Saturday, September 3, 2011

Governor Rick Perry of Texas, Global Warming and Those Texas-based Oil Companies

As news stories about the big stories affecting our nation persist in arriving in depressing little dribs and drabs I find that an exercise that cheers me up is to put some of those dribs together with some of those drabs.

In that vein, let’s have a go with some recent headlines:

Rick Perry "Doesn't Believe" in Global Warming

Governor Rick Perry of Texas, leading in the polls, in the race for the Republican nomination for president, says he doesn’t believe in global warming: Rick Perry: Global Warming Based On Scientists Manipulating Data. He says it's: “a scientific theory that has not been proven, and from my perspective is more and more being put into question.”
(For some interesting takes on that see: Rick Perry says more and more scientists are questioning global warming

Paul Krugman’s Republicans Against Science, August 28, 2011.)
While Texas Fries. . .

Then we have these stories the first of which preceded Perry’s remarks by days and the second of which is little more than a week afterward: As Texas Dries Out, Life Falters and Fades, by Richard Parker, August 13, 2011.

The drought that grips Texas is a natural disaster in slow motion. . . .

* * * *

Folks around here say this is unlike any drought Texas has ever seen. [The worst since Texas began keeping rainfall records in 1895.] In a way that’s right; it’s the worst single drought year on record. But, as scientists now tell us, historically droughts here can last decades. Worse, when the rain does fall, it evaporates faster and faster as the American Southwest become drier, threatening to turn Texas into desert. As bad as this year’s drought is, the long view tells us that things could get much worse.
Perry did organize state prayer for rain in April. Our friends living in Texas, resigned to the fact that Perry stepped up to the state’s governorship from the position of Lieutenant Governor with the departure in 2000 of George W. Bush, refer to Perry as “Governor Good Hair,” an allusion to how this career politician (since 1984) likes to look good and is always perfectly coiffed. They don’t like his superficiality.

. . . . And Burns

Notwithstanding, Perry’s praying, there’s been more in the news about the Texas climate: Throughout the summer firefighters in Texas have been dealing with fires that just won’t quit: Texas Wildfire's New Path Helping Firefighters In Possum Kingdom Lake Area. Texas is on track to have its third yearlong wildfire season; the three yearlong wildfire seasons are the only ones on record and have all occurred since the 2005-2006 season (although there aren’t records available for the droughts of 1918 and the 1950s.)

Quotes from that story:
Firefighters haven't had much of a break this summer, even after various crews battled what turned out to be seven of the 10 largest wildfires in state history this spring.

Usually the wildfire season wanes in the spring because of rain, greener vegetation and higher humidity, weather experts said. But the state's normally wettest months – April through June – were anything but this year because of the lingering La Nina weather condition that causes below-normal rainfall.

The conditions have become so severe that "normal rain events will have little positive impact on the drought and consequently the fire danger," Texas Forest Service specialist Tom Spencer said.
As background, before the drought and still continuing, Texas has been steadily depleting the vast Ogallala Aquifer in the northwest Panhandle and High Plains which, in “civilized” human time frame terms is not a replenishing rechargeable resource.

Perry Finds Science of Fire a Trial

Perry’s got a propensity to prefer ignorance of science (rather than have a bad hair day) in order to demagogically look good to his base constituency. For another “trial by fire” example of such blind shortcut expedience consider the Todd Willingham case, where Perry chose to ignore science and send an innocent man to execution* when, with politically macho swagger reminiscent of Bush, he politically commandeered control over the commission that was otherwise set to tell him that, paying attention to science fact, an accidental fire wasn’t actually arson. Is that what a truly good or intellectually honest man would have done? See Frontline’s: “Death By Fire.”

(* Footnote added September 14, 2011: When, at the Reagan Library Republican Candidates Debate held September 7, 2011- four days after this post- the moderator, NBC's Brian Williams, addressing Perry said: “Your state has executed 234 death row inmates more than any other governor in modern times” the audience applauded, presumably also applauding the execution of Todd Willingham despite his innocence. Perry was then asked whether he “struggled with the struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent.” Perry said he didn’t. Asked about the audience’s spontaneously applauding all his executions, Perry endorsed it without reservation. See: Reagan Debate Audience Applauds Texas' Rate Of Executions, Real Clear Politics Video, September 8, 2011.)

Speaking Up For the Oil Companies and Domestic Insecurity (Swapping Texas Assets)

So according to Perry there is no weirding of the world’s weather? Given that he's from Texas can we excuse Perry for being a mouthpiece for the oil companies’ official version on non-reality. Another, line we are asked to swallow from the Texas-based oil industry is that we as a nation have to do all sorts of extra drilling in this country to achieve "energy independence." If you believe that line then here is a headline to bring you up short: Exxon Reaches Arctic Oil Deal With Russians, by Andrew E. Kramer, August 30, 2011. The gist of the story is that Exxon, which is based is Texas, in order to get drilling rights in the Arctic Ocean from Russia is going to swap assets it owns “elsewhere in the world, including some that Exxon owns in the deepwater zones of the Gulf of Mexico and on land in Texas.”

It's Russian to Judgment

Nowhere in the story’s text do we see mention of (let alone have explained) how this swap of domestic assets to a former sworn enemy would be consistent with the idea of domestic energy independence and security. That Russia was so recently an enemy country is one thing, but doing business with the Russians now is still no reliable play-by-the-rules/play-the-law picnic. Days after announcement of the Exxon deal, the Russians raided the offices of BP, the company that lost out to Exxon in connection with a related lawsuit. That’s been interpreted as meaning simply that the company has fallen out of favor with a Kremlin that decided to do business with someone else. Nope, doing business with the Russians isn’t a peachy-keen proposition at all: The last two decades, companies doing business in Russia maintained “safehouses” standing by (just like the FBI or CIA) for their executives should problems crop up.

Doing business with the Russians is not about good policy or good ethics; it’s about the money. So what the oil companies say is not really about good policy or good ethics; it’s also all about the money. And when we find Rick Perry saying what the oil companies are saying . . . . It’s not about good policy or good ethics- It’s about the corporate money in politics.

PS: The following stories became available not long after this National Notice post first went up.

'Mother Nature Has The Upper Hand' In Wildfire Fight, by John Burnett, September 5, 2011

NPR’s “All Things Considered Summary” (emphasis supplied):
Ferocious wildfires shipped by the winds of tropical storm Lee are surrounding Austin and other parts of dust-dry Texas. The worst fire is in Bastrop County, just southeast of Austin, where the blaze has been burning out of control for more than a day. The scale of the blaze prompted Gov. Rick Perry to cancel his appearance at a GOP event.*
(* Perry who was scheduled to speak in at a Republican Presidential candidate summit in Columbia, South Carolina, cancelled appearing at this event with rivals Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain plus other events later events later this week.)

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