A dirty energy advocate with Big Oil ties is falsely smearing Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' wind energy plan -- with an assist from The Wall Street Journal.
The Journal published a February 7 op-ed attacking Sanders' renewable energy plan by Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, without disclosing that the Manhattan Institute has received at least $800,000 from ExxonMobil and millions more from foundations run by the oil billionaire Koch brothers. Unsurprisingly, given his track record, Bryce's criticism of Sanders is badly at odds with the facts.
In the op-ed, Bryce claimed that Sanders "better check with his Vermont constituents about the popularity of wind energy." Citing anti-wind proposals in the Vermont state legislature and a few scattered examples of local opposition to specific wind energy projects, Bryce declared: "Nowhere is the backlash [against wind energy] stronger than in Mr. Sanders's state."
However, despite the presence of a vocal minority who oppose large-scale wind projects, support for wind energy development is actually very strong in the Green Mountain State.
According to an April 2014 poll that was conducted by Fairbank, Maslin, Maulin, Metz & Associates for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG), 71 percent of Vermonters support building wind turbines along the state's ridgelines, while only 23 percent oppose wind energy development. The poll also found that 86 percent of Vermonters support the state's goal of getting 90% of its energy from renewable sources by 2050, and 72 percent of Vermonters said they would look more favorably on a candidate for state legislature who would make "advancing energy efficiency, clean energy and action on climate change central to their work."
These findings are in line with other polls conducted in Vermont. A May 2014 survey by the Castleton Polling Institute found that 89.3 percent of Vermonters agree that it is necessary and important to change the state's energy mix from the "current system based on fossil fuels, such as oil, and gas" to "a new energy system based on increasing energy efficiency and switching to renewable energy sources like solar, wind, hydro and biomass." And a February 2013 Castleton poll found that 69 percent of Vermonters would favor the development of a wind farm in their own community.
Indeed, Bryce's entire attack against Sanders is premised on deceptively cherry-picking several isolated incidents of local opposition to wind energy. This cherry-picking is exemplified by the very first example he cited as supposed evidence that opposition to wind turbines "has been growing" in the state:
Wind-generated electricity in the U.S. has more than tripled since 2008, but opposition to the gigantic turbines, which can stand more than 500 feet, has been growing. In Vermont several protesters were arrested in 2011 and 2012 while trying to stop work on a wind project built on top of Lowell Mountain.
In reality, 75 percent of Lowell residents voted for Green Mountain Power's Kingdom Community Wind project on Lowell Mountain in 2010, and Lowell voters strongly reaffirmed their support for the project in March 2014, as the Associated Press noted at the time.
From the January 20 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the January 14 edition of Al Jazeera America's Inside Story:
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The troubling trend of the fossil fuel industry and conservative media twisting scientific research to fit their own agenda is not going away, as Stanford University professor Mark Jacobson recently found out. In the age of rampant climate denial, scientists and researchers like Jacobson are increasingly recognizing that they must fight back against deliberate rightwing distortions of their work.
On January 8, the Daily Caller's Michael Bastasch reported on what he seemed to consider a "gotcha" moment for the environmental movement: environmentalists have been touting a study showing that the U.S. could transition to 100 percent renewable energy, but according to Bastasch, "they must not have realized the study also shows nearly 1.2 million Americans permanently out of work."
Bastasch did not get this statistic from the study itself, nor did he contact any of the study's authors. He turned instead to a fossil fuel industry group called Energy In Depth, which he described as "an oil and gas industry-backed education project."
Last summer, Jacobson led a Stanford University study showing that the U.S. can fully replace its fossil fuel infrastructure with 100 percent renewable energy -- wind, water, and solar (WWS) -- by 2050, and that such a plan would bring economic benefits, including a net gain of two million long-term jobs (defined as jobs lasting at least 40 years).
Last week, Energy In Depth's Steve Everley claimed that the Stanford plan would kill over 1.2 million more long-term jobs than it would create.
The study itself, as Jacobson explained to the ClimateDenierRoundup on Daily Kos, found that shifting to 100 percent renewables "would create 3.9 million 40-year construction jobs (3.9 million people working 40 years on construction) in addition to nearly 2 million permanent operation jobs." It would also lead to a loss of 3.9 million fossil fuel-based jobs, resulting in a net increase of 2 million jobs over 40 years.
Jacobson told Media Matters in an email that Everley "refused to count the construction jobs as 40-year jobs, instead saying they were not 'long-term' jobs and pretending as if they were just short term (e.g., 1 year) construction jobs." He added that Everley "refus[ed] to correct it when informed of the error."
