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BP’s Efforts to Shape Curriculum in American Schools

1:48 pm in Uncategorized by nrdcactionfund

By Matt Howes

Originally posted on The MarkUp.

The Sacramento Bee reported yesterday that “BP, the energy giant responsible for the largest offshore oil spill in history, helped develop [California’s] framework for teaching more than 6 million students about the environment.”

That’s right; the same people who brought you the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster are helping to shape the education of millions of students. In fact, the environmental education curriculum will be used in “kindergarten through 12th-grade classes in more than 1,000 school districts statewide.”

The thought of BP – or any big oil company – playing a role in designing education on environmental issues makes me very nervous. In California, we’ve got Texas oil companies spending millions of dollars trying to kill our landmark clean energy and climate law. That’s bad enough; we certainly don’t need a British oil company writing our kids’ education materials.

Dollie Forney, a mother of three from San Jose said, “This is outrageous. Now our schools and officials are so cash-strapped and unimaginative and desperate we are allowing Big Oil to write our children’s curriculum? "

The fact is, over the years, BP has rightly earned the title of having “the worst safety and environmental record of any oil company operating in America.” Of course, that’s not much of an honor, especially when you consider how BP came by its miserable environmental reputation. This includes being slapped with “the two largest fines in OSHA history — $87.43 million and $21.36 million — for willful negligence that led to the deaths of 15 workers and injured 170 others in a March 2005 refinery explosion in Texas.” BP also “agreed to pay a $50 million fine and plead guilty to a felony violation of the Clean Air Act, and was fined “a total of $21 million for manipulating the California electricity market, Enron-style.”

It’s not a pretty picture. All of which raises the question, why would anyone even think of giving this company a say in designing education materials on the environment, of all topics? As Lisa Graves of the Center for Media and Democracy says, “I’d hate to see how a section in future textbooks mentioning the BP oil spill will look.”

Congressional Candidates’ Views on Clean Energy, Climate Change: OH-15

8:56 am in Uncategorized by nrdcactionfund

This is the sixth article in a continuing series by the NRDC Action Fund on the environmental stances of candidates in key races around the country.

Today, we examine Ohio’s 15th Congressional District, which includes downtown Columbus and parts of neighboring Franklin, Madison and Union counties. Columbus is home to the Ohio State University and has the highest proportion of young professionals, aged 25-34, of any city in the country. In 2008, Mary Jo Kilroy became the first Democrat elected in the district since 1982, when she narrowly (by less than 2,500 votes) defeated Republican Steve Stivers. Kilroy and Stivers will be matched up again this fall.

Since coming to Washington, Rep. Kilroy has consistently voted for environmental protections and moving America to a clean energy economy. In her first year in the House, she received a perfect 100% rating from the League of Conservation Voters, which means she voted the right way on every environmental vote. This includes voting for the historic American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), the first climate bill to ever pass in a chamber of Congress. In a statement following the vote, Kilroy said “The clean energy economy is the future of our country and of central Ohio…We are seeing the consequences of not investing in the next big idea with our auto industry. [ACES] secures Ohio’s strong position to make the solar panels and wind turbines that will power our nation in the very near future. It will also benefit Ohio’s agricultural sector, which can provide the plant material needed for the bio mass products that boost energy production.” She added, “This bill puts the central consumers first and insulates them from shifts in prices. For less than a trip to the movie theater, Americans are going to create 1.7 million (jobs), end the stranglehold foreign countries have on energy and work to save our planet.”

In sharp contrast, Steve Stivers falsely calls cap and trade a “job killer” that will lead to higher electricity bills for Ohio families. In reality, strong clean energy and climate legislation would create a net of 1.9 million jobs, according to in-depth study by the University of Illinois, Yale University and the University of California. In Ohio, this would mean 61,000 new, good-paying jobs created over the next ten years. And, as analysis by the experts in the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office shows, the effect of ACES on electricity bills will be, as Rep. Kilroy said, less than going to the movies once a month.

Stivers doesn’t just stop at opposing clean energy and climate legislation, he also “disagree[s]” with the statement, “Man-made global warming is a scientific fact and immediate action to lower CO2 emissions is necessary to prevent an environmental catastrophe.” And, if denying the unassailable science behind climate change wasn’t enough, Stivers also opposes our right to hold the government accountable in court for protecting our public health and environment.

Stivers’ strong anti-environmental views are not so surprising when you consider the sources of his campaign cash, such as oil and coal services giant Koch Industries, Murray Energy and Rep. Joe Barton’s Texas Freedom PAC. What’s wrong with these companies and PACs?

