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August 25 2012

11:00

Keystone XL Pipeline To Take Center Stage At Republican National Convention

Over the next few days, Republican lawmakers, Party officials, delegates, and supporters will gather in Tampa, Florida for the Republican National Convention. During their weeklong convention, we can expect to hear a lot of debunked talking points, particularly about the need to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline.

For more than a year, Republican lawmakers in the U.S. have been pushing for approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline, while completely ignoring the environmental risks that would come along with the plan to pipe dangerous DilBit from the Alberta tar sands south to the Gulf Coast.

In addition to ignoring the risks, Republicans have vastly overstated the alleged “benefits” of the pipeline, which they claim would create thousands of jobs, lower energy prices, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. That last claim is ironic, as the pipeline would carry foreign fuel from Canada, already the largest exporter of fuel to the U.S. Americans certainly love Canada as a neighbor, but it's still technically a foreign country and its ultimate goal is to reach foreign markets in Asia and elsewhere, not the United States.

Bold Nebraska has compiled a list of the possible topic areas to be discusses regarding the pipeline, as well as the truth about the consequences of the pipeline. Here are some of the talking points they are expecting, as well as the fact-based counter arguments:

Many Republicans and Keystone XL pipeline supporters like to say that the Keystone XL pipeline will lower gas prices. The following sorts of statements may be thrown around at the Republican convention, even though pipeline supporters have been quieter on the subject since gas prices have been lower all summer and have only started to rise again because of a recent pipeline spill in Wisconsin and refinery fire in California.

Reports have shown that not only will the Keystone XL pipeline do nothing to ease the price of gas, but it could actually raise the cost for consumers in parts of the country. The reasons for that being Keystone XL is likely to both decrease the amount of gasoline produced in U.S. refineries for domestic markets and increase the cost of producing it, according to a report from NRDC, Oil Change International and Forest Ethics Advocacy.

U.S. Senator Richard Lugar from Indiana has said that Keystone XL will result in “hundreds of thousands” of new jobs, created indirectly by the Keystone XL pipeline project. Senator Lugar’s “estimate is based in part on Perryman’s 2010 study for TransCanada, according to the senator’s spokesman, Andy Fisher.”

An independent analysis by Cornell University’s Global Labor Institute finds that these claims are completely false. Most jobs that are created by Keystone XL, according to the Cornell study, will be “temporary and non-local.” The Cornell report concludes that the pipeline “will not be a major source of US jobs, nor will it play any substantial role at all in putting Americans back to work.”

Republicans claim to be have the utmost concern and concerned about landowner rights, so much so that the issue was included in the GOP party platform of 2008 following the Supreme Court’s Kelo v. City of New London decision with which they disagreed…

In the GOP’s rabid support for construction of the Keystone XL tarsands pipeline, some members seem to have disregarded their fundamental support for property rights and opposition to eminent domain—a position that they made clear following the Supreme Court’s decision in.
Among others, Senators Cornyn (R-TX), Crapo (R-ID), Inhofe (R-OK), Isakson (R-GA), Hatch (R-UT), and Rubio (R-FL) all publically opposed the Kelo decision and now publically support the Keystone XL pipeline—despite the fact that eminent domain would be used to claim private property in seven states.
 

Keep in mind that the discussion of the Keystone XL Pipeline will be taking place in a city located on the Gulf of Mexico, an area still reeling from the effects of the 2010 BP oil geyser. To make things worse, TransCanada recently won a permit for the first leg of their pipeline that would cross several waterways in and around Galveston, Texas that feed directly into the Gulf of Mexico. TransCanada has already begun that construction.

Reports over the last year have shown that the pipeline will feature dangerously inadequate supervision, and that small leaks are almost impossible to detect. (A small leak can still cause massive oil spills and contaminate water supplies.) The Gulf of Mexico cannot afford another oil disaster.

The 2008 RNC convention brought us “Drill Baby Drill,” and it looks like that battle cry will reverberate through the state of Florida again this week.

Do Republicans understand the irony of advocating for foreign interests - Canada's - on a project that will raise prices for Americans, inevitably spill and contaminate our lands and waterways, and further threaten the global climate?

August 15 2012

18:23

GOP VP Candidate Ryan’s Unsustainable Voting Record on Energy and the Environment


Paul Ryan is the Republican Party’s pick for VP and he is also an outspoken climate change skeptic. Representative Ryan is an unflinching supporter of the fossil fuel industry who has a very poor voting record on environmental and energy issues. Although he is touted as the intellectual leader of the GOP, Ryan has cast aspersions on climate science and he has inferred that unusual snowfalls suggest that global warming is not real.

On the Issues reports that as a member of the House of Representatives, Ryan’s voting record earned him very low marks from three separate organizations. In December 2003, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) gave Ryan a grade of only 10 percent, because of his anti-environment votes. In December 2006, the CAF gave him a rating of 0 percent, indicating his opposition to energy independence. And in January 2012, the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) gave him a grade of 13 percent, due to his anti-animal welfare voting record.

Ryan has an anti-environment policy perspective that dates all the way back to the start of his career. In the mid to late 1990s, Ryan worked as the legislative director for then Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas. Brownback’s record on the environment can be best summarized as anti-regulation and pro-growth. Brownback has repeatedly voted against regulations, even those designed to protect Americans against dangerous toxins like mercury.

As reported in On the Issues, here are several examples from Brownback’s anti-environment voting record:

  • Against banning drilling in ANWR (Roll Call #52, 03/16/05)
  • For prohibiting an increase in CAFE standards (Roll Call #48, 03/13/02)
  • Against requiring the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (Roll Call #420, 10/30/03)
  • For preventing the government’s protection and acquisition of land for parks and open space (S.Amdt. 3640 to H.R. 2419; #429, 12/13/07)
  • Against protecting fish habitats (table Bryan Amdt. #1588; Bill H.R. 2466)

Brownback’s voting record on the environment was so bad that he earned a 0 percent score from the LCV.

Big oil and right wing social engineering

Ryan was first voted into the U.S. House of Representatives for Wisconsin’s first congressional district in 1989. Ryan currently chairs the House Budget Committee, where he has garnered a lot of attention for his alternative to President Obama’s 2012 budget proposal. Ryan’s controversial budget would support Big Oil, reduce taxes on the wealthy and cut government spending including clean energy investments. His radically conservative views on economic policy are so extreme they have been dismissed by arch-conservative Newt Gingrich who referred to them as “right wing social engineering.”

In addition to his controversial economic views, Ryan is also a climate denier of the first order. As explained in a Think Progress article, Ryan has accused scientists of engaging in conspiracy to “intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change.”

Another Think Progress article explored how his family directly benefits from his stalwart support of Big Oil.  As stated in the article:

“Paul Ryan’s budget, which means austerity for most Americans, turns out to mean prosperity for Ryan and his family.”

Ryans proposed FY 2013 budget provides oil subsidies and tax shelters worth more than $40 billion. In addition Ryans’ budget helps the fossil fuel industry by eliminating billions of dollars of investments in clean energy technologies (CAP, 3/20/12).

According to Ryan’s financial disclosure forms for Congress, he and his wife, Janna, own interests in land leases to oil and mining companies including XTO Energy, a recently acquired subsidiary of ExxonMobil.

Ryan’s close ties to fossil fuels do not end there. He is also an associate of the powerful Koch brothers, two of the most destructive spin masters in the American oil industry. This climate denying duo uses their extraordinary wealth to spread their influence and promote their self-centered pro-oil agenda. Just one of the many Koch founded organizations; known as Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has already spent $27 million on anti-Obama ads.

As reported in an Alternet article, Ryan has enjoyed AFP’s financial support for years. The nomination of Ryan prompted the article’s author, Adele M. Stan to write, “The Republican Party is now officially a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Koch brothers’ political enterprise.”

