August 2012


I just listened to my brother, Jens Lund Snee, interview Stanford Professor Michael Wara, a climate scientist-turned-legal scholar, for Standford’s Generation Anthropocene podcast. See below for Michael’s and Jens’ backgrounds, and for notable quotes from the interview.

Click the link below to listen to the full interview.

Michael Wara Interview

 

Contributor

Michael Wara
An expert on energy and environmental law, Michael Wara’s research focuses on climate and electricity policy. Professor Wara’s current scholarship lies at the intersection between environmental law, energy law, international relations, atmospheric science, and technology policy.  Professor Wara was formerly a geochemist and climate scientist and has published work on the history of the El Niño/La Niña system and its response to changing climates, especially those warmer than today. The results of his scientific research have been published in premier scientific journals, including Science and Nature.

 

Interviewer

Jens-Erik Lund Snee
Jens-Erik Lund Snee is a Masters student at Stanford University studying Geology and Environmental Sciences. He is interested in ways that scientific knowledge can better inform policy, particularly with regard to international natural resources issues. He spent 2011 on a Fulbright Fellowship studying geology and politics in New Zealand.

 

Quotes:

“The industries that were gonna be regulated played what I think is a disproportionately important roll in driving the design of the law” 

“I try to come at the problem from a sort-of fact-based, data-driven… approach, and that isn’t really how things play out in Washington.”

“You don’t see to many ideas that really die in the policy arena, unfortunately, even if there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that they aren’t terribly effective.”

“That person ends up sitting – giving expert testimony to lawmakers – pretending as if – pretending that – this was their idea; that this has nothing to do with a financial arrangement that has been made behind the scenes and I find that – I think that, in particular, gives you some clue as to why ideas, good or bad, don’t die in the policy arena.” (apx 16:00)

“If there was one thing I wish we would try more of, it’s smaller-scale agreements, where we actually do things. Where we experiment with reducing emissions of a particular gas, from a particular industry, and then we learn about how well we can implement those kinds of programs; how much they actually cost, not how much industry and environmental groups say they’re going to cost. And we also learn about our partners in the international negotiation, how much we can trust them, how well they can actually implement agreements that they sign on to.” (18:00)

“I think that, if we could have more sort-of small-scale steps, we could actually get a lot further than we have been by trying to craft this giant kind of global, once-and-for-all agreement.” (20:00) 

“We see environmental problems being resolved by regulatory approaches that change behavior, change incentives, and we also see environmental problems being resolved by innovation; but sometimes the innovation is stimulated by the regulation.” (21:00) 

“Energy research and development investment in this country is pathetic… We need some basic innovation if we’re going to really change the picture on climate.” (22:00)

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Obama, Romney looking angry

Image Credit: Associated Press

According to the poll released yesterday by Fox News, President Obama is currently leading challenger Mitt Romney by a 9-point margin. The poll shows Obama taking 49 percent of the vote, while Romney would only take 40 percent if the election were held today.

 

This is a significant increase from Fox News’ June horse-race poll, which showed Obama at 45 percent and Romney at 41 percent.

 

Obama’s advantage in this latest poll is mostly a result of increased support from independent voters, who now favor him over Romney by an 11-point margin. 30 percent of independents remain undecided.

 

54 percent of those polled said that they had a favorable view of the candidate, his highest favorability rating in this poll in over a year. According to the poll, this is nearly as high as the 59 percent approval rating reported shortly after the 2008 election.

 

CNN’s Thursday presidential poll has also shown strong support for the president, with 52 percent of registered voters indicating that they would choose President Obama, while 45 percent said they would vote for Romney if the election were held today.

 

The CNN poll also showed that Obama’s approval rating is staying relatively constant at 50 percent. 47 percent of those polled disapproved of the President’s job performance.

 

56 percent of respondents had a favorable view of the President in the CNN poll, while only 42 percent were unfavorable. These numbers did not look as good for Romney, who had a 47 percent favorability rating and a 48 percent unfavorable rating.

 

These poll results seem to indicate that the President is making inroads with independent voters. The percentage of voters that would pick Obama over Romney has steadily increased over the last month.

 

RealClearPolitics now shows an Obama lead of 4.4 points in its polling average. This estimate includes the CNN and Fox polls.

The FiveThirtyEight estimate is now showing that Obama has a 73.3 percent chance of winning the general election, up significantly from a month ago.

Support for Amendment 64, Legalizing Marijuana, in the August 8 Public Policy Poll

Colorado support for Amendment 64 compared to general support for legalizing marijuana.

According to today’s Public Policy Poll of Colorado, support for Amendment 64 has grown since the June poll. The amendment, which will be on the Colorado ballot in November, proposes to legalize and regulate growth, possession, and usage of marijuana.

Support has grown by five points to 47-38 from 46-42 in June this year. Independents now support the amendment 58-28, up thirty points from support of 49-40 in June. Democrats favor it 59-22 while Republicans support it 26-61.

15% of voters are undecided on Amendment 64, up from 12% in the June poll.