Not surprisingly, the Daily Caller took Everley's post and ran with it. In an article headlined "Enviros Accidentally Tout Study Showing 100% Green Energy Will Permanently Kill Millions Of Jobs," Bastasch wrote that "green groups" such as Greenpeace and the Sierra Club have ignored the "inconvenient truth" about Jacobson's study. In reality, the only inconvenient truth here is that the Daily Caller has an aversion to accurate climate reporting.
Jacobson acknowledged to Media Matters that it's "necessary" for him to stand up for his work "when the misinformation is so egregious." Said Jacobson, "Whereas I have experienced cases where people didn't like our results because they affected their energy of choice, this is the first time I've come across someone (Everley) actually falsifying data from our study then refusing to correct it when informed of the error."
But this has become a common trend among fossil fuel front groups and rightwing media outlets, which frequently distort climate research to fit a pro-fossil fuel agenda. Scientific researchers have previously expressed deep concerns about conservative media outlets' "ridiculous," "alarming," and "patently false" distortions of their research.
In fact, these media distortions have become so common that a NASA scientist recently predicted climate science deniers would twist his study on Antarctic ice to dispute the climate change consensus -- and of course, that's exactly what happened.
Scientific research can be complicated, so it's a good idea to ask the researchers themselves what their research means, especially if it appears to mean something groundbreaking or unexpected. And when a fossil fuel industry consultant like Everley or rightwing outlet like the Daily Caller won't fix their stories even after the researcher himself demands a correction, then you know the falsehood is intentional.
So when conservative news sites like the Daily Caller continue to echo fossil fuel industry distortions of climate research, we're left with the unfortunate situation in which the researchers themselves must continue to speak out and defend their work.
Photo at top via Flickr user delwedd with a Creative Commons license.
UPDATE (1/15/16): After the publication of this post, Energy in Depth published a new post stating that Jacobson "delete[d]" data "showing a net loss of long-term jobs" from the transition to 100 percent renewable energy, which was echoed by the Daily Caller. In an email to Media Matters, Jacobson clarified that he had informed the Energy in Depth blogger Steve Everley on January 5 "that the numbers [Everley] was using for his article were dead test numbers not used or linked to anything," but that "[e]ven after being informed, [Everley] still used the irrelevant test numbers in his article." Jacobson continued: "Because of [Everley's] abuse of the dead numbers and because they served no purpose, I removed the dead numbers from the spreadsheet. All numbers that the paper relies on are still in the spreadsheet and were never touched." He added: "Any reader can compare the paper with the spreadsheet to determine this themselves."
It is long past time for a presidential debate in which the candidates thoroughly address the most pressing science-related topics, says the non-profit group ScienceDebate.org. And now the organization has a new video featuring a group of children who agree that it's critically important for the presidential candidates to debate science.
Science Debate, which is backed by Nobel Laureates and hundreds of other leaders in science, academics, business, government, and media, is running a campaign calling for at least one presidential debate that is exclusively focused on science, health, tech, and environmental issues. The group points to a recent Zogby Analytics poll that Science Debate commissioned with the health research-focused non-profit Research!America, which found that 86 percent of U.S. adults think the presidential candidates "should participate in a debate to discuss key science-based challenges facing the United States."
Thus far, the media figures moderating the presidential debates have rarely asked the candidates about one of the most pressing science-related topics: climate change. In a press release announcing its new video, Science Debate noted that neither CNN nor ABC moderators asked "a single question about climate change" during the Republican and Democratic debates that took place "in the days immediately following the historic Paris climate change summit, where 195 countries reached an agreement to begin shifting the world economy off carbon."
A new Media Matters analysis provides further evidence that presidential debate moderators are short-changing climate change. Our review of the first eight presidential primary debates found that the moderators have thus far asked the candidates more than ten times as many questions about the political horserace and other non-substantive issues as they have asked about climate change.
Reached for comment, Science Debate chair Shawn Otto expressed concern over the Media Matters study's findings, saying that "it's the science issues--from climate change to the Internet, from the war on drugs to a sustainable economy--that are driving most of today's major policy challenges, and the American people deserve answers."
