Denise Robbins

Author ››› Denise Robbins
  • Three Things Media Should Know About Harold Hamm, Trump’s Leading Pick For Energy Secretary

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    Fracking industry billionaire Harold Hamm is the “leading contender” to be energy secretary in a Donald Trump administration, according to a Reuters source, which would make Hamm the first ever U.S. energy secretary drawn directly from the oil and gas industry. Hamm has a history of influencing government officials to promote legislation that benefits his company’s bottom line, exploited the Orlando shooting tragedy to call for more oil drilling, and tried to suppress scientific research that was unfavorable to the fracking industry.

  • Fox Business' GOP Convention Coverage Promotes 5 Big Coal Myths In 7 Minutes

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS & ANDREW SEIFTER

    During Fox Business’ July 20 coverage of the Republican National Convention, host Maria Bartiromo and coal industry executive Robert Murray peddled industry-friendly myths while attacking clean energy with falsehoods. Murray also said he is thus far “elated” with the GOP convention, which is aligned with a radical anti-environmental platform, and he repeatedly declared that the energy policies of the Obama administration and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton are “evil.”

    Here are five Big Coal myths that Bartiromo and Murray espoused during the segment:

    Myth #1: Obama regulations are to blame for the coal industry’s decline. Bartiromo aired a clip of Clinton that has repeatedly been distorted by conservative media to claim she wants to harm coal miners, and then Bartiromo claimed that “the policies in place have already put [coal industry employees] out of work.” Murray declared that “there’s hundreds of thousands of people” at the Environmental Protection Agency and other government agencies “writing rules against we who are trying to maintain jobs,” and added: “The coal industry is virtually destroyed … we had 200,000 miners before Obama. We now have 60,000.” But industry experts say market forces, including technological advances and competition from natural gas and renewables, are the primary cause of the coal industry’s decline -- not policies from the Obama administration.

    Myth #2: Murray “cares” about coal miners. As he was attacking environmental protections, Murray stated: “I’ve been forced to lay off 3,300 coal miners this year. It just kills me because I am a coal miner. I care about these people.” Bartiromo might have pointed out in response that Murray has pressured employees to support his favored political candidates, allegedly fired employees to influence the 2012 presidential election, and has repeatedly fought against health benefits, safety protections, and labor rights for coal miners.

    Myth #3: Coal energy is cheaper than wind energy. During the segment, Murray claimed that wind energy is highly subsidized and far more expensive than coal, which he said provides “low-cost reliable electricity.” However, according to both the U.S. Energy Information Agency and the investment banking firm Lazard, the unsubsidized cost of wind energy is substantially lower than that of coal.

    Myth #4: It’s not possible to retrain coal miners for jobs in the clean energy economy. Bartiromo baselessly dismissed the concept of retraining coal miners for clean energy industry jobs, declaring: “The other thing is the skill sets and the training. What does a coal miner know about windmills? How do they know about solar panels? There’s no training." However, according to a recent study by researchers at Oregon State University and Michigan Technological University, “a relatively minor investment in retraining would allow the vast majority of coal workers to switch to [solar photovoltaic]-related positions even in the event of the elimination of the coal industry.”

    Myth #5: There is a “war on coal.” The “war on coal” is a favorite talking point of the coal industry and the Republican party, most recently adopted in the GOP’s 2016 energy platform. Fox Business endorsed it with on-screen text:

    The “war on coal” was manufactured by the GOP and the coal industry to attack Democrats during the 2012 election -- as Greenpeace has pointed out, then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney released an ad claiming President Obama was “ruining” the coal industry around the same time that House Republicans pushed a “Stop the War on Coal Act.” Associated Press reporter Vicki Smith succinctly explained the misleading nature of the phrase at the time:

    The war on coal is a sound bite and a headline, perpetuated by pundits, power companies and public relations consultants who have crafted a neat label for a complex set of realities, one that compels people to choose sides.

    It's easier to call the geologic, market and environmental forces reshaping coal — cheap natural gas, harder-to-mine coal seams, slowing economies — some kind of political or cultural "war" than to acknowledge the world is changing, and leaving some people behind.

