On September 5, in a landslide election, Tony Abbot became Australia’s new Prime Minister—restoring the center-right Liberal-National coalition after six years of leftward economic polices. Conservatives the world over are looking to learn from Abbott. In the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Tom Switzer, sums up the “resounding victory” this way: “Abbott did the very thing so many US Republicans and British Tories have shied away from in recent years: He had the courage to broaden the appeal of a conservative agenda rather than copy the policies of his opponents. As a result, Australians enjoyed a real choice at the polls.”
Conservatives have a right to be rejoicing. As Jerry Bowyer points out in Forbes: “the Anglosphere is now post progressive. The English speaking nations of the world: England, New Zealand, Canada and now Australia are governed by conservatives. America stands apart from them as the sole remaining major leftist-governed power in the Anglo world.” He then points out how the English-speaking peoples “tend to move in a sort of partial political sync with one another.”
While this should sound alarms for liberals, the real panic is with the global warming alarmists.
Abbott is said to have run a “tight campaign”—though he was “remarkably vague over his economic plans.” The Financial Times reports: “Abbott was much clearer on his intention to scrap a carbon tax and a levy on miners’ profits.”
Abbott ran an almost single-issue campaign saying: “More than anything, this election is a referendum on the carbon tax.” While there are debates as to whether or not he will have the votes needed in the Senate to overturn the Labor Party’s policies (though it looks like he can do it), the will of the people couldn’t be clearer. As Switzer observes: “what changed the political climate was climate change.” In Slate.com, James West calls the election “the culmination of a long and heated national debate about climate change.” Abbot has previously stated: “Climate change is crap.”
Add to the Abbot story, the news about the soon-to-be-published Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s “fifth assessment report,” which “dials back on the alarm,” and you’ve got bad news for alarmists. Addressing Abbott’s win, West writes: “Politicians enthusiastic about putting a price on carbon in other countries must be looking on in horror.”
It is not just the politicians who are “looking on in horror.” It is everyone who has bought into, as the WSJ calls them, “the faddish politics of climate change”—those who believe we can power the world on rainbows, butterflies, and fairy dust are panicked. Their entire world view is being threatened.
This was clearly evident at last week’s hearing in Santa Fe, New Mexico, regarding the proposed change in compensation for electricity generated by rooftop solar installation. The hearing was scheduled in a room typically used for Public Regulatory Commission meetings. Well before the scheduled start time, it became clear that a bigger auditorium was needed—and it was filled to capacity. The majority was, obviously, there in support of solar—they were carrying signs. Thirty-nine of them gave public comment in opposition to the proposed rule changes. After each comment, they hooted, cheered and waved their signs—until the Chairman prohibited the sign waving. Two of the women went by only one name “Lasita” and “Athena,” with no last name—linking themselves to some goddess. Several referenced Germany’s success with renewable energy.
They were organized, rabid in their support, and intimidating to anyone who dared disagree. At one point, the Sierra Club representative, took control of the hearing and, completely ignoring the Chairman’s instructions, stood in the front of the room and, with hand-waving gestures, got everyone who was there in opposition to the proposed change to stand up and wave their signs. A smattering of individuals remained seated. Three of us spoke in favor of the proposed change. I brought up those who’d held up Germany as a model to follow and posited that they didn’t know the full story.
At the conclusion of the meeting, a petite woman marched up to me and demanded: “What do you do?” I calmly told her that I advocate on behalf of energy and the energy industry. “Oil?” she sneered. “Yes.” “Coal?” “Yes.” “Gas?” “Yes.” “Nuclear?” “Yes.” “It figures,” she hissed as she went off in a huff. When I approached my vehicle in the parking lot, I feared my tires might have been slashed. They weren’t.
Australia’s election was early this month. Germany’s is later—September 22. As climate change played a central role in Australia’s outcome, green policies are expected to be front and center in Germany’s election.
In an article titled: “Ballooning costs threaten Merkel’s bold energy overhaul,” Reuters points out that Merkel’s priority, assuming she wins a third term, “will be finding a way to cap the rising cost of energy.” “In the current election campaign,” Der Spiegel reports, “the federal government would prefer to avoid discussing its energy policies entirely.” Later, addressing Germany’s renewable energy policy it states: “all of Germany’s political parties are pushing for change. … If the government sticks to its plans, the price of electricity will literally explode in the coming years.”
German consumers pay the highest electricity prices in Europe. “Surveys show people are concerned that the costs of the energy transformation will drive down living standards.” Spiegel claims: “Today, more than 300,000 households a year are seeing their power shut off because of unpaid bills.” Stefan Becker, with the Catholic charity Caritas, wants to prevent his clients from having their electricity cut off. He says: “After sending out a few warning notices, the power company typically sends someone to the apartment to shut off the power –leaving the customers with no functioning refrigerator, stove or bathroom fan. Unless they happen to have a camping stove, they can’t even boil water for a cup of tea. It’s like living in the Stone Age.” This is known as Germany’s “energy poverty.”
Because of “aggressive and reckless expansion of wind and solar power,” as Der Spiegel calls it, “Government advisors are calling for a completely new start.” Gunther Oettinger, European Energy Commissioner, advised caution when he said Germany should not “unilaterally overexpose itself to climate protection efforts.”
While the solar supporters in Santa Fe touted the German success story—“more and more wind turbines are turning in Germany, and solar panels are baking in the sun”—“Germany’s energy producers in 2012 actually released more climate-damaging carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than in 2011.” Surprisingly, according to Der Spiegel, Germany’s largest energy producer, E.on, is being told not to shut down older and inefficient coal-fired units. Many of the “old and irrelevant brown coal power stations” are now “running at full capacity.”
Interestingly, one of the proposed solutions for Germany’s chaotic energy system is much like what has been proposed in New Mexico and Arizona. Reuters writes: “instead of benefiting from a rise in green energy, they are straining under the subsidies’ cost and from surcharges.” The experts propose a system more like Sweden’s, in which “the government defines the objective but not the method.” Der Spiegel explains: “The municipal utilities would seek the lowest possible price for their clean electricity. This would encourage competition between offshore and terrestrial wind power, as well as between solar and biomass, and prices would fall, benefiting customers.” If implemented, the Swedish model “would eliminate the more than 4,000 different subsidies currently in place.”
The Financial Times reports: “Nine of Europe’s biggest utilities have joined forces to warn that the EU’s energy policies are putting the continent’s power supplies at risk.” It states: “One of the biggest problems was overgenerous renewable energy subsidies that had pushed up costs for energy consumers and now needed to be cut.”
