Thursday, October 30, 2014

Fall River Herald News Lets Polluter Front Group Deny Climate Science

Surveying the Storm - Fall River
Extreme floods in Fall River, March 2010
Last week the Fall River Herald News and sister paper the Taunton Gazette published an op-ed column denying manmade carbon pollution causes global warming. I submitted the following letter to the editor in response:
Tom Harris and Bob Carter may claim to speak for Canada and Australia ("Kerry and Patrick off base connecting climate and energy," Oct. 21), but they're really speaking for two climate science denier front groups funded by big polluters. In fact, both groups have even taken money from the Heartland Institute, the dirtiest of them all. Heartland lost most of its allies two years ago after putting up a truly disgraceful billboard comparing climate scientists to the Unabomber.

NASA data shows the last six months have been Earth's hottest ever recorded. Massachusetts, led by Deval Patrick, John Kerry, Ed Markey, and other courageous elected officials, has shown the way in shuttering dirty coal-fired power plants, investing in clean energy, and saving money by making our homes and businesses more efficient. We need to do much more to cut industrial carbon pollution, like building Cape Wind and other offshore wind farms. But we won't get there by letting polluters deliberately cloud the debate.

The New Bedford Standard-Times editorial board recently announced that while it would continue welcoming debate on what to do about global warming, it would no longer accept opinion pieces that deny the established scientific consensus on manmade climate change. I urge you to do the same.
The Providence Journal ran the same op-ed and has just published a blistering response from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

Wednesday, October 29, 2014 Ad: The Truth is Undeniable

Great new ad from Tom Steyer's NextGen Climate Action Committee, directed by Darren Aronofsky and voiced by Woody Harrelson:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Inspecting Your Child's Halloween Candy Scares Them For No Reason

Halloween StashThere is no such thing as poisoned candy or razor-bladed apples - it's an urban legend that does not happen in real life.

But that hasn't stopped generations of parents from telling generations of kids (like me!) that Halloween candy must be inspected carefully before eating because while our neighbors may seem nice and generous, in fact TONIGHT ONE OF THEM MAY MAKE AN ATTEMPT ON YOUR LIFE.

The myth of booby-trapped candy seems plausible at first, but quickly falls apart. When I was a kid, I could've told you exactly who gave me what candy at which house. If someone wants to hurt the children in their neighborhood, poisoning candy is no more anonymous than trying to wring their necks right there on the porch. Repeating this myth and inspecting candy scares our children for no reason. After all, you don't inspect every piece of candy (or any other food) from the grocery store, and that would be much easier to taint anonymously - there's just no urban legend surrounding grocery store candy.

The other damaging part of the myth is that we teach our children that packaged candy is "safe," but fruit, nuts or anything else not packaged is not, so our children end up eating nothing but sugar on Halloween. As John Oliver explains, that's actually the real danger at the scale Americans eat it (read more in Mother Jones):

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Meet the Newest Polluter Front Group: The Coalition to Lower Energy Costs

2007 Halloween Mask parade!It's not yet Halloween, but polluters have already gone out and bought themselves a new mask:
The Coalition to Lower Energy Costs has announced its formation and the beginning of a campaign to increase the supply of natural gas to New England by at least 2 billion cubic feet per day and thereby dramatically lower the region’s energy costs. 
The Coalition is registered to Michael Doherty of the lobbying firm Preti, Flaherty, Beliveau & Pachios. For whatever reason the Coalition's release never comes out and says so, but it's clearly set up to lobby for Kinder Morgan Energy’s subsidiary, the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., and its plan to charge New England ratepayers $3 billion to build Northeast Energy Direct, a fracked gas pipeline through New England for which you'd pay twice.
The coalition is made up of energy consumers and others who are concerned about the energy cost crisis in New England, which is paying far more for natural gas and electricity than the rest of the country.
Amazing that, just like Marc Brown's "New England Ratepayers Association" polluter front group, this group has already brought together all of New England's energy consumers just two weeks after the Coalition was formed. Maybe they can go trick or treating together!
This winter, energy costs are expected to skyrocket in the region. National Grid has already announced that the cost of electric supply for its Massachusetts consumers will increase by 96%.
Fracked gas is DOUBLING electricity costs, so the answer is ... to double down on fracked gas? Talk about blackmail. Buy more of our fracked gas or we'll raise prices even higher!
“It is an economic tragedy for New England that we are unable to access the low cost, domestic natural gas being enjoyed by the rest of country, even though Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale is less than 250 miles from Boston”, said Tony Buxton, General Counsel and Spokesperson for the Coalition. “Our businesses and families are struggling with skyrocketing energy costs and we know that we need 2 bcf of gas in order to end this crisis.”
A lot to unpack here. Let's break it down:
  1. You will be like totes shocked to hear Tony Buxton sits three cubes down from Michael Doherty at Preti Flaherty. 
  2. If the Coalition is going to put Tony Buxton out there as the Voice of the Common Ratepayer, it should probably not have him publicly quoted as a spokesperson for Kinder Morgan & the Tennessee Gas Pipeline right up the road in Maine. Googling is REALLY easy, y'all.
  3. "2 bcf"? Who talks like that? Can polluter front group robots not even get through a press release without smoke pouring out of their ears?
The real problem here in Massachusetts is that we've gone from being overly dependent on polluting coal to being overly dependent on polluting fracked gas. It's allowed utilities to jack up electricity rates to 25 cents per kilowatt hour in the winter, which makes Cape Wind's 19 cents/kwh seem downright cheap - and that's before you consider how much fracked gas threatens drinking water and fuels extreme weather.

