Fox News is attacking a new Maryland anti-pollution measure as a "rain tax," adopting the misleading frame of local politicians. But the program doesn't tax rain -- it taxes surfaces that lead to more pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, a vital ecosystem that generates major revenue for surrounding states.
The program was signed into law in 2012 to meet an Environmental Protection Agency-issued pollution diet for the states surrounding the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The diet was required under the national Clean Water Act and instituted in response to "continued poor water quality" in the Bay. In order to pay for pollution management and habitat restoration, Maryland is instituting fees based on paved surfaces, which funnel a huge amount of pollution-laden stormwater runoff into gutters, eventually contributing to algal blooms and "dead zones" that kill fish and shellfish.
But following the lead of some local politicians, Fox News is misleadingly labelling it as a "rain tax," attacking the program on nine different Fox News or Fox Business programs between April 11 and 14. For instance, Neil Cavuto criticized the program on his Fox Business show, incorrectly characterizing it as a fee levied because some homes "disproportionately benefit from mother nature":
But Maryland's plan does not tax households that receive more rainfall -- it taxes surfaces that ferry more pollution to the Chesapeake Bay. As the EPA explains, the great size of the Chesapeake Bay watershed in comparison to the Bay itself -- "a ratio much higher than any other comparable watershed in the world" -- makes it "highly susceptible to actions taken on the land, including those associated with agriculture, development, transportation and wastewater treatment." A significant amount of the nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that reaches the Bay from stormwater runoff comes from Maryland. Plain soil acts as something of a filter and buffer for this pollution, and impervious surfaces take that benefit away.
Wall Street Journal columnist and editorial board member Kimberley Strassel misrepresented the win-loss record of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in court in order to suggest the Obama administration's environmental rulemaking is frequently illegal.
In an April 9 column, Strassel attempted to smear President Obama's nominee for EPA Administrator, the highly qualified and widely regarded Gina McCarthy, with the accusation that she shared blame for an alleged "embarrassing string of [legal] defeats" suffered by the Obama administration while serving as the senior EPA official in charge of regulating air pollution. From the WSJ:
[C]ritics have also started to take note of the embarrassing string of defeats the courts have recently dealt the agency regarding rules it issued in Mr. Obama's first term. Those judicial slapdowns are making a mockery of former Obama EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson's promise in 2009 to restore the agency's "stature" with rulemaking that "stands up in court."
This past year alone has proven a banner year for EPA rebukes[.]
Mrs. McCarthy--who has spent four years as EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation--was nominated precisely because she shares Mrs. Jackson's aggressive view of the EPA's authority. With the administration now looking to push the EPA boundaries even further on climate, expect senators to grill Mrs. McCarthy on why she believes those coming rulemaking procedures will fare any better in court. A number of senators are particularly focused on this question, since it is their authority Mr. Obama is usurping in having the EPA unilaterally implement a climate program.
But Strassel - like influential House Republicans - misrepresents the record of the Obama EPA in court, especially in the area of Clean Air Act rulemaking, which McCarthy oversaw. As opposed to the win-loss record of the Republican EPA under George W. Bush, the Obama administration has been highly successful in defending its Clean Air Act actions in court.
Bill O'Reilly labeled electric carmaker Tesla Motors a failure, claiming it had net losses. But Tesla has actually turned a profit, leading Fox News to label it a "success story" just last week.
O'Reilly stated that Tesla, which received a $465 million Department of Energy loan guarantee, had "$523 million in losses." But Tesla actually made a profit in the first quarter of 2013, and has arranged to repay its loan five years early. O'Reilly's figure is from a 2011 Investor's Business Daily editorial, as Raw Story first noted. In 2011, Tesla had annual net losses of $254 million, adding to previous losses, but CEO Elon Musk always saw Tesla turning a profit in 2013 once its car production ramped up.
In fact, Fox News itself labeled Tesla a "success story," and Fox Business anchor Lou Dobbs reluctantly acknowledged that it was one of the "winners" of the Obama administration's clean energy programs.
