CNN's profile of progressive philanthropist Tom Steyer falsely equated Steyer's political donations with those of the Koch brothers without noting the Kochs will spend far more, and it failed to disclose that the group it quoted criticizing Steyer's environmental activism is funded by the Kochs.
During the June 19 edition of CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper, a profile of environmental activist and philanthropist Tom Steyer attempted to equate Steyer's planned contributions on behalf of candidates who support legislative action on climate change to planned 2014 spending by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch. During the profile, Tapper portrayed Steyer as a hypocrite, noting that "another point of dispute involves Steyer's assets. ... Steyer made his money as the manger of a $20 billion hedge fund, amassing a fortune through a variety of investments, including many in the very fossil fuels he now decries." Tapper went on to criticize Steyer for having "continued to make money off these unclean energies while simultaneously decrying them," though he also noted that Steyer is divesting his fossil-fuel investments.
The segment also included a clip of Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), accusing Steyer of "hypocrisy" in his previous investments:
Tapper did not note that AFP is what Politico called the "main political arm" of the Koch brothers, or that the group reportedly plans to spend $125 million in this year's elections for the purpose of "benefiting conservatives."
Further, the premise that Steyer's political contributions are equivalent to those of the Koch brothers is flawed. Contrary to Tapper's contention that Steyer is a direct ideological counterpart to the Kochs, the political spending from Steyer is not equal to that of the Koch brothers. According to the Daily Beast, the Kochs have "set an initial 2014 fundraising target of $290 million" to fund a "new energy initiative" intended in part as a response to "the commitment by liberal billionaire Tom Steyer to steer $100 million into ads in several states to make climate change a priority issue in the elections."
Tapper did not mention that Steyer's planned political contributions are one-third of those planned by the Koch brothers' interests.
The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed pushing for a lift on a decades-old ban on crude oil exports without disclosing that the authors' work was funded by the oil industry, which stands to benefit from its claims.
A Wall Street Journal op-ed by the lead authors of a study for the consulting group IHS Inc. argued that the Obama Administration "needs to lift the ban on oil exports." The co-authors advanced their report's claims that ending a 41-year-old ban on crude oil exports would spur domestic oil production, resulting in lower gasoline prices and fueled job creation. However, the Journal did not disclose that this study, titled U.S. Crude Oil Export Decision: Assessing the Impact of the Export Ban and Free Trade on the U.S. Economy, was funded almost entirely by oil and gas corporations, including industry giants ExxonMobil, Chevron, Chesapeake Energy, Devon Energy, and ConocoPhillips:
This research was supported by Baker Hughes, Chesapeake Energy, Chevron U.S.A., Concho Resources, ConocoPhillips, Continental Resources, Devon Energy, ExxonMobil, Halliburton, Helmerich & Payne, Kodiak Oil & Gas, Nabors Corporate Services, Newfield Exploration, Noble Energy, Oasis Petroleum North America, Pioneer Natural Resources, QEP Resources, Rosetta Resources, Weatherford and Whiting Petroleum.
In fact, several top business media outlets repeated the report's boldest claims when it was released in late May -- like that it would lead to $746 billion in investment into the U.S. economy or save U.S. motorists $265 billion by 2030 -- without disclosing its industry funding. CNBC, Bloomberg, USA Today's Money section, and the Wall Street Journal all covered the study with no mention of the oil giants that have a financial incentive to lift the ban on crude oil exports because it would allow them to sell more of their oil at the higher world price. USA Today even noted that two of the report's funders, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhilips, have been pushing for the White House to lift the ban -- but did not disclose their investment in the IHS report. Some outlets got it right: Reuters and conservative news site Breitbart (surprisingly) did mention that the IHS study was funded by oil and energy companies.
The crude oil export ban was enacted in the 1970s in response to an Arab oil embargo, which shocked the U.S. economy. The Center for American Progress explained that lifting the ban would "enrich oil companies," but "could increase domestic gasoline prices and reduce our energy security":
The increase in domestic oil supply, combined with the decline in demand, has also led to a significant decrease in foreign oil imports. These changes make us less vulnerable to a sudden foreign oil supply disruption that could cause price spikes. Unfortunately, the oil industry would squander this newfound price stabilization and energy security by lifting the ban on crude oil exports. Doing so would enrich oil companies by enabling them to sell their oil at the higher world price, but it could increase domestic gasoline prices and reduce our energy security.
