Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Years From Mack the Cat

Mackie is an old guy who will celebrate the New Year in his own style. He will open his eyes precisely at midnight, yawn, stretch his legs for five seconds and turn on his other side before greeting the new year with another cat nap.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Rare Earth Metals in China: A Case of Corruption Leading to Pollution

Lately, the government of China has been talking about honoring Chinese tradition. It's fine when societies, including our own, honor the best parts of our traditions but actual practices don't always match our publicly declared policies. China, in any case, is a bundle of contradictions. One could easily argue that the red octopus above represents the strange fusion of red communism and acquisitive capitalism that today is indicative of China. (Come to think of it, I ought to use the octopus later to represent Republican members of Congress and Washington lobbyists who wish to snarl up and otherwise obstruct useful legislation in Washington. It's a great image!)

For some time, China has been talking about cleaning up its pollution but not much happens. It is a sad fact that sooner or later China is going to have its Love Canal. But multiply that times ten given the pollution problems China already has.

I recently did a post on rare earth mining in California's Mountain Pass Mine in the Mojave desert. Even during its worst days, Mountain Pass seems to have been handled better than the Chinese mine discussed in the following New York Times article:
Here in Guyun Village, a small community in southeastern China fringed by lush bamboo groves and banana trees, the environmental damage can be seen in the red-brown scars of barren clay that run down narrow valleys and the dead lands below, where emerald rice fields once grew.

Miners scrape off the topsoil and shovel golden-flecked clay into dirt pits, using acids to extract the rare earths. The acids ultimately wash into streams and rivers, destroying rice paddies and fish farms and tainting water supplies.

Lovely. So much for 5,000 years of sustainable agriculture.

I don't want to minimize the environmental damage that has been done by the United States in the last 200 years but the worst stories that have come out of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe make the United States look rather green by comparison. There are growing concerns that China is repeating some of the worst damage done during the Cold War. The problem is that the dynamics are far too similar: despite China's commitment to capitalism and the loosening of strict authoritarian control, the government is over-centralized, overly authoritarian, and overly paranoid about a free press. On top of that, there is far too much corruption in government as well as in business.

President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabo seem bent on curbing corruption but they have the same problem the emperors had from the beginning: the inability of the central government to control events in distant provinces as well as in large cities such as Shanghai. Premier Wen has apparently found it useless to announce personal appearances around the country since that only leads to Potemkin moments as local officials try to put on a good but fraudelent show. Now Wen arrives unannounced and is not pleased with what he finds. And as noted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, not nearly enough is done to enforce laws against corruption:
Though the Chinese government has more than 1,200 laws, rules, and directives against corruption, implementation is spotty and ineffective. The odds of a corrupt official going to jail are less than three percent, making corruption a high-return, low-risk activity. Even low-level officials have the opportunity to amass an illicit fortune of tens of millions of yuan.

Still, despite problems, we need to be careful not to underestimate what the top Chinese leadership can do. There are indications that the global warming deal in Copenhagen wasn't as bad as some on America's far right and far left have claimed. Having any kind of deal that involves China and the United States is better than anything we've had in the last nine years. But no one should kid themselves. Not China. And not the United States. In a real sense, a number of American corporations have been sending their pollution to China for almost thirty years. Further, it's been apparent that many U.S. corporations don't have the kind of quality control that all of us took for granted back in the 1970s—instead too much money seems to go to public relations and Washington lobbyists. In the meantime, a lot of crap is put on the American market by American companies that shouldn't be sold.

A real climate change agreement will only be possible as the U.S. and China build up mutual trust and respect. Eventually mutual inspections will be needed and those inspections will have to extend beyond just the U.S. and China. I know, these things will be difficult but they are necessary and not impossible. And they will take time.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Rise and Fall of the Age of Oil: Opportunity or Endgame?

A couple of years ago I read a book on the rise and fall of several periods of Chinese history. Some emperor would fight a few wars, unite a few more provinces than the last emperor, and his heirs would thrive for a few generations.

