Ohio may soon become the first state to freeze its clean energy mandates after a relentless effort from utilities. But the state's major newspapers continue to overlook that the legislators behind the bill are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council -- an organization that connects corporations, including fossil fuel interests, to legislators -- despite repeatedly quoting the organization's members.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review criticized the renewal of federal tax credits for wind energy, claiming the credits "would blatantly waste taxpayer dollars on a manifestly unsustainable industry that's wholly dependent on government subsidies." However, other energy industries also receive billions of dollars in federal subsidies and tax breaks to keep them competitive, which the editorial did not mention.
In a May 13 editorial the Tribune-Review noted that the Senate Finance Committee recently approved a two-year renewal for wind energy projects, slated to cost $13 billion over 10 years. It called the renewal a "waste" of taxpayer dollars and advocated for "more reliable coal and nuclear plants" to meet electricity demand:
The last renewal, for 2013, allowed tax credits for projects under construction. The credits previously applied only to finished projects. American Wind Energy Association figures show installations rose sharply as 2012 ended and spiked again in 2013's fourth quarter as the industry took advantage of that change. It all prompted Erika Johnsen to write for the website Hot Air: "Could the wind industry's utter dependence on ... taxpayer help ... be any more apparent?"
There are better uses for taxpayer dollars than subsidizing wind energy, which "undercuts" more reliable coal and nuclear plants that are critical for meeting electricity demand, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., writes in The Wall Street Journal.
The example provided in the editorial of the spiking number of wind installations shows an industry attempting to increase production in a climate of uncertainty, something the fossil fuel industry does not have to contend with. As DBL Investors pointed out in a 2011 paper on the differences in subsidies different energy sources receive, unlike many other energy incentives, specifically for the oil and gas industry, which are permanently in the tax code, wind energy support has been allowed to expire several times since the creation of wind's primary incentive in 1992:
Some energy incentives, like the depletion allowance for oil and gas, are permanent in the tax code. Wind energy's primary incentive, the PTC, has been allowed to expire multiple times since its creation in 1992, and has been consistently reinstated for only one or two year terms.
Due to the series of shorter-term, 1-to-2-year PTC extensions, growing demand for wind power has been compressed into tight and frenzied windows of development. This has led to boom and bust cycles in renewable energy development, under-investment in manufacturing capacity in the U.S., and variable in equipment and supply costs. Recent work at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab suggests that this boom-and-bust cycle has made the PTC less effective in stimulating low-cost wind development than might be the case if a longer term and more stable policy were established.
Vox.com provided a misleading take of the Keystone XL pipeline in a short video explainer. The video for former Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein's new venture was sponsored by General Electric, which has publicly supported the tar sands pipeline.
The visually appealing "Vox Explains" video gives a two-minute overview of the Keystone XL, but provides a misleading view of the number of jobs the pipeline would create. While the voiceover states that building the pipeline would "create thousands of temporary construction jobs," the number on the screen shows 42,000 temporary jobs, suggesting that all 42,000 jobs will be in construction. But the State Department report actually projects only 3,900 temporary construction jobs if construction took one year or 1,950 jobs if construction took two years. The 42,000 figure includes tens of thousands of indirect jobs in everything from food service to finance that the State Department estimates will be supported by Keystone XL's construction. The State Department estimates an outcome of only 35 permanent jobs would result from construction of the pipeline.
The video shows how new media can mislead in ways that newspapers never could. In the Keystone XL video, both the voiceover and the text were technically accurate. However, the combination of the two resulted in a misleading impression.
In response to criticism, the narrator of the video, Brad Plumer, tweeted that pointing out the much lower number of construction jobs was a "fair point" and that he could "break down that more precisely." Plumer left The Washington Post's WonkBlog to join Vox, and is generally excellent at explaining everything from global warming to air pollution.
The video also repeats the State Department's claim that the Keystone XL won't greatly impact climate change because "most of the oil would just get shipped by rail anyway," offering only that "green groups are disputing that analysis" as a rebuttal. But it's not just green groups -- reports from Reuters (largely ignored by the media) have found that the State Department's projections on rail transport were way off, undermining the Department's climate change claims. And as the number of disastrous train accidents rises, tougher regulations may increase the cost of moving oil by rail, making it even less attractive as an alternative. The claim that Keystone XL will not worsen climate change is becoming all the more dubious.
