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The New Abolitionism

Christopher Hayes refers to Bill McKibben’s 2012 essay in Rolling Stone titled “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” discussing McKibben’s conclusion that the fossil fuel industry needs to leave 80 percent of the carbon in the ground.

While certainly on point given the proposed Keystone XL project and the US fracking boom, Bill McKibben’s 2013 Rolling Stone “The Fossil Fuel Resistance” states that the magnitude of global warming means that “you need to do more than change your light bulbs.”

California, often heralded as the national if not international leader in decarbonizing California’s energy system and greening the grid, has very aggressive greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets requiring an 80 percent reduction in GHG emissions below 1990 levels by 2050. Energy efficiency (EE) often tops the lists of strategies by which state policy makers hope to achieve these goals. California’s recent decade of EE is a combination of largely short-lived light bulbs, longer-lived appliances and equipment, and state building codes and standards. With conservatively one-quarter of savings from higher efficiency light bulbs that burn out in about five years, cumulative savings decay over time. California has generally continued to discount the same light bulbs, while counting burn-out replacements as new savings, thus contributing to an overstatement of EE accomplishments. Because California’s GHG emission reduction targets are “forever,” EE savings must translate into consumption reductions that last decade(s) into the future. The state needs to redouble its EE efforts to meet its 2020 GHG intermediate electric sector EE targets, with even more aggressive EE savings after that to meet the ultimate state GHG 2050 targets.

Cynthia Mitchell

May 12 2014 - 12:23pm

Cold War Against Russia—Without Debate

Спасибо Доктор Коуэн за Вашу позицию!

Aleksandr Cheshev


May 12 2014 - 9:51am

Editors Don’t Belong in Courtrooms, and Cecily McMillan Doesn’t Belong in Prison

This piece offers the most careful scrutiny yet of the judge&tsquo;s unfair operations. Splendid work.

Todd Gitlin

New York City

May 9 2014 - 5:51pm

The New Abolitionism

It’s interesting that there has never been an analysis of what would have happened to the Southern slave owners if the slaves had been freed and paid for their work.

Regarding the asset value of the fossil-fuel owners: “giving up” their wealth does not appear as their only option. They could reinvest the earnings and capital into alternative energy and organic farming. Food is in fact energy for people.

A commitment from the fossil-fuel industry to reinvest all revenues from this date forward into renewables and organic farming would allow the shareholders to continue to enjoy revenue streams… as long as people need power and remain hungry!

Sharrieff Mustakeem

Atlanta, GA

May 9 2014 - 11:07am

Obama’s Pundit Problem

I am so disgusted with Maureen Dowd’s crude snark that I was about to write a letter to “Punch” Sulzberger’s son and the Times’s publisher. I’ve known Punch for four decades, and exchanged civil dialogues with him from time to time. Never once have I suggested that a Times columnist, as much as I criticized their content, was worthless enough to shame the Times, and debased the minimal Times standards. Yet Dowd not only sullies prime space, her Sunday columns are often heralded on the front page above all commentators.

But Eric’s most recent column makes this case far more eloquently than I could have. You’ve vented my bile and made my morning!

Michael Pertschuk

Santa Fe, NM

May 8 2014 - 11:43am

The New Abolitionism

After reading this article, I wondered whether the post–climate collapse environment might include an increase in slavery. One can imagine that those who justify the theft of natural resources to service their personal comfort would not find it difficult to find reason for an increase in forced manual labor when the fossil fuel–driven infrastructure has collapsed. Outlandish? I think not.

Laura Kaye

Northfield, MA

May 7 2014 - 7:21am

Why Cold War Again?

I have seen Professor Cohen speak about the Ukraine on Democracy Now! and The Thom Hartmann Show and have read some of his pieces in The Nation. Please allow me to express both my sincere gratitude and warmest wishes to him for having made the appearances and written the columns. It appears Cohen is the only one or one of the few people who is telling the truth. It is refreshing, believe me. What is hard to believe and accept is the degree to which the American press is manipulated into echoing the official government narrative. As high school students in the '60s we used to joke about Pravda and Izvestia.Now it's The New York Times and CNN.

I hope that any further governmental provocations are unsucessful and that war does not result. Even though this is what certain people want and there is a lot of money to be made. Again, I wish Cohen the best of everything and look forward to seeing him on the web and reading more of his articles.

