Numerous media outlets have covered GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush's new fossil fuel-friendly energy plan without mentioning his extensive ties to the industry. Both Bush's campaign and his super PAC have received significant donations from oil and gas interests, Bush met secretly with coal industry executives in June, and he recently appointed fossil fuel industry ally Scott Pruitt to oversee his campaign policy agenda.
From the September 29 edition of Comedy Central's The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore:
From the September 29 edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes:
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ExxonMobil has long known that burning fossil fuels causes climate change, yet has continued to fund groups that deny its existence. According to The Guardian's Dana Nuccitelli, Exxon's actions parallel how the tobacco industry deliberately deceived the public about the health risks of smoking.
In a September 29 Guardian article, Dana Nuccitelli reported on a recently concluded eight-month investigation by InsideClimate News that found that Exxon's own scientific research confirmed human-caused global warming as far back as the late 1970s. According to InsideClimate, the obtained documents show that Exxon scientists confirmed that carbon dioxide emissions impact the climate and that these findings were in accordance with expert consensus. The investigation further found that after "a decade of frank internal discussions on global warming and conducting unbiased studies on it, Exxon changed direction in 1989 and spent more than 20 years discrediting the research its own scientists had once confirmed."
In the Guardian article, headlined, "Is the fossil fuel industry, like the tobacco industry, guilty of racketeering?" Nuccitelli reported that a group of climate scientists is calling for an investigation "of corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change" under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). He noted that a similar lawsuit was brought against the tobacco industry in 2006, and resulted in a district court judge ruling that tobacco companies worked to "maximize industry profits by preserving and expanding the market for cigarettes through a scheme to deceive the public."
The connection between the tobacco industry and climate denial has been made before by those who have noted that many of the people and organizations working against climate action previously worked on behalf of the tobacco industry, and that both industries have used similar deceptive tactics to cast doubt on settled science. The Heartland Institute, for one, has received over $700,000 in funding from ExxonMobil and has previously denied the health dangers of tobacco and secondhand smoke.
From The Guardian:
Is the fossil fuel industry, like the tobacco industry, guilty of racketeering?
ExxonMobil has become infamous for its secretive anti-climate science campaign, having spent $30 million funding groups denying the scientific evidence and consensus on human-caused global warming.
Last week, after an eight-month investigation, InsideClimate News revealed that from the late-1970s to the mid-1980s, scientists at Exxon were in fact at the cutting edge of climate science research.
It's ironic that 33 years ago, the world's largest oil company accepted and concurred with the scientific consensus on human-caused global warming that many people continue to deny to this day.
In another internal company document in November 1982, Exxon scientists illustrated the rapid global warming they expected to occur over the following century due to rising carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels. A year earlier, Exxon scientists were discussing the distinct possibility that the consequences of climate change could become catastrophic in the near future.
Coinciding with the InsideClimate News revelations, a group of climate scientists sent a letter to President Obama, his science advisor John Holdren, and Attorney General Lynch, calling for an investigation "of corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change, as a means to forestall America's response to climate change."
In 1999, the Justice Department filed a civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) lawsuit against the major tobacco companies and their associated industry groups. In 2006, US District Court Judge Gladys Kessler ruled that the tobacco industry's campaign to "maximize industry profits by preserving and expanding the market for cigarettes through a scheme to deceive the public" about the health hazards of smoking amounted to a racketeering enterprise.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has noted that the fossil fuel industry's efforts to cast doubt on climate science closely mirror those by the tobacco industry. As Senator Whitehouse said in May 2015, "Imagine what a little discovery into the beast would reveal about the schemes and mischief of the climate denial apparatus--about what they're telling each other in private while they scheme to deceive the public. The truth will eventually come to light. It always does."
Indeed, as the InsideClimate News investigation subsequently revealed, Exxon's own scientists were warning of the dangers of human-caused climate change nearly 40 years ago. The parallels to the tobacco industry's public deception are striking. It appears that many climate scientists have become fed up, and are encouraging the government to embark on a similar RICO investigation into fossil fuel industry efforts to mislead the public.
From the September 29 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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The Washington Post is helping pull back the curtain on the National Black Chamber of Commerce's (NBCC) oil industry-funded campaign against environmental safeguards.
In a September 28 article, The Post explained that the NBCC is engaged in a "subtle effort ... to reduce support for [environmental] regulations among blacks, Latinos and even the elderly -- groups not usually regarded as natural allies for corporations fighting air-pollution laws." The Post noted that the NBCC has been heavily funded by Exxon Mobil, and that the list of sponsors for NBCC's 2015 national conference "included a number of major fossil-fuel interests, including Koch Industries, owned by oil magnates and conservative activists Charles and David Koch," adding: "Such donations make up as much as 80 percent of the group's revenue in some years, tax records show, and the NBCC has channeled its money into causes that favor fossil-fuel interests."
