The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
By Jeff Turrentine
The coal industry is dying. But we can't allow the communities that have been dependent on coal to die along with it.
By Jon Queally
Despite repeated assurances he would not do so, billionaire philanthropist and activist Tom Steyer — who has previously pledged his vast fortune to such causes as defeating the Keystone XL pipeline and mounting a national campaign demanding the impeachment of President Donald Trump — officially announced on Tuesday the launch of a 2020 campaign for the Democratic Party presidential nomination.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
U.S. opinion on climate change is still highly polarized, with 82 percent of Democrats and only around 25 percent of Republicans ranking it a "very serious" problem, according to a November poll from Monmouth University. However, that divide is weakening. The same poll found that 64 percent of Republicans now acknowledge that it is happening, compared to 49 percent three years ago.
Beto O'Rourke announced he would run for President in 2020 Thursday, making the Texas Democrat the latest primary contender to list combating climate change as a major priority.
‘It’s Not Going to Get Turned Around in 10 Years’: Sen. Feinstein Criticized for Dismissive Attitude to Young Climate Activists
An encounter between 15 San Francisco middle and high school students and California Senator Dianne Feinstein on Friday revealed a generational divide within the Democratic party when it comes to acting on climate change.
By Steve Horn
While the oil and gas industry has lauded the new trade deal that may soon replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a provision added by Mexico, along with its new president's plan to ban fracking, could complicate the industry's rising ambitions there.
The new agreement, known as the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), has faced criticism as being tantamount to NAFTA 2.0—more of a minor reboot that primarily benefits Wall Street investors and large corporations, including oil and gas companies.
By Justin Mikulka
As the midterm elections approach, DeSmog is taking this opportunity to highlight some of the top climate science deniers currently running for office in the U.S.
The proposal was reportedly introduced by Christine Pelosi, a member of the DNC and the daughter of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.
The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
By Steve Horn
Since Mexico privatized its oil and gas resources in 2013, border-crossing pipelines including those owned by Sempra Energy and TransCanada have come under intense scrutiny and legal challenges, particularly from Indigenous peoples.
Opening up the spigot for U.S. companies to sell oil and gas into Mexico was a top priority for the Obama State Department under Hillary Clinton.
In the latest episode of Zach Galifianakis' web comedy series, the comedian and star of The Hangover trilogy invited Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to sit Between Two Ferns to answer some questions no one else would dare ask her on camera.
The show is anything but serious and gave Clinton the opportunity to showcase a playful side to her personality.
By Alexandra Rosenmann
Is Al Gore still bitter about his 2000 election loss to George W. Bush? Or just terrified Trump may win? Gore did not attend the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, after remaining silent on his choice for president for much of the primaries. However, in July Gore did tweet:
As some Bernie Sanders supporters jumped ship to vote Green last month, Gore was brought back to the time third-party voting played a large role in electing Bush.
Gore told Think Progress:
"First of all, I understand their feelings and misgivings. But if they are interested in my personal advice, I am voting for Hillary Clinton. I urge everyone else to do the same. I particularly urge anyone who is concerned about the climate crisis, sees it as the kind of priority that I see it as, to look at the sharp contrast between the solar plan that Secretary Clinton has put forward, and her stated commitment to support the Clean Power Plan, and the contrast between what she has said and is proposing with the statements of the Republican nominee, which give me great concern."
Meanwhile, Jill Stein insists that the Democrats are the problem. According to Stein:
"We're really seeing an energy policy under Obama and the Democrats, so-called 'all of the above,' which has really been worse for the environment than under George Bush. It's really created a situation where the U.S. is now the number one producer of fossil fuels around the world. We can't keep using this failed policy of silencing ourselves with politics of fear."
Yet Stein has nearly no chance of winning the presidency—and a vote for her or any third-party candidate is, realistically speaking, a protest vote.
"I would also urge them [voters] to look carefully as I know they have, at the consequences of going in another direction for the third or fourth alternative," Al Gore said. "The harsh reality is that we have two principal choices."
This article was reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.
By Jodie Van Horn
We'd never argue that 2017 was a great year, but some really great things did happen!
