NPR gave undue credence to wind power opponents who claim turbines are "making them ill" with a variety of symptoms. But there is no demonstrated link between wind turbines and health impacts, and studies suggest that psychological factors are behind these symptoms.
In a post titled, "Could Wind Turbines Be Toxic To The Ear?" NPR gave pediatrician Nina Pierpont a platform to promote "wind turbine syndrome," a term she coined. Although NPR noted that her claims "have been met with heavy skepticism from a host of experts in energy and public health," it nonetheless suggested that a recent scientific review supported her "self-published report."
Pierpont's report consisted of telephone interviews with 23 people who responded to an ad asking for people who claimed to experience "wind turbine syndrome," and their anecdotes about 15 family members.
The Chief Medical Officer of Health of Ontario, Canada stated in a report that "no conclusions on the health impact of wind turbines can be drawn from Pierpont's work due to methodological limitations including small sample size, lack of exposure data, lack of controls and selection bias." Pierpont claimed that her paper was peer-reviewed, but it was actually evaluated by people she selected, including her husband, an anti-wind activist who compares his struggle to the civil rights movement:
Dr. Martin Luther King (see below) didn't use lawyers. Neither did Gandhi, who was a trained lawyer. Wrong strategy. If you think the Big Wind Onslaught is not on the scale of a Gandhi and King, but just a minor issue -- think again.
As Rosa Parks did, when she sparked the Civil Rights movement: you need to refuse to give up your seat to the wind bastard on the bus.
NPR also trumpeted the significance of a new scientific review, saying it "showed that outer hair cells of the cochlea respond to infrasound, which could affect the functioning of the ear." But there is no evidence that the outer hair cell response actually does "affect the functioning of the ear." Previous reviews have also noted that outer hair cells respond to infrasound, but nevertheless concluded "[a]vailable evidence shows that the infrasound levels near wind turbines cannot impact the vestibular system."
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.
News Corp. properties Fox News and The Wall Street Journal failed to disclose the fossil fuel industry ties of commentators who used the media outlets to advocate pro-fossil fuel industry positions.
On April 3, Fox & Friends hosted Competitive Enterprise Institute's Myron Ebell, who accused New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of delaying a decision to allow for fossil fuel extraction via hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, to keep Republican areas of the state from becoming richer and wielding more political influence:
Ebell dismissed the real concerns regarding fracking as political posturing when in fact, injection wells that store used fracking fluids have been linked to earthquakes, and drinking water contamination has been correlated with the drilling activity employed in fracking.
The Wall Street Journal print edition published an op-ed piece by the Institute for Policy Innovation's Merrill Matthews on the same day, where he denied that the fossil fuel industry receives tax breaks specific to the industry:
President Obama has been telling America for months that special tax breaks for the oil and gas industry must come to an end. The presidential demand always prompts puzzled gazes among tax and energy-industry experts, who ask: What special tax breaks?
Thanks in part to a bill sponsored by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland and ranking member on the House Budget Committee, it's all much clearer now. The congressman has inadvertently called attention to the fact that those special tax breaks just for the oil and gas industry don't exist.
Contrary to Matthews' claim, the Congressional Research Service and the conservative Heritage Foundation have found that the fossil fuel industry receives "special tax treatments" specifically for fossil fuel extraction.
News Corp. failed to disclose that both the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and at the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI) are partly funded by the oil industry.
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.
CNN has repeatedly portrayed stimulus funding for high-speed rail as a "boondoggle" because much of the money has gone to upgrading existing rail lines rather than new bullet trains. But the untold story is that Republican obstructionism has halted progress on new high-speed rail lines, which require a long-term investment of time and money.
The Situation Room aired a report by Drew Griffin on Tuesday claiming that high-speed rail is "turning into a pipe dream," pointing to a rail improvement project in Washington state that has received $800 million in stimulus funding. The project is on track to achieve its goal of improving schedule reliability, increasing trips and reducing travel times between Seattle and Portland to serve an increasing ridership. But as CNN noted, Washington never intended to use that funding to build a new rail line for high-speed bullet trains. Griffin's report, which follows a series on Anderson Cooper 360 that criticized projects in Vermont and California, led guest anchor Joe Johns to conclude that taxpayers are "not getting much out of their investment" in high-speed rail:
In fact, the stimulus has supported 150 planning and construction projects across the country, "jumpstart[ing]" a "renaissance" for passenger rail, according to a Brookings Institution report. This progress comes despite Republican efforts to prevent high-speed rail projects from moving forward. Republican governors in Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida rejected stimulus grants for new high-speed rail projects in their states, citing the cost to taxpayers. But when some of that money was diverted to Amtrak upgrades (including the Washington state project highlighted by CNN), some of those same governors sought funding for rail improvement projects. Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress blocked President Obama's six-year, $53 billion budget request for high-speed rail, dismissing it as just a "fun thing." CNN overlooked these roadblocks, which have slowed the progress of high-speed rail.
