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August 13 2012

17:04

What To Expect When You’re Electing: Representative Paul Ryan

With the selection of Wisconsin Republican Representative Paul Ryan has his running mate, Mitt Romney has effectively pushed his campaign into the climate change denying fringe. While Romney hasn’t been considered a friend of the environment since he began running for national office, his tendency towards flip-flopping made some of his more extreme, anti-environment positions rather toothless. But Paul Ryan is someone that isn’t just all talk, and what he’s saying will be a disaster for our environment.

While Ryan isn’t necessarily a complete climate science denier, he is certainly classified as a “skeptic,” and oftentimes has used anecdotal evidence to say that we’re making too much of a fuss over something that may or may not be happening.

Let’s start by following the money on Rep. Paul Ryan. Since 1989, he has received $65,500 from Koch Industries, making them his sixth largest campaign donor. In total, he has pulled in a little over $244,000 from the oil and gas industries.

Those finances are clearly represented in his voting history in Congress. Here are a few of Ryan’s most anti-environment, pro-industry votes since being elected:

2000 – Voted against implementing Kyoto Protocol
2001 – Voted against raising fuel economy standards
2001 – Voted against barring oil drilling in ANWR
2003 – Voted to speed up “forest thinning” projects
2005 – Voted to deauthorize “critical habitats” for endangered species
2005 – Voted to speed up oil refinery permitting
2008 – Voted against environmental education grants
2008 – Voted against tax incentives for renewable energy
2008 – Voted against tax incentives for energy conservation
2009 – Voted against enforcing CO2 limits for air pollution
2011 – Voted NO on allowing EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions
2011 – Voted YES to opening up the Outer Continental Shelf for oil drilling
2011 – Voted to eliminate climate advisors for the president
2011 – Voted in favor of allowing Keystone XL Pipeline


Ryan’s proposals and voting history are clearly being dictated by the Koch brothers, and the money that their companies continue to throw behind Ryan’s campaigns. But his actions in Congress are almost docile when compared to his activities outside of Washington, D.C.

From Think Progress:
  

In a December 2009 op-ed during international climate talks, Ryan made reference to the hacked University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit emails. He accused climatologists of a “perversion of the scientific method, where data were manipulated to support a predetermined conclusion,” in order to “intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change.” Because of spurious claims of conspiracy like these, several governmental and academic inquiries were launched, all of which found the accusations to be without merit. [Paul Ryan, 12/11/09]

In the same anti-science, anti-scientist December 2009 op-ed, Ryan argued, “Unilateral economic restraint in the name of fighting global warming has been a tough sell in our communities, where much of the state is buried under snow.” Ryan’s line is especially disingenuous because he hasn’t been trying to sell climate action, he’s been spreading disinformation. [Paul Ryan, 12/11/09]
 

But the story of Paul Ryan goes much, much deeper than this. It turns out that Ryan is a huge fracking supporter, and isn’t just to benefit his benefactors. Ryan actually has a financial stake in companies that are currently pillaging the state of Wisconsin. From Badger Democracy:
  

Ryan’s 2011 SEI shows his most significant interests are in four companies, all owned by his father-in-law, Dan Little (according to Oklahoma Secretary of State corporate registration). Little is a prominent oil industry attorney (who refused comment to Badger Democracy). The total value of these interests are $350K – $800K, with annual profit of $40K – $130K:

Ava O Limited Mining Co (8% interest) – valued at $100K – $250K; paying out $15K – $50K in profit.

Blondie & Brownie, LLC (10% interest) – valued at $100K – $250K; paying out $5K – $15K in profit.

Little Land Co., LLC – valued at $50K – $100K; paying out $5K – $15K in profit.

Red River Pine Timber (7% interest) – valued at $50K – $100K; no reported profit or interest.

Also owned by Ryan are Mineral Rights in Oklahoma valued at $50K – $100K; and returning $15K – 50K in profit last year.

An examination of Ryan’s 2000 SEI and 2007 SEI show a large increase in the value of these investments. This increase corresponds directly with Ryan’s growing power over the Federal Budget process.
 

No matter how you look at it, Paul Ryan is an environmental disaster. His personal and professional wealth both hinge upon investments in the dirty energy industry, and his track record as a U.S. Representative shows how this will affect his policy decisions.

