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Which part of the SOTU was written by the oil industry? [quiz]

2:35 pm in Uncategorized by Jcoleman

America Honors Leaders Not Politicians -- End Global Warming
Test your BS meter with this one question quiz:

Which part of Obama’s State of the Union was written by the oil industry?

a) “America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades”
b) “natural gas – if extracted safely, it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change.”
c) fracking for oil and gas can be “sustainable”
d) all of the above

The answer is literally, “all of the above.”

During his State of The Union speech, President Obama said:

The all-of-the-above energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today, America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades.

The phrase “all of the above,” which the president used in his 2012 State of the Union address as well, is the creation of the oil industry’s most powerful lobbying and public relations arm, the American Petroleum Institute (API). According to the New York Times, the phrase was introduced in 2000 by API to advocate for oil drilling. API’s position at the time was “that an effective national energy policy must, at a minimum, allow for all of the above.” API, proud of the hegemony of their ideas, actually predicted the president would champion the pro-fossil fuel message in this most recent State of the Union address, the day before the speech was given.

After The American Petroleum Institute debuted the phrase in 2000, it was quickly picked up by republicans with wells to drill. John Mccain made it a central part of his 2008 campaign for president. Republicans in the house and senate used it to promote offshore drilling. The former governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, now under federal indictment for corruption, listed the phrase on his campaign website.

ExxonMobil, the most profitable corporation in world history, continues to use the phrase in advertisements today.

This isn’t just etymological trivia. The use of oil industry talking points by the president indicates how ingrained and powerful the fossil fuel industry is in the U.S’s energy conversation.

It also casts a revealing light on other pro-fossil energy comments made by President Obama in the speech, like promoting “Energy Independence.” The idea is, if we allow oil and gas corporations to exploit our land and water to extract fossil fuels, it will benefit the average citizen by lowering energy prices and reducing dependence of “foreign” energy supplies. This is completely false, as Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil will tell you. The oil industry wants to sell it’s product on an open market, to the highest bidder, no matter who that is. Currently there are plans for 25 Liquified Natural Gas export terminals in the US, and the American Petroleum Institute is spending millions of dollars to undo a decades old law that prohibits the export of crude oil. As more oil and gas is drilled from American soil and water, more gas and oil will be exported. We will continue to import oil and other goods from around the world, regardless of how much drilling happens in the U.S.

Another energy myth promoted by the Obama administration and the fossil fuel industry is natural gas as a bridge fuel to renewable energy.

The truth is that gas is primarily comprised of methane, an extremely powerful greenhouse gas. Some scientists believe that methane could be up to 105 times as destabilizing to the global climate as carbon dioxide. When fully burned, gas releases less CO2 than coal or oil, but currently huge amounts of methane are escaping unburned into the atmosphere. An increase in spending on gas infrastructure, like pipelines, Liquified Natural Gas export terminals, or vehicle refueling stations, is not a bridge to renewable energy. It is the same old fossil fuel infrastructure that poses serious threats to the earth’s climate and local environments. The U.S doesn’t need more spending on fossil fuels, it needs a real commitment to renewable energy, efficiency, and cutting carbon pollution.

Originally posted to Greenpeace by Jesse Coleman

This Is Why Chemical Plants Explode

6:13 pm in Uncategorized by Jcoleman

By John Deans, Toxics Campaigner for Greenpeace USA

With the media flurry since the West, Texas explosion it would seem that chemical disasters are somehow a new issue. Yet, communities who live near these facilities and workers who operate them have lived with these dangers for decades. President Obama, too, has talked about the need for action on this issue since his early days in politics. As early as his book The Audacity of Hope in 2006 he said “…let me suggest at least one area where we can act unilaterally and improve our sanding in the world – by perfecting our own democracy and leading by example. When we continue to spend tens of billions of dollars on weapons systems of dubious value but are unwilling to spend the money to protect highly vulnerable chemical plants in major urban centers, it becomes more difficult to get other countries to safeguard their nuclear power plants.”

Greenpeace is a member of The Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters which has just released a video with some of these quotes and a call for the President to live up to his sentiments, watch and share:

Consistent with these quotes and the many others was his historic executive order issued on August 1, 2013. This order directs his agencies who deal with chemical plants to use current regulatory authority to come up with better solutions to prevent chemical disasters. It just so happens there is a solution consistent with the President’s long-standing position.

