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March 23 2012


Tracking The Origins Of The "Blame Obama For Gas Prices" Talking Point

Since at least last summer, conservatives have been parroting the oil industry talking point that President Obama is somehow the one responsible for the spike in gasoline and oil prices. As we have pointed out, they base this on their assertion that the President has been “hostile” towards the dirty energy industry by prohibiting drilling and denying the passage of the Keystone XL Pipeline proposal. While the Keystone deal is currently on hold (although not even close to being off the table,) the assertion that the president has been hostile to the oil industry is beyond false.

Furthermore, the claim that Obama is responsible for the rise in gasoline prices is untrue on all premises. Just this week, the Associated Press released a report explaining the numerous ways in which gasoline prices are far beyond the control of the President, regardless of his actions or policies that he puts in place regarding oil exploration. Here are some highlights from the new report:

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March 15 2012


Climate Denial in Politics

Rick Santorum Talks to Plants (a lesson on climate skeptic vs. climate denier) (via Planetsave)

There has never been any doubt where Rick Santorum stands on global warming. While he may call himself a “skeptic”, he is unworthy of the term. Santorum is a demagogue and a denier. But that’s what he’s always been so it was no surprise when he uttered this gem of denialist drivel while stumping…


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February 21 2012


Rick Santorum, Attacking Scientists, Claims He’s not Anti-Science

Rick Santorum is becoming the anti-science gift that keeps on giving.

Yesterday, while speaking in his home state, the former Pennsylvania senator once again tilted at the idea of human caused global warming, saying that it is based on “phony studies,” and really a case of “political science.”

This is, you will note, a clear attack on climate scientists. It suggests 1) that climate researchers have either done bad research or, worse still, perpetrated falsified or fraudulent research; 2) that the norms of their field are somehow inadequate to prevent dubious conclusions from becoming accepted; 3) overall, climatology is a body of research that you just can’t take seriously.

Any climatologist would find this insulting. Any climatologist would consider this an affront.

Which is why it is so amazing that Santorum then went on to claim that he isn’t anti-science—no, it’s the Democrats who are the problem:

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February 08 2012


Santorum Calls Global Warming a “Hoax,” Suggesting a Full-Fledged Climate Conspiracy Theory

Conservatism is a political philosophy that is, at its most fundamental, about resisting change.

So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that an outrageous and absurd line uttered about global warming in 2003—Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe’s assertion that it is the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people”—has not, nearly a decade later, been discredited on the right. Instead, this idea has persisted.

Indeed, the “hoax” charge was recently reiterated by Rick Santorum—who uttered it in Colorado on Monday en route to his three state primary triumph yesterday.

This raises at least two points for me that bear addressing:

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January 07 2012


As Santorum Surges, Sound Science Sags

This is a guest post by Bill Walker, originally published at Climate Central.

There’s a new ringleader of the skeptics' circus — otherwise known as the 2012 field of Republican presidential candidates.

Rick Santorum’s out-of-nowhere surge to a virtual tie for first place in the Iowa caucuses may not boost him to frontrunner status in next week’s New Hampshire primary and the states beyond. But in the contest to see which GOP candidate can be the biggest doubter of the science of climate change, Santorum is the unchallenged leader of the pack.

Santorum not only denies that manmade global warming is a growing concern, he denies its very existence. “There is no such thing as global warming,” he once said on Glenn Beck’s show, adding that it’s “patently absurd” to think a naturally occurring substance like CO2 – “a trace gas in the atmosphere, and the man-made part of that trace gas is itself a trace gas “ – is warming the planet. (Well, not if you understand the greenhouse effect.) He told Rush Limbaugh: “I’ve never … accepted the junk science behind that narrative.”

But it’s not really about “junk” science. Santorum simply doesn’t accept science. A devout evangelical Catholic, Santorum also rejects evolution and tried to amend federal law to require the teaching of “intelligent design” in public schools. After his fellow candidate, Jon Huntsman, affirmed his belief in evolution, Santorum said: "If Governor Huntsman wants to believe that he is the descendant of a monkey, then he has the right to believe that."

