environment

Thu, 2012-02-02 12:21Farron Cousins
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Exporting Emissions: Coal Supplies Heading Overseas, But Pollution Will Hurt Everyone

The coal industry in the United States has found a way to increase their profits, while at the same time avoiding the cumbersome environmental standards in place to protect American citizens from coal emissions – they can just ship their filthy products overseas where regulations are scarce. As coal consumption in the U.S. has fallen in recent years, the dirty energy industry has hardly noticed, thanks to the increased demand from foreign buyers.

While the fact that the U.S. is burning less and less coal is a good thing, shipping the excess coal to foreign countries could more than negate the emissions reductions in the U.S. As Ezra Klein from The Washington Post points out:

The U.S. is burning less and less coal each year, thanks to cheap natural gas and new pollution rules. From a climate perspective, that’s a huge deal — less coal means less carbon. But here’s the catch: if the U.S. just exports its unused coal abroad, the end result could actually be more carbon…

So here’s one possible future: If we’re not going to burn our coal, someone else will. One Tokyo shipping company, Daiichi Chuo Kisen Kaisha, says that U.S. coal exports could double in the next three or four years. In Washington state, coal companies are proposing two large export terminals that would help ship tens of millions of tons of coal from the Powder River Basin to countries like China. That, in turn, could make coal even cheaper in places like China — which might spur the country to build even more coal power plants than its current, already hectic pace. And, since carbon-dioxide heats up the planet no matter where it’s burned, this outcome could cancel out many of the global-warming benefits of the U.S. coal decline. (emphasis added.)
Tue, 2012-01-10 15:41Farron Cousins
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The Fracking Job Creation Myth

The prospect of job growth in the United States has been a major selling point for industry in the four years since the beginning of the recession. And even with positive gains being made in the job sector over the last year and a half, unemployment is still hovering around 8.5%. That is why unemployed Americans are still eager to jump onto plans that promise to create much-needed jobs in our country.

The dirty energy industry is well aware of the fact that promising jobs in these times can get you ahead, and they are using this to their advantage. In an attempt to push for increased hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the industry is touting the alleged job creation benefits of the practice. They are pitching fracking as a snake oil salesman would pitch a “cure-all tonic,” claiming that allowing them to continue fracking and drilling activities will help our economy by creating jobs and it will help our country by solving our energy problems.

But fracking has been going on for decades, the industry likes to remind us, although it has picked up tremendous steam in the last 5 years with the advent of directional drilling. So where are all those hundreds of thounsands of jobs that we’ve been promised? The answer to that question is simple: They don’t exist - At least not in the numbers the industry wants us to believe.

Helene Jorgensen from the Center for Economic and Policy Research outlines how the dirty energy industry has tried to hoodwink the American public:

Mon, 2012-01-09 12:00Farron Cousins
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Rupert Murdoch’s Newspapers Mislead Public On Climate Change and Environment

When it comes to climate change misinformation, arguably no single person has done more to spread false information to confuse the public than Rupert Murdoch. With his vast media empire that spans the globe, Murdoch has helped misdirect the public, as well as to openly advocate against government policies that would curtail carbon emissions or impose other environmental safeguards.

And while most American media outlets saw a decline in their coverage of climate change-related stories, Murdoch’s overseas newspapers actually increased their coverage of such stories – though not in a helpful way. The story that got the most attention involved a government policy in Australia that put a price on carbon pollution. Here is an analysis of Murdoch’s coverage, via Think Progress:

The range of findings show a clear political bias against the carbon pricing policy moving through parliament in 2011:

The claims by many single sources about the likely impact of the carbon policy were not tested against the views of other sources. Only 42% of the rest of the articles included more than two sources.

Fossil fuel lobby and other big business sources opposed to the policy were very strongly represented, often without any critique or second source.

Business sources (23%) receive more coverage than all Australian civil society sources together including unions, NGOS, think tanks, activists, members of the public, religious spokespeople, scientists and academics (17%).