    The full video, from the July 20 edition of Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria:

  • Climate Advocates Expose Oil Industry Ties Of Exxon Defender At U.S. News & World Report

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    Several environmental organizations called out the oil industry ties of U.S. News & World Report contributing editor Peter Roff, who in a recent column attacked efforts to hold the industry accountable while promoting its misleading talking points and downplaying the threat posed by climate change.

    Democratic senators are speaking out against the fossil fuel industry and its efforts to promote climate science denial for financial gain. This comes as ExxonMobil is under investigation by several attorneys general for possibly committing fraud by deliberately misleading shareholders and the public about climate science for decades after its own scientists confirmed that fossil fuels are causing global warming. The senators also introduced a resolution that compares the oil industry’s misinformation campaign to the tobacco and lead industries’ efforts to deliberately deceive the public about the health impacts of their products, stating that each industry “developed a sophisticated and deceitful campaign that funded think tanks and front groups, and paid public relations firms to deny, counter, and obfuscate” peer-reviewed research and “used that misinformation campaign to mislead the public and cast doubt in order to protect their financial interest.”

    In response, U.S. News’ Roff penned a July 11 column lashing out at the senators and proclaiming that there is an “as yet unsettled debate about climate change and what to do about it.” Roff labeled the senators’ resolution an “attack on the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech.” But as the dean of Yale Law School has explained, Exxon and its allies are blurring “the essential difference between fraud and public debate,” and if Exxon has indeed committed fraud, “its speech would not merit First Amendment protection.”

    And as environmental advocates pointed out on Twitter, Roff’s misleading defense of Exxon is hardly surprising given his own ties to Exxon and the oil billionaire Koch brothers. The Center for Media and Democracy’s PRWatch.org tweeted to Roff: “[W]hy don't you report Exxon's denial funding @usnews? Because you're a ‘fellow’ at an Exxon-funded op.” Common Cause’s Jay Riestenberg pointed out that Roff “once worked for a Koch funded org.” Greenpeace’s Connor Gibson stated that Roff “often recycles the Koch bros talking points in their defense.”

    Indeed, Roff is currently a senior fellow at the conservative think tank Frontiers of Freedom, which received more than $1 million from ExxonMobil between 2001 and 2007. In both 2012 and 2014, Roff’s organization received $50,000 from DonorsTrust -- the dark money group with significant ties to the Koch brothers and other fossil fuel interests -- and it got $75,000 from the Charles G. Koch foundation in 2014.

    As Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) put it, it is “long past time that we shed some light on the perpetrators of this web of denial.” He’s right, and that includes detailing the oil industry ties of a U.S. News contributing editor defending Exxon’s climate change deception.

    Image at the top via DeSmogBlog.

  • Top 10 Garbage Climate Change Stories From The Koch Brothers’ Favorite Right-Wing Website

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    This is a modified version of a post that originally appeared on Buzzfeed.

    The Daily Caller is a right-wing “news” website that founder Tucker Carlson claimed could be the conservative answer to The New York Times. To say that it’s failed to meet The Times’ standards is an understatement; since its launch in 2010, the Daily Caller has published baseless conspiracy theories, creepy slideshows, tabloid-style click-bait, uncorrected errors, false smears -- and many, many misrepresentations of climate science.

    The Daily Caller’s atrocious coverage of climate change shouldn’t be all that surprising when you consider it got its start with an influx of cash from climate science denier Foster Friess, a key ally of the oil billionaire Koch brothers, and has since received steady funding from the Kochs’ political network. Even so, the foul stench of the Daily Caller’s climate change “reporting” demands a quick whiff before we take it out to the trash bin.

    So without further ado, here are worst climate change stories the Daily Caller has published so far this year, put in their rightful place:

    The One That Tried To Link The Orlando Shooter To Clean Energy Advocates

    After CBS discovered footage from a 2012 documentary of Orlando, FL shooter Omar Mateen criticizing workers who were cleaning up the BP oil spill, the Daily Caller ran an article with the headline, “Was The Orlando Shooter An Anti-Fossil Fuel Zealot?” The Daily Caller is just asking, people.

    The One That Compared Respected Climate Experts To An X-Files Villain Who Planned To “Kill All Of Humanity”

    The Daily Caller thought it was newsworthy to point out that in the season finale of The X-Files reboot, “the villain’s master plan was to kill all of humanity to prevent global warming.” The article then compared Pope Francis’s climate adviser and President Obama’s science adviser to the X-Files villain, writing, “Reality does contain many powerful people who think humanity is the root cause of most environmental problems.”

