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The White House fired back at the Koch brothers yesterday after Charles Koch told Politico he was "flabbergasted" by a recent attack on him and his brother by President Obama during a clean energy speech in Las Vegas, Nevada earlier this week.
— POLITICO (@politico) August 27, 2015
It all started on Monday when President Obama accused critics of his energy policies as “wanting to protect an outdated status quo” and “standing in the way of the future.” He specifically called out the Koch brothers for funding these attacks on renewable energy, saying “you start seeing massive lobbying efforts backed by fossil fuel interests, or conservative think tanks, or the Koch brothers pushing for new laws to roll back renewable energy standards or prevent new clean energy businesses from succeeding—that’s a problem.”
On Tuesday, Charles Koch responded to the comments, saying the attack was "beneath the President, the dignity of the President, to be doing that." Koch told Politico that he is not against renewable energy, he is merely “opposed to renewable energy subsidies of all kinds—as we are all subsidies, whether they benefit or help us.”
Yesterday, White House Press Sec. Josh Earnest said Koch’s statements were untrue. “I’m not sure whether to describe those comments as remarkably rich or utterly predictable,” Earnest said. “It’s that when the President is advocating, for example, the end of tax subsidies that benefit oil and gas companies, that somebody who has made billions of dollars leading an oil and gas company, might not think very highly of that policy proposal.”
Earnest also derided Koch for claiming that his company has not lobbied for policies favorable to oil and gas companies over renewable energy projects. "The fact is that Koch Industries has spent at least tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, lobbying Congress—these are public disclosures—in support of those kinds of policies, to say nothing of the millions of dollars that they have spent punishing those candidates that didn’t side with them,” Earnest said.
When asked if he was surprised by Koch's response to the criticism, Earnest responded with: “I guess. Yeah,” he said, remarking that Obama is not particularly surprised to see criticism of his policies from people like the “millionaires and billionaires” who “start to squeal. And I guess one billionaire special-interest benefactor chose to squeal to a Politico reporter,” Earnest said.
Philip Ellender, Koch Industries private sector’s president and chief operating officer of government and public affairs, responded to Earnest’s comments, reiterating their stance that they "have not lobbied for government subsidies or mandates, and we have lobbied against subsidies that directly benefit Koch." They say they have fought against "government boondoggles" and "corporate welfare" for decades. They admitted that they have accepted subsidies, but only to protect their employees and maintain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. "But to reiterate, we would eliminate all subsidies and mandates today if we could, including those we receive," said Ellender.
Charles and his brother David, along with their vast network of wealthy, conservative donors—the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce—plan to spend a jaw-dropping $889 million for the presidential election. Earlier this month, the billionaire brothers hosted the annual Freedom Partners summit, which included five GOP presidential candidates seeking donations from the wealthy funders.
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Colorado River Has Lost 1.5 Billion Tons of Water to the Climate Crisis, 'Severe Water Shortages' May Follow
California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.
The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.
"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."
While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.
The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.
"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.
Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.
"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.
NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.
As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.
"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.
The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.
"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."
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A warm day in winter used to be a rare and uplifting relief.
Now such days are routine reminders of climate change – all the more foreboding when they coincide with news stories about unprecedented wildfires, record-breaking "rain bombs," or the accelerated melting of polar ice sheets.
Where, then, can one turn for hope in these dark months of the year?