August 10 2012

17:27

Republican Ohio Governor Kasich's Trillion Dollar Shale Gas Lie

About the only positive thing you can say about industry-funded astroturf groups is that they at least base their misinformation campaigns on phony “studies” and “reports.” Their lies are based on SOMETHING.

The same cannot be said of Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich, who has come up with a whopper based on absolutely nothing. Kasich recently told the press that his state of Ohio is sitting on top of $1 trillion worth of natural gas that’s just ripe for fracking.

Obviously, this would be quite an economic boom for not just Ohio, but the entire United States. The only problem is that, again, Kasich isn’t basing his estimate on any studies, reports, documents, surveys, or anything even remotely credible. It appears that Kasich is telling reporters that this trillion dollar bonanza number is what he overheard from members of the natural gas industry.


CityBeat explains the story:
  

Arthur Berman, a Texas-based petroleum geologist and independent energy consultant, says there is no way to verify Kasich’s number.

“No one knows what the reserve number is,” he says. “It takes longer before we know.”

Berman says a true analysis would take at least 18 months and, more realistically, eight to 10 years. This is because geologists need to wait until they “have enough months of production to see a trend,” Berman says.

Even when enough time has passed and geologists get a real estimate, Berman says there will still be a lot of uncertainty about how much of the oil and gas can actually be obtained. He says that although there might be a lot of oil and gas, it could be inaccessible due to technological and practical constraints. After all, if oil and gas reserves are found beneath a city, it’s unlikely operators will actually try to drill there.

Another question for Berman is whether Kasich expects the $1 trillion to come over time or immediately. With the way Kasich has been presenting the number to the media, Berman is worried Ohioans might be getting the impression that the $1 trillion would come as an “immediate windfall.” The reality, Berman says, is that “it takes a long time to produce natural gas and oil.” That means even if Kasich’s number was somehow right, it would take years — Berman estimates longer than Kasich’s gubernatorial terms — to see that $1 trillion.

Kasich claims he heard the number from an unnamed CEO at an energy company. That brings up some concerns for Berman. In his experience, oil and gas operators tend to overestimate production potential by about double, relative to Berman’s own data. Berman says they could be overestimating because it makes the venture seem more profitable to investors.

To truly understand how much oil and gas is underground, Berman would like to see an independent, objective opinion. More importantly, he hopes that Kasich would demand a higher standard of analysis before promoting any policy.

“I hope the governor would make decisions based on more than a lunch conversation,” Berman says.
 

Berman is absolutely correct – the head of a state needs a little bit more information than can be gathered through eavesdropping in order to come up with policies for his state.

So why the trillion dollar lie? Kasich isn’t a member of the industry, and as a whole, Follow the Money tells us that Kasich received a meager $50 from the energy industry during his last campaign. But things aren’t always what they seem. The fracking industry has been much more generous to Kasich than the reports would have you believe.

A Truth-Out report from last year reveals that Kasich actually received more than $213,000 from the natural gas industry, more than any other Ohio politician in the last 10 years. The Truth-Out report also tells us that Kasich was the recipient of an additional $127,000 from Koch Industries.

Not only does this money explain Kasich’s trillion dollar lie, but it also helps us understand why he has opened up state parks and other protected lands for natural gas companies to frack.

In the era of Super PACs, political money flowing to candidates is going to become harder and harder to trace. But when you’re making the rounds on the media, telling lies worth one trillion dollars, honest and hard working investigative journalists like those at Truth-Out and elsewhere are going to do their homework and figure out the truth.

December 27 2011

19:08

The Year In Dirty Energy: The Koch Brothers

Over the last 12 months, DeSmogBlog contributors have helped spread the word about some of the most dastardly deeds of Charles and David Koch. Here are some of the biggest stories we covered this year on the issue of corruption and dirty energy money.

It is impossible to talk about dirty energy money and corruption without mentioning the Koch brothers. Before 2011, two of the wealthiest men in America were able to operate in almost complete secrecy while they spread misinformation about climate change and attempted to dismantle environmental protections:

The money in politics database Open Secrets, run by the Center for Responsive Politics, has a lengthy list of specific legislation that Koch Industries has lobbied for and against. On the "against" list, you’ll find legislation such as the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 – a bill that would have put Americans to work building a green energy infrastructure; the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act – again, a bill that would have created green energy jobs and infrastructure; and the Clean Air Protection Act – a bill that would limit the amount of acceptable emissions into our atmosphere.