Koch Industries is privately owned by Charles and David Koch, who, according to Greenpeace, have “quietly funneled [$50 million] to climate-denial front groups that are working to delay policies and regulations aimed at stopping global warming.” Robert Murray, the head of Murray Energy, is an outspoken climate denier, who said in testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works committee that global warming is “one of the biggest con jobs in the history of the Republic.” Murray continued to criticize the legacy of Rachel Carson, saying that “She and her environmental followers killed millions of human beings around the World with the ban on DDT.” Murray concluded by claiming that climate change legislation will “result in no environmental benefit.” Finally, the Texas Freedom PAC is headed by Joe Barton, who infamously apologized to BP, and who also called the BP escrow fund that will pay businesses that lost money because of the Gulf disaster a “$20 billion shakedown.”

These are a few of Stivers’ big donors, all major polluters or supporters of major polluters, which makes you wonder what they think they’re getting for their large donations to the Steve Stivers for Congress campaign.

The NRDC Action Fund believes that it is important for the public in general, and the voters of specific Congressional districts, be aware of this information as they weigh their choices for November.

Congressional Candidates’ Views on Clean Energy, Climate Change: OH-01

9:15 am in Uncategorized by nrdcactionfund

This is the third article in a continuing series by the NRDC Action Fund on the environmental stances of candidates in key races around the country.

Today, we examine Ohio’s 1st Congressional District, which encompasses Cincinnati and parts of nearby suburbs. Cincinnati is home to the Reds, but in the House it’s represented by the self-described "raging moderate," Democrat Steve Driehaus. A longtime member of the Ohio legislature, in 2008, Driehaus won election to the House seat his father unsuccessfully sought 40 years ago. This November he is being challenged by former Republican Congressman Steve Chabot, whom Driehaus unseated in 2008 despite being outspent by nearly $1 million.

When a district is home to the company that makes products like "Mr. Clean," one would hope that its Congressional representative would champion clean energy. Rep. Driehaus has been a reliable environmental champion. In his first year in Congress, he received a perfect score from the League of Conservation Voters, meaning that he cast a pro-environmental vote at every opportunity. Most notably, Driehaus voted for the historic American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), the first global warming bill to ever pass a chamber of Congress. After the vote, Driehaus said, “Ohio has the resources and workforce to be at the cutting edge as we move our nation toward a clean energy economy, and [ACES] will promote investments that will bring the potential of clean energy development into our community…This bill will help us end our addiction to imported oil, which threatens our security and sends too much American money overseas. I’m proud to stand with my colleagues today to do the right thing for the future of America’s economy and security.”

In sharp contrast, in 2008 — Chabot’s last year in Congress — the League of Conservation Voters gave him a bottom-of-the-barrel 8% rating on environmental issues. Chabot earned his low rating by voting against renewable energy, against removing oil and gas exploration subsidies, against keeping a moratorium on offshore oil drilling, against raising fuel economy standards for vehicles, against prohibiting oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and against implementing the Kyoto Protocol. In short, Steve Chabot voted against the environment at pretty much every opportunity.

Chabot’s position hasn’t changed since leaving Congress. On the campaign trail, he’s said that he “strongly oppose[s] cap and trade,” citing fuzzy math claiming that it will "cost the average American family an additional $1,770 a year in higher energy costs.” The truth, according to the experts in the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), is that the net economy-wide cost of the cap-and-trade program would be about $175 per household" — or one-tenth of what Steve Chabot is claiming.

Furthermore, the CBO’s estimate doesn’t include the benefits of reducing global warming, such as mitigating the record-setting heat and drought conditions we’re already seeing around the world.

And just as important, Chabot is ignoring the positive job impact of passing ACES, which would create an estimated 1.9 million jobs, according to a study by the University of Illinois, Yale University and the University of California.” In Ohio, this would mean 61,000 new good-paying jobs created over the next ten years.

Chabot doesn’t just oppose legislation to move to clean energy, he mocks the unassailable science demonstrating global warming. On his blog, Chabot claims that the absence of hurricanes hitting the United States in 2009 represented an “inconvenient truth” to “environmental alarmists” on global warming. And he promotes conspiracy theories, such as “climategate” — a non-scandal pushed by climate change deniers and fossil fuel interests, now completely debunked.

Chabot’s fiercely anti-environmental views are not so surprising when you consider the sources of his campaign cash – Rep. Joe Barton’s Texas Freedom PAC ($6,000) and oil and coal services giant Koch Industries ($5,000), for instance. Rep. Barton is one of big oil’s best friends in Congress. You may remember his recent apology to BP when it set aside money to pay small businesses that have lost money because of the Gulf disaster. And Koch Industries is notorious for having “quietly funneled [$50 million] to climate-denial front groups that are working to delay policies and regulations aimed at stopping global warming is no joking matter.”

The NRDC Action Fund believes that it is important for the public in general, and the voters of specific Congressional districts, be aware of this information as they weigh their choices for November.