“It is only gradually becoming apparent,” writes Der Spiegel, “how the renewable energy subsidies redistribute money from the poor to the more affluent, like when someone living in small rental apartment subsidizes a homeowner’s roof-mounted solar panels through his electricity bill.” Sounds just like what I said in my public comment at the PRC hearing in Santa Fe.
Australia’s election changed leaders. Germany’s election will likely keep the same leader, but Merkel “has promised to change but not abolish the incentive system right after the election.”
While other countries are changing course and shedding the unsustainable policies, America stands apart from them by continuing to push, as the Washington Post editorial board encourages, building “the cost of pollution into the price of energy through a simple carbon tax or other market-based mechanism.” President Obama’s nominee to chair the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Ron Binz, believes in regulation and incentives to force more renewables and calls natural gas a “dead end.”
In a September 5 press release with the headline: “Administration Should Learn From Australia’s Carbon Tax Failure Before Committing US to Same,” Senator David Vitter (R-LA) says: “We can add Australia as an example to the growing list of failed carbon policies that are becoming so abundant in Europe.”
It is said: “The wise man learns from the mistakes of others, the fool has to learn from his own.” Sadly, it appears that the US has not learned to beware of the foolish politics of climate change.
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.]]>
“A democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency.”
– Barack Obama
This year’s 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act naturally invited plenty of analysis, review, criticism and praise. But too little attention has been paid to two key transparency issues that threaten to erode the credibility and effectiveness of this landmark environmental law. These are issues that undermine legitimate conservation efforts, waste scarce conservation dollars, and impose ineffective regulatory burdens on the public. In the worst cases, they can harm the very species they were intended to protect. But there are solutions to these problems that I think both sides of the aisle can find agreement on.
Most ESA Decisions are Not Based Upon Publicly-Available Data.
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) requires that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) make decisions to list species as threatened or endangered, and enact regulatory actions to aid the recovery of species, “solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available.” Although referred to as data, the USFWS actually relies on published and unpublished studies, and professional opinion, rather than the underlying data the cited studies are based upon (see http://www.fws.gov/informationquality/ and the Department of Interior’s Scientific Integrity policies (DOI 2011)). Despite having adopted the Office and Management and Budget Information Quality Guidelines, which require transparency in studies used in regulatory decision-making, currently neither the USFW, nor the National Marine Fisheries Service, have a requirement that data relied upon in decision-making be publicly available.
Resource agency reliance on the papers and reports which summarize results and contain the opinions of scientists, rather than the underlying data, as specifically required by the ESA, has created an untenable situation where:
1) Far-reaching ESA listing and regulatory decisions are being made without an opportunity to independently analyze the underlying data and assumptions upon which the cited studies are based.
2) Resource agencies have effectively replaced the scientific method in implementation of the ESA (i.e., data, hypothesis testing, and reproducible results) with the opinions expressed by the authors of the cited studies, especially when those opinions are erroneously represented as if they were rigorously tested against the data.
What are the effects of this lack of transparency on the public? When data are not publicly accessible, legitimate scientific inquiry is effectively eliminated, since no third party can independently reproduce the results. This action puts the evidentiary basis of some resource agency decisions outside the realm of science and in clear violation of the Information Quality Act. Furthermore, it has the effect of concentrating power, money, and regulatory authority in the hands of those who control access to the data.
For affected members of the public, whether they are hikers, horseback riders, hunters, farmers, or industry, when regulations are imposed (via ESA listing, critical habitat designations, or biological opinions) but the data are not public, it is analogous to being accused of a crime, but the accused is never allowed to see the evidence. That is neither transparent nor democratic; it relies on authority.
There are sound reasons to question such authority. Key studies used in decision-making on the greater sage grouse, Gunnison sage grouse, boreal toad, Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, coastal California gnatcatcher, delta smelt, desert bighorn sheep and hookless cactus have one of more of the following: mathematical errors, missing data, errors of omission, biased sampling, undocumented methods, simulated data used when more accurate empirical data were available, discrepancies between reported results and data, misrepresentation of methods, arbitrarily shifting thresholds, inaccurate mapping, selective use of data, subjective interpretation of results, fabricated data substituted for missing data, or no data at all. Clearly, the agency’s scientific peer review process that should have caught these errors is not as effective as it is portrayed to be.
It has been my experience that when data has not been provided to the agencies, then obtaining access to data held by researchers, even after publication, can be difficult, if not impossible.
As the following responses to data requests illustrate, seeking data can frequently resembles a shell game:
“It is very possible that this data set does not exist any longer.”
“The USFWS data was deliberately provided in a format that would not facilitate a
detailed analysis by those unfamiliar with the manner in which it was collected.”
“Unfortunately we cannot provide you with the raw data you have requested at this time.”
“We categorically do not release this information to anyone including the United States Fish & Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game.”
While some researchers have been responsive to data requests, others simply ignore data requests altogether. Some researchers apparently feel a need to control access to the data, determining if, when, and to whom it will be released, sometimes years after the data were collected. However, many of these studies were permitted and/or funded by the U.S, Fish and Wildlife Service (or other sources of federal funding) through grants, contracts, or cooperative agreements. Therefore, it follows that the data should be public, yet there is no consistent requirement from the USFWS that the data be public or provided to the agency.
This problem is more widespread than one might initially think. In a notable case, colleagues at the California Fish and Game had to track down and net-gun endangered desert bighorn sheep from a helicopter so they could manually download data from the GPS radio collars (that provide precise locations at regular time intervals). They were forced into this extreme course of action because a researcher had reset the access codes on the collars so only he could download the data remotely, and the researcher refused to share the data with the CDFG, who needed it for management of the population. Funding for purchase of the GPS radio collars was provided by the USFWS for use by the researcher.
In two other cases, the coastal California gnatcatcher and desert bighorn sheep in the Peninsular Ranges, a court order was required to obtain the data.
Clearly, the public interest in having timely access to data overrides perceived ownership of data by some researchers. As noted by ESA scholars, Fischman and Meretsky (2001):
“In addition to the rapid responses often needed to recover endangered species, most research in conservation biology is also distinguished by a dependence on government resources. The funding for research; the scientific permits allowing researchers to collect, harass, or harm animals; the permission for access to public lands; and the regulation controlling activities to ensure continued existence of imperiled species all point to the pervasive public interest in the resulting information. This public claim for access countervails the customary control researchers exert over data they collect.”
