By Tom Kenworthy, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress Action Fund
Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) is only in his first term as a member of the U.S. House. But he’s already collected nearly a quarter of a million dollars in campaign contributions from oil and gas interests. It’s by far the number one industry that supports his budding political career.
Little surprise then, that Gardner is a reliable Capitol Hill ally for big oil. Little surprise either, that in serving the oil and gas industry agenda, he gets his facts wrong, as the Denver Post recently reported.
This week, he stepped up to the petroleum plate again, saying he’s introducing legislation to link any sales of our emergency oil supply from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to increases in oil and gas leases on federal lands. Sell five percent of the oil in the reserve, said Gardner, and the Obama administration must draw up a plan to increase the amount of federal lands that are leased by five percent. That five percent would mean leasing nearly another two million acres of public land on top of the 38 million acres already under lease.
Apparently with a straight face, Gardner characterized his bill as something other than a blatant give-away to Big Oil:
This bill is about achieving energy independence and keeping prices at the pump affordable
Give Gardner credit. He makes it hard to know where to start the rebutting and fact-checking.
One might begin with the fact that in a recent report on domestic onshore oil and gas production, the Interior Department found that nearly three-fifths of the federal onshore acreage leased to the oil and gas industry was sitting idle and undeveloped. Surely it then makes sense to give them more when they’ve got leases on nearly 22 million acres they have yet to drill.
Or, consider where the drill rigs already are: in the U.S. As recently reported by Michael Conathan, CAP’s Director of Ocean Policy, the number of rigs operating in the U.S. has quadrupled since President Obama took office, and we’ve got more oil rigs at work now than in the rest of the world combined.
All that drilling activity and increased U.S. production – now at an eight year high — hasn’t lowered gasoline prices here, and it won’t. As Conathan pointed out, gasoline supply is dependent on refining capacity more than oil supply, and oil is a global commodity.
Taking the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a hostage to Republican talking points has now infected both the House and Senate. Last month, several members of the Senate introduced legislation that would prevent President Obama from selling reserve oil unless his administration approves the Keystone XL Pipeline that would bring dirty tar sands crude from Canada to the U.S.
Media Stunner: Atlantic Editor Megan McArdle Admits She’s Outsourced Her Thinking to Cato’s Pat Michaels
Megan McArdle, senior editor for The Atlantic, has made the most jaw-dropping admission on climate I’ve seen in years from a journalist. It deserves attention because it unintentionally illuminates why the “status quo” establishment media’s coverage of global warming is so fatally useless.
In explaining why she (supposedly) doesn’t post a lot on the problem of global warming, McArdle writes:
The first reason I don’t post a lot is that I’m not an expert, and I’m not planning to become one. I’ve basically outsourced my opinion on the science to people like Jonathan Adler, Ron Bailey, and Pat Michaels of Cato–all of whom concede that anthropogenic global warming is real, though they may contest the likely extent, or desired remedies.
To paraphrase my mother (and countless others): Megan, if Pat Michaels told you to jump off a cliff, would you? Because that is certainly what he wants humanity to do.
I’ll come back to the fact that the Cato Institute, originally the Charles Koch Foundation, is in the process of being officially taken back by the Kochs — and McCardle, in the disclaimer at the end of the piece, notes, the current Charles Koch Foundation “sponsored a journalism fellowship for my husband.” Such is the nature of modern-day “journalism.”
I’ll also come back to the fact that McArdle actually manages to post a whole lot of pieces on climate, document authentication (!) and other subjects she is no expert on.
Here’s the folks McArdle has outsourced her thinking on climate science to:
- Jonathan Adler is a law professor (who has been funded by the Charles Koch Foundation)
- Ron Bailey is Cato Institute Media Fellow with a penchant for “pulling a Lomborg” — he likes to cite references that say “the opposite of what he implies.”
- Pat Michaels makes crap up on climate for a living and the Cato Institute (and fossil fuel industry) pays him a lot to do so.
It is almost beyond belief that the senior editor for a major magazine would outsource her thinking on the major issue of our day to a guy like Michaels — and then actually admit it! As Skeptical Science has detailed, Patrick Michaels is a “Serial Deleter of Inconvenient Data“:
Despite his clear conflict of interest (Michaels has estimated that 40% of his work is funded by the petroleum industry), many people continue to rely on him as a reliable source of climate information. This is an unwise choice, because Michaels also has a long history of badly distorting climate scientists’ work. In fact, not only does Michaels misrepresent climate research on a regular basis, but on several occasions he has gone as far as to manipulate other scientists’ figures by deleting parts he doesn’t like.
As they show in 3 different instance, “Michaels has deleted the data which contradict his constant arguments that the planet will warm less than most climate scientists expect, and thus that global warming is nothing to worry about.”
