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August 09 2012

22:37

Was Scott Walker Chosen to Headline Heartland Institute Gala Due to His Bradley Foundation Ties?

Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker will keynote the Heartland Institute's 28th Anniversary Benefit Dinner this evening at Navy Pier in Chicago, IL

Walker recently won the Kochtopus-funded Americans for Prosperity George Washington Award. Now, two months after his recall election steamrolling of Democrat Tom Barrett, the climate change denying group famous for its Unabomber billboard will embrace Walker with much fanfare

Heartland, whose internal documents were published this past spring by DeSmogBlog, sings praises for Walker's union-busting agenda and his recent recall victory in promoting the event

This year’s keynote speaker, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, is the nation’s most influential and successful governor. Elected in 2010 to balance a budget that was billions of dollars in deficit without raising taxes, he did exactly that, winning the passionate support of taxpayers, business owners, and consumers across the state. After years of economic stagnation caused by high taxes and excessive regulation, Wisconsin is growing again.

To balance the state’s budget, Gov. Walker took on powerful public sector unions, reining in their collective bargaining privileges and requiring that public-sector workers start to contribute toward their retirement and health care benefits. Unions fought back, and after they failed to block legislation implementing Walker’s plan, they tried to recall him in a special election. On June 5, 2012, they failed, as Walker won reelection and a solid mandate to stay his course.

The trove of leaked Heartland documents exposed the Institute's current climate change denying agenda and revealed whose money supports this reality-denying agenda. But DeSmogBlog neglected to talk about the details of "Operation Angry Badger" in the documents, as at the time, we thought it was outside the scope of our mission.

Turns out, we were wrong.

The WI-Bradley Foundation-Heartland Institute Nexus

A significant chunk of the Heartland Exposed documents discussed the Heartland Institute's "Operation Angry Badger." These documents laid out the role Heartland would play in serving as a messaging machine for the forthcoming Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election. 

The Center for Media and Democracy's Brendan Fischer broke down the "Angry Badger" details (emphasis mine):

Leaked documents show that the Chicago-based Heartland Institute is planning to spend $612,000 supporting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

(Snip)

The leaked documents propose a $612,000 campaign to include print ads, mailers, web ads, and blog posts that would promote the "successes" of Wisconsin Act 10 and portray Wisconsin teachers as overpaid and schools as underperforming. Act 10 — also known as the "budget repair bill" — included Governor Walker's plan to curtail collective bargaining for public employees, which its proponents said would result in cost-savings for school districts and make it easier to fire bad teachers. 

Why was Heartland - a 'free-market' think tank most well-known for its role in peddling climate change denial - so invested in supporting Walker in the recall election? And given the controversy surrounding Heartland's Unabomber billboard failure, why is Walker - who is also set to keynote the Republican National Convention later this month - interested in associating with such an extreme group by serving as the keynote speaker at Heartland's Annual Dinner?

Just follow the money and the personnel for some indications. 

Milwaukee, WI-Based Bradley Foundation Gives Big Bucks to Heartland

The Milwaukee, WI-based conservative Bradley Foundation gave $648,000 to Heartland between 1986-2009, according to Media Matters.

The Foundation's President and CEO, Michael Grebe, served as Chairman for Walker's 2010 gubernatorial race, in which Walker handily dispatched his challenger, Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett.

Grebe is also the Chairman of the Board of Philanthropy Roundtable, which, according to the Center for Media and Democracy's Sourcewatch, "was established by the Bradley Foundation to help facilitate conservative grantmaking." 

Bradley gave Philanthropy Roundable $2,585,000 between 1993-2009, according to Media Matters.

Compared to its close allies, the Koch Family Foundations - the funding epicenter of the Kochtopus empire and another Heartland funder - the Bradley Foundation has largely operated beneath the public's radar, particularly in the national media. The veil of secrecy Bradley enjoys was lifted when Wisconsin's biggest daily newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, published a lengthy investigation in November 2011, "From local roots, Bradley Foundation builds conservative empire." 

Walker's first meeting as Governor-Elect was not with the Koch Brothers, but with upper-level management of Bradley, explained the Sentinel:

Less than a week after being elected governor, Scott Walker and his wife met privately with one of the most powerful philanthropic forces behind America's conservative movement.