Strangely, this video has been cited by conservative news site Washington Free Beacon as an example of how GE's corporate sponsorship of Vox.com, including many of the "Vox Explains" videos, may be advancing the priorities of the Democratic Party. However, GE actually signed a letter in 2013 urging President Obama to approve the Keystone XL.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board is continuing to pretend that the EPA is acting against the law by regulating coal pollution, despite repeated Supreme Court rulings that conclude otherwise.
On April 29, the Supreme Court ruledin a 6-2 decisionto re-instate the EPA's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which regulates air pollution that crosses state lines and "significantly" prevents neighboring states from achieving national air quality standards. The rule, which is part of the Clean Air Act by way of the "Good Neighbor Provision," was delayed in 2011 for further review after being challenged by a major coal-fired operator -- to the delight of the Wall Street Journal, which lauded the decision to delay for showing "how out of bounds the cross-state regulation is." The board decided that the Supreme Court "should overturn [the Cross-State pollution rule] for violating the federalist intentions of Congress," adding it would "to show this increasingly rogue agency that it can't rewrite the law as it pleases."
Now that the rule has been reinstated (counter to the wishes of the Journal) in EPA v. EME Homer City Generation, the paper is scrambling to find wrongdoing. The board published an editorial titled "The EPA Unchained" recycling its own faulty arguments that concluded with the fear that "the Obama EPA will feel even less bound by legal restraints, if that's possible." Its claims, however, are extremely misguided.
The regulations of smog and soot pollution will yield up to $280 billion in health benefits nationwide by preventing hospital visits and avoiding lost work days, according to the EPA's cost-benefit analysis. The human benefits are just as stark, with The American Thoracic Society estimating the new transfer rule could prevent upwards of 40,000 premature deaths annually.
The WSJ summarily dismisses the court's defense of the EPA's use of cost-benefit analysis when considering the best regulatory action, calling it "ironi[c]" because "the EPA typically dismisses cost-benefit analysis unless a statute explicitly calls for it." However, according to an amicus brief from NYU's Institute for Policy Integrity, the EPA has been using cost-benefit analyses to guide inter-state air pollution regulations for decades. The "Good Neighbor Provision," for instance, does not explicitly call for cost-benefit analysis. The Court deferred to the EPA as the most appropriate body to determine whether or not to use cost-benefit analysis to regulate pollutants that are clearly covered by the Clean Air Act.
The board also repeated its tired claim that the EPA is "ignor[ing] the federalist obligations of the Clean Air Act," suggesting the EPA is going over the heads of individual states. But states have tried and failed at coming up with their own solutions to this interstate phenomenon, and Congress and the Supreme Court determined that the issue of cross-state pollution is an inherently nationwide problem that prompts federal regulation. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg outlined in her majority opinion for the Court, the air pollution of "upwind" states is inescapably a "combined and cumulative effect" that may significantly pollute several "downwind" states at different proportions, so regulating emissions based on each individual state's pollution levels (as WSJ suggests) simply doesn't work. This was not only the conclusion of the EPA, but also of leading atmospheric scientists and air quality modeling experts, who submitted an amicus brief arguing that the WSJ's preferred solution was likely "impossible." The complexity of the scenario is illustrated by this EPA graphic showing "linkages" between "upwind" and "downwind" states in what they have called a "spaghetti-like matrix":
The revival of the cross-state pollution rule was timely -- one day after the Court's ruling, the American Lung Association (ALA) released the findings that nearly half of Americans currently live in areas with high levels of pollution from smog and soot particles. The ALA report also illustrates the necessity of the EPA air pollution rules: 18 of the 25 cities with the highest pollution rates have seen a drop in pollutants, partly thanks to the EPA regulations.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled on the side of the EPA, despite WSJ's constant criticisms -- two weeks prior, the Court upheld a separate EPA rule to cut mercury emissions from coal plants. Will the newspaper continue to claim that coal pollution regulations are unlawful?
