Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Saturday, August 13, 2016

American Scheme

Too much of American culture is simply an inability to distinguish optimism from fraud and liberty from cruelty.


jimf said...

> . . .an inability to distinguish optimism from fraud. . .
Dave Rubin on the Climate Change Debate
The Rubin Report
Aug 3, 2016

There's an idea out there that 97% of climate scientists agree
that man-made climate change is real. I did a little digging
on this 97% and, surprise surprise, depending on what Web sites
you go to and what sources you trust, the answer actually
isn't so clear. What is clear for sure, however, is that the
overwhelming amount of climate scientists, the very experts
in this field, do agree that climate is changing, and it has
something to do with what humans are putting into our atmosphere.
Whether or not the exact number is really 97% or 86% or 75%
is largely irrelevant. The point is that the vast amount of people
who study this for a living believe it to be true.

We haven't discussed a ton on climate change since we've started
the Rubin Report, but I've said several times on the show that
since I'm not a scientist, I have to go on what the majority of
scientists say, thus I accept man-made climate change as fact.
I'm basing my belief on the best information that I have in
front of me -- you don't just get to pick and choose when you
believe in science. It either is fact or it is not. So if
the vast amount of scientists that are professionals in this
industry believe something to be true, then I have to base my opinion
on that rather than just guessing or hoping or picking the random
scientists that see the world the way I want it to be.

At the same time, we should always be skeptical of who funds what
scientific study, if there are political aims behind the research,
and especially if there's money to be made by claiming something is
fact when the truth remains more elusive. [I think the salient
recent examples of this have been the reverse -- claiming something is
"elusive" when there's convincing evidence it's "fact".] A simple
example of this, of course, is that if a tobacco company funded
studies on smoking and human health, we'd all be a bit more leery
of it than a truly independent study done for purely research purposes.
So with all this in mind, I do believe from all the people I've
talked to, such as Dr. Michael Mann, the creator of the hockey-stick
theory, or my own science guru Cara Santa Maria, as well as the
information in front of me, that man-made climate change is real.

I also believe that the national conversation around climate change is
mostly idiotic -- usually vacillating between people who think we're
on the brink of a catastrophic climatic disaster and those who hide
their head in the sand to the realities of the changing environment.
Like most things -- and I always say this, right? -- the answer is
probably somewhere in between, and that's where we have to start having
these important conversations.

jimf said...

> . . .the answer is probably somewhere in between, and
> that's where we have to start having these important conversations.
Dave Rubin on the Climate Change Debate
The Rubin Report
Aug 3, 2016


My guest this week is the president for the Center for Industrial Progress,
Alex Epstein. The Center is a non-profit think tank which believes in
creating a new industrial revolution through technology to improve the
planet. Alex's book, _The Moral Case For Fossil Fuels_ lays out
the argument that fossil fuels have not only been an incredibly positive
and important piece for the advancement of mankind, but even now in
2016 they are still the best source of energy for humans to make the
most of this world. His book also tackles many of the myths surrounding
fossil fuels, and even has me challenging many of my own assumptions of
how much fossil fuels are truly affecting the environment, and if we've
demonized an energy source that still has a lot of great potential to
help mankind. Now before I continue and before people start freakin'
out, let me stop those of you who are gonna say "Ah, Rubin's a
climate-change denier for even talking to this guy!" No, that really
is not the case, but who I am is someone who is willing to have the
provocative and complex conversation that surrounds it. You guys know
that I've made this show about the battle of ideas, and Alex's ideas
are considered basically heretical in some elite ["elite"?] circles.
He's had a public spat with Al Gore, and he's been subpoenaed in
a lawsuit that the Justice Department has brought against Exxon Mobil,
even though he himself has done nothing wrong other than share
his ideas. In a truly free society we must allow all ideas to flourish. . .

Let's hear it for "provocative and complex".

And where have I been reading about "think tanks" recently? Oh, yeah:
How Think Tanks Amplify Corporate America’s Influence

Think tanks are seen as independent, but their scholars often push donors’
agendas, amplifying a culture of corporate influence in Washington.

AUG. 7, 2016
Think Tank Scholar or Corporate Consultant? It Depends on the Day

Acting as independent arbiters to shape government policy, many
researchers also have corporate roles that are sometimes undisclosed.

AUG. 8, 2016

jimf said...
The Opinion Pages
Think Tanks and Corporate America
AUG. 11, 2016

To the Editor:

For over 40 years I have been teaching courses touching on
complex issues of ethics and public policy. During that time
I have relied heavily on the scholarly independence of some
of the think tanks discussed in “Scholarship or Business?
Think Tanks Blur the Line” (“Think Tanks Inc.” series,
front page, Aug. 8), which I read with a growing sense of
disappointment and even betrayal. . .