Santorum lost Iowa by only eight votes; you have to wonder if coming out against the germ theory of disease would have put him over the top.

And it’s not just Santorum. For a long time, Congressional Republicans insisted there must be “sound science” behind environmental regulations. Now Republican politicians at all levels are rejecting sound science, either as a matter of faith or in a transparent bid for the votes of the party’s anti-science wing. Trust in science has become an electoral liability.

Four years ago, GOP nominee John McCain said without reservation that people are warming the planet and it’s time to act. This year the GOP debates have sounded like a panel discussion at a convention of the American Petroleum Institute. With one exception, all the candidates have embraced positions that run counter to facts the overwhelming majority of scientists agree on. As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote:

So it’s now highly likely that the presidential candidate of one of our two major political parties will either be a man who believes what he wants to believe, even in the teeth of scientific evidence, or a man who pretends to believe whatever he thinks the party’s base wants him to believe.


The Republican presidential candidates participating in the Iowa GOP/Fox News Debate in August. Credit: Iowa Politics/flickr. 


In one corner, the flip-floppers. Mitt Romney has reversed course on climate change so dramatically he seems to be debating himself. In 2008 Newt Gingrich taped an ad with Nancy Pelosi urging action on global warming. Now he says it was “the dumbest thing I’ve done.” Ron Paul has also done an about-face. He once acknowledged that “something (is) afoot” and that human activity had something to do with it, but later called the idea of manmade climate change “the greatest hoax (in) … hundreds of years.”

In the other it’s the hard-core deniers, Rick Perry, Michelle Bachman (formerly) and Santorum. Perry’s skepticism is particularly harsh — he believes climate scientists have manipulated data to pull in research money — and self-righteous. He likened current global warming skepticism to Galileo’s 17th century stand against the notion that the sun orbits the Earth.

The one candidate unafraid to publicly affirm global warming science is Huntsman, who (perhaps as a result) barely registers in the polls. Just months ago he tweeted:

To be clear, I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.”

It’s tempting to instead apply that label to his rivals. But what’s really behind the candidates’ race to the scientific bottom?

Dr. Larry Hamilton, a sociologist and pollster at the University of New Hampshire, told Climate Central some Republicans are skeptical of climate change science because they don’t like the proposed solutions to the problem, such as cap and trade, which they view as oppressive government regulation. But he also said among the party’s rank-and-file, especially the evangelical faction with outsize influence in the primaries, there is an alarming level of distrust of science itself.

In national surveys,” Hamilton said, “Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to say they don’t trust scientists as a source of information about environmental issues.”

A Public Policy Polling survey found that only 21 percent of Republican caucus voters in Iowa believe in global warming and only 35 percent accept evolution. Hamilton said it’s not that different in New Hampshire, where the Granite State Poll found that 31 percent of Republicans accept manmade climate change as a fact.

So what’s a rational Republican who trusts science and is concerned about climate change to do?

Farrell Seiler, chairman of New Hampshire Republicans for Climate, said he and his members will vote for Huntsman (although the more they’ve looked at his energy policy the less impressed they are). Seiler attributed the relatively greater acceptance of science among New Hampshire Republicans to the fact that the state is in “the direct line of fire” of extreme weather, particularly on its coast.

 In November, Seiler’s group sponsored a New Hampshire town hall meeting on climate change and invited all the GOP candidates. They realized the frontrunners wouldn’t come, but they made a special effort to reach out to Huntsman. They wanted to know why, after his “call me crazy” tweet, he seemed to back off his position.

 “We wanted to send a message that there are Republicans who get it on climate,” Seiler said. “We hoped Jon Huntsman would be willing to make a strong statement in front of a climate-friendly audience. But he didn’t show.”

This is a guest post by Bill Walker, originally published at Climate Central

Bill Walker, a writer and columnist for Climate Central, is a former newspaper correspondent and for more than 20 years a communications strategist for leading environmental organizations. He lives in Berkeley, Calif.

January 06 2012


Santorum Misrepresents Climate Science. Again.

Rick Santorum was asked about climate change recently, while campaigning in New Hampshire. The video of his response, as well as the transcript, can be found here.

Suffice it to say that while Santorum sounds thoughtful and rational in his response, in fact he gravely misrepresents scientific knowledge and understanding.

Let's turn to the tape.

Santorum starts off well enough:

The question is on how do I get my policies with climate change science.

I get asked this question a lot, and you look at the data and you can see some change in the climate.

But then again, pick a point in history where you haven’t seen a change in the climate.

The climate does change.

The question is, what is causing the climate to change.

And I think most scientists, in fact, I assume all scientists would agree there are a variety of factors that cause the climate change.

I don’t think any scientist in the world would suggest there isn’t a variety of factors, and I think the vast majority of scientists would say there’s probably a hundred factors that cause the climate to change.

A hundred factors? Well, there are a lot of factors that can influence the climate, that's for sure. So far, Santorum is pretty accurately representing climate science. But he continues:

And so why have we decided that this one particular factor, carbon dioxide, is in fact that tip of the tail that wags the entire dog.

Why from a scientific point of view do we make the assertion that this is in fact what is the case when there is a whole lot of other factors out there that could be affecting it?

So, that’s the question.

Notice the trick here. Up until this point, Santorum is accurately reflecting what scientists think. But now he isn't any more. Now he's contradicting them.

It's true there are lots of factors that can influence climate. But the chief factor that, scientists agree, is currently driving global warming is human induced greenhouse gas emissions.

Why does Santorum trust scientists to determine which different factors influence the climate, but not to determine the relative importance of these factors? Why would scientists be more trustworthy on one score than the other?

In my view, you either trust scientists or you don't. You don't get to pick and choose which parts of the scientific consensus you accept, and which part you don't. The whole point of trusting scientists is that they’re better than non-scientists at figuring out what findings can be reliably believed.

And the reality is that scientists both agree that many factors influence the global climate, and think global warming is mostly driven by human activities. There's no contradiction here—except perhaps in Santorum's willingness to head one scientific conclusion but not another.

(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons/Gage Skidmore)

January 04 2012


Rick Santorum and Science: Bad Combination!

As Republican primary season schizophrenia continues, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum is now in the spotlight, having very nearly beaten Mitt Romney in Iowa. So what do we people who care about science, and global warming in particular, know about Santorum?

Whoa boy.

None of the Republican candidates, with the possible exception of pro-science Tweeter Jon Huntsman, have distinguished themselves as science allies. Even sometime moderate Mitt Romney famously flip-flopped and cast doubt on human caused global warming; Rick Perry, meanwhile, thinks climate researchers are making it all up.

But Santorum? Arguably, his attacks on science surpass all of theirs.

Santorum, let us not forget, not only denies evolution, but has been an active anti-evolutionist in the past. In other words, he has made attacking fundamental scientific knowledge a key priority.

In 2002, Santorum wrote an op-ed calling the doctrine of “intelligent design” (ID) “a legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in science classes.” He even pushed an amendment to the 2001 education bill to support ID. For more on Santorum’s anti-evolution advocacy, see here.

On global warming, meanwhile, Santorum isn’t just a science denier. He goes far beyond many climate "skeptics" and actually argued, in a 2008 op-ed, that “global temperatures have actually cooled over the last 10 years and are predicted to continue cooling over the next 10”!

Needless to say, Santorum is also a big opponent of embryonic stem cell research.

Perhaps even more disturbing than these stances however, is a broader way of thinking on Santorum’s part. Consider this passage from the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, reporting on some completely fact-free remarks by Santorum in Iowa:

In Perry, Santorum gave his opinion that President Obama was more of a divisive figure than Richard Nixon, keeper of the enemies list: “I suspect President Nixon, although I don’t know, would talk and work with people and wouldn’t go out and demonize them as this president has done.” Santorum doesn’t know it, but that doesn’t stop him from asserting it.

At the same stop, he played loose with the facts when contrasting Ronald Reagan’s vacation schedule with Obama’s.

