Fox News and other conservative media are calling a new proposal to protect waterways "one of the biggest land grabs" ever that will give a government agency "control of all private property." The rule, which could help protect the drinking water of 117 million Americans, would only resolve which bodies of water are protected from pollution under the current jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.
On March 25, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a draft proposal to clarify which bodies of water are under the protection of the Clean Water Act (CWA), to "increase CWA program predictability and consistency." The new rule, proposed jointly with the Army Corps of Engineers, follows research showing that streams, wetlands, and other relatively small bodies of water "are connected to and have important effects on downstream waters," so they necessitate protection from pollution under the Act as it stands today.
Conservative media, claiming that the EPA is overextending its reach, are forecasting drastic consequences that simply aren't true. Examiner.com accused the government agency of "veritable land theft" by "expanding government control," and predicted that "it won't be far for the EPA to declare control over any land that gets wet or is rained upon." Breitbart called it "one of the biggest land grabs by the federal government ever perpetrated on the American public." And on the March 26 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends First, co-host Heather Childers introduced the rule by saying "It's not your land -- The EPA's latest move that gives them control of all private property." Childers went on to assert that the clarification "could be one of the biggest private property grabs in history, according to Republicans. The EPA wants control of all bodies of water, no matter how small, even if they're on private property."
An editorial from The Wall Street Journal is blaming environmentalists for slowing down a controversial process to export natural gas, overlooking the fact that members of the gas industry have condemned the procedure.
The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board has been calling for the the U.S. to export more natural gas, which would need to be condensed, liquefied, and shipped out of specialized liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals. On March 24, the seventh LNG export facility, to be constructed in Oregon's Jordan Cove, was approved by the Department of Energy (DOE), a move widely criticized by environmental groups. The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board dismissed the approval as well, but only because these export terminals aren't coming fast enough, with 24 projects still waiting for approval. The Board blamed "President Obama's green donors" for the "slow-roll process."
But members of the natural gas industry are critical of the controversial export terminals. America's Energy Advantage (AEA), a trade coalition of businesses and organizations that support the natural gas industry, released a statement denouncing the approval of the new export terminal. The group, which includes Dow Chemical and Alcoa Inc., wrote that the DOE's approval of the Jordan Cove facility is "a grievous error" that will "harm U.S. consumers and economy." From the AEA statement:
This is a grievous error that puts billions of dollars of investment and millions of jobs at risk. Stable and affordable natural gas is powering an American manufacturing comeback. According to IHS Chemical, more than $125 billion of new manufacturing investments are planned. This latest export approval will raise domestic natural gas, electricity, home-heating and propane prices for every American, undermine our manufacturing competiveness and cost the nation good-paying jobs. America's Energy Advantage renews its call for the Administration to take an immediate 'time out' from further LNG export approvals until a new, comprehensive review of current market conditions is completed."
Other studies and energy experts have warned of the economic dangers that may result from approving too many LNG export terminals, pointing out that it could lead to immense oversupply. As reported by Bloomberg, a Rice University analysis found that with "plans for dozens of the multibillion-dollar export terminals in North America alone, the industry is headed toward an overbuild that may depress Asian prices for a decade."
Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) cited a 2012 study from the DOE itself, saying it found that a "high export scenario" of LNG could increase domestic gas prices by more than 50 percent. According to Markey, approval of the Jordan Cove facility would cause the nation's LNG exports to cross the threshold for that very scenario. Energy analyst Chris Nelder wrote in an email to Media Matters that export terminals might not even be able to fulfill their contracts if natural gas prices don't remain as low as they are today.
As climate change coverage has been suffering in mainstream media, alternative, web-based media sources are starting to give more attention to the issue of global warming.
On March 10, Upworthy released the findings of a poll of its readers on what topic they wanted more coverage of -- the number one answer was climate change and clean energy. This is the latest in a trend of new media sources actively working to provide more coverage of global warming, in contrast to traditional media that are providing "shockingly little" coverage to a "critically important issue." Meanwhile, to receive their news content Americans are turning increasingly away from papers and TV, and towards web-based sources, a term collectively known as "new media."
A paper from the Yale Forum on Climate Change & Media found that web multimedia is "poised to reshape news coverage on science and climate," telling of a burgeoning opportunity for climate change stories -- that "the time for new media has come":
"[Mainstream media] has been doing things the same way for so long you can't be imaginative," says Nicholson, a New York-based science journalist. As television and the Internet merge, she sees coverage taking on forms fully adapted to the possibilities of digital production. "It's going to be fast, social and everything will be mobile," she says. "We have an opportunity to change the way we tell stories."
So how are new media turning to the topic of climate change?
When announcing the findings of their poll calling for more climate and clean energy coverage, Upworthy simultaneously announced that they are going to partner with Climate Nexus, a nonprofit that works to communicate the impacts of climate change, to produce more stories on the topic.