While the Post article focused on NBCC's work to undermine Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plan to reduce harmful ozone pollution, the NBCC has also produced a discredited study about the EPA's climate change plan, which establishes the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants. NBCC President Harry Alford has used the NBCC study to attack the EPA climate plan in congressional testimony and a series of deceptive op-eds.
From The Washington Post:
Since early summer, Alford has delivered the same pitch in multiple cities, blasting a plan to impose limits on ozone, a pollutant that contributes to urban smog and aggravates breathing disorders, particularly among the elderly and very young.
Alford's message -- that the proposed regulations would hurt the economy and stifle job growth -- is nearly identical to the one being broadcast widely by the rules' opponents from business and industry. The National Association of Manufacturers has poured millions of dollars into a television ad campaign criticizing the proposal, which the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to adopt in final form Wednesday.
But while the TV ads command the most attention, a more subtle effort is underway to reduce support for the regulations among blacks, Latinos and even the elderly -- groups not usually regarded as natural allies for corporations fighting air-pollution laws.
The National Black Chamber of Commerce, which acknowledges receiving strong financial backing from Exxon Mobil and other fossil-fuel interests, has specifically tailored its message to African American audiences, drawing anger from environmental and public health groups that say urban blacks would be among the biggest beneficiaries of tighter regulations.
"The dirtiest utility plants pollute and hurt black communities," said Evlondo Cooper, a researcher for the Checks and Balances Project, a watchdog group that investigates the use of corporate money in anti-clean-energy campaigns. Cooper, whose nonprofit organization has staged videotaped confrontations with Alford at two of his recent speaking events, said groups such as the NBCC have helped foster perceptions of a sharp divide among African Americans over whether stronger air-quality laws are needed.
"He doesn't speak for black people," Cooper said, referring to Alford, "and nothing about his support for the fossil-fuel lobby or his attacks on clean energy has been helpful to our community."
In his frequent essays and blog postings, Alford has referred to the EPA as "wicked' and a "monster" that is "out of control." He flatly dismisses the notion of environmental justice -- the idea that minorities suffer unfairly from pollution -- as a "farce."
"Many naive blacks have bought the lie -- hook, line and sinker," he says.
Alford's organization declines to give detailed information about the NBCC's membership or sources of income, although records filed by the group show more than $800,000 in contributions over the past decade from Exxon Mobil. At the group's 2015 national conference in August, a list of sponsors given to attendees included a number of major fossil-fuel interests, including Koch Industries, owned by oil magnates and conservative activists Charles and David Koch.
Such donations make up as much as 80 percent of the group's revenue in some years, tax records show, and the NBCC has channeled its money into causes that favor fossil-fuel interests. For example, the NBCC, gave $50,000 last year to a Florida organization that sought to impose additional costs and restrictions on homeowners who want to install solar panels on their roofs.
[Alford's] stances have angered not only environmental groups but also other African American business organizations, which say Alford's views represent at best a small fraction of black business owners and entrepreneurs. Ron Busby, president of the U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce, a rival group, said internal surveys have consistently shown high levels of support among his group's members for strong environmental regulations.
"As a child I had asthma, and I remember my parents saying it was a black disease, because that's what we thought, growing up," Busby said. "Anyone who's saying it's not affecting our community isn't speaking on behalf of black people."
Image at top via Flickr user House GOP using a Creative Commons License.
From the September 28 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
From the September 25 edition of NPR and WNYC's On the Media:
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CNN Money claimed that if the U.S. heeds Pope Francis' call to address climate change it will hurt the economy and cost jobs, but CNN based these claims on a six-year old analysis of failed cap-and-trade legislation rather than recent research showing that the climate plan the Obama administration has put in place will benefit the economy and increase employment. CNN also alleged that the U.S. is hesitant to act on climate change "without other nations around the world doing the same," despite the fact that 78 countries have already submitted climate change plans ahead of international negotiations that will occur in December.
In the wake of the Volkswagen emissions-rigging scandal, questions are being raised about the amount of influence automakers have over the enforcement -- or lack thereof -- of vehicle emissions standards. But rather than join in that conversation, conservative media are making excuses for Volkswagen's conduct and seeking to shift much of the blame to the Environmental Protection Agency and emission standards themselves.