But the collapse of a dynasty often followed a similar pattern. As the population grew during the good times, the amount of tilled acreage per family dropped while taxes kept rising since the wealthy demanded more and more to keep up appearances. Sooner or later, corruption grew, more demands were placed on peasants and the emperor found himself unable to control events as easily as before.

Of course discontent would grow, generals or talented peasants would take advantage of the discontent and rebellions would flourish, forcing the emperor to impose harsh crackdowns. Meanwhile, people on the borders would notice the lack of troops in the usual places and would encroach on Chinese territory. And the encroachments would give an emperor an opportunity to use foreigners as a distraction while perhaps gaining some more territory and more taxes with it.

But eventually the emperor's army would find itself overextended with rebellions and external enemies. Throw in a famine or an epidemic along with a war that doesn't go well and collapse would soon follow. China of course never fully collapsed during these troubled periods but they sometimes could lose as much as 10-50% of their population. Suddenly, after all the troubles, there would be more acreage per family available and the period of rise would begin anew.

Such rises and falls of course are not unique to the Chinese. But about four to five hundred years ago the pattern began to change, particularly in Europe and later in the United States. First the British and Europeans found coal and better ways to burn it and use it. And Americans discovered an entire continent of virgin forests that provided firewood for over two hundred years. In the middle of the 19th century, American industry exploded with the growing use of coal and the discovery of oil.

Oil meant energy. Oil meant every acre of a 160 acre farm could be used for food and profit. Acreage for horses was no longer necessary. Oil also meant kerosene and light for longer days. It eventually meant fuel for farm tractors, industries, electrical power plants and so on.

In his book, Feeding the Fire, Mark E. Eberhart covers some of the history of coal and oil and reminds us that the British, Europeans and the United States might have had a very different history if coal and oil had not been available in such abundance for the last three hundred years. The subtitle of Eberhart's book is: The Lost History & Uncertain Future of Mankind's Energy Addiction. Offhand, it sounds like the kind of book others have written on Peak Oil, climate change, environmental concerns, the need for abundant alternative energy and so on in the early 21st century. There is some of that in Eberhart's book but he sounds more like someone in the corporate world who's reluctantly and gently sounding the alarm and providing deep background. Actually, despite some reservations I have about the book, I found Eberhart's approach refreshing since he provides a host of material I have not seen before. I don't agree with some things he says but I have learned a lot. On page 183, he writes:

Crude oil is a mixture of hydrocarbon molecules. You might think of these as strands of hairy pearls, where the pearls are carbon atoms and their hair is made of hydrogen atoms. Each pearl in the strand has two hairs, except the ones on the end, which have three. This molecular jewelry comes in different lengths, from a strand with one carbon pearl, which is methane, to strands with thirty or more carbon atoms. The number of carbon atoms controls the properties of the molecule. For example, if the strand has fewer than five carbon atoms, the molecule is a gas at room temperature; five to eighteen, a liquid; and nineteen or more a solid. The most volatile components of crude are called naphthas, which are used as solvents and dry-cleaning fluids and are characterized by strands of five to seven carbon atoms. Gasoline is the component of crude with strings of 7 to 11 [carbon] atoms in length. Kerosene is the portion containing strands of 12 to 15; diesel, 15 to 17; and lubricating oils are made of hydrocarbon chains of more than 17 carbon atoms. The 20-atom-plus range is where paraffin, tar and asphalt are found.

Eberhart explains that one of the things that so quickly made oil so efficient to use is that the heavier oils can be 'cracked' by baking heavy crude at high temperature under high pressure (not unlike how the shorter carbon chains are created in hot pressures found deep underground. Of course light sweet crude doesn't require as much treatment (or 'cracking') as sour heavy crude. So part of today's energy picture requires that people understand that throughout the world, the volume of heavy crude going through the refinery process (requiring additional processes, time and equipment not necessary for light sweet crude) is growing.

