By Ben Jervey
The Koch brothers have landed yet another of their trusted fossil fuel think tank veterans in the Trump administration's Department of Energy (DOE). Alex Fitzsimmons was manager of policy and public affairs at the Institute for Energy Research (IER) and its advocacy arm, the American Energy Alliance (AEA), while also working as a "spokesman" and communications director for Fueling U.S. Forward (FUSF), the Koch-funded campaign to bolster public opinion of fossil fuels.
Fitzsimmons will be joining former IER colleagues Daniel Simmons and Travis Fisher at the DOE.
Simmons now serves as the head of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), an office that AEA called for eliminating in 2015, under Simmons' guidance, as then-vice president of policy. Fisher is currently working on the controversial grid study ordered by DOE Secretary Rick Perry. While at IER, Fisher wrote a similar report in 2015, which called clean energy policies "the single greatest emerging threat" to the nation's electric power grid, and a greater threat to electric reliability than cyber attacks, terrorism or extreme weather.
Trump's Koch-Funded Appointees Continue Ruthless Attack on Clean Energy Growth https://t.co/4NsyZRlOqW @ALECExposed @prwatch— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1495316707.0
While there have been many IER veterans to land in the Trump administration (and even more known Koch affiliates), the arrival of Fitzsimmons at the DOE marks the first time that someone directly involved with Fueling U.S. Forward has taken a job at one of the agencies or in the White House.
The Koch network reportedly had big plans for the Fueling U.S. Forward campaign when it first launched in late summer of 2016, when Charles Drevna announced that it would make the "pro-human" case for fossil fuels, highlighting the "positives" of oil and gas to American consumers.
As the head of communications for Fueling U.S. Forward, Fitzsimmons wrote a handful of blog posts singing the praises of fossil fuels, work that echoes his contributions to the IER and AEA sites.
The Obama White House, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the DOE were all frequent targets in his articles for IER and AEA. On display in one such post, which contrasts DOE and Energy Information Administration (EIA) projections of wind power penetration in the U.S. energy system, is a casual dismissal of the department's energy modeling and a blatant misunderstanding of how the EIA forecasts actually work.
(Basically, Fitzsimmons claims that the EIA's numbers are model-based projections, but in reality they are forecasts based on current levels of deployment and "business-as-usual" trends. The EIA has also been rightly criticized for underestimating renewable energy growth year after year, a tradition that had become so absurd that the agency had to publicly address it and make plans to correct it.)
Fitzsimmons will doubtlessly bring his pro-fossil fuel talking points to the DOE, though it is unclear what the communications specialist will be tasked with as a "senior adviser."
At the Red State Gathering in August 2016, during which Charles Drevna announced the launch of Fueling U.S. Forward, Fitzsimmons interviewed Drevna. On top of his archives of IER and AEA posts, the interview provides a good a sense of Fitzsimmons' perspective on energy:
Fitzsimmons liked to write about "green energy cronyism" repeatedly over his years at the Institute for Energy Research and Fueling U.S. Forward. And he did so with no apparent sense of irony that the two organizations he received checks from were funded (all or in part) by the Koch brothers and their donor networks, nor that the organizations were led by two long-time Koch confidants: Tom Pyle and Charles Drevna. Fitzsimmons' appointment is proof again that fossil fuel cronyism is alive and well in the Department of Energy and throughout Trump's White House.
Reposed with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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