In my experience, recovery of threatened and endangered species is most effective when there is active scientific debate and discussion about the best courses of action to identify and ameliorate threats, and how to devise more effective conservation measures. Such urgency requires open and timely access to data.
A solution to this issue is neither difficult nor costly. There are publicly accessible data repositories, as well as traditional museum and library archives where data may be archived without charge. All that is needed is a requirement the data be archived prior to the agency relying on the report or paper in its decision making, and that the data (both raw and final data sets) and methods are provided in sufficient detail to allow third party reproduction.
Are there situations where public access to data should be limited, such as revealing the locations of endangered species? In most cases, this threat is overstated. However, in those situations where there is a legitimate concern (i.e., where poaching has been clearly documented), the risk should be weighed against the potential benefits of more effective management aiding species recovery. If the risk of disclosure is real, then the solution is to allow only “narrowly drafted exceptions to the general rule of open access” as “broad exceptions tempt agencies and other decision-makers to shield their programs from criticism” (Fischman and Meretsky 2001).
Peer Review is No Panacea.
Peer review is a useful but imperfect filter on information quality. However, it is not a substitute for public access to the underlying data that allows for an independent, third party review.
Despite the best of intentions, there are no guarantees that peer reviewers will be provided access to data, or that if data is provided, it will be used in developing their review. As previously noted, peer reviewers do not always catch errors of significance. Moreover, as detailed in my previous testimony to the Committee (Ramey 2007), if there was a bias or selective presentation of information by the USFWS to peer reviewers, the outcome of the peer review can be less than objective. And finally, despite agency assurances, there is no guarantee that reviewers be will free of conflict of interest or will deliver an impartial assessment. The reasons for this are summarized in the following excerpt from my recent paper, On The Origin of Specious Species (Ramey 2012):
“The problems that lead to these issues [with peer review] are three fold. First, the number of experts involved with a particular species is often limited. Whole careers are sometimes dedicated to the study of a species (or subspecies or population), and a listing can produce what is perceived as needed “protection” for that species under the ESA. Additionally, ESA listings can have the effect of putting these experts into positions of power, money, and authority, through their roles on Recovery Teams, Habitat Conservation Plans, and consulting as USFWS “approved biologists.” Because few ESA-listed species are ever delisted, this guarantees a virtual lifetime of employment on one’s favorite species. Thus, experts used in peer review may also be advocates, or have an emotional, ideological, or financial stake in the proposed listing. “
“Second, a network of individuals who work on a particular species (or issues common to several species) can form powerful “species cartels.” These social networks can influence the peer review process, provide a united front to advocate for particular decisions, and repress the publication of information that does not agree with their positions.” It has been my experience that the FWS and NMFS typically rely on species specialists, which exacerbates this problem.
“And third, the use of other federal biologists in peer review, especially those from the USFWS and the USGS-Biological Resources Division (USGS-BRD), cannot be viewed as conflict free. The increasing codependency of the USFWS and USGS-BRD, results in a growing and previously unrecognized conflict of interest in science used in support of ESA decisions and the use of USGS biologists as peer reviewers on information used in ESA decisions. This extends to the role of USGS biologists who serve as editors and reviewers for scientific journals, and who peer review highly influential scientific information used in ESA decisions.”
To avoid the pitfalls of peer review described above, the solutions are relatively straightforward:
1) To ensure that peer reviews are transparent, conducted in an objective and consistent manner, that the underlying data are both available and analyzed by reviewers, and that potential conflicts of interest are clearly identified, accountability is required: make failure to comply with Information Quality Act an arbitrary and capricious action on the part of the agency.
2) Ensure that that all agency sponsored and administered peer reviews, including those conducted internally by biologists at the USGS, be public information if they are relied upon by the USFWS or NMFS.
3) Require that the USFWS and NMFS identify and make available online all information including contrary information that it has received.
The American people pay for data collection and research on threatened and endangered species through grants, contracts, cooperative agreements, and administration of research permits. They pay the salaries of agency staff who collect data, author, edit, and publish papers based upon those data. They, for the most part, are willingly regulated based on those data. It is essential that the American people have the right to full access to those data in a timely manner, as it is in the public interest. A requirement that data and methods be provided in sufficient detail to allow third party reproduction would raise the bar on the quality and reproducibility of the science used in ESA decisions and benefit species recovery. Failure to ensure this level of transparency will undermine the effectiveness of the very programs that the data were gathered for in the first place.
It should not take a subpoena (or intrepid, net-gun toting state biologists leaping from helicopters) to obtain data that should be public under the ESA.
Accountability is needed in the implementation of Information Quality Act, particularly in regard to public access to data and the peer review process.
Qualified third party reviews have the potential to reduce the workload of agencies, and improve the caliber of regulatory actions.
The ongoing “bio-blitzkrieg” of ESA listing petitions, lawsuits, and settlement agreements does a disservice to bona-fide conservation efforts. Every time another species is added to the list of threatened and endangered species, or a new deadline is imposed by litigants, the resources to recover species becomes more thinly spread. Throwing more money at the problem is not the solution, nor is allowing decision making by fiat. The solution is to ensure that the scientific evaluations are done properly the first time, and that means relying upon data and objective application of the scientific method, as required by the ESA.
I am an independent scientist with 33 years of experience in conservation, research and management of threatened and endangered wildlife. Having worked on many species, including peregrine falcons; California condors; desert, Sierra Nevada, and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep; argali sheep of Asia; meadow jumping mice; sage grouse; delta smelt and African elephants, I am well aware of the scientific issues surrounding species listing and recovery. I earned a Ph.D. from Cornell University in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; a master’s degree from Yale University in Wildlife Ecology; and a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Natural History from the University of California Santa Cruz, and postdoctoral experience included research at University of Colorado, Boulder and as a visiting scientist at the Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species at the San Diego Zoo. After five years as Curator of Vertebrate Zoology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, I served as a consulting Science Advisor to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Interior in Washington, D.C. I am member of the Caprinae Specialist Group at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and serve as a science advisor to the Council for Environmental Science, Accuracy, and Reliability (CESAR). I consult on endangered species scientific issues and conduct scientific research with Wildlife Science International, Inc.]]>
Despite millions already spent on modifications, fully functional coal-fueled power plants are being shut down—not because they are not needed but due to ideology. In fact, the Energy Information Administration predicts that electricity demand will continue to grow 0.9 percent per year until 2040 as we plug in to electricity that is becoming increasingly expensive.