What I want to emphasize is that these processes are energy intensive and expensive. Expensive in terms of cost and expensive in terms of lower net energy. Sour heavy crude, however, is still preferable in many ways to coal. And the production of coal is rising dramatically, particularly if we take China into account. Regardless of what one thinks about climate change, pollution, peak oil or the environment, we have already entered a different age and it's already a harsher reality, largely because the United States for the last thirty years has failed to act. There is still time but we can no longer afford illusions.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

More on Coal

I've been reading more about coal since my post on pollution and the illusions of clean coal. Because 50% of our electricity is generated by coal, it's simply not going to disappear overnight. But the U.S. government needs to get real, not ten or twenty years from now, but in the coming months.

Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute has a few observations that need to be taken into consideration as the United States and the world plan an energy future:
America's coal resources are indeed vast—none of the studies claims otherwise. However, during the past century, coal reserves (the portion of total coal resources that can be mined profitably with existing technologies) shrank much faster than could be accounted for by the depletion of those resources through mining. That is because geologists are doing a better job now of taking into account "restrictions" that make most coal impractical to mine—factors having to do with location, depth, seam thickness, and coal quality. In recent years, some nations have reduced their booked coal reserves by 90 percent or more on the basis of new, more realistic surveys.


We also know how to store carbon: the petroleum services industry routinely injects CO2 into old oil wells to make it easier to extract the remaining crude. But the quantities of carbon dioxide sequestered this way are trivial when compared with the amounts spewed from coal-burning power plants annually. Gathering and storing two or three billion tons of carbon each year from hundreds of geographically scattered coal power plants will require the construction of an enormous system of pipelines, compressors, and pumps.


According to the most recent estimate (from Harvard University's Belfer Center (5), at least 30 percent of the energy produced by burning coal will be needed to run the system for capturing, compressing, pumping, and burying CO2. Therefore any efficiency benefit from gasifying coal at IGCC power plants would be canceled out.


How high could coal-based electricity prices go? During the period from 2006 to 2008, prices for some grades of US coal doubled. This year the economic crisis has lowered demand for electricity and thus for coal, and so prices have softened. However, recent experience shows that, even in the absence of serious shortages, coal prices are increasingly subject to dramatic swings.

All energy experts, including Heinberg, talk about low hanging fruit as a useful metaphor. Energy that is the cheapest to pick off the tree is the energy that gets used. In the year 2009, the key is not that we have run out of conventional energy but that we are running out of the low hanging inexpensive fruit that we have grown accustomed to picking for over a hundred years. Even without considering global warming or pollution, coal, along with oil, will only get more expensive. Meanwhile, the cost of wind and solar is getting cheaper and the bang per buck is climbing. The sooner we move toward solar and wind, the faster technological advances will be made and the faster we will move to a far more sensible future.

Even more than oil, coal is the critical issue. More than eighty years ago, the industrial world made the transition from the age of coal to the age of oil. There was a reason: oil was cheap, easier to use, easier to transport and had the advantage of polluting less than coal. Look around. We are blundering back into the coal age. A lot of wealthy, well-connected people think that's grand because of the profits they'll make and because they don't have to live near the coal plants.

One of the ironies of windpower and solar power is that anyone can buy a wind turbine (there are models you can mount on a roof) and anyone can buy a solar panel (Lowe's hardware is bringing out a do-it-yourself solar panel kit—okay, you still need to know what you're doing and there may be some paperwork). Why some Republicans, who pride themselves on their self-reliance and individualism, want to support big impersonal power companies is beyond me. I know, I know, we'll still have big power plants for years to come but relying exclusively on big power plants is a paradigm that is becoming less and less tenable. Like millions of Americans, I don't like it when my power goes out because some speculator is playing games with a power company hundreds of miles away. We need a paradigm that's more reliable, redundant and dispersed.