Even Goldman Sachs supports keeping the ban - at least until the U.S. market reaches "saturation" where it's producing more oil than it can consume -- because it benefits the economy by keeping refining for U.S. workers.
Lifting the ban on crude oil exports would also be catastrophic for the climate, according to the Sierra Club. Oil Change International published a study finding that keeping the ban on crude exports is imperative for the United States to achieve its climate goals.
The Journal's failure to disclose the background these op-ed authors shared with the oil industry falls in line with a repeated lack of transparency about who the newspaper publishes. In 2012, the Journal was found to have "regularly failed to disclose the election-related conflicts of interest of its op-ed writers."
Image at the top obtained via Flickr user roseannadana with a Creative Commons license.
Conservative media are claiming that Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy admitted she is waging a "war on coal" when, in fact, she has consistently stated that the EPA is simply meeting its obligation to serve public health with its new clean power plan.
In an interview with McCarthy on the June 13 edition of HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, host Maher said that he has heard that the EPA's proposed "Clean Power Plan," which will for the first time implement standards for carbon pollution from existing power plants, amounts to "a war on coal," adding that he "hope[s] it is." McCarthy responded, "Actually, EPA is all about fighting against pollution and fighting for public health. That's exactly what this is." Maher responded "Oh, great."
The Weekly Standard declared that this meant that McCarthy "agreed with Bill Maher" that "the Obama administration is engaged in a war on coal." National Review, Twitchy and EHS Today all concurred. However, even the conservative Washington Examiner concluded that "[i]t appears Maher's glee was premature" after an EPA spokesperson clarified that McCarthy was not agreeing with Maher and has consistently stated that the agency is not waging a "war on coal."
Indeed, McCarthy has always responded to claims that the EPA is waging a "war on coal" by explaining that the agency is simply serving its public health mandate and that it is not "fair" to claim the EPA is targeting any one energy source without regard for the facts. For example, McCarthy's testimony before Congress earlier this year:
SEN. DEB FISCHER (R-NE): And do you think it's fair to say -- maybe the EPA has somewhat of a war on coal so that we can lessen our dependence upon coal in this country?
McCARTHY: Senator, I -- I don't think that that's fair to say. What we're trying to do is our job to protect public health by reducing pollution from some of the largest sources ...
McCARTHY: Of those pollutions. [Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing, 3/26/14, via Nexis, emphasis added]
And in an interview with The New York Times:
"We don't have a war on coal," [McCarthy] said. "We're doing our business, which is to reduce pollution. We're following the law."
And an interview with Bloomberg News about the carbon pollution standards:
PETER COOK (Bloomberg News): The argument is this is a war on coal. You are putting coal out of business with this proposal.
McCARTHY: Well if you take a look at it, what we're projecting is that coal in 2030 will still be a very significant portion of the electric generating capacity here. And what we're hoping that folks will do is realize that this is an opportunity to actually make investments in coal, to make them more efficient so that we can have the best and cleanest facilities moving forward. But the ultimate choice is going to be up to the states. Do they want to shift towards more renewables? Do they want to focus on energy efficiency? Do they want to do all of those things together?
And we'll see how they end up, but we know that the - that the reductions that we put in state by state were based on what - what states are doing today and what we think they can do in each of those states moving forward in a way that will maintain reliability and affordability of the electricity supply. But every fuel will have a place moving forward. They just have to get cleaner. And in the end, we have to produce the carbon reductions that we need for public health. [Bloomberg TV, 6/3/14, via Nexis, emphasis added]
The so-called "war on coal" is empty political rhetoric. Here are facts that put the EPA's plan in context -- facts you likely won't hear from The Weekly Standard or National Review:
Fox News exploited the violent turmoil in Iraq to baselessly lay blame for increasing gasoline and oil prices at the feet of President Obama. Fox hosts cited Obama's alleged "policy mistakes" in Iraq as the impetus for the rising cost of petroleum products, continuing a long pattern of attacking Obama over the price of gasoline while ignoring the fact that global market trends are largely out of the president's control.