In a column for Forbes, the head of the Institute for Energy Research exaggerated the safety risks associated with wind power by including suicides, murders, and several other fatalities that have little to do with wind industry safety in order to misleadingly claim that the oil and gas is "one of the safest" industries.
Robert Bradley Jr., the CEO of the fossil fuel industry-funded Institute for Energy Research, claimed that wind turbines "present significant safety risks for humans," adding: "Since the 1970s, 133 fatalities have occurred on turbines -- that's a high figure considering the relatively small size of the wind sector." That figure comes from an anti-wind group whose list includes a wind plant construction worker shot during a protest against the plant, a wind turbine operator found hanging in an apparent suicide, a man who committed suicide after opposition to wind turbines on his land, a man that died while climbing a turbine for a class, a snowmobile hitting the fence around a wind farm construction site, and a "shirtless and shoeless" man electrocuted inside of a windmill.
More credible statistics show that in 2012 there were 12 wind industry deaths worldwide -- eight of which were in China where workplace safety standards are lax. In the U.S., the American Wind Energy Association has allied with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to train workers on fall, electrical, and crane hazards. By comparison, 1,384 people died in coal mine accidents in China last year, and sulfur pollution alone contributes to about 400,000 premature deaths in China annually.
Estimates of the number of deaths per terawatt hour based on data from the World Health Organization and occupational safety statistics have also found that fossil fuels contribute to far more deaths than wind energy:
Fox News is pointing to one struggling solar company to suggest that the solar industry is "tanking our economy," ignoring rapid growth in the clean energy sector that has helped, not hurt, our economy.
SoloPower, a California-based solar panel manufacturer, recently announced it will lay off workers in order to cut costs. The company received a federal loan guarantee but has been unable to draw down on it as it has not met the requirements. Fox News seized on SoloPower's difficulties as evidence the solar industry "might be tanking our economy" during a Fox & Friends segment called "Who's Ruining the Economy?" that regularly attacks green energy investments.
In fact, solar industry jobs grew more than twice as fast as the rest of the economy between 2003 - 2010. While some solar manufacturers have struggled to compete with heavily subsidized Chinese competitors, falling solar panel prices are driving record installations and putting solar energy on track to become cost-competitive with fossil fuels within a decade.
Experts note that it is common for an industry to consolidate as it matures, as some companies are out-competed or bought out by larger companies. But Fox News has repeatedly pointed to individual companies in order to smear the entire clean energy industry. This segment was no exception, featuring a graphic purportedly showing the Obama administration's "failed" clean energy investments, most of which have not actually failed.
While Fox News claims solar power is "tanking our economy," it campaigns for policies that could actually inflict severe harm on the economy such as Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan, which would impose severe spending cuts while possibly raising taxes on the middle class.
Two Virginia media outlets are pushing gubernatorial candidates to lift a ban on uranium mining in Virginia while ignoring the state's particular vulnerability to environmental and health risks from mining.
In a March 21 editorial, The Richmond Times-Dispatch advocated for uranium mining, highlighting a study by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission which found that a radium and uranium refinery had no health or environmental effects on people in the surrounding area.
But the facility at the study's focus does not actually mine uranium at their site, it refines it. And in locations where they do mine, there are environmental differences between Canada and the United States. Cale Jaffe, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said Canadian mines are located in areas with different climates and are more isolated from population centers. Indeed, a comprehensive report by the National Academy of Sciences found that storms and erosion from rainfall could pose a risk to uranium mines:
Virginia is subject to relatively frequent storms that produce intense rainfall. It is questionable whether currently-engineered tailings repositories could be expected to prevent erosion and surface and groundwater contamination for as long as 1,000 years. Natural events such as hurricanes, earthquakes, intense rainfall, or drought could lead to the release of contaminants if facilities are not designed and constructed to withstand such events, or if they fail to perform as designed.
A study by the city of Virginia Beach found that a "catastrophic failure" -- due to a natural event for example -- of a uranium containment structure could lead to radioactive substances contaminating drinking water for an extended period of time.