One such example is the San Juan Generating Station in New Mexico’s Four Corners area that provides about 60 percent of PNM’s (New Mexico’s primary electricity provider) total electric generation in the state. The coal-fueled plant has four generating units—two of which are being shut down due to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. The Albuquerque Journal reports that there will be “rate hikes to allow PNM to recover costs associated with the changes at San Juan.”
The San Juan Generating Station is scheduled for closure in 2017, but the process of replacing the 340 megawatts that will be lost has already started. PNM wants to fill the need with a new natural-gas plant at the same site and by bringing in more nuclear power from the Palo Verde Generating Station in Arizona, in which PNM is already part owner. Environmentalists oppose PNM’s plan and are pushing for more renewables such as wind and solar—which will “drive costs way up.”
But the problem with renewables isn’t just the cost or the intermittency. The problem is that environmentalists also oppose what it takes to get the natural resources needed to build, for example, a wind turbine.
The Northwest Mining Association lists the metals and minerals needed to build one 3 megawatt wind turbine, which includes: 335 tons of steel and 4.7 tons of copper. (To replace the 340 megawatts of electricity generated at San Juan with wind would take 113 three-megawatt wind turbines—or 37,855 tons of steel and 1598 tons of copper. Since each megawatt produced requires 198 acres, 67,320 acres would be covered with wind turbines. And these figures assume “nameplate” capacity—which means they are producing electricity 24/7. Realistically, wind turbines produce power at 25-30 percent capacity. Real numbers for steel, copper, land, etc., would be 3 to 4 times higher.) Most people don’t think about where the metals and minerals come from or what it takes to recover or shape them.
Steel is an iron-based alloy that requires coal in the production process. It takes about 400 pounds of coal to produce a ton of steel. Unfortunately, the Obama administration—which is closely aligned with the environmentalists’ agenda—doesn’t seem to understand this. They are pushing for more wind turbines—with Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel, “gearing up to make offshore wind energy a hallmark of her tenure,” according to the most abundant, reliable and affordable resource that we have.”
In Wisconsin, a company has begun soil testing with the goal of mining iron ore in a four-mile open pit mine. Gogebic Taconite, or G-Tec, has begun exploratory drilling and is gathering samples to send to government agencies. If results show the process is safe, G-Tec will be allowed to go ahead with its plans to construct the mine in a region where mining was once the main source of revenue. “Many of those who live in the economically depressed towns nearby,” many of them are descendants of miners, according to a Fox News report: “support the company’s efforts and look forward to the potential for much-needed jobs and growth in the region.” Yet, environmentalists are intent on blocking the project and have gone to such extremes as death threats, destroying equipment, attacking workers, and barricading roads.
An attempt to mine copper in Alaska is facing similar opposition—albeit this time through the EPA rather than acts of eco-terrorism. The proposed Pebble mine would potentially bring up to $180 million in annual taxes and revenues to the state of Alaska. A mine plan has not been put forward, nor have the companies behind the Pebble Partnership begun the permitting process, but the EPA has spent more than $2 million in an unnecessary and controversial draft watershed assessment of the Pebble Mine. According to the Daily Caller, the EPA and environmental groups argue that the agency has the authority to preemptively veto a permit. The Pebble Partnership has spent ten years and more than $400 million in research, studies, and fieldwork but has not yet submitted any plan. Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council reports that Pebble Mine opponents urged the EPA to conduct the assessment. She states: “The EPA has the authority under the Clean Water Act to stop Pebble Mine.”
Abraham Williams, president of the pro-development nonprofit Nuna Resources, says environmental groups are active in the region. “They have people on the ground and they move around the communities very well. They are well funded. It’s amazing. They are like ants—they work everywhere.”
The war on coal, the proposed G-Tec iron ore mine in Wisconsin and on the proposed Pebble Partnership copper mine in Alaska are just a few examples of environmental opposition to extracting the metals and minerals that are needed to build the wind turbines they want installed in New Mexico—and throughout the US.
With the volume of power plants scheduled to be shut down in the next few years—nearly 300—and the combination of opposition environmentalists have to any form of electricity generation that is effective, efficient and economical, and their opposition to mining what is needed to build the renewables they want—only one conclusion can be made: environmentalists want you powerless.
When Paul Revere made his famous ride announcing that the British were coming, the pending battle was over high taxes, and the consequences threatened America’s future independence. Likewise, today the battle is over higher-cost electricity which impacts all aspects of modern life and threatens America’s economic independence.
(The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE).)]]>
On July 24, the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power concluded a two-day hearing: “Overview of the renewable fuel standard (RFS): Stakeholder perspectives.” Just the week before, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published an interesting opinion piece that pointed to ethanol as an environmental elixir, whose“abstract idealism” is trumped by “real-world concerns.” Apparently, in the“liberal bastion” known as Cambridge, MA, clean energy is praised as “one of our best solutions for moving beyond dirty fuel,” yet a proposal to expand a nearby ethanol facility that involved shipping ethanol by train through Cambridge has been met with almost universal political opposition—not in my backyard.
The day after the House hearing, ethanol was in the news once again for a totally different reason: “Ethanol spills from derailed train near port of Tampa in Florida.” 35,000 gallons of ethanol were being transported by train from Chicago to the docks of the Port of Tampa. 4,500 gallons were spilled when 11 train cars derailed—closing the port and causing employees in the industrial area to miss work.
So why are we shipping ethanol hither and yon? Why does our gasoline contain 10% ethanol?
In 2005, back when global warming was still believed to be a manmade crisis and before the technologies of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing combined to unleash a new energy boom in the US, the Energy Policy Act was passed—mandating that renewable fuels, such as ethanol and biofuel, be added to transportation fuels in increasing amounts over the next decade: the RFS. It was thought that growing our fuel would give America energy independence and reduce carbon emissions. Neither has turned out to be the case.
As usually happens when government decides to pick winners and losers, problems arise. Both sides of the aisle and both houses of Congress have concerns about the RFS. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee says; “The current system cannot stand.” The National Journal reports that Senate Democrats such as Ben Cardin (MD), Robert Casey (PA), Kay Hagan (NC), Thomas Carper and Christopher Coons (DE), and Chuck Schumer (NY) are worried about the RFS. While they do not support a full repeal of the RFS, they are questioning “their party’s steadfast support for a policy whose goal is to promote renewable-energy fuels over oil.” Senate solutions range from legislation to reform of the RFS to asking the Obama administration for a temporary waiver or modification of the portion of the law that requires increasing amounts of biofuels be blended with gasoline each year.