It wasn't the Koch brothers - the bogeymen for the American left.

On Nov. 8, 2010, the Walkers broke bread at the upscale Bacchus restaurant in the Cudahy Tower with the board and senior staff of the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

The Bradley Empire has actually doled out far more money to conservative causes (not including electoral efforts) in the past decade than has the Koch Empire.

"It receives a fraction of the attention given the billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch and the Scaife family," wrote the Sentinel. "But the Bradley Foundation is in a different league: From 2001 to 2009, it doled out nearly as much money as the seven Koch and Scaife foundations combined."

The Bradley Empire Uses Walker to Push Post-Recall Agenda

Foundation money doesn't grow on trees. It comes from various donors who share mutual ideological and fiduciary interests. In the case of the Bradley Empire, these interests are multi-tentacled, but the thread that ties the interests together is that they're always in the interest of corporations.

The $612,000 funneled to Heartland to work the "Operation Angry Badger" Walker recall effort could be looked at as a small down payment investment. Walker's victory now gives him the mandate to push the corporate agenda full-steam ahead - and push this agenda he has.

With the recall complete, and the national spotlight shifting away from Walker, he got to work creating numerous committees and working groups to service private interests ahead of the public interest, both now and long into the future. This is best highlighted in an ongoing investigative series by The Progressive magazine's Rebecca Kemble.

Two of the key working groups, The Council on Workforce Investment and the College and Workforce Readiness Council, "are working closely with Competitive Wisconsin, an alliance of politically connected businesses organized by Jim Wood, president of their family PR firm Wood Communications," according to Kemble's reporting.

Competitive Wisconsin, Kemble went onto to explain, launched something called the "Be Bold Campaign" in 2010. This campaign called for the creation of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), a public-private partnership that eventually was turned into reality as WI Act 7 (also known as Special Session SB 6 and Special Session AB 6) on February 9, 2011. This was merely two days before Walker announced he would be pushing the union-busting "Budget Repair Bill." 

Competitive Wisconsin spent 95% of its lobbying time in the first half of 2011 making the case for Act 7, according to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board. This ran at a cost of $3,750 - or roughly three-fifths of the money ($4,875) it spent on lobbying for the half-year period. 

The WEDC, in turn, is currently putting together an influential study set to be released after Labor Day, according to a press release. "The $300,000 study is being funded by grants from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the Bradley Foundation, and corporate donations," wrote The Wisconsin State Journal

The study is titled "Be Bold 2," a sequel to the study that created the WEDC to begin with.

A "Bold" Push For Jobs in Wisconsin's Growing Oil and Gas Industry?

"Be Bold 2" will be released under the auspices of Competitive Wisconsin, though it is co-funded by the WEDC and the Bradley Foundation. Competitive Wisconsin's "strategic counsel" is Jim Wood, President of Wood Communications Group

Wood Communications Group is a self-described "full-service public relations firm, providing problem solving and communication tools that work in the real world." Importantly, one of its clients is Murphy Oil Corporation

Murphy has a refinery in Superior, WI, which is refining tar sands crude that makes its way into the state via the Enbridge Alberta Clipper Pipeline, approved by the Obama Administration in August 2009.

In late July, the Alberta Clipper Pipeline spilled 1,200 barrels of oil near Grand Marsh, WI, according to Enbridge. Not even two weeks after the spill, Enbridge was given the go-ahead to restart pipeline operations

Wisconsin is also home to four Koch Industries tar sands refineries, owned by its subsidiary, Flint Hills Resources. Koch PAC donated $43,000 to the Walker campaign in 2010, while James Kowitz, Manager of the Murphy Oil Superior refinery gave Walker $800 prior to his 2010 victory.   

"Operation Angry Badger" A Wild Success

Of course the fossil fuel industry-funded Heartland Institute doesn't want Wisconsin citizens to think about how the tar sands crude that flows through the pipelines and refineries in their state causes climate change. 

After a close look at the tight ties that bind Walker to the Bradley Empire, its anti-union initiatives in Wisconsin, and Bradley's ties to the Heartland Institute, one can see that Walker's speaking gig at Heartland's 28th Annual Dinner actually makes perfect sense. 