On the June 13 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade and Fox Business anchor Stuart Varney discussed the impact of the recent turmoil in Iraq on the global oil market. Varney used the opportunity to attack President Obama for the withdrawal of American combat troops from Iraq from 2009 through 2011:
VARNEY: Let me make this very clear, we are all paying for the president's policy mistakes. The retreat in Iraq, the chaos in Iraq, will be paid for by us at the pump.
The withdrawal of American troops from Iraq was completed on December 18, 2011. According to data from the United States Energy Information Agency (EIA), the market prices of crude oil and refined gasoline have fluctuated since that time, but the withdrawal itself spurred no appreciable price corrections. Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, overlaying the prices for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil with inflation adjusted prices for gasoline, confirm that the withdrawal had no lasting impact on market prices:
Reputable market analysts agree that the outbreak of violence in Iraq -- the world's eighth largest oil producer -- is driving market speculation and investment in petroleum futures. This in turn has resulted in a slight, but noticeable increase in global crude oil market prices during the past several days. Varney is correct in noting that instability in Iraq is impacting global oil prices, but his analysis veered into well-worn Fox News paranoia when he used that fact to pin the blame for rising prices on President Obama.
Fox has a storied history of blaming this president for rising oil and gasoline prices.
Business media have been spreading the myth that the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to rein in carbon pollution will harm the American manufacturing industry by increasing electricity prices. But a new report by a group of business leaders found that the manufacturing industry is at far greater economic risk from the extreme weather events that the EPA's clean power plan would help prevent.
When the EPA proposed standards for the carbon pollution driving climate change for existing power plants, several top U.S. business media outlets promoted claims that the rules would harm manufacturers. Reuters published two articles that uncritically repeated utility industry lobbyists' claims that the rules will "destroy jobs" at "manufacturing plants." The Wall Street Journal cited a steel industry spokesman that claimed the rules will "impede the post-recession growth of American manufacturing" without criticism, and the newspaper's editorial board suggested that the rules will "punish" regions that rely on manufacturing. Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight hosted Steve Milloy, a policy director at coal giant Murray Energy, who lambasted the rules, stating: "if you work in manufacturing, do you want to see your job exported to China?"
However, an analysis by Business Forward -- an association of American business leaders focused on sound public policy -- found that extreme weather events will have severe economic impacts on the automotive manufacturing industry in the United States, while any increase in electricity prices as a result of turning to clean power will have minimal costs for the manufacturing industries. The analysis has not been covered* by the prominent business media outlets that promoted claims that the standards would harm manufacturers.
For example, automakers, who represent the nation's largest industrial sector, are extremely vulnerable to disruptions in the global supply chain caused by extreme weather events. The study found that extreme weather events -- many of which are happening more frequently -- can cause an auto assembly plant to shut down at immense costs of $1.25 million or more per hour. Business Forward explained that even when extreme weather events happen on the other side of the globe, they impact manufacturers:
Because supply chains are global, disruptions on the other side of the planet can slow down or shut down an American factory. For example, in October 2011, severe floods in Thailand affected more than 1,000 industrial facilities. Production by consumer electronics manufacturers in the U.S. dropped by one-third.
The carbon standards, by contrast, would cost the automotive industry far less because electricity is a "comparatively small portion" of their total costs. The report found that if electricity costs increased by 6.2 percent by 2020, it would add less than $7 to the cost of producing car that sells on average for $30,000. Overall, this would cost the average auto assembly plant about $1.1 million, or the equivalent of less than an hour of assembly line downtime at a single auto plant each year. The EPA estimates that electricity prices will increase slightly as a result of the standards, but efficiency improvements will lower electric bills by 2025.
A Media Matters analysis of Fox News coverage of the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed carbon pollution standards finds that long after a report from the Chamber of Commerce was discredited, Fox News continued to cite it. In addition, Fox News only hosted politicians who opposed EPA standards and who have altogether received over $1.6 million in contributions from fossil fuel industries in 2014.
