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.
The Wall Street Journal and Fox News are suggesting that President Barack Obama's nomination of Gina McCarthy as head of the Environmental Protection Agency is a sign that he is acting like a "dictator," using an "end-around" to regulate carbon emissions that drive climate change. But they failed to mention that efforts to curb this greenhouse gas through the EPA are not an invention of the Obama administration -- they were given the go-ahead by a George W. Bush-era Supreme Court decision.
Earlier this week, the president nominated McCarthy, a former official for then-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, to succeed Lisa Jackson as EPA administrator. McCarthy is likely to play a major role in the administration's presumptive plans to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants.
But News Corporation's Fox News and Wall Street Journal are launching a preemptive attack on these efforts, claiming they are "antidemocratic" by once again ignoring a Supreme Court decision that all but required action. Monday, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly incorrectly suggested that action through the EPA is unprecedented, saying "It used to be that if you wanted to make a major change or have a major impact on climate change or green energy regulations in this country, you went through Congress" but the president "has found an end-around, and as a result this EPA is extremely powerful right now." The next day, a Wall Street Journal editorial smeared McCarthy as "antidemocratic," adding, "Mr. Obama has been going around saying that the problem is that he's a President, not an 'emperor' or 'dictator,' but on carbon regulation this is a distinction without much difference."
Both failed to note that a 2007 Supreme Court ruling found that greenhouse gases fit the definition of an "air pollutant" and could be regulated under the Clean Air Act if they were determined to be harmful. A subsequent "Endangerment Finding," privately authored during the Bush administration but suppressed until 2009, stated that this was the case due to their contribution to climate change. Stephen Johnson, then the EPA Administrator, told President Bush in early 2008 that the Supreme Court decision "combined with the latest science of climate change requires the Agency to propose a positive endangerment finding," adding "the state of the latest climate change science does not permit a negative finding, nor does it permit a credible finding that we need to wait for more research." The Bush administration reportedly refused to open the email containing the Endangerment Finding, leaving it to the next president to take action. As noted by Legal Planet, the environmental law and policy blog of the University of California Berkeley and UCLA law schools, regulation of carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act is not undemocratic. In fact, "[T]here's nothing here that's an end-run around Congress. EPA is (as bureaucracies should do) implementing the orders of the legislature through duly enacted laws." If the president has "given up getting Congress to agree" to regulate emissions by other means, as the Journal argued, it is only because Congress has repeatedly failed to pass legislation doing so, thus compelling the executive branch to act.
Fox News' KT McFarland claimed that building the Keystone XL pipeline would decrease dependence on oil from the Persian Gulf and alleviate the impact of future Middle East conflicts on the U.S. economy. In fact, studies show the pipeline will have little effect on foreign crude oil imports, and if the economy remains dependent on oil, events in the Middle East will have a significant impact on U.S. energy markets regardless of where the nation's oil imports originate.
On the March 4 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Fox News national security analyst KT McFarland said that building the Keystone XL pipeline would make us less vulnerable to conflicts in the Middle East, such as a potential nuclear Iran. She claimed that if "if we get our own oil" from the Keystone pipeline we won't need to rely on Middle East oil, which is responsible for pulling the U.S. "into every Middle East conflict." From the show:
A 2010 study conducted by the U.S. State Department found that building the Keystone pipeline would not significantly affect how much oil was imported from foreign countries including the Middle East. The study included a graphic which showed almost no change in foreign imports of oil with or without Keystone XL pipeline:
A group named Donors Trust has been funneling far more money than ExxonMobil ever did to climate denial groups, but because the source of the funds remains largely hidden, the public has been unable to pressure the donations to stop as they did with Exxon. A small portion of Donors Trust's funding was recently revealed by the Center for Public Integrity, yet even that small portion has significant ties to the Koch brothers and other fossil fuel interests.
Between 2008 and 2011, Donors Trust doled out over $300 million in grants to what it describes as "conservative and libertarian causes," serving as "the dark money ATM of the conservative movement." Donors Trust enables donors to give anonymously, noting on its website that if you "wish to keep your charitable giving private, especially gifts funding sensitive or controversial issues," you can use it to direct your money.
One of the "controversial issues" that Donors Trust and its sister organization Donors Capital Fund have bankrolled is the campaign to cast doubt on the science of climate change and delay any government action to reduce emissions.* The following chart created by The Guardian based on data from Greenpeace shows that as ExxonMobil and the Koch Foundations have reduced traceable funding for these groups, donations from Donors Trust have surged:
Several of these organizations have sown confusion about the science demonstrating climate change. The Heartland Institute, which The Economist called the "world's most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change," received over $14 million from Donors Trust from 2002 to 2011, making up over a quarter of Heartland's budget. in 2010. In 2012, Heartland launched a billboard campaign comparing those that accept climate science to The Unabomber, Charles Manson, and Fidel Castro. Several corporate donors distanced themselves from the organization, but Donors Trust made no comment. Heartland removed the billboard soon afterward but refused to apologize for the "experiment."