Wisconsin is both Ryans’ home state and the home of the now infamous Tea Party victory that aggressively moved that state to the right. With considerable help from the AFP, Republican Governor Scott Walker won reelection after ramming a bill through the state legislature that “all but ended collective bargaining for the state’s public employees.”

Ryan has even received special recognition from the AFP. Walker personally presented Ryan with the Wisconsin AFP chapter’s “Defending the American Dream” award.

A voting record against scientific fact and the future of civilization

Truth-Out calls Ryan a “virulent denier of climate science, with a voting record to match,” adding, “Paul Ryan stands with Big Oil against scientific fact and the future of human civilization.

A succinct summary of Ryan’s voting record reveals his allegiance to oil and his contempt for the environment, efficiency and clean energy. Ryan voted against the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) efforts to limit greenhouse gas pollution (Roll Call 249, 4/7/11); he tried to eliminate the role of a White House climate adviser (Roll Call 87, 2/17/11); and block the U.S. Department of Agriculture from preparing for climate disasters (Roll Call 448, 6/16/11). Ryan is on record as having voted to end the Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) (Roll Call 55, 2/17/11) while supporting the Keystone XL Pipeline (Roll Call 650, 7/26/11). He even voted to eliminate light bulb efficiency standards (Roll Call 563, 7/12/11).

As reviewed in Vote Smart, here are some more examples that further expose Ryan’s agenda on energy and the environment:

Ryan voted for the following bills:

Ryan voted against the following bills:

A vote for Romney and Ryan in 2012 will bring back the same Republican policies that caused the meltdown of the global economy 5 years ago, it also means four years of policies that invite environmental abuse. Ryan’s vision for America is unsustainable and his anti-environment voting record is deplorable. Americans have to decide if they want to “unshackle Wall Street” or liberate themselves from Republicans beholden to Big Oil.
——————-
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: DonkeyHotey, courtesy Flickr

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.

August 06 2012

16:40

House Republicans Sacrifice Human Health For Alleged Job Creation

With July 2012 officially behind us, the U.S. jobs report for the month has economists and politicians concerned about the employment situation in America. And even though the economy added 163,000 jobs (economists had predicted only 100,000 jobs to be added for July,) the unemployment rate and the underemployment rate both crept slightly upwards. And with national elections coming up in three months, poor jobs numbers could be bad for our health.

If history is any indicator, Conservative politicians and think tanks will use last month’s poor jobs report in an attempt to provide massive giveaways to their friends in the dirty energy industry. They attempted the same thing after below-average job growth in May of this year, claiming that approval of the Keystone XL pipeline would be the job boon that Americans desperately need.

But Republicans in Washington didn’t wait for a bad jobs report before they started planning their dirty energy bonanza, but its likely they will use it as a catalyst to gain more support for their disastrous plans.

In mid June of this year, Republicans on the “House Energy Action Team” (HEAT) proposed a set of bills that would destroy many of the safeguards that are currently in place to protect our environment and our personal health in order to make things “easier” for businesses to create jobs without worrying about those pesky safety standards. What the package of legislation is really about is repaying HEAT members’ financiers from the dirty energy industry who stand to save a ton of cash by destroying regulations.

The legislation package would remove many current existing safeguards for environmental and public health until the unemployment rate drops below 6%, a rate that hasn’t been seen since July 2008, when it was 5.8%. Since that month four years ago, the rate has stayed consistently above 6%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


When I wrote about the legislative package back in June, I focused mainly on the ties to industry of the bills’ sponsors. Recently, the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards put together an analysis of the safeguards and regulations that the bills would removed if passed:
  

The House of Representatives will soon consider a radical bill proposed by Republican members: ‘‘Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act’’ (H.R. 4078). This bill is made up of provisions H.R. 4078, H.R. 4607, H.R. 3862, H.R. 373, H.R. 4377, H.R. 2308, and H.R. 1840 which would, in an unprecedented move halt all regulatory action on national safeguards that protect the health and safety of Americans and bolster the nation’s economy.

Combined, these provisions would halt or delay virtually ALL regulations and do absolutely nothing to stimulate the economy or new job opportunities. They would shut down crucial safeguards that give Americans confidence in the products at the grocery store, the safety of their workplaces, the cleanliness of the water system, the soundness of our financial system, and the safety of vital infrastructure…

Public Health and Clean Air – These bills would continue to prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from implementing standards defining power plants, industrial boilers, process heaters and cement plants compliance with the Clean Air Act. Those structures are the largest emitters of mercury and toxic air pollutants. Compliance would curb their harmful impact on the respiratory health of millions of Americans.

Food Safety – Each year, 1.2 million people get sick, 7,125 are hospitalized, and 134 die from foodborne illnesses contracted from contaminated produce. Illnesses and food recalls also hurt the U.S. agriculture and food industries. The Food Safety Modernization Act, passed with support from both industry and consumer groups, calls for new regulations on produce handling on large farms and an inspection system for foreign farms to be in place by 2013. Its implementation depends on rulemaking that would be blocked by the proposed bills.

Workplace Safety – Beryllium, a toxic substance (lung cancer and other fatal and chronic diseases) exposed to workers in the electronics, nuclear, and metalwork industries. Current1950s-based standards allow workers to continue to be exposed to levels higher than ruled safe for nuclear power plant workers. The three proposed bills would stop the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from updating exposure standards to protect all workers.

Energy and Environment – The proposed bills would block the U.S. Department of Energy from implementing the Energy Security and Independence Act, delaying for five years updates of energy efficiency standards for a wide range of products. The estimated lost savings for the U.S. economy would be $48 to $105 billion. The bills also would halt the Federal Trade Commission’s rulemaking for energy efficiency labeling designed to protect consumers from misleading and deceptive claims about product energy savings.
 

In addition to these measures, some of the bills in the package would reduce benefits for our veterans, and loosen the already lenient rules regarding the approval of medical devices in America.

If passed, these laws would sacrifice the lives and well being of American citizens based solely on the hope that companies will create more jobs. To the House Republicans who proposed this legislation, their faith in corporations to “do the right thing” is greater than their belief that every life is sacred and worth protecting.

But the most important thing to remember about their proposals is that they won’t work. As I have pointed out over the years, regulations are not destroying jobs, nor are they hindering job creation. In fact, tightening safeguards would actually lead to greater job creation than destroying regulations.

Talking points aside, House Republicans are also overlooking the fact that destroying safeguards will also have a devastating effect on the fragile U.S. economy. Studies tell us that for every dollar spent on safeguards and regulations, an economic benefit of between four and eight dollars ripples throughout the economy. To put it simply, every dollar spent on regulations has a minimum return of 400% for the U.S. economy. Any investor could see that this would be a wise decision.

In addition to the lost investments, we have to look at the jobs that would be lost by doing away with regulations. Delaying implementation, or doing away with completely, the Clean Air Act standards could cost our economy an estimated 1.5 million jobs.

And those numbers are just the ones on the surface. We would also have to factor in the economic impact of health and environmental degradation that would be placed on the economy if these safeguards were removed. It is a fact that U.S. taxpayers already pay for healthcare costs related to air pollution, estimated to be about $50 billion a year. Environmental costs shifted to taxpayers also total in the billions a year, as seen with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the Exxon Valdez spill (every disaster has costs that are shifted to taxpayers, those are just two of the largest examples.)

And again, all of these costs and dangers that will be imposed on the American public are only in the HOPE that corporate America will create more jobs. After analyzing all of the available information about regulations and job creation, its clear that repealing these safeguards will do little, if anything at all, to spur job growth in America. On the other hand, tightening these safeguards and fully implementing ones that have been delayed would provide an enormous benefit to both our health and our economy. But the dirty energy industry only thinks about their profits, not what happens in the world around them.