And coming full circle, by the looks of it, "Operation Angry Badger" has been nothing short of a wild success for its special interest backers.

Photo CreditMegan McCormick | WikiMedia

July 28 2012

13:00

The Real Train Wreck: ALEC and "Other ALECs" Attack EPA Regulations

When business-friendly bills and resolutions spread like wildfire in statehouses nationwide calling for something as far-fetched as a halt to EPA regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, ALEC is always a safe bet for a good place to look for their origin.

In the midst of hosting its 39th Annual Meeting this week in Salt Lake City, Utah, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is appropriately described as an ideologically conservative "corporate bill mill" by the Center for Media and Democracy, the overseer of the ALEC Exposed project. 98 percent of ALEC's funding comes from corporations, according to CMD**.

ALEC's meetings bring together corporate lobbyists and state legislators to schmooze and then vote on what it calls "model bills." Lobbyists, as CMD explains, have a "voice and a vote in shaping policy." In short, they have de facto veto power over whether the prospective bills they present at these conferences become "models" that will be distributed to the offices of politicians in statehouses nationwide.

For a concise version of how ALEC operates, see the brand new video below by Mark Fiore.

 
ALEC Rock

ALEC, though, isn't the only group singing this tune.

As it turns out, one of the "Other ALECs," or a group that operates in a similar manner to ALEC, will be hosting its conference in the immediate aftermath of ALEC's conference: the Council of State Government's (CSG) regional offshoot, the Southern Leadership Conference (SLC).

Like ALEC, CSG produces its own "model bills," which it calls "Suggested State Legislation" (SSL). SSL is enacted via an "up or down" vote manner at CSG's national meetings. This process mirrors that of its cousin ALEC, with corporate lobbyists also able to vote in closed door meetings.

Some key differences between CSG and ALEC: the former is bipartisan in nature, while the latter is Republican Party-centric; CSG has a far larger budget, due to the fact that 43 percent of its funding comes from taxpayer contributions; and CSG is not explicitly ideological in nature because it was founded as a trade association for state legislators (not as a corporate front group like ALEC, although CSG is now heavily influenced by the same forces).

SLC's annual meeting will be held in Charleston, West Virginia from July 28-31.

TruthOut's ongoing "Other ALECs Exposed" series (written by yours truly) digs deep into the machinations of "Other ALEC"-like groups.

One of the key threads tying these two particular groups together is their agreement on derailing what they describe as "job-killing" EPA greenhouse gas emissions regulations. ALEC has referred to these sensible standards on multiple occassions as a "Regulatory Trainwreck."

ALEC, SLC and EPA "Regulatory Trainwreck" Resolutions

ALEC's "Regulatory Trainwreck" Resolution

ALEC has two model bills on the books that call for EPA regulations to be eliminated: the State Regulatory Responsibility Act and the Resolution Opposing EPA’s Regulatory Train Wreck. Essentially clones, the two bills passed nearly a decade apart from one another, the former in 2000, the latter in 2011.

ALEC's description of EPA regulations reads like the apocolypse is looming.

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has begun a war on the American standard of living," it wrote. "During the past couple of years, the Agency has undertaken the most expansive regulatory assault in history on the production and distribution of affordable and reliable energy…These regulations are causing the shutdown of power plants across the nation, forcing electricity generation off of coal, destroying jobs, raising energy costs, and decreasing reliability."  

Former CMD reporter Jill Richardson wrote in a July 2011 story that the concept behind the resolution originated at ALEC's December 2010 policy summit. Richardson explained,

The policy summit included a session led by Peter Glaser of Troutman Sanders LLP law firm in which Glaser, an attorney who represents electric utility, mining and other energy industry companies and associations on environmental regulation, specifically in the area of air quality and global climate change, told the crowd that "EPA's regulatory trainwreck" is "a term that's now in common use around town. I think everybody should become familiar with it." (See the video here.) Along with the presentations, ALEC published a report called "EPA's Regulatory Trainwreck: Strategies for State Legislators" and provided "Legislation to Consider" on its site, RegulatoryTrainwreck.com. For the public, they created the website StopTheTrainwreck.com.

