So the Obama Administration, in a bold display of having other work to do, is set to announce new fuel efficiency minimums today, though it might be an out for car makers.
At issue is a “technology re-opener” that allows auto manufacturers to fight the standards after 2021 in the hopes that they can re-negotiate rules with a future administration that may be more lenient on the industry. The re-opener potentially gives auto companies an incentive not to develop technologies immediately so they can argue down the road that the standard can’t be met.
And researchers at Caltech are engaged in extreme, Onionesque crazy talk about increasing the power output of some new, vertical-axis wind turbines.
simply by optimizing the placement of vertical wind turbines on a given plot of land.
The experimental wind-farm houses two-dozen 1.2-meter-wide vertical-axis wind turbines (VAWTs). Vertical turbines that have rotors and look like eggbeaters sticking out of the ground. Each turbine is 10 meters tall.
Now is simply not the time to suggest these nugget-sized simplistic solutions to the overwhelmingly complex issues facing the world today. What we need are cautious yet controversial, half-baked propositions that allow leaders, as well as ordinary citizens, to pick an arbitrary side and battle to a standstill. Unrest at a loggerheads. No decision. A dead-end into which to channel our hostilities, to let our economic and ecological problems convulse into something much more magnificently horrific than we can now imagine. In a word, or two: more freedom. There’s just no reason to let these so called easy answers peek through and scare people. Bikes. Walking. Cooking your own food. Handholding. Making out…. these were of another time. Let’s calm down and argue about things that matter: like iPhone vs. Blackberry. Now there’s an argument that’s built to last, that means something. Where do you stand?
Analysts at banks including UBS, Bank of America and JPMorgan Cazenove now predict BP could unlock as much as $100 billion for investors, either by splitting its upstream exploration and production division from its refining and marketing arm, or selling off its entire US business.
BP’s shares are still trading 28% lower than they were at the time of the Macondo spill in April, despite oil prices soaring to $127 a barrel this year. Shell is up 13% over the same period.
A breakup? Is the writing on the wall that difficult to parse? Investors – I resent that term – may indeed only feel the company has only lost its way. But they are fooling themselves in their larger capacity as citizens grappling with how an oil giant deals with the future of transportation. What happens at those board meetings anyway? Do they really sit and listen to climate change deniers spout off? Really? Electric cars as the connection from the past to what’s next continue to dog the energy dinosaurs [sorry]. It’s powering those which is where the money is and will be, until people can figure how to live closer to work. What happened to Beyond Petroleum? Was it only an excellent marketing strategy?
One of my open books right now is a biography of D.H. Lawrence by Anthony Burgess, a present from Mean Joe for which I am increasingly grateful. Right after he and Freida fled Germany to Italy, Lawrence had to get down to work and make some money. The travelogue, Twilight in Italy, is one of those; his publisher came up with the cheesy title. Freida had another name for it, but anyway, this is from Chaper 4, San Gaudenzio:
In the autumn the little rosy cyclamens blossom in the shade of this west side of the lake. They are very cold and fragrant, and their scent seems to belong to Greece, to the Bacchae. They are real flowers of the past. They seem to be blossoming in the landscape of Phaedra and Helen. They bend down, they brood like little chill fires. They are little living myths that I cannot understand.
After the cyclamens the Christmas roses are in bud. It is at this season that the cacchi are ripe on the trees in the garden, whole naked trees full of lustrous, orange-yellow, paradisal fruit, gleaming against the wintry blue sky. The monthly roses still blossom frail and pink, there are still crimson and yellow roses. But the vines are bare and the lemon-houses shut. And then, mid-winter, the lowest buds of the Christmas roses appear under the hedges and rocks and by the streams. They are very lovely, these first large, cold, pure buds, like violets, like magnolias, but cold, lit up with the light from the snow.
The days go by, through the brief silence of winter, when the sunshine is so still and pure, like iced wine, and the dead leaves gleam brown, and water sounds hoarse in the ravines. It is so still and transcendent, the cypress trees poise like flames of forgotten darkness, that should have been blown out at the end of the summer. For as we have candles to light the darkness of night, so the cypresses are candles to keep the darkness aflame in the full sunshine.
Meanwhile, the Christmas roses become many. They rise from their budded, intact humbleness near the ground, they rise up, they throw up their crystal, they become handsome, they are heaps of confident, mysterious whiteness in the shadow of a rocky stream. It is almost uncanny to see them. They are the flowers of darkness, white and wonderful beyond belief.
Then their radiance becomes soiled and brown, they thaw, break, and scatter and vanish away. Already the primroses are coming out, and the almond is in bud. The winter is passing away. On the mountains the fierce snow gleams apricot gold as evening approaches, golden, apricot, but so bright that it is almost frightening. What can be so fiercely gleaming when all is shadowy? It is something inhuman and unmitigated between heaven and earth.