While ethanol and biofuels can be made from a variety of sources—though some, such as cellulosic ethanol (wood chips, switchgrass, and agricultural waste) and algenol (algae), have yet to be commercially viable, most ethanol in US is made from corn. However, last summer’s drought put pressure on the corn supply—raising questions about the viability of corn-based ethanol and making allies of the fossil fuel and livestock industries and environmentalists.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Bill Roenigk of the National Chicken Council said his producers are confronting higher and more volatile feed prices, the result of diverting corn into gas tanks. He sided with Jack Gerard of the American Petroleum Institute who described the RFS as “completely untethered from reality” and a “grave economic threat” that must be stopped. The high corn prices are making ethanol more expensive and raising the price of gasoline. Scott Faber from the Environmental Working Group said the corn ethanol mandate has increased greenhouse gas emissions and caused other environmental harm.
Ethanol has been made in the US for 32 years, yet 2012 production was 600 million gallons less than the previous year. Regardless of production, the law mandates that ever-increasing amounts of ethanol be blended into gasoline. The difference is being made up by importing Brazilian sugar-based ethanol—roughly 336.7 million gallons were imported in the first 10 months of 2012. In December 2012, the WSJ reported: “U.S. ethanol output will fall by 10% next year to about 12.6 billion gallons.” Seldon B. Graham, Jr., an energy engineer with 59 years of experience and the author of Why Your Gasoline Prices are High, says: “It is ludicrous to replace imported foreign oil with imported foreign ethanol.”
The House hearing addressed a range of topics including the RFS’s potential effect on fuel and food prices, blend-wall and compatibility issues, and impacts on the nation’s agricultural sector and the environment. But, it didn’t cover how much the biofuel mandates are costing the American taxpayer, the number of ethanol companies that have gone bankrupt while receiving taxpayer subsidies, grants or loans, or the potential for crony corruption.
As I’ve repeatedly addressed over the past year while covering gives rationale to fund experimental projects (often involving Obama donors and/or insiders) designed to meet the need. The Department of Energy awarded up to $564 million in stimulus funds to 19 integrated biorefinery projects and since 2009 the Biorefinery Assistance Program has given out about $1.2 billion in treasury-backed loan guarantees for 10 biofuel companies.
Range Fuels provides a tidy case history. In March 2007, Range Fuels received a $76 million grant from the DOE and another $80 million from the Obama administration in 2009 to produce cellulosic ethanol. Vinod Kholsa, part of Obama’s election team and a big Democrat donor, was an original investor through his greentech venture capital firm. Despite the approximately $300 million in a combination of private, state, and federal funding, Range Fuels never produced cellulosic ethanol. The company filed for bankruptcy in December 2011.
In her newest post to the Green Corruption Files, Lakatos highlights three biofuel companies that are a part of Obama’s green slime fuel dream (there are others that she’ll cover soon). During an energy speech in Florida, he stated: “We’re making new investments in the development of gasoline and diesel and jet fuel that’s actually made from a plant-like substance — algae.” Right there in Florida is Algenol Biofuels—which Forbes calls “Obama’s favorite algae company.” In December 2009, Algenol Biofuels received $25 million in federal stimulus grants from the Obama administration and a $10 million grant in 2010 from Lee County’s Economic Development Committee.
Then there’s Sapphire Energy, which received a $50 million grant from the DOE and a loan guarantee for up to $54.5 million through the Biorefinery Assistance Program for their “Green Crude Farm”in Southern New Mexico. Surprise! Executives, board members and employees at Sapphire contributed almost exclusively to Democratic campaigns. Michelle Malkin reports: Sapphire’s “website reads like a satellite White House communications office.” Even the Private funds raised for Sapphire have Obama connections: Bob Nelsen, a founding partner of ARCH Ventures—a Sapphire investor, served on Obama’s National Finance Committee during the 2008 campaign, and Microsoft’s Bill Gates is also a Sapphire investor. In 2008, Microsoft donated $852,164 and $814,645 in 2012—making them number four and number two, respectively, on the top Obama donor lists. In 2012, Bill and Melinda Gates personally contributed $71,800 to Democrats.
The really interesting story is Solazyme, as it got both a $21 million DOE stimulus grant in 2009, and then in 2011 was rewarded with a guaranteed government customer for its biofuel that will pay four to seven times the regular fuel price: the US Navy. TJ Glauthier is a “Strategic Advisor” for Solayzyme. Previously Glauthier held key positions in the Clinton administration and the DOE and served on Obama’s 2008 White House Transition Team. He is widely credited with helping to develop the energy provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Solayzyme’s officials, including Glauthier, contributed at least $360,000 to Democrats between 2007 and 2012. Other Solayzyme Obama/Democrat connections include:
• Drew Littman, head of Solayzyme’s Washington lobbying office, who was chief of staff for Senator Al Franken (D-MN).
• Jerry Fiddler, chairman of the board of directors, is a large Democrat donor, who contributed $24,000 to Obama’s Victory Fund.
• Sanjay Wagle, was a Solayzyme investor through VantagePoint. He was an Obama fundraiser for the 2008 campaign and joined the administration, as a “renewable energy grants advisor” at the DOE.
• Jonathan Wolfson, Solayzyme co-founder, sat on the board for the Center for American Progress (CAP) Clean Tech Council. CAP is responsible for crafting and promoting many key Democratic policies and is a major force behind Obama’s green-energy agenda.
No wonder Solayzyme got the deal for the “Single largest purchase of biofuel in government history” that Investors.comcalled a “two-for-one bad deal—swindling taxpayers while ravaging national security.”
Maybe ethanol’s part in the green-energy crony-corruption scandal will need its own hearing. There’s a lot more to cover! With Gina McCarthy as the new administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency there’s bound to be more as she’s reported to be “a consistent ethanol-industry defender.”
Ethanol is a dichotomy for the Obama administration, which has mandated higher MPG for vehicles and at the same time mandates the blending of ethanol that actually lowers MPG. Obama’s climate change policy calls for a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, yet, according to the DOE website, ethanol increases them.
The RFS was ostensibly a move to combat the impact of fossil fuels and decrease imported oil, but it became a giveaway to agricultural interests in electorally important states and to those important to the president and the Democratic Party.
