Environment and Energy
The bankruptcy of Solyndra, the solar energy company that received a $535 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, has touched off the predictable partisan food fight, with the Obama administration on the defensive. The release of an August 2009 financial analysis commissioned by the Department of Energy suggesting that the company could run out of cash by September 2011 hasn’t made the administration’s task any easier. This episode fuels the growing sense that “green jobs” is a slogan in search of a policy.
As I was watching the local New York City news coverage of Hurricane Irene before “she” made landfall, I was struck, as I have often been before, by the pleasure of the apocalyptic that the newscasters were so obviously experiencing as they reported on the storm: Potentially the first hurricane to make landfall in New York since the Norfolk and Long Island hurricane of 1821! The storm of a generation! The storm of a century!
Haines Falls, N.Y.—Here are some things my children and I weren’t thinking about as we scampered outside our house in the Catskill Mountains during an afternoon lull in Tropical Storm Irene, elated by our suddenly torrential waterfalls, eager to pose in front of them for pictures to send to our friends: We weren’t thinking about orographic enhancement, because, of course, we had never heard of it. Orographic enhancement is the meteorological phenomenon that made Irene rain harder when it hit the mountains (wet air forced upward cools and condenses).
The question of Tehran’s status as nuclear power is a genuine matter of concern for international policymakers, but they have become far too accustomed to treating it as a perpetual hypothetical. The assumption has always been that Iran would never get a nuclear weapon, because the West would have enough advance warning to prevent that from happening, whether by means of diplomacy or force. Unfortunately, the time for hypotheticals has passed.
One thing seems certain as the 2011 U.S. Open draws to a close: An American man will not win this year’s championship. Andy Roddick was both the last American to win a men’s grand slam event (the 2003 U.S. Open) and the last to compete for one (losing to Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2009). It’s by far the longest stretch of time without an American winner since the Open era began in 1968.
The English are known for their propensity to collect eccentric things—tea cozies, snuffboxes, colonies. So it didn’t surprise me to learn that a British writer, Gavin Pretor-Pinney, was responsible for The Cloud Collector’s Handbook, a bewitching little book that has become the latest quirky hit.
In April 2009 the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it had found that carbon dioxide and several other greenhouse gases, though not pollutants in themselves, were subject to federal regulation under the Clean Air Act, because of the threats they pose to human health via climate change. It was not the sort of finding that Texas governor Rick Perry—long a skeptic, even outright denier, of anthropogenic climate change—was liable to welcome.
Each morning for the past two weeks, scores of respectable-looking protestors ushered themselves into single file lines, walked determinedly through Washington’s Lafayette Park, sat down on the sidewalk in front of the White House, arranged themselves in rows as if for a class photo, and waited patiently to be arrested (the violation: blocking pedestrian traffic).
Recently, a choir of industry voices has risen up in opposition to strengthened controls on smog proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency. As with other recent environmental rules, opponents have made lots of noise about the potential economic harm and job losses, while attempting to downplay the environmental benefits. House GOP members, for example, decried the “potentially devastating impacts of [the EPA’s] proposed new standards on the U.S.