The first three month period of the Executive Order is quickly coming to a close, ending on November 1st. This is the phase where agencies are drafting options, or possible new programs they could create to make communities safer from these dangers. The best solution is the one Greenpeace and our allies have been calling for: the safest chemical plants are the ones that use chemicals and processes that don’t carry with them a catastrophic disaster risk. For instance, in the case of West, Texas, if they had been using a safer form of ammonium nitrate, we might not have seen that massive explosion and the 15 people who tragically lost their lives might have been home with their families that night.

There are thousands of plants around the country that use these dangerous chemicals, whether it’s explosive, like ammonium nitrate, or a poison gas like chlorine or hydrofluoric acid. The shocking news is that most of these facilities can change to something safer, but most refuse to do so.

What can be done? Well, under the executive order the EPA could implement a new disaster prevention program using authority under the Clean Air Act. This would require facilities to implement safer alternatives where feasible (and it is feasible), which could reduce the disaster risk on a large scale. As a member of The Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters we need you to raise your voice and call the White House. Tell the President that you want him to direct the EPA to use their authority and make all of us safer. Don’t let the President break his record on chemical disaster prevention.

The only thing the coal industry recycles: PR talking points

5:15 pm in Uncategorized by Jcoleman

Originally posted to Grist by Joe Smyth, Greenpeace media Officer

Can coal be cleaned before its burned?

Among the highlights of President Obama’s climate change speech was an explicit recognition that polluting industries and the members of Congress who do their bidding will oppose climate action with the same talking points they have used for decades to try and block clean air standards.

Now, what you will hear from the special interests and their allies in Congress is that this will kill jobs and crush the economy and basically end free enterprise as we know it. And the reason I know you’ll hear those things is because that’s what they’ve said every time America sets clear rules and better standards for our air and our water and our children’s health. And every time, they’ve been wrong.

For example, in 1970, when we decided, through the Clean Air Act, to do something about the smog that was choking our cities — and by the way, most young people here aren’t old enough to remember what it was like, but you know, when I was going to school in 1979, 1980 in Los Angeles, there were days where folks couldn’t go outside. And the sunsets were spectacular — (laughter) — because — because of all the pollution in the air. But at the time when we passed the Clean Air Act to try to get rid of some of this smog, some of the same doomsayers were saying, new pollution standards will decimate the auto industry. Guess what? Didn’t happen. Our air got cleaner.

In 1990, when we decided to do something about acid rain, they said our electricity bills would go up; the lights would go off; businesses around the country would suffer, I quote, “a quiet death.”

None of it happened, except we cut acid rain dramatically. The problem with all these tired excuses for inaction is that it suggests a fundamental lack of faith in American business and American ingenuity.

These dishonest industry attacks on clean air rules over the decades have taken many forms, from lobbying to public relations efforts. But a primary tactic for these efforts has been, and remains, well funded advertising campaigns. A collection of some of these ads highlights the pattern of scare tactics used by the coal industry to try and limit regulation since the 1970s.

In reality, these industry attack ads are more about spooking politicians in Washington DC than actually convincing voters – that’s why they show up so frequently in newspapers read on Capitol Hill, and at Metro stations and billboards in DC. In fact, the coal industry itself recognizes that its advertising efforts during the 2012 election failed to sway voters, as the National Mining Association’s Luke Popovich admitted:

Anyway, ‘war on coal’ never resonated with much conviction among ordinary Americans. For them, the EPA keeps the air and water clean, their kids safe.

It’s not surprising that Americans aren’t buying the coal industry’s PR – after all, polls show that most Americans don’t want more coal power, while huge majorities favor increased development of clean energy like wind and solar. To try and get around this, the coal industry runs much of its PR efforts through front groups with misleading names. For example, the claim that Obama mentioned, that businesses would suffer “a quiet death,” came from an industry group formed to fight the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments called the “Clean Air Working Group.” Today, the “American Coalition of Clean Coal Electricity” (ACCCE) leads the coal industry’s advertising efforts, while the “Electric Reliability Coordinating Council” lobbies against clean air rules on behalf of Arch Coal and a few coal heavy utilities. In the Pacific Northwest, where the coal industry hopes to build export terminals to ship taxpayer owned coal to Asia, the coal industry uses Edelman, the world’s largest PR firm, to push its agenda under a front group called the “Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports.” And again, despite the millions they’ve spent on ads, opposition to coal export proposals is growing.