Business sources quoted 4 or more times over the 6-month period were quoted being negative towards the policy in almost 80% of occasions. Many Australian readers would have been left with the impression that the nearly the entire business community was opposed to the carbon price policy. In fact this was far from the truth.

Academics and scientists were also poorly represented.
Fri, 2011-12-30 13:49Farron Cousins
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The Year In Dirty Energy: Keystone XL

This year, a deal between TransCanada and the U.S. government almost allowed one of the most disastrous plans in energy history to win aproval. The deal would have allowed TransCanada to build the Keystone XL pipeline across the U.S. border to carry an exceptionally dirty form of oil from Alberta's tar sands through several U.S. states to refineries along the Texas gulf coast.

But thanks to some bizarre GOP politicking in the year-end fight over payroll tax cut legislation, the table is set for President Obama to reject this fossil folly. The likely demise of one giant ill-advised pipeline is no small feat, but it doesn't mean the world can forget about the tar sands, by a long shot. The world is still addicted to oil, and Canada's fossil-friendly leaders will continue their quest to sell the tar sands bitumen on the global market.

Ever since our founding in 2006, DeSmogBlog has helped spread the word about the dangerous health and climate impacts that the tar sands pose to the environment and the global climate. Over the past year, we focused our research particularly on the dirty tricks employed by the oil industry in an effort to get the Keystone XL pipeline approved.

After Friends of the Earth exposed the fact that TransCanada's Keystone XL lobbyist Paul Elliott had worked on Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign and enjoyed special access with former colleagues, DeSmogBlog revealed further ties between TransCanada lobbyists and the U.S. government. For example:

On the web of lobbyists with connections to Hillary Clinton:

However, the tar sands industry’s use of former Clinton associates to lobby on the controversial project extends beyond Mr. Elliott. DeSmogBlog has uncovered seven other influencers or lobbyists with ties to Clinton and Obama who have lobbied on behalf of tar sands interests for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

McKenna Long & Aldridge is one of the key outside firms registered to lobby for TransCanada Pipelines, which paid the McKenna firm at least $190,000 over the last 5 years to lobby on their pipeline issues, including $40,000 in the first half of 2011. McKenna employees donated $41,650 in campaign contributions to Hillary Clinton in 2008, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

For the full report, see Hillary Clinton's Keystone XL Crony Lobbyists Problem.

Tue, 2011-12-27 11:08Farron Cousins
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The Year In Dirty Energy: The Koch Brothers

Over the last 12 months, DeSmogBlog contributors have helped spread the word about some of the most dastardly deeds of Charles and David Koch. Here are some of the biggest stories we covered this year on the issue of corruption and dirty energy money.

It is impossible to talk about dirty energy money and corruption without mentioning the Koch brothers. Before 2011, two of the wealthiest men in America were able to operate in almost complete secrecy while they spread misinformation about climate change and attempted to dismantle environmental protections:

The money in politics database Open Secrets, run by the Center for Responsive Politics, has a lengthy list of specific legislation that Koch Industries has lobbied for and against. On the “against” list, you’ll find legislation such as the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 – a bill that would have put Americans to work building a green energy infrastructure; the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act – again, a bill that would have created green energy jobs and infrastructure; and the Clean Air Protection Act – a bill that would limit the amount of acceptable emissions into our atmosphere.

The Koch brothers, through their PACs and other organizations, have funded numerous efforts to defeat legislation aimed at reducing pollution or protecting the environment. After all, their companies don't pay the real cost for the pollution they release.

And then there was their misinformation bus tour:

Fri, 2011-11-04 07:38Farron Cousins
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IBM Launches 2nd Annual Smarter Cities Challenge

At a time when corporations’ misdeeds are under a bright spotlight (and rightfully so,) we needn’t overlook the few companies that are working to bring innovation and technology to cities across the planet in desperate need of modernization. One of those companies is IBM, which is currently working on its 2nd annual Smarter Cities Challenge.