If we are to change, here's a simple fact: we have hundreds of coal powered plants throughout the country. These plants have a lifetime of 20 to 50 years. Taking these facts into mind, every time a coal plant reaches the end of its life cycle, a conventional coal plant should not be built to replace it. For every two coal power plants that go offline, only one at the same rating should be allowed to be replaced and only by a coal gasification plant or similar technology with carbon capture and storage.

During the coming transitional era, a power plant using natural gas should be built whenever it's difficult to get windpower or solar power to replace the second offline coal power plant. But those gas power plants will also need carbon capture and storage. Because the age of electric cars and plug-ins is coming, probably faster than most people realize, we're going to need more power plants. All the new ones that aren't simply replacing old power plants should be based on alternative energy.

Al Gore, who some people love to vilify largely because they don't handle change very well, suggests that it may be time for a carbon tax. I'm all for it. Eleanor Clift in her Newsweek column notes a poll that suggests people favor a carbon tax over cap and trade by a margin of two to one. Why? Remember those speculators I mentioned above? They're pretty much the same Wall Street characters that Clift mentions.

I suspect the smart thing to do, particularly given the current economic climate, is to institute a carbon tax on the low side and slowly work it up over the next ten to twenty years. Everyone building a new power plant is going to see the future cost of carbon and they'll find that economics will favor other power solutions. In the meantime the government is going to have to do a better job of subsidizing wind and solar projects until the technology and infrastructure is up to speed. Sure, that means borrowing but it'll pay for itself just like a smart business investment pays for itself.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

A Whodunit at Port San Luis

About 18 months ago my wife and I took a trip down to Pismo Beach along the Central Coast of California. A short distance away to the north is Port San Luis, a small harbor with a working pier. A good pier is irresistible and my wife and I kept trading the camera back and forth. I can't tell you which one of us took the picture above or even which ones of those we took later. In any case, as anyone can see, some guys were moored at a working dock conveniently located just beyond the side of the pier.

Last month we returned to find some changes. It's a beautiful area and it's rather cool to see that wildlife is thriving these days. In the picture below you can see some pelicans being followed around by sea gulls and on the right you can see the pier we were heading for. Between the small boat by the pier and the large boats in the distance you can see the working dock, sort of.

Now the next photo just gives an idea of what the area looks like. My wife and I are on the pier looking toward the large boat shown above on the far left side (it's the bait boat and there's a tank next to it). Everything in the picture below, including the bait boat, looks normal. Now the working dock is on the right and out of view. We'll get to that in a second.

Okay, like I said, wildlife has been doing well in the area. Pelicans are recovering from the DDT fiasco of four decades ago. Sea lions are no longer being hunted into extinction. The sea lions are doing so well in fact that people have to be careful. All those blobs stretching out on the working dock in the picture below are sea lions. Obviously, the working dock has been rendered temporarily unavailable.

Now here's a closeup of the sea lions and a sign that gives an indication of what the problem is:

P.S. You can click on the pictures to get a bigger view.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

How Many Pollutants Come From Coal?

There's been so much talk about clean coal in the last year or two that I can only shake my head. There's no such thing, not even close. One could argue that there's such a thing as slightly cleaner coal but that's it.

I find it curious that Republicans use clean coal jargon quite often, but a website for the coal industry doesn't seem to use the phrase as much. What the World Coal Institute talks about is carbon capture and storage. Worldwide, despite all the hype, there appear to be only seven operational sites in the entire world with none in the U.S. (when you go to the site, click on the 'show operational projects' bar). There are several test sites in the U.S. and a number of projects that are planned but the numbers are still low, though the graph maker doesn't miss a trick to make it look like more.

Given that coal is used to generate about half the electricity in the U.S., how many sites are actually going to have carbon capture and storage? And how many of these sites are actually going to work?