The Resolution calls for the EPA to stop regulating greenhouse gases for the next two years as a "jobs creation" mechanism.

After the midterm election ransacking, in which the GOP won large majorities in state legislatures nationwide, it was off to the races for "Regulatory Train Wreck" resolutions to pass around the country, and pass they did. 

The "Regulatory Trainwreck" resolution, according to ALEC, has been introduced in an astounding 34 states, passing in 13, as of a June 2011 press release.

This assault conducted by ALEC and its corporate backers is merely the tip of the iceberg. ALEC itself boasts,

There are 27 groups of state and local officials that opposerecent EPA action, including tens of thousands of state legislators, utility commissioners, agricultural department officials, foresters, drinking water administrators, fish and wildlife agencies, solid waste management officials, state wetland managers, mayors, counties, and cities.

One of these 27 groups included CSG's Southern Leadership Conference.

SLC Adopts the "Regulatory Train Wreck" Resolution as its Own

On July 19, 2011, the SLC adopted the ALEC Regulatory Train Wreck resolution at its 65th Annual Meeting in Memphis, TN. The Resolution called for, among other things, to

  1. "Adopt legislation prohibiting the EPA from further regulating greenhouse gas emissions for the next 24 months, including, if necessary, defunding the EPA greenhouse gas regulatory activity;"
  2. "Impose a moratorium on the promulgation of any new air quality regulation by the EPA, including, if necessary,the defunding of the EPA air quality regulatory activities, except to address an imminent health or environmental emergency, for a period of at least 24 months;"  

In other words, this is a copycat of the ALEC Resolution. SLC, like ALEC, chocks it up to the false dichotomy of regulation vs. jobs, and regulations "killing jobs." As DeSmogBlog has written, the opposite is actually the case.

The resolution's opening paragraph is a case in point. It reads,

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed, or is in the process of proposing, numerous regulations regarding air quality and regulation of greenhouse gases that likely will have major effects on Southern state economies, impacting businesses, manufacturing industries and, in turn, job creation and U.S. competitiveness in world markets."

Lobbyists representing the Nuclear Energy Institute, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), Southern States Energy Board (a lobbying tour de force, which has a whole host of dirty energy clients in the oil, gas, and nuclear power sectors), Piedmont Natural Gas, Spectra Energy, and Southern Company were all in attendance to vote on this resolution. 

Dirty energy sponsors of the 2011 SLC meeting included the likes of Spectra, General Electric, ACCCE, Chevron, Honeywell, Piedmont Natural Gas, BP, Southern Company, and Atmos Energy, to name several.

If adopted at a federal level, this resolution would, of course, make all of these companies a hefty fortune.  

ALEC's Bifurcated Approach: Strip Federal Regs, Attack Local Democracy

Oil, gas, nuclear and utility corporations that fund ALEC and groups like CSG would like nothing more than to see EPA regulations disintegrate into thin air.

Part one of DeSmog's investigation on ALEC's dirty energy agenda showed that, along with pushing for the elimination of EPA regulations, it has also succeeded in promulgating legislation that would eliminate local democracy as we know it, including altering key standards such as zoning rights - a Big Business giveaway of epic proportions.

This would mean only extremely underfunded and understaffed state regulatory agencies like the New York Department of Environmental Conservation would have any oversight on environmental regulatory issues. 

If anything is clear, it's this: statehouses have become one of Big Business' favorite domiciles for pushing its "Corporate Playbook." 

Image CreditLane V. Erickson ShutterStock

(**Full Disclosure: Steve Horn is a former employee of CMD and worked on the ALECExposed project)

January 20 2012

21:13

Administration Withdraws Interior Candidate

A nominee asks that she be withdrawn from consideration after Republicans object to comments she made about hydraulic fracturing, mountaintop removal coal mining and weak regulation of air and water quality.

December 16 2011

02:32

'Consumer Energy Alliance' Front Group Exposed by The Tyee and Salon

In a must-read piece co-published today by Salon.com and The TyeeGeoff Dembicki exposes the dark underbelly of the public relations and lobbying industry, revealing the interconnectedness between Alberta tar sands movers and shakers in Alberta and their oily compatriots in Washington. 