    The One Where A Fossil Fuel Shill Says Mean Things About Al Gore

    It’s probably true that Alex Epstein, founder of a for-profit “think tank” that celebrates dirty energy and “man’s impact on nature,” is “popular” among oil industry executives. But that doesn’t excuse the Daily Caller promoting Epstein’s smear of Al Gore as the “leader of the climate fascists,” or Epstein’s canard that Gore is leading an “unconstitutional crusade against the freedom of scientific speech.” As if that weren’t enough rubbish for one article, the Daily Caller also described Gore’s efforts to fight climate change in China as “propaganda missions” to “properly indoctrinate Chinese citizens” about global warming.

    The One Where The Same Fossil Fuel Shill Drops The F-Bomb On Massachusetts’ Attorney General

    The same week that Epstein smeared Gore, the Daily Caller also managed to base an entire article on Epstein swearing at Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. Healey recently announced an investigation into whether ExxonMobil worked with climate denial organizations -- including Epstein’s Center for Industrial Progress -- to fraudulently deceive shareholders and the public about climate change. The Daily Caller eagerly promoted Epstein’s “terse response” to Healey:

     

    The One That Turned American Refugees’ Suffering Into Clickbait

    After The New York Times reported that a Louisiana indigenous community receiving government funding to relocate due to sea level rise would comprise the “first American ‘climate refugees,’” the Daily Caller complained that “it’s not the first time the media claimed to have identified America’s first climate refugees.” It’s true that multiple media outlets have used that designation when discussing Alaskan communities. But even the Daily Caller noted that the Louisiana community’s relocation will be “the first time a government has used global warming to justify moving people,” which means, in the words of Daily Kos’ Climate Denier Roundup, that the Daily Caller “has spun an entire story out of a pedantic nitpick.” The Climate Denier Roundup concluded that "turning the suffering of these peoples into clickbait is pretty despicable."

    The One Where Cutting Your Carbon Footprint Means Acting Like An “Eco-Nut Job”

    “Eco-nut jobs” is not exactly the wording used in the study, which found that Americans are “more willing to take advice” about how to act on climate change “from climate researchers who reduce their own carbon footprint.” The study author noted, “To communicate effectively, advocates of energy conservation need to be the change they wish to see."

    The One That Found Four Random Twitter Users To “Bash” President Obama On Climate Change After The Brussels Terror Attacks

    On the day of the Brussels terror attacks, the Daily Caller cited four random Twitter users (including one who has 49 followers) who “bash[ed]” President Obama and other Democrats on Twitter for having said that climate change is America’s biggest long-term threat. “Now, conservatives with Twitter accounts are throwing these remarks back in their faces,” the Daily Caller gloated.

    The One That Cried Crocodile Tears About EPA Agents Carrying Guns

    This was the lede of a February article at the Daily Caller: “An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agent mistakenly left a gun in a restroom stall in the agency’s headquarters, according to a Freedom of Information Act request from Environment & Energy Publishing’s Greenwire published Monday.” The article went on to tout efforts by a GOP Senator to “strip EPA of its firearms.” But while the Daily Caller is apparently concerned with EPA agents carrying guns when pursuing violators of environmental laws, that concern doesn’t extend to anyone who entered to win “free guns” by signing up for Daily Caller email updates. Maybe if a few EPA officials signed up, the Daily Caller would finally get off the agency’s back.

    The One Where Any Compliment About China Is An Endorsement Of Communism

    When Christiana Figueres announced she would step down as executive secretary of the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Daily Caller objected to the fact that she once criticized the United States Congress’ “deep partisan divide” and praised China’s efforts to advance renewable energy. According to the Daily Caller, Figueres “will long be remembered for her remarks castigating democracy and praising communist China’s progress on global warming.”

    The One That Tries To Do Math And Fails Miserably

    The Daily Caller tried to debunk a recent analysis by Carbon Brief showing that solar energy generated more electricity than coal in the United Kingdom for an entire month. The Daily Caller declared that Carbon Brief “claim[ed] that solar out-produced coal in May by almost 50%, but The Daily Caller News Foundation has found that number to actually be only 36%.” Unfortunately, the Daily Caller’s math was completely wrong, as a reader pointed out in the comments. Or as the Climate Denier Roundup put it, the Daily Caller “claims that solar out-produced coal by only 36%, when in fact it’s 49.6%, which is what Carbon Brief said in the first place.” And even if the Daily Caller’s math had been right, the fact that British solar outpaced coal for the first month ever would still be a historic milestone.