Years ago my father was in chemical packaging and some of the finished products were sent to underground storage tanks that were installed in the 1950s. Those tanks were standard for the era and were supposed to last a hundred years. They lasted about 25-35 years before they began leaking into the soil. So who will be around a hundred years from now to make sure the captured carbon dioxide isn't escaping? It's far better to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the first place than to bank on permanent storage.

In a way, with all the focus on carbon dioxide, global warming is helping to create a myth about coal. Take a look at the following paragaph from the World Coal Institute:
The deployment of all energy generating technologies invariably leads to some degree of environmental impact.


The use of coal for power generation is not exempt from these impacts and has been associated with a number of environmental challenges, primarily associated with air emissions. Coal has demonstrated the ability to meet such challenges in the past and the expectation is that it will successfully meet future environmental challenges.

Isn't that wonderful? Actually, I've read worse propaganda. Good propaganda admits there's a little bit of a problem but, gee whiz, coal producers are just folks like you and me and they're doing their best.

And yes, I'm perfectly aware of the people who earn a living from coal. In fact, the coal problem is so huge it's not controversial to say coal will continue to be used for many years to come and most people will remain employed for all those years. But there are other jobs and other ways to make money that don't cause the damage that coal does.

Coal is the dirtiest fuel there is, period. "Some degree" of impact doesn't cut it in terms of the history of coal and the damage it does and the enormous damage it will continue to do if we do not develop clear plans to switch to alternative energy.

Let me quote another section from the Institute:
Mined coal is of variable quality and is frequently associated with mineral and chemical material including clay, sand, sulphur and trace elements. Coal cleaning by washing and beneficiation removes this associated material, prepares the coal to customer specifications and is an important step in reducing emissions from coal use.

Coal cleaning reduces the ash content of coal by over 50% resulting in less waste, lower sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions and improved thermal efficiencies, leading to lower CO2 emissions. While coal preparation is standard practice in many countries, greater uptake in developing countries is needed as a low-cost way to improve the environmental performance of coal.

Yes, developing countries should do a better job of using coal (or perhaps not using it if they can find better alternative energy sources), but those same countries use only a fraction of what the U.S. and China use. But let's focus on the sleight of hand encompassing 'coal cleaning'. What is used to clean the coal? Water. Where does that water go? Into our rivers, water tables and oceans. The pollution involved is not small.

Where I come from, trained physicians who are concerned about the impact of pollution have far more credibility than politicians in Washington, Beijing and Copenhagen who take money from Big Coal and Big Oil. Physicians for Social Responsibility is one group of doctors who have made an issue of coal. They have published a medical report, "Coal's Assault on Human Health." They point out that coal impacts health from mining to transporting it to power plants to the actual process of burning to the disposal of the ash. Not pretty. If you go to their site, you can download the full report report (pdf file). Here's a section from Chapter 2: Life Cycle of Coal:
It is dring the combustion phase of coal's lifecycle that our dependence on coal energy exacts the greatest toll on human health. Coal combustion releases over 70 harmful chemicals into the environment and contributes significantly to global warming (see Table 2.2). This section describes the pollutants emitted by coal combustion.

Coal combustion creates both solid and gaseous byproducts. Gas byproducts are emitted into the atmosphere through smokestacks. Some solids go into the atmosphere as well. Other solids are left behind at the plant as solid waste, also called coal ash. Some of the pollutants entering the air stay in the atmosphere for long periods; others fall to the earth and in turn pollute soil and water bodies. Some substances are not directly harmful but undergo chemical reactions in the atmosphere that create harmful secondary pollutants.


Notwithstanding local differences in pollutant composition, coal combustion causes pollution nationwide. Though coal supplies roughly 50% of the nation's electricity, it produces a disproportionate share of electric utility-related pollution. Coal plants emit approimately 87% of total utility-related nitrogen oxide pollution, 94% of utility-related nitrogen oxide pollution, and 98% of all utility-related mercury pollution. ... Coal combustion is also responsible for more than 30% of total U.S. carbon dioxide pollution, contributing significantly to global warming.

