10 Questions the Senate Must Ask Pruitt and Tillerson
Donald Trump has not yet been sworn in, but the Republican Congress has convened. Shortly it will begin hearings on Trump's appointments—as a block more like a cabinet suited for a corporatist President Ted Cruz than a populist like candidate Trump.
Trump and the Republicans control the White House and Congress. What they don't control—where they are weak—is the public conversation. Tweets turn out to be a good mechanism for getting headlines but not for creating a story line—and that's our opportunity. The confirmation hearings should be used by concerned Democratic and Republican Senators to hold Trump accountable for delivering on his incoherent smorgasbord of promises. The two key environmental nominees are Rex Tillerson and Scott Pruitt. The media has focused around their opposition to action on climate, Tillerson saying "suck it up and endure climate chaos," Pruitt being a denialist. But it has not yet told the story of their full threat to our environment, our health, our economy and our national security. Below, to start this broader and more troubling dialogue, are ten questions the Senate must ask Tillerson and Pruitt before it votes on whether to confirm them.
Questions for Rex Tillerson, Nominee for Secretary of State
1. Mr. Tillerson, Lee Raymond, your predecessor, made clear that he didn't view ExxonMobil as a U.S. company and didn't "make decisions based on what is good for the U.S." Your have stated that you signed oil leases that undercut U.S. foreign policy in Iraq because "I had to do what was best for my shareholders."
Q: Can you explain where, specifically, the interests of the oil industry might diverge from those of the average American? What advice you would give the president to ensure that the interests of the U.S. prevailed over those of oil companies?
2. Following Russia's invasion of the Ukraine and the seizure of the Crimea, you and ExxonMobil visibly continued to support Russia's development of its off-shore Arctic oil fields. You pursued partnerships with Russian oil interests faced with western sanctions. You clearly aligned with Russia.
Q: Did you believe these actions served the interests of the U.S.? Or were you putting your shareholders first?
3. Russia's has refused to collaborate with international efforts to prevent human rights repression in Syria. This has resulted in the victory of the Assad regime and the butchery of Aleppo. The FBI and the CIA have concluded that Russia actively hacked American political parties in an effort to destabilize our democratic system and perhaps tilt the outcome.
Q: Do you believe it is still in the interests of the U.S. for our oil companies, including ExxonMobil, to provide technical and financial support to assist Russia in becoming a more powerful oil producer? Do you still oppose sanctions against Russia for violating international norms in Syria, the Ukraine and around the U.S. elections?
4. Russia has recently joined with OPEC to artificially rig the oil market. Prices have risen 20 percent as a result. U.S. consumers are again paying more than a fair market price for gasoline and diesel.
Q: What steps would you recommend the U.S. take to discourage Russia from conspiring with OPEC to price-gouge? How would you recommend to the president that he ensure that the price of oil never again soars to $70, $80, $90 even $100 level? In your view, how important to the U.S. are moderate—below $60—oil ?
5. You have repeatedly said that while you believe in climate change, it is not yet possible for the world to move beyond fossil fuels, because alternatives are not ready.
Q: If we continue to rely on petroleum for 90 percent or more of our transportation energy, can you assure Americans that the price of getting around will never again spike to the levels we saw over the last decade? Is getting off oil just a climate issue or is it also an economic necessity? If alternatives are not yet ready, would you urge the U.S. to actively join with other oil importing countries for a Manhattan style project to bring low carbon transportation technologies to full competitiveness within the next four years?
Eleven peaceful activists from the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise have taken to the water in inflatable boats with handheld banners to oppose the Statoil Songa Enabler oil rig, 275 km North off the Norwegian coast, in the Arctic Barents sea.
The banners say: "People Vs. Arctic Oil" and are directed at Statoil and the Norwegian government, which has opened a new, aggressive search for oil in the waters of the Barents Sea.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) paved the way Friday for the 600-mile, 42-inch fracked gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline to proceed when it issued the final environmental impact statement (FEIS). A joint project of utility giants Duke Energy and Dominion Energy, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would move fracked gas from West Virginia into Virginia and North Carolina.
In April, the Sierra Club submitted more than 500 pages of legal and technical comments on FERC's draft EIS, which were joined by more than 18,000 individual comments detailing opposition to the project. The pipeline has been met with widespread opposition, with more than 1,000 people participating in public hearings across the three affected states. The Sierra Club recently requested that FERC issue a new environmental review document analyzing information that came in after or late in, the public comment process.
By Jessica Corbett
"It's time Rex Tillerson step down or be removed," said Gigi Kellett of Corporate Accountability International, following an announcement on Thursday that ExxonMobil will pay $2 million for violating U.S. sanctions against Russian officials while the now-secretary of state was the company's CEO.
"ExxonMobil demonstrated reckless disregard for U.S. sanction requirements," according to enforcement filing released by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which issued the penalty. Though the fine is reportedly the maximum penalty allowed, it's pittance to one of the world's most profitable and powerful corporations, which last year reported a profit of $7.8 billion.
New analysis from Amory B. Lovins debunks the notion that highly unprofitable, economically distressed nuclear plants should be further subsidized to meet financial, security, reliability and climate goals. The analysis, which will appear shortly in The Electricity Journal, shows that closing costly-to-run nuclear plants and reinvesting their saved operating costs in energy efficiency provides cheaper electricity, increases grid reliability and security, reduces more carbon, and preserves (not distorts) market integrity—all without subsidies.
By Christian Detisch and Seth Gladstone
In the wake of Senate Republicans' ever-deepening debacle over their flailing attempts to strip health insurance from 22 million people, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is desperate to do something—anything—to show that he can get legislation passed. To this end, he's bypassing the standard committee review process to push a complex 850+ page energy bill straight to the full Senate floor. Perhaps not surprisingly, this legislation, the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017, would be a disaster for public health and our climate.
A new law passed this week in South Miami will require all new homes built in the city to install solar panels. The measure, which was inspired by a proposal from a teenage climate activist, will go into effect in September.
The text of the ordinance details the climate impacts facing South Miami.
By Ben Jervey
Just last week, we fact-checked and debunked every line of The Dirty Secrets of Electric Cars, a video produced by Fueling U.S. Forward, a Koch-funded campaign to push fossil fuels. That video represents the group's first public pivot from fossil fuel boosterism to electric vehicle (EV) attacks. More electric vehicle experts are also picking the video apart.
One effort is this video highlighting many of the same falsehoods we wrote about, and which adds key context about some of the video footage. Like, for instance, the fact that the photo that Fueling U.S. Forward claims is a lithium, cobalt or cerium mining operation is actually a copper mine.
By Katherine Paul and Ronnie Cummins
A recent series of articles by a Washington Post reporter could have some consumers questioning the value of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) organic seal. But are a few bad eggs representative of an entire industry?
Consumers are all for cracking down on the fraudulent few who, with the help of Big Food, big retail chains and questionable certifiers give organics a bad name. But they also want stronger standards, and better enforcement—not a plan to weaken standards to accommodate "Factory Farm Organic."