Laurence H. Kendall

United States

May 5 2014 - 2:36pm

Cold War Against Russia—Without Debate

I am eager to read The Nation’s reporting on the Kremlin debate on the invasion of Ukraine by barely camouflaged Russian military; or on the ground-to-air missiles the “dissidents” in Eastern Ukraine used to shoot down two government helicopters over Slovyansk. Which military surplus outlet sold these items of modern warfare?

Perhaps, in your explanation of Russia’s and Putin’s resentments over their loss of empire, you will touch, ever so briefly, on the rights of Ukrainians to maintain their country free of Putin’s KGB 2.0 and the kleptocracy he hoped to maintain in Kiev. Did Ukrainians have a right to overthrow that thieving regime? Are their rights even relevant in your realpolitik calculus?

If Ms vanden Heuvel thinks that Russia is entitled to rule Ukrainians and subject them to Putin’s Soviet revival, she should display the candor to say so. If she thinks the United States and NATO should refrain from responding to Russian subjugation of the Ukrainians, she should state her belief and her reasoning.

Glenn Becker

Sausalito, CA

May 4 2014 - 8:24pm

The New Abolitionism

Chris Hayes argues there is a moral comparison between moving beyond fossil fuels and abolition, this comparison is wildly out of touch. Ending slavery was a great redistribution of wealth that required a war to achieve, but it did not bring about the end of Southern agriculture or cotton. The former slaves were still available to work the fields and cotton farming continued. The same cannot be said for abandoning fossil fuels, which would mean abandoning the Industrial Revolution and the amenities of modern life such as the technology that allows Hayes’s image to be beamed across satellites and onto the TV screens of millions of people on a daily basis.

Hayes’s article is notable for not even attempting to address the implications of moving beyond fossil fuels. He seems to assume that there is some magical technology out there that can replace hydrocarbons for their practical functionality. Wind and solar are not a replacement for fossil fuels, as much as climate activists would like to believe that they are. You cannot even manufacture wind turbines and solar panels without fossil fuels. The manufacture of concrete, steel, plastics, exotic minerals, the copper for electric lines, all of these materials and more require fossil fuels as both ingredients and for their superior energy density that is needed for mining and installing the equipment. Examine the full life cycle for all the materials required for manufacturing renewable technologies, and it is clear that fossil fuels are integral at every step of the process.

Both supply and demand for fossil fuels are boundless. New techniques are opening up new reserves all the time. And because hydrocarbons offer superior energy density and performance, demand is untamed.

I share the concerns over climate change and CO2. Since the problem is CO2 let’s deal with CO2 directly, which means carbon sequestration. We need to get serious about building the infrastructure for carbon capture, transport via pipelines and CO2 utilization. We have ample storage prospects in saline aquifers throughout the world. More importantly, we have vast opportunities for carbon utilization. In industry CO2 is a valuable commodity used for oil recovery and in other chemical applications. The more infrastructure and experience we have in handling CO2, the more we can lower the cost of capture and establish commodity value for the molecule. This is the path for generating jobs and economic growth while addressing climate change, not the naïve Luddite philosophy of railing against the Industrial Revolution and the businesses that provide products and services we all use every day.

Ed Dodge

Ithaca, NY

May 3 2014 - 12:25pm

The Latest Affirmative Action Decision Isn’t Just About Race

For centuries, the Supreme Court of the United States was held as the pinnacle of jurisprudence, prepared to study and analyze the problems of American society in a learned and expert manner and to produce a solution that solves the problem, no matter the size or the complexity of the issue. That’s what made it one of the strongest institutions our system of government was known for. An alleged fair eye and dispassionate arbiter.

No more.

Today, the Supreme Court has been chipped away at, plundered by almost hysterical ramblings of unqualified legal teams trying to burnish their own names at the expensive of all else, twisted into an institution that is used to push the harsh, anti-humane agendas of people and values that have made it their calling in life to stop the progress of our entire nation. This will not continue.

People all over the country are mobilizing to come and stay in Washington to defend that Court and what it is supposed to stand for. And to rid our nation by whatever means required of those that are working so very hard to diminish her. They will not succeed.

Ron Baldwin


May 3 2014 - 9:10am