Meanwhile, The Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) received over $4 million from Donors Trust from 2002 to 2011, accounting for over 45 percent of CFACT's budget in 2010. The highest-paid member of CFACT's staff is Marc Morano, who runs a website that pushes misleading attacks on climate science. Morano defended Heartland's billboard and said that climate scientists "deserve to be publicly flogged." Despite Morano's sordid background, CNN twice hosted him to "debate climate change and if it is really real" without disclosing that he has no scientific training and is paid by an industry-funded organization. CFACT lists the Forbes columns of Larry Bell, who calls global warming a "hoax," as "CFACT research and commentary." The organization is advised by several prominent climate misinformers, including Lord Christopher Monckton and Willie Soon.
The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) has revealed the sources of approximately $18.8 million of Donors Trust's funding from 2008 to 2011, culled from Internal Revenue Service filings. That leaves over $281 million in anonymous funds during that period, assuming that the organization gives out approximately as much as it takes in each year.
While the individuals and corporations funding Donors Trust remain largely hidden, we know that at least five separate foundations connected to Koch Industries have given over $3.8 million to Donors Trust in recent years. Koch Industries, owned by brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch, is the largest privately owned company in the U.S. and controls several oil refineries and pipelines.
Fox News is using a Massachusetts town to suggest that wind turbines cause "devastating" health problems. However, multiple studies have found no evidence that wind turbines are associated with health problems.
In late January, two wind turbines built in Falmouth, Massachusetts, were targeted for removal due to noise and supposedly related health concerns sometimes referred to as "wind turbine syndrome." Tuesday, Fox News' America's Newsroom covered the local community's upcoming decision, saying that residents claim to have experienced "devastating" health impacts:
But Fox News failed to note that "wind turbine syndrome" has not been substantiated. A 2012 panel of independent physicians and scientists convened by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection concluded "There is no evidence for a set of health effects from exposure to wind turbines" and "limited" evidence connecting wind turbines to annoyance or sleep disruption. Simon Chapman, a professor of public health, has noted that "wind turbine syndrome" may well be "what we can call a 'communicated' disease: it spreads via the nocebo effect by being talked about, and is thereby a strong candidate for being defined as a psychogenic condition [a condition that originates psychologically]." The Colbert Report first noted Chapman's comments in an investigation mocking "wind turbine syndrome."
The Falmouth turbines were older models that may have developed problems from lying in storage that led them to be particularly noisy, limiting the local story's implications for the national surge in wind installations.
Fox News is mocking President Barack Obama for saying the U.S. must use less oil in a recent interview, suggesting it was a callous and unfounded idea. But experts across the political spectrum agree that the only way to reduce our vulnerability to gasoline price spikes is to cut our oil dependence.
On Wednesday, the president gave an interview to a local South Carolina news station. Responding to a question on high gasoline prices, President Obama said he was "proud" that oil production during his tenure has been high, but emphasized that the "overall economy [must] use less oil."Obama referenced ways that he has worked toward this goal, including implementing fuel economy standards that a group of retired military officers and business leaders called "the most important energy security accomplishment in decades," and proposing further research into alternative transportation technology.
On Thursday, Fox & Friends' Brian Kilmeade asked, "really? So I should stop driving to work, I should start jogging? I'm not really sure what that means." Steve Doocy added, "So if you want to save money, use less oil. Just stop driving. Don't go anywhere, stay in your house, watch television." At no point did the co-hosts reference the policies that Obama specifically cited so that we can move toward lower oil use economy-wide:
A U-T San Diego editorial claims that opposing the Keystone XL pipeline is "daft" because if President Obama were to block the construction of the pipeline, Canada would easily construct an alternate pipeline through British Columbia to export to China, ignoring that such a plan faces significant opposition.
The February 19 editorial claims that "If the president rejects the [Keystone XL] project, Canada will instead construct a pipeline from Alberta to the British Columbia coast, where it will build refineries and eventually ship most of the refined bitumen to Asia -- primarily fast-growing China."
But the route to British Columbia faces significant opposition in Canada. First Nation tribes have rejected the Northern Gateway pipeline project, which would transport tar sands oil from Alberta to British Columbia since 2006. At a series of community hearings in 16 different towns in British Columbia, the National Energy Board -- an independent federal agency that regulates pipelines and energy development -- heard 1,159 speakers opposed to the Northern Gateway project and only two in favor. In fact, Robert Campbell, a Reuters market analyst, explained in a column that a pipeline following this route is likely to face even more opposition than Keystone XL:
Despite what you may think, the delay or even cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline project from Canada to the United States does not ensure that China will become the go-to customer for Canada's vast oil sands.
Doubtless this theme will be dredged up by Keystone's backer, TransCanada and other oil industry lobbyists in Washington with an eye to fanning Americans' fears about oil supply security should the Obama Administration opt for further study of fresh routes for the pipeline.
But the simple fact is that this claim is at best a huge exaggeration. If anything a pipeline from Alberta across the mountainous province of British Colombia is likely to face more scrutiny from environmental groups than Keystone XL.
