The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
The University of California system will dump all of its investments from fossil fuels, as the Associated Press reported. The university system controls over $84 billion between its pension fund and its endowment. However, the announcement about its investments is not aimed to please activists.
Accused of Plagiarism, Biden Campaign Admits Lifting 'Carbon Capture' Section of Climate Plan From Fossil Fuel-Backed Group
By Jake Johnson
Almost immediately after releasing a climate plan Tuesday that green groups slammed as woefully inadequate in part due to its embrace of industry-backed proposals such as "carbon capture," presumptive 2020 Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden faced accusations of plagiarizing language from a number of sources, including a coalition consisting of major fossil fuel companies.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The White House is assembling a climate change panel to be headed by a known climate denier who once took money from a coal company to testify at a hearing and who has compared criticism of carbon dioxide to Hitler's demonization of the Jews.
William Happer, a Princeton physicist who has never trained as a climate scientist, joined the Trump administration in September 2018 as senior director for emerging technologies at the National Security Council (NSC).
A Department of the Interior (DOI) official who played an important role in opening public lands to fossil fuel interests has left the federal government to accept a job at BP, The Washington Post reported Monday.
Former DOI Deputy Chief of Staff Downey Magallanes led the review that resulted in Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke's plan to shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah by 85 and 46 percent respectively, Think Progress pointed out.
Peabody Energy is not responsible for climate impacts incurred before its 2016 bankruptcy filing, a judge ruled this week.
The world's largest private coal company is one of 37 fossil fuel companies being sued by three municipalities in California for damages due to climate change caused by burning fossil fuels and for conducting a "coordinated, multi-front effort" to discredit climate science.
The blast sent thick, dark smoke across the city and prompted the evacuation of thousands of residents 10 miles downwind of the refinery, 2 miles to the north, and 3 miles east and west. All Superior schools closed Friday due to the fire.
The scandal-plagued head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says he's not sure whether "human activity ... is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see." The president has moved to pull the U.S. out of the landmark Paris climate agreement. And climate-science deniers and skeptics control Congress.
Protestors Halt Trump’s 'Clean Fossil Fuels' Panel at COP23, Dismissed as 'Promoting Tobacco at a Cancer Summit'
By Andy Rowell
Donald Trump's attempts to promote so called "false solutions" at the UN climate conference in Bonn backfired badly Monday.
The U.S. delegation had organized the event, "The Role of Cleaner and More Efficient Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power in Climate Mitigation," to promote what many see as "false solutions" to climate change, such as nuclear, the misnomer of "clean coal" and carbon capture and storage or CCS.
By Dave Anderson
A new letter asking Congress to end the wind production tax credit has ties to the Institute for Energy Research, a group that has received funding from the fossil fuel and utility industry and is a close ally of the Trump administration.
The Energy and Policy Institute downloaded a pdf of the letter from WindAction.org, an anti-wind website run by the New Hampshire-based Lisa Linowes. A look at the "Document Properties" seemed to identify "Chris Warren" as the "Author" of the file:
"The U.N. cannot continue to pander to the madness that comes out of the Trump administration," Naidoo said, after the U.S. hosted a panel at the conference with a forum pushing coal, gas and nuclear power.
Watch the interview below:
Here's a transcript of the interview:
Amy Goodman: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. We're broadcasting live from the U.N. climate summit here in Bonn, Germany. We just played for you the protest that took place, the revolt that took place yesterday at the U.S.'s only session that they held here, this first COP after President Trump announced plans to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord. But it's a four-year process. And if that goes through, it ends the day after the next Election Day. The official debut of the U.S. administration was at a forum pushing coal, gas and nuclear power, the presentation including speakers from Peabody Energy, NuScale nuclear and a gas exporter.
We are continuing our conversation now with Kumi Naidoo, South African activist, former head of Greenpeace, now chairperson of Africans Rising for Justice, Peace and Dignity.
Now, we have pleaded with David Banks, the U.S. president's representative, President Trump's representative here, who said he was completely accessible, stayed right next to our booth throughout the time all of our producers went out to talk to him, but said he would not come on the broadcast, at least today. We'll attempt to try. But, Kumi Naidoo, as you went off the set for a few minutes, you got a chance to speak with David Banks.
Kumi Naidoo: Yes. I spent about 15 minutes with him. He seems to be a decent human being. He basically is not denying any of the things that we are saying, but his argument is, "Oh, technology and innovation will sort everything out." And I—
Amy Goodman: But not solar and wind.
