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Trump's Koch-Funded Appointees Continue Ruthless Attack on Clean Energy Growth

By Elliott Negin

When The Washington Post reported earlier this month that President Trump appointed Daniel Simmons to run the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the paper called him a "conservative scholar."

Conservative scholar? "Fossil fuel industry propagandist" would have been more accurate.

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Horsemen of the Apocalypse

This is an excerpt from Dick Russell's and my new book, Horsemen of the Apocalypse, an eye opening exposé of the people and corporations most responsible for today's climate crisis and their roles in President Trump's new administration.

Not long ago, the legendary economist Amory Lovins showed me two photos, taken 10 years apart, of the New York City Easter Parade. A 1903 shot looking north from midtown showed Fifth Avenue crowded with a hundred horse and buggies and a solitary automobile. The second, taken in 1913 from a similar vantage on the same street, depicted a traffic jam of automobiles and a single lonely horse and buggy.

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Bernie Sanders: 'This Is Exactly What We Mean When We Talk About Oligarchy'

Despite the numerous controversies and vocal opposition swirling around President Donald Trump's pick to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Senators voted 52 to 46, largely along party lines, in February to confirm Oklahoma Republican Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator.

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Debunking Koch-Funded Group's Efforts to Deny Climate Science

By Brenda Ekwurzel

I have had the thrill of sharing the latest discoveries in the classroom with students who asked probing questions, when I was a faculty member of a university. That journey of discovery is one that parents and family members delight in hearing about when students come home and share what they have found particularly intriguing.

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How the Koch Brothers Won the White House

By Lee Fang

If the billionaire Koch brothers turn to the White House for favors, they will see many familiar faces.

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Koch-Funded Group Tries to Persuade 200,000 Science Teachers That Climate Change Is Debatable

The Heartland Institute is trying to nurture the next generation of climate change deniers.

The conservative and libertarian think tank has sent out 25,000 copies of the organization's book, Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming, and an accompanying 10-minute DVD to 25,000 science teachers this month, according to a Frontline report. The book argues that climate change is not settled science.

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Communities Push Back on Koch Brother's 'Distasteful Effort' to Promote Fossil Fuels

By Ben Jervey

Religious leaders and environmental justice activists in Richmond, Virginia, are "pushing back" against the Koch-funded Fueling U.S. Forward campaign's efforts to target minority communities while promoting the "importance of domestic oil and natural gas to making people's lives better."

One element of the strategy to win the "hearts and minds" (as Alex Fitzsimmons of Fueling U.S. Forward put it) of minority communities was on display in Richmond, Virginia, last December, when the group threw a gospel concert that included pro-fossil fuel propaganda and a surprise award payment of four attendees' electric bills.

As the New York Times described:

Though few in the crowd knew it, the concert had a powerful sponsor: Fueling U.S. Forward, a public relations group for fossil fuels funded by Koch Industries, the oil and petrochemicals conglomerate led by the ultraconservative billionaire brothers David H. and Charles G. Koch. About halfway through the event, the music gave way to a panel discussion on how the holidays were made possible by energy—cheap energy, like oil and gas.

The concert flier was adorned with a red car bearing Christmas gifts. "Thankful for the fuels and innovation that make modern life possible," it read.

At the time, commenting on the event and the campaign to the New York Times, Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, called it "an exploitative, sad and borderline racist strategy."

Many local environmental advocates from minority communities felt the same. Last week, the region's congressional representative, A. Donald McEachin, hosted an environmental justice roundtable at a Baptist church in Petersburg, Virginia, a suburb of Richmond with a strong majority of residents that are people of color.

As reported in the Progress-Index, a daily newspaper from Petersburg, Virginia, a manager of the Virginia Conservation Network—a diverse group of conservation organizations that among other issues supports clean energy—said that the roundtable with Rep. McEachin was an effort "to push back against the Koch brothers."

Conservation organizer Mariah Davis, also with the Virginia Conservation Network, described the Fueling U.S. Forward event as "a distasteful effort by Koch to sway low-income communities away from clean energy."

According to the Progress-Index, Rep. McEachin himself, speaking of the Fueling U.S. Forward concert, "equated the group's payment of citizens' electric bills with the '30 pieces of silver' Judas took to betray Jesus."

As Fueling U.S. Forward works to purchase the hearts and minds of minority communities with electric bill payments and college scholarships, the campaign promotes oil and gas as necessary and cheap sources of energy. Not factored into their definition of "cheap," however, are the multitude of public health and environmental costs that are inflicted upon the lower-income communities the campaign is targeting.

Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.

Koch-Connected Dark Money Funds Much More Than Climate Denial

By Stacy Malkan

British writer George Monbiot has a warning for those of us trying to grasp the new political realities in the U.S. and the UK: "We have no hope of understanding what is coming until we understand how the dark money network operates," he wrote in the Guardian.

Corporate America may have been slow to warm up to President Trump, but once Trump secured the nomination, "the big money began to recognize an unprecedented opportunity," Monbiot wrote. "His incoherence was not a liability, but an opening: his agenda could be shaped. And the dark money network already developed by some American corporations was perfectly positioned to shape it."

