About 10 years ago, we had an exceptional winter ice storm, followed by an enormous mass of deadly cold arctic air that shut off power throughout much of the state for several days. When it happened, no one could be sure if the power would be off for hours, days or longer. With 2 kids at home, water in the pipes, and food in the fridge, I needed to some up with some kind of emergency power supply.

When I got to my nearby hardware store, there was a line of worried guys like myself, looking for generators.  I’ll never forget the faint smell of real fear among the group as they were told that the generators were sold out, and no guarantees for when more would be available.  Not available? To hear that in this community had kind of a “you’re not in Kansas anymore” feel.

Here’s where it pays to know your hardware guy.  The manager tipped me when another truck would be in, possibly with more units.  I managed to snag one, and with some creatively cobbled cable, road out the cold wave with minimal losses.  I still have the thing in my garage, but I’ll have to take it in to get serviced before winter sets in – if you don’t  run it on a regular basis, it gets gummed up and almost impossible to start.

I must have missed the moment in succeeding years when emergency home generators became a must-have consumer appliance for the suburban home. Was it economic disaster, climate change, or hurricane Sandy that pushed this ad into my youtube stream?

Anyway, good news. The friendly folks at Kohler now have the solution to an unfriendly new weather regime.

With any luck, in coming decades they’ll perfect the Star Trek replicator to produce food and water, as well.


Pretty amazing testimonial for the “Chasing Ice” documentary.

I’ll be seeing it at the AGU conference next week, so will have a review.

Clip here

Trailer below if you have not seen it.

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Climate Change: Do the Math

November 24, 2012

Gallon of Regular Gas -$3.64

Kilowatt/hour of electricity:  $0.11

Watching a dittohead’s head explode: Priceless.


Most Volt owners, like Earl Weinstein from Los Angeles, report that strangers who approach about the car are more likely to be curious than confrontational. “When I was parked at Helen’s bike shop in Santa Monica to buy a new bike rack a few weeks ago,” he relates, “at least three people came up to me to ask about it, one of whom had just leased a new Prius and started to regret his choice after I described how awesome the Volt is.”Muse, who lives near Detroit, says, “I also get people who come up to me telling me that they worked on the Volt at GM, and want to know how I like it.” He tells them, “It’s easily the most fun car I’ve ever driven and worth every penny I’ve spent on it.”

With the long election season now over, can Volt owners expect its politicization to subside? “I’m hoping to see the issue fade into the background,” Muse says. “[The] Volt will eventually be accepted as well as any other hybrid is today.”

Leapman also hopes that the Volt-bashing will stop. “Maybe everyone will realize just how great an American car it is,” he says.

One of the last sounds Dave Muse probably expected to hear as he drove his Chevrolet Volt past the massive crowd at the Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise in Detroit was the sound of people booing. But there were indeed catcalls for his car, although it was Detroit-built and one of the most technically advanced and highly acclaimed vehicles ever to come from that city.

To be sure, there were also plenty of cheers for the Volt from the crowd, which annually numbers more than 1 million. But the undercurrent of condemnation was clear.

It was clearer still for Muse when a stranger approached him in a parking lot, “complaining loudly about my choice of transportation,” he says. As Muse attempted to exit the Volt, the stranger pushed his car door closed, forcing him back into the driver seat, and then stormed off.

During a polarizing election year, the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt has become an unexpected focal point, touted by supporters of President Obama as a shining symbol of a resurgent American auto industry and a model choice for climate-conscious drivers. At the same time, it’s been painted by right-wing pundits as an icon of big government excesses, a sentiment that officially entered the presidential race when Republican candidate Herman Cain proclaimed the car “Obama’s baby” and alleged the President is “subsidizing the sale of every Volt to the tune of $7,500 in taxpayer money.” The right-leaning Drudge Report recently highlighted an Edmunds/Inside Line news story on the Volt’s involvement in a Texas “smart home” project as an example of wasteful government spending. The story drew more than 200 comments, many of them politically charged.

Volt owners like Muse are finding themselves caught in such crossfire. Some have reported acts of vandalism — tires slashed, expletives on the windshield — and one even found himself being intentionally run off the road. General Motors spokesperson Michelle Malcho says she is not familiar with these stories, but notes that “the car isn’t political” and urges people to drive one before making strong judgments against it.