The heavens are strange and proud all the winter, their progress goes on without reference to the dim earth. The dawns come white and translucent, the lake is a moonstone in the dark hills, then across the lake there stretches a vein of fire, then a whole, orange, flashing track over the whiteness. There is the exquisite silent passage of the day, and then at evening the afterglow, a huge incandescence of rose, hanging above and gleaming, as if it were the presence of a host of angels in rapture. It gleams like a rapturous chorus, then passes away, and the stars appear, large and flashing.
Meanwhile, the primroses are dawning on the ground, their light is growing stronger, spreading over the banks and under the bushes. Between the olive roots the violets are out, large, white, grave violets, and less serious blue ones. And looking down the bill, among the grey smoke of olive leaves, pink puffs of smoke are rising up. It is the almond and the apricot trees, it is the Spring.
You often hear – and I often write – about the unfashionable ‘need for more government regulation.’ Whether it is exotic financial instruments or greenhouse gas emissions, there is really no other entity who can handle reigning in our excesses at the scale of their own destructive impacts. The discussion is often set up as a public vs. big business, easy-to-understand (if not swallow) debate. But what gets less attention is how much big business needs sustained government policies, too.
Companies can’t do this without a sustained government policy. AEP, which is by no means a pinko organization — it is running acampaign now of complaint about burdensome EPA regulations — said the reason it was calling off the plans was governmental failure to set a clean energy/climate policy. By definition, any “cleaner” form of using coal will be more expensive than the current dirty approach, at least in the short run. This is true “by definition” because if the cleaner approaches were cheaper, the utilities would already have switched to them; because the cleanup technology is still in its developmental phase; and because in many places cleaner systems mean new capital investment.
You should also read his cover story on our future with coal, but this is an important addendum to it. It’s the other side of the story of companies needing to know what the regulations will be in order to plan. And whatever they are, companies will adapt. That means even if they hate it, which they will, they will still find a way to profit. Hint to EPA, Congress and the WH: go ahead and do something.
You might think throwing money at problems is one one to do it. Turns out: not so much.
Litigation can have an annealing effect on companies, forcing them to re-examine the way they do business. But as it was, the full extent and villainy of the hacking was never known because the News Corporation paid serious money to make sure it stayed that way.
And the money the company reportedly paid out to hacking victims is chicken feed compared with what it has spent trying to paper over the tactics of News America in a series of lawsuits filed by smaller competitors in the United States.
The thing is, they really didn’t want any ‘annealing’ effects on company practices to take effect after this or any other scandal. Not interested. There is a disconnect – one of many – between the perception that major corporate entities care about doing business honestly, even making huge money – honestly – and… reality. Which is that they don’t care about it at all. We’re not talking about their advertising and what it says about them. You can do it. But that’s not their game. Murdoch wasn’t interested; and if he had a private moment today, would probably say he still isn’t interested in running his or any company (or country, for that matter) honestly. What would be the point?
A digression on dollar values, with color accents. An essay by Jed Perl on the occasion of a book on Thomas Kinkade’s painting; a review titled, appropriately enough, Bullshit Heaven. snip from p.2:
Karal Ann Marling, a professor at the University of Minnesota and a proud collector of all things Kinkade, strikes me as almost guileless, though I wouldn’t put it past her to be giving me a campy wink, too. In any event, she opens her essay by explaining with apparent delight that “the detachable flap on the remittance envelopes of no fewer than three of my credit card bills this month” offer the opportunity to buy one of Kinkade’s lighthouse lithographs for $9.95. You cannot argue with her when she declares that “it is one thing to buy a Picasso at auction in New York with all the attendant hoopla, and quite another to wallow in ‘collectibles,’ including checks, pictures sold through credit-card companies, resin figurines based on old Norman Rockwell magazine covers, and the kinds of dust-catchers collected by little old ladies who also collect cats.” What seems to have eluded Marling is the fact that for most of us a Picasso is not something to buy at an auction but something to look at in a museum or in a reproduction. And here is a big part of the problem. For many of the authors involved in this book, dollar value appears to be almost the only salient value. By this logic, a Kinkade reproduction that is specially hand colored and therefore costs more than a Picasso poster deserves the same kind of attention, if not more.