April 02 2012

16:33

Enviro News Wrap: Solyndra, Big Oil Subsidies, and Politics, and more…


The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week: 

 

 

March 27 2012

18:48

Beginning of The End for Big Oil’s Billion Dollar Subsidies?

Democratic Senator Bob Menendez (N.J.) has introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate to kill, once and for all, the billions of dollars worth of subsidies that are flowing from the federal government to the oil industry.

Under Menendez’s proposal, the $4 billion annual corporate welfare handed out to oil companies would instead be used to pay down the federal deficit and be re-invested into renewable energy technology.

Given the Republicans’ history of fighting for the oil industry and their subsidies, you would expect this bill to be dead on arrival. However, in an odd combination of arrogance and ignorance, Senate Republicans actually sided with Democrats in a vote to move the bill onto the floor for debate.

Republicans currently believe that any issue involving gas and oil is a home run for their party, so they’re banking on the issue actually helping them out, politically. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following statement about the issue:
  

“We’re going to use this opportunity to explain how out of touch Democrats are on high gas prices, and put a spotlight on the common-sense ideas Republicans have been urging for years — ideas that reflect our genuine commitment to the kind of all-of-the-above approach the President claims to support but doesn’t.”
 

McConnell’s comment demonstrates both the arrogance and ignorance of the Republican Party on the issue of gas prices.

read more

March 15 2012

22:06

U.S. Chamber Front Group Holds “Whine And Blame” Facebook Party – Nobody Shows Up

American Free Enterprise, a front group of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, held a complaint session on Facebook on Tuesday afternoon to let Americans vent about “who is to blame” for rising gas prices. Unfortunately for the group, few people attended their virtual party.

The pity party was an attempt to get Americans riled up at President Obama for allegedly being an enemy of the oil industry – a claim that conservatives have falsely been throwing around since he took office. But the lack of enthusiasm was evident by the low participation.

Here is the comment thread from the “discussion," which I captured yesterday. Names and pictures have been covered:

read more

March 08 2012

04:03

Republican Claims About Gas Prices Demonstrate Lack Of Knowledge About “Free Market”

As the national average for gas prices pushes closer and closer towards $4 a gallon, Republicans have wasted no time in attempting to convince the public that President Obama and his “hostility” towards the oil industry is the reason we’re feeling the squeeze at the pump.

read more

March 03 2012

00:50

U.S. Chamber Hits The Road To Promote "Oily" Highway Transportation Bill

A bitter fight has erupted in Washington, D.C. in recent weeks surrounding the fate of a much-needed transportation and infrastructure bill. Congressional Democrats wanted to pass a bill that would fund projects to help rebuild roads and bridges, but Republicans were against the idea.

So, in an attempt to get something more tangible out of the legislation, Congressional Republicans loaded the bill down with dozens of handouts to the oil industry, including immediate approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and expanded access to U.S. lands for oil exploration. The amendments would also take national gas tax money away from public transportation projects, and reduce the amount of federal contributions to public employee pensions – two actions that will have devastating effects on middle class America. And with the fight bringing the discussion on the legislation to a halt, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce took it upon themselves to hit the road and sell the bill to the American public.

From the U.S. Chamber:

The business group will be hosting breakfasts, lunches and policy roundtables with local chambers and business associations this week in 12 different cities in Ohio, Idaho, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama and Louisiana.

Janet Kavinoky, the Chamber’s executive director of transportation and infrastructure, will be on the road trip, along with Alex Herrgott, one of the business group’s transportation lobbyists.

“The idea is to get out, give people a good sense what the bill is and get them talking to their members of Congress and have them get the bill done,” Kavinoky said. “We want Congress to feel like it needs to come back to Washington and get the bill done and put it to bed.”

read more

February 08 2012

20:28

The Business of Risk – Insuring Against Climate Change

When it comes to assessing risk, the insurance industry is one of the leaders in the field. Whether it is health insurance, car insurance, or homeowner’s insurance, the industry is forced to analyze every possible scenario for a given person or structure, and impose a fee based on the likelihood of events for the situation. So when an entire industry that bases their profitability on reducing risk starts factoring climate change into their equations, it's probably a good idea to pay attention.

Earlier this month, insurance commissioners in three separate U.S. states began mandating that insurance providers include the risk of climate change disasters in their risk equations, and develop and disclose their plans to deal with climate-related catastrophes. These plans will be laid out in surveys that insurance companies will provide to insurance commissioners in their respective states.

The three states that have made these new rules are California, New York, and Washington State. Previously, many states had only required the largest insurance companies to have climate plans, but the new rules, which could spread across the United States to climate change-vulnerable places like Florida and Texas, require all insurers to adjust for climate change disasters.

The New York Times lays out why the industry is taking on climate change issues:

read more

January 19 2012

17:24

Who’s Afraid of Kerry Emanuel? Why Republicans Are Attacking a Republican Climate Scientist

Last week, MIT climate scientist and hurricane specialist Kerry Emanuel received email threats for his view on climate change. These were quickly and appropriately condemned by the progressive and environmental blogosphere—as they are condemned by me—but I want to go a bit further and contemplate why Emanuel’s views in particular appear so menacing to some elements of the conservative base today.

The answer may seem deceptively simple on the surface: Unlike most climate researchers, Kerry Emanuel describes himself as a long time Republican. And he’s been speaking out lately. The precise catalyst leading to the emails was a video posted by Climate Desk, capturing Emanuel at an event in New Hampshire organized by maverick Republicans who actually accept global warming and don’t like the way their party is headed. They want to turn it around (hey, good luck with that).

So Emanuel is presumably seen as a turncoat by some Republicans and conservatives—and you might just leave it at that. But I think it is deeper. It is the kind of Republicanism that Emanuel represents—merged with his identity as a scientist, and a premiere one at that—that really presents the biggest challenge.

You see, Emanuel is what you might call an “Enlightenment Republican.”

He joined the party in the 1970s because he personally viewed it as the home of “reason” at a time of left wing excesses. As I wrote after I interviewed him for the American Prospect magazine (Emanuel is also a featured personage in my book The Republican Brain):

In the early 1970s, as an undergraduate at MIT, [Emanuel] remembers feeling surrounded by the "liberal excesses" then prevalent in the "People's Republic" of Cambridge, Massachusetts. "I remember hearing fellow students defending Pol Pot and Mao Zedong and Stalin, and I was so horrified," he says. But now Emanuel sees the situation as reversed: The extremes are on the Tea Party right, the Democrats are centrists and pragmatists, and Emanuel—really always a moderate—finds not so much that he has moved but that his party has. "I'm turned off by those people for exactly the same reasons I was turned off by the ideologues of the 1970s," he says.

Emanuel also made these comments to me:

"I don't like it when ideology trumps reason, and I see that the Republicans are guilty of that in spades at the moment," he says.

"I've been toying with the idea of officially switching to independent status," he adds.

In our interview, Emanuel also spoke of his admiration for the late William F. Buckley, Jr., the kind of person that today’s right sorely lacks—a sophisticated and nuanced intellectual in a position of leadership.

In other words, Emanuel’s story tells us just how much American politics have changed in the last three decades, and just what a cliff the GOP has fallen from in its relationship with science and reason.

In the 1960s and 1970s, if you thought the anti-war leftists on the campuses were overdoing it and you disliked ideological extremes, the Republican Party was a great place for you to go. Or at least, so it may have appeared at the time.

Even in the Reagan years, while there were certainly abuses against science there was also much more Republican rationalism and moderation—epitomized by Reagan’s joining the Montreal Protocol to curtail harmful stratospheric ozone depletion from CFCs.