The Koch brothers, through their PACs and other organizations, have funded numerous efforts to defeat legislation aimed at reducing pollution or protecting the environment. After all, their companies don't pay the real cost for the pollution they release.

And then there was their misinformation bus tour:

The Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is taking their misinformation machine on the road in an attempt to convince American consumers that President Obama is causing the spike in gasoline prices. AFP is claiming that the president is intentionally keeping gas prices high because he refuses to allow oil companies to drill for oil in protected areas of the United States.

AFP conveniently ignores the fact that gas prices were north of $4 a gallon during the Bush administration, when they peaked at $4.12, as pointed out by protesters who showed up at one of AFP’s early gas tour events in Nebraska. But in the alternate reality that AFP is creating to enable Koch’s further oil profits, it’s somehow all Obama’s fault.

The Koch brothers were also behind the efforts to dismantle the multi-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), by way of their astroturf organizations and ties to prominent politicians:

Governor Chris Christie pulled New Jersey out of RGGI, stripping the ten state agreement of one of its key cornerstone partners. Next door in New York, Americans for Prosperity, a group whose ties to the Koch brothers are well established, sued the state for its continued commitment to RGGI.

Americans for Prosperity celebrated Christie’s decision, even taking direct credit for it in a public press release: Americans for Prosperity Declares Victory over RGGI Cap & Trade!

And you can’t forget about now-disgraced GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain sucking up to the Koch brothers this year:

At the Koch-funded Americans For Prosperity event today, Republican presidential contender Herman Cain told it like it is. “I am the Koch brothers’ brother from another mother.” He added, “And proud of it.”

The Koch brothers were hoping that Herman Cain would be their mouthpiece in the 2012 election. But even with Cain now out of the race, they still have a backup plan: teaching their employees how to vote for environment-destroying candidates:

The Nation magazine has revealed that Koch Industries sent a letter to most of its 50,000 employees before the U.S. midterm elections in November 2010 advising them on whom to vote for. In “Big Brothers: Thought Control at Koch,” Mark Ames and Mike Elk expose the urgent “election packet” [PDF] sent to tens of thousands of Koch employees complete with ample libertarian reading materials instructions and a list of eligible vote-worthy (conservative) candidates.

As if this isn’t disturbing enough, the letter warns employees them of the dire consequences to their families, their jobs and their country should they choose to vote otherwise.

Most of this information could have remained a secret from the public, had it not been for the hard work of organizations like The Center for Public Integrity and Greenpeace:

The Center for Public Integrity has an in-depth look at Koch Industries’ “Web of Influence” in Washington, revealing the immense growth in Koch’s spending on lobbyists and influence peddling over the last few years. As the CPI investigation notes, the Kochtopus’s lobbying army has its tentacles wrapped around all kinds of issues, not just its core oil business, but its wide-ranging stakes in everything from Canadian tar sands to ethanol to toxic chemicals to financial regulation (or preserving the lack thereof).

The CPI report lifts the veil on a few individual Koch lobbyists, notably Gregory Zerzan, a name that nobody outside Washington would recognize, yet who has had tremendous impact on the Hill as a Koch toady.

Greenpeace took to the air to raise awareness about the Koch’s deeds:

A Greenpeace airship flew over the secretive Rancho Mirage polluter strategy meeting hosted by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries. Wealthy elite interests and oil tycoons arriving at the posh resort to plot their anti-democracy agenda were greeted with the aerial message “Koch Brothers: Dirty Money.”

Greenpeace also released information collected from tax records confirming that the Koch Family Foundations continue to fund climate denial organizations. The most recent records available document that the Kochtopus dished out $6.4 million in 2009 to front groups and think tanks that spread inaccurate and misleading information about climate science and clean energy policies. That brings the Kochtopus’s confirmed Dirty Money total to $54.9 million since 1997, with the majority, $31.3 million, spent since 2005.