But in an art world where auction prices are more closely followed than critical opinions, why should this not be the case? At a time when Lisa Yuskavage, an artist no more or less schlocky than Thomas Kinkade, is exhibiting at the blue chip David Zwirner Gallery, which also represents the estate of an old fashioned austere modernist such as Donald Judd, the wonder may be that anybody feels any need at all to justify their interest in Kinkade’s crap. And yet I detect a note of something like belligerence in even the most unabashed of the cheerleaders in this collection, the artist and art critic Jeffrey Vallance, who exhibits his own work in cutting edge galleries in Los Angeles and New York. He opens his essay by proudly announcing that “I am writing this from my handsome Kinkade La-Z-Boy recliner”—and it is as if he were saying, “Take that, you snotty readers.”
Vallance has the distinction of having organized what he calls “the first-ever contemporary art world exhibition of the works of Thomas Kinkade,” which some might take as an elitist declaration that the exhibitions of Kinkade’s work in America’s malls do not count. But no matter. Vallance’s essay, with pithily labeled subsections, is like a ride in a clown car. His first meeting with Kinkade was in the Kinkade Chapel that was set up in the exhibition at California State University in Fullerton to showcase the artist’s religious works. Here is Vallance. “The only way I can describe the scene is that it reminded me of the legendary account of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger kneeling together in the Oval Office. … A Nixonian glow emanated from Thom’s countenance as he divulged his divinely inspired design for the Kinkade empire.”
It’s getting more and more difficult to disconnect our crazy weather from climate change – but we, and our media, keep on trying:
The PBS News Hour did a long story Tuesday night on “Sweltering Heat Wave Roasts 24 States, Feeds Wildfires,” but the only explanation they would offer up is “Meteorologists say the immediate culprit is a high-pressure system stalled over much of the country’s midsection.”
The NBC Evening News also did a long story on the “massive and dangerous heat wave” that has “half of the US population … under a heat advisory.” Then NBC’s Ann Curry mentions the superstorms and floods the nation has experienced, along with the heat wave, and asks a “Weather Channel meteorologist” just “What Explains This?”
What follows is one of the great tautological non-answers ever seen on a major network:
Well, Ann, during the spring time we were stuck in a very active spring pattern. Now that it’s summer, we’re stuck in a very active and persistent summer pattern.
The idea that even this brand of non-sensical excuse-finding would have its limits is an increasingly bizarre form of optimism. Still, I think we have much in us by way of abilities to block out, not see, entertain fantasies and generally look the other way – which itself informs an equal and opposite hopelessness. The middle is in there somewhere, as the rest of the world leaves decides to take measures aimed at AGW. While we look for more things green might possibly mean, other than the one thing. What’s a metaphor for, anyway?
Not sure who reads unsigned editorials anymore, but there was a good one from the Times on Thursday touting a new EPA ruling on expansions of the Clean Air Act:
The rule, which takes effect in 2012, would cut emissions of sulfur dioxide, a component of acid rain, and nitrogen oxide, a component of smog, by more than half by 2014 compared with 2005 levels.
As is true of nearly every regulation spawned by the landmark 1970 Clean Air Act, the rule’s benefits will greatly outweigh its costs to industry — a truth routinely ignored by the act’s critics, most recently the Tea Party supporters in Congress. The E.P.A. estimates annual benefits at $120 billion to $240 billion, mostly from fewer premature deaths, hospital visits and lost work days associated with respiratory illnesses.
By contrast, the costs of new pollution controls and plant retirements are estimated at $800 million annually, on top of about $1.6 billion in capital improvements already under way in anticipation of the rule.
These new regulations are part of a package that includes new mileage standards for cars and reductions in other greenhouse gases – a way for WH to do the job of congress through the EPA.When cap and trade went from a foregone conclusion to a dead letter, there was really little other option for the Obama Administration to act on climate change, air and water pollution or any other snapshot of the future of the country than to issue new EPA guidelines. Again, howls of indignation from the Confederates, while the corporations on whose behalf they roam work feverishly to come up with new eco-themed advertising to disguise their craven end-times profiteering. For those who would like to see through the smoke, the crushing hand of government regulation momentarily stuns the intruder by being at home. Now where’s that bat?
‘In his own particular way, Twombly tells us that the essence of writing is neither form nor usage but simply gesture – the gesture that produces it by allowing it to happen: a garble, almost a smudge, a negligence. We can reason this out through a comparison. What would be the essence of a pair of trousers (if it has one)? Certainly not that carefully prepared and rectilinear object found on the racks of department stores; rather the ball of cloth dropped on the floor by the negligent hand of a young boy when he undresses tired, lazy and indifferent. The essence of an object has something to do with the way it turns into trash. It is not necessarily what remains after the object has been used, it’s rather what is thrown away in use. And so it is with Twombly’s writings. They are the fragments of an indolence, and this makes them extremely elegant; it’s as though the only thing left after the strongly erotic act of writing were the languid fatigue of love: a garment cast aside into a corner of the page.”