From the April 30 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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The Daily Caller overstated the number of EPA regulations being planned by over 800 percent after misreading a flawed analysis that criticizes all government regulation.
On April 29, Daily Caller reporter Michael Bastasch claimed that "EPA regulations make up 49.3 percent of all the rules currently being crafted by federal agencies." The source for the claim, the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute's (CEI) annual report on the cost of federal regulations, actually listed the EPA as the sixth "most active rule-producing agency," with 179 rules in the works according to the "Regulatory Plan and the Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions." This is a mere five percent of the 3,305 federal regulations in the pipeline at the end of 2013 and a 57 percent decrease over the decade since 2004. By citing the 1,630 rules planned by six agencies that accounted for 49.3 percent of all planned federal regulations, rather than the 179 rules from the EPA, Bastasch was off by over 800 percent.
The CEI report has been criticized for providing a flawed analysis of government regulations. Titled "Ten Thousand Commandments," it systematically ignores any benefits of regulations, which is unsurprising in the case of EPA regulations as CEI has been extensively funded by the fossil fuel industry.
The Daily Caller's mistake fits in with a misinformation campaign against the EPA at the news site.
In 2011, the Daily Caller's Matthew Boyle flipped the results of an EPA court brief, writing that the EPA was "asking for taxpayers to shoulder the burden of up to 230,000 new bureaucrats -- at a cost of $21 billion -- to attempt to implement" new climate change regulations. But the agency was actually arguing for the exact opposite, hoping to avoid a scenario in which 230,000 new workers would be needed. The publication surprisingly stood by Boyle's demonstrably false claims, even after receiving widespread ridicule that reportedly embarrassed Daily Caller employees. Executive editor David Martosko defended the article in a comment to Politico and continued to defend it in a misleading editor's post, insisting the story was "spot-on and accurate."
Furthermore, Daily Caller has often acted as a transcription service for Sen. James Inhofe -- who has filled an entire book with claims that global warming is a "hoax" -- to repeat his baseless attacks on the EPA.
More recently, the news site attempted to enrage readers about the EPA's research on air pollution, saying that they "tested deadly pollutants on humans" without mentioning that the agency was in compliance with extremely strict regulations in order to test the pollutants.
Given the Daily Caller's history of standing by their flawed reports, will the news site correct its latest error?
UPDATE (4/30/14): The Daily Caller removed its erroneous claim that "EPA regulations make up 49.3 percent of all the rules currently being crafted by federal agencies" without issuing a correction. From the original article:
The article now states:
Currently, the federal regulatory agencies are working on 3,305 regulations. Nearly half of these regulations are from just six agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA has announced some of the most controversial regulations during Obama's tenure, most recently with rules aimed at redefining its authority under the Clean Water Act and carbon dioxide emissions limits for coal plants.
The conservative media figures who lionized racist Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy made a feeble attempt at saving face by claiming this entire saga was never about Bundy, it was always about "land grabs" that are depriving hard-working Americans of their property rights. Yet some of these same figures have turned a blind eye to the actual land grabs taking place across the heartland of America at the hands of fossil fuel interests and the Republican state legislators that have supported their cause.
Fox News abandoned the rancher, and some of his most vocal cheerleaders in right-wing media distanced themselves from his racist remarks, while remaining loyal to his cause. "The ranch standoff," remarked Fox News host Sean Hannity, "was not about a man named Cliven Bundy." Instead, he argued, it was about average Americans being "victimized by eminent domain."
Bundy's standoff had nothing whatsoever to do with eminent domain, as he did not own the land that he was grazing his cattle on without payment. But the oil and gas industry, wielding the power of state eminent domain statutes, has actually snatched away land from ranchers in middle America.
If we take Hannity at his word that he believes himself to be the champion of average Americans whose homes have been threatened by land grabs, then one would imagine he's used his prominent public profile to help folks like Julia Trigg Crawford, a north Texas property owner whose land was unceremoniously stripped away from her control by TransCanada, the oil company pushing for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. Despite Crawford's objections, TransCanada went forward with the construction and subsequent operation of the southern portions of the pipeline on her property thanks to a Texas statute that "grants eminent domain authority to pipeline companies that simply check a box on a one-page form." Her case is currently in court.