Kumi Naidoo: Yeah, yeah. No, it's really focused on a hold—and I put it to him that "Do you realize that you are actually giving up economic opportunities, because of successful economies?" Body language suggests that they are aware of that. And the fact, the isolation—and they say they—President Trump has not ruled out the possibility of coming back. But right now, let me tell you—and, Amy, you and I have been at COPs for so long. Right now, almost now, people want to say, "Actually, if the U.S. is going to behave like this, better they stay out. Let the rest of the world go ahead. And we'll work with the governors of those states that want to be involved, the majority of municipalities in the United States that want to be involved, the civil society." And—
Amy Goodman: This is the We are Still In coalition.
Kumi Naidoo: Yeah, yeah.
Amy Goodman: Yesterday, Governors Inslee and Governor Kate Brown of Oregon, and Washington state, almost took over the U.S. government's press event—
Kumi Naidoo: Yes, yes.
Amy Goodman: —by just coming in and stating, basically, "This is a sham."
Kumi Naidoo: And I want to say something to the UNFCC. The people that did that peaceful protest, they've been debadged and thrown out. Right?
Amy Goodman: They have been, yesterday?
Kumi Naidoo: That's what I understand. I stand to be corrected, if that—anyway, I did a protest; that's what happened to me, as well, some years ago. But what they did with that panel, this only first panel, is an impeachable offense, really. I mean, it may—they come and present something—
Amy Goodman: You mean the U.S. government.
Kumi Naidoo: The U.S. government.
Amy Goodman: The Trump administration.
Kumi Naidoo: To do a panel that actually goes against 99.99 percent of those scientific consensus in the world—right?—and to give them a platform to do that, I say to the UNFCCC that, in fact, it is inappropriate, and the U.N. cannot continue to pander to the madness that comes out of the Trump administration. We have to say to them, "If you want to be out, you stay out. Don't come and poison this negotiations the way that you're doing." Those that are aligned to the vision of the Paris accord, limit—you know, imperfect as it is, let us move ahead. Because what they do here is they come, they suck up a lot of oxygen, they hold back negotiations. And let's be blunt about it. It's not as if the Obama administration was perfect here. They also held us back. It's just that, you know—or, certainly, the Trump administration—
Amy Goodman: We have 10 seconds for your final message.
Kumi Naidoo: —also did it. So, time is running out. We need American people. And we are happy that at least the American people are with us, if not the American president.
Amy Goodman: We thank you so much, Kumi Naidoo, South African activist, former head of Greenpeace, now chairperson of Africans Rising for Justice, Peace and Dignity.
And that does it for our broadcast here in Bonn, Germany.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Democracy Now!.
This week, U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) made national headlines by dramatically announcing his retirement on the U.S. Senate floor. Flake focused his speech on the erratic behavior of President Donald Trump and the nationalistic, anti-immigration turn taken by some Republican Party politicians in recent years.
"I have decided that I will be better able to represent the people of Arizona and to better serve my country and my conscience by freeing myself from the political considerations that consume far too much bandwidth and would cause me to compromise far too many principles," said Flake. "To that end, I am announcing today that my service in the Senate will conclude at the end of my term in early January 2019."
The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
By Elliott Negin
A third of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Science Advisory Board, an influential panel that reviews the science the agency uses in formulating safeguards, could be succeeded by climate science-denying, polluter-friendly replacements when their terms expire at the end of this month.
The board, which has been in existence for nearly 40 years, is traditionally populated by bona fide scientists from academia, government and industry who volunteer to serve three-year terms. This time around, as first reported by E&E News, at least a dozen of the 132 candidates vying for one of the 15 open seats reject mainstream climate science.
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.
By Dave Anderson
Travis Fisher, a Trump political appointee in the Department of Energy, wrote a 2015 report for the Institute for Energy Research that 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.
By Lisa Hymas
With President Donald Trump reportedly poised to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, right-wing media are encouraging the move by misleading about the accord. They're claiming that it is a job killer and "anti-Western," that it would lead to "economic devastation" and that it amounts to an "international regulatory scheme."
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.
By Elliott Negin
The two dozen nonprofit groups and Senate committee members defending Scott Pruitt, President Donald Trump's nominee for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, have at least two things in common.