Fox News reported that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found 679 renewable energy initiatives to be overlapping -- but the GAO only stated that 679 was the number of such initiatives that existed in 2010; further, the GAO explicitly stated that it could not evaluate whether the programs overlapped.
In the GAO's 2013 annual report, which seeks to identify wasteful and overlapping federal government programs, the office determined that "23 agencies and their 130 subagencies implemented 679 renewable energy initiatives in fiscal year 2010."
Fox's Special Report, however, claimed that all 679 of these programs were duplicative and wasteful. Host Bret Baier reported: "Fox has obtained the results of a new GAO report finding 162 areas of duplication or wasteful spending, adding almost $100 billion a year on top of a larger amount from two previous reports. Renewable energy programs topped them all with 679 overlapping programs."
This characterization is actually contradicted by the report itself. While the report found that a handful of wind initiatives may have "provided duplicative support," the GAO specifically stated that the office "could not comprehensively assess the potential for overlap or duplication" among the renewable energy initiatives:
Although GAO examined characteristics, such as energy source and recipient type, for the nearly 700 renewable energy initiatives identified in its February 2012 report, GAO could not comprehensively assess the potential for overlap or duplication among the initiatives because existing agency information was not sufficiently complete to allow for such an assessment.
Fox's falsehood echoes a release from Republican Senator Tom Coburn that also claims 679 renewable energy initiatives were found to be duplicative.
Fox News is now acknowledging that Tesla Motors is a "success story," but only a year ago the network declared the company "failed." This distortion played into its attempts to boost then-presidential nominee Mitt Romney's claim that President Barack Obama only "pick[s] the losers."
Discussing the Obama administration's investments in green technology, Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett recently stated that Tesla is a "success story," and Fox Business anchor Lou Dobbs acknowledged on Monday night that it is one of the "winners." Tesla recently announced that it made a profit in the first quarter of 2013 after exceeding sales goals for its electric sedan, and the company plans on paying back its Department of Energy loan guarantee five years early.
But an oft-aired Fox News graphic previously listed Tesla as "failed," a claim that Romney later echoed. In fact, several of the companies that Fox News declared "failed" are still successfully operating (circled in green), and contributing to technological advances that could help us transition to a clean energy economy, as can be seen in this interactive graphic created with ThingLink:
The companies circled in yellow did not actually receive any funds from the loan guarantee programs, instead receiving either grants, tax credits, or no federal funds at all. Nevada Geothermal Power's project, at far left and not circled in the graphic above, is still operating and part of the 87 percent of loan guarantee funds under the 1705 program awarded to projects that experts say pose almost no risk to the taxpayer. By lumping all of these programs together from the more than 1,460 companies that have received such awards, Fox News was able to paint a distorted picture of the Obama administration's energy policies.
Fox News is using the struggles of Fisker, an electric carmaker that received federal loans, to claim that the government only picks "losers." But just one week prior, the network declared Tesla, which received loans from the same program, a "success story."
On Monday's edition of Fox News' America Live, Lou Dobbs treated the struggles of Fisker, which has reportedly hired a law firm to prepare for a possible bankruptcy filing and cut staff, as a reason that "we have got to get this government, and this administration, out of picking winners and losers, because all they pick are losers." In 2009, the company received a $529 million conditional loan guarantee through the Department of Energy's (DOE) Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) program, of which it received $192 million before DOE froze the loan. Later in the segment, Dobbs added: "I've looked at the winners and the losers. I cannot find the winners."
Dobbs might have started by watching Fox News, which reported the previous week on Happening Now that Tesla, another hybrid electric automaker that received ATVM funds, was a "success story":
Indeed, Tesla recently announced that it turned a profit in the first quarter of 2013 and plans on paying back its DOE loan five years early. The company has seen sales of its Model S electric sedan, which was named 2013's car of the year by both Automobile and Motor Trend, exceed goals set by the company.
Fox Business host John Stossel contradicted himself within just a few paragraphs over whether the "free market" can remedy pollution.