One of those cases is the notorious smear Michaels made against the nation’s top climatologist. NASA’s James Hansen said this about Patrick Michaels’ distortion of his work:
“Pat Michaels, has taken the graph from our 1988 paper with simulated global temperatures for scenarios A, B and C, erased the results for scenarios B and C, and shown only the curve for scenario A in public presentations, pretending that it was my prediction for climate change. Is this treading close to scientific fraud?“
Just a minute or two Googling would have told McArdle that Michaels is the last person she should outsource her thinking on climate science to.
Whatever happened to the notion of actually talking to recognized experts in the field — say, some of the top 10 climate scientists? They aren’t really hard to track down for any serious journalist. But why bother if you’re not going to write on the story of the century, unless, of course, you are.
McArdle provides more of her “reasoning”:
Greenhouse Pollution Rule Stalled Past Deadline By Cass Sunstein | The Greenhouse Gas New Source Performance Standard for Electric Generating Units for New Sources has now been at the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for 120 days – the maximum allowed by executive order. OIRA head Cass Sunstein’s reign has been marked by friendliness to polluter lobbyists and opposition to regulations that enforce the law for public health and safety. OIRA currently has 30 different final or proposed rules in its grasp for 120 days or more, the Center for Progressive Reform reports — Chemicals of Concern easily leads the pack, at 664 days in limbo.
Last summer, we wrote about a trade report from GTM Research showing that the U.S. had a $247 million solar trade surplus with China in 2010 — an unexpected tip of the scales that came mostly from exporting polysilicon and manufacturing equipment.
GTM analysts haven’t updated their study yet. But a coalition of American manufacturers just released its own report showing that the U.S. lost that surplus in 2011. By a lot.
According to the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM), the U.S. now has a $1.6 billion trade deficit with China. The group, which supports an anti-dumping complaint recently filed with the International Trade Commission, concludes that the deterioration of U.S. solar manufacturing due to unfair trade practices has turned America’s $1.9 billion global trade surplus into a $1.5 billion trade deficit.
Applying the same data sets that GTM Research used, CASM looked at the U.S. industry’s competitive position with China and the world. The analysis shows that in 2011 the United States became a net solar importer from both.
The organization is using the study to highlight its belief that Chinese solar firms are dumping product into the U.S. market:
A leading cause of this reversal is a massive surge in Chinese exports of dumped and subsidized solar cells and modules, which, in 2011, more than doubled the totals of 2010, increasing from more than $1.2 billion to more than $2.8 billion. Further, exports to China of products for which the United States had a significant trade surplus in 2010 – polysilicon (the main raw material used to produce solar cells) and solar manufacturing equipment – declined precipitously in 2011, falling by $194 million and $170 million, respectively (a 21 percent combined decrease).
The CASM report comes on the heels of a report released by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, which found that the U.S. trade deficit for environmental goods grew by almost 90% in 2011 — a figure that includes both wind and solar technologies.
The solar industry is still waiting for an official ruling on whether or not Chinese solar companies have been unfairly subsidized. The Commerce Department was supposed to issue a decision last week on whether or not to enforce tariffs on Chinese solar equipment. But the decision has been delayed until later this month.
The solar trade issue has stirred a fierce debate within the industry, creating a rift between manufacturers struggling to compete with depressed panel prices and developers depend on those continued price reductions.
Obama Mocks Fox Correspondent Who Asks Why He Wants Higher Gas Prices | “Ed, just from a political perspective, do you think that the President of the United States going into re-election wants gas prices to go higher? Is there anybody here who thinks that makes a lot of sense?” President Barack Obama asked at today’s press conference, after Fox News correspondent Ed Henry accused him of supporting higher gas prices. “Here’s the bottom line with respect to gas prices. I want gas prices lower because they hurt families.”
In terms of the environment and climate-change controls, which [Julian Robertson] does believe is one of the most important issues the country and the world faces, he has confidence that Romney, once he’s in there, will do the right thing.
Robertson has been a long-time supporter of Romney, saying he’s “the smartest guy I’ve ever seen” in 2007. Robertson vigorously supported Obama’s cap-and-trade bill in 2009, because of the “danger of global warming.”
If Romney intends to support climate-change controls as president, he certainly hasn’t given any such indication on the campaign trail:
“Unlike Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney never sat next to Nancy Pelosi in an ad funded by George Soros on behalf of Al Gore’s global warming initiative. As recently as 2008, the Soros agenda had no better friend than Newt Gingrich.” [2/2/12]
“In my administration, coal will not be a four-letter word.” [3/5/12]
“I can tell you the right course for America with regard to energy policy is to focus on job creation and not global warming.” [11/2/11]
According to his own standards on the campaign trail today, Mitt Romney was once a “radical” on energy issues.