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Right wing news site News Now:

A prominent climate-change skeptic remains “very concerned” about the possibility of the U.S. having a carbon tax.

Marc Morano of Climate Depot says this is a serious problem.

“I’m very concerned right now, because there [were] a lot of advisors that were to Mitt Romney — people like Arthur Laffer, people like George Shultz — and other … liberal Republicans who have been touting the idea of a carbon tax,” Morano reports. “On top of that, Speaker [John] Boehner came out and said that they were going to be looking at — quote — ‘revenue neutral’ — unquote — ideas for tax reform.”

The Climate Depot correspondent also notes publications like The Washington Post and The New York Times are pushing for a carbon tax in the wake of President Obama’s re-election. Former vice president and global warming alarmist Al Gore has made similar calls.

Last week, during his first White House press conference in eight months, President Obama said that he wanted to have a “national conversation” about climate change. Morano finds that disturbing.

“We are facing the prospect of a carbon tax being on the table in any talk of tax reform, fiscal cliff negotiations,” Morano warns. “The GOP House is very unlikely to allow this any time soon, but the problem is when you have Republican leadership, which looks to be very weak at the moment, standing up to President Obama, anything’s possible.”

New Jersey.com

Something is terribly wrong with our climate, and it’s past time to face that reality.

Sandy was not an isolated event. We have seen many more freak storms, wildfires, landslides and droughts. Nine of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000. All this is exactly what climate scientists warned us about.

Yet somehow, this issue got caught up in an ideological debate about the size and role of government when it should have focused on the science. The lives lost and billions of dollars in damage is the price we pay for that.

Barton Hinkle in the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

But why institute a carbon tax, if not to raise revenue? In brief: Because it would reduce harm in the future and compensate for harm in the past.

You don’t have to take anything Al Gore says as gospel to recognize that today’s climate-change skeptics resemble the anti-anti-communists of decades past, who displayed what Alexander Solzhenitsyn correctly described as “a desire not to know.” American leftists infatuated with the fantasy of egalitarian utopia did not want to believe those on the right who exposed the savage reality of Communist totalitarianism. Climate-change skeptics today do not want to believe climate-change alarmists, who propose big-government solutions. So the doubters refuse to concede the problem.

But intellectually honest skeptics cannot ignore facts they do not like. Hence more and more former deniers are concluding as physicist Richard Muller has: “Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming,” he wrote in The New York Times this summer. “Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.” Tellingly, climate-change conversions all seem to go in one direction. If evidence were mounting that global warming is fake, then some believers would become debunkers.


Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) joined Unilever NV (UNA) and more than 100 companies calling for lawmakers worldwide to put a “clear” price on carbon emissions in order to contain global warming.

Companies invest trillions of dollars in energy and infrastructure projects, and, in most cases, don’t consider goals to cut greenhouse gases, the companies said today in a statement that’s due to be presented to European Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard in Brussels.

“A clear, stable, ambitious and cost-effective policy framework is essential to underpin the investment needed to deliver substantial greenhouse gas emissions reductions by mid- century,” the companies said in the e-mailed statement. “Putting a clear, transparent and unambiguous price on carbon emissions must be a core policy objective.”

The clarity is needed to channel spending into projects that reduce emissions and help the world meet the United Nations goal of containing global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the note. Climate envoys from more than 190 nations are due to gather next week in Doha for two weeks of UN negotiations on the issue.


Dave Roberts had a useful interview with Al Gore, concurrent with the “24 Hours of Reality” event last week.  As always, thoughtful, well informed, and big picture.


Q. Did you see Obama’s press conference the other day?

A. I heard the excerpts on climate, and [laughs] … oh …

Q. Go ahead!

A. No, I’m not going to go ahead! We have conflicting interests here! [laughs]

Well, I think it’s too early to put a definitive interpretation on where he left it with that comment. I was genuinely encouraged that he said, in the first half of his answer, that he was going to conduct a wide-ranging conversation with scientists, engineers, etc. Many urged him to do it in the first term and I’m glad that he’s pledging to do that now. That could take on a life of its own and have an impact how he thinks about it. And … as I say, I really do believe it’s premature to put a definitive interpretation on what it means about his intentions.