Here are 50 ways (yes, 50!) that clean energy kept winning in 2017 despite Trump's attempts to roll back the country's progress.
[Editor's note: So you want to watch Trumpland? You can now watch it via iTunes, by clicking here.]
By Sydney Robinson
Coming on the tail of his exploration of U.S. foreign relations and our history of war, Moore released Where to Invade Next earlier this year. But apparently that wasn't enough to keep Moore busy, so he released this second film.
When we first reported on this story, we didn't have any details as to how a regular Joe Schmo in any place other than New York City could see the film. With less than three weeks until the election, time is clearly running out for Americans to see the film and allow it to shape their political views before they head to the ballot box.
But now, Moore has teased on his Twitter account Wednesday that the film will be accessible to everyone in the U.S. in 48 hours, meaning that by Friday, everyone should know the score.
Our guess is that Moore will release it onto one of the many popular streaming sites like Netflix, Amazon or even Hulu. He also might just post it publicly to YouTube or onto a website of his own. Either way, he had better prepare for some high volume users as everyone is dying to know what this secret film contains.
[Editor's note: At EcoWatch, where dying to know what Michael Moore's secret film contains. We are crossing our fingers it hits on climate change, since future generations lost again at last night's presidential debate.]
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Ring of Fire.
Climate change hasn't gotten much air time during the 2016 presidential election, but that changed Tuesday afternoon in Florida when Hillary Clinton and Al Gore appeared together at Miami Dade College.
"Our next president will either step up to protect our planet, or we will be dragged backwards and our whole planet will be put at risk," said Clinton to an enthusiastic crowd of students and supporters.
On the heels of Hurricane Matthew, which set records as the longest-lived category 4-5 hurricane in the Eastern Caribbean and Western Atlantic, and the longest-lived major hurricane that formed after Sept 25, former Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore said, "When it comes to the most urgent issue facing our country and the world, the choice in this election is extremely clear. Hillary Clinton will make solving our climate crisis a top priority. Her opponent will take us toward a climate catastrophe."
Gore, remembering Hurricane Andrew, which struck Florida in 1992 as he and the Clintons campaigned for office, noted that, since then, the sea level in the Florida waters has risen three inches. The rate of sea-level rise has tripled over the last 10 years. At the time, Hurricane Andrew was the most destructive hurricane in U.S. history. The category 5 hurricane killed 44 in Florida and was the costliest disaster in the state's history.
Miami is highly vulnerable to climate change. With 441,000 people, it sits just six feet above sea level. Its highest elevation is only 42 feet. In the past 10 years, flooding in Miami Beach from high tides has quadrupled. On a regular basis, ocean waters invade streets, damage cars and disrupt business.
"It's become a daily reality here in Miami," said Clinton. "You have the streets flood at high tide, and the ocean is bubbling up through the sewer system."
The former Secretary of State also pointed to the need to address the challenges brought on by climate change, saying, "We need to invest in resilient infrastructure." Ironically, South Florida is moving forward on an aggressive plan that acknowledges climate change in a state where Florida officials are prohibited from even using the term under the administration of Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
"In this election, the future of Miami and cities up and down the east and west coast of Florida are on the ballot as well," Gore said. He stressed the importance of voting, taking from his personal experience in the state in 2000. "Your vote really, really, really counts," he said emphatically. The event today was the first time that Gore has publicly campaigned for Clinton in this election.
The Miami appearance yesterday comes just ahead of the now-extended voter registration deadline of 5 p.m. on Wednesday. A court order was required to provide additional time for Florida voters—many of whom evacuated or were displaced by Hurricane Matthew—to register, after Gov. Scott refused to extend the deadline. Florida is a key battleground state, with 29 electoral votes. Fivethirtyeight gives Hillary Clinton a 71 percent chance of carrying the state as of today.
And, according to 350 Action's Executive Director May Boeve, if "Clinton really wants to bring young voters to the polls, she'll need to keep adopting even more ambitious positions on climate, like stopping the destructive Dakota Access Pipeline or vocally endorsing fossil fuel divestment. Millennials want someone who will stand up to the fossil fuel industry and help protect our shared future. The louder she gets, the more we'll vote."