This history, this legacy, led many people of reason—like Emanuel—to feel very comfortable within the Republican ranks. And once you forge a relationship with a political party and develop a loyalty, it is very hard to change it.

But the injuries to Republican reasoners have steadily mounted—from Newt Gingrich presiding over the destruction of congressional science advice in the mid 1990s, to the George W. Bush administration’s undermining of science at every turn, to the Tea Party and the near monolithic rejection of climate science by today’s GOP presidential candidates—and rationalists like Emanuel have a harder and harder time hanging on. Indeed, at this point they’re hanging by a thread.

What’s more, deep down, a lot of the right wing science deniers kind of know that they are pushing these people away.

Don’t get me wrong: They don’t actually believe that they’re factually incorrect. They don’t view themselves as “deniers.” But they definitely know that there is a huge amount of knowledge, intellect, and expertise that they’re flying in the face of. And they feel that disdain, as well as that bafflement, coming from the acknowledged centers of science and learning.

So when one of their “own,” Kerry Emanuel, comes along and states—from an expert scientific perspective—that they’re abandoning reason…the cognitive dissonance is just too great. And because they can’t admit the truth about themselves, they can only lash at the messenger.

Here’s the thing, though. Emanuel may have been a Republican for a very long time. But he and those New Hampshire moderates seeking to reclaim the party for science are, in my opinion, in for a “long wait for a train don’t come” (to quote a really awesome sci-fi movie).

I fully understand their feelings of loyalty—and their desire to rescue what once was. But at the same time, I think they themselves probably recognize that the 60s and 70s—a time when, among other things, the Christian right was not fully integrated into the GOP—will never return. Heck, even I might have been a Republican in that era; I certainly find Frank Zappa’s songs making fun of hippies pretty hilarious. 

But that’s not the world we’re living in today—Republicanism and science just don’t go together much any longer. And the Republicans or conservatives who do stand up for rationality today—people like David Frum, Bruce Bartlett, and Kerry Emanuel—are most easily identified today by one chief characteristic: their banishment and alienation.

December 10 2011

00:49

House Republicans Working On Huge Polluter Giveaways

The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives is playing hardball with President Obama’s proposal to extend a payroll tax cut extension, and now they’ve found a way to use the extension as a means to grant their polluter friends everything on their holiday wish list.

According to Reuters, Republicans in the House added the approval of the recently-killed (albeit temporarily) Keystone XL Pipeline to the payroll tax cut extension bill, granting the project immediate approval if the rider stays connected to the bill. From Reuters, via Raw Story:

House of Representatives will include approval of a Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline in a payroll tax cut bill, House Speaker John Boehner said on Thursday, raising the political stakes on the issue.

The move by House Republicans marked a challenge to President Barack Obama, who has warned he would veto any bill that linked quick approval of TransCanada Corp’s Keystone XL pipeline to extending a tax cut for American workers that is due to expire on December 31.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) quickly denounced the House GOP effort, making clear that it will not survive the Senate

The ill-fated measure was sponsored by Republican Lee Terry of Nebraska, who has taken in more than $273,000 from electric utilities and $225,000 from the oil and gas industries over the course of his career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Terry claims that he did this in order to help create the estimated “20,000 new jobs” that the pipeline would bring to America.

If Terry was so concerned about creating jobs, then he would pressure his fellow Republican House members to back off their attempts to strip the EPA of their ability to regulate air pollution, which would create more than 1.5 million U.S. jobs.

And speaking of enforcing air pollution standards, the Republicans decided to go all out and add that restriction to their new bill, as well. They also included a rider that would prevent the EPA from being able to enforce air pollution standards on boiler emissions. The Republican-controlled House has worked on that breath-defying measure for quite a while.

The likelihood of these provisions clearing the Democrat-controlled Senate are slim to none, but it could still happen - anything is possible in the U.S. Congress in these whacky times. And with the President emphasizing the dire need to pass the tax cut extension, these common sense environmental and public health protections might become a casualty in the ongoing party war taking place in America.

On a related note, don't miss Bill McKibben's piece over at Politico: "The (bogus) number that won't die," all about the sham of the Keystone XL proponents' "20,000 jobs" statistic. Hint: It's a total fabrication.

For some Friday fun, watch Bill McKibben on the Colbert Report last month, when Stephen Colbert mocks the insane jobs figures tossed around by polluter pundits.

November 11 2011

18:51

Koch Brothers Behind Push To Dismantle EPA

During last week’s Americans For Prosperity (AFP) event, a common theme kept creeping into the speakers’ presentations: Dismantle the EPA. And as the major funders of AFP, Charles and David Koch are the ones pulling the strings of the American elected officials who keep clamoring for an end to all environmental protections.

Since the new Republican-controlled Congress took over earlier this year, calls for the EPA to be disbanded and general attacks on the agency have been constant. In the last 11 months, we have covered those stories here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Those in favor of saying goodbye to the EPA include presidential candidates like Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, elected officials like Republican Representatives Mike Rogers and David McKinley, and even media figures like Fox News’s John Stossel. The attacks include false claims that the agency is destroying jobs, or just general claims that the agency’s usefulness has run its course.

But when you look past those claims, the money from the Koch brotherss and their organizations is all that you can see.


In addition to GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain pledging his loyalty to the Kochs at last week’s event, we were also privy to a rousing anti-EPA speech by Republican representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas. As Think Progress reports, Pompeo told the crowd the following about his efforts to completely strip the EPA of their funding:

“We’re trying. Indeed, I personally tried. … We’ve got a Senate that has a deeply different worldview, and there my bill sits. We won’t be able to slow down the growth of the EPA dramatically until we change the view of folks in Congress, and I speak mostly of the Senate here, and we get a new leader in the White House.”

Lee Fang from Think Progress has detailed Rep. Pompeo’s connections to the Kochs, who have personally been involved with helping Pompeo climb his way into the top 1% of income earners:

Pompeo developed much of his wealth from a firm he founded, Thayer Aerospace, which he ran with investment funds from Koch Industries. According to a December 11, 1998 article in the Wichita Business Journal, “[Pompeo's] company’s capital base is drawn in part from Wichita’s Koch Venture Capital, a division of Koch Industries.” Pompeo sold Thayer in 2006.

Pompeo still relies on Koch for his private wealth. After the sale of Thayer, Pompeo became the President of Sentry International, a business specializing in the manufacture and sale of equipment used in oilfields. Sentry International is a partner to Koch Industries through its Brazilian distributor, GTF Representacoes & Consultoria.

Pompeo won his Republican primary largely with the support of Koch Industries’ PAC, which gave him one of his largest endorsements in March. Despite the fact that Koch Industries is the recipient of tens of millions in federal contracts, Pompeo boasted about the endorsement: “The employees of the Koch Companies have jobs here in the Wichita because of their own hard work and creativity, not because a federal agency deemed it to be so.”

With $31,400 in contributions from KOCHPAC, Koch Industries is by far the greatest contributor to Pompeo’s campaign.

So to be clear, Congressman Pompeo owes not only his election but his personal fortune to the Koch brothers, and now that he is in a position of power, he is doing his best to push their agenda within the chambers of Congress.

The money in politics database organization Open Secrets 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.

That’s why it is important to follow the money on these stories, especially when dealing with Congress members who are attempting to dismantle the few environmental protections that are currently in place, like Mike Pompeo. Because more often than not, these efforts are supported by fat cat checks from a member of the Koch family.

September 18 2011

19:18

As The World Warms, Environmental Protections Put On The Back Burner

After a year that has so far produced record-breaking snowstorms, droughts, floods, and violent hurricanes and tornadoes, environmental protections are once again being scaled back. Against the best advice of experts, the U.S. EPA has decided to delay issuing new rules for greenhouse gas emissions, the deadline for which is September 30th. This marks the second time in three months that the EPA has missed a deadline for issuing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards.

