Making gas prices a political issue

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This new media/political storm over gas prices really bothers me. If there is real gouging going on, great, punish someone. But, I think most people realize this is just a backlash against high prices.

It’s sad how many people that live in The Capitalist US don’t realize how capitalism works. Here’s a quick primer:
1. Demand goes up = prices go up.
2. Supply goes down = prices go up.

Now, taking a look at the realities around us, what’s going on? People are using more energy than ever. Production of oil has not been increasing. Given the above formula, that means prices will and should go up. This is the economic system we’ve built for ourselves, and like it or not that’s how it works.

It’s bad that the average person doesn’t know this. It’s worse that politicians are pretending to not know it. I say pretend because I’m sure they do, but they’re all trying to exploit it for political gain by spinning it as the issue they’ll fix. It’s yet even worse that the politicians are feeding the bad assumptions of the masses by pretending there’s something they should be doing about it.

I think we need Ross Perot to come out and give the country another big lecture on economics. He got the attention of millions of people the last time he tried.

Is Nuclear Power Good?

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A public change-of-heart by a founder of Greenpeace to believe that Nuclear power is good. He argues that it’s the only large-scale viable alternative to massive polluters like coal. He also analyzes the safety record of Nuclear in the US and other issues.

Going Nuclear: A Green Makes the Case

I’ve always been on the fence on this. Nuclear energy obviously has many drawbacks but perhaps its total impact on the environment is not as bad as a coal plant spewing massive amounts of greenhouse gasses into the air.

However, having said that, it should be noted that cars emit a much higher percentage of greenhouse gasses than any one form of power generation. So, reducing car emissions by 50% would have a much larger impact on the environment than getting rid of 50% of coal power plants.

Support for Isreal

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There was a bit of controversy when a paper was recently published claiming the “Israel Lobby” was one of the most powerful forces in US politics. The US media has comdemned this as anti-Semitism.

Here’s a discussion on the topic: The New Anti-Semitism Strikes Again

Once you have the background, a better critique is offered by Chomsky here: The Israel Lobby?. Chomsky notes that though some of the conclusions this paper reaches are similar to his own, the basis for their argument is mostly false, and procedes to debunk it. I really respect Chomsky for this. To most people the conclusions are the important part but in reality truth is only served in how you reached those conclusions.

As an example, some of the reasons typically held for supporting the war in Iraq are:

  • Getting rid of WMDs
  • Liberating the people of Iraq from a bad dictator
  • Securing oil
  • Spreading democracy
  • Failing to comply with various UN resolutions
  • Killing the non-Christian heathens

Some of these reasons warrant valid debate and consideration while others do not. But, because the foundation of the decisions are rarely discussed in the media, the pro-war camp benefited from people believing any of these. Would Bush *really* be able to publically claim support from pro-war people who were in favour for religous cleansing reasons? (I’m not saying he’d want to, just that he benefits from them.) I doubt it, but the questions are never asked.

Chemicals in food

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I’d been curious for a while about levels of chemicals in foods, and I finally got around to researching it.

I was suprised to find some really good info. Foodnews has a good report on the amount of chemicals found on produce and ranks them. I was suprised at some of the results. For example, potatos are really high but brocolli is low. Intuitively I would have assumed the opposite, for some reason.

But, they don’t recommend not buying the ones that are high. They suggest buying those organic when possible.

Food News
Food Watch
Canadian Organic Growers

I still have not seen definitive proof that chemicals and hormones in food are harmful, but I think a lot of people are becoming concerned. This is shown by the fact that apparently Organic food retailing is the highest growing sector of the industry at over 20% per year. That said, it’s still definitely a niche market, and I don’t think there’s any threat of it becoming close to the majority. I also don’t think government should be forcing industries towards organic, BUT I do think retailers should be able to label appropriately when they are organic so consumers have the choice. (There have been cases in the US where retailers have not been allowed to label as such: Labelling restrictions)

Renewable energy developments

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A friend sent me a link to this great article. It summarizes recent developments in the renewables sector.

New Energy Currents: 2006-04-05

Some of the most interesting:

  • Development of a new kind of wood stove that reduces some emissions by up to 99% and is 80% more fuel efficient. Part of the efficiency gain is due to a fan to better circulate the air. The electricity for the fan is generated from heat.
  • New home electricity and heat generating units that are up to 85% more energy efficient
  • A new process of generating hydrogen that’s less than half as expensive as current methods.

The Internet as a tool for the new McCarthyism

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Scary article about teachers and professors being singled out based on whether they’re liberal:

Silence in class

You can see this happening in other ways as well, all basically coming from the conservative camp. Teachers are afraid to use the word “Evolution” because they might lose their job. Now the liberal side of politics can’t even be discussed in politics classes? Do not dare utter a word that’s critical of Christianity or you’ll probably be hanged.

The article does point out the difference between the old and new McCarthyism: now it’s perpetrated by small but vocal groups of fanatics. I think this style of fascism is much easier now due to the web. People that think this behaviour is “ok” would likely not have admitted so in public. But, now that they can find a handful of other nuts like themselves on the web it probably feels empowering so they’re willing to be public about it. “See – I’m not crazy! There are at least 5 other people like me in this state alone!”

These groups are even offering cash rewards to students who turn in video of their professors talking about liberal issues. Good thing they don’t care too much about education or else they might realize these kids will now spend more time witch hunting than actually learning.