One would also imagine that Hannity has championed the cause of Raymond Hill, who had part of his land seized after he refused TransCanada's offers to buy his part of his land in east Texas because he wanted to preserve the peace and quiet his property offered. Crawford and Hill are just two of dozens of landowners in Texas whose property has been seized by TransCanada to build the Keystone XL pipeline.
Instead, Hannity and others in right-wing media have been highlighting another bogus dispute in Texas over federal land that has been settled law for decades -- trying to frame it as the Bureau of Land Management trampling the rights of law-abiding Americans.
The oil-industry funded front group for Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, has a Buzzfeed list featuring animated gifs of the "Top 10 Ways To Celebrate Earth Day: For Conservatives." Media Matters has gathered all the ways that anti-conservation "conservatives" have truly decided to celebrate Earth Day this year:
Fox News celebrated Earth Day by hosting Fox Business' John Stossel who is "cheering for fossil fuels" that were responsible for dozens of disasters last year. Forbes contributor and oil and gas industry consultant David Blackmon caught on to the trend, writing an op-ed glorifying the fossil fuel industry titled "Be Thankful On Earth Day For Oil & Gas."
Earth Day happens to lie on the same day as Vladimir Lenin's birthday, so it must be a communist plot, according to conservative blogger Erick Erickson. Erickson filled in for Rush Limbaugh on his radio show on Earth Day by ranting about the connections between environmentalism and communism.
The United States (and globe) has been warming since the first Earth Day -- but that didn't prevent snow-trollers from emerging once again to cast doubt on global warming. On April 22, climate "skeptic" favorite Ryan Maue tweeted at conservative blogger Erick Erickson: "Remind folks on Earth Day... to not put away their snow shovels until July 4th." Erickson later fulfilled Maue's request as a guest host for on The Rush Limbaugh Show.
Jim Treacher, a reporter for the conservative news site Daily Caller, joked that he would celebrate Earth Day by burning "dangerous tires before they can pollute the planet," mocking NASA's Twitter campaign asking the public to take a "#GlobalSelfie" for Earth Day.
Fox News frequent Marc Morano hyped a piece by Roy Spencer that equated climate science to a "religion" -- one of the most prominent ways conservatives erode trust in scientists according to a study by the Yale Project on Climate Communications. Spencer wrote, in honor of Earth Day:
As in other religions, most Earth worshipers are more or less hypocritical. Spend a day being "good", spend the rest of the year failing.
I mostly find Earth Day just plain annoying for the rank hypocrisy on display. A state-sponsored religious day of worship, along with all of the 1st Amendment-violating regulations to codify it.
The final installment of the U.N.'s top climate report, which calls for prompt, extensive action to avoid calamitous impacts from climate change, garnered relatively little attention from the major print, cable and broadcast media outlets compared to the first installment. However, coverage of the third report rightfully gave far less space to those who cast doubt on the science.
Fox News promoted predictions of "an impending ice age" from David Archibald, an oil and mining CEO who has said that he wants to be in DeSmogBlog's "Global Warming Disinformation Database." So far, Archibald has not won that dubious distinction -- but if he did, it would look something like this:
Archibald started working in coal and oil shale exploration in 1979, then went on to become a financial analyst and stockbroker before returning to oil companies in the 2000s. In 2003 he led an oil exploration company called Oilex, then joined a Canadian oil exploration company in 2006 at the same time he was CEO of mineral exploration company Westgold Resources. As of 2008, he was operating 8.6 million acres of oil exploration permits in Australia as of 2008. In a phone call with Media Matters, Archibald stated that he currently runs his own company in the oil industry.
When called out for having ties to the coal industry in 2008, Archibald responded that his most recent ties were actually to the oil industry:
You know you are being effective when people complain about you. The letter in the Sept. 8 issue of Oil & Gas Journal, though, followed an established formula, starting with an impugned association with the coal industry (OGJ, Sept. 8, 2008, p. 12).