In their announcement, the EPA said that they are aware that it is their responsibility to move forward with new GHG standards, but they want to consider all of the available information before issuing a final ruling. According to an EPA spokesperson, one factor that the agency is still trying to figure out is the cost of the new measures.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is legally required to put restrictions on any air pollutant that is deemed unsafe for the American public. Thanks to a recent decision that GHGs are a threat to the public, this means they are required to put new standards in place. In addition to legally being required to regulate, the EPA is also not allowed to consider costs when making their decisions, meaning that their current “evaluation” period should not be extended to examine costs.


This new announcement comes on the heels of President Obama’s recent decision to roll back smog standards that the EPA had already put in place. The White House succumbed to a tremendous amount of pressure that the Republican Party had placed on the administration to curb the power of the EPA. The smog standards in place would have reduced ground level ozone levels, which have been shown to cause asthma and other respiratory problems.

Experts are not just concerned about the health problems that delays in EPA action will cause, but also the environmental impact we could face as a result. NOAA has warned that delays in regulating pollutants could lead to even more extreme weather events, which is especially devastating considering the cadre of natural disasters that have swept across America in 2011 so far.

While scientists and environmentalists are upset over the recent anti-environment decisions, the Republican Party couldn’t be happier. Climate change denier James Inhofe celebrated the recent announcements saying, “This announcement, as well as President Obama's recent request that E.P.A. withdraw the ozone standard, makes one thing clear: not only will E.P.A.'s barrage of regulations cost hundreds of thousands of American jobs, they may cost President Obama his own job, and he knows it all too well.”

Republican House Speaker John Boehner said that removing the smog regulation was a good first step toward removing obstacles that are blocking business growth.

Tom Donahue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, also had praise for the decisions: (This is) “an enormous victory for America's job creators, the right decision by the president and one that will help reduce the uncertainty facing businesses.”

These comments reflect a growing trend among the Republican Party, which is to ruthlessly and baselessly attack the EPA and environmental protections. Their talking point du jour is “job killing regulations,” a talking point that has been debunked by numerous scholars and studies (the best available research shows that regulations actually help create jobs, rather than destroying them.)

This crusade against the EPA has included attacks on the agency as “inefficient,” as well as calls from elected officials and GOP presidential hopefuls to completely abolish the agency.

Both the White House and the EPA want us to be reassured that they are “very committed” to protecting the environment and issuing new standards. But as we’ve seen so far this year, both the president and the EPA are at the mercy of a political party that is doing everything in their power to completely abolish the EPA and destroy any and all regulations that have been put in place over the years.

August 10 2011

21:28

In the Wake of the US Credit Downgrade Cuts to Entitlements may be the Key for the Green Economy


Now is the time to begin developing the green ecomomyA truly balanced approach to managing America’s debt involves reduced mandatory spending while at the same time, investing in the green economy. Despite the doom associated with Standard & Poor’s downgrading of U.S. treasury debt, a political window may have opened that could see entitlement reform as a means of advancing the low carbon economy.

Sustainability is the biggest opportunity of the century, and an extraordinary jobs creator, however this is a global competition which America cannot win without government support. With governments like the UK and China investing in sustainability, the global competition for green leadership is a powerful incentive for Congress to act. Growing the green economy will also provide significant additional government revenues.

Some resist the green economy by pointing to the costs associated with combating global warming, but what they ignore is that this is a fraction of the costs if we continue with business as usual. According to an analysis by Google, failure to move aggressively to implement a clean energy economy will cost the US GDP “trillions” over just the next five years. In 2009, the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) published a report authored by the co-chair of the IPCC and other climate science experts, revealing that the net present value of climate change impacts, i.e. the costs to civilization, are US$1,240 trillion under our current emission path and $410 trillion if we manage to stabilize atmospheric carbon at 450ppm. Most climate scientists would like to see that number at 350ppm or less.

According to conventional logic, the credit downgrade makes it that much more likely that Congress will not get involved in efforts to combat climate change. Economic uncertainty has already taken a toll on the government’s environmental initiatives. The recession killed climate change legislation in 2008 with opposition coming from Republicans and Democrats from the Rust Belt and coal-friendly regions.

As Yvo de Boer, former director of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change said, “If industry is in a difficult pass, most sensible governments will be reluctant to impose new costs on them in the form of carbon-emissions caps.”

In 2008, Rep. John Dingell, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said,”In times of economic downturns, members [of Congress] are extremely reluctant to add burdens to the economy.” In addition to the cap-and-trade bill that failed in the Senate in 2008, the financial crisis also helped to bury the Kyoto Protocol.

The credit downgrade further weakens America’s economy which is still struggling to recover from the recession. Ironically, a stronger-than-expected July jobs report helped steady global markets on Friday August 5, but hours after the close of U.S. stock markets, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. credit rating from AAA to AA+. The credit downgrade caused stock markets around the world to decline resulting in the loss of trillions of dollars.

Many stock market insiders are expressing concerns about another recession. In response to an informal Dow Jones questionnaire, two-thirds of 45 economists, portfolio managers and financial consultants surveyed gave a better than 50 percent chance of recession in the next year. About 25 percent put the odds of recession at better than 75 percent.

Even if the U.S. does not fall into another recession, S&P’s downgrade of America’s sovereign debt is a psychological blow that will have significant consequences. The credit downgrade will add $100 billion a year to government costs, it will also further weaken an already weak dollar, increase costs for US companies and undermine the economic recovery. Some investors and analysts are saying that over time, Standard & Poor’s downgrade may mark a moment in the decline of U.S. economic strength.

Despite accusations from both sides, Republicans must assume the bulk of the responsibility for the US credit downgrade. The credit downgrade could have been averted if Republicans would have accepted putting an end to Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent. The GOP’s refusal to work with President Obama and the Democrats has hog-tied the US economy and undermined efforts to implement policies that spur job growth.

Standard & Poor’s said that GOP strategy had shaken its confidence. The agency explained its downgrade by citing heightened political risks:  “The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed.”

The GOP has been hijacked by the Tea Party whose intransigence over the debt ceiling is responsible for the political deadlock that led to the downgrade. The Tea Party’s woeful ignorance on the role of government has fueled the political insanity that has created this economic uncertainty.

The downgrade prompted Gregory Ellena, chief executive of First National Bank of Santa Fe, to say, ”It’s very disappointing that the money markets have become hostage to political maneuvering.”

Sen. Mike Crapo (R., Idaho) said the credit downgrade will put pressure on the bipartisan commission to go beyond the minimum $1.2 trillion in savings threshold set in the debt ceiling agreement. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Mr Crapo said, “This decision focuses us on the scope of the issue we are facing. It increases the momentum for a much larger plan.” Sen. Mike Crapo is a member of the bipartisan group of six senators who sought to craft their own deficit reduction plan earlier this year.

S&P criticized the $2.4 trillion debt ceiling deal as too limited and singled out Republicans for failing to increase taxes on the wealthy and Democrats for refusing cuts to entitlements. With Standard & Poor’s warning of further downgrades, it will be hard to avoid deep cuts, including mandatory spending.

As his first term winds down, President Obama could yet show leadership on the politics of climate change. Republicans claim they want deeper cuts and economic growth. Entitlement reform provides a way of cutting spending while simultaneously investing in American competitiveness.

America is confronted with the need to make major budget cuts while finding funds to invest in the green economy. Both taxes and entitlement programs will be on the table as lawmakers seek a broader package of cuts.

Entitlements consume a large share of the U.S. government budget. According to Congressional Budget Office records, federal outlays for entitlement spending was 33.8% in 1965. According to a CF&P Foundation article “Prosperitas,” as of 2000, entitlement spending almost doubled, accounting for 62.6% of the U.S. budget.