In a FoxNews.com column, Stossel acknowledged that the "free market ... doesn't offer a practical remedy to pollution," but went on tout "capitalism" as the answer to pollution just a few paragraphs later:
Originally, environmental rules were a good thing. I love the free market, but it doesn't offer a practical remedy to pollution. I could sue polluters for violating my property rights, but under our legal system, that's not even close to practical.
So in the '70s, government passed rules that demanded we stop polluting the air and water. Industry put scrubbers in smokestacks. Towns installed sewage treatment. Now the air is quite clean, and I can swim in the rivers around Manhattan.
Throughout the world, most reductions in pollution have been achieved because of capitalism, not government control.
Fracking for natural gas reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Even much-hated coal and oil provide benefits. [emphasis added]
Stossel was right the first time. Experts from across the political spectrum say that when the "free market" does not account for the external costs that fossil fuel production imposes on society, the government must step in to put a price on pollution. As Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman put it:
Externalities like pollution are one of the classic forms of market failure, and Econ 101 says that this failure should be remedied through pollution taxes or tradable emissions permits that get the price right. [...] So if you really believed in the logic of free markets, you'd be all in favor of pollution taxes, right?
Krugman highlighted a 2011 study by centrist economists which found that coal imposes more costs on society than any other industry and may be "underregulated" as its price does not account for these damages.
Fox News contributor Steve Hayes claimed that federal agencies "never" overestimate the costs of regulation to suggest that a new rule to reduce smog-creating pollutants will cost more than the Environmental Protection Agency predicts. But studies have found that the EPA previously overestimated the cost of regulating the same pollutant, and has historically overestimated costs.
The EPA estimates that reducing the amount of sulfur in gasoline, which contributes to smog, will add less than a penny to the price of a gallon of gasoline. Hayes suggested on Special Report that the EPA's estimate is too low, saying "of course there is going to be more cost":
Regression analysis shows that Tier 2 regulations, which required a reduction in the average sulfur content of gasoline from 300 ppm to 30 ppm, had no material impact on the retail price of gasoline.
The EPA estimated that Tier 2 would increase the average cost of refining gasoline by about two cents per gallon, and that Tier 3 will increase the average cost of refining gasoline by one cent per gallon. Because Tier 2 had no material impact on the retail price of gasoline, it is unlikely Tier 3--projected to generate private costs half the size of those generated by Tier 2--will have any impact either.
And a 2010 review by Resources for the Future found that the EPA "tend[s] to overestimate the total costs of regulations," noting that the agency overestimated costs for 14 of the rules it examined and only underestimated costs for 3 rules.
Industry estimates of regulatory costs have been shown to be even more overblown in retrospective studies. Keeping with this historical trend, the American Petroleum Institute claims that EPA's latest rule would raise gas prices by 6 to 9 cents, but its analysis didn't assess the rule that was ultimately proposed by the EPA, which provides significant flexibility to refineries.
Washington Times columnist Frank Gaffney joined the right-wing media's crusade against Labor secretary nominee Thomas Perez by attempting to manufacture outrage over Perez hugging a respected Muslim leader in 2011.
In his March 26 Washington Times column, Gaffney said President Obama's nomination of Perez for Labor secretary "may be his most outrageous yet." In addition to rehashing right-wing smears, Gaffney attacked Perez for "his enthusiastic embrace of Islamists and their causes." As evidence, Gaffney highlighted a 2011 event in which Perez "leapt onto a stage at George Washington University in order to hug the leader of the largest Muslim Brotherhood front group in the United States: Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America."
But Magid is a respected Muslim leader who has worked to combat terrorism and curb extremism, and he has spoken out against domestic violence in the Muslim community.
In addition to serving as the president of ISNA and the executive director of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, Magid served on the Department of Justice's Countering Violent Extremism Working Group, a task force formed in 2010 by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to "work with state and local law enforcement as well as relevant community groups to develop and provide to me recommendations regarding how the Department can better support community-based efforts to combat violent extremism domestically -- focusing in particular on the issues of training, information sharing, and the adoption of community-oriented law enforcement approaches to this issue."