The full statement by Shawn Otto, chair of Science Debate, as provided in an email to Media Matters:
Out of all the questions Media Matters analyzed from the debates so far, just 9 were about climate change. Ninety-four questions, or over ten times as many, were about non-substantive issues. Yet it's the science issues--from climate change to the Internet, from the war on drugs to a sustainable economy--that are driving most of today's major policy challenges, and the American people deserve answers. We have presidential debates dedicated to economics and to foreign policy. It's time we had a presidential debate dedicated to science, health, tech and the environment.
On the same day that a stellar jobs report was released, showing that the US economy created 292,000 new jobs in December and had its second strongest year since 1999, Bill O'Reilly opened the January 8 edition of The O'Reilly Factor by claiming that the economic policies of President Obama "have not worked." O'Reilly, who chastised Obama for seeking legislative reform on the environment and gun safety, insisted Obama "should be spending most of his time trying to find ways to stimulate the economy." Following the release of December's job report, the number of jobs added during President Obama's tenure has reached 9.2 million:
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From Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change, to the establishment of the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants, to a landmark international climate agreement, 2015 has been full of major landmarks in national and global efforts to address global warming. Yet you wouldn't know it if you inhabited the parallel universe of the conservative media, where media figures went to ridiculous and outrageous lengths to dismiss or deny climate science, attack the pope, scientists, and anyone else concerned with climate change, and defend polluting fossil fuel companies. Here are the 15 most ridiculous things conservative media said about climate change in 2015.
Right-wing media spent much of 2015 lashing out at celebrities. From seething over celebrities who spoke out against sexism and pay inequality in Hollywood and supported the Black Lives Matter movement, to objectifying female bodies, bashing the Pope, and telling an actress to "deport herself," Media Matters looks back at some of conservative media's most outrageous temper tantrums of 2015:
New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait criticized right-wing media outlets for claiming the Paris climate agreement is toothless after previously denying the reality of man-made climate change.
Conservative media personalities criticized the Paris conference leading to a landmark December 12 climate change agreement to limit global emissions. Right-wing media outlets and figures, such as Fox News' Stuart Varney and The Daily Caller, claimed any agreement would have "little... impact" and argued that lowering global temperatures by a "minuscule amount" would cost America "an enormous amount of money." Fox News in particular demonstrated its hypocrisy over the issue by falsely implying that those at the Paris agreement were hypocrites for having a supposed large carbon footprint the Paris summit and dismissing the "hoopla" over the event due to any agreement being non-binding, while at the same time pointing to record level Alaska snowfall to dispute climate change. A Fox host also falsely claimed global temperatures have "stabilized or gone down a little bit," and Fox's Laura Ingraham claimed that the summit is about "bringing America's economy down."
In a December 20 article, Chait pointed out how conservative media were moving the goalposts on the issue, writing they had "shifted their emphasis from denying the science to denying the possibility that policy can change it." Noting that conservative media previously "objected to previous climate deals precisely because their 'mandatory' character presented an unacceptably onerous burden," conservative media were claiming "the absence of that unacceptable feature makes the new agreement worthless." Chait also called out outlets like National Review, Fox News, and The Daily Caller for misrepresenting a MIT climate study to downplay the agreement's impact:
Most conservative energy on climate change over the last quarter-century has gone into questioning the validity of climate science. Conservative intellectuals have invested enough of their reputations into this form of scientific kookery that it cannot be easily abandoned. Instead, as the evidence for anthropogenic global warming grows ever more certain, and the political costs for Republican presidential candidates of openly questioning science rise, conservatives have shifted their emphasis from denying the science to denying the possibility that policy can change it. A National Review editorial last year dismissed the notion of an international agreement to limit climate change as a metaphysical impossibility, on the grounds that reducing coal usage in one place would axiomatically increase it elsewhere. As The Wall Street Journal editorial page asserts, "If climate change really does imperil the Earth, and we doubt it does, nothing coming out of a gaggle of governments and the United Nations will save it." Having begun with their conclusion, conservative are now reasoning backward through their premises.
Accordingly, a new data point has taken hold on the right and quickly blossomed. One study by MIT finds that the Paris agreement would reduce the global temperature increase by a mere 0.2 degrees by 2100. The entire right-wing media has eagerly circulated the finding. "Current analysis by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- not exactly a nest of fossil-fuel conservatism -- suggests that the emissions cuts being agreed to in Paris would reduce that estimated warming by as little as 0.0°C or by as much as 0.2°C," announces a National Review editorial, thrilled to have an empirical basis for the conclusion it previously asserted as an a priori truth. The same study has been recirculated by places like the Daily Caller, Fox News, and elsewhere. Rich Lowry, writing in the New York Post, reports, "The best estimates are that, accepting the premises of the consensus, the deal will reduce warming 0.0 to 0.2 degrees Celsius."