More cuts are needed and the debt downgrade may present the right conditions for the President to propose cuts to entitlements. In exchange for reductions to mandatory spending, Republicans may even consider a compromise, if not, the GOP may risk being punished by voters in 2012.

Although many Americans many not see it, the US is at a crossroads that could very well determine its future prosperity or ongoing decline.

——————-

Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

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July 29 2011

17:13

GOP Congressman Warns That EPA Could Be On The Chopping Block After 2012 Elections

Representative Mike Rogers (R-AL) told an internet-based radio program earlier this week that if the GOP is able to sweep the 2012 elections, government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could be on the chopping block. Citing the erroneous fact that the EPA didn’t exist until after the Carter Administration, Rogers said that a new Republican administration would “look closely” at whether or not certain government programs were necessary, and if not, they would be “discontinued.”

Think Progress provided a transcript of Rogers’ statement:

ROGERS: You know the fact is, if in fact I think the American people do next November what they started last November, that is, cleaning house, and we do get a Republican-controlled Senate and a Republican president, I think you going to see some dramatic structural changes in this country because we can’t continue to support this infrastructure we have. And I’m not talking about just changes to the trust funds and the entitlement programs. You know, we gotta look at what we really need to be doing, and what we don’t need to be doing. For example, we didn’t have an EPA under Jimmy Carter. Who says the federal government has to have an EPA. Every state has their own environmental protection agency. Why does the federal government need to be doing that? Department of Education: I’m a big believer that education is a state and local matter, why do we need a federal department of education? I think we’ll have to look at a lot of things that we’re doing at the federal level and ask ourselves, ‘is this really what the federal role?’ And if not, discontinue it.


Think Progress reporter Lee Fang pointed out that Rogers’ statement about Carter not having an EPA was entirely false, as the agency had been started by the Nixon administration and was never discontinued during the Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, or Bush Jr. years. Fang also points out in his article that, when questioned by the interviewer about toxic substances being found in Alabama soil and waterways as a result of energy company dumping, Rogers responded by saying that he was disgusted by “the EPA sticking its oppressive…tentacles into the lives of businesses and individuals, making it next to impossible for companies to survive in this country.”

Rogers has pulled in more than $400,000 from the Energy and Natural Resources sector during his 9 years in federal office, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. This includes $190,000 from electric utilities and another $115,000 from the oil and gas industry. His single largest contributor was energy giant Southern Co., which has given Rogers more than $140,000 over the course of his political career.

Rogers also has a history of voting in favor of energy companies: He has supported increased offshore oil drilling; he voted against allowing the EPA to regulate CO2 emissions; and he voted against the offshore oil drilling moratorium.

While Rogers’ idea of doing away with the EPA hinges on the Republican Party sweeping the 2012 elections, his recent statements are just the latest in a long line of Republican-led attacks on the EPA. In the midst of the debt ceiling debacle currently gripping Washington, D.C., the EPA has taken a severe hit by receiving an 18% cut in their funding. Additionally, House Republicans are actively working to make sure the EPA does not have the authority or the money to rule on issues like coal ash toxicity, mercury, and various air pollutants.

If the current trends continue, there might not be an EPA left to dismantle after the 2012 elections.

June 20 2011

16:57

Paul Ryan Lies About Ending Oil Subsidies To Protect His Family’s Cash Bonanza

Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) has been all over the place when it comes to ending the multi-billion dollar subsidies that the oil industry receives every year. While he has publicly admitted that he is in favor of ending this “corporate welfare,” and his staff has claimed that his budget plan actually calls for an end to oil subsidies, the truth is that Rep. Ryan would never end oil subsidies because he makes a lot of money keeping the welfare spigot open.

The oil industry currently receives $4 billion in subsidies from the federal government, and receives more than $4.4 billion in tax breaks every year, bringing their total government handouts to more than $8 billion every year. Some estimates actually put the total number closer to $35 billion a year.

According to a new report by Joe Romm at Climate Progress, Paul Ryan and his family have a financial stake in some of the companies that receive these oil subsidies.

From Romm:

“What we have only just learned from Ryan’s financial disclosure forms for Congress that were made public this week is “he and his wife, Janna, own stakes in four family companies that lease land in Texas and Oklahoma to the very energy companies that benefit from the tax subsidies in Ryan’s budget plan.”

You can view Ryan’s financial disclosure forms here.

The Daily Beast has more:

Ryan's father-in-law, Daniel Little, who runs the companies, told Newsweek and The Daily Beast that the family companies are currently leasing the land for mining and drilling to energy giants such as Chesapeake Energy, Devon, and XTO Energy, a recently acquired subsidiary of ExxonMobil.

Some of these firms would be eligible for portions of the $45 billion in energy tax breaks and subsidies over 10 years protected in the Wisconsin lawmaker’s proposed budget. “Those [energy developing companies] benefit a lot from these subsidies,” explained Russ Harding, an energy policy analyst with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, when presented with the situation, without reference to Ryan. “Without those, they’re going to be less profitable.”

To ethics watchdogs, Ryan’s effort to extend the tax breaks creates the potential appearance of a conflict of interest.

Over the course of his career, Ryan has raked in more than a quarter million dollars from polluters in the oil and gas industries and the coal industry. As a whole, the oil and gas industry has spent more than $1 billion on lobbying and political donations since 1998.

Even if his family wealth wasn’t directly tied to dirty energy welfare, his campaign cash from polluters ensures that fossil fuel interests can count on Ryan to protect their subsidies through his power position as the Chairman of the House Budget Committee.

June 15 2011

18:52

Report: Broad Bipartisan Support For Action On Climate Change

A new report by George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication shows that voters in America are concerned about global climate change, and would support broad action by the federal government to prevent future disaster. The report shows that voters from both major political parties are at odds with most Republicans in Washington, who have made it clear that they are not concerned with climate change and their voting records reflect that lack of concern.

The focus that most Congressional Republicans have had involving climate change revolves around U.S. energy policy. They believe that the only solution to America’s energy crisis and high gas prices is to drill in every available square inch of American soil or American waters. And while the report shows that 66% of Americans are in favor of more domestic oil drilling, it is likely because they are unaware that any new oil produced in the United States would have no impact on energy prices.
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Here are some of the key findings from George Mason University’s report:

71 percent of Americans say global warming should be a very high (13%), high (27%), or medium (31%) priority for the president and Congress, including 50 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of Independents and 88 percent of Democrats.

91 percent of Americans say developing sources of clean energy should be a very high (32%), high (35%), or medium (24%) priority for the president and Congress, including 85 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of Independents, and 97 percent of Democrats.

Majorities of Americans want more action to address global warming from corporations (65%), citizens themselves (63%), the U.S. Congress (57%), President Obama (54%), as well as their own state and local officials.

Despite ongoing concerns about the economy, 67 percent of Americans say the U.S. should undertake a large (29%) or medium-scale effort (38%) to reduce global warming, even if it has large or moderate economic costs.

82 percent of Americans (including 76% of Republicans, 74% of Independents, and 94% of Democrats) say that protecting the environment either improves economic growth and provides new jobs (56%), or has no effect (26%). Only 18 percent say environmental protection reduces economic growth and costs jobs.

Large majorities (including Republicans, Independents, and Democrats) say it is important for their own community to take steps to protect the following from global warming: public health (81%), thewater supply (80%), agriculture (79%), wildlife (77%), and forests (76%).

84 percent of Americans support funding more research into renewable energy sources, including 81 percent of Republicans, 81 percent of Independents, and 90 percent of Democrats.

68 percent of Americans support requiring electric utilities to produce at least 20% of their electricity from renewable energy sources, even if it costs the average household an extra $100 a year, including 58 percent of Republicans, 64 percent of Independents, and 82 percent of Democrats.

Josh Nelson at EnviroKnow created some charts to help illustrate the findings:

Again, as these numbers from May 2011 show, both Republicans and Democrats support efforts to reduce climate change, and yet the Republican majority in Congress is doing everything in their power to prevent any climate action. This year alone, Republicans have voted 7 times to continue giving billions of dollars worth of subsidies to oil companies every year. They cut almost $900 million from the federal budget for research into renewable energy. They stripped $6 billion worth of ethanol subsidies. And filibustered a bill amendment put forth by Democratic Senator Max Baucus (MT) that would have provided the following:

Tax credits for heavy hybrid and natural gas vehicles and a 30% investment tax credit for alternative fuel refueling stations.

A $1-per-gallon production tax credit for biodiesel and biomass diesel and the small agri-biodiesel producer credit of 10 cents per gallon extended through 2011.

A 50-cent-per-gallon tax credit for biomass and other alternative fuels.

Tax credits for energy-efficient appliances and homes.

Adding $2.5 billion in funding for Section 48C the advanced energy manufacturing 30% tax credit for companies manufacturing advanced clean energy products and materials.

Reinstate the Research and Development tax credit for renewable energy.



The actions being taken by Congress are clearly not in line with the desires of the American public. However, with the economy still performing poorly, these issues will likely take a backseat to economic issues in the next general election.

May 31 2011

12:15

House Republicans Distort Reality To Blame Obama For High Gas Prices

Never ones to let facts get in the way of a good political smear, House Republicans released a report blaming President Obama and the Democrats for high gas prices in America. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, led by Republican Representative Darrell Issa, claims that the president has launched a concerted effort within the government to keep energy prices high in order to force “green technology” on the public.

The new report says that onerous environmental policies put in place by the administration and enforced by the EPA are causing domestic energy prices to rise dramatically, effectively killing jobs and hurting every American who drives a car. They also say that Obama is limiting oil companies’ ability to drill for "American" oil in places like the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and that the President is not allowing them to exploit the natural resources of our country by imposing limits on hydraulic fracturing. <!--break-->
The committee went as far as to call for a full blown hearing last week, where they grilled EPA administrator Lisa Jackson and David Hayes, Deputy Secretary at the Department of the Interior, on the necessity of environmental policies that hinder domestic energy production. Here are a few highlights of the Committee’s report:

Many of the “green” energy sources promoted by the administration “create unintended environmental, security and economic consequences,” for example, by increasing the demand for Chinese “rare earth” materials, which subsequently boosts harmful coal production because that’s where more than two-thirds of China’s energy comes from.

Current administration policies have limited the domestic production of oil by restricting access to resources located along the outer continental shelf. Many of these restrictions were put in place before the disastrous Gulf oil spill.

Despite the fact that the United States relies on carbon-based fuels for more than 80 percent of its energy needs, the Obama administration has been “aggressively suppressing” the utilization of these fuels.

While their points might look good on paper or in 10-second sound bites, they are not even close to reality. For example, the GOP says that Obama has prevented industry from drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and that he is not allowing them to drill on public lands, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. But as we’ve reported in the past, Obama has actually opened up more areas of the Gulf for drilling, and is currently actively working to open up areas of Alaska for oil drilling. Even in the wake of the BP oil disaster, he is still allowing more drilling permits for deepwater drilling.

They also ignore the fact that before the recession, and before President Obama was in office to enact any of these “price-raising policies,” American consumers were paying more than $4 per gallon of gasoline at the pump. Not surprisingly, this little nugget of information didn’t make it onto their list.

Also notoriously absent from their laundry list of factors driving up gasoline prices was the role of oil speculators. Writing for The Nation, author Chris Hayes describes how oil speculators are driving up the cost of gasoline:

In the wake of the price explosion in the summer of 2008, a bubble that extended to all kinds of commodities, including copper and wheat, a number of observers from George Soros to Hedge Fund manager Michael Masters to former Commodities Future Trading Commission staffer and derivatives expert Michael Greenberg concluded that the underlying supply-and-demand fundamentals couldn’t account for the sharp rise in prices. In the first six months of 2008, US economic output was declining while global supply was increasing. And even if supply and demand were, over the long run, pushing the price of oil up, that alone couldn’t explain the massive volatility in the market. Oil cost $65 per barrel in June 2007, $147 a year later, down to $30 in December 2008 and back up to $72 in June 2009.

The culprits, they concluded, were Wall Street speculators.

Commodities markets involve essentially two kinds of participants: there are so-called “end users” like farmers and airlines that use commodities markets as a form of insurance against future price fluctuations, and then there are speculators—hedge funds, investors, big banks that try to make money by correctly betting on those same price fluctuations.

But again, this information was absent from their new report.

There is no reason to believe that Congressional Republicans want to help lower gas prices for American consumers – their only goal is to help the oil companies that put them in office make more money. Issa, who led the hearings, has taken in more than $140,000 over his career from the oil industry, and close to $200,000 from electric utilities. The newly created House Energy Action Team is stacked with Republicans who are awash in dirty energy industry cash.

There is no quick fix for U.S. energy policy. Today, domestic oil production is higher than any time in almost a decade, yet American consumers are still getting robbed at the gas pump. Until the Obama administration gets serious about alternatives, this robbery, and the lies from the Republicans, will continue to happen on a regular basis.

May 17 2011

17:52

GOP House Energy Action Team Is Dirty Energy Dream Team

Earlier this month, House Republicans formed the House Energy Action Team, or “HEAT.” 26 GOP members of Congress joined the group, whose stated mission to is to reduce American dependence on foreign oil and reduce gasoline prices for American consumers.

On the surface, the group’s intentions seem reasonable, but a comprehensive analysis by DeSmogBlog shows that the members of HEAT are using their positions to promote the use of oil and other dirty fossil fuels, rather than promoting the development and use of clean renewable fuel sources.

Among the initiatives that the group took up first are three bills that would expand offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico – an area that will be dealing with the effects of the BP oil disaster for years to come. This combination of bills would end the Obama Administration’s moratorium on new drilling in the Gulf, as well as expedite the leasing process for new drilling permits.

Republican members of HEAT also voted in favor of H.R. 1 earlier this year, which would reduce funding for alternative energy research, as well as strip the EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

ThinkProgress compiled a list of the campaign contributions each member of HEAT has received over the course of their careers (which total more than $4 million for all members combined.) It is important to note that all but one of these members voted against repealing the $4 billion in subsidies that the oil industry receives every year. The members are listed below with their career contributions from the oil and gas industry, as well as their positions and proposals on energy and environment throughout their careers: <!--break-->

Kevin McCarthy (R – CA): Career total of $142,350 from the oil and gas industry. Founder of the House Energy Action Team. McCarthy has supported legislation that would allow former military bases to be turned into oil refineries, voted in favor of legislation that would increase the production and development of shale oil, voted to open ANWR for oil drilling, voted to expand offshore oil drilling in deep water, voted against funding for alternative energy research and development, voted against ending oil subsidies, and voted against tax credits for energy conservation.

Peter Roskam (R - IL): Career total of $153,265 from the oil and gas industry. Co-chairman of HEAT. Voted against increasing vehicle fuel economy; Proposed the Energy VISION Act, which would increase offshore drilling, open ANWR for drilling, and open up more American lands for oil shale exploration; Voted against tax credits for renewable energy; Voted NO on limiting CO2 emissions; Voted to ban greenhouse gases from the Clean Air Act rules.