While several members of the Energy and Power Subcommittee agree: “There’s probably not enough congressional support for completely repealing the standard,” Upton concluded: “I hope we can start a discussion that considers a host of potential modifications and updates to the RFS, with the end goal being a system that works best for the American people. I am absolutely committed to ensuring we deliver workable reforms.”
(Marita Noon is Executive Director of Energy Makes America Great. This piece first appeared in Townhall.)]]>
It’s not true, of course, as Coloradans who follow the Abound Solar saga know.
Abound Solar is sometimes called “Colorado’s Solyndra” because the stories are strikingly similar. In both cases you had taxpayer-financed “green energy” boondoggles, benefiting a risky, not-ready-for-primetime venture with politically-connected backers. Both cases represent a scandalous misuse of public funds, and political power, for which no one will be held accountable. Both stink of the Chicago-style cronyism for which this White House is infamous. Both elicited public anger but media indifference. And both companies left a toxic trail behind, highlighting the fact (mostly ignored by “green energy” cheerleaders) that clean energy can be a dirty little business.
I’ve lost track of how the post-Solyndra cleanup in California has gone, since this now ranks laughably low on the list of Obama administration scandals, but we’re more up-to-date on the Abound Solar mess left in Colorado thanks to the Denver Post. The newspaper indicates that the company’s former work sites in Colorado have now been scrubbed clean, but is a little vague on who paid for it. “In January, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued a compliance advisory to the Abound bankruptcy trustee to clean up the sites,” reports the Post, suggesting to me that what’s left of the company is paying. But what portion of that may have been drawn from the estimated $40 to $60 million the taxpayers are likely to lose, once bankruptcy is resolved, is unknown.
That taxpayers might be footing all or some of the cleanup costs, when that ought to be on the shoulders of the private “partners” who orchestrated the circus, would add insult to injury — especially since a prime mover behind the Abound Solar fiasco is one of Colorado’s most politically-connected billionaires, Pat Stryker, who wouldn’t even notice if we sent her the bill.
Stryker’s name rarely appears in most ”mainstream media” reports about Abound Solar, though her fingerprints are all over it. It’s only through the determined digging of “new media” outlets – here, here, here, here, here and here – that her connections to the project were highlighted. This is another of those cases in which the ”dead tree media” did its very best to ignore the connections, only grudgingly taking notice when its neglect of the story became obvious. The state’s largest daily had to be shamed into paying attention.
Like the Solyndrans, Stryker seems to enjoy near-complete immunity from accountability — something I’m guessing wouldn’t be true if she gave as prolifically to conservative causes and politicians as she gives to liberal ones. Imagine, just for a moment, that one of those ”Koch Brothers” had been so intimately involved in the Abound Solar debacle. Do you think that would escape mention in a single story the MSM did on this topic? On the rare occasions the Stryker connection is made, as in this story, the focus isn’t really on Stryker, or the fetid cronyism and corruption that characterized this case, but on conservative efforts to turn the story into what the Post calls a “political football.”
Most interesting, however, is the audible silence with which Gang Green greets the Abound Solar story. Almost any news item reflecting poorly on hydraulic fracturing or any other fossil fuel-related activity will send the Chicken Little Lobby and its media minions into full frenzy. But a fatcat liberal billionaire leaves a toxic trail across Colorado, with a taxpayer assist, and the professional planet-savers stand mute. What a strange double standard – until you consider the following.
First, Gang Green prefers to ignore “clean” energy’s dirty side, for obvious reasons. And second, Stryker is a major funder of the Far Left and may be bankrolling many of the groups that are driving the anti-coal and anti-gas hysteria in Colorado. Calling-out Stryker on her double standard — posing as a champion of “clean energy” and green causes, on one hand, while leaving a toxic trail behind for taxpayers to clean-up on the other – not only would be a breach of ideological etiquette, but it might also threaten the funding stream on which a lot of these groups depend. This most likely explains the sort of left-wing omerta, or code of silence, we see in this case.
When we get the final bill for the Abound Solar cleanup, will someone please send it to Ms. Stryker? That’s just pocket change to her and taxpayers already have gotten enough of the shaft on this energy stimulus “deal.”
Yet the selection of Binz to lead the federal panel also is noteworthy for what it says about the green lobby’s and the president’s indifference to — even contempt for? — the average, hard-pressed energy consumer.
As AFP-Colorado noted in a press release on the nomination a few days ago, Binz has made a career of peddling costly, green-energy panaceas. He’s been an advocate for “smart grid” projects that turned out to be stupid “investments.” While chair of the PUC — an agency established to look out for ratepayers of regulated-monopoly utilities — Binz put the interests of ratepayers second and cut backroom deals with state lawmakers to push though renewable energy-friendly legislation in conflict with his supposed role as an impartial regulator.
Indeed, Binz long has been an advocate of elitist, one-size-fits-all energy mandates that force consumers to pay more for utilities in order to suit his extreme environmental politics. He leant intellectual ammunition to Colorado’s initial plunge into renewable mandates, by publishing a report soft-peddling the potential rate impacts. And he never met a subsequent mandate hike he wouldn’t support.
Binz is no paragon of good government, either. He stepped down from the Colorado PUC under fire for his extravagant travel on the public dime, which drew ethics allegations. The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission ruled in 2011 that Binz violated Amendment 41, the “ethics in government” initiative, when as PUC chair he accepted a free trip to Houston sponsored by a natural-gas company. The green media promotes the meme that Binz was cleared of all allegations. But it isn’t as simple as that, as the Denver Post’s Vince Carroll has explained.
And this is the guy the president wants to lead a powerful federal agency with jurisdiction over interstate electricity sales, wholesale electric rates, hydroelectric licensing, natural gas pricing, and oil pipeline rates. In other words, another agency that is supposed to be looking out for the ratepayers of regulated monopolies.
Binz’s nomination now faces the U.S. Senate for confirmation, and we’re hoping our nation’s reputedly more deliberative lawmaking body looks beyond the administration’s green-shaded glasses and scrutinizes Binz’s record. Surely, Colorado’s ratepayers could tell senators a thing or two about Ron Binz; they may care to weigh in. We’ll stay tuned.
Meanwhile, we’ll savor this ironic footnote: Just a few days ago, Colorado State University in Fort Collins, which houses Ritter’s Center for the New Energy Economy, issued a press release heaping praise on Binz on the advent of his nomination and wishing him well. Then, the release announced that Binz and the center “have mutually agreed to discontinue o]]>
Obama claims he can do it all with no say from our elected representatives in Congress, but his designated point person for the effort, Gina McCarthy, awaits Senate confirmation. Given what we know now, a vote for McCarthy can only be understood as a vote for Obama’s very expensive and destructive agenda.
