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Trump Kingmakers Rebekah and Robert Mercer Attended Heartland Institute's Climate Science Denial Conference

March 28, 2017 - 12:15am

Standing in front of a crowd of influential climate science deniers and conspiracy theorists, Myron Ebell was in a triumphant mood.

“It’s the people who have worked persistently against global warming alarmism that made this election possible,” said Ebell, referring to the election of Donald J. Trump as president.

Ebell was handpicked by Trump to lead the “transition team” at the United States Environmental Protection Agency and was one of a parade of speakers at the Heartland Institute’s conference in Washington DC last week that included Republican Congressman Lamar Smith, chair of the House science committee.

But arguably the most influential people hanging around the ballroom of the Grand Hyatt Hotel were billionaire hedge fund manager Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah.

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As Exxon Pushes Gulf Refinery During March Madness Ad Blitz, Facility Offered $1.4B Tax Break

March 27, 2017 - 5:41pm

ExxonMobil has engaged in a March advertising blitz, repeatedly airing a new commercial during national cable news channel breaks and prominently, during TV timeouts during the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I basketball tournament, better known as March Madness.

The commercial vaguely promotes what Exxon says is a new jobs initiative, which it claims will create 45,000 positions along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, without specifying details about the source of the jobs. Yet far from Madison Avenue advertising firms, a local battle has taken place the past several months in Gulf Coast communities over the prospective siting of and tax breaks for a proposed Exxon refinery co-owned by the Saudi Arabian state-owned company, SABIC (Saudi Basic Industries Corporation).

A mere three weeks into the ad blitz, two Texas entities voted to give tax subsidies to the proposed facility, dubbed Gulf Coast Growth Ventures. Both representing San Patricio County, Texas, the San Patricio County Board of Commissioners and the Gregory-Portland Independent School District offered Growth Ventures over $1.4 billion in tax breaks for the $9.4 billion Exxon-SABIC plant

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Does 'Green Energy' Have Hidden Health and Environmental Costs?

March 26, 2017 - 7:58am

By , and .

There are a number of available low-carbon technologies to generate electricity. But are they really better than fossil fuels and nuclear power?

To answer that question, one needs to compare not just the emissions of different power sources but also the health benefits and the threats to ecosystems of green energy.

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Introducing Biochar: Climate Change Solution or Greenwash Nightmare?

March 24, 2017 - 6:57am

After years of investigating biochar, which promoters have touted as a potential climate change fix, DeSmog is releasing its findings on the science, claims, and controversy surrounding this approach to sequestering carbon. 

Biochar is the product of plant or animal products (biomass) undergoing pyrolysis, a high-heat chemical reaction, to convert the carbon-containing biomass to a stable, non-decomposing form of charcoal. Introduced to mainstream audiences in a Time Magazine article from December 2008, biochar as a climate geoengineering technology has hit a number of peaks and valleys since then. In that time, its best chances at reaching commercial scales so far have failed, according to a new DeSmog report, Biochar: Climate Change Solution or False Hope?

Biochar's failure to date is due to a number of reasons, such as the lack of scientific consensus surrounding its ability to sequester carbon indefinitely, the vast amounts of land needed to produce biochar at a large enough scale to affect the climate, and the lack of legislative or regulatory frameworks required for investment in commercial-level production. 

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Heartland Institute Award Winner Compares Work of Climate Science Deniers to 9/11 Firefighters

March 24, 2017 - 1:36am

An award winner at a flagship conference for climate science deniers has compared their work to the heroics of firefighters during the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York.

Greeted with applause, the statement was made by University of Pennsylvania marketing professor Scott Armstrong at the end of day one of the Heartland Institute’s meeting in Washington, D.C.

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Improving Gas Mileage Will Cost up to 40 Percent Less than EPA Estimated: New Report

March 23, 2017 - 6:03pm

It may be far cheaper than previously estimated for American car manufacturers to meet fuel efficiency standards — slashing greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality, and helping drivers keep the cost of filling their gas tanks low — because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) might have overestimated the price tag on innovation by as much as 40 percent, a newly published report by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) concludes.

The report comes a week after President Donald Trump visited Detroit and his administration lauched efforts expected to roll back federal standards requiring automakers to make new cars far more fuel efficient by 2025. However, the federal government isn't the only regulator in the U.S. with the authority to set emissions standards for cars.

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What The Oilsands Sell-Off Actually Means

March 22, 2017 - 12:51pm

The last few months have been marked by some massive shifts in the oilsands.

In December, there was the $830 million Statoil sale to Athabasca Oil, followed in January and February by the writing down of billions of barrels of reserves by Imperial Oil, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil.

On March 9, Shell sold a majority of its oilsands assets to Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL) in a huge $7.25 billion sale, while Marathon Oil split its Canadian subsidiary between Shell and CNRL for a total of $2.5 billion.

The question is: why are all of these companies selling their oilsands assets? While some celebrate the moves as successes for the climate movement, others blame the Alberta NDP for the exodus of internationals.