Clinton sketched out her plan for dealing with climate change during her remarks, "I want to see 500 million more solar panels installed across America by the end of my first term, and have enough renewable energy to power every home within 10 years," she said. She also noted that renewable energy is now the fastest growing source of new jobs in the U.S., and warned that if America doesn't step up, either Germany or China will become "the clean energy superpower of the 21st century."
Before the two embraced and walked off the stage, Gore concluded by saying, "We have the opportunity to look back on this year as the time when our nation chose to finally answer the alarm bells on the climate crisis."
Though moderator Lester Holt did not ask a specific question on climate change during the first presidential debate last night, Rolling Stone said, "Trump's big debate lie on global warming" became the "most important exchange of the night."
After just 18 minutes of the debate, conversation between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump quickly transitioned to renewable energy jobs as they discussed the economy. During that exchange, Clinton slipped in the well-known fact that Trump believes climate change is "a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese." Though he has called climate change a hoax numerous times since 2012, he still interrupted Clinton to reject that claim.
Here are 11 times Donald Trump called climate change a hoax—compiled by the Sierra Club Political Committee—despite him telling 100 million people last night that he never said it:
1. Donald Trump on climate change policy on Fox News:
2. Donald Trump's interview on the O'Reilly Factor in July:
3. Tweet from December 2013:
4. Tweet from December 2013:
5. Tweet from December 2013:
6. Tweet from January 2014:
7. Tweet from January 2014:
8. Tweet from January 2014:
9. Tweet from January 2014:
10. Tweet from January 2014:
11. Tweet from February 2014:
By Steve Horn
After Kenneth Bone asked a question about energy to presidential nominees Donald Trump and Secretary Hillary Clinton at the presidential town hall debate on Oct. 9, he quickly became a viral internet sensation.
That evening at Washington University in St. Louis, Bone asked, "What step will your energy policy take to meet our energy needs while at the same time remaining environmentally friendly and minimizing job loss for fossil power plant workers?"
Trump responded by touting "clean coal" and bashing what he described as President Barack Obama's war on energy. Sec. Clinton responded by promoting hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") for oil and gas as a "bridge" to renewable fuels while also citing climate change as a "serious problem" and that she wants "to make sure we don't leave people behind."
A DeSmog investigation has revealed that Bone works for the Prairie State Energy Campus, which is co-owned by a consortium of electric power companies and located about an hour southeast of St. Louis in Lively Grove, Illinois. Adam Siegel, who blogs at the site Get Smart Energy Now, first pointed to the lack of disclosure the day after the debate.
Both a blog post promoting Prairie State employees' community volunteer work and his personal Facebook page confirm that Bone works for Prairie State.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Prairie State opened in late 2012 and is one of the dirtiest U.S. power plants opened in the past quarter century. Previously, it was partially owned by coal giant Peabody Energy until it sold its five percent stake in May.
"Each year, it will churn more than 13 million tons of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, an amount equivalent to adding 2 million cars to the nation's highways," wrote the Chicago Tribune. "Most U.S. power plants emitting that much climate-change pollution date to the 1960s and '70s."
Prairie State has also been marred by cost overruns, with the plant racking up far higher building costs than originally stated. These cost overruns have led to lawsuits filed against the company by townships such as Hermann, Missouri and Batavia, Illinois.
The company has attempted to dodge compliance with President Obama's proposed Clean Power Plan, which would force coal-fired power plants to comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement of the Clean Air Act for carbon emissions. The company wrote a letter to the EPA in May 2015 expressing its concerns about the proposed rule and also is a petitioner in the energy industry and states' lawsuit against the EPA, a case which will soon be decided upon by the U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia.
Despite this track record, Bone told The Washington Post, "We're one of the most environmentally-friendly coal power plants in the world. We're very recently built."
The case study of Bone and Prairie State Energy Campus, then, raises another question: How are those who ask questions in the audiences vetted to avoid potential non-disclosure of industry ties and conflicts of interest?