In 2003, as governor of Massachusetts, he supported “investing in cleaning technologies” for an old coal plant in the commonwealth responsible for dozens of deaths, saying “I will not create jobs … that kill people.”
Also that year, Romney set up a $15 million green energy trust fund for renewable energy in order to create a “major economic springboard for the commonwealth.”
And in 2005, before deciding to pull out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, Romney called cap and trade “good business.” That was back when the Economist magazine named him a “climate friendly” Republican.
Today, Romney says “we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet,” explaining that his new energy policy is to “aggressively develop our oil, our gas, our coal.”
Romney’s changing positions on a broad range of issues have left supporters wondering where he’ll actually land on the issues if he becomes president. As Politico reported yesterday, some donors in the environmental community are putting their bets on another flip flop on climate and energy issues:
Julian Robertson, founder of the Tiger Management hedge fund, helped put cap-and-trade legislation on the map with $60 million in contributions over the past decade to the Environmental Defense Fund.
Now, Robertson has given $1.25 million to Romney’s Restore our Future super PAC, plus the maximum $2,500 to the Romney campaign.
Other green-minded financial backers may not be giving as much as Robertson, but they still share the view that climate-change science and a solid environmental agenda wouldn’t be a lost cause if Romney won the White House.
“My feeling is that on these issues that people learn,” said former Gov. Thomas Kean (R-N.J.), who maxed out last fall to Romney with a $2,500 check. “And my hope is, as time goes on, he will understand that not everybody agrees on how you deal with these issues, but I hope he will agree with 99 percent of the scientists who believe this is an issue that we have to deal with.”
This sentiment echoes what other observers have predicted. For example, Andrew Light, an international climate expert with the Center for American Progress, said he doesn’t think a Republican president would put an end to American involvement in climate negotiations. Because they are now a “central driver of broader foreign policy,” it would be tough for a candidate like Romney to pull out.
“I am certain that there would be members of the administration who are not isolationists on foreign policy,” said Light.
Although some experts believe Romney’s climate stance on the campaign trail might differ from his actual policies, signs don’t point to dramatic change. Last week, Romney chose oil billionaire Harold Hamm to chair his energy advisory panel — joining a group of lobbyists who have worked for the coal and tar sands industries.
70 Members of Congress: Curb Wall Street Speculation On Oil | Seventy Democratic members of Congress pushed for measures to prevent Wall Street traders from artificially driving up gas prices, writing “the [Commodity Futures Trading Commission] continues to drag its feet on imposing strict speculation limits to eliminate, prevent, or diminish excessive oil speculation.” The letter cites a recent report from the St. Louis Federal Reserve urging CFTC to reign in speculators from manipulating prices. “If the St. Louis Federal Reserve, a conservative institution, is saying speculation is contributing significantly to the high price of oil and gas at the pump, then I think that is clearly what the case is,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said.
by Christine Shearer, reposted from Conducive Chronicle
Members of the Wisconsin legislature may vote today – March 6, 2012 – to suspend recently agreed upon rules in the state that streamlined and made more efficient the state’s wind siting requirements. Although the legislators pushing for suspension cite the need for local control over wind rules as their motivation, many of them are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), raising questions over just how grassroots their motivation really is.
Pressure for the vote today is reportedly due to State Senator and ALEC member Frank Lasee. Wind supporters are urged to contact the state’s Senators and urge them not to suspend the uniform state siting rules.
Like many states, Wisconsin has a patchwork of differing local setback rules governing the distance wind developers need to leave between turbines and adjacent homes. To streamline the process, the Wisconsin legislature passed the 2009 Wind Siting Law instructing the Public Service Commission (PSC) to create one overarching state siting law for all wind turbines subject to local review.
After an open process, the PSC issued a compromise set of rules (PSC 128) requiring that turbines have a setback from the nearest property line of 1.1 times the height of the turbine, or roughly 450 feet for an average windmill. It establishes the minimum setback distance from neighboring residences at the lesser of 3.1 times the height of a wind tower, or 1,250 feet.
In response, Republican representatives and ALEC members proposed their own legislation to make implementation of larger wind projects much more difficult and protracted.
Aping Rush Limbaugh, Mitt Romney is bashing clean energy as a liberal fantasy. Campaigning yesterday in Youngstown, Ohio, Romney claimed that President Barack Obama lives in an “imaginary world” where clean energy powers the economy. Romney attacked administration commitments to clean energy that reduce U.S. dependence on oil and fight climate change. To illustrate his point, Romney told his Ohio audience, “you can’t drive a car with a windmill on it”:
We all like wind and solar, but you can’t drive a car with a windmill on it.
The candidate infamous for the dog-on-car road trip could have used a better example.