The investigative article focuses on the fossil fuel industry front group Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), which is run out of the offices of the PR firm HBW Resources, headed by David Holt, Andrew Browning, and Michael Whatley.

Geoff Dembicki's article "Big Oil and Canada thwarted U.S. carbon standards," exposes CEA's effort to thwart government efforts to favor relatively cleaner conventional fuels over the dirtiest forms of extreme unconventional energy like the Alberta tar sands. 

Dembicki reveals how CEA influenced the debate at both the national and state-by-state levels on low carbon fuel standards (LCFS), working to defeat or delay any efforts to differentiate between the emissions footprints of extreme and unconventional fuels like tar sands oil and cleaner-but-still-dirty conventional oil.

Oil industry power players, including BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Marathon, Shell and Norway’s Statoil are among the CEA's key financially backers, and many of these companies also happen to have deep ties to the Alberta tar sands.

DeSmogBlog has previously written about CEA, as has The Tyee on numerous occassions. But what makes Dembicki's article so unique this time around is the valuable insight into CEA's behavior revealed in records obtained via the Freedom of Information Act from the Alberta government. The documents lend insight into how CEA interacts with the Alberta government, and in turn, how the Alberta government, working alongside CEA, influences the American government at both the state and federal level.

An excerpt from the article explains the significance of the FOIA documents:

The messages lay bare a sophisticated and stealthy public relations offensive, one designed to manipulate the U.S. political system; to deluge the media with messages favorable to the tar-sands industry; to sway key legislators at state and federal levels; and most importantly, to defeat any attempt to make the gasoline and diesel pumped everyday into U.S. vehicles less damaging to the climate. The goal of it all? "Defeat" Obama's effort to reduce carbon consumption and keep America hooked on Canada's $441 billion tar sands industry, no matter what the cost to our planet's future.

The article demonstrates once again what the father of modern propaganda, Edward Bernays, referred to as the "invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country” in his 1928 classic, Propaganda.

Some highlights from the article:

  • Michael Whatley (the "W" in HBW Resources) worked overtime to defeat low carbon fuel standards, dating back to December 2009, waging an all out lobbying assault to ensure that low carbon fuel standards would not be implemented, working on a state-by-state basis. How did Whatley gain so much influence, you ask?

Dembicki explains,

"Whatley served as attorney and senior policy advisor on George W. Bush’s first presidential campaign and transition team. And Whatley was later appointed chief of staff to Senator Elizabeth Dole, a former cabinet secretary and the wife of GOP elder statesman Bob Dole."

Whatley is now in private practice at HBW seeking to influence policymakers on behalf of his industry clients, a Beltway Bandit par excellance.

  • Another key player is Whatley's close pal, Gary Mar, a former Canadian politician and "smooth-talking and ambitious diplomat at the Canadian embassy" in Washington, DC, who played an instrumental role while CEA/HBW waged the anti-LCFS battle throughout the U.S. 

Dembicki writes,

"Mar’s lobbying wasn’t just confined to the U.S. capitol. Anytime state policymakers tried to introduce global warming laws potentially bad for Alberta’s oil sands, Mar hit the road, ready to glad-hand and charm. One major victory came in early 2009, when he apparently worked closely with the Maryland legislature to remove a climate bill that would have banned sales of high-carbon road fuel."

Both Mar and Whatley understood full well that the apperance, or illusion, of a mass groundswell of support for dirty air is necessary — astroturfing and front groups are key tools in deceptive PR propaganda campaigns.

Dembicki summarizes,

"Despite their skills and experience, Mar and Whatley knew that defeating climate policy required allies. That’s why one of the first strategy proposals in Whatley’s January 25, 2010, campaign briefing to Mar was to team up with 'affiliated energy coalitions and trade associations, thought leaders, elected officials, unions and key allies.' The goal was to enlist these players to 'build opposition' towards low carbon fuel standards 'in each of our target regions.' The campaign apparently needed 'state-based and regional 3rd party advocates for Canadian oil sands' to give it legitimacy."

These "third party advocates" included the likes of "airlines, truckers, railroads, highway users, shippers," or those most dependent on fossil fuels.