Upworthy is known for "optimizing optimism" through curating content and adding irresistible headlines that will compel readers to share their stories. Climate change is often seen through a pessimistic lens -- a recent study of broadcast evening news programs found that when they did cover the issue, they often decoupled messages about the threat of climate change from messages about what can be done. Previous studies have suggested that when a message conveys a threat but not a potential action to address it, such as turning to clean energy to mitigate global warming, the message may be rejected.
This video summarizes the difference with Upworthy's approach: it starts with traditional news coverage describing the threat of climate change, and then describes what one community is doing to transition to clean energy while battling a powerful coal company.
Think the public isn't interested in climate change? The above video has 102,000 Facebook likes (more than its already high average).
On January 28, social media news website Mashable announced that it would hire Andrew Freedman as its first writer for its new "climate desk," to write about "extreme weather as well as the science behind it," according to Mashable's executive editor Jim Roberts. Freedman was named as the second-most "prolific" climate change writer of 2013 by the Daily Climate.
Since the announcement, Freedman has published many compelling articles on extreme, sometimes fascinating weather events, including a look at how Greenland ice melt is going to affect sea level rise, and a snow-free Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Freedman also writes about political actions designed to bring attention to and address climate change. In an interview with MashableHQ, Freedman explained why it is imperative for Mashable and other alternative media outlets to invest in climate change reporting:
Weather and climate have become such a big story for so many reasons over the past several years, yet mainstream media outlets have been cutting back on specialized science reporting. For in depth climate reporting you really need to bring in reporters who have a background in climate science and weather in order to make the information truly value-added, and it's laudable that Mashable is investing in this subject area. This just isn't a subject about which you can easily aggregate or curate your content and then call it a day.
National Journal's coverage of an upcoming Senate hearing on the Keystone XL pipeline failed to disclose that Gen. Jim Jones is currently working for the fossil fuel industry.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on Thursday to discuss whether or not the Keystone XL pipeline is in the country's national interest. In covering the hearing, National Journal referred to Jones by his former role as a national security adviser to President Barack Obama and called him "one of several former Obama administration officials who favor the project," but did not mention his current employer.
Buzzfeed, by contrast, explained that Jones is now a paid adviser to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and to the American Petroleum Institute (API), the top lobbying group for the oil and gas industry:
Jim Jones, a retired Marine Corps commandant, served as Obama's first national security adviser. He left the administration shortly before the 2010 midterm elections. Now he's a top lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with a focus on Keystone.
Since taking the lobbying job, Jones has said that the pipeline project is good for national security.
Both API and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have been lobbying hard for the Keystone XL pipeline, alongside TransCanada, pushing statewide resolutions in support of the project, according to PR Watch. The American Petroleum Institute, which openly supports the Keystone pipeline, previously created a front group called "Oil Sands Fact Check" in support of the pipeline and other tar sands developments.
National Journal previously quoted Michael McKenna often while failing to disclose that he is a Republican energy lobbyist, before reversing its mistake in 2012.
The Heritage Foundation recently published a faulty report on the economic effects of the EPA's forthcoming carbon pollution regulations, and its findings have been repeated uncritically in conservative media despite the foundation's fossil fuel funding and the report's "deeply problematic" analysis.
The Heritage Foundation released their new report, titled "EPA's Climate Regulations Will Harm American Manufacturing," just as House Republicans have been ramping up their latest effort to overturn the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) carbon pollution regulations. On March 6, the House passed a bill that would heavily weaken the Clean Air Act and would "seriously cripple the Obama Administration's ongoing drive to curb dangerous carbon pollution," according to Dan Lashof of the NRDC (the bill is not expected to pass the Senate). This is part of the GOP's effort to curb what they call President Obama's "war on coal," a slogan the Heritage Foundation repeats in their report.
Many of the criticisms of the EPA's carbon pollution rules are misleading, but perhaps none are more so than those from the Heritage Foundation, an organization whose studies have previously been criticized by even the conservative American Enterprise Institute and libertarian Cato Institute. This time the organization released a report on the EPA with findings even more dire than its prematurely released data: that carbon regulations will reduce income, kill nearly 600,000 jobs including 336,000 manufacturing jobs in 2023 alone, cut a family of four's income by $1,200 a year, and cost the U.S. economy a total of $2.23 trillion. Their claims were repeated uncritically in the Daily Caller, FoxNews.com, and Politico's Morning Energy. But the entire report is "radically problematic" and has a "tenuous connection with reality," according to policy expert Michael Livermore in a phone call with Media Matters -- and here's why:
The benefits of clean air standards have been shown time and time again to significantly outweigh the costs. In fact, the Clean Air Act has already saved $22 trillion in healthcare costs, according to a cost-benefit analysis from the EPA.