Marsha Blackburn (R-TN): Career total of $170,143 from the oil and gas industry. Refers to cap and trade as a “scheme.” Voted against restricting CO2 emissions, and voted to strip the EPA of the authority to do so; Voted against tax incentives for renewable energy development; Voted in favor of creating new oil refineries and expediting the permitting process of new refineries; Voted against removing oil industry subsidies.

Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV): Career total of $343,045 from the oil and gas industry. Claims the EPA is a “job killer”, as are limits placed on greenhouse gas emissions; Voted against the offshore drilling moratorium; Voted in favor of oil and gas drilling in ANWR; Voted against alternative fuel tax incentives; Introduced the Protect America's Energy and Manufacturing Jobs Act of 2011, which would prohibit the Obama Administration's regulation of carbon.

Mike Conaway (R-TX): Career total of $678,818 from the oil and gas industry. Voted against protecting endangered species; Supports drilling in ANWR; Voted against tax incentives for renewable energy; Voted against repealing oil industry subsidies; Voted against offshore drilling moratorium; Voted in favor of building new oil refineries.

Steve Scalise (R-LA): Career total of $139,135 from the oil and gas industry. Voted against tax credits for energy conservation; Voted against tax incentives for alternative energy production; Voted against regulating CO2 emissions; Calls for an end to the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases.

Greg Walden (R-OR): Career total of $182,500 from the oil and gas industry. Voted against implementation of the Kyoto Protocol; Voted in favor of creating new oil refineries; Voted against enforcing limits on CO2; Voted against raising fuel economy standards; Voted against tax incentives for renewable energy; In favor of ANWR drilling.

Rick Berg (R-ND): Career total of $114,311 from the oil and gas industry. Supports oil drilling and expanded mining ventures in his home state of North Dakota; Supports developing new nuclear power plants in North America; Does support renewable energy tax credits.

Jeff Denham (R-CA): Career total of $24,400 from the oil and gas industry. Pledged to vote against any tax increase that would be used to combat global climate change.

Cory Gardner (R-CO): Career total of $171,324 from the oil and gas industry. Claims that cap and trade policies will have no impact on global climate change; Signed the GOP’s “Contract From America,” which calls for an increase in domestic and offshore drilling in the United States.

Doc Hastings (R-WA): Career total of $161,804 from the oil and gas industry. Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources; Voted to expedite “forest thinning” projects to clear cut American forests; Voted against protecting endangered species; Voted against limiting carbon emissions; Voted against tax incentives for renewable energy programs; Voted against increasing vehicle fuel economy; Voted in favor of creating new oil refineries and expediting the permitting process; In favor of increased oil drilling on American soil and in American waters; Voted in favor of drilling in ANWR.

Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA): Career total of $26,600 from the oil and gas industry. Refused to answer any questions on whether she supports climate change legislation during the 2010 election, the cycle in which she was elected. As of May 2011, she has not signed onto any legislation supporting or against environmental issues.

Lynn Jenkins (R-KS): Career total of $119,600 from the oil and gas industry. Claims that the rise in gasoline and oil prices since 2008 are the result of “excessive regulations” by Democrats; In favor of creating new oil refineries and increasing offshore oil drilling and drilling in ANWR; Wants to ban greenhouse gases from the Clean Air Act.

Devin Nunes (R-CA): Career total of $138,000 from the oil and gas industry. Sponsored the American-Made Energy Freedom Act of 2006, which would create a trust fund to be used to develop alternative energy. However, this trust fund would be funded by profits from deep ocean drilling and expanded mainland oil drilling. Voted against limits on carbon emissions; Voted against providing tax incentives for alternative energy development; Voted against the offshore drilling moratorium; Voted no on criminalizing OPEC; Wants to bar greenhouse gases from the Clean Air Act; Voted to expedite “forest thinning” projects for clear cutting.

Alan Nunnelee (R-MS): Career total of $55,050 from the oil and gas industry. Called for the creation of an American energy plan that relied on “clean coal,” increased domestic drilling, as well as increased offshore oil drilling; Pledged to vote against any tax increases to be used for curbing climate change.

Pete Olson (R-TX): Career total of $246,750 from the oil and gas industry. In favor of increased domestic and offshore oil drilling; Against regulating greenhouse gas emissions; Claims cap and trade programs would have no impact on global climate change.

Ben Quayle (R-AZ): Career total of $42,200 from the oil and gas industry. Claims that cap and trade policies will stifle economic growth in American and send American jobs overseas; Signed the pledge to vote against any tax increases that would be used to fund climate change prevention programs. Was also a partner at the law firm of Schulte, Roth, & Zabel, who are currently defending Bernie Madoff and other white collar criminals.

Martha Roby (R-AL): Career total of $14,500 from the oil and gas industry. First-term congresswoman; Signed the GOP pledge to vote against any tax increase to be used for curbing global climate change.

Phil Roe (R-TN): Career total of $23,700 from the oil and gas industry. Supports increased domestic oil production, including offshore and mainland drilling, as well as the continued development of “clean coal.”

Steve Womack (R-AR): Career total of $15,719 from the oil and gas industry. First-term congressman; Signed onto the GOP’s pledge to vote against any tax increases that would be used to curb global climate change.

Jeff Duncan (R-SC): Career total of $15,000 from the oil and gas industry. Endorsed by the Club for Growth, a conservative group that has fought viciously against climate change legislation. Duncan opposes any new regulations aimed at reducing emissions and combatting climate change; Signed onto the GOP pledge to vote against any tax increases that would curb global climate change.

Jason Chaffetz (R-UT): Career total of $30,000 from the oil and gas industry. Favors developing habitats of endangered species for commercial use; Voted against regulating CO2 emissions; Wants to ban greenhouse gases from the Clean Air Act; Signed the no tax pledge to vote against tax increases to be used to combat climate change; Wants to ban the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases; In favor of increased domestic and offshore drilling in America; Claims cap and trade programs will have no effect on climate change.

Bill Flores (R-TX): Career total of $212,528 from the oil and gas industry. Former CEO of Phoenix Exploration Company, an oil and natural gas exploration firm; Supports increased offshore and domestic oil drilling; Signed the GOP’s pledge to vote against tax increases that would be used to combat climate change; Claims that cap and trade will have no impact on climate change.

Virginia Foxx (R-NC): Career total of $58,450 from the oil and gas industry. Voted against environmental education grants; Voted against regulating CO2 emissions; Voted against tax incentives for alternative energy; Voted in favor of expediting the creation of new oil refineries; Against the EPA regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

John Shimkus (R-IL): Career total of $275,761 from the oil and gas industry. Does not believe that humans cause climate change, and says that regulating CO2 emissions would take away valuable “plant food;” Voted against renewable energy tax credits; Voted against offshore drilling moratorium; Voted against raising fuel economy standards; Wants to ban greenhouse gas emissions from the Clean Air Act; Voted in favor of drilling in ANWR; Voted in favor of expediting “forest thinning” projects.

Fred Upton (R-MI): Career total of $262,850 from the oil and gas industry. Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce; Wants to strip the EPA of the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions; Voted against providing tax credits for alternative energy; Voted against offshore drilling moratorium; Voted against raising fuel economy standards; Voted against implementing the Kyoto Protocol; Wants to reduce the liability for corporations who contribute to or create hazardous waste sites.

Bill Johnson (R-OH): Career total of $5,250 from the oil and gas industry. First-term congressman. Signed the GOP pledge to vote against tax increases that would be used to combat climate change; Supports increased domestic drilling and “clean coal;” Says that cap and trade will harm our economy and result in the loss of American jobs.

Mike Pompeo (R-KS): Career total of $250,156 from the oil and gas industry. Serves on the board of trustees for the Kansas Policy Institute, which was founded by David and Charles Koch; Wants to strip the EPA of the authority to regulate greenhouse gases; Signed the GOP pledge to vote against any tax increase that would be used to combat climate change.

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