Corporate front group "think tanks" also play a key role, Dembicki explains: 

"Whatley’s proposal suggested engaging with seven prominent think tanks, two of which, the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, received millions of dollars in funding from Koch Industries to question the science behind global warming."

Read the whole article and check out the emails obtained via FOIA for a glimpse inside the world of unethical dirty energy PR campaigns.

Stay tuned for the forthcoming original investigation by DeSmogBlog about CEA, as well.

December 12 2011

15:04

April 19 2011

19:22

Budget Passed in Congress Will Invest in International Efforts to Curb Global Warming (but still not enough)


NRDC - the SwitchboardThis post first appeared on the Natural Resources Defense Council blog Switchboard

The long drama of whether or not the US Congress would invest in international efforts to curb global warming pollution or gut these investments is finally over – at least for the rest of this fiscal year.  Last week President Obama signed into law a budget for the rest of this fiscal year (fiscal year 2011).  Investments in international climate activities fared alright.  The final bill would fund core international climate activities at $750-950 million, with other activities potentially adding to this total. This is a continued investment in these critical programs, but still far away from the ultimate need.

As others have pointed out there is good, ok, and bad news.  This budget could have been much, much worse as the original House Republican passed bill would have gutted these critical investments by zeroing out some of the funding levels.  In addition, the House Republican version would have eliminated funding to help the best scientists in the world document and communicate the science behind carbon pollution (effectively having the house Republicans pretending global warming doesn’t exist and muffling the scientists that would tell them otherwise).  Thankfully that provision wasn’t included.

On the rest of the funding picture it is a mixed story.  So let’s look at the numbers in a bit greater detail (I’ll compare to last year’s amount and the President’s request where possible*).

Total investments are slightly down from last year and down a fair amount from the President’s request. Last year’s budget included about $1 billion in funding for core international climate action.  On top of that the US State Department reported that other US funding which supports international climate action would bring the total to $1.3 billion ($1.7 billion if you count support provided by US export credit agencies).**  For this year the President requested $1.3 billion in core funding (not including the additional programs produce climate action as a co-benefit).  The House Republicans would have gutted this funding.  The final bill approved $750-950 million in core climate funding, so it is 5-25% below last year’s amount.

Making climate change a priority could lead to $950 million of funding. The final total funding for core international climate action could be very close to last year’s levels, but only if the Administration makes climate change a priority in its final allocation of bilateral assistance funding.***    If the Administration decides that global warming funding is a high priority and allocates the bilateral assistance at a level close to the President’s request then the total ($950 million) will be pretty close to last year’s amount.  If they don’t make it this level of a priority then the funding ($750 million) will be significantly below last year’s amount.  The ball is in their court.  We hope that they’ll allocate the full amount that they requested as international climate investments are in the US interest.

Investments in deploying clean energy were cut, but not as bad as the House Republicans would have cut them. The US funds global efforts to deploy clean energy through bilateral and multilateral assistance – with the largest chunk of multilateral assistance going through the Clean Technology Fund.  Unfortunately the clean energy investments through the Clean Technology Fund were cut from $300 million in last year’s budget to $185 million in this year’s budget (a cut of over 50% from the President’s request and 38% below last year’s amount.  The House Republicans proposed to completely zero out the Clean Technology Fund so it could have been worse.  The Clean Technology Fund is supporting such projects as wind development in Mexico, geothermal in Indonesia, and large-scale solar in North Africa.  Bilateral clean energy funding could fare not too bad if the Administration prioritizes it in their allocation of bilateral assistance.***    

Support for deforestation investments are about what they were last year as long as the Administration prioritizes them in the final allocations. Last year the US invested $241 million in direct programs to reduce deforestation emissions (called “sustainable landscapes” in the US budget descriptions).  In addition the US has continued to fund biodiversity efforts, many of which have deforestation reductions as a co-benefit.  In this year’s final budget the amount of core deforestation reduction funding is about $236 million, but could be higher if they allocate bilateral funding with deforestation getting a higher amount.  Additional money to reduce deforestation might also be mobilized through biodiversity programs and the Millennium Challenge Corporation which is currently considering funding deforestation reduction efforts in Indonesia.