Obama had no greater ally in the deliberate deception that he didn’t intend to shut down coal than Gina McCarthy. On April 13, 2010 she was asked point blank whether the EPA’s power-plant greenhouse gas regulations would require coal plants to switch fuels and she said: “We haven’t done it in the past, and there’s been good reason why we haven’t done it in the past.”
McCarthy’s point-blank insistence that EPA would not require fuel-switching was instrumental in convincing coal-state Democrats to vote against a resolution offered by Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska less than two months later that would have barred EPA from implementing global warming regulations without Congressional approval. The vote, which was procedurally protected from filibuster, failed by just four votes.
Now that Obama is safely re-elected, there’s no need to continue denying his fuel-switching policy. And in fact it’s right there in black-and-white on page 19 of his newly released Climate Action Plan: “Going forward, we will promote fuel-switching from coal to gas for electricity production.”
To reward her for her indispensable role in promoting this deception, Obama wants to promote McCarthy from her current EPA perch running the Office of Air and Radiation to the top job, from which she’ll be called upon to systematically bypass the very Congress she deceived to implement Obama’s anti-coal agenda. Who better for that task than McCarthy? She once boasted in a commencement address that she “didn’t go to Washington to sit around and wait for Congressional action. Never done that before, and don’t plan to in the future.”
Coal still produces 37 percent of U.S. electricity. A Heritage Foundation analysis found that implementing Obama’s proposed regulation on existing coal plants would destroy more than 500,000 jobs, slash the income of a typical family of four more than $1,400 a year, and increase electricity prices at least 20 percent. Price spikes could be much higher in states that depend heavily on coal-fired power plants. President
Obama once famously explained that he intended to make electricity prices “necessarily skyrocket.”
Obama claimed McCarthy has “been held up for months, forced to jump through hoops no Cabinet nominee should ever have to.” The truth is she’s been asked eminently reasonable transparency questions by Senator David Vitter of Louisiana who thinks the American people deserve to know why, for instance, the scientific data underlying multi-billion-dollar regulations is being kept secret. So add a disturbing record of secrecy to her penchant for deception.
Senate Democrats have decided against passing the unpopular proposals they support legislatively (they never even considered the House-passed cap-and-trade bill) in favor of sitting back and letting the EPA take charge. Therefore the vote on McCarthy’s nomination may be the only real vote on Obama’s War on Coal. Senators who stand for jobs and affordable energy should vote against Gina McCarthy.
(Copyright 2013 Phil Kerpen, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Mr. Kerpen is the president of American Commitment and the author of “Democracy Denied.”)
The 2013 Colorado Legislative Conservation Scorecard, compiled by the environmental group Conservation Colorado, ranks the members of the General Assembly on how closely they hewed to the group’s greener-than-thou policy agenda. As the Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels duly noted in her report this week on the scorecard, its findings surprise no one: Democrats got the highest scores and Republicans the lowest.
It is of course an all-too-familiar tactic in state and national politics: A dogmatic, special-interest group stakes out unyielding positions on its pet issues and tallies the votes for and against select pieces of legislation. Then, it does the math, dresses it all up in a slick brochure and peddles it to the media in hopes that some news organization will vest it with a little more than its deserved grain of salt. With any luck, it’ll be a slow news day, and the “findings” will get some ink. Maybe even some air time.
Before dismissing it outright, however, maybe voters would do well to heed the scorecard—in a roundabout way.
If anything, the 47 Democrats in both chambers (out of a total 57 legislative Democrats) who scored an unblemished, 100 percent environmental record by the lights of Conservation Colorado should raise grave concerns among the public. After all, their grade was based on unflinching support for extreme-green legislation that stands to raise Colorado’s cost of living and trash its economy—while achieving no actual additional protection for the environment.
Scorecard criteria included the controversial, the bill’s real aim wasn’t to prevent conflicts of interest; indeed, there was no attempt to diminish the influence of the green lobby. The true motive was to smother energy exploration. Never mind that energy development has been Colorado’s most dynamic economic sector on the heels of a devastating recession; never mind that it is helping serve national interests, as well, by reducing U.S. dependency on foreign energy sources.
Now, look at the lawmakers who scored 50 percent or lower, including all 43 legislative Republicans and even one Democrat. Arguably, they were the ones who actually were open to compromise and balancing competing interests in their approach to environmental policy. On SB 252, for example, many dissenting legislators pointed out how rural ratepayers already labor under a renewable-energy mandate; they just couldn’t see piling on with a more zelous and expensive standard. Similarly, their opposition to packing the oil and gas commission with environmentalists was as much as anything an effort to maintain diverse viewpoints on the panel.
And if that isn’t indication enough that the lowest performers on Conservation Colorado’s report card just might be the most attuned to the broad interests of their constituents, consider this: Two lawmakers who scored 100 percent—Democratic Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs and Democratic Sen. Angela Giron, of Pueblo—will be the first two Colorado lawmakers ever to face recall elections. Morse, who was the prime sponsor of SB 252, and Giron incensed constituents with their support for gun control and other policies.
Morse hails from an overwhelmingly Republican community while Giron’s is heavily Democratic. Both now will face the music after recall organizers turned in far more than enough signatures earlier this month to trigger a recall election.
Could their good standing with Conservation Colorado turn out to be the kiss of death?
Still, you’ve got to give the environmental lobby credit for getting the media to bite the hook. As predictable as the scorecard’s findings may be, it nevertheless landed a 500-word story in Colorado’s largest newspaper. Not bad for a nothing-burger. Contrast that with the much longer-standing legislative report card that is issued annually by the fiscally conservative Colorado Union of Taxpayers— and is ignored annually by most mainstream media.
Even if outfits like Conservation Colorado, along with the lawmakers they laud, are out of step with state voters, they sure seem to have some pull with the likes of the Denver Post.]]>
This is not what the American people voted for.
Responding to a White House petition to end the War on Coal, the administration said : “The President has made clear that he understands that coal has played a critical role in our country’s energy portfolio for decades and will continue to be an important source of energy in the future.”
Sycophantic liberal media outlets (like The Nation and the Associated Press ) went further, repeatedly claiming that the War on Coal was a myth. The Obama campaign even ran a TV ad in Ohio claiming that Mitt Romney would be bad for coal – and trotted out former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland to deny there was a war on coal and echo the attacks on Romney.