  • Reporters Should Contrast Trump’s “Love” Of Coal Miners With Funder’s Record Of Undermining Them

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump will attend a fundraiser hosted by coal industry CEO Robert Murray, who has pressured and even allegedly fired employees for political gain and has repeatedly fought against health benefits, safety protections, and labor rights for coal miners. Media covering the event should contrast Trump’s claims of staunch support for coal miners with his willingness to raise money with Murray.

  • TV Networks Backslide By Omitting Link Between Climate Change And Destructive Texas Floods

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    The major broadcast news networks ignored climate change in their coverage of Texas’ recent disastrous flooding, despite the well-documented link between global warming and extreme precipitation events. This omission marks a deterioration in network coverage from one year ago, when both CBS and NBC covered the science connecting climate change to similarly devastating floods pummeling Texas at the time.

  • Media Explain Everything Wrong With Trump’s Energy Speech

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump gave a speech about energy issues on May 26 at an oil conference in North Dakota in which he asserted that he would expand fossil fuel drilling and restore coal mining jobs and he ignored or downplayed renewable energy’s potential. Media figures have criticized Trump’s claims as “utter nonsense” that “defy free market-forces” and noted that his remarks displayed a “lack of basic knowledge” about the energy industry and were full of “absurd, impossible-to-keep promises.”

  • As Trump Talks Energy, Media Should Recall His Preposterous Track Record

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS & KEVIN KALHOEFER

    Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump is expected to discuss energy policies during a May 26 keynote speech at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference. When reporting on his remarks, media should keep in mind Trump’s long track record of extreme and half-baked positions on energy and environmental issues, including repeatedly denying climate change science, vowing to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency, and pledging to “renegotiate” the landmark Paris climate agreement.

  • Think Tank Engulfed In "Exxon Knew" Scandal Peddles Discredited Study That Benefits Oil Industry

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    Fox News and Fox Business have been promoting a debunked annual report from the fossil fuel front group Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), which claims that federal regulations cost the economy nearly $1.9 trillion each year. But the study has been roundly discredited and debunked, and it is being touted while CEI is under fire for its role in helping fossil fuel companies -- which would benefit from reduced federal regulations -- deceive the public on climate change.

  • Meet The Utah Columnist Shining A Light On Fossil Fuel Front Groups

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    In recent decades, fossil fuel interests have been funding front groups to advance their ideological and political goals, and key to these groups’ success is concealing their industry backing. But Utah columnist Paul Rolly has been working to shine a light on the industry backing behind the most influential front groups in his state. In an interview with Media Matters, Rolly discussed the importance of following the money.

    Rolly has been a columnist at The Salt Lake Tribune for the last 20 years, and he has stood out because of his work exposing fossil fuel front groups operating in Utah. He has uncovered the oil industry fingerprints behind campaigns to seize public lands from the federal government, attack renewable energy, and promote an industry-friendly agenda in higher education.

    Why is it so important to Rolly to educate his readers about Big Oil’s involvement in these fights? “It’s our job,” he said, explaining that it’s vital that readers know “what the sources of bills are, where they’re coming from, who they benefit, who’s behind them, who’s making money, and who’s making campaign contributions.” He hopes this information will give his readers the ability to “make informed decisions when they vote.”

    Utah is ground zero for many of the fossil fuel industry’s campaigns, making Rolly’s work invaluable. One of the most prominent fossil fuel-backed campaigns in recent years has been the effort to transfer control of federal lands to state governments, which would greatly benefit fossil fuel interests, as states would likely open up more areas to oil and gas drilling and coal mining.

    State Rep. Ken Ivory (R-UT) has played a leading role in the public land grab movement in the west, and Rolly has been paying close attention. In 2012, Ivory co-founded a group called the American Lands Council (ALC), which aims to “secure local control of western public lands by transferring federal public lands to willing States.” Utah, Rolly explained, is the only state that has passed legislation setting aside taxpayer funds to sue the federal government over control of public lands, like those managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. The lawsuit was recommended by a legal team hired by a Republican-dominated commission of Utah legislators, even though the lawyers acknowledged that the lawsuit “could cost up to $14 million, take years to play out in the courts,” and is “far from a sure victory,” according to the Associated Press.