The program for this year will include a $50 million grant to cities to help improve infrastructure, technology, and energy efficiency. From a press release on this year’s program:

This highly successful grant program provides select applicant cities with access to teams of elite IBM employees with expertise on a variety of urban-related matters, such as finance, sustainability, public safety, and citizen services. They devote weeks of their time analyzing unique opportunities and challenges facing municipalities, particularly within the context of today's challenging economic climate. After conferring with officials, citizens, businesses, academics and community leaders, the IBM teams recommend actions to make the delivery of services to citizens more efficient and innovative. Issues addressed include jobs, health, public safety, transportation, social services, recreation, education, energy, and sustainability.

Earlier this year, IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge announced its 2011 grant winners, which included grants for much-needed environmental improvements in developing areas. For example, the city of Antofagasta, Chile received grants to help improve their irrigation systems, a social media infrastructure to voice environmental concerns, and an sustainable green energy program that will pull in government, academics, and private sector companies to help shift the city to cleaner, renewable energy programs.

Sun, 2011-09-18 12:18Farron Cousins
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As The World Warms, Environmental Protections Put On The Back Burner

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

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

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

Wed, 2011-07-13 12:09Farron Cousins
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ALEC Exposed: Center For Media and Democracy Details ALEC's Industry-Friendly Legislation Machine

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has launched a new website, ALECExposed.org, to help consumers understand more about the secretive business group that is helping craft industry-friendly legislation. CMD has obtained more than 800 model bills that were crafted by ALEC for state governments across the country. From a CMD press release:

At an extravagant hotel gilded just before the Great Depression, corporate executives from the tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds, State Farm Insurance, and other corporations were joined by their “task force” co-chairs – all Republican state legislators – to approve “model” legislation. They jointly head task forces of what is called the “American Legislative Exchange Council” (ALEC).

There, as the Center for Media and Democracy has learned, these corporate-politician committees secretly voted on bills to rewrite numerous state laws. According to the documents we have posted to ALEC Exposed, corporations vote as equals with elected politicians on these bills. These task forces target legal rules that reach into almost every area of American life: worker and consumer rights, education, the rights of Americans injured or killed by corporations, taxes, health care, immigration, and the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink.

The Center obtained copies of more than 800 model bills approved by companies through ALEC meetings, after one of the thousands of people with access shared them, and a whistleblower provided a copy to the Center. Those bills, which the Center has analyzed and marked-up, are now available at ALEC Exposed.

Sun, 2011-06-26 11:39Farron Cousins
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Coal Ash Disposal Sites Contaminating Ground Water In 19 States

The Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) has released a new report showing that coal ash disposal sites are threatening water supplies at 33 sites located in 19 different states across the U.S. The EIP says that the levels of heavy metals like arsenic in these locations are dangerously higher than federally accepted levels, which the group says could mean that legal action could be taken against the companies involved in the coal ash dumping.

From an EIP press release:

Thu, 2011-06-23 00:23Farron Cousins
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Mountaintop Removal Mining Linked To Birth Defects

Researchers at Washington State University and West Virginia University have released a new report that links an increase in birth defects in Appalachia to the practice of mountaintop removal mining (MTR or MTM). The study shows that communities exposed to the wastes created by blowing up mountains to extract coal experience significantly higher instances of birth defects.

A press release on the new report summarized the findings as follows:

The study was based on analysis of over 1.8 million birth records between 1996 and 2003 in central Appalachia. Prevalence rates were higher in mountaintop mining areas compared to non-mining areas for circulatory/respiratory, central nervous system, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, urogenital, and ‘other’ types of defects. Spatial correlation between mountaintop mining and birth defects was also present, indicating that MTM activity in one county may have increased birth defect prevalence rates in surrounding counties.

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