But experts say the reality has more to do with a broader economic shift that’s made oilsands uneconomical — for the time being at least.

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How a Libertarian Think Tank Is Trying to Correct the 'Degenerate' Climate Science Debate in Washington, DC

March 22, 2017 - 6:58am

There are lots of attributes that seem to work as reliable predictors that a person or group will reject the science of human-caused climate change and the risks that come from it.

In recent years, for example, being a Republican or a Tea Party member has gone hand in hand with branding the science of climate change as a giant scam.

If you’re one of those conspiracy theorists like Britain’s David Icke or Infowars founder (and apparent President Trump influencer) Alex Jones, then you’ll also be placing climate change into the file marked “illuminati hoax.”

But perhaps the largest, most active, and influential group pushing climate science denial is America’s collective of so-called free-market conservative “think tanks” that want to cut the size of government and claim to be defending your freedom and liberty — examples include the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Heartland Institute, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

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Facts And Evidence Matter In Confronting Climate Crisis

March 21, 2017 - 8:41pm

We recently highlighted the faulty logic of a pseudoscientific argument against addressing climate change: the proposition that because CO2 is necessary for plants, increasing emissions is good for the planet and the life it supports. Those who read, write or talk regularly about climate change and ecology are familiar with other anti-environmental arguments not coated with a scientific sheen.

A common one is that if you drive a car, buy any plastic goods or even type on a computer keyboard your observation that we need to reduce fossil fuel use is not valid — no matter how much evidence you present. Like the “CO2 is plant food” claim, it’s a poor argument, but for different reasons. It’s easy to refute the junk science claim with large amounts of available evidence. This one’s simply a logical fallacy.

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Two Ethanol Trains Derail — and One Explodes — as Industry Embraces Riskier Practices

March 21, 2017 - 7:10pm

On March 8, a train pulling 80 tank cars of ethanol derailed in Providence, Rhode Island. Luckily, no ethanol was spilled and no one was injured. However, activists immediately began calling for a halt to these “unit trains” of ethanol into and out of the city, noting the potential risks to the community. Unit trains are longer than average freight trains — often 100 cars or more — dedicated to carrying a single commodity, such as ethanol or crude oil. 

These risks were on display two days later when a unit train hauling 100 cars of ethanol derailed on a bridge in Graettinger, Iowa, approximately 160 miles from Des Moines. This time, 27 of the cars left the tracks. At least eight tank cars ruptured and caught fire, and three tank cars ended up in a creek beneath the bridge, releasing about 1,600 gallons of ethanol into the waterway. 

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Study: Natural Gas Power Plants Emit up to 120 Times More Methane Than Previously Estimated

March 20, 2017 - 8:45pm

Researchers at Purdue University and the Environmental Defense Fund have concluded in a recent study that natural gas power plants release 21–120 times more methane than earlier estimates. 

Published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, the study also found that for oil refineries, emission rates were 11–90 times more than initial estimates. Natural gas, long touted as a cleaner and more climate-friendly alternative to burning coal, is obtained in the U.S. mostly via the controversial horizontal drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).

The scientists measured air emissions at three natural gas-fired power plants and three refineries in Utah, Indiana, and Illinois using Purdue's flying chemistry lab, the Airborne Laboratory for Atmospheric Research (ALAR). They compared their results to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program.

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Curbing Climate Change Has a Dollar Value — Here’s How and Why We Measure It

March 19, 2017 - 7:58am

By , Harvard University

President Trump is expected to issue an executive order soon to reverse Obama-era rules to cut carbon pollution, including a moratorium on leasing public lands for coal mining and a plan to reduce carbon emissions from power plants.

Trump and his appointees argue that these steps will bring coal miners’ jobs back (although coal industry job losses reflect competition from cheap natural gas, not regulations that have yet to take effect). But they ignore the fact that mitigating climate change will produce large economic gains.

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While One Louisiana Town's Lead-Tainted Water System Is Replaced, Dozens of Others Deteriorate

March 18, 2017 - 7:57am

For years the discolored water delivered to the northern Louisiana delta town of St. Joseph resembled what one would expect to find in a third-world country. But it wasn’t until high levels of lead were discovered in the town’s municipal water system that work began to replace it. 

On March 6, Louisiana Gov. John Bell Edwards, along with local officials and state lawmakers, attended a groundbreaking ceremony for St. Joseph's new water system, wielding symbolic golden shovels in the parking lot next to city hall. 

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Brain Drain: Engineers and Managers Flee Southern Company’s Troubled Kemper ‘Clean Coal’ Plant

March 17, 2017 - 5:11pm

This is a guest post by Dan Zegart of the Climate Investigations Center

With builder Southern Company still promising that the Kemper power plant will go online soon, a group of key engineers and managers who work on the plant's so-far-inoperable gasifier has left the company.

Earlier this month, Southern Company posted a cluster of want ads on its web site for a “gasification owner,”  a “refinery technician-mechanic,” a “refinery technician-entry level,” and a “gasification technician.”