Maybe we should wait and see how Cape Wind (coming soon) and projects like it impact electricity prices before committing $3 billion to a new fracked gas pipeline.

And for reporters and newspaper editors: I'm not saying you can never talk to these guys, but if you're going to quote them or run one of their op-eds, can you at least ask them who's funding them first? It would make my ANGRY BLOGGER heart grow three sizes that day.

UPDATE: One more thing. Their ad is horrifying. Are those hands hovering over the iPad even real hands, or are they creepy computer generated hands? I'm going to have nightmares about this tonight.

The Ingredient "Good Diet" Prescriptions Ignore: Time

christmas eveIn the New York Times, Mark Bittman concludes you need (only) two rules for a good diet:
Here then, is your two-step guide for an unassailably powerful personal food policy.
  1. Stop eating junk and hyperprocessed food. This eliminates probably 80 percent of the stuff that is being sold as “food.”
  2. Eat more plants than you did yesterday, or last year.
If you add “Cook your own food” to this list, it’s even more powerful, but these two steps alone allow you to reduce the amount of antibiotics you’re consuming; pretty much eliminate GMOs from your diet, lighten your carbon footprint; reduce your chances of becoming ill as a result of your diet; save money; cut way back on sugar, other junk and unnecessary and potentially harmful nonfood additives; and so on.

All without relying on corporate benevolence or the government getting things right. The power lies with you.
Last night I made a butternut squash casserole from the The New Moosewood Cookbook for dinner. It's basically all raw vegetables that you chop, then boil or sautee, then mix together with spices and bake. It was amazingly healthy and delicious, and nailed Bittman's rules perfectly.

But let's be honest about another concern Bittman completely ignores: It took a LONG FUCKING TIME to make. The chopping, the sauteing, the boiling, the mixing, the baking all together took an hour and a half. And that's not counting washing all the bowls and pans.

Parents don't throw a frozen pizza in the oven or order Domino's because they're trying to poison their children. They do it because they're tired, they don't have time to make something from scratch, and they just want to get home and relax with their kids.

Domino's knows this so well it centers its ads around it. Why don't healthy eating advocates?

Monday, October 20, 2014

What Ebola and Global Warming Have In Common

An Ohio man was told by a friend that he was in the same bridal shop at the same time as a woman later diagnosed with the Ebola virus. If only our elected officials could be as level-headed as Peter Pattakos:
Pattakos, 36, a Cleveland attorney who lives in Bath Township, called the health department, which told him to call back if he exhibits any Ebola symptoms. He called a doctor, who told him not to worry.

"I didn't exchange any bodily fluids with anyone, so I'm not worried about it," he said. "I'm much more likely to be mistakenly killed by a police officer in this country than to be killed by Ebola, even if you were in the same bridal shop." [...]

Concerns over the deadly disease, which is spread through infected bodily fluids, have led to business, government and school closings throughout Cleveland and Akron. Pattakos thinks people are overreacting, and he blames wall-to-wall media coverage. He hopes Vinson recovers soon.

"I wish people would freak out this much about climate change," he said. "It's one of those problems that's real easy for the media to cover, rather than some of those other problems that people should be more concerned with."
Unfortunately, the Ebola and climate change comparison is apt: In both cases, we're ignoring the experts. Doctors tell us not to freak out over Ebola, and we panic anyway. Scientists tell us we SHOULD freak out about climate change, and we don't.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Pat McCrory Doesn't Know Our Oil Comes from North Dakota, Not Saudi Arabia

Gov. Pat McCrory (R-NC) is a leader in the fight to drill for oil off Atlantic Coast beaches, yet somehow that position hasn't taught him anything about where the oil in our gas tanks comes from:
A coalition of governors along the Gulf Coast and Southeast who support offshore drilling is chaired by North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory. McCrory said besides the prospect of good jobs and business profits, more states should contribute to building American energy independence from foreign imports by allowing drilling.