[T]he think tanks that I once trusted so implicitly come down
predictably on the side of the corporations that fund them
so generously in what are billed as “donations” but look to
an informed observer more like fees for services rendered.
Their reputation for impartiality has been severely damaged.

Was I just being impossibly naïve in the confidence I placed
in the intellectual integrity of these allegedly independent
research organizations? [Probably.] Or should I have suspected
all along that the endless and seemingly insatiable quest for
money would eventually infect even some of the last examples
left of genuinely balanced investigation? [Well, duh!]
Can I ever again trust the reports these think tanks issue,
or commend them to my students? [Not without qualification!]

Hey, lobbyists have First Amendment rights, too!

Honi soit qui mal y pense.

Dale Carrico said...

Was I just being impossibly naïve in the confidence I placed
in the intellectual integrity of these allegedly independent
research organizations?

Such a self-congratulatory way of saying willfully obtuse or even, to the extent that personal position and profit attached to this "naivete" (against which there have been countless exposes and warnings and critiques for them as had eyes to read them), complicity in fraud to the cost of all.

jimf said...

[Don't?] let the market decide!
How Producing Clean Power Turned Out to Be a Messy Business
AUG. 13, 2016

On the edge of a bucolic field in Princeton, N.J., an eco-friendly
office building recently opened its doors. Plants festoon the roof,
a living wall is planned for the lobby, and rainwater storage tanks
supply the building’s needs. In the parking lot there are wind turbines,
solar panels and electric vehicle charging stations.

It is the picture of a sustainable future. . .

The same cannot be said of the building’s tenant, NRG Energy.

The biggest independent power producer in the country, NRG
sells electricity to utilities, companies and individual homes. . .
[I]t burns enormous amounts of natural gas, coal and oil,
making NRG one of the country’s biggest polluters.

It isn’t trying to muck up the planet; that’s just the nature
of the business NRG is in. . .

[G]rowing concerns about climate change, affordable wind and solar power,
and the potential for distributed generation are pressuring utilities
and power producers like NRG to clean up their acts, and fast. . .

All this transformation has been particularly tumultuous for NRG,
which has weathered more than its share of mishaps and unintended
consequences. . . Its big bets on residential solar and on a national
charging network for electric vehicles were ahead of their time
and fizzled. . .

Far from emerging as an industry pioneer, NRG has become a
cautionary tale. A power-hungry nation needs to change the way
it is fueled, but as NRG shows, transitioning to clean power
is messy business. . .

In 2003, it tapped David Crane to be its chief executive. . .
By 2006, Mr. Crane began to respond to the climate crisis and became
one of the country’s most unlikely environmentalists. . .

[I]n Mr. Crane’s vision, solar panels and wind turbines would
blanket the country, heralding an era of distributed energy production.
He called environmental protection a “moral imperative.” Last year,
NRG said it would slash carbon emissions in half by 2030 and
reduce them by 90 percent by 2050. . .

And yet he is no longer the chief executive of NRG. He was abruptly
fired in December, after NRG stock plummeted 63 percent in a year.

Earnings fell as cheap natural gas made NRG’s coal-fired plants less
competitive, and investors had grown weary of Mr. Crane’s focus
on clean energy. Even as NRG’s core business was losing money,
Mr. Crane devoted much of his quarterly earnings calls to discussions
about clean-power projects. . .

The NRG board named the company’s chief operating officer,
Mr. [Mauricio] Gutierrez, as the new leader. . . [H]e says that like
his predecessor, he is committed to environmental stewardship.

He drives a red Tesla and uses a Nest thermostat to remotely manage the
temperature in his solar-paneled home in New Jersey. . .

Mr. Gutierrez has a tricky balancing act. . .

He has. . . played down some of Mr. Crane’s side projects and focused
on the balance sheet. NRG shares have risen 40 percent since
Mr. Gutierrez took over. . .

But how NRG will actually achieve vast reductions in its carbon footprint
is unclear. . .

Mr. Gutierrez has already backed away from residential solar and
electric-vehicle charging projects that Mr. Crane held so dear. . .

Mr. Crane has not gone quietly into the night. . . [H]e wrote a blog post
titled “If I Was Right, Why Was I Fired?”

“The sad moral of this story is that it’s very hard to be a C.E.O. for tomorrow,
when the markets only care about being a C.E.O. for today,”
said Mr. [Aron] Cramer[, CEO] of Business for Social Responsibility. . .

Talk a good line, flaunt that Tesla, but don't forget those dividends.

Dale Carrico said...

Soak the rich to pay for green infrastructure spending.