The Associated Press recently updated its Stylebook by instructing AP writers to avoid using the term "denier" to describe those who reject the firmly-held scientific consensus on climate change. The AP's Stylebook change was celebrated by several well-known climate science deniers, but criticized by prominent scientists and journalists who say the new AP-approved term "climate change doubters" grants undeserved legitimacy to those who refuse to acknowledge the consensus.
A contributor to the National Rifle Association's (NRA) Frontlines series suggested that an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on America could kill 90 percent of the population and cause people on food assistance to start "eating each other in the streets."
The NRA routinely fearmongers that an EMP attack -- where a nuclear bomb is detonated in space, supposedly causing the destruction of the power grid -- would cause widespread chaos and death, even though experts have dismissed such claims as coming from a "crowd of cranks and threat inflators."
During the September 22 broadcast of the NRA's radio show Cam & Company, Frontlines contributor Chuck Holton promoted an episode of his series featuring former CIA director James Woolsey. Called "The Fight for Light: The Coming Catastrophe," the episode largely speculated about the prospect of North Korea using a satellite to detonate a nuclear bomb in space to destroy the United States' power grid.
Frontlines is hosted by NRA board member and Iran-Contra figure Oliver North and takes viewers "inside the most dangerous threats and critical events concerning your freedom."
While promoting the North Korea EMP episode, Holton said on Cam & Company, "Like Admiral Woolsey said in that piece -- you know, this is the former director of the CIA, it's not just some old guy that we found on the street, OK? He knows what he is talking about. And they're estimating that 90 percent of Americans would die in the case of a large-scale grid down situation."
"You're talking about mass starvation, disease breaking out," Holton continued. "It's not just like people are going to die because their iPhone doesn't work anymore, you're talking about large scale -- people eating each other in the streets, because when you have these sort of systemic issues in our government of nearly half of the people in the United States receiving some sort of subsidy from the government, imagine what happens when all the EBT cards start flashing zeroes."
The NRA's claims about the chance of an EMP attack are greatly overblown. For one thing, North Korean satellites are not sophisticated enough to be used as reliable delivery systems for nuclear bombs (and look nothing like the highly-sophisticated satellite depicted as exploding over the United States in the Frontlines' episode.)
As Wired noted after "hysterical headlines" in 2012 about how North Korea had "finally managed to put an object into orbit around the Earth after 14 years of trying," North Korea's satellite is 2.5 feet by 3.5 feet tall and weighs just 220 pounds. While the satellite was supposed to transmit "scientific data when orbiting over the DPRK and the hymns of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il the rest of the time," it is apparently non-functional.
Woolsey, whom the NRA's considers its expert on EMP attacks, has also been criticized for his EMP claims and promotion of the conspiracy theory that Iraqis were responsible for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
In a 2013 article in Foreign Policy, nonproliferation expert Jeffrey Lewis criticized Woolsey for a Wall Street Journal op-ed suggesting the United States should launch pre-emptive strike on North Korea to prevent an EMP attack on the United States.
Even if an EMP attack somehow occurred, Lewis demonstrated how past experimentation suggests that the "EMP crowd" has baselessly speculated about what would actually happen during an attack:
Even if we understand how an electromagnetic pulse works and have data about the vulnerability of equipment, a modern system like a power grid or communications network presents just too complex a set of resiliencies and vulnerabilities.
The solution of the EMP Commission was simply to collect more data, essentially creating laundry lists of things that might go wrong. For example, the EMP Commission exposed 37 cars and 18 trucks to EMP effects in a laboratory environment. While EMP advocates claim the results of an EMP attack would be "planes falling from the sky, cars stalling on the roadways, electrical networks failing, food rotting," the actual results were much more modest. Of the 55 vehicles exposed to EMP, six at the highest levels of exposure needed to be restarted. A few more showed "nuisance" damage to electronics, such as blinking dashboard displays.
The NRA routinely fills its magazines with advertisements for bulk survival food and alternative power sources in case the grid goes offline.
Just before the 2014 elections, NRA leader Wayne LaPierre urged supporters to "vote your guns" while fear mongering over the prospect of a Russia, China or North Korea-led EMP attack that could kill "as much as 90 percent of the population of the U.S." by bringing about the reemergence of "Third World" diseases like "amoebic dysentery, typhoid, [and] cholera -- killing our youngest and frailest family members."
Right-wing media are attacking President Obama and Pope Francis for what they're characterizing as the hypocrisy and cowardice of their joint remarks at the White House marking the beginning of the pope's first-ever visit to the United States.
From the September 23 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co.:
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From the September 23 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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