This network, or dark money ATM as Mother Jones described it, refers to the vast amount of hard-to-trace money flowing from arch-conservative billionaires, such as Charles and David Koch and allies, and corporations into front groups that promote extreme free-market ideas—for example, fights against public schools, unions, environmental protection, climate change policies and science that threatens corporate profits.

Investigative writers Jane Mayer, Naomi Oreskes, Erik Conway and others have exposed how "the story of dark money and the story of climate change denial are the same story: two sides of the same coin," as U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse described it last year in a speech.

The strategies of the "Koch-led, influence-buying operation"—including propaganda operations that spin science with no regard for the truth—"are probably the major reason we don't have a comprehensive climate bill in Congress," Whitehouse said.

While these strategies have been well-tracked in the climate sphere, less reported is the fact that the funders behind climate-science denial also bankroll a network of PR operatives who have built careers spinning science to deny the health risks of toxic chemicals in the food we eat and products we use every day.

The stakes are high for our nation's health. Rates of childhood cancer are now 50 percent higher than when the "war on cancer" began decades ago and the best weapon is one we are hardly using: policies to limit exposure to cancer-causing chemicals.

"If we want to win the war on cancer, we need to start with the thousand physical and chemical agents evaluated as possible, probable or known human carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization," wrote scientist and author Devra Lee Davis, PhD, MPH, in The Hill.

Reducing known agents of harm has had "less to do with science and more to do with the power of highly profitable industries that rely on public relations to counteract scientific reports of risks," Davis noted.

Chemical Industry Propagandists

When products important to the chemical and junk food industries run into trouble with science, a predictable cast of characters and groups appear on the scene, using well-worn media strategies to bail out corporations in need of a PR boost.

Their names and the tactics they use—lengthy adversarial articles, often framed by personal attacks—will be familiar to many scientists, journalists and consumer advocates who have raised concerns about toxic products over the past 15 years.

Public records requests by U.S. Right to Know that have unearthed thousands of documents, along with recent reports by Greenpeace, the Intercept and others, are shining new light on this propaganda network.

Key players include Jon Entine, Trevor Butterworth, Henry I. Miller and groups connected with them: STATS, Center for Media and Public Affairs, Genetic Literacy Project, Sense About Science and the Hoover Institute.

Despite well-documented histories as PR operatives, Entine, Butterworth and Miller are presented as serious science sources on many media platforms, appearing in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Philadelphia Enquirer, Harvard Business Review and, most often, Forbes—without disclosure of their funding sources or agenda to deregulate the polluting industries that promote them.

Their articles rank high in Google searches for many of the chemical and junk food industry's top messaging priorities—pushing the narratives that GMOs, pesticides, plastic chemicals, sugar and sugar substitutes are safe and anyone who says otherwise is "anti-science."

In some cases, they are even gaining in influence as they align with establishment institutions such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Cornell University and the University of California, Davis.

Yet their funding sources trace back to the same "ultra free market" ideologues from oil, pharmaceutical and chemical fortunes who are financing climate science denial—Searle Freedom Trust, Scaife Foundations, John Templeton Foundation and others identified as among the largest and most consistent funders of climate-change-denial groups, according to a 2013 study by Drexel University sociologist Robert Brulle, PhD.

Those seeking to understand the dark money network's policy goals for dismantling health protections for our food system would do well to keep an eye on these modern propagandists and their messaging.

Jon Entine—Genetic Literacy Project / STATS

Jon Entine, a former journalist, presents himself as an objective authority on science. Yet ample evidence suggests he is a longtime public relations operative with deep ties to chemical companies plagued with questions about health risks.

Over the years, Entine has attacked scientists, professors, funders, lawmakers and journalists who have raised concerns about fracking, nuclear power, pesticides and industrial chemicals used in baby bottles and children's toys. A 2012 Mother Jones story by Tom Philpott describes Entine as an "agribusiness apologist" and Greenpeace details his history on their Polluter Watch website.

Entine is now director of the Genetic Literacy Project, a group that promotes genetically engineered foods and pesticides. The site claims to be neutral, but "it's clearly designed to promote a pro-industry position and doesn't try to look neutrally at the issues," said Michael Hansen, PhD, senior scientist at Consumers Union.

"The message is that genetic engineering is good and anybody who criticizes it is a horrible ideologue, but that's just not indicative of where the scientific debate actually is."

Entine claims, for example, that the "scientific consensus on GMO safety is stronger than for global warming"—a claim contradicted by the World Health Organization, which states it is not possible to make general statements about GMO safety and by hundreds of scientists who have said there is no scientific consensus on GMO safety.

The Genetic Literacy Project also has not been transparent about its connections to Monsanto. As one example, the site published several pro-GMO academic papers that emails later revealed were assigned to professors by a Monsanto executive who provided talking points for the papers and promised to pump them out all over the internet.

Another example: Genetic Literacy Project partners with Academics Review on the Biotechnology Literacy Project, pro-industry conferences that train scientists and journalists on how to "best engage the GMO debate with a skeptical public."

Academics Review, which published a report in 2014 attacking the organic industry, presents itself as an independent group, but emails revealed it was set up with the help of a Monsanto executive who promised to find funding "while keeping Monsanto in the background so as not to harm the credibility of the information." Emails also showed that Academics Review co-founder Bruce Chassy had been receiving undisclosed funds from Monsanto via the University of Illinois Foundation.

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