I’ve posted my take on how Joe Biden and Kamala Harris might best answer questions on fracking.
Below, a deeper dive by Zeke Hausfather and his colleague Alex Trembath expands on a few points. You may agree or disagree, but my friend Zeke is renowned as a careful researcher, and deserves full attention.

Zeke Hausfather and Alex Trembath in Politico:

Hydraulic fracturing — the controversial oil and gas extraction method usually called “fracking” — has divided Democrats and the political left for a decade now. Many in the environmental community claim that allowing fracking is incompatible with climate action. Others, including Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, take a more nuanced position: During their respective debates, both Biden and Harris emphasized that a Biden-Harris administration would not ban fracking. 

While most environmental groups tend to be on the side of a ban, there are actually strong environmental justifications for Biden and Harris’s light touch on fracking today. In fact, there are reasons to worry that even a partial ban on fracking could slow decarbonization efforts in the near-term. What’s more, the deployment of some clean energy technologies could depend, perhaps counterintuitively, on fracking.

Fracking, which involves pumping chemicals at high pressure underground to extract gas from shale rock formations, has driven a revolution in the U.S. fossil fuel sector, doubling natural gas production since 2005. That surge has pushed down prices dramatically, making natural gas-fired electricity much more cost competitive with coal power. Today, coal accounts for only 23 percent of U.S. electricity generation, compared to over 50 percent two decades ago; much of that shift is due to the fracking boom.

According to the federal Energy Information Administration, coal-to-gas switching has driven the majority of CO2 emissions reductions in the power sector every year since 2005. And while methane releases are an important downside to gas use that needs to be better addressed, even taking them into account, natural gas is still better for the climate than coal.

Another fear of environmentalists is that the expansion of natural gas will slow the adoption of cleaner renewable energy. But the shale gas revolution has not demonstrably reduced the impressive growth of solar and wind power. Since 2005, wind generation has risen by over a factor of 15, and solar by over a factor of 140. Experts at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have observed that, because natural gas plants are so flexible in terms of when they start and stop production, they actually pair well with solar and wind power, whose output is intermittent. 

By all appearances, natural gas production in the United States has acted exactly like the “bridge fuel” many imagined it would, providing an interim step in energy development from legacy fuels like coal and oil to the renewables of the future. It is a bridge that will ultimately have to end to meet the Biden campaign’s goal to decarbonize the power sector by 2035, but in the meantime natural gas is both helping dismantle the old fossil fuel economy while laying the groundwork for a new, renewable one.

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GM Debuts Hummer EV

October 21, 2020

They didn’t spare much expense on this.
Definitely went out of their way to make sure this EV had no hint of unmanliness.

Believe that is Lebron James voice over?

Getting Greens to the Polls

October 21, 2020

You’d think this would not be hard – but the demographic groups most likely to vote for environment issues are those most heavily targeted by Republican suppression.

Harvard Gazette:

The number of registered voters who say climate and the environment is their top priority is rising (from 2 percent in 2016 to 7 percent in 2018). They are, however, failing spectacularly at making themselves heard at the polls. … 10 million registered voters who named the environment as their top priority did not vote in the 2016 election.

Grist:

The jury is in: Most Americans agree that climate change is a problem and would like to see the government do more to reduce carbon and protect our air and water. So, you might ask, why isn’t the government doing more to reduce carbon and protect our air and water? Part of the problem is that green-leaning citizens often don’t make it to the polls. In some elections, they turn out at just half the rate of registered voters overall. And politicians tend to cater to the will of voters, not non-voters.

Transforming environmentalists into faithful voters, and thereby building political power for the climate movement, is the mission of the Environmental Voter Project— an organization founded by 2016 Grist 50 Fixer Nathaniel Stinnet. And, thankfully, Stinnett’s not alone. Other organizations are working on the same goals, such as the advocacy org Georgia Conservation Voters, led by Brionté McCorkle. Fix spoke with Stinnett and McCorkle about their efforts to educate and empower environmental voters, and get them in the habit of casting their ballots — which may include tearing down the barriers that were raised to block their way.

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New poll from New York Times/Sienna College.

The headline might be that science is winning.

New York Times:

Seven in 10 voters, including more than half of Republicans, said they wanted to see a new multitrillion-dollar stimulus program that includes government support for citizens and emergency help for state and local governments. There is also widespread public support for a $2 trillion renewable energy and infrastructure package that Mr. Biden has proposed as a form of economic stimulus.

Mr. Biden, if he wins, will find consensus on some of his policy priorities. Two in three voters supported allowing people to buy a health insurance plan through the federal government, a so-called public option, and the same supermajority backed Mr. Biden’s $2 trillion plan to increase the use of renewable energy and build energy-efficient infrastructure.

Biden up overall by 9 nationally, summary of other findings below:

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In 2008-9, Coal was supposedly on the verge of a huge new buildout.
It all went belly up much faster than anyone imagined.