The poll also posed a more general question, asking whether marijuana should be legal or illegal. Respondents were somewhat more in favor in this situation, supporting legalization 50-42 with 8% undecided. That’s a 2-point increase from June, when respondents supported legalization 49-43.

Support for Amendment 64 and legalized marijuana by political affiliation.

Support for Amendment 64 and legalized marijuana by political affiliation.

The 5-point swing in favor of legalization suggests that Colorado voters are becoming more comfortable with the idea of legalizing marijuana and taxing it in a manner similar to alcohol. This could be a result of the recent pro-legalization ad campaign.

It’s also possible that a lot of this change is a result of statistical noise. The margin of error on both polls was +/-3.5%, so much of the shift could be accounted for by sampling error.

However, the 30-point shift in independent support for the amendment is suggestive. The margin of error for independents is larger than for the overall poll, due to the lower number of independents, but a shift of this magnitude likely represents increasing support in this group.

In addition, little has been heard from groups opposed to Amendment 64. The group Smart Colorado, founded by Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, opposes the amendment but has only raised $16,000 as of the latest update.

Groups in favor of Amendment 64, including the Colorado Democratic Party and the state medical marijuana industry, have raised well over $2 million.

It is still early. The election is still three months away, and the outcome can easily change during that time. California’s latest legalization attempt, Proposition 19, was leading in polls until late September 2010. It was defeated in the 2010 midterm elections 53.5% to 46.5%.

If support for Amendment 64 continues to grow, it may become law in November. But supporters of the amendment will need to be wary of a co-ordinated opposition by special interest groups. Such opposition has defeated similar measures in Colorado and California in the past.

I admit I’m a little behind the curve on this one, but it was just too ridiculous to pass up.

 

Wind Turbine, Tower in a Corn Field

Image Credit: Sebastian Celis via Creative Commons

Last week, Governor Romney’s presidential campaign announced in Iowa that if he is elected president, he will allow the Production Tax Credit (referred to below as the “wind credit”) to expire.

According to The Des Moines Register,

Shawn McCoy, a spokesman for Romney’s Iowa campaign, told The Des Moines Register, “He will allow the wind credit to expire, end the stimulus boondoggles, and create a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits.”

It the Romney campaign actually wanted to get rid of all energy subsidies, I’d be 100 percent for it because energy subsidies create market distortions. But of course the Romney campaign continues to support oil subsidies; because of course they don’t create an uneven playing field.

Besides, if Romney wanted to do away with oil subsidies, you can bet the Koch brothers et. al. wouldn’t be bankrolling his campaign anymore.

That aside, Romney really needs to work on his swing-state strategy. Iowa has more wind energy jobs than any other state, and Iowa Republicans were quick to point out just how misguided his notion was.

As Republican Rep. Tom Latham pointed out, this proposal demonstrates “a lack of full understanding of how important the wind energy tax credit is for Iowa and our nation.”

This isn’t just turning heads in Iowa, either. Green energy jobs are so important here in Colorado that only one Republican representative, Doug Lamborn, supported Romney’s notion. Even Birther lunatic Rep. Mike “Obama’s not an American” Coffman opposed Romney’s proposal. (This clown is my representative, sadly.)

Lest we forget, the wind energy tax credit was originally signed by George H. W. Bush in 1992 and renewed in 2005 by a Republican Congress and signed by George W. Bush.

The bottom line is Romney’s wacky proposal to do away with the PTC and the wind energy tax credit is so ridiculously off-the-wall that even his own party is disavowing his statements.

I seriously doubt Romney ever expected this to be good policy. He’s just doing the pandering he needs to do to appease the Tea Party and his oil billionaire donors.

He never needed Colorado and Iowa’s 15 electoral votes, anyway.

Update: As of 1:20PM ET, the well-cited “Controvercies” section has been restored to Sen. Portman’s page – see revision history.

There’s an interesting article on NPR.org today titled “One Clue To Romney’s Veep Pick: Whose Page Is Getting The Most Edits?

In the article, NPR notes,

In 2008, as The Washington Post wrote at the time, “just hours before [Sen. John] McCain declared his veep choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, her Wiki page saw a flurry of activity, with editors adding details about her approval rating and husband’s employment. … Palin’s entry was updated at least 68 times, with at least an additional 54 changes made to her entry over the preceding five days.”

Meanwhile, the Post said, “on Aug. 22, the day before the Obama campaign officially named [then-Sen. Joe] Biden as the veep pick, Biden’s Wiki page garnered roughly 40 changes. Over the five days prior, users would make at least 111 other changes to his entry.”

As of 10 AM Eastern Time, Senator Rob Portman of Ohio was leading in Wikipedia edits. He has racked up 16 edits so far today, while the Wiki page of the next closest, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, has been edited nine times so far today.

It is also important to note that these revisions may not necessarily indicate that Senator Portman’s page is being cleaned up before the Romney team announces him as the VP pick. Politico notes that the number of edits may be misleading:

By 10:30 a.m., Rubio was tied with Portman at 16. And the edits were almost all driven by one user’s insistence that Rubio was not the “crown prince” of the Tea party. (See above).