Uh, what was that again about "...all energy generating technologies invariably leads to some degree of environmental impact"? Coal clearly has far more impact than any other energy producing sector. It's dirty. And always will be. Even without considering global warming, burning coal for our electricity is dirty. Add in global warming and we should be closing down coal plants as alternative energy begins to grow. Not only do we need to get the government to help grow alternative energy faster than our population growth, we need to switch to natural gas as a transition fuel since it burns far cleaner than coal.

Some years ago I was shocked when I learned how much coal is being burned in the United States. An unnoticed irony over the last sixty years is that the use of coal was actually dropping during the 1950s despite the early years of the baby boom and our rising population. There was also a lot of talk in those days about new sources of energy. The United States—and China—need to start walking the talk.

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Sunday, December 06, 2009

China Needs More Ambitious Alternative Energy Policy

For all their flaws, the Chinese are now one of the big global players. And yet, allthough they're the third largest economy in the world, they still think of themselves as a third world country—at least when its convenient. Although their earnings per capita are still on the low side, they're burning coal and oil like a modern industrialized country. I'm surprised, therefore, that their energy policy is not more ambitious in terms of lowering emissions and turning more to alternative energy. I've written posts about some of the good things they're doing in the alternative energy field but it's apparent that it's still not nearly enough, at least if I'm reading some statements on their energy policies right. Here's the story from the China Daily:
Han Wenke, director-general of the Energy Research Institute under the National Development and Reform Commission, said: "By 2050, over one third of the country's total primary energy consumption should come from renewable energy. This is in line with the country's goal of fundamentally changing its energy consumption structure. This will contribute a great deal to environmental protection and help combat climate change."


By 2020, the country, through vigorously developing its renewable energy resources, should be able to supply the renewable energy equivalent of more than 600 million tons of standard coal to fuel its robust economic growth. This renewable energy should account for about 15 percent of the country's total primary energy consumption.

Keeping in mind that much of what counts for renewable energy in China is hydroelectric power, 15% renewable by 2020 isn't nearly ambitious enough and taking 30 years to go from 15% to 33% is pathetic. Of course China is growing fast, perhaps too fast to think things through for the future. It can't continue to burn coal at the rate it does and expect to be taken seriously when it talks about limiting global warming emissions.

If a Reuters article is to be believed, the Chinese seem to be claiming that they may be installing too much windpower at the moment:
Wind power generating capacity has surged so fast that policy planners now warn of severe overcapacity in the sector, and dam after dam piled on Chinese rivers distorts water flow, endangers fish and poses a potential earthquake hazard.

First, if windpower is generating too much electricity, they can shut down some power generation from coal (the coal will still be there for the future). But more important, they are going to need more electrical capacity as the world's automotive fleet increasingly converts to hybrids and electric cars. Of course part of the problem with windpower is that it needs some backup system for when wind levels are low. Perhaps during periods of high wind the Chinese can use windpower to pull hydrogen from water and use hydrogen-powered fuel cells to even out the energy use. They could also, for that matter, use windpower to desalinate water for their vast deserts.

While I'm at it, here's a story from Canada the Chinese should give some thought to:
The natural gas industry — long the bedrock of Alberta’s economy — faces major threats amid a fundamental shift south of the border.

Massive stores of shale gas, once beyond the reach of engineers, are now being successfully squeezed out from under Texas and other U.S. states.

Now Medicine Hat, the unofficial heart of Alberta’s natural gas industry for more than a century, is being battered by this shale storm, along with dozens of other Alberta communities.

With all the money the Chinese have these days they should help build a natural gas pipeline from Alberta to Canada's west coast and ship natural gas to China. That way they can use less of their coal and emit far less greenhouse gases since natural gas is much cleaner than coal and emits about half the amount of carbon dioxide.

Wait a minute! There are already natural gas pipelines from Canada to the U.S. Why aren't we using that natural gas to close down some coal plants ourselves? Make sense to me.

