Sunday, June 19, 2022

Oops! U.S. oil and gas exports fuel domestic price rise

The U.S. oil and natural gas industry long fought for and in the last decade finally won release from federal restrictions that limited exports. The ostensible reason was that because of the so-called "shale revolution" in the country's oil and gas fields, the United States would have plenty of oil and gas to spare for export.

The real reason behind the push was that the oil and gas industry wanted what almost every other industry in American already had: The right to sell their products to the highest bidders no matter where they lived on the globe.

This made it almost certain that as U.S. prices rose to match world prices, U.S. consumers would feel the pain. And, since energy prices affect everyone who votes, they are always politically consequential.

So, it is unsurprising that with U.S. regular gasoline prices over $5 per gallon President Joe Biden lashed out at U.S. oil companies—which are having one of their best years ever—saying they need to increase production of refined oil products. The companies have responded that their refineries are running at close to maximum capacity and so there is not much they can do in the short run.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Gene editing: You can't edit behavior because...

Scientists thought they could make hamsters more cooperative by editing out a gene for a receptor that, when activated by a particular hormone hamsters produce, causes more aggression. Essentially, they made the hamsters immune to the aggression-promoting hormone expecting the hamsters to become more cooperative.

But just the opposite happened. Both male and female hamsters with the altered gene became more aggressive—much more aggressive.

There are several problems with the reductionist thinking that resulted in this experiment. First, behavior is exceedingly complex. We describe and define it using words which have multiple and ambiguous meanings. Those words need to be understood in a larger context. And, even when they are, those words still only point to meaning in our environment and inner experience. They are not the thing itself.

Sunday, June 05, 2022