Yet today Obama political consultant David Plouffe took to Twitter to bang his chest: “Today’s climate announcement underscores that elections matter greatly” – as if Obama had campaigned on shutting down coal plants instead of on denying his intention to do so.
Such denials are no longer necessary. Today a top Obama global warming adviser told The New York Times the denials were just election-year politics. Daniel Schrag said: “Politically, the White House is hesitant to say they’re having a war on coal. On the other hand, a war on coal is exactly what’s needed.”
And Obama delivered. It’s right there on page 19 of his Climate Action Plan: “Going forward, we will promote fuel-switching from coal to gas for electricity production.”
Indeed, Obama made clear in his speech that he intends to impose regulations on existing coal plants that can only be met through carbon capture and storage (technology that doesn’t exist on a commercial scale), switching to natural gas, or shutting down completely.
Coal still produces U.S. electricity. A Heritage Foundation analysis found that implementing Obama’s proposed regulation on existing coal plants would destroy more than 500,000 jobs, slash the income of a typical family of four more than $1,400 a year, and increase electricity prices at least 20 percent. Price spikes could be much higher in states that depend heavily on coal-fired power plants, especially in the Midwest. President Obama once famously explained that he intended to make electricity prices “necessarily skyrocket.”
Obama intends to fight his War on Coal by issuing a Presidential Memorandum to the EPA to issue regulations under the 1970 Clean Air Act. This is despite the fact that the law’s principal author, Democrat John Dingell of Michigan, famously said: “This is not what was intended by the Congress and by those of us who wrote the Clean Air Act. We are beginning to look at a wonderfully complex world, which has the potential for shutting down or slowing down virtually all industry and all economic activity and growth.”
Regulating existing coal plants also has the additional legal problem of arguably being pre-empted by last year’s set of War on Coal regulations under a different section of the act.
And there is zero global warming benefit to go with all the economic costs, because even if all United States greenhouse gas emissions were shut down to zero tomorrow, the rest of the world would keep on puffing. Paul Knappenberger recently calculated, based on standard assumptions, that getting to zero emissions in the U.S. immediately would only reduce global average temperatures an imperceptible 0.08 degrees Celsius by 2050. Moreover, the rest of the world would replace all U.S. emissions within seven years.
So it’s all pain and no gain. By legally dubious means. To accomplish the opposite of what Obama promised on the campaign trail. Congress should take exception to being circumvented and step in to stop Obama’s (now-declared) War on Coal.
You can urge them to do so through the www.WarOnCoal.com action page.
Phil Kerpen is president of American Commitment and author of “Democracy Denied .”]]>
Journalists know the trick, too, but they sometimes seem happy to go along with the dishonest charade, and suspend their legendary stance of dogged skepticism, if they share the agendas of those conducting such polls.
Someday, perhaps, we’ll be treated to the results of a definitive survey concluding that most American Westerners want to ban all energy exploration everywhere, especially in and around all public lands–but also want to lower the price at the pump about a buck a gallon so they can afford to see all of the natural wonders they want to protect. At least, it would paint a refreshingly plausible picture of how a lot of residents in metropolitan areas really must feel: They want it all.
Until then–and let’s not hold our breath–we’ll continue to be assaulted with junk research like the latest “survey” now being peddled by the liberal Washington, D.C.-based Center for American Progress and veteran environmental group Wilderness Society. The poll of 993 voters from Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming found that more than twice as many respondents placed a higher priority on protecting wilderness, parks and open space than on ensuring access to those lands for energy development.
Never mind that most Americans not directly engaged in the energy sector of the economy have little idea how much or little of our oil, natural gas and coal–used to drive our cars and power, cool and heat our homes and businesses–comes from public land. They have virtually no knowledge of how much or little space on that land is occupied by drilling rigs or other energy infrastructure. They haven’t a clue what overall impact energy development has on that land, its wildlife or water. No, the unsuspecting folks who picked up the phone on this poll were asked to do nothing more than share vague feelings about how much they love mountains, rivers and forests, and their responses were inevitable.
In other words, this is just another manipulative PR campaign by the green lobby, masquerading as an earnest attempt at garnering public opinion. Standard fare, really, for the Wilderness Society and the Center for American Progress, the latter of which is widely regarded as an adjunct of the Obama administration. (The center is helmed by John Podesta, who led the president’s transition team after the 2008 election.)
Fine, but then why would any of this be swallowed and then Denver Post environmental reporter Bruce Finley? Finley’s “Poll of Westerners on drilling on public lands: 65% protection; 30% drilling” earlier this week took the whole dog-and-pony show at face value. It probably was typical of the reception this stunt got from sympathetic, green-leaning reporters in the “mainstream” media around the country. In his account, Finley unflinchingly quotes Podesta’s disingenuous attempt at moderation without challenge:
“Voters do not see conservation and development of public lands as an either-or choice. Instead, they want to see expanded protections for public lands — including new parks, wilderness and monuments — as part of a responsible and comprehensive energy strategy.”
Meaning, of course, that conservation and development ARE an either-or choice–and they want energy development reined in through “expanded protections.” Naturally, the survey participants weren’t informed what the cost of reining in development might mean to their energy bills. Nor were they asked how much if any energy development they even may have noticed the last time they visited public lands. Is there in fact a crisis that needs reining in?
Finley obligingly references a countervailing survey near the bottom of his story, one by a pro-energy group that had found much greater support for drilling on public lands. But that’s really all beside the point. The deficiency in such news coverage is that most such surveys on open-ended, abstract policy issues, regardless of their tilt, use their respondents as marionettes in a puppet show. They are as orchestrated as any other staged public-relations event. They beg for credulity; surely, the supposedly discerning media should know better.
So, why report on it anyway? Finley’s track record offers some insights. The blog ColoradoPeakPolitics.com has done some dogged footwork on Finley’s form of journalism and found among other things he repeatedly has provided a platform in his stories for environmental activists mugging as ordinary citizens. No attempt is made to out the activists, and the unwitting Denver Post reader is left to assume everyday Coloradans are articulating some very esoteric positions on issues like fracking.
Are reporters like Finley victims of “Stockholm Syndrome,” having been brainwashed by years of covering the green lobby? Or, were their biases already in place when they started on the beat? Either way, readers are given the impression that Westerners overwhelmingly want to rein in, maybe shut down, energy exploration on public lands when in fact most Americans in any region don’t have the information they need to draw any conclusions on the subject in the first place.]]>