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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.”

Poor Reporting on Front Group’s Shady Efforts

10:56 am in Uncategorized by nrdcactionfund

By Matt Howes

Originally posted on The MarkUp.

It’s hard to think how a recent article in the Akron Beacon Journal could have left out any more relevant information. The Journal is a reputable paper, and so we were surprised by the article’s flaws.

The article, entitled "Hundreds rally against taxes on oil and natural gas," has several key omissions including:

  • The article says that there were about 400 energy advocates, and that "Most arrived in four buses that delivered them from the Canton area. One arrived from Mount Vernon." What the article failed to mention, is that at least some of these buses were paid for by oil companies (or their front groups) and were filled with oil company staff. ThinkProgress has a great video clip about it here.

I’d encourage the Akron Beacon Journal to improve its reporting in the future.

Additional Reading:
Koch-Funded Oil Rally Calls Global Warming A ‘Hoax,’ Dismisses Oil Spill, And Attacks Democrats

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.

Congressional Candidates’ Views on Clean Energy, Climate Change: NJ-03

8:47 am in Uncategorized by nrdcactionfund

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

Today we’re looking at New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District, stretching from the Philadelphia suburbs in the west, across the undeveloped Pine Barrens (the country’s first National Reserve) to the Jersey Shore. In 2008, longtime state Senator John Adler was elected to his first term in Congress, winning the seat vacated by retiring 12-term Republican Congressman Jim Saxton. In November, Adler will be challenged by Republican Jon Runyan, a former offensive lineman for the Philadelphia Eagles.

A number of current and former New Jersey Republican Congressmen have been environmental champions – including Jim Saxton – but Runyan seems unlikely to follow in their footsteps. Despite playing for one of the greenest teams in professional sports, Runyan has been taking anti-environmental stands on the campaign trail. He has voiced support for drilling off of New Jersey’s shore, echoing Sarah Palin’sall-of-the-above” approach to energy policy. He has been repeating the right-wing Heritage Foundation’s fuzzy math about the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES). Runyan claims that ACES will cost “$1,870 for a family of four,” when in truth, according to the nonpartisan, unbiased experts at the Congressional Budget Office, it will cost “about $175 per household.”

Rep. Adler, on the other hand, has a long history as an environmental champion. In the New Jersey Senate, he sponsored the state’s Clean Cars Act and co-sponsored its landmark Global Warming Response Act.

In his first year in Congress, Adler received an impressive 93% rating from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), which means he voted the right way at nearly every opportunity. Most notably, Adler voted for the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) calling it “historic legislation” that will “spur the development of new sources of energy while confronting the threat of carbon pollution.” He added, ACES “will lower energy costs and create new jobs for New Jersey families and small businesses….This bill will make America safer. It is time that we stop sending money to Middle Eastern countries that fund terrorist activities. Furthermore, by preserving God’s earth, our children and grandchildren can continue to fish, enjoy the outdoors and breathe clean air."

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: CO-04

5:28 pm in Uncategorized by nrdcactionfund

This is the first 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 Colorado’s 4th Congressional District, covering the High Plains of northeast Colorado, plus growing cities like Greeley, Fort Collins and Loveland. Home to wheat and cattle farms, it’s a traditionally rural and reliably Republican area — John McCain carried the district in the last election. Democrat Betsy Markey bucked tradition in 2008, when she defeated three-term incumbent Republican Marilyn Musgrave. Markey is being challenged by Republican State Representative Cory Gardner, in what most describe as a tossup race.

As a freshman, Rep. Markey has been a solid environmental voter, receiving a 79% rating from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), meaning she voted pro-environment on four out of every five opportunities. Markey voted for the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), writing in the Denver Post, “Colorado is blessed with vast energy resources, and as the renewable energy sector is already thriving and growing in northern and eastern Colorado, this bill brings unique benefits to our region. In fact, our corner of Colorado stands to see greater benefits from this legislation than most other areas of the country.” And Markey hasn’t changed her tune on the campaign trail, writing on her website, “We have a unique opportunity at this time in our history to change the way we power our country and Colorado is poised to become a world leader in this effort….The future of renewable energy is vital to the future of our national security.”

Pretty much everything in Cory Gardner’s record in the Colorado legislature and in his campaigning suggest that he’d oppose clean energy measures and a healthy environment. According to Colorado Conservation Voters’ 2010 scorecard, Gardner voted against legislation promoting clean energy production in Colorado; even against assistance to homeowners for energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades; and against creating new jobs in clean energy. On the campaign trail Gardner has spent his time attending a $1,000-a-plate fundraiser co-hosted by a BP lobbyist, collecting campaign cash from companies like Valero Energy, (one of the major forces behind the effort to repeal California’s landmark clean energy and climate legislation), and lamenting that cap-and-trade legislation “will cost farmers and ranchers, industry in this country, more money than they can afford, and the result will be that they’ll move overseas.”

The truth, according the Department of Agriculture, is that the benefit of climate legislation to farmers “easily trump” the costs. The USDA analysis shows that ACES would create “annual net returns to farmers rang[ing] from $1 billion per year in 2015-20 to almost $15-20 billion in 2040-50.” Gardner is refusing to recognize the huge opportunities that clean energy could provide to the citizens of the 4th district. In stark contrast, Rep. Markey gets it. Voters should be aware of the clear differences between these candidates.

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.