Q. Did you hear [White House press secretary] Jay Carney this morning?

A. No, God help us, what’d he say?

Q. He said, “We would never propose a carbon tax, and have no intention of proposing one.”

A. I don’t think that comes as a big surprise to anyone. Those of us that hold out some hope that we will find a way to get a price on carbon, and know there are multiple ways to do it, have felt that the convergence of the fiscal cliff and the climate cliff could produce some surprising results. And there have been some private comments by some Republicans to that effect. But certainly that’s something you wouldn’t wanna bet money on in Vegas.

Q. What do you think of this idea of a revenue-neutral carbon tax?

A. I have proposed a revenue-neutral carbon tax for a long time, 30 years. I proposed it in my first book, Earth in the Balance.

I supported cap-and-trade because a lot of folks felt that it offered the opportunity for bipartisan consensus. And by the way, it may yet gain altitude globally — China, as you know, is implementing it in five provinces and two cities. They have indicated that they intend to use these pilots as a model for the nationwide program. Many are skeptical, but they often do follow through with what they say they’re going to do. And [cap-and-trade] just started in California yesterday. Australia is now linking theirs to the E.U. system. South Korea’s moving, British Columbia, Quebec — there are a lot of parallel developments that could converge, particularly if China does follow through. It’s premature to write [cap-and-trade] off, even thought it’s has been demonized and so many people are afraid to talk about it.

But from the very beginning, I preferred a carbon tax. (And by the way, I’d be in favor of both; I don’t think they’re inconsistent at all.) And yet, the political environment in the U.S. has not changed to the point where it’s something you’d wanna bet on. But look, we’ve got to solve this. It’s an irresistible force meeting an immovable object, and something’s gotta give. I have enough faith in humanity to believe, against a lot of evidence, that we’re going to solve this.

Q. Does this idea of a carbon/income tax swap make you nervous? The income tax is one of the only places we have progressivity in the U.S. tax code.

A. I have not proposed doing it on the income tax, I have proposed doing it on the payroll tax. I am also friendly to the notion of a rebate scheme, though I doubt they’ll do that. It needs to be progressive — the rising inequality in the country is too serious to run the risk of worsening that.

Q. Do you worry that you getting out in front of this might brand it in a certain way —

A. Well, they come after anybody who speaks up in favor of doing something on climate. It’s not going to surprise any of them that I’m in favor of it. I’ve said it on practically a daily basis for years and years.

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Disturbing revelation the other day – one that I am glad has been getting a lot of exposure – GOP future hope Marco Rubio answered a science based question with a disturbingly familiar cave to the most ignorant lowest common denominator of the GOP anti-science base.

I’ve excerpted the conversation above from Chris Mathew’s Hardball program where the incident came up. This does not bode well for the future of the GOP, and for a fact based conversation in the US. Mathews discusses with former PA Governor Ed Rendell, and Tea Party operative Matt Kibbe.


Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who many political observers think has a strong shot to be a 2016 Presidential candidate, just finished a lengthy interview with GQ that you can read here. One thing that struck my interest here, as someone who often reports on science, was Rubio’s answer when he was asked the question, “How old do you think the Earth is.”

In response, Rubio told GQ that, “I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.”

If the Earth is really 9,000 years old, as Paul Broun believes and Rubio is willing to remain ignorant about,  it becomes imperative to shut down our nuclear plants and dismantle our nuclear stockpiles now until such time as scientists are able to ascertain what circumstances exist that could cause deadly acceleration of radioactive decay and determine how to prevent it from happening.

The bottom line is that this economy, at its root, is built on  a web of scientific knowledge from physics to chemistry to biology. It’s impossible to just cherry pick out parts we don’t like. If the Earth is 9,000 years old, then virtually the entire construct of modern science is simply wrong. Not only that, most of the technology that we rely on most likely wouldn’t work – as they’re dependent on science that operates on the same physical laws that demonstrate the age of the universe.

Now, this doesn’t mean that our representatives to the Congress and to the Senate should be scientific experts. But if they hold ideas about the world around us that are fundamentally at odds with scientific evidence, then that will ultimately infringe on their ability to make reasoned judgments about a host of issues where the economy touches technology. And that could end up harming the economy as a whole.