Lack of Disclosure
In introducing Bone, co-moderator Anderson Cooper of CNN did not disclose what he did for a profession, but that was standard procedure for all audience members who asked a question. In doing post-debate media interviews, Bone has said he works for a coal-fired power plant company, but media outlets apparently have not asked him about which company he works for.
The Gallup Organization teamed up with the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) to choose debate attendees from St. Louis-area residents. CPD is the nonprofit organization founded by Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee leaders, but ahead of the debate, the Los Angeles Times reported that it remained "unclear how members of the audience will be selected to ask questions."
"The Commission on Presidential Debates worked with Gallup, a research and polling company, to randomly select uncommitted registered voters from the area around St. Louis, where the debate is being held," reported the Times. "Uncommitted voters include people who have not made up their minds or are leaning toward one nominee but could still be persuaded to vote for the other."
In a videotaped interview with the Belleville News-Democrat, Bone said he was randomly selected to attend the debate by Gallup based on the randomized phone survey the organization conducted for undecided voters, saying he was surprised it did not turn out to be a "dog and pony show" in terms of who gets to ask questions and what he or she gets to ask.
He also went on Anderson Cooper's CNN show the day after the debate, but the interview focused on his wardrobe, not what he does for a living. On his appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Bone did say he worked for the coal electricity industry and expressed worry about some of Clinton's proposed energy policies, while also pointing to his fear of Donald Trump's stances on bread-and-butter civil rights issues like gay marriage. He expressed similar sentiments to The Washington Post.
Bone told DeSmog he went to the debate on his own volition and told The New York Times, "I'm just glad I was able to spark the energy debate a little bit. It was kind of getting overlooked."
"I got no funding of any kind. I work in coal and I care deeply about the environment," he told DeSmog. "No one knew my question in advance except the moderators and my wife."
Bone's employer also said that he was there on his own, not as a representative for the company.
"Ken attended the event as an individual and not on Prairie State's behalf," Alyssa Harre, manager of public relations and government affairs for Prairie State, told DeSmog. "Ken developed the question on his own."
While it doesn't appear to be the case this time, in the past the coal industry has used what's called third party technique, in which the industry deploys regular-seeming people to speak positively on its behalf.
For example, the industry did so during the 2012 election cycle when Murray Energy had Ohio mine workers appear at a "mandatory" rally (without pay) for Republican Party candidate Mitt Romney.
A senior CPD official said it relies on Gallup do a "process and screen, the details of which [the CPD] does not get into—a similar process for which we've been using for many cycles—to identify individuals that are non-committed." The official also said identifying the line of work for the person who stands up and asks a question at town hall debates is not something the CPD has ever done.
Memoranda of Understanding
Leaked Memoranda of Understanding from previous presidential debates offer some clues as to how questioners are selected. The Memoranda are the agreements designed by the two major party campaigns each election season which govern the format and rules of the debates. While typically not released to the public, they were leaked to the press in both 2004 and 2012.
Both documents describe a nearly identical selection process.
Gallup is first tasked with finding a "nationally demographically representative group of voters" using a methodology which must be approved by both campaigns. Once selected, audience members then submit their written questions to the moderator, who makes sure the questions are roughly divided between foreign policy and national security on the one hand, and domestic and economic policy on the other. The moderator is also tasked with removing any questions they find "inappropriate."
Finally, the moderator must then come up with a process fulfilling the paradoxical task of both randomly selecting questions and making sure they cover "a wide range of issues of major public interest." The candidates must approve this process as well.
While it's not clear if the candidates did or did not sign a written agreement this year, the two campaigns did negotiate the debate rules and it would not be surprising if they followed a similar process in earlier debates. Janet Brown, executive director of the CPD, told CNN that the moderators would select around eight audience members from a crowd of 40 to ask questions "with the goal of maximizing the number of topics covered," suggesting the process is little changed from previous years.
ABC News—whose reporter Martha Raddatz co-moderated the debate alongside Anderson Cooper—deferred a query about how those who ask questions at debates are vetted to the Commissions on President Debates and Gallup. CNN did not respond to a request for comment.
Additional reporting by Branko Marcetic. Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.