Dirty Energy Money Interests Prevail in Yesterday's House Vote
The U.S. House of Representatives voted on H.R.4480: the Strategic Energy Production Act on June 21. The vote passed 248-163.
Once again, dirty energy money interests have prevailed.
Those voting in favor of the measure have taken more than $52 million from the oil, gas and coal industries since 1999, and almost $11 million in this Congress alone. Those voting against the act have taken $11.5 million since 1999, and just under $1.5 million in this Congress.
That means representatives voting in favor have taken almost five times as much money from the oil, gas and coal industries since 1999 as those voting against.
The average representative voting in favor of H.R. 4480 took more than $211,000 from the oil, gas and coal industries since 1999, and $44,000 in this Congress alone, while those voting against the act have taken $71,000 and $9,000 on average over the same periods, respectively.
H.R. 4480 would promote new standards for leasing public lands for oil and gas production, limit the public’s ability to engage in decisions around these leases, and remove environmental safeguards that ensure federal leasing undergoes appropriate reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act.
It would undermine requirements that air quality standards be set at levels appropriate for protecting public health.
The act would furthermore attach conditions to the drawdown of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), which could in turn cripple the president’s ability to respond to a disruption in the nation’s energy supply. It seeks to link a drawdown of the SPR with the leasing of federal lands for energy production, a move which the administration claims is “entirely without rational basis…in terms of the nation’s energy needs."
According to a recent report by minority staff of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, the oil and gas industry has been the largest beneficiary of a long string of anti-environment votes in the current House. “Since the beginning of 2011, the House has voted 109 times for policies that enrich the oil and gas industry, including 45 votes to weaken environmental, public health and safety requirements applicable to oil companies; 38 votes to block or slow deployment of clean energy alternatives; and 12 votes to short-circuit environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline,” the report by Reps. Waxman and Markey’s offices states.
None of these measures have succeeded over the past 18 months. After being passed in the Republican-controlled House time after time, these blatant moves to prop up Big Oil’s profits die in the Senate or on the president’s desk.
The administration states the White House will veto H.R. 4480, and it is not expected to pass the Senate. No surprise there. Once again, the Republican-controlled House, with the help of a handful of oil state Democrats, is playing politics, wasting Congressional time and epitomizing dysfunctional government.
The growing Texas solar industry is offering a safe harbor to unemployed oil and gas professionals amidst the latest oil and gas industry bust, this one brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Houston Chronicle reports.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>