The coal industry remains entrenched in the halls of Congress and K street lobby firms, and we can expect more of the same old tactics from this desperate industry as carbon pollution limits move forward, and communities continue to organize against coal plants and export proposals. And while their ads might be a little more sophisticated than in the past, it’s increasingly clear that its PR efforts still aren’t swaying many people outside Washington DC.

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Tea Party ties to Koch Brothers ignored in IRS Scandal

10:48 am in Uncategorized by Jcoleman

10 out of 11 Tea Party spokespeople quoted in major news outlets regarding the IRS scandal have ties to the Koch funded Americans for Prosperity.

Caricature of David Koch

David Koch & his brother Charles are the builders of the Tea Party, a fact overlooked by many mainstream media sources.

The Internal Revenue Service, not the most popular government agency to begin with, has been in the midst of a scatological squall for the past 3 weeks over their treatment of tea party groups. According to an agency spokesperson, organizations garnered additional scrutiny of their applications for non-profit status for having “Tea Party, Patriot, or 9/12” in the application materials. Non-profit status is granted by the IRS for “social welfare organizations” and federal law puts legal limits to the amount of overtly political things you can do if you are applying to be a non-profit, and thus tax-exempt.

In the coverage of this story, now a scandal, there are a couple of important facts that some of the reporting has missed.

First is the fact that the tea party is a creation of enterprising political and public relations professionals, constructed to accomplish a political purpose. A study published in the Tobacco Control Journal actually traced the origins of the tea party to “free-market” groups founded by tobacco corporations and the oil industry billionaires David and Charles Koch.

According to researchers at UC San Francisco:

“Rather than being a grassroots movement that spontaneously developed in 2009, the Tea Party organizations have had connections to the tobacco companies since the 1980s. The cigarette companies funded and worked through Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), the predecessor of Tea Party organizations, Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, to accomplish their economic and political agenda.”

Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), was founded in 1984 by the Koch brothers.

There is even a tea party website registered to a Koch group in 2005, long before the conservative outcry we now know as the tea party began.

The second thing to keep in mind is that the tea party is still controlled by enterprising political and public relations professionals, funded by the David and Charles Koch. In coverage of the IRS scandal, there were 11 people who were involved in tea party groups quoted about IRS scrutiny. Of those 11, 10 have substantial ties to Americans for Prosperity (AFP). AFP (also founded and funded by the Kochs), is the direct descendent of CSE – one of the groups who registered a tea party site in 2005. Of those 10 with ties to AFP, 2 actually work for the organization currently. All 10 have received aid from AFP which included help with messaging and communication.

The tea party groups that were scrutinized by the IRS are not just separate grassroots citizen groups unfairly accused of political shenanigans, as the Koch associated spokespeople in the media would have you believe. They are one part of a wider political strategy, funded and managed by a very wealthy few. they have uniform and coordinated messages, such as attacking climate science and opposing environmental regulations.

As this IRS scandal progresses, it is important to keep in mind that many of the tea party groups in question deserve to have their non-profit, tax-exempt status questioned. The New York Times has already found that several tea party groups investigated by the IRS were engaged in activities that are illegal for tax exempt groups.

For the record, Greenpeace and Rainforest Action Network experienced expensive and debilitating audits by the IRS during George W Bush’s presidency. Those audits were most likely at the behest of an Exxon funded front group.

Tea Party Spokespeople with ties to Americans For Prosperity (AFP)

Tom Zawistowski: quoted in the Wall Street Journal and other sources

Margie Dresher: Quoted by ABC news

  • Currently works for AFP

Toby Marie Walker: Quoted by Business Insider

  • earned the “Watchdog of the Month” award in March and the “Tea Party Leader of the Year -2010” from Americans for Prosperity

Jennifer Stefano: Quoted by ABC news

Carol Waddell: Quoted by ABC news

Tim Savaglio: Quoted by the Associated Press

Jaime Radtke: Quoted in ABQ Journal, Newsday

Larry Norvig: Quoted by CNN

  • Norvig’s tea party group is part of AFP campaigns
  • Norvig’s tea party group in Virginia runs AFP funded campaigns and displays AFP messaging prominently on their website

Tim Curtis: Quoted by CNN

Susan McLaughlin: Quoted in Reuters

  • AFP ran tactics and messaging strategy training for Mclaughlin’s group in Liberty Township, Ohio.
  • McLaughlin served on the Romney campaign’s Conservative Leadership Coalition with representatives from AFP

Jay Devereaux: Quoted by Fox News

  • The only tea party spokesman quoted in the media with no obvious ties to AFP

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