Canadian mines have also faced significant environmental problems in the past, according to a Southern Environmental Law Center report. On three occasions Canadian mines have flooded or contaminated waste water has leaked from these projects.
Virginia Watchdog, the Virginia affiliate of the Franklin Center For Government and Public Integrity -- a right-wing group which provides free statehouse reporting to local newspapers but receives large amounts of money from anonymous conservative donors -- similarly ignored the risks posed by Virginia's climate, instead quoting a Washington Times editorial in favor of uranium mining and the company who wants to mine the area.
The Casper Star-Tribune published a column that attacked wind energy as costly and ineffective, yet failed to note that wind energy is an expanding market that saves money and creates jobs.
A March 19 column by wealth management and investment advisor Bill Gunderson attacked wind energy technology as a poor investment, claiming that wind turbines are an unreliable source of power generation and warning investors to be wary. From the column:
Maybe wind turbines would be a good investment if the things actually worked. But they don't. Not that well.
Let's talk about what potential investors in wind energy may not know if they rely on the Green Energy Press: Wind turbines don't last as long as promised; don't produce as much energy as hoped; and require more maintenance than anyone imagined.
But wind turbines have proven they can stand the test of time. According to a story in the Financial Times, UK's Department of Energy and Climate Change said Britain's oldest commercial turbines have only had to be replaced after 20 years of operation. Those turbines were built in 1991 and as wind energy technology develops longevity will increase. As Dave Vince of Ecotricity, one of the UK's oldest wind energy companies, explains, "today's turbines have been designed and built to last 25 years."
Gunderson also falsely claims that natural gas is "threatening to make wind power even more economically obsolete." According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, some wind farms already produce power "as economically as coal, gas, and nuclear power." By 2017, new wind energy generation will be cheaper than new coal generation.
In 2012, wind-turbine installations beat natural gas-fueled power plants as the largest form of new energy for the first time. Jacob Susman, CEO of OwnEnergy Inc., a New York wind developer, said that "it shows that wind has firmly planted its foothold as a valuable energy source."
Although Gunderson didn't tell the readers of the Star-Tribune, Wyoming also has strong wind energy potential. The American Council On Renewable Energy said in a September 2012 release that Wyoming has "much room to further develop" wind energy and is exporting its current wind power to Colorado, Utah, and Oregon. In October 2012, a new wind project was approved in Wyoming, which is expected to create 1,000 construction jobs and 114 permanent operations and maintenance jobs over the next three years. This new project will have the potential to power about 1 million homes.
Emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request reveal no evidence of the Environmental Protection Agency's so-called "war on coal," denying the conservative media ammunition against Gina McCarthy, President Obama's nominee to lead the agency. But Fox News is now using the lack of evidence to attack McCarthy, suggesting the administration is engaging in a cover-up to protect her.
Chris Horner of the fossil fuel-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) released more internal EPA emails this week as part of his ongoing effort to uncover the agency's crusade against coal. Instead, he found correspondence on the subject to be "remarkably absent," leading him to wonder: isn't it a little suspicious that the emails didn't uncover anything suspicious?
Remarkably absent are what should be the dominant class of records covered by our request seeking records: Gina McCarthy discussing her biggest assignment, the Obama administration's "war on coal".
The question is no longer whether they are hiding things, it's what are they hiding now. And the answer apparently is: Whatever they have to hide to protect Ms. McCarthy's nomination.
Fox News seized on CEI's report to claim that McCarthy is "under fire for a batch of internal emails just out," only to later admit that she is almost entirely absent from the emails:
The Kansas City Star failed to note the significant influence of Koch-funded conservative groups in its coverage of two bills seeking to roll back Kansas' green energy standards.
A recent report by Greenpeace's Connor Gibson outlined several organizations that are influencing the debate surrounding an effort to repeal Kansas' green energy standards. As Gibson notes in his report, groups with significant ties to the fossil fuel industry and funded by billionaires Charles and David Koch, including the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, the State Policy Network, and the Beacon Hill Institute, are trying to influence legislators to roll back green energy standards in Kansas. From Greenpeace:
ALEC and a hoard of other Koch-funded interests operating under the umbrella of the State Policy Network have hit Kansas legislators hard with junk economic studies, junk science and a junk vision of more polluting energy in Kansas' future. Koch Industries lobbyist Jonathan Small has added direct pressure on Kansas lawmakers to rollback support for clean energy.