The problem with Sifry’s model is that tallying revisions doesn’t account for the difference between serious, substantive edits and the persistence of one user who doesn’t get his way — much less minor spelling edits or slight augmentation of dates, etc.

Those of us taken with the Wikipedia-as-oracle idea would like to believe that those 68 revisions to Sarah Palin’s page provide some sort of precedent in the Internet age. But they don’t. The day before Sarah Palin’s selection was made public, very few people knew who she was. By contrast, everyone watching the 2012 election knows about Marco Rubio or Rob Portman, and more than a few take their own research and opinions to the pages of Wikipedia.

However, as noted by NPR, then-Senator Joe Biden’s Wikipedia page also racked up 40 edits the day before he was announced as then-Senator Obama’s running mate. Politico makes no mention of this.

In light of Politico’s analysis, it seems the most surefire way to determine if these edits are meaningful is to look at the substance of the edits. The NPR story has also been linked to on Reddit, where various Redditors have made note of the changes made to Portman’s page.

Redditor WattersonBill was quick to note that entire sections of Portman’s Wikipedia page including the entire “Controvercies” section (which contained many citations), as well as one discussing his support of NAFTA in 1993, have been removed. You can view the Wikipedia page before the revisions here, and compare the revisions made by user River8009 today (mentioned in the NPR article) to the July 30 version of the page here

So far, the changes made to Senator Portman’s page appear much more substantive than those made to Senator Rubio’s page, which is highly suggestive.

Does this mean Senator Portman will be Governor Romney’s choice for his running mate? Maybe. At best, the changes that are being made to Senator Portman’s page are just another small (if suggestive) clue in the media’s constant search for “Veepstakes” tidbits. We’ll all have to wait for Romney to publicly announce his pick before we know for sure.

Karl Rove’s super PAC, American Crossroads, has just released a new add claiming “this is the worst economic recovery America has ever had.”

I can think of at least one that was worse. This is cynical, even for him.

But I guess this is the sort of advertising you get when you allow unlimited, anonymous political contributions.

Here it is, if you can stomach it.

Firey Olympic Rings at the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games

Image Credit: Ian MacNicol, Getty Images

I live in Colorado, which is a swing state in the upcoming Presidential Election. On Friday, I was watching the Olympics opening ceremony with a friend, and we were amazed at how many pro-Romney ads we saw during the ceremony.

So yesterday (July 31), I decided to count how many pro-Romney and pr0-Obama ads were run during the prime time “Olympic Zone” coverage on NBC.

In the 40 minutes between 6:25 PM and 7:05 PM (Mountain Time), I counted eight pro-Romney ads and two pro-Obama ads. That’s an average of one pro-Romney ad every five minutes. Pro-Romney ads ran back-to-back in two of the six commercial breaks during that time (these weren’t typical commercial breaks – some were much longer than others).

In this timespan, there were five different pro-Romney ads, funded by the Crossroads and Restore Our Future super PACs, the Republican National Committee, and the Romney campaign. The most common ad was “Where Did All the Money Go?” (embedded below) funded by the Romney campaign.

In the same timeframe, there were two different pro-Obama ads, both funded by the Obama campaign. The ad titled “The Choice” was more common throughout the evening.

I was fortunate to be watching these ads with a friend of mine who has a Master’s degree in Communication with a concentration in Media and Culture. Her opinion was that the Obama ads were generally more positive and higher quality than the Romney ads. She felt that the overwhelming frequency of the Romney ads, coupled with their negativity, would likely lead to “over saturation” – most viewers would simply ignore the ads.

Think about it this way; if you were watching TV and saw an ad for the same product every five minutes, sometimes twice in a row, would you be more likely to buy that cereal, or would you just be annoyed?

Apparently, Romney and (un)associated super PACs have chosen a “quantity over quality” swing-state advertising strategy, while the Obama campaign has chosen to run positive, higher quality advertisements but not as many of them.

While it is obvious that Romney and his supporters have a significant advantage when it comes to ad spending, they should be careful about running too many negative ads, especially during the Olympics. In 2008, John McCain followed a similar strategy, running negative ads during the Olympics while Obama ran positive ones. 

According to the Washington Post, “McCain’s choice to go negative during a moment of national unity was controversial. Viewers found McCain’s ad far more memorable, but many were turned off by it.”

On a final note; regardless of party, people should always fact-check the political ads they see. There were some truly outlandish statements made in many of the ads, but the claim that really struck me was in the “Olympics” ad funded by Restore Our Future. It claimed, “after September 11th, Romney delivered the Olympics safe and secure.”

Really? Republicans complained bitterly that Obama failed to give credit to the Navy SEALs and intelligence services (which he actually did) when he announced the death of Osama bin Laden, but it’s ok for Romney to take credit for preventing an imaginary terrorist attack at the 2002 Olympics? What about the police, security guards, FBI, and intelligence agencies that were involved in security for the Salt Lake Olympics? Don’t they deserve any credit?

Take a minute to compare the two most common ads:

 

 

What do you think?