That funding helps explain why they all consistently misrepresent the scientific consensus on climate change. After all, money buys influence and since 1997, Koch foundations have paid a network of think tanks and advocacy groups more than $88 million to spread climate science disinformation—more than twice what Exxon, the second-biggest denier-network funder, has spent. Likewise, Koch Industries has contributed $38.5 million to federal candidates over the last 25 years and spent another $117 million since 1998 on lobbying.
The Kochs didn't endorse Trump for president, but there's no doubt they would consider a guy like Pruitt heading the EPA a dream come true. When David Koch ran for vice president on the Libertarian Party ticket back in 1980, his party platform called for abolishing the EPA (and a number of other federal agencies, along with Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security). Although Pruitt won't be able to go that far, his six-year track record as Oklahoma's attorney general suggests he will do what he can—with the help of Koch-funded members of Congress and the rest of the Trump Administration—to defund the agency and undermine its authority.
Koch Denial Network is Alive and Well
In advance of Pruitt's nomination hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Jan. 18, a coalition of 23 nonprofit groups sent a letter to the entire Senate urging his confirmation. "Attorney General Pruitt has consistently fought for Oklahoma families and communities," the letter states "and has been a stalwart defender against federal intrusion into state and individual rights."
In fact, Pruitt has consistently fought for the corporate polluters that have financed his political campaigns, dismantling his office's Environmental Protection Unit, halting efforts to reduce poultry manure in Oklahoma waterways, opposing a wind energy transmission line and suing the EPA 14 times to block stronger air, water and climate safeguards that would better protect Oklahoma families and communities.
But I digress. Let's follow the money.
The groups that signed the letter endorsing Pruitt include such high-profile, climate-science-denier organizations as the American Energy Alliance (AEA), whose president, Thomas Pyle, is a former Koch Industries lobbyist; the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), whose top climate disinformer, Myron Ebell, oversaw the Trump EPA transition team; and Heritage Action, the political arm of the Heritage Foundation. Heritage economist David Kreutzer, who maintains there is no justification for Obama Administration climate policies, also served on the EPA transition team.
Those three groups and at least 15 other letter signatories have received generous support from one or more of the Koch brothers' numerous foundations, including American Encore, the Charles Koch Foundation, Charles Koch Institute, the now defunct Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation and Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a de facto Koch bank that distributes contributions from wealthy conservatives to free-market, anti-government groups. A number of the organizations on the letter are also funded by Donors Trust, a secretive, pass-through money laundering operation that received more than $13 million from the Kochs' Knowledge and Progress Fund between 2005 and 2014.
Eight of the signatories, including AEA, CEI and Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, collectively received $30.2 million between 2010 and 2014 from American Encore, a "social welfare" nonprofit organization the Kochs established in 2009 as the Center to Protect Patient Rights (CPPR). The organization has been one of the Koch network's primary conduits for funneling dark money—private donations not subject to public disclosure—to conservative campaign funding groups.
American Encore is no fan of environmental protections. A December 2016 blog post on its website calls for slashing "excessive and burdensome regulations" on hydraulic fracturing, opening up the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to oil drilling and canceling the Obama Administration's Clean Power Plan to curb electric utility carbon emissions.
A significant chunk of the American Encore-CPPR budget came from Freedom Partners, which gave the organization a whopping $115 million between 2012 and 2013. From 2012 through 2015, Freedom Partners also donated nearly $38 million to five of the groups on the Pruitt support letter: AEA, American Commitment, Club for Growth, Heritage Action and the 60 Plus Association, which spent the bulk of its $16.5 million in Freedom Partner grants on political advertising.
Like American Encore, Freedom Partners' goal is to roll back consumer, public health, environmental and workplace safeguards. It recently posted A Roadmap to Repeal, a list of Obama administration initiatives that can be repealed in the new administration's first 100 days and others that would require a longer term strategy.
In the short term, Freedom Partners calls on the Trump Administration to rescind the moratorium on new federal land coal leases, abandon the Paris climate agreement and block any proposed EPA programs related to the Clean Power Plan. It also recommends that Congress repeal a number of regulations finalized during the last 60 legislative days of 2016, including rules that protect streams from coal mining, cut heavy-duty truck carbon emissions and reduce methane leaks from oil and gas operations on public lands. Over the long term, Freedom Partners wants the administration and Congress to kill the Clean Power Plan and the "Waters of the United States" rule, which extends federal protection to headwaters and wetlands that feed drinking water supplies.