Thus it's not inevitable that the accelerated development of tar sands oil, which creates "14 to 20 percent more carbon emissions than other oil the U.S. imports," will occur. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service estimated that if the Keystone XL pipeline were approved, it could increase United States carbon emissions by the equivalent of up to four million cars annually.
The U-T San Diego editorial also cites the New York Times' Joe Nocera -- who supports construction of the pipeline -- claiming that blocking the Keystone XL pipeline would harm our energy security, benefitting "our No. 1 geopolitical rival."
However, Nocera's column was factually challenged, and Keystone XL would have little impact on U.S. oil imports or energy security. As economist Ed Dolan explained, the pipeline symbolizes one more step toward dependence on oil, when the most effective solution to our energy security problems is exactly the opposite: reducing our oil consumption.
The editorial board's misleading right-leaning stance on this issue should come as no surprise given that the paper's new owner has turned the once respected paper into a corporate shill.
Fox News is raising the red herring of Solyndra to attack President Barack Obama's proposal for an alternative vehicle research fund as a potential waste of "taxpayer dollars." But the proposal would be funded by existing fees on oil and gas companies and has received bipartisan support for its potential to improve our energy security.
The government currently collects over $10 billion a year in fees from oil and gas companies drilling on federal lands. In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama proposed directing $200 million of that, or a total of $2 billion over 10 years, toward research into alternative transportation technology including vehicles that can run on electricity, biofuels or natural gas. The program would aptly be named the "Energy Security Trust," as it would work to reduce our dependence on oil. A White House spokesman told Bloomberg News that the proposal "wouldn't add to the debt because money would be shifted from other programs." Yet Fox News' America's Newsroom suggested on Thursday that the administration would be using "taxpayer dollars," adding to the debt:
As the State Department nears a decision on whether or not to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, the media is exaggerating its economic benefits and downplaying environmental risks to advocate for the project. Here, Media Matters takes on five of the prevailing media myths about Keystone XL.
Fox News host Bill Hemmer highlighted a recent increase in gasoline prices to raise concerns about its "drag on the economy," then claimed that gas prices "rarely" decrease. But the very chart Hemmer used during the segment debunks his own claim -- and Hemmer has previously fearmongered over the economic impact of low gas prices as well.
During the February 14 edition of America's Newsroom, Hemmer followed Fox Business host Stuart Varney's assertion that gas is at "the highest price ever for a gallon of regular gas in the month of February" by pointing to a chart comparing gas prices in early 2012 with those in 2013:
Hemmer said that gas is currently "up 11 or 12 cents over the average where we were a year ago," then repeatedly emphasized the "drag" rising gas prices could have on the economy before concluding, "When these prices go up, rarely do they go back down."
But Hemmer's own chart debunks this claim. As Hemmer noted, average gas prices in January 2013 were "10, maybe even 15 cents" lower than those in January 2012.
The Wall Street Journal's Kimberley Strassel is claiming that newly-minted Interior secretary nominee Sally Jewell is part of the "environmental fringe," suggesting she is hostile to business and was chosen by President Obama to "kill traditional jobs." In fact, she boasts a wealth of business experience, and her support of national parks conservation bolsters a multi-billion dollar outdoor recreation industry that sustains millions of jobs.
Strassel dismissed Jewell as an "activist" who will "Lock up land, target industries, [and] kill traditional jobs," which she exemplified as mining, logging and farming. Strassel pointed to REI as an example of a company "on the radical extreme" because it has supported rules such as the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which safeguards National Forest lands from road construction and logging, and criticized the National Parks Conservation Association, on whose board Jewell serves, for its "efforts to kill jobs."
But Jewell's conservation efforts have helped support the multi-billion dollar outdoor recreation industry. According to a 2012 report by the Outdoor Industry Association, an industry trade group, Bureau of Economic Analysis data shows that outdoor recreation generates $646 billion in annual consumer spending, or nearly twice as much as the pharmaceuticals industry. According to the group's analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, outdoor recreation spending directly supports some 6.1 million jobs -- from retail jobs to park rangers to lodging operators -- nearly three times as many as the American Petroleum Institute claimed from the oil and gas industry in 2007:
Fox News is claiming that the future of solar power in the U.S. is "dim" because we have less sunlight than countries like Germany, the current world leader in solar generation. But Fox has completely reversed the facts: the U.S. receives far more direct sunlight, but has been outperformed due to Germany's superior solar policies.
On Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson claimed that the U.S. solar "industry's future looks dim." The show brought on Fox Business reporter Shibani Joshi, who said that Germany's solar industry is doing "great" because "they've got a lot more sun than we do," before adding, "In California, it's a great solution, but here on the East Coast it's just not going to work."
The U.S. is lagging behind Germany in solar power generation, but it doesn't have anything to do with our solar potential. In fact, the Southwest has "among the best photovoltaic resources in the world," according to a report by GTM Research. Even the East Coast states have greater solar potential than Germany, as illustrated by this map from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory:
But while Germany gets relatively little sunlight, it does have a more coherent national solar policy than the U.S., as Bloomberg Businessweek reported in October 2012: