Friday, October 15, 2010

Huffington Post: Denying Climate Change and Receiving Big Oil Money Not Mutually Exclusive

The Huffington Post published a piece yesterday highlighting a not-so-shocking trend among climate-denying candidates for Congress. It notes that of all Republican candidates vying for the 37 open Senate seats this election, none support climate and energy legislation, with most outright questioning the sound and settled science of climate change, and that most have received considerable campaign contributions from dirty energy interests, such as Koch Industries and Murray Energy.

Many of these candidates are also members of LCV's 2010 Dirty Dozen List. This includes Koch Industry favorite, Ron Johnson (WI-Sen), as well as Roy Blunt (MO-Sen) and Carly Fiorina (CA-Sen), both of whom count Murray Energy as top contributors. The piece also cites Pat Toomey (PA-Sen):

Pennsylvania Senate candidate Pat Toomey drew headlines when he said in a local radio interview on Friday, that the degree to which human activity is to blame for global warming is being "very much disputed" and "debated."...Trolling, HuffPost found Toomey's top contributors include oil and coal giants Koch Industries ($15,000) and Murray Energy ($16,655).

Speaking on behalf of Joe Sestak - Toomey's competitor - campaign spokesman Jonathon Dworkin referred to Toomey as "another closed-minded ideologue bent on insisting that the 'world is flat.'" We couldn’t agree more. Toomey is a card-carrying member of what LCV President Gene Karpinski likes to call the Flat Earth Society, as are many of the candidates The Huffington Post mentions.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

New GOP plan: Contract for Exxon Lobbyist

This morning, Republican House leaders unveiled “A Pledge to America,” a 45-page glossy pamphlet laced with tax cuts and promises to cut spending and clean up Congress. It was no surprise that the GOP leadership laid their planks in such a highly orchestrated fashion: at a lumber store outside of Washington.

What is surprising, however - or, I suppose, not surprising in the slightest, depending on how cynical you are - is who wrote the GOP's new plan: a former lobbyist for Exxon Mobil and Andarko Petroleum Corp. From Huffington Post:

In a draft version of The Pledge that was being passed around to reporters before the official release, the document properties list "Wild, Brian" as the "Author." A GOP source said that Wild -- who is on House Minority Leader John Boehner's payroll -- did help author the governing platform that the party is unveiling on Thursday...

Until early this year, Wild was a fairly active lobbyist on behalf of the firm the Nickles Group, the lobbying shop set up by the former Republican Senator from Oklahoma, Don Nickles. During his five years at the firm, Wild, among others, was paid...$800,000 from energy giant Andarko Petroleum...[and] more than $1.3 million from Exxon Mobil..."

Wild also served as a lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce where he helped steer more than $34 million worth of lobbying activity for the group that works overtime for Big Oil.

Paints a pretty clear picture of where the priorities of GOP leadership truly lie.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rep. "Smokey Joe" Barton Still Shilling for Big Oil

You remember Joe Barton, don't you? The shameless Texas Representative - and ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee - who apologized to BP for the government's $20 billion "shakedown" after the Deepwater Horizons disaster? Well, good ole "Smokey Joe" is back to his old ways, shilling for Big Oil.

Politico has uncovered a secret meeting where Barton and other congressmen with atrocious environmental records promised favors to Big Oil and King Coal in exchange for campaign cash, assuring them of their ascension to top Energy positions in the House.

Yesterday, Barton, Reps. Fred Upton (Mich.), John Shimkus (Ill.), Mike Rogers (Mich.) and Greg Walden (Ore.) met with about 40 to 50 industry lobbyists during an event at the National Republican Club. Though the event wasn't billed as a fundraiser, according to one source in the room, the lawmakers tacitly linked donations to the Energy Committee's agenda in 2011. From Politico:
"You should be giving us money because we're going to be in charge," the source said. "We'll ensure there is no climate bill."
Barton's apology, laden with chutzpah, put him on America's radar. It caused quite a stir among many of his fellow Republicans.

So, you'd think after a stunt like that, Smokey Joe might want to step back from the I-fight-for-profiteering-and-environment-marauding-industries limelight. But no. Barton and his colleagues are not only flouting discretion, but their hubris is starting to rival LeBron James and "The Decision."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

BP Ruins Your Gulf Coast...and Teaches Your Children!

California’s geography, economy, and demographics have made it a unique laboratory for environmental protection. As a result, California has been on the forefront of identifying environmental problems and in finding creative solutions.

Lately, however, California's environmental leadership status has been seriously challenged. First, there was the introduction of Prop 23, a ballot measure that, if passed, would suspend AB 32, California's landmark climate change legislation. Then today came this news (from the Sacramento Bee):

BP, the energy giant responsible for the largest offshore oil spill in history, helped develop the state's framework for teaching more than 6 million students about the environment.

Despite a mixed environmental record even before the Gulf of Mexico disaster, state officials included BP on the technical team for its soon-to-be-completed environmental education curriculum, which will be used in kindergarten through 12th-grade classes in more than 1,000 school districts statewide.

Yeah. That happened. The oil company with one of the worst environmental records in history is partially responsible for teaching our nation's youth about such weighty topics as energy conservation, pollution prevention, toxic and hazardous waste management.

In fact, according to another member of the technical working group on which BP sat, the team was responsible for developing the program's guiding principles. BP helped articulate the philosophy behind California's efforts to develop a statewide curriculum for environmental education, the first by any state.

Though this initiative was launched in 2003 - before BP proved their utter ineptitude and lack of integrity with the debacle in the Gulf - BP had been subject to a number of federal criminal investigations and paid substantial fines for environmental abuses for many years before.

Right now, the U.S. finds itself fighting for its future, facing questions that cut to its very core. How do we protect ourselves from looming ecological threats? How do we maintain a stable environment to ensure our continued proliferation? How do we properly educate our youth and develop a capable, competitive workforce for years to come?

We cannot help but be troubled by this. BP's primary goal is to profit from energy; not to teach children about the environment.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

On the one hand you've got science, on the other, Ken Buck

Ken Buck, the Colorado Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, has offered a new reason for Coloradoans to vote for him. First it was "because I do NOT wear high heels." Very enticing, but if sexist gaffes aren't enough to secure your vote, Buck has more to offer. Now he's a proud denier of human-caused climate change and that whole science thing in general, as he revealed in a recent interview.
"I'll tell you, I have looked at global warming, now climate change, from both sides. While I think the earth is warming, I don't think that man-made causes are the primary factor. I am one of those people that Al Gore refers to as a skeptic."
The interviewer pointed out that Gore calls such people "deniers."
"Deniers?" Buck said. "Ok, I'm one of those folks."
Wow, Ken, that's all very impressive, but what do you mean when you say you've looked at global warming from "both sides"? One of those sides is presumably science, which is a good start. We suggest you weigh that more heavily than the non-science side you are currently favoring.
Buck goes on to show his academic strength by beating up a straw man.
"The idea that we need to transfer our manufacturing jobs to China to reduce our pollution in this country is crazy."
Yes, Mr. Buck, that is crazy. So crazy, in fact, that no one has advocated for doing that. Ever. But wait, he backs up his argument with rock solid math.
"China pollutes, per Barbie doll, China pollutes much more than we do in this country."
Alright, this is a little scary. Does Ken Buck think a Barbie doll is a scientific unit of measurment?
The interviewer then asked Buck "apart from global warming, one of the issues that's coming to the ocean acidification. Have you looked at that? Is that a concern of yours at all?"
"I have not looked at it, no."
That is hardly reassuring. It looks like Senate candidates are, per Barbie doll, just not what they used to be.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Want to deny climate change? Yeah, there's an app for that

Sure, climate deniers don't keep pace with most advancements of modern society -- you know, like the science they're supposed to study and be "experts" on. But they seem to have embraced one of the greatest technological developments in recent history: the iPhone.

Generation-Y skeptics rejoice! Apple recently approved an iPhone app, "Our Climate," which so neatly compiles the many cherry-picked arguments into a single app without a mess of contradictions -- i.e. "Our Climate" frequently touts CO2 as plant food, but mentions nothing of that important little thing called water and the increasing severity of drought. The app contributors include notable climate deniers, such as Richard Lindzen and Roy Spencer,. (To see screenshots and read about all the ways in which "Our Climate" keeps its users "informed," click here).

iPhone apps are meant to make our lives easier, right? Why should we refuse climate deniers such convenience?

The most alarming part of this story, reported here, is the growing popularity of this app. Downloads are surging to the point that Apple is promoting it on the front page of their app store! Check it out:

There are more than 230,000 Apps in the App store -- only 40 Apps are featured in this front page category at any time!

This is disappointing because, in the past, Apple has seemed to be a friend of the environment. In 2009, they quit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over its position on climate change. Greenpeace ranks them fifth out 18 tech companies on their "Guide to Greener Electronics." And seeing those "greenest family of notebooks" ads, you'd think Apple would want to maintain that eco-friendly image. A company as large as they are might want to more vigilantly monitor one of their biggest means of consumer outreach.

I guess you can't blame Apple for the spike in "Our Climate" downloads. After all, the top selling movie in iTunes right now is “Kick A$$” – a make-believe comedy about people pretending to be superheroes…kinda like make-believe claims by people pretending to be climate experts.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"Today on, 'As the Oil World Turns'..."

Remember in high school, when your best friend got dumped and the school hallways were abuzz with rumors of who did what and who said what?

Well, in today's Washington Post, Dan Eggen examines “the murky world of advocacy-for-hire in Washington” – which, as it turns, bears resemblance to those same high school dramas.

The article focuses on an advocacy arm of the conservative Institute for Energy Research (IER), which launched a campaign over the July 4 weekend highlighting how the actions of BP leading up to the Gulf spill were not indicative of the industry as a whole:

Days after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig sank in the Gulf of Mexico, a conservative nonprofit group called the Institute for Energy Research asked BP to contribute $100,000 for a media campaign it was launching in defense of the oil industry.

Although BP took a pass, the group's advocacy arm went ahead with a campaign -- only instead of defending BP, it vilified the company as a "safety outlier" in an otherwise safe industry. The campaign's Web site features dozens of images of the burning rig, oil-smeared birds and other environmental devastation from the spill.

This where the mess really turns into a he-said-she-said ideally suited for the high school lunchroom.

Backers of BP familiar with the situation called it a shakedown, saying the original proposal contained no anti-BP messages. Thomas Pyle – IER president and formerly an oil industry lobbyist – responded that rather than retaliation, the images were part of a separte campaign to distance BP from the industry as a whole (funny then that a document sent to group supporters last week included a scathing, 19-point attack on BP's safety record).

It's not clear who to believe in this saga fit for a teen soap opera (I think I saw a "Degrassi" episode just like this). What is clear is this: these 'advocacy-for-hire' groups connive stealth communications campaigns with no disclosure of their backers or their motives. What's more, Big Oil will cannibalize its own in the name of protecting their bottom line and keeping us addicted to oil.