A point by point refutation would be tedious, but I am compelled to say that neither I nor the Lavoisier Society has any association with or funding from the coal industry. I left the coal industry in 1980 to join the oil industry. Right now I am the very happy operator of oil exploration permits totaling 8.6 million acres of Palaeozoic intracratonic rift sediments in the Canning basin of northwestern Australia.
From an interview with regular Fox News guest Michelle Fields for the right-wing website PJ Media:
FIELDS: Is global warming a real thing?
ARCHIBALD: Not at all.
FIELDS: But global cooling is, then?
ARCHIBALD: There's nothing you can do and it's a natural solar cycle.
April 14, 2014
David Archibald was interviewed on Fox News' Fox & Friends by Fox host Eric Bolling to promote his new book and advance his claim of "global cooling." Bolling omitted Archibald's ties to the fossil fuel industry, and introduced the segment by saying, "remember that harsh, cold winter? Well it could become the norm. Our next guest says the earth is heading into another ice age":
Showtime's new nine-part documentary on climate change features hard-hitting connections between global warming and extreme weather, interviews with expert scientists, and calls for action. Is "Years of Living Dangerously" catching on to a new trend with reporting on climate change?
"Years of Living Dangerously," the Showtime documentary series produced by Oscar-winning James Cameron and other Hollywood icons, has been heralded as "perhaps the most important climate change multimedia communication endeavor in history." The nine-part series' Hollywood filmmakers paired with veterans from CBS' 60 Minutes (Joel Back and David Gelber), and featured a science advisory board to ensure accuracy, including scientists Heidi Cullen, Jim Hansen, Michael Mann, Michael Oppenheimer, and more. The series seeks to tell "the biggest story of our time" in an emotion-evoking blockbuster format, as a way to "close the gap" between science and action.
The April 13 series premiere came one week after NBC's deep-dive special on climate change, and both are sorely needed. Even as top reports are showing that the issue is becoming a dire threat that calls for immediate action, a Pew Research poll indicates that Americans continue to rank addressing climate change as a low priority. Social science research suggests that how people rank the importance of various issues is a direct result of media coverage of the issue. In an interview with National Journal, Media Matters Executive Vice President Angelo Carusone stated that the recent large-scale expositions on global warming are a reflection of "the hollowness of the overall landscape and the anxieties around the inaction starting to percolate and feeding a demand to end this endless debate," adding that "[w]hen a major network devotes that much time to it, it shows they're responding to a demand." "Years of Living Dangerously" and NBC's climate special both work to reverse the attitude of apathy, by showing the impacts of climate change are already happening and drastically altering quality of life. The premiere episode of Showtime's series, titled "Dry Season," takes viewers to see climate refugees in Syria (displaced due to severe drought), rainforests in Indonesia being burned to the ground, and cattle ranches in Texas suffering from drought.
Both specials treat manmade global warming as a given and feature established experts on climate science, a welcome change from the contrarian "skeptics" that have been infiltrating the media with doubt and misinformation. "Years of Living Dangerously" begins with Harrison Ford inspecting carbon dioxide measurements -- the primary cause of manmade global warming -- with the help of NASA scientists. The premiere episode goes on to feature Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, a specialist in drought, along with three other climate scientists. The episode included more climate scientists than celebrities (or contrarians). Carusone lauded this aspect, saying "[e]nding this debate is controversial, but someone needs to do so."
Although the premiere episode of "Years Of Living Dangerously" doesn't touch on any solutions to climate change, the series promises to address solutions in later episodes, including segments on renewable energy, global warming as a political priority, and the "greening" of the corporate sector. According to a study from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, painting a dire picture of climate change without providing a solution may cause an audience to reject the message, echoing previous research. As a recent study shows that most broadcast evening news shows often decoupled solutions from messages about the threat of global warming, the Showtime and NBC series again provide a fresh take on the issue by including possible solutions.
