The Social Pathology of Dubai
January 19, 2010

Everybody is aware of the drama now being played out in Dubai. And, frankly, the relief given by Abu Dhabi, its abutting oil-rich emirate in the confederation of self-indulgent and non-productive Arabs, will only buy time for Dubai, which will have to turn over to its cousins whatever assets remain under its robes. The New York Times published a Sunday editorial which seems to counsel aid to Dubai, as if any structural disaster would follow if there weren’t any.

What's The Deal With The Himalayan Glaciers?
January 19, 2010

How fast are glaciers in the Himalyas disappearing? This is suddenly a hugely contentious issue. For years, there's been this estimate floating around that glaciers in the region could vanish as early as 2035 if current warming trends continue. Suffice to say, that would be bad news, given that the glaciers help regulate the water supply for rivers in India and China. Anyway, that 2035 figure snuck into the IPCC's 2007 report. And it's been repeated by a number of journalists—including me. But it turns out there's no solid basis for saying Himalyas's glaciers will vanish by 2035.

Gathering Clouds
January 13, 2010

Google’s reasons for leaving China aren’t as pure as they seem.

Why China's Trains Are Breaking Records
January 11, 2010

This month, China started operating the fastest high-speed rail system in the world—a 600-mile line between Wuhan and Guangzhou that clocks an average of 193 miles per hour (and peaks at 245). MIT Technology Review explains what makes the new train so fleet.

Some Wishes for the Next Decade
January 06, 2010

I sit in one of the dives On Fifty-second Street Uncertain and afraid As the clever hopes expire Of a low dishonest decade --W. H. Auden, “September 1, 1939” It’s official: For the United States, the Naughts were a lost decade--zero job creation, declining household net worth, and the slowest GDP growth (by far) since the 1930s. And yet, Americans remain remarkably optimistic.

Should We Believe The Thorium Hype?
January 05, 2010

Has any element on the periodic table gotten better press lately than thorium? (Okay, maybe lithium, what with all the fuss over electric-car batteries.) The December issue of Wired has a long feature by Richard Martin on why good old Th could be a miracle fuel for nuclear power. Here's why it beats uranium, for starters: Uranium is currently the actinide of choice for the [nuclear] industry, used (sometimes with a little plutonium) in 100 percent of the world’s commercial reactors. But it’s a problematic fuel.

Barack Obama, You Remind Me of Herbert Hoover
January 05, 2010

Barack Obama has been compared to almost every American President of the last hundred years--favorably to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan; and unfavorably to Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush.

Carbon Tariffs Show Up In Unlikely Places
January 04, 2010

The world's first carbon border tax is on the way—and, surprisingly, it doesn't involve imports from China: To encourage the switch to clean renewable energy, Minnesota plans to add a carbon fee of between $4 and $34 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions to the cost of coal-fired electricity, to begin in 2012, to discourage the use of coal power, the greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions. ... Most of North Dakota’s electricity exports is generated by coal-fired power plants.

January 04, 2010

On the night of December 1, shortly after Barack Obama announced plans to send 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, retired Lt. Colonel John Nagl appeared on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.” Maddow was dismayed by Obama’s new plan, which she called “massive escalation,” but, when she introduced Nagl, a counterinsurgency expert who has long called for a greater U.S. commitment to Afghanistan--even if it means raising taxes and expanding the military--she was surprisingly friendly.

Why Is Campbell Soup Interested In Cap-And-Trade?
January 02, 2010

There are so many different companies trying to influence the shape of climate policy in Washington that it's hard to get a sense for the sheer scale involved. According to the Center for Public Integrity's latest tally, there are now 1,160 businesses and groups wrangling over the issue—and they've hired a whopping 2,780 climate lobbyists. An even better sign of the frenzy is the fact that companies you'd never expect to care about the arcane details of cap-and-trade are now taking a keen interest.