In January 2011, Magid co-hosted a forum on "Curbing Violent Extremism" in which panelists discussed "ways in which the American Muslim community can curb and prevent violent extremist tendancies [sic] from within its ranks." A 2005 Time magazine profile of Magid pointed out that he "is fighting his own war against radicals trying to hijack his religion. For Magid that has meant not only condemning terrorism but also working closely with the FBI in battling it. He regularly opens doors for agents trying to cultivate contacts in his Muslim community, and he alerts the bureau when suspicious persons approach his congregation."
Magid has also been an outspoken critic of domestic violence within the Muslim community. In October 2011, Magid worked with the Rhode Island Council of Muslim Advancement to sponsor a training for imams and chaplains "to discuss, in a private and confidential setting, effective strategies to respond to domestic violence situations within the Muslim community, and learn best practices to foster prevention." Magid has also endorsed Project Sakinah, an group that attempts to "achieve lasting change in the attitudes and behaviors of Muslims around the issue of violence within families." He also contributed an essay to the book Change From Within: Diverse Perspectives on Domestic Violence in Muslim Communities.
President Obama has nominated Thomas E. Perez as Secretary of Labor. Right-wing media used this announcement to push false attacks about Perez based on his service in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and other civil rights work and advocacy.
From the March 18 edition of Premiere Radio Network's The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Right-wing media are furthering attacks on possible Labor secretary nominee Thomas Perez by demonizing an immigrants' rights organization he was involved with. But CASA is a respected Latino advocacy organization whose work helping immigrants has won a multitude of awards for outstanding community service.
The Associated Press reported on March 9 that President Obama is likely to nominate Perez, the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, to serve as the next Labor secretary. His possible nomination has set off a series of attacks from right-wing media, including Fox News, which has accused him of working with "hardcore Islamist groups" and tried to discredit him by invoking the manufactured scandal over the Justice Department's New Black Panthers intimidation case.
In a syndicated column peppered with slurs such as "illegal alien," Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin attacked Perez by smearing CASA, the organization where Perez served first as a volunteer then as board president in 2002, as a "notorious illegal-alien advocacy group:
During the Clinton years, Perez worked at the Justice Department to establish a "Worker Exploitation Task Force" to enhance working conditions for ... illegal-alien workers. While holding down his government position, Perez volunteered for Casa de Maryland. This notorious illegal-alien advocacy group is funded through a combination of taxpayer-subsidized grants (totaling $5 million in 2010 alone from Maryland and local governments) and radical-liberal philanthropy, including billionaire George Soros's Open Society Institute.
That's in addition to more than $1 million showered on the group by freshly departed Venezuelan thug Hugo Chávez's regime-owned oil company, Citgo.
Malkin went on to claim that CASA "opposes enforcement of deportation orders, has protested post-9/11 coordination of local, state, and national criminal databases, and produced a 'know your rights' propaganda pamphlet for illegal aliens that depicted federal immigration agents as armed bullies making babies cry."
Media are touting the claim from Rep. Paul Ryan's new budget plan that constructing the Keystone XL pipeline would create nearly 140,000 jobs, but that figure comes from exaggerating a heavily criticized, industry-funded analysis.
Reuters uncritically repeated the Ryan budget's assertion that constructing Keystone XL would create "20,000 direct jobs and 118,000 indirect jobs." Fox News host Sean Hannity later claimed the pipeline would create "nearly 140,000 jobs," while promoting the Ryan budget, which would likely raise taxes on the middle class:
But that number comes from inflating an analysis funded by TransCanada, the company trying to build the pipeline. That study, which has been called "dead wrong," "meaningless," and "flawed and poorly documented" by independent analysts, claimed that Keystone XL would create "118,000 person-years of employment." In other words, if one person holds a job for two years, that is counted as two "person-years of employment." And as a TransCanada spokesman eventually clarified to Huffington Post reporter Tom Zeller, the 118,000 figure already includes the 20,000 direct construction and manufacturing job-years that TransCanada claims will be created. Those numbers are also now outdated, as they included jobs associated with the southern portion of the pipeline, which is already under construction.