Unfortunately, clean energy is not palatable to the billionaire Koch brothers or the influence peddlers they finance. All of the following State Policy Network affiliates (except the Kansas Policy Institute) are directly funded by the Koch brothers, while most of the groups get secretive grants through the Koch-affiliated "Dark Money ATM," Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, which have distributed over $120,000,000 to 100 groups involved in climate denial since 2002.
Despite the pressure these groups have placed on the repeal legislation -- including the author of a Beacon Hill Institute report attacking green energy testifying before the Kansas legislature -- The Kansas City Star failed to note these groups' influence on either of the two pieces of legislation making their way through the state legislature.
The paper also failed to put Kansas' green energy initiatives in context. Wind energy in Kansas is a booming industry. A fact sheet from the Natural Resources Defense Council found that renewable energy in Kansas has created more than 12,000 jobs and provided $13.7 million in annual lease payments and royalties to Kansas landowners. According to the American Wind Energy Association, after the adoption of the green energy standard, wind turbine manufacturer Siemens announced a $50 million investment in its first American wind energy manufacturing facility in Kansas. Even Republican Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback was a supporter of green energy standards. In 2010, while a U.S. senator, he co-sponsored a national version of Kansas' successful renewable portfolio standard with Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), which, if enacted, would have required 15 percent of utilities to be derived from alternative energy by 2021.
Fox News is promoting a Wall Street Journal column by Bjorn Lomborg to claim that electric vehicles are "even worse" for the environment than conventional gasoline cars. But experts say Lomborg's assumptions are out of step with reality and that the environmental benefits of electric vehicles will only grow in the near-future.
Lomborg, a prominent critic of environmentalists, claimed that because producing an electric car is more carbon-intensive, it could produce more carbon dioxide over its lifetime than a conventional car, citing a study published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology:
If a typical electric car is driven 50,000 miles over its lifetime, the huge initial emissions from its manufacture means the car will actually have put more carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere than a similar-size gasoline-powered car driven the same number of miles.
Fox News hosted Lomborg on Wednesday to expose what it called the "dirty little secret" of electric vehicles. Seizing on Lomborg's figures, Fox Business' Stuart Varney claimed that "the battery powered cars are just as bad for the environment as your average sedan -- even worse!" And Fox Business host Gerri Willis suggested electric cars are not "contributing less to global warming" than conventional cars:
But Lomborg's assumption of a 50,000 mile lifetime "seems too low," according to University of California at Los Angeles' Dr. Deepak Rajagopal, an environmental economist who focuses on life cycle assessments. Indeed, the study Lomborg cites "assumes almost twice that lifetime," according to co-author Guillaume Majeau-Bettez. It estimates a 20-24 percent reduction in emissions from electric vehicles driven 90,000 miles and powered by average European electricity. The Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf, the two most popular electric cars in the U.S., both have 100,000 mile battery warranties.
And as the Natural Resources Defense Council's Max Baumherner noted, the study used estimates for production emissions that are three times higher than those from Argonne National Laboratory, which perhaps explains why other studies have found greater environmental benefits from electric cars. A life-cycle analysis overseen by Dr. Rajagopal found that battery-electric vehicles (BEV) powered by California's electricity mix produce significantly fewer emissions compared to conventional vehicles (CV):
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:
The Washington Post cited an unreliable Fox News poll to claim that public support for the Keystone XL pipeline "has reached a new high," uncritically repeating the falsehood that the pipeline would lower gasoline prices.
In a survey conducted in late February, Fox News asked respondents whether they support Keystone XL, stating:
Supporters of the pipeline say it would bring needed oil to the U.S., lowering gasoline costs and creating jobs. Opponents of the pipeline have environmental concerns, including the risk of a spill, and also say the pipeline would increase American dependence on oil.
In fact, many supporters of the project -- including the economist hired by TransCanada to assess its economic benefits -- have admitted that the pipeline would have no meaningful impact on gasoline prices. Energy experts across the political spectrum agree that because oil prices are set on the world market, the impact of the pipeline would be "miniscule," and that the best way to reduce our vulnerability to gas price spikes is to decrease our dependence on oil.
Even the Washington Post's own fact-checker has said it is "a step too far" to assert that Keystone XL would impact gas prices.
But that didn't stop the Post from promoting the poll results and uncritically repeating Fox's claims about the benefits of the pipeline:
[P]roponents say the project would create thousands of jobs and lower gasoline prices in the United States.