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

More on Journalism and Blogging: Murdoch and Huffington

Arianna Huffington had an excellent post the other day discussing the Internet and its relationship to a revolution in news. I'll get to that in a moment.

One of the reasons many of us took to the Internet beginning with the 2000 election was the failure of the big newspapers and networks to keep up with the news and actually report it.

Of course it continues even today. Chris Matthews after Obama's speech showed clearly that he misunderstood Obama when the President said, "...we are not as young—and perhaps not as innocent—as we were when Roosevelt...." Matthews during his 'analysis' exploded that he personally didn't feel guilty about anything. Uh, poor Chris didn't seem to get that Obama was not talking about innocence and guilt, he was talking about the greater naivete, inexperience and idealism we as a nation once had.

Now I would rather have Chris Matthews around than not—not even counting Fox News, there are worse journalists out there—but a lot of us need more perspective, more voices and at times we need to locate the reporter in the room who actually has the facts rather than an opinion (Chris Matthews also blundered by calling West Point the enemy camp. It was such a stupid comment that he's apologized).

But besides inadequate analysis, there's also a sea of noise out there. Steve Vockrodt of True/Slant has a great headline that doesn't require reading much further: "WHICH WINS WEDSNESDAY NEWS BATTLE: TIGER WOODS ADMISSION OR OBAMA AFGHANISTAN POLICY?"

The other ridiculous news story of the week, which has received far more news than it's worth, is the story of the publicity seeking White House gate crashers. There are, unfortunately, news sites who want me to pay for reading such silliness.

Look at these headlines for December 3 2009 that I found on the Internet:

"Somalia Graduation Day Suicide Attack"

"Putin Drops Hint About Run for Russian Presidency"

"Gates: Afghanistan Surge Could Require More Than 30,000 Troops"

"Blast Hits Iranian Pilgrims' Bus in Syria"

"Rabbi Urges More Tolerance for Muslims in Europe"

"US Envoy to Visit Pyongyang on Asia-Russia Tour"

"Bhopal: 25 Years of Poison"

There are more headlines out there but how many of just these stories will appear in local newspapers or on the late news? Not many. In fact my local paper has gotten so thin that my wife and I decided to subscribe to The New York Times three days a week. Keep that in mind when Arianna Huffington is talking about Rupert Murdoch's parochial thinking about the Internet. Here's an excerpt from Arianna's post but it's worth reading the whole thing:
In his speech this morning, Rupert Murdoch confused aggregation with wholesale misappropriation. Wholesale misappropriation is against the law -- and he has legal redress against that already. Aggregation, on the other hand, within the fair use exceptions to copyright law is part of the web's DNA. Period.

At HuffPost, aggregation goes along with a tremendous amount of original content including original reporting and over 250 original blog posts a day. And we love it when someone links to one of our posts, or excerpts a small amount and links back to us.

Most sites understand the value of this and the way the link economy operates. It's why HuffPost gets hundreds of requests from news outlets asking us to feature their material and link back to their site. They understand that the web is not a zero-sum game and that consumers love the freedom to be able to follow where their interests -- and the offshoots of a story -- take them.

I suspect Rupert Murdoch is more motivated by wealth and power than he is by good journalism. Yes, he's a conservative but there are conservative news outlets out there that don't pursue nonsense with such glee. I once saw Rupert Murdoch in New York surrounded by his sycophants trying to get his ear. It was apparent he was thriving on the arrangement. He's partially responsible for the tabloid journalism we've seen for some years now and it's good the Internet provides a way to push back while also getting informed.

I'll add one last point: I find it exhausting to read everything that's on The Huffington Post. That's okay because I don't have to. I take a quick look at it in the morning—that's how I found today's post—and move on to my other favorites. If I missed something hot, somebody somewhere will have a post on some must-see offering on HuffPost. That's the new paradigm.