An Associated Press article about the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed regulations to cut carbon emissions failed to disclose that Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a source it cited criticizing the proposal, is a front group for the Koch brothers that routinely makes false attacks against clean energy initiatives.
A June 2 AP article reported that Colorado could serve as a model for reducing carbon emissions while handling its energy needs, following comments from the Obama Administration and Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO). The article cited Dustin Zvonek, the Colorado director of Americans for Prosperity, which the outlet described as a group "which warns the EPA's rules would cost billions and lead to higher energy costs," but failed to mention the organization's oil industry funding:
"There's still a lot to be clarified," said Dustin Zvonek, Colorado director of the group Americans For Prosperity, which warns the EPA's rules would cost billions and lead to higher energy costs. Zvonek said Colorado's action to cut carbon emissions may have only prompted an even lower bar to meet.
"Are we going to be penalized or punished for the fuel-switching standard and therefore take an even bigger hit? That's not clear," Zvonek said.
Among AFP's major supporters are brothers David and Charles Koch, their charitable foundations and their company, Koch Industries, Inc., which has significant operations in oil and gas exploration and coal supply and trading. A 2012 report by the International Forum on Globalization explained that the Koch brothers have used their wealth to attempt to block legislation or rules aimed at mitigating the damage climate change is causing.
Greenpeace reported that AFP has received nearly $6 million from Koch-affiliated groups from 2005-2011.
Editorial boards across the country continue to use the Chamber of Commerce's study to claim that the Environmental Protection Agency's new carbon pollution standards will cost jobs and increase electricity bills, even though that study incorrectly assumed that the standards would be stricter and would require expensive technology.
The Environmental Protection Agency's forthcoming regulations on greenhouse gas emissions will provide legally required protection for the health and welfare of Americans at a cheap cost, while allowing states flexibility -- contrary to media fearmongering about the landmark standards.
From the May 28 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
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Fox News brushed aside the value of Environmental Protection Agency research grants for clean cooking and heating technologies, saying that the dangerous indoor pollution from dirty stoves is only "a mere contribution" to 4.3 million deaths, and fearmongered that the EPA would soon come after American stoves. However, even Fox News' "favorite" environmental pundit has said that the fact that millions are dying from dirty cooking stoves -- more deaths than from AIDS and malaria combined -- is an "immediate problem."
One year ago, New York City launched its bike share program to the chagrin of a Wall Street Journal editorial board member who claimed it was a "totalitarian" instrument of "aesthetic torture" that has "appalled" New Yorkers. However, the program has survived conservative attacks on it and proven immensely popular, with nearly 9 million rides in its first year.
Dorothy Rabinowitz, a member of Wall Street Journal's editorial board, made waves last year by railing against the launch of Citi Bike, New York City's bike share program. In a video op-ed on WSJ Live, Rabinowitz derided the "totalitarian"-backed program that has "begrimed" NYC neighborhoods, saying the city is "helpless" to the wishes of its "autocratic" mayor and the bike lobby.
Even after Rabinowitz' argument was mocked on both the Colbert Report and The Daily Show, Rabinowitz stuck to her vendetta, dubbing the bike racks "instruments of aesthetic torture," and her colleagues defended her. She is not alone among conservatives for displaying an irrational hatred of bicyclists. Soon afterward, Fox Business' Melissa Francis called the Citi Bike racks a "nuisance" and an "eyesore," putting it frankly: "I hate these bikes." But they have proven to be the exception rather than the rule.
Rabinowitz claimed that she represented "the majority of [NYC] citizens" who are equally "appalled" by the bike share program, but polling has shown the opposite with even the Wall Street Journal itself dubbing the bike share "popular." Before the program was launched, polls from Quinnipiac University's Polling Institute found that 74 percent of New Yorkers polled agreed the bike rental program was a "good idea." One month after its launch, the same institute found that only 20 percent were opposed to the program, with the majority of every "age, income party, gender and educational group" supporting the program:
Fox News host Sean Hannity's attempt to blame oil spills from deepwater drilling on environmentalists rather than under-regulated oil companies was debunked by a news service that largely serves energy industry clients.
