Remarks From Remarksman

February 24, 2009

The Unabomber Was Right

Filed under: Uncategorized — BrianB @ 6:58 pm
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Ted Kaczynski, the convicted bomber who blew up dozens of technophilic professionals, was right about one thing: technology has its own agenda.

Kevin Kelly takes a look at some of the Unabomber’s writings about technology in his article, The Unabomber Was Right.

I too argue that the technium is guided by “technical necessity.” That is, baked into the nature of this vast complex of technological systems are self-serving aspects – technologies that enable more technology, and systems that preserve themselves — and also inherent biases that lead the technium in certain directions, outside of human desire. Kaczynski writes “modern technology is a unified system in which all parts are dependent on one another. You can’t get rid of the ‘bad’ parts of technology and retain only the ‘good’ parts.”

Kelly finds some truths in Kaczynski’s writings, but sees other points to dispute. Many of the comments at the end of the article are also quite interesting. I don’t agree with all of Kelly’s assertions, but the article is thought-provoking.

There are many aspects of technology that are not subjected to real scrutiny in terms of what is given up when adopting the new technology. Cars are an example – it wouldn’t be hard to argue that there are currently more cars in the U.S. than are really needed. But automobiles are a self-reinforcing technology: The more cars there are, the more demand there is for roads and other infrastructure (drive-through windows!) to support them. As more infrastructure is created, more people see the value of owning a car. But what is given up? Local community cohesiveness. Pedestrians and bicyclists become less safe while all the transportation infrastructure spending is spent on roads for cars. Less is spent on mass transportation.

Newspapers may disappear as people get their news from the internet, but we still need quality journalism. What other things are we giving up by adopting various technologies?

October 22, 2008

Reason’s Heat Review of Mixed Value

This Reason article by Ron Bailey reviews the new Frontline documentary, Heat. I haven’t watched the show, but now I want to.

Mr. Bailey spends most of the article trying to prove how much smarter he is than the show’s authors. Some of his points are valid and interesting – good, thoughtful stuff.

But then, his grand conclusion in the final paragraph:

The solution is ‘let climate change continue and adapt better via trickle-down economics and increased corporate power and control.’

That’s the dumbest ‘solution’ I can think of, since trickle-down economics and “free” trade have impoverished people in the U.S. and around the world and made their societies less able to cope with climate change, not more.

September 21, 2008

Guest Posting – Re: Shill, baby, shill

Filed under: Uncategorized — BrianB @ 6:13 am
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My most loyal reader was inspired by my Shill, baby, shill post to do a bunch of research on oil drilling, and sent me this information. I had wondered in the post how much the graph in that post would change if ANWR and other areas around Alaska that oil companies want to drill were included. The answer to the question and citations are below.

As you will see, ANWR and other Alaskan areas hold more promise of oil than the outer continental shelf of the lower 48, but adding them in still only gives an eventual production increase of less than 10 percent of consumption. Unfortunately, this is probably posted too late to convince congress not to open everything the oil companies ask for.

Here are a thousand words, more or less, on the same topic with a little info on ANWR.

U.S. crude oil imports in 2007 were 10.03 million barrels/day from all countries, about 1/2 (5.39) from OPEC. A substantial amount comes from the Persian Gulf (not exactly a stable source) – 2.12 million barrels/day, and from Canada and Mexico combined – 3.30 million barrels/day. (We want (need?) Mexican oil, just not their workers, documented or not. This comment is not a part of the following citation!).

U.S. Crude Oil Field Production in 2007 was 5.06 million barrels/day (lower 48 and Alaska). Production peaked at 9.24 million barrels/day in 1960.

*Not sure of differences between US Oil “Consumption” and “production and imports”. The numbers above seem to agree closely to those on the chart on your blog yesterday.

For ANWR, a recent assessment by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports the mean of various development scenarios as peaking at 1.0 to 1.35 million barrels/day.

So between new offshore drilling and ANWR there might be 1.2 to 1.5 million barrels/day gained — way in the future.