I don’t know if it’s true, but somebody told me this,” he began, “that Ronald Reagan never left the White House at Christmas, and the reason was he wanted all the staff to be able to spend that time at home.”

check of the record would have revealed to Santorum that in 1988, Reagan was in Los Angeles during Christmas, and that he spent the week after nearly every Christmas (and more than a year of his presidency) in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Reading this, I would say at minimum that Santorum would appear to lack accuracy motives.

Pundits are saying that the GOP race may now be down to Santorum and Romney, and speculating that social conservatives may, at last, have found their candidate.

If so, we should probably prepare for regular bursts of unreality, at least up through the New Hampshire primary.

August 05 2011


Oil Industry Steps Up Astroturf Efforts For 2012 Election

The oil industry has put their astroturf and lobbying efforts into overdrive over the last few months, preparing for a bitter fight in the upcoming 2012 presidential election. In addition to their usual work of pushing for increased domestic oil production and the opening of federal lands for oil drilling, the industry is working around the clock to convince lawmakers to sign off on the Keystone XL Pipeline that would transport crude tar sand oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries.

ThinkProgress reporter Lee Fang has helped uncover some of the oil industry’s recent astroturf tactics at townhall meetings across the country. At a separate townhall event in Iowa, Republicans Rick Santorum and Herman Cain were asked questions by “activists” planted by the industry-funded group the Iowa Energy Forum. From Fang’s report:

ThinkProgress witnessed the Iowa Energy Forum in action on a recent reporting trip. At a local Republican event at the Pizza Ranch buffet, a man affiliated with the group pressed Rick Santorum to commit to supporting the Keystone XL pipeline as another person with the group videotaped the exchange. The same dynamic happened again later that week at a Tea Party event with Herman Cain.

We came across a Youtube account affiliated with the Iowa Energy Forum. In addition to hosting an infomercial from the American Petroleum Institue, the trade association sponsoring the Forum, the channel features videos of astroturfed questions planted with GOP presidential candidates like Cain, Santorum, Tim Pawlenty, and Newt Gingrich. Many of the exchanges appear as authentic dialogue between a candidate and a regular Iowan. However, the questions are part of a well-crafted effort by oil lobbyists steer, and to some extent control, the GOP primary.

(Watch a compilation of planted questions at town hall events here.)

Of course, Republican candidates are more than willing participants in the oil industry’s outreach efforts. Some of the oil industry’s lobbyists behind the Iowa Energy Forum effort double as consultants to the Pawlenty campaign. Cain has said that he would literally appoint the CEO of Shell Oil to set oil industry regulations at the EPA. And as ThinkProgress discovered, the American Petroleum Institute maintains an official partnership with Gingrich’s 527 attack group, American Solutions for Winning the Future (ASWF).

The Des Moines Register has pointed out that on the website of the Iowa Energy Forum, the fine print reveals that the American Petroleum Institute (API) is their main sponsor.

But the oil industry isn’t just limiting themselves to townhall meetings – they have also embraced social media as a means to manipulate public opinion. Rainforest Action Network blog The Understory and Mother Jones are reporting that oil industry insiders are creating fake Twitter accounts to tout the need for the Keystone XL Pipeline.

From The Understory:

Followers of the #tarsands hashtag on Twitter may have noticed a strange spike in posts yesterday morning. Within three minutes, fifteen accounts (the list has since grown) all posted the message “#tarsands the truth is out! [link]” linking to API’s web page about oil sands. Then came another post from the same accounts, this time linking to the Nebraska Energy Forum, one of 26 state-based-front-groups sponsored by API in the lead up to the 2012 election. Then a flurry of posts late last night from those same accounts, all linking to a post on “publicaffairsinformant.com” touting KeystoneXL and linking back to the Nebraska Energy Forum.

As we previously reported, API president Jack Gerard has made it clear that he wants to have an oil lobbyist placed in every Congressional district in America. And from the looks of things, he’s doing his best to fulfill that mission for the oil industry.

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