This funding must be the floor. These investments are in the US interest as they create clean energy opportunities, reduce deforestation emissions, and reduce future instability throughout the world.  The Administration has the ability to ensure that the damage of these cuts is minimized by ensuring that the final allocations of bilateral assistance prioritize international climate action.  This will be critical.

But we must also begin the fight to ensure that next year’s budget increases funding from this floor.  Hopefully President Obama and Congress will restore these cuts as the President’s budget request envisioned scale-up resources for these investments.  No rest for the weary.

——————–

Thanks to Michael Wolosin at the Climate Advisors for the detailed breakdowns on the deforestation reduction efforts and Eric Haxthausen at The Nature Conservancy who has a good blog on the budget with some more numbers.

Jake Schmidt is the International Climate Policy Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council where he helps to develop the post-2012 international response to climate change (for more information see his blog or follow him on twitter). And help track countries actions to reduce their global warming pollution.

* Note that the full breakouts aren’t yet available as the budget that is passed doesn’t break out the spending for all the programs that the US had funded in the past.  The final values for some categories depend on how the Administration allocates some funds amongst the various programs.

**All the values below are based on the “core” climate funding as it isn’t clear at this stage how the other programs will be implemented.

*** Funding for a number of the US programs comes through general bilateral assistance accounts which took cuts in the final bill.  The “Development Assistance” account which funds most of these programs was passed at roughly last year’s levels.  The “Economic Support Fund” which funds a couple of these programs was passed with a 29% cut from last year’s levels.

 

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March 29 2011

17:48

March 16 2011

20:13

Bill to Block EPA Climate Regulations Moves Forward in Congress

On Tuesday, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives moved one step closer to passing a bill to permanently prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating global warming pollution. The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the bill, H.R. 910 or the "Energy Tax Prevention Act," in a vote that fell mostly along party lines.

Under the guise of lowering gas prices, the bill would deliver several very lethal blows to EPA efforts to address climate change -- and to President Obama's energy agenda -- by:<!--break-->

  • Prohibiting the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide and six others) in connection with climate change.

  • Repealing previous EPA actions and rules on climate, overturning the EPA's science-based endangerment finding stating that greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, threaten public health and therefore are "air pollutants" which must be regulated.

  • Prohibiting Clean Air Act standards for improving vehicle fuel efficiency after 2016.

  • Preventing the EPA from allowing ambitious states, such as California, to set tougher vehicle emissions standards for greenhouse gases.

In a misleading attempt to gain public support for the bill, Representative Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and one of the bill's co-sponsors, has been claiming that the bill would keep gas prices in check by reducing additional EPA regulations on oil refineries. "Make no mistake -- if we allow the EPA to move forward unchecked, its actions will only drive gasoline and other energy prices higher," Upton said in the L.A. Times.

However, Politifact, the nonpartisan Pulitzer Prize-winning project that serves as a political truth-o-meter, found Upton's claim to be absolutely false, saying "there's no proof that the law would actually stop gas prices from rising." Additionally, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson pointed out before two U.S. House subcommittees last week that:

The bill still would block any Clean Air Act standards for greenhouse gas pollution from cars and trucks after 2016 ... All told, nullifying this part of the Clean Air Act would forfeit many hundreds of millions of barrels of oil savings. At a time when gas prices are rising yet again, I cannot, for the life of me, understand why you would vote to massively increase America's oil dependence.

Unbothered by the truth, Upton and others nonetheless continued to repeat this unfounded claim throughout committee proceedings.

House Democrats offered three failed amendments to insert language into the bill acknowledging EPA findings -- which the National Academy of Sciences also strongly confirmed -- on the science of climate change. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas)., who last year apologized to BP during Gulf oil spill hearings, ignorantly dismissed climate change as "a theory that hasn't been proven" while other Republicans made the point that Congress shouldn't be "legislating science," even as they moved legislation forward to do precisely that.

To that end, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) likened House Republican efforts to undo EPA's science-based findings with the "way the Vatican was able to repeal the finding of Galileo." (For the record, the Vatican eventually 'fessed up to being wrong.)