On May 22, Hannity spoke at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in North Dakota, a state that has recently experienced a boom in oil and gas production. Platts, an industry journal that specializes in covering the oil industry for those employed in relevant industries, reported in coverage of the conference that "Hannity did not know some important details about the drilling industry" including falsely claiming that oil companies were drilling in deepwater because environmentalists forced them out of shallower waters.
In the aftermath of the BP oil spill in 2010, Sean Hannity and other Fox News figures repeatedly claimed that BP was only drilling in dangerous deepwater because environmentalists had "pushed us out there." However, as Media Matters pointed out at the time and Platts is now reporting, companies were actually drilling in deepwater due to discoveries of large, potentially lucrative reserves there.
Platts also pointed out that a reporter challenged Hannity on his portrayal of the fossil fuel industry as a panacea for unemployment, noting that some states "such as Vermont, Georgia or Idaho, which have no oil production" while North Dakota has "naturally abundant resources" (North Dakota also has a very small population, making the impact of the boom on the unemployment rate unusual compared to the rest of the country). Hannity, who has been hosting fossil fuel companies on his radio show as part of a "Get America Back to Work campaign," reportedly replied that increasing oil production in some states would trickle down to other areas.
The Associated Press summarized Hannity's speech as arguing that "government needs to get out of the way" of the oil industry. However, investigative reporter David Cay Johnston argued instead that the government needs to get involved in North Dakota, where worker fatalities have soared because "preventing accidents costs much more than paying off the families of dead workers." An AFL-CIO study found that North Dakota has more workers dying on the job than any other state -- with a worker fatality rate "more than five times the national average" and "one of the highest state job fatality rates ever reported for any state." The study noted that "the oil and gas industry in North Dakota has been a major source of these fatalities" and that North Dakota's fatality rate has "more than doubled" since 2007, around the time that North Dakota's oil boom took off.
Conservative activist James O'Keefe suggested that in his new video he would show that "a lot" of environmental "propaganda" is funded by foreign oil interests. O'Keefe duped two small-time filmmakers into accepting funding from a man posing as an oil tycoon from the Middle East, but his attempts to broaden the scope of the sting to more prominent organizations and activists were based on deceptive edits.
O'Keefe hyped his latest YouTube video, titled "Expose: Hollywood's War On U.S. Energy," by suggesting in a fundraising email that it would expose "the darker side of how a lot of the feel-good environmentalist propaganda gets funded by international interests who jeopardize national security." In it, he convinces the filmmakers of FRACKED, an upcoming documentary about the risks of fracking, to accept funding from an actor posing as "Muhammed," an oil tycoon from the Middle East who is being represented by an ad executive. The filmmakers said in a statement that they agreed to this funding because "It was understood that the investor would have no control over the content of the film and that we, the directors, would have final cut. We thought to ourselves 'oh the irony! We'll use the funding from an oil company to make a film that promotes green energy!'" Encouraging reliance on green energy, rather than oil from domestic or foreign sources, is essential to national security and it's not clear how a real "Muhammed" would benefit from this.
The video suggested that not only would the filmmakers, Josh and Rachel Tickell, accept oil money but that larger environmental organizations may as well, by adding a false voiceover. The voiceover claimed that the Tickells named environmental groups "When asked if environmental partners would be willing to be paid off":
VOICEOVER: And when asked if environmental partners would be willing to be paid off...
"AD EXECUTIVE" REPRESENTING "MUHAMMED": Which ones? Which ones?
REBECCA TICKELL: Environment California and CodeBlue.
"AD EXECUTIVE": Would that be something that --
JOSH TICKELL: And the NRDC.
"AD EXECUTIVE": Like they accept donations and things like that too?
REBECCA: Absolutely. They would work with us on this film.