Independent analyses have found that the pipeline would create far fewer jobs. A 2011 report by Cornell University's Global Labor Institute found that the TransCanada estimate ignored the potential economic consequences of the pipeline -- which would carry tar sands oil from Canada to Gulf coast oil refineries primarily for export -- including the possibility of a spill. A State Department analysis found that the pipeline would create less than 4,000 construction jobs for the 1- to 2-year construction period, and only 35 permanent jobs. In total, that study found that Keystone XL would create 42,100 direct, indirect and induced average annual jobs during the 1- to 2-year construction period. As their exaggerated jobs claims have been exposed, conservative media have struggled to stay on the same page about how many jobs the pipeline would create:
Following the nomination of Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency, conservative media are once again claiming that the Obama administration's EPA has waged a "war on coal." But that narrative ignores how natural gas has outcompeted coal, and why the long-overdue Clean Air Act regulations on coal are necessary in the first place. Here's what the public should know, as told in charts and graphics:
Low natural gas prices are behind the drop in coal power. As this chart shows, the boom in shale natural gas production has led to a drop in the price of natural gas -- in the free marketplace, many coal plants simply can't compete.
Clean Air Act regulations are long-overdue. George H.W. Bush's EPA administrator acknowledged that the Obama administration inherited several court-mandated rules from previous administrations, calling them "grenades" that required action. For instance, this timeline put together by energy giant Dynegy shows that the Mercury and Air Toxics rule issued under the Obama administration underwent a "thorough and lengthy development process." The 1990 Clean Air Act amendments required that the EPA study mercury and other emissions. In 2005, the EPA issued its final rule for controlling mercury that the Bush administration's own lawyers reportedly said would "almost certainly be reversed" by the courts. After the courts indeed reversed it, the burden of complying with the requirement to regulate mercury fell to the Obama administration:
[Source: Dynegy via SEC, January 2013]
Coal has huge health impacts even after decades of regulation in the U.S. In countries like China and India where coal is not as strictly regulated, coal pollution is extremely deadly. Meanwhile, in the U.S., harmful emissions have been significantly reduced, a fact that conservative media and the coal industry have used to tout coal's alleged cleanliness. But they often fail to mention that the industry only reduced its emissions after being required to by clean air standards, and that coal still has huge health impacts. The following chart details some of the known and quantifiable health impacts of pollution from coal plants:
On MSNBC, the director of the conservative Independent Women's Forum dismissed climate change as a "new science," ignoring the fact that the science behind global warming dates back to the 19th century and has accumulated to an overwhelming body of evidence over the last three decades.
Those seeking to delay action on environmental issues have long resorted to the argument that we need to study this issue more before we act. A classic example of this came Wednesday during a segment on MSNBC with Bill Nye "The Science Guy" and Sabrina Schaeffer, the executive director of the industry-funded Independent Women's Forum. Schaeffer said that she opposed Gina McCarthy's nomination to head the Environmental Protection Agency because she may implement rules that would restrict greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Schaeffer insisted that although she opposes this effort to curb climate change, she is a "believer in science" and "the use of experiments and randomization." But when Nye pressed her on whether she accepts climate science, she dismissed it as a "new science" that needs further study:
Schaeffer's comments echo conservative media outlets such as The Wall Street Journal that continue to argue that we don't know enough about climate change to warrant action, despite warnings from the National Academy of Sciences and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:
But we've known about the greenhouse effect for nearly two hundred years, we've known that humans can enhance that effect by making the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide since 1895, we've known that many scientists have predicted a warming trend since the 1970's, and we've known that the National Academy of Sciences has called for "action" since 2005. To dismiss all of the evidence that has led to a consensus on manmade climate change as a "new science" is anti-science, no matter how much you love random samples.