OPEC just announced a production cut of 520,000 barrels/day (out of a total of 28.8 million barrels/day . That looks like 2 1/2 times the eventual projected production from proposed U.S. offshore drilling (if I’m reading the numbers and doing the math right). It looks like OPEC can wipe out gains from “Drill Baby Drill” and ANWR in the blink of an eye (although OPEC cuts don’t necessarily translate to a proportional cut in U.S. imports, they do impact prices). As long as we import a significant fraction of the oil we use, OPEC will remain the thousand pound gorilla in the room. In the past, OPEC has fiddled with quotas using much larger cuts than this latest one to control prices; between Sept 1, 2001 and January 2002 OPEC reduced quotas by 5 million barrels per day, and Russia joined the fray by promising cuts of an additional 462,000 barrels. Oil is a global commodity, and if OPEC cuts production to raise or stabilize prices the dinky contribution of new U.S. offshore drilling is going to have little impact on oil prices (assuming the current panic in many quarters is over the price rather than sustainability).

Palin has a big stake in expanded drilling in Alaska (ANWR). A 2004 EIA study reported by AP noted the importance of the refuge’s oil to Alaska. “Without the refuge’s development, oil flowing from the North Slope would fall to 500,000 barrels a day – half of current levels – by 2025 and approach levels at which the pipeline may no longer be economical to operate, the report said.”

Bristol (Palin) Bay

Filed under: Uncategorized — BrianB @ 5:53 am
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Back in February I posted a blurb called Cleaner Gold, which discussed how even jewelers were opposing a planned gold mine that will likely cause environmental damage in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. This Mother Jones’ MojoBlog entry points out that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin publicly opposed a clean water ballot initiative that would have stopped the mine from proceeding. Here’s a quote:

In Alaska, it’s against the law for a governor to advocate for or against a ballot measure. But that didn’t matter much to Sarah Palin. […]

[…] a proposal to build one of the world’s largest open-pit gold mines at the headwaters of one of the Alaska’s most productive salmon streams could wreck the famed Bristol Bay (which is also the namesake of Palin’s pregnant daughter). With the measure to restrict the mine coming down to a squeaker at the polls, this is what Palin said: “Let me take my governor’s hat off just for a minute here and tell you, personally, Prop 4 — I vote no on that.”

Her nod-and-wink endorsement was immediately seized by mining companies to create this ad, which ran in papers around the state as part of an $8 million media campaign–one of the most expensive ballot measure ad blitzes in Alaska history. Six days later, the Clean Water Initiative was voted down.

Another loss for the environment, another win for big business. With Sarah Palin’s help.

September 10, 2008

Shill, baby, shill!

Filed under: Uncategorized — BrianB @ 9:39 pm
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Here’s a nice graphic showing why opening currently restricted US off-shore areas to more oil won’t make much of a difference.

Graph showing estimated Lower-48 OCS oil drilling results compared to annual US oil consumption

Graph showing estimated Lower-48 OCS oil drilling results compared to annual US oil consumption

The graph was created by Architecture 2030 based on an analysis by the Energy Information Administration. Post title stolen from a similar post by After Gutenberg.

The graph helps make it clear why the “Drill, baby, drill” doctrine espoused so enthusiastically at the Republican National Convention won’t really make much of a difference compared to our nation’s current or projected oil consumption. Trading the risk of oil spills and other environmental damage for a less than two percent increase increase in available oil is a stupid idea, and it won’t do much to reduce costs at the gas pump.

Note, however, that the “new” portion shown in the graph is based on estimates of untapped reserves from the Lower 48 Outer Continental Shelf. It doesn’t include ANWR and the other Alaskan areas that the McCain campaign, I mean Republicans, I mean oil lobby wants to open to drilling. I couldn’t find numbers for those areas in the time I have available today, but I would be interested to see if including Alaskan areas would make a significant difference in the graph.

August 5, 2008

KY Lt Governor Daniel Mongiardo – Idiot

Filed under: Uncategorized — BrianB @ 5:39 pm
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“A lot of people look at mountain top removal as a negative, but I see it as a positive,” said Mongiardo. “We need to stop apologizing for coal. We don’t want to defend mountain top removal, but I want us to promote mountain top removal, because we need flat land. We can not have economic expansion without places to do things and part of mountain top removal is for places like hospitals, airports and different type of merchants.” Appalachian News-Express via TreeHugger

Yes, Lt. Governor, the unstable remnants of a giant strip mine are an awesome place to build a hospital! What a moron!

Of course he doesn’t want to defend mountain top removal, just encourage it. Maybe somewhere in his brain a few cells recognize that it is not a good idea.

See the web site for information about mountain top removal.

April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day

Filed under: fun — BrianB @ 2:45 pm
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GreenTV has a crude but funny video to remind you to switch to low-wattage light bulbs.

Don’t forget to turn out the light when you’re finished!

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