Koch-Funded Senators Fawn Over Pruitt
How much impact could Freedom Partners and the rest of the Koch network have? Quite a bit, actually. They are planning to spend $300 million to $400 million over the next two years to influence politics and public policy and Marc Short—Freedom Partners' president up until February 2016—was just named the White House director of legislative affairs. Formerly Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff when Pence was in the House of Representatives, Short likely will find a receptive audience on the Hill—at least from one side of the aisle.
The welcome Pruitt got at his Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee hearing two weeks ago may be an indication of things to come. Republican committee members fell all over themselves to praise Pruitt and attack the EPA for, as Chairman John Barrasso put it, creating "broad and legally questionable new regulations [that] have done great damage..." Democratic committee members, conversely, pressed Pruitt on his financial ties to fossil fuel interests, his efforts to weaken environmental safeguards and his scientifically indefensible claim that the role human activity plays in causing climate change is "subject to continuing debate."
Why were Republican EPW Committee members so hospitable to Pruitt?
Like Pruitt, most of them are on the Koch gravy train and their campaign coffers are flush with fossil fuel industry cash. Nine of the 11 Republicans on the committee together received $368,000 in campaign contributions from Koch Industries over the last five years. Even more telling, the company was among the top 10 donors for seven of those nine beneficiaries and the top donor for two—Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who is in line to become the Trump administration's attorney general.
In addition to the Koch funding, the Republican committee members received more than $1.5 million since 2011 from a veritable Who's Who of energy companies, including coal giants Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal, Murray Energy and Peabody Energy; oil and gas titans BP, Chevron, Devon Energy, Exxon, Marathon Oil and Valero Energy; and electric utilities American Electric Power, NextEra Energy and Southern Company. Pruitt, meanwhile, received $62,500 since 2010 from Koch Industries and eight other companies listed above, including Devon Energy, Exxon and Valero Energy.
By contrast, none of the 10 Democrats on the committee received Koch money, let alone any coal or oil and gas industry support. The only energy-related businesses that contributed to their campaigns in the last five years were three diversified electric utilities that are heavily invested in nuclear power: Dominion Resources, Entergy and Exelon.
Drain the Swamp?
Donald Trump campaigned as a populist who promised to stand up to Washington lobbyists and "drain the swamp." The back story on Scott Pruitt—and the vast sums spent by the Kochs and other fossil fuel interests to promote their agenda—tell a very different story.
Still, one may fairly question what any of this actually proves. Does money really dictate the positions that a nonprofit think tank or U.S. senator takes, be it on climate change or any other policy issue?
As it turns out, none other than David Koch addressed this very question in an interview with Brian Doherty, author of the 2007 book, Radicals for Capitalism: The Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement. Koch was talking specifically about funding think tanks and advocacy groups, but what he said could easily be applied to elected officials as well.
"If we're going to give a lot of money, we'll make darn sure they spend it in a way that goes along with our interest," Koch told Doherty. "And if they make a wrong turn and start doing things we don't agree with, we withdraw funding. We do exert that kind of control."
I rest my case.
Elliott Negin is a senior writer at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The UN Economic Commission for Europe and World Coal Association are holding an event today and Thursday to tout the idea that coal is a cure for poverty. Sound off to you? There's a good reason for that.
A group of more than a dozen international organizations lead by the Overseas Development Institute have put out an in-depth report on the bogus claim that coal can cure poverty. It's true that more than a billion people around the world lack access to energy, but the report shows how more coal will make things worse.
The basic facts are very simple: Coal is a primary source of air pollution, which kills millions, and is a major driver of climate change. Climate change is very bad for all of us, but even worse for the world's most vulnerable.
At least 2,400 coal-fired power plants are in the planning or construction phases around the world right now. Building just a third of those would push the world over 2 C of global warming, worsen climate impacts and negatively impact the millions of people that are already struggling with air pollution.
Multiple coal companies, anti-climate action politicians, fossil fuel PR pros and denier groups have perpetuated the myth that getting rid of fossil fuels will deny millions of people access to energy and its economic benefits. Surely it is merely coincidence that as coal use declines in the U.S., they're hoping developing countries pick up the dirty energy addiction.
But they neglect to mention that only about 15 percent of the world's "energy poor" live in urban areas with existing power grids, the rest residing in rural areas where the grid doesn't reach. Building more coal plants to feed into the grid that people cannot connect to is not going to help. It will only eat away at the quickly-dwindling global carbon budget. If they actually wanted these rural populations to get connected, then distributed wind and solar would be the obvious answer, as they don't require a centralized grid.
So coal, as a poverty cure? That's rich.