Those four positions are located at the gasification island, home to the patented TRIG technology developed by Southern Company and Kellogg Brown & Root that is supposed to turn lignite coal from an adjacent mine into a cleaner burning syngas to produce electricity.  The project's twin gasifiers, however, have been troubled by frequent shutdowns and lengthy repairs.

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Architect of Federal Fracking Loophole May Head Trump Environmental Council

March 17, 2017 - 6:58am

Confidential sources have told Politico that Bill Cooper — current congressional staffer and former fossil fuel industry lobbyist and attorney — is under consideration to head President Donald Trump's White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).

CEQ works to coordinate various federal agencies dealing with environmental and energy public policy issues and oversees the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process for proposed infrastructure projects.

Cooper served as legal counsel for the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee on what is today known as the “Halliburton Loophole,” a clause which exempts hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act. The Halliburton Loophole was slipped into the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and became law under President George W. Bush.

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Climate Change Denier Jim Inhofe Says EPA Is 'Brainwashing' Our Children

March 16, 2017 - 2:18pm

In August 2016, Republican Senator and noted climate change denier Jim Inhofe told conservative radio host Eric Metaxas that children were being “brainwashed” into believing in climate change in school, and that we needed to “un-brainwash” them once they come out. This entire exchange (available here) arose from a conversation Inhofe claims to have had with his granddaughter because she dared ask him why he doesn’t believe in climate change.

On March 16, 2017, more than eight months after Inhofe told Metaxas about this alleged brainwashing scam, the Senator decided to double-down on his previous comments. He told CNN’s New Day that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was in the business of “brainwashing our kids” by releasing “propaganda” about climate change and the role that human beings are playing in the destruction of the planet.

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Trump Takes Aim at Fuel Efficiency Requirements, Prompting Concern US Automakers Will Lag on Innovation

March 16, 2017 - 12:36pm

In a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, Wednesday (March 15), President Donald Trump handed a victory to the oil industry, in a move that will have severe and long-lasting ramifications for the climate — and could leave American automakers lagging far behind in the emerging world market for highly fuel-efficient vehicles.

Trump announced he was taking the first steps to rollback rules requiring automakers to build increasingly fuel-efficient cars in a speech delivered to CEO's from some of the nation's largest automakers, including GM, Fiat Chrysler, and Toyota of North America.

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Why Is 'Rosie the Riveter' Being Appropriated for a War Against Climate Science?

March 16, 2017 - 6:57am

Her image is iconic — red polka dot bandanna around her hair, blue sleeve rolled back, exposed bicep curled in a show of strength, a speech bubble declaring, “We Can Do It!”

We know her today as “Rosie the Riveter,” and she’s shown up on t-shirts, coffee cups, oven mitts, bobble-head dolls, and now, even a quarterly report of the fossil fuel industry–funded think tank, the Heartland Institute.

In its report, the Heartland Institute — infamous for its offensive 2012 billboard depicting the Unabomber as a “believer” in global warming — displays the image of Rosie over the slogan “Winning the Global Warming War.” It sits atop an article by Joseph L. Bast, Heartland's president, issuing a call to arms for “free-market advocates” against global warming. While Bast’s litany of commonly debunked arguments against the science and threat of climate change isn’t notable, Heartland’s choice of imagery is proving to be.

“To me, it seems like an obscene appropriation of feminist iconography, and I find it, frankly, offensive,” Sarah Myhre, University of Washington ocean and climate scientist, told DeSmog. “And I looked for a mention of women or women’s lives and there’s no mention of women in the article whatsoever.”

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Have Oil Majors Changed Their Tune on Climate Change?

March 16, 2017 - 3:00am

“This is the biggest challenge as we have at the moment as a company,” Ben van Beurden, chief executive of oil giant Shell, said recently. “The fact that societal acceptance of the energy system as we have it is just disappearing.”

Speaking at the annual CERAWeek energy conference in Houston on March 9, van Beurden described the growing tensions between his industry, which has created our fossil fuel dependent energy system, and the public, which is demanding a switch to clean energy: “I do think trust has been eroded to the point where it starts to become a serious issue for our long-term future.”

The world’s largest oil companies are increasingly faced with public pressure to do something about their impact on climate change. And increasingly we’re seeing their chief executives responding. The question is though, how much is for real and what's just greenwash?

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Only Way to Stop Deadly Coral Bleaching Is to Cut Fossil Fuel Burning, Says Major New Research

March 15, 2017 - 9:12pm

Coral reefs across the globe cannot be saved from devastating bleaching events unless rapid action is taken to cut greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning, major new research has found.

Published in the journal Nature, the research finds the world’s biggest reef system — the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) in Australia — has been suffering the impacts of global warming since its first mass bleaching hit in 1998.

Now, after two further major bleaching events, the authors says nine out of ten individual reefs that make up the 1400-mile long system along the Queensland coast have bleached at least once.

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