Is Energy Independence a Myth?

CNN on the myth of energy independence, The New York Times on the new carbon milestone, The Washington Post on how the World Bank can mitigate climate change, Treehugger on how young people flock to public transportation, and Scientific American on the produce industry's safety strategy.

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CNN on the myth of energy independence Bryan Walsh interviews energy analyst Michael Levi about what "energy independence" means in the real world "Is energy independence anything more than just a slogan?" Walsh asks. Levi answers: "It is rarely more than a slogan. People use the phrase energy independence as shorthand for producing as much oil as you consume. That's reasonable, but you need to be careful not to read into that something much bigger, that we will actually be independent of events overseas." Levin continues: "We're not going to have a world where the Sierra Club and Exxon sing 'Kumbaya' together. But ultimately both sides can get more from an approach that capitalizes on developments across the board than in just trying to beat the other side down."

The New York Times on the new carbon milestone "The level of the most important heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, has passed a long-feared milestone, scientists reported on Friday, reaching a concentration not seen on the earth for millions of years," says Justin Gillis. The magic number? "Scientific monitors reported that the gas had reached an average daily level that surpassed 400 parts per million — just an odometer moment in one sense, but also a sobering reminder that decades of efforts to bring human-produced emissions under control are faltering. The best available evidence suggests the amount of the gas in the air has not been this high for at least three million years, before humans evolved, and scientists believe the rise portends large changes in the climate and the level of the sea."

The Washington Post on how the World Bank can mitigate climate change Howard Schneider offers several strategies for the World Bank, which distributes loans to the developing world in hopes of igniting development there, could respond to climat change, including support for hydroelectric plants. But the bank's president and vice president, Jim Yong Kim and Rachel Kyte, have recently focused on agriculture: "Kim and Kyte talk about farming and plant genomics as among their most promising areas of focus. Both say they are optimistic that technological breakthroughs could produce major benefits. No-till farming, for example, keeps carbon buried in the soil that would otherwise be churned into the atmosphere during planting. In addition, scientists are working on plant strains that fix more nitrogen into the soil, and have a larger root structure that keeps more carbon underground."

​Treehugger on how young people flock to public transportation "Once again, another survey shows that the 'drive 'till you qualify' approach to buying a home no longer appeals," writes Lloyd Alter, who reports on a recent Canadian survey of young people's preference for public transportation, which found public transit was the second most important factor in choosing where to live. Alter: "When I asked my wife about her opinions about why quiet streets and good neighbours were so much less important to younger, first-time buyers, she said 'that's because they're first-time buyers.' She has a point. But nobody can dispute that access to public transit and a short commute is a lot more important to first-time buyers, generally younger people, than it is to the national average. Interestingly, the bigger the city and the worse the commute, (look at Toronto and Vancouver numbers) the more important it is."

Scientific American on the produce industry's safety strategy Erin Brodwin considers the unintended consequences of a set of safety standards instituted by a cohort of California produce growers. "Clean greens are healthy greens. Or so thought a coalition of farmers, growers and processers in California when, in response to a deadly spinach outbreak of the bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli), they created a new set of bacteria-minimizing standards for growing and handling leafy greens," Brodwin begins. "Although the standards were designed to eliminate potential sources of contamination by mandating that crop sites be cleared of vegetation and kept a certain distance from wildlife and natural bodies of water, they have had some unintended consequences—namely, the destruction of habitats, the degradation of soil and the pollution of rivers and streams."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.