But the Tickells were actually stating that they could reach out to these groups to promote their film, not that these groups would accept oil funding - the parts in bold were in the unedited tape starting at 3:28:30 but not in the edited version:
JOSH TICKELL: What's our market reach? We essentially work with six verticals. And these are things that we have developed for the better part of two decades. Grassroots? We have a number of organizations that actively activate our grassroots base. [...] Universities -- as I said, we do a lot of work with universities. That builds credibility, it also allows you to do a back and forth when you're taking people from the university, putting them in the film, and then you're screening it. That university becomes part of your prestige of the film -- oh we have an MIT professor, oh we have this professor, we have that professor. NGOs --
REBECCA TICKELL (interrupting): Which these two organizations, their main focus is anti-fracking.
"AD EXECUTIVE": Which ones? Which ones?
REBECCA TICKELL: Environment California and CodeBlue.
"AD EXECUTIVE": Would that be something that --
JOSH TICKELL: And the NRDC.
"AD EXECUTIVE": Like they accept donations and things like that too? I want my client to --
REBECCA: Absolutely. They would work with us on this film. They would make sure that all of their members saw the film. They would speak at the screenings, they would send out email blasts.
Kate Kiely, a spokeswoman for The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said in a statement to Media Matters that "NRDC actually has very strict rules about donations. We have a hard and fast policy not to accept money from any fossil fuel industries. Nor do we accept money to advocate for projects. Our advocacy is always based on strong science, law and policy." When asked whether the organization had "ever accepted funding from foreign oil interests" or if they had any part in the upcoming film FRACKED, Kiely wrote that the answer to both was "a resounding 'NO.'"
Most environmental organizations and activists do not accept funding from special interests that contradict their values. As the Tickells stated during O'Keefe's video, public knowledge that they had agreed to accept Middle Eastern oil money would damage their credibility among environmentalists.
However, according to O'Keefe, his deceptive editing job has already convinced a Senate committee to investigate:
Marlo Lewis, senior fellow of the fossil fuel-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute, argued that moving regions that will be affected by sea level rise is a better idea than taking efforts to mitigate climate change.
During the May 20 episode of NPR's On Point, Lewis was hosted alongside two climate experts to discuss the recent findings that the collapse of a West Antarctic ice sheet "appears unstoppable," and will cause global sea levels to rise of ten feet or higher in the next 200 to 1,000 years. Lewis dismissed taking action to reduce our carbon emissions, saying we could simply adapt to the effects of climate change.
Host Tom Ashbrook challenged him, saying, "So you're saying move New York, move Miami, move Southern Florida, move Boston?" Lewis responded, "Yeah." His reasoning: "The built environment from the studies I've seen, most building stock turns over in about 50 years. And so the markets adapt to this sort of phenomenon anyway."
Lewis' argument doesn't make much economic sense. The flood damages from just five U.S. cities will cost nearly $8 billion per year by 2050, according to a recent study published in Nature Climate Change -- and this is before the 10 feet of sea level rise is expected. According to the study, taking adaptive action in coastal cities at risk could cost up to $50 billion per year globally -- much more expensive than simply preventing the worst damage from happening in the first place.
Lewis is listed as one of the National Journal's energy experts and contributes to FoxNews.com, National Review Online, and Forbes.com. Lewis has used his media platform to defend Fox News and the Wall Street Journal for their use of false balance in reporting on climate science.
These readers may be interested to know of Lewis' fossil fuel funding, as Ashbrook disclosed for NPR listeners:
ASHBROOK: What are your motivations here? We've got a lot of fossil fuel money in your organization. Does that mean you're speaking up to defend their interests? And how do we have confidence that you're not?
LEWIS: Well, Tom, I kind of make it a policy not to respond to ad hominem arguments.
ASHBROOK: Ad hominem? I mean I'm just looking at your funders. Isn't that fair?
LEWIS: I think, you know, if you can ever find an instance in which I've changed any position I've ever taken at any time in my professional life because of a contribution to an organization that I've worked for, I'll pay you a thousand dollars. So let's drop that subject.
ASHBROOK: I don't think it's ad hominem, Mr. Lewis, it's just an honest question. A tax on carbon would be tough for ExxonMobil and Texaco.
Listen to the entire 45-minute podcast below.
Image at the top from Flickr user stacyflower with a Creative Commons license.