    Rolly has repeatedly pointed out that Ivory has taken a six-figure annual salary from the ALC, which is largely funded by counties in Western states. The ALC’s tax forms reportedly indicate that Ivory and his wife have pocketed almost half of the group’s total revenue. Rolly believes that the negative attention Ivory received over his salary at ALC may explain why he stepped down as the organization’s president in December. (He remains an unpaid member of its executive committee).

    Rolly has devoted several columns to exposing the fossil funding behind ALC and other groups that are engaged in the public lands campaign. He's pointed out that Federalism in Action, where Ivory currently heads the “Free the Lands” project, is affiliated with the oil billionaires Charles and David Koch. And he's documented that the firm hired by the Utah legislature to promote the land transfer agenda, Strata Policy, also has financial ties to the Koch brothers. As the Los Angeles Times has noted, ALC has also received financial support from Americans for Prosperity, which was co-founded by the Kochs and continues to spearhead their agenda.

    The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate front group that connects fossil fuel executives with legislators to push model bills that serve industry interests, is also highly influential in Utah and has a heavy hand in the public land grab movement. And, as Rolly told Media Matters, “the Koch brothers are a big deep-pocket force behind ALEC.” Ivory is an ALEC member and was even awarded the group’s “Legislator Of The Year” award in 2014.

    In addition to the public lands battle, Rolly has turned his attention to the Kochs’ influence in local universities. He said national stories about the Kochs' investments in higher education led him to examine their efforts at Utah State University, where Strata co-founder Randy Simmons was previously the Charles G. Koch professor of political economy and currently supervises a Koch-funded scholarship program. As Rolly reported: “The Kochs have extended influence to institutions of higher education, setting up grants at universities to hire professors that teach the Kochs' anti-tax, anti-regulation business and political philosophies to mold young minds to fall in step with the Kochs' industrial wishes going forward through the 21st Century.”

    Too often, media fail to disclose these important ties, Rolly noted. ALEC, for one, “probably doesn’t get the attention it should” in the national media, nor do its “ties to the Koch brothers, and their deep-pocket influence, and what happens to state legislatures.” Many valuable resources that provide context are “underused,” in Rolly’s opinion, including legislators’ conflict-of-interest and financial disclosure forms, which he examines to see if there’s any connection between “who’s giving them money” and “what they’re doing as a legislator.” He said he also examines the tax filings of nonprofits such as ALC.

    But he also noted the difficulties that newsrooms face as the journalism industry struggles financially, resulting in increased pressure and reduced resources. Newspapers have been shutting down all over the country, and the ones that remain have had to greatly cut down on staff (including the Salt Lake Tribune). When that happens, Rolly noted, “the first thing to suffer is investigative reporting” because it requires so much time and staff resources. He added: “The industry is in peril right now.”

    There are also structural difficulties that further complicate the task of investigative journalism, Rolly noted, such as Citizens United v. FEC, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that protects a corporation's right to make unlimited expenditures in support of political candidates as a form of speech. Because of that ruling, Rolly said, super PACs can “basically take over [political] campaigns” and “you have no idea who’s contributing the money.”

    It’s worth keeping in mind that even as newspapers are facing increased financial pressures, reporting like Rolly’s can be good for business. His columns are among the newspaper’s most viewed pieces online, he says. And he recently received the “Making Democracy Work” award from the League of Women Voters for his work at the Tribune.

    The need for the media to disclose the industry backing that’s behind fossil fuel front groups is clear. Dark money groups like DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund exist solely to hide these funds. And research shows that organizations funded by Exxon and the Koch brothers are “more likely to have written and disseminated texts meant to polarize the climate change issue." Yet Media Matters has shown time and time again that fossil fuel front groups are getting away with promoting anti-environmental agendas while hiding the real voices behind their misleading messages.

    In the words of the Tribune, Rolly told the League of Women Voters that “democracy best works when the public is informed.” Reporters would do well to follow Rolly’s example by digging a little deeper to uncover the dark money behind special interest campaigns occurring all around the country.