Chart of the day

If you are in the 3%, it really is too bad. But this chart definitely helps put all the Obamacare horror stories in perspective:



Busy day today, but enjoy this:

Photo of the day

From the Telegraph Animal photos of the week.  Happy Halloween.


This six-week-old Labrador puppy is one of the 1,300 in trained each year at the National Guide Dog Breeding Centre. It enjoyed a well-earned day off to play, frolicking in a huge pumpkin donated to the centre in Leamington, West Midlands, by Wasperton Farm. The puppies are being cared for by staff at the school, before being adopted by volunteer trainers who will spend a year-and-a-half moulding them into helpers for the blind. They will soon be assigned new homes to prepare to become fully fledging helpers at 20 months old.

Picture: CATERS

On Keystone

I read Ryan Lizza’s extensive piece on the Keystone pipeline in the New Yorker a while back and ended up feeling frustrated that Lizza seemed to push the anti-Keystone position, but ultimately failed to take a side, and left me wanting a little more clarity.   Not long after, I listened to Lizza interviewed on Fresh Air and decided that there’s just not enough good policy analysis to support an anti-Keystone position.   After the interview I resolved to blog about my frustration with this becoming a seeming sine qua non of the US environmental movement despite being based on questionable policy analysis at best.  As you know, I’m always frustrated by the complete lack of seriousness with which conservatives so often approach policy, so I found it especially galling to see liberal environmentalists (and I happily call myself both) being similarly guilty on a high profile issue.  All that, but I’m lazy and distractible.

Into the breach steps Chait, who wrote an excellent post hitting on most all my concerns and frustrations on this issue.  Now that he’s done the hard work (and there’s really little question who’s better to read), I get to cut and paste:

Estimates differ as to how much approval of the Keystone pipeline would increase carbon emissions, but a survey of studies by the Congressional Research Service found that the pipeline would add the equivalent of anywhere between 0.06 percent to 0.3 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions per year. By contrast, the Natural Resources Defense Council’s proposal for EPA regulations would reduce U.S. emissions by 10 percent per year – 30 times the most pessimistic estimate of Keystone’s impact.

Of course, it’s far from clear Obama will settle on a regulatory proposal as aggressive as the NRDC’s. But that’s just the point. Even slight gradations in the strength of possible EPA plans matter more than the whole fate of the Keystone pipeline. And yet McKibben and tens of thousands of his followers are obsessed with a program that amounts to a rounding error at the expense of a decision that really is the last chance to stop unrestrained global warming…

Sprinkled throughout Lizza’s story are statements by various supporters of the anti-Keystone movement to the effect that they seized on Keystone because they needed something to rally environmentalists on…

Lizza doesn’t frame these observations as a damning indictment, but they do amount to one. The logic of the decision was the opposite of what it appeared to be: Rather than build a movement as a means toward the end of stopping Keystone, Keystone was the means toward the end of building a movement. Cap and trade was dead, Keystone was the best thing they had, so they went with it.

Later in the piece, Lizza notes as an aside that the back-of-the-envelope calculation undergirding Hansen’s “game over” warning turns out to be wildly incorrect: …

Oh! So developing the Canadian tar sands isn’t Game Over, or anything close to Game Over? While framed in the story as a minor detail, this seems like an enormously damning fact. In much the same way that conservative Republicans initially decided to shut down the government on the mistaken belief that doing so would defund Obamacare, and had to stick with their strategy once they had rallied millions of followers to the cause, environmental activists appeared to have built a strategy upon what was at best a rickety factual premise.

Now the anti-Keystone activists (and less transparently, Lizza) seem to believe that there’s huge symbolic value in the President taking this step that is completely unaccounted for in a traditional cost/benefit analysis.  The idea is that Obama making such a bold move is a game changer that recasts and reframes the environmental and climate change debate that entirely new avenues of useful policy change open up.  Maybe.  But color me skeptical.  For now, I’ll stick with hard-headed analysis of how much this oil will actually impact the climate and it’s likelihood of finding some other way to market (please, you just know they’ve got to find some way).

At this point, to be convinced that Obama really should stop the Keystone pipeline, I’d like to see some evidence, rather than just hopeful conjecture, that in so doing there would be ongoing implications throughout climate policy.

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