Greenpeace also helped spread the word about the Koch’s dealings with Iran:

Greenpeace USA has called for a full Congressional investigation of Koch Industries and the illegal practices detailed in the Bloomberg Markets Magazine piece, "Koch Brothers Flout Law Getting Richer With Secret Iran Sales."

The Bloomberg coverage reveals multiple allegations of Koch Industries bribing government officials around the world and doing business with Iran. In a Huffington Post blog announcing the call for Congress to investigate Koch, Greenpeace USA Executive Director Phil Radford writes, "this new [Bloomberg] investigation reveals a blatant disregard for our laws, so today Greenpeace has called for a full Congressional investigation of Koch Industries and the illegal practices detailed in the Bloomberg report."

Greenpeace has extensively documented the Koch brothers' key role in backing the climate denial machine and other nefarious Koch Industries behavior. Now the Bloomberg revelations raise the heat even further on the $50-billionaire-brothers David and Charles Koch.

There’s no question that the Kochs will put their money to work during next year's presidential election. At least now, with their operations exposed, you can rest assured that their every move will be detailed by the independent media.

June 01 2011

15:10

Smog Hinders Hong Kong's Hiring Efforts

In a survey, three of four companies said that the city's air quality was making it harder for them to attract and retain employees from abroad.

April 04 2010

09:00

Unintended consequences illustrated: the Volcker Rule

Environmental and Urban Economics: Banking Reform and the Catch-22.

I will actively quote any reference to Catch-22, one of my favourite books. But this one, by Matthew Kahn on the topic of banking regulation and the Volcker Rule, is a magnificent illustration of the Law of Unintended Consequences and of the limits of regulation:

Now suppose that Paul Volcker gets his wish and the big banks are broken up; here is the funny party. In the future when small banks experience a bank run (for whatever reason), this creates an arbitrage opportunity for a big bank to buy it and restore “confidence”. Note that NO TAXPAYER $ is used here. The big bank steps in and like a sheriff in a Western restores order. The problem is that in this case we need “big banks” or there will be “big banks” as medium sized banks buy distressed banks and get bigger and eventually they will cross the Volcker line. So, the irony here is that competition and big fish buying up distressed small banks offers a way to minimize taxpayer involvement with this strange sector but if the government has a rule on bank size then this free market adjustment mechanism may vanish.

Absolutely brilliant. It beggars the thought: if we can’t regulate something we created (banking) to absolute control and predictability, how are we supposed to regulate our interventions on something complex and difficult to understand, such as ecosystems?

Punchline: learn to live with uncertainty. Insurance value, anyone?


March 24 2010

10:03

What's a Green Investment Bank?

With today's UK Governmental budget expected to be all doom and gloom, one green diamond in the murk could be Mr Darling's well trailed Green Investment Bank. If you, like me, are wondering what such a bank might look like and operate, the Guardian has a useful compendium of opinions here. We shall have to wait and see what Mr Darling has in his red box...


February 17 2010

07:00

Tuesday Training

Yesterday I was on the trains again, this time down to York to train environmental champions for a public transport company. It was another beautiful early morning - this time misty where Monday was crystal clear, Durham Cathedral appeared lit golden behind the rising and evaporating trails of fog. The two sessions went well and the feedback good.

Since Monday, I've been mulling on an insight from Martin Blake of Royal Mail - what book value will high carbon buildings and infrastructure have in 5 or 10 years? Who will want to buy a 'dirty legacy'? This applies to today's client as well, although I'd thrown so much new stuff (ecological footprinting, carbon footprinting, climate change, sustainability, energy management etc) at the poor attendees that I thought this was one driver I would omit. As I write The Green Executive, I'm finding that sustainability is running deeper and deeper into the core of every organisation - everytime I think I've got it, there's another new angle. That's what I love about this job!

December 10 2009

10:27

Soros Hatches Climate Finance Scheme

George Soros, the American philanthropist and financier, offered a new way to fund the multi-billion dollar price tag for helping poor countries adapt to climate change at a U.N. climate meeting in Copenhagen Thursday.

December 07 2009

10:53

December 06 2009

11:32

U.N. Environment Chief Calls on China, U.S. to Raise Offers

Achim Steiner warned on Saturday that wealthy countries face a backlash from the developing world if they don't offer more at the climate summit in Copenhagen.
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