In fact, this study is just one estimate, not estimates plural. There are many other studies, and while Lowry's column does not reveal what process he used to deem the MIT study "the best," we can probably guess that it has something to do with MIT being the one that supports his preferred conclusion. In fact, the MIT study does not produce the conclusion its gloating conservative publicists claim on its behalf.
So MIT's conclusion of emissions levels over the next 15 years is right in line with other estimates that assume Paris will do a great deal to limit climate change.
It is also certainly possible that global willpower to reduce emissions will weaken, or collapse entirely. Future events cannot be proven. Only rigid dogma like American conservatism (or, for that matter, Marxism) gives its adherents a mortal certainty about the fate of government policy that a liberal cannot match, and should not want to.
In his latest column repeating his clients' attacks on climate change policies, lobbyist and Washington Post writer Ed Rogers finally disclosed to readers that his lobbying firm "represents interests in the fossil fuel [industry]." Rogers is the chairman of BGR Group, a top lobbying firm that has received more than $700,000 from the energy industry in 2015. Rogers has personally lobbied this year for Southern Company, one of the largest electric utility companies in the U.S. -- and one of the biggest opponents of the most significant U.S. policy to combat climate change.
Rogers' disclosure, which was placed in a parenthetical in the middle of his December 17 column, could help Post readers recognize that they should take his opinions on the United Nations' historic Paris climate agreement with a grain of salt (he says it's a "sham"). And it marks a stark contrast from Rogers' past columns, in which the Post allowed him to dismiss the scientific consensus on climate change and echo his client's attacks on climate policies without disclosing his firm's fossil fuel ties.
The Post's past failure to require Rogers to disclose his lobbying firm's clients -- both fossil fuel and otherwise -- drew criticism from media ethicists. Among them was Ed Wasserman, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, who said it's clear that "someone else is paying" Rogers to write his columns and urged the Post to provide "specific disclosure" of Rogers' clients rather than a "blanket description of him as a lobbyist," in order to make plain that he "has a horse to back" in his columns.
From Rogers' December 17 column for The Washington Post's PostPartisan blog (emphasis added):
The [Conference of Parties] 21 conference in Paris was the most predictable event of 2015. Of course an agreement was going to be reached, and of course that agreement is a sham, but it all fits perfectly with what the climate issue has become. The topic of climate change has become manna for exhausted liberals who have nothing much to say and policy failures on almost every front. (Disclosure: My firm represents interests in the fossil fuel and nuclear power industries.) And let's face it, global warming is an issue that perfectly suits Obama as he warms up for retirement. He doesn't really have to do anything, there is never any day of reckoning and it lends itself to sanctimonious moralizing and generally lecturing everybody about how they should live.
ABC News' moderators did not ask the candidates about climate change or anti-choice domestic terrorism during the December 19 presidential debate, but did find time to inquire about whether the role of the presidential spouse should change.
On November 27 a gunman killed three at a Planned Parenthood clinic. He subsequently said he was trying to ensure there were "no more baby parts" and described himself as a "warrior for the babies" in court. The attack started a debate over the link between violent rhetoric directed against women's health providers and terrorist attacks on those clinics.
On December 12, leaders from every country in the world struck a historic climate change agreement in Paris to reduce fossil fuel emissions.
Moderators David Muir and Martha Raddatz did not raise either of these topics during the debate, but did find time to ask all three candidates about the role their spouses would have if they were elected. CNN's moderators previously ignored both the Planned Parenthood attack and the climate agreement during the December 15 Republican primary debate.
Industry-funded climate denial organizations hosted events during the United Nations' climate change negotiations in Paris in an attempt to inject false balance and misinformation into media coverage of the event. But unlike coverage of the Vatican climate summit earlier this year, mainstream media outlets did not take the bait this time around, instead noting these groups' diminished influence and accurately portraying them as outliers that are out of step with mainstream climate science.
A Media Matters analysis found that four of the ten largest-circulation newspapers in the country published op-eds, editorials, or columns that denied climate science while criticizing the international climate change negotiations in Paris, including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the New York Post, and The Orange County Register. Altogether, 17 percent of the 52 opinion pieces that the ten largest newspapers published about the Paris conference included some form of climate science denial, and many of them repeated other myths about the climate negotiations as well.