Catastrophic climate change is a simple message with many complexities, so these media deep-dives may be necessary for the message to break through. Chris Hayes also hosted an hour-long MSNBC special on the politics of climate change last fall and spoke of the importance of communicating solutions:
I strongly believe that it is extremely important to convince people that the problem is, in fact, solvable. Our record of environmental regulation of pollution, in fact, shows that very often the eventual cost is far, far less than was originally estimated. Human ingenuity is an incredible thing! So if you picked up a certain upbeat undercurrent in the show, you weren't wrong. I happen to think the problem, as big and terrifying as it is, really is solvable and really will be solved. And I think it's doubly important to let people know that so as to engender the level of investment and action we need to make sure that hopeful future is ours.
The recent excellent reporting on climate change may act as a "vanguard" for a changing media landscape according to Carusone, but is it enough to tip the scales?
A gas company is attempting to use a half-century old Pennsylvania law to frack underneath the land of property owners who refuse to allow the controversial practice on their land, yet a majority of Pennsylvanians may be unaware as two of the state's top three newspapers have failed to mention the contentious issue.
Hilcorp Energy, a Texas-based oil and gas company, is pushing legal action in Pennsylvania to be able to drill underneath the property of landowners that have refused to sign a lease if enough of their neighbors have already signed, a practice known as "forced pooling." The "unused and outdated" law, which is "pitting neighbor against neighbor" as reported by the Associated Press, would "shred private property rights" according to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, the only of the three highest circulating papers in Pennsylvania to cover the story. The other two, The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, have completely overlooked the issue which has received national attention.
The "forced pooling" law would force landowners to allow the use of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," to extract natural gas reserves underneath their property without their consent, creating concerns about the impact on property values and the threat of water pollution. A leaked document from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated that natural gas extraction has caused methane to leak into domestic water wells, causing "significant damage" to the drinking water supply of the town.
Pennsylvania isn't the only state dealing with the "forced pooling" issue. Energy companies have been exploiting similar laws in many states including in Illinois and Ohio to the outrage of unsuspecting landowners. In Ohio, citizens are "furious" about the ruling that one citizen fears will "make him legally responsible for spills and other damage" according to the Associated Press. Some residents have "resigned to losing future income," while dozens of others are pushing forward lawsuits in an attempt to stop the forcible drilling.
There is a similar sentiment in Pennsylvania even among those who support natural gas drilling and fracking. For example, Pennsylvania's Republican Governor Tom Corbett -- a strong proponent of natural gas extraction in Pennsylvania -- opposes the law, likening it to "private eminent domain." And Marcellus Drilling News, a pro-fracking news site, has expressed disapproval of Hilcorp's use of the law, calling it "the low road."
Fox News continues to reverse the success of the federal clean energy loan program by cherry-picking from a small minority of failures, magnifying the trend of mainstream media distorting the program's success.
In an April 11 segment titled "Who's Ruining the Economy?" Fox & Friends denounced the Department of Energy's (DOE) low carbon vehicle program despite its success. Fox Business host Stuart Varney pointed to a few companies that received government assistance and later filed for bankruptcy, saying "they thought they could pick winners. They picked losers." He went on to decry the announcement that the DOE will revamp their advanced technology vehicles manufacturing (ATVM) program, saying "they're not reversing course at the sight of failure, they're actually speeding up down the same road":
Fox News' myopic view of the loan program is a lie by omission -- 98 percent of the funds in DOE's clean energy loan programs have been successful. Of the 31 ventures awarded DOE loans, only four have been discontinued -- a far greater success rate than that of venture capital investments, which typically consider three in ten successes to be a successful portfolio.
The Department of Energy's clean energy loan program helped fuel the achievements of electric car company Tesla Motors, yet the major broadcast, cable and print media only mentioned the loan in 20 percent of their coverage of Tesla in 2013 (and in only 7 percent of coverage of Nissan's best-selling electric car, the Leaf). Meanwhile, 84 percent of coverage of Fisker, an electric car company that declared bankruptcy, mentioned its federal loan. This skewed coverage may have misinformed the public about the overwhelmingly positive success rate of the program.
From an April 1 Capitol Hill Hearing recorded on C-SPAN2:
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