While 31 Republicans and three Democrats in the House -- all unsurprisingly funded by climate policy saboteurs, Koch Industries -- voted to dismantle portions of the popular Clean Air Act, diverse groups have voiced their opposition to H.R. 910, including small business and consumer interests, former military officers, health and medical professionals, and, of course, scientists.

On the other hand, the bill has plenty of support from big industry polluters, who reportedly gave it the go-ahead during a secret meeting in January with the bill's sponsors, Reps. Upton and Ed Whitfield (R-Ky) and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.). The full House will vote on -- and likely pass -- the bill later this spring, probably before the Congressional break for Easter at the end of April. Meanwhile, Democrats in the Senate are scrambling to rebuff similar last-minute efforts to handcuff the EPA's climate authority as part of an unrelated vote this week. Unfortunately, these kinds of attacks on the EPA are becoming disturbing and regular occurrences that aren't likely to disappear any time soon.

Photo: Juan Pablo Garnham, Creative Commons

March 10 2011

16:38

On Our Radar: E.P.A. Calls Foul Over Republican Gas Price Claims

Previous congressional efforts to regulate and put a price on greenhouse gas emissions would have increased the price of a gallon of gasoline by 19 cents in 2015 and 95 cents in 2050, Republicans assert in a news release. Not true, the federal government and prominent Democrats say.

March 02 2011

13:05

February 08 2011

16:13

December 01 2010

20:17

November 23 2010

13:13

'Take a Lesson,' Schwarznegger Says on Climate Change

The governor touts California's environmental credentials after an election in which voters beat back a ballot initiative that would have suspended the state's landmark climate change and renewable energy law.

September 09 2010

23:02

Nature Editorial Slams GOP For Anti-Science Tendencies

There is no getting around the fact that the U.S. Republican Party simply hates science.  It didn’t used to be that way.  But it is now, and the timing of a recent uptick in this phenomenon couldn't be worse.  

“The anti-science strain pervading the right wing in the United States is the last thing the country needs in a time of economic challenge.”

That is the subtitle of an excellent editorial today in the journal Nature, “Science Scorned,” which discusses how dangerous this trend is, pointing out that:

“There is a growing anti-science streak on the American right that could have tangible societal and political impacts on many fronts — including regulation of environmental and other issues and stem-cell research.”

Nowhere is the right wing’s anti-science stance more starkly apparent than on the issue of climate change, as Nature notes:

“Denialism over global warming has become a scientific cause célèbre within the movement. [Rush] Limbaugh, for instance, who has told his listeners that “science has become a home for displaced socialists and communists”, has called climate-change science “the biggest scam in the history of the world”.

Nature is a highly respected journal, and it is encouraging to see the editors take a strong stand against the GOP’s betrayal of science and reason. Science should never be confused with politics, but the recent antics of the Republican Party leave no alternative but to acknowledge that the Right's attack on science must be addressed directly by the scientific community. 

<!--break-->Author Chris Mooney dove into this topic in great depth in his New York Times bestselling book "The Republican War On Science," and other outlets have contributed more recent commentary on this scary trend as well.  

RL Miller posted an excellent blog recently on Grist titled “Stupid goes viral: The Climate Zombies of the new GOP.”  And Grist’s own David Roberts expanded on that piece to make abundantly clear the fact that the anti-science crusade launched by the GOP is not happening in isolation, but rather as part of a larger GOP effort to undermine public confidence in respected institutions, from academia to media, government to science. 

But GetEnergySmartNow! notes that, at least for now, the general public still holds science and scientists in high regard, referring to a 2009 Pew Research poll. 

That confidence must remain if the U.S. is ever going to address global warming in a meaningful way.

The Economist pointed out last week:

“It is troubling that the contemporary state of American political discourse obliges people who know better to stifle themselves on this issue [climate change]. So long as segments of the American political elite feed voters cynical lines on global warming, and large numbers of voters believe them, America will continue to get the political leadership it deserves, and face the serious consequences of inaction.”

Unfortunately, the biggest loser in the 2010 elections might not be the Democratic Party, but science itself.

September 07 2010

19:28

Street Cred vs. Green Cred

Arizona's Green Party is not amused by a Republican operative's effort to recruit people from the streets to run as Green candidates on the November ballot.
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