“We are hypocrites in North Carolina if we expect to get all our energy from somewhere else and just expect that our hands are clean in this whole thing,” he said.
If McCrory is defining "somewhere else" as North Dakota, then he's right:

Under President Barack Obama, U.S. oil production is nearing all-time highs. In fact, oil prices have been falling thanks in part to "oversupply from the U.S. because of increasing shale oil production." So why do we need offshore oil drilling, or the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline to bring in oil from Canada, or any of the American Petroleum Institute's other demands? We don't.

It's hard to know if McCrory's just ignorantly spouting Republican talking points or willfully in Big Oil's pocket. If we've learned anything from Gov. McCrory's administration, it's that he'll say whatever polluters want. In the wake of a coal ash disaster, McCrory worked to protect not North Carolina's drinking water and fish but to shield Duke Energy, his former employer, from accountability. McCrory is also a climate science denier.

Let's be generous and pretend what McCrory means here is yeah, but we still import around half of our oil! Most of the "unfriendly" countries big enough to have slices on this pie chart have economies that are built on oil money - if ISIS took over Saudi Arabia and stopped selling oil, it would go bankrupt approximately 30 seconds later. And since oil is a global commodity, if it just stopped selling oil to the U.S., they'd have to sell it to, say, China, and the oil that would've gone to China from somewhere else would just flow to our pie instead. It's also not 1973 anymore and the government price controls that worsened that era's oil crisis have long since been abandoned.

So what has all this great energy independence done for American families? Gas prices may be slightly lower today, but they're still not far from all-time highs, even as those low prices are subsidized by a shrinking gas tax. It's created jobs, but only in places like North Dakota and Montana, where the oil boom has been a mixed blessing. Overall, drill baby drill has been an epic failure.

The only way to cut our energy bills is to use less energy. The Obama administration has made great strides on fuel efficiency standards, but there's much more we could be doing at the federal, state and local levels to provide public transportation and to allow more housing to be built in cities and close to transit. Well, we could also nationalize the oil industry and give the oil away at cost, but if Congress thinks bike paths are socialism, I'm guessing they'll find this option significantly less palatable.

But "energy independence" is a much easier sell for Republicans like Pat McCrory than the truth, which is "let Big Oil rape our coastlines, kill our wildlife, destroy our climate for future generations, and take all the profit while you pay more for gas."

Monday, October 6, 2014

Reuters Covers Sea Level Rise Flooding Miami, But Won't Say Climate Change

Miami families chalk 6' sea level rise at event (Jayme Gershen)
Reuters has a compelling story on how sea level rise is impacting Miami Beach, but even more interesting is what the story leaves out: Climate change. And there's evidence to suggest Reuters' omission is no accident.

First, the Reuters coverage of the Miami Beach "King Tide" that's expected to peak October 9 at about a foot above normal:
The event, caused by the alignment of the sun, moon and Earth, provides a taste of the potential impact of a longer-term two-foot sea level rise predicted for south Florida by 2060, according to the United States Geological Survey. The low-lying greater Miami area, with a population of 5.7 million, is one of the world's most at-risk urban communities, scientists told a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing in April.

The King Tide is expected to rise to almost four feet. With seven miles of coastline, Miami Beach is already seeing more frequent salt-water street flooding at high tide, according to Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales.

To combat such widespread flooding, the city has set aside $300 million to 400 million to install up to 50 pumps in the coming years in what some say is a vain effort to protect an estimated $23 billion of real estate.

Bigger sea walls are not an option as Miami Beach's flooding is caused largely by water rising underfoot through porous limestone bedrock. Officials concede pumping water back into the ocean is only a short-term solution.
It's a really interesting article, but it leaves you with an unanswered question: Why is sea level rising? It's a critical part of the story. Leaving out the cause makes sea level rise seem like something that's beyond our control, but it most certainly is not. The intensity of future global warming and the height of future sea level rise will be determined by how much and how fast we cut industrial carbon pollution right now.

You might think it's a coincidence that Reuters left out any mention of global warming - maybe they just assumed everyone knows and accepts mainstream climate science! But there's evidence the action is deliberate. As Media Matters has reported, a former reporter accuses Reuters Deputy Editor-in-Chief Paul Ingrassia of denying the clear scientific connection between industrial carbon pollution and global warming intensity. The reporter accused Ingrassia of letting his personal politics taint Reuters' climate coverage and repeated Media Matters investigations have shown Reuters climate coverage continues to decline in frequency and quality.

Reuters' silence on the connection between sea level rise and carbon pollution comes with real consequences, especially in Florida. Gov. Rick Scott wouldn't even let climate scientists finish making their case for climate action before cutting them off. Sen. Marco Rubio lets his pro-polluter politics cloud his judgment on climate change.

In this case, Reuters isn't just failing to connect the dots for its readers - it's letting science deniers off the hook for their reckless decision to put politics ahead of people.


Tonight, Chris Hayes Begins "All in America: Coal Country"

The All In with Chris Hayes staff has also put together a series of advanced reading posts to learn more about the politics of coal, what is "clean" coal, coal & tobacco, and alternative energy: