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.
Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
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