And health experts agree. According to a press release from the American Lung Association (ALA), the carbon regulations would help prevent "more than 16,000 premature deaths by 2030," due to lower levels of the particulate-forming pollution that comes from burning coal:
"Roughly half of the population in the United States currently lives in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution that is linked to serious illnesses, including asthma attacks, lung cancer, heart attacks, strokes and even death. Children are particularly susceptible to the health effects of air pollution because their lungs are still developing. Carbon pollution that fuels climate change will make it harder to achieve healthy air for all.
"Researchers have estimated that safeguards enacted now to reduce greenhouse gases - including carbon pollution from all sources in the U.S. - would prevent more than 16,000 premature deaths by 2030. The lives would be saved as a result of reductions in the ozone, and particulate-forming pollution that is also reduced as carbon is reduced. Cleaning up carbon pollution from power plants is essential to saving those lives.
It seems the Heritage Foundation does not believe there will be any benefits to clean air, as they do not include any benefits in their analysis of the carbon pollution regulations.
Michael Livermore, Senior Advisor at New York University's Institute for Policy Integrity, explained in a phone call that "even as a cost prediction, [the report is] very inaccurate because it doesn't paint a complete picture about how the economy is going to respond." He expanded (edited lightly for clarity):
One reason it overstates the cost is because it doesn't account for productivity gains that are associated with clean air benefits [...] They're only looking at ways in which productivity might be reduced because of energy prices but they're not looking at ways in which productivity can be increased because people are healthier and live longer.
In addition to that, they're not accounting for -- as far as I can tell -- the various ways that in a dynamic economy, labor markets and technology will adapt to the agency's greenhouse gas regulations.
They assume that any transitions that occur within the energy sector will propagate out to other sectors of the economy and basically act like a shock that's going to reduce employment everywhere. And again, that's not really accurate, that's not how labor markets work, they're holding things constant like macroeconomic policy and the business cycle, all of which are other compounds that are going to affect the employment rate. So their model has a very tenuous connection to reality in terms of anything that's going to happen that they're predicting, with any degree of accuracy in terms of employment.
And in fact, other models which are more empirically grounded find that when you impose regulatory requirements on firms they're just as likely to hire more workers as they are to lay workers off -- and these are in the most highly regulated industries -- because you have to hire workers to comply with environmental statutes. So for example, yes, it might be the case that some coal miners might need to be laid off and need to transition to other forms of employment, but there's also going to be work building new gas fired power plants and energy efficiency retrofits.
So those two countervailing effects, for the most part, most serious economists will argue that our best estimate of the net effect is zero. That any of the employment effects are going to wash out. Because we don't know if there's going to be negative employment effects, but if there are, they're usually going to be associated with countervailing employment effects that are positive. And there's macroeconomic policy like interest rates, like government spending, like taxation, like trade, all of which are going to affect the employment rate far, far more than anything that's going to happen at the regulatory level.
In January 2014, Resources for the Future (RFF), a nonprofit that conducts independent research on environment and energy issues, published a report on the costs of carbon regulations under the EPA's Clean Air Act. They found, contrary to the Heritage Foundation, that the carbon standards will result in "very small changes in average electricity prices" as a likely outcome, and predicted "positive and large" net benefits in every scenario.
The Clean Air Task Force -- a public health and environment advocacy group comprised of engineers, scientists, and specialists -- similarly found in a February 2014 study conducted by The NorthBridge Group that a "highly cost-effective approach" to carbon regulations under the Clean Air Act is feasible:
Simply by setting performance standards that result in displacing electricity generated by high emission rate coal-fired power plants with generation from existing currently underutilized, efficient natural-gas power plants, the U.S. can realize significant, near- term reductions in carbon pollution at a minimal cost.
The analysis predicts that the CATF proposal will:
- Decrease by 2020 of 27%, or 636 million metric tons of CO2, from 2005 levels;
- Avoid 2,000 premature deaths and 15,000 asthma attacks annually as a result of the annual reductions of over 400,000 tons in sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions in 2020;
- Result in monetized health and climate benefits of $34 billion, which is over three times the cost of compliance;
- increase in average nationwide retail electric rates by only 2% in 2020 which, based on Energy Information Administration forecasts, should result in no net increase in monthly electric bills.
Finally, the Natural Resources Defense Council crafted a proposal to support the EPA's goal of reducing carbon emissions, resulting in net benefits that outweigh the costs "as much as 15 times."
MSNBC host Chris Hayes blasted the myth that expanding unconventional energy sources in the U.S. will weaken Russia, an "absurd" claim that has been perpetuated by conservative media to pin the security crisis in Ukraine on President Barack Obama.
Conservative media are manipulating the Ukraine crisis to push a "drill, baby, drill" agenda, claiming that approving the Keystone XL pipeline and expanding the use of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") will somehow weaken Russian President Vladimir Putin's influence in Ukraine. They are calling for expanding development of natural gas in the U.S. (including by the environmentally-contentious use of fracking) to ease the concern that Putin may cut off the natural gas supply to Ukraine and subsequently affect natural gas prices in Europe and around the globe.
Liquefying, exporting, and re-gassifying natural gas is more carbon intensive than domestically consuming it, and would likely drive up the price of natural gas in the U.S., so some oppose permitting further LNG export terminals -- at least until fugitive methane emissions are reigned in. Despite concerns, the Obama administration has permitted several LNG export terminals and is expected to permit more. Republicans and the oil and gas industry complain that it's still not fast enough. However, as LNG is very expensive, reports have suggested that even if they were approved, many LNG export terminals probably won't even be used, or at least not for years -- far too late to address the Ukraine crisis. MSNBC's Chris Hayes and his guest Dan Dicker, CEO of wealth management group MercBloc, explained on the March 5 edition of All In with Chris Hayes:
DICKER: The Russians do have a major control, major influence, on most of eastern Europe through natural gas. But we have to distinguish between natural gas -- which is a gas -- and crude oil which is a liquid. If you want to move a liquid from one place to another, you put in the a dixie cup and you can move it any way you like. Natural gas has two ways of being transported, one is through pipelines. Now, the United States can do nothing in terms of creating a pipeline to all of these eastern European nations.
The only other way you can get it across, and what they're talking about is permitting, is through what we call LNG, which is liquid natural gas. It needs to be cooled, natural gas, to be transported as LNG needs to be cooled to a minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit then put in very, very carefully into very select containers that you can now transport overseas. This costs a lot of money. This is why permitting -- you could permit all of the natural gas export plants you want, there are very few energy companies who are going to undertake building these things, they cost $2 billion to convert an import plant into an export plant.
Fox News is using the crisis in Ukraine to push for the Keystone XL pipeline, an argument that an energy expert called "patently absurd."
In response to Russia's occupation of Ukrainian territory in the Crimean peninsula, Fox News personalities have been pushing for the Keystone XL pipeline to be built on an accelerated timetable, claiming that it would "weaken" Russia. But their argument has no basis in reality, as the pipeline could not realistically be built in a timetable sufficient to respond to the imminent crisis, and the tar sands oil it would deliver would not dent the global market enough to impact Russia. Energy analyst Chris Nelder explained in an email to Media Matters:
Keystone XL proponents will seize on any shred of justification for the project, no matter how tenuous. The suggestion that a very long-term project like Keystone XL, which will take a year or more to construct on any timetable, and which will deliver refined products like gasoline and diesel to a global market -- not just markets around Russia -- would somehow address the immediate situation in Crimea, is patently absurd. Further, delivering 830,000 barrels per day once it reaches full capacity will not meaningfully undercut Russia specifically in a global market that consumes 92 million barrels per day.
Yet at least six Fox News hosts and contributors have used the crisis in Crimea to push a pro-tar sands agenda:
O'Reilly: Build Keystone Pipeline To Weaken Russia. Fox News host Bill O'Reilly said that "the Keystone pipeline must be approved. Why? Because Russia is blackmailing Europe over energy ... the more oil and natural gas the U.S.A. and Canada can produce and distribute, the weaker Russia becomes on the world stage. I fervently hope President Obama understands that."
KT McFarland: Obama Should Tell Putin: "I Will Allow Keystone Pipeline To Go Ahead": In an opinion piece for FoxNews.com, Fox News foreign policy contributor KT McFarland wrote a mock conversation on what she hopes Obama told Putin during their March 1 phone call:
I will allow the Keystone Pipeline to go ahead, again on an accelerated basis. That will not only give a boost to the American and Canadian economies, it will start driving down the price of oil.
McFarland made a similar argument on-air when she suggested "go[ing] after the economic weapon: Build the Keystone pipeline."
Conservative media are latching on to the climate change denial of Patrick Moore, who has masqueraded as a co-founder of Greenpeace. But Moore has been a spokesman for nuclear power and fossil fuel-intensive industries for more than 20 years, and his denial of climate change -- without any expertise in the matter -- is nothing new.
Numerous local newspapers failed to identify the fossil fuel funding behind Thomas Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, while allowing him to publish op-eds across the country misleadingly attacking a potential tax credit for wind power, while ignoring subsidies for the oil and gas industries.
Reuters' climate coverage has continued to drop significantly under the regime of its new "skeptic" editor, with less than half the amount of climate coverage compared to before the editor took over, according to a Media Matters study. This finding comes despite two major reports on climate science that occurred during this period, suggesting that the paper's "climate of fear" may have persisted.