I had lunch with a major utility executive around that time, who was planning a big new coal plant near me. I told him I saw no need to oppose it, mainly because they had missed their window of opportunity, and if they did build it, the market was going to leave it a stranded asset very soon.

A few months later they cancelled. They’re now committed to solar, wind and efficiency.

Bloomberg:

The former vice president’s efforts to walk a tightrope on gas reflect the fossil fuel’s precarious place in the economy. For now, it’s an essential part of American life. Biden has been careful not to make an enemy of the industry, especially in the key battleground state of Pennsylvania, home to the largest U.S. shale-gas field. His policies may even, in the short-term, support the gas market.

But in the long run, the fuel may prove economically and environmentally untenable within the power sector, a key market for producers. Biden’s climate plan would only accelerate that outcome, with massive investments in wind, solar and battery storage giving those energy sources a leg up. And his goal of a carbon-neutral grid would severely curb, if not destroy, gas’s share of the pie in favor of cheaper, cleaner renewables.

“Decarbonization isn’t a debate — it’s a fossil-fuel death sentence,” said Kevin Book, managing director of ClearView Energy Partners. “It means a resource is going off the grid. That is the inevitable implication.”

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Khmer Rouge rule of Cambodia – Wikipedia:

The Khmer Rouge government arrested, tortured and eventually executed anyone suspected of belonging to several categories of supposed “enemies”:

Anyone with connections to the former government or with foreign governments.

Professionals and intellectuals—in practice this included almost everyone with an education, people who understood a foreign language and even people who required glasses.
———

I remember reading about this kind of thing years ago and failing to understand the motivation. Now after spending many years studying the war on science, I get it.

The common thread is – those educated in science and the pursuit of factual information of any kind, know that there is a common source of truth that is independent from and of greater import and value than the “Great Leader’s” pronouncements.
Therefore, they are a danger to authoritarian states, and to those interests who seek to create such a state.

In the clip above, Joe Scarborough comments that “50 years from now, people will be looking at these clips and asking “what happened to America?”
“What happened was Donald Trump.”

But that’s not correct.
What happened was a 40 year assault on the credibility and authority of science by the fossil fuel industry. Trumpism is the inevitable result.
Time will tell if Democracy can survive it.

Below, 60 Minutes’ interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci broadcast October 19.

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The Institute of Denial

October 18, 2020

When you are a Conservative party sorely lacking in factual support for your programs, you launder bad ideas through a far right wing “Institution” or “Center”.
It’s where you get a significant number of anti-science, climate denial, and now, Covid denial memes.

Hoover Institution Fellow David Epstein, at Hoover.org:

Without a doubt, it is a major challenge to accurately model and predict the course of climate change. Climate systems are highly chaotic, which makes it difficult to figure out the effect of any particular natural or human event on future climate changes. We should therefore proceed with caution before making bold claims that the main, or even sole, driver of climate change is the human generated increase in the carbon dioxide level, which now is approaching 415 parts per million.

Washington Post:

One of President Trump’s top medical advisers is urging the White House to embrace a controversial “herd immunity” strategy to combat the pandemic, which would entail allowing the coronavirus to spread through most of the population to quickly build resistance to the virus, while taking steps to protect those in nursing homes and other vulnerable populations, according to five people familiar with the discussions.

The administration has already begun to implement some policies along these lines, according to current and former officials as well as experts, particularly with regard to testing.

The approach’s chief proponent is Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist and fellow at Stanford’s conservative Hoover Institution, who joined the White House in August as a pandemic adviser.

CNN:

Twitter has removed a tweet from White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Scott Atlas that sought to undermine the importance of face masks because it was in violation of the platform’s Covid-19 Misleading Information Policy, a spokesman for the company confirmed on Sunday. 

Atlas wrote in a tweet posted Saturday, “Masks work? NO” followed by a series of misrepresentations about the science behind the effectiveness of masks in combating the pandemic.

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Most important part of Senator Whitehouse’ exposition before the Judiciary this week starts at about 20 minutes in.
Lots of background details in first 20 minutes about dark funders etc.

But the last 10 minutes goes to understanding the motives and goals of those shadowy groups that have successfully brought the Supreme Court into the service of the 1 percent.

The key issues for Republicans in packing the court, as they have in the past 2 decades, is not abortion, gun rights, or gay marriage. That’s just drama for the rubes in the Fox News peanut gallery.

The real issue is that for the ultra-wealthy and powerful: there simply must be no obstacle, no agency, no power, that can limit their ability to do whatever they want to do. Not juries, not voters, not regulatory agencies, – nobody.
It’s a recipe to replace the law of the constitution with the law of the jungle, and it’s working.

Read Nancy Maclean’s Democracy in Chains to understand the big picture.

Trailer: I am Greta

October 16, 2020

The Climate Ad Project

October 16, 2020

Peter Kalmus (@ClimateHuman on twitter) is behind this effort, to engage a billion activists for a livable climate.

Peter is an incredibly passionate scientist with NASA JPL, and reminds us that he does not speak on behalf of NASA, JPL, or Cal Tech.