded that, as a result of global warming, “more frequent and enhanced coastal flooding” was “very likely” and that “shortened 100-year flood recurrence period” was also “very likely.” Much of the problem simply has to do with sea levels—as these rise, any storm or storm surge becomes more dangerous. Marcus Bowman, an oceanography professor at Stony Brook University, has warned that the city could one day have “flood days,” the way it now has snow days.
Too bad that this viewpoint does not find a place on Counterpunch. It would be much more useful than Robert Bryce’s oil industry PR.