Censoring Science on Book TV

Since C-SPAN filmed Jim Hansen and myself when we spoke in Lexington, Massachusetts, on June 1, I have been waiting to see if anything would come of it. Well now something has. Book TV will be broadcasting a show about Censoring Science three times in the next six weeks. Hope it helps direct policy in some small way. If you have a chance to watch the show, please tell me what you think.

 Schedule (on C-SPAN2):

Saturday, October 4, at 8:00 PM
 Saturday, November 15, at 9:00 AM
 Sunday, November 16, at 5:00 AM

(And now that the first show has aired, it can be viewed here on the Web)

3 thoughts on “Censoring Science on Book TV

  1. Hansen’s talk was convincing, though the absence of nuclear power until near the last question surprised me. The data on the longterm oscillation of the earth’s tilt seem to me an important and rather neglected part of the scientific story. The warming+nuclear combination seems the most likely useful approach. It seems to me that an analysis, including some thought on the upcoming elections’ likely effect on “progress” might help capture the attention of the public. Congratulations on the BookTV program.

    Bill Hoover
    Ruby Valley NV
    Sunday morning, 5 October 2008

  2. I just saw the BookTV talk and was impressed with the clarity both of them (Bowen and Hansen) explained what is happening and how urgent it is we act–not just locally but on a large scale–now. I’m curious what Drs. Bowen and/or Hansen think of T. Boone Picken’s recently propoed plan to switch to natural gas, as a stop gap measure, and ultimately (in the next 1-2 decades) shift towards wind power via a series of wind farms up and down the middle of the country. How bad of a GHG emitter is natural gas compared to coal and oil? After watching an interview with Pickens (on BookTV), my understanding is that he is primarily focused on ending the U.S. dependence on foreign oil. He does acknowledge climate change is important, but, as he claims to have told Al Gore, that is a “page 2” issue, while extricating our nation from foreign-oil dependence is “page 1” stuff. Thoughts?

  3. The Pickens Plan €“ response to David Schonberger


    I have looked only briefly into the Pickens Plan, so all I can give are random thoughts:

    First of all, whatever the merits of the plan itself, it is definitely good that a man of Pickens€™s stature and background would even propose such a wholesale change to our nation€™s energy policy. (On the subject of his background, please don€™t forget that he donated $2 million to the €œSwift Boat Veterans for Truth€ campaign that torpedoed John Kerry in 2004. One must question the honesty and intentions of anyone who would do that.) Nevertheless, his energy plan has drawn conservative business interests into a very intriguing conversation, albeit for reasons unrelated to climate change. This can only help.

    As for the merits, I tend to agree with Joseph Romm that the plan is €œhalf-brilliant, half-dumb.€ The wind part makes some sense; the natural gas part makes very little. To answer your question about greenhouse emissions: When natural gas is used in an electrical power plant it is the best of the three main fossil fuels, the other two being coal and oil, from an emissions standpoint. It sends the least amount of carbon dioxide into the air per unit of energy produced. (Coal is the worst of the three and will not be €œclean€ from a greenhouse standpoint until technology is developed to remove the carbon dioxide that is produced by burning it from the exhaust stream before it leaves the smokestack and then sequestering the carbon dioxide beneath the ground or ocean. This technology is at least a decade away from commercial viability.) But natural gas loses its emissions advantage when it is used to power a vehicle, owing to a great loss in efficiency. Romm points out that it would be much more efficient to run a plug-in hybrid on electricity generated in a plant that burns natural gas than to run a car directly on the gas itself. Moreover, the €œcombined cycle gas turbines€ that are used in modern gas-burning power plants are ready-made for the sequestering of carbon dioxide if and when that technology becomes available; whereas it is almost impossible to imagine a way to sequester the carbon dioxide spewing from the tailpipes of millions of moving vehicles. Another point to remember is that natural gas, which is primarily methane, is a very strong greenhouse gas itself€”more than twenty times more powerful, molecule for molecule, than carbon dioxide€”so leaks in any delivery and storage system would be problematic.

    As for Pickens€™s wind idea, taken by itself it€™s not bad. Problem is with this guy, though, you always have to keep an eye out for his ulterior motives. His plan is completely silent, for example, on the issue of water, but it just so happens that the reason he owns the land on which he would like to situate his wind farms is that he has been buying it up for the past decade and more in order to gain rights to the water beneath it, part of the massive and increasingly depleted Ogallala aquifer, which runs down the center of the continent from South Dakota to Texas. (I talk about this on pages 185 and 186 of my first book, Thin Ice. Stranded Wind on the Daily Kos analyzed the water aspect of the plan here, and the wind and gas aspects here and here.)

    Well guess what? If Pickens were to convince the government to condemn a few strips of private land between his proposed wind farms and the Texas cities to which he would like to deliver his €œclean€ energy, this would have the added benefit (to him) of providing routes for pipelines that could deliver €œhis€ water as well. Between population growth, wasteful irrigation and other practices, and the likelihood of increased aridity due to global warming, these cities are beginning to get thirsty. Also, in my view, there is a very basic question as to whether a private individual or corporation should be permitted to hold an entire region hostage to so basic a need as fresh water. My, what a clever man. It should also come as no surprise that Mr. Pickens has a strong economic interest in natural gas as well.

    Still, his ulterior motives not withstanding, his plan is worth discussing on its merits. With the election of Barack Obama, however, and the very real possibility that he and the Democratic majority will propose a comprehensive energy plan that deals with the climate issue as well, the Pickens plan, as visionary as it seemed when it was proposed only a few months ago, is probably small potatoes (owing mainly to the man€™s narrow if enlarged self-interest) and even obsolete by now.

    Hope this helps,


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