What does environmental devastation actually look like? At TEDxVictoria, photographer Garth Lenz shares shocking photos of the Alberta Tar Sands mining project — and the beautiful (and vital) ecosystems under threat.
This powerful talk is for anyone who thinks the tar sands are just another source of oil — and that the only source of greenhouse gases from the tar sands come from burning gas and oil:
by Diane Bailey, reposted from NRDC’s Switchboard
For many who are trying to take good care of their health, a study released late last week reaffirming that diesel exhaust can cause lung cancer, may be a major blow to their efforts to lead a healthy lifestyle. That’s because the study found an up to seven fold elevated risk of lung cancer — a disease typically associated with smokers — among miners who don’t smoke. The findings also relate to ordinary people who live in areas with high levels of diesel particulate matter (PM). Millions of people in the US have the equivalent of a smoking habit, whether they want to or not, because they live close to busy freeways or in other areas with extremely high diesel PM levels.
Scores of studies have shown that diesel exhaust, a sooty mix of toxic air pollutants, smog forming gases and tiny particulates, is dangerous. It was recognized by the State of California as a carcinogen over a decade ago, and fortunately many laws and programs are in place to reduce diesel pollution. However, even in California where there is a whole suite of diesel clean-up measures from low sulfur diesel fuel to retrofits and early retirements for trucks and equipment, thousands of people continue to die from exposure to diesel PM each year while these measures phase in over the next few decades. Diesel engines are sturdy, lasting decades with older models polluting a hundred-fold more particulate pollution than modern replacements.
The study by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) evaluates diesel exposures and lung cancer risks among more than 12,000 miners and provides a rigorous analysis, adding weight to the already large vault of evidence that exposure to diesel PM can cause cancer.
Welcome to Clean Start, ThinkProgress Green’s morning round-up of the latest in climate and clean energy. Here is what we’re reading. What are you?
A winter snow storm added to the woes on Monday of tornado-struck Indiana and Kentucky, dropping several inches of snow on the ravaged region where dozens of people were killed, meteorologists said. [Reuters]
TransCanada says it has most of the state permits it needs to build the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, but no one knows which federal agency will oversee the project’s final environmental review. [Inside Climate News]
At least 77 people in southeastern Africa have been killed and more are still missing as Tropical Cyclone Irina sweeps through the region. [Al Jazeera]
China — which dominates the global trade in just about every commodity including iron ore (representing 47% of world trade), copper (38%), coal (47%), nickel (36%), lead (44%), zinc (41%) — delivered a downbeat outlook for 2012 growth, sending mining stocks reeling. [Mining.com]
Hampered by the lack of U.S. industrial policy, the push to make Elkhart, IN, the capital of American electric car manufacture has hit a roadbump. [NPR]
Since 2010, Chinese companies have invested more than $17 billion into oil and gas deals in the U.S. and Canada. [WSJ]
Newt Gingrich, whose well-developed sense of sarcasm always goes over well with his Republican supporters, was on a roll Monday evening as mocked Obama’s algae energy comments as “Cloud Cuckoo Land.” [LA Times]
Google is stepping up wind-power purchases to reduce emissions, even as it devotes most of its renewable energy investments to sun-related projects, a trade-off aimed at reining in costs as the company seeks higher returns. [Businessweek]
Republican lawmakers are moving to grab control of energy policy from state utility regulators in a political turf fight over the future of Arizona’s solar power industry. [AP]
Nine Republican attorneys general have launched lawsuits against the White House over regulating cross-state utility emissions and battling foreign species in the Great Lakes. [Detroit News]
According to some climate scientists, earlier-than-normal outbreaks of tornadoes, which typically peak in the spring, will become the norm as the planet warms. [Reuters]
Asked by a 700 Club viewer yesterday why God sent the tornadoes, Pat Robertson explained that “if enough people were praying He would’ve intervened, you could pray, Jesus stilled the storm, you can still storms.” [Newser]
When it comes to the controversial gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, the Republican Party itself appears fractured — especially in the critical swing state of Ohio. [AP]
Other stories below: Spread of infected ticks linked with global warming; Antarctic plants under threat from invasive species
Google is stepping up wind-power purchases to reduce emissions, even as it devotes most of its renewable energy investments to sun-related projects, a trade-off aimed at reining in costs as the company seeks higher returns.
Google drew 30 percent of the energy it consumed last year from renewable sources, virtually all of it from wind, up from 19 percent a year earlier. Yet of the $917 million that the company has invested in renewable-energy projects, about two-thirds—or $622 million —is channeled toward solar.
Wind power is at least 50 percent cheaper than solar energy, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That explains why Google, which consumes 2.26 million megawatt-hours of electricity a year, mainly for data centers that run its billions of Web searches, increasingly prefers wind.