joe barton

Climate Denial and Tin Foil: Calling out Congress

Greenpeace activists put on tin foil hats when Congressional climate deniers spoke at yesterday's Energy & Power subcommittee hearing. More photos.

Written by Greenpeace's Bonnie Barclay with input from Connor Gibson.

It might surprise quite a few who know me, but I'm actually quite a shy and introverted person. So what exactly moved me to show up at a Congressional hearing and put on a tin foil hat? Two words: Climate Deniers.

Denying climate change is as bizarre and out-of-touch as tin foil hat conspiracies. Congressional climate deniers need to accept the science and bolster the President's actions with a tax on carbon pollution. That's why we brought our tin foil hats to yesterday's hearing, called together by the U.S. House of Representatives Energy & Power subcommittee chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY). It focused on the Obama Administration’s Climate Action Plan, with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and Energy Secretary Earnest Moniz testifying.

Whenever the members of Congress started saying false things about climate change, we tossed on the tin foil hats. By the end of the three-hour hearing, the silly tin hats were on our heads for almost half of the entire event.

Of all the politicians in yesterday's hearing who are known climate change deniers, West Virginia Rep. David McKinley gets the tin foil hat award for his completely false assertions about climate change science. Check out this CSPAN clip, starting at 2:01:26.

First, Rep. McKinley said, "Over the last forty years, there's been almost no increase in temperature." He was attempting to undermine the reliability of climate models, which in reality have underestimated climate change.

Worse, my jaw dropped when I heard Rep. McKinley claim that Arctic sea ice increased by 60% from last year to this year, a false figure he apparently got from a typo in a bad newspaper article! H/T @RLMiller--see NASA for the facts on how consistently and rapidly the ice cap has melted in recent years.

Finally, McKinley completely misrepresented the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), saying, "Most experts believe by 2083--in 70 years--the benefits of climate change could outweigh will still outweigh the harm."

Ummm...that is completely wrong. The IPCC has made it crystal clear that global warming is a very serious problem that demands immediate policy action if we have any chance of solving it. Perhaps the $391,000 McKinley has received from the coal industry explains some of his scientifically-irrelevant opinions--McKinley wrapped his speech up by promoting the coal industry.

My first Congressional hearing....

This being my first Congressional hearing I've attended, I found myself surprised by a few things that didn't make sense to me and probably wouldn't to an ordinary citizen: 

  • Climate deniers in Congress make their points not by stating factual information from peer-reviewed studies, but by quoting newspaper headlines. I'm pretty sure those were meant to sell newspapers, not settle a debate. 
  • The hearing was packed. People do care about what Congress is OR isn't doing on climate change. 
  • It's actually not the "do-nothing Congress," as Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) pointed out, it's much worse! "On Climate we're doing worse than nothing--we are affirmatively obstructing progress." [CSPAN, 38:25].

Luckily there were a few members of Congress who seem to get it, including these three:

  • Representative Waxman called out his elected peers for their obstruction and no serious proposals to solve the problems posed by global warming:
    • "What's your plan? It's easy to criticize other people's solutions, but if all you did is criticize you're either a climate denier because you don't think anything needs to be done--'the science doesn't warrent it, it's not happening'--or, they're [sic] ignoring the warning of scientists." [CSPAN, 42:35]
  • Representative Eliot Engle (D-NY):
    • "It's time for us to act and Congress has been ducking this issue, even going so far as to deny the basic science behind climate change. I've seen the devastating effects right in my area when hurricane Sandy hit New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. My district suffered huge devastation. Rising seas, stronger storms and flooding will only increase if we choose to do nothing[...]." [CSPAN, 2:55:35]
  • Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA) pointed out the key logical disconnect with the naysayers who try to scare us into inaction:
    • "My Republican colleagues are quick to argue that tackling climate change will hurt the economy. But in reality, climate change itself poses an enormous economic risk and failure to address it could be disaster to the global economy." [CSPAN, 1:59:43]
And she's right. A 2012 report commissioned by 20 governments written by "50 scientists, economists and policy experts" concluded that global warming already costs the world $1.2 trillion every year, and contributes to 400,000 annual deaths.
 

Climate Change Denial and Extreme Weather

In a week where we're seeing people's lives lost and communities devastated in Colorado by extreme flooding, the type of disaster we can expect more frequently thanks to climate change, one would think the urgency to act to avoid future economic devastation and loss of life would become crystal clear to those who we elected to represent us. Unfortunately, nothing seems to cause Congress to take action. It's like they missed the last year of weather events!

You can see the distortion of climate denial in Greenpeace's recent report, "Dealing in Doubt", which summarized how industrialists like the Koch brothers have funding fake science and sheer misinformation to make us question the hard truth about climate change. So it comes as no surprise that Koch Industries is the second highest donor this election cycle to the chairman of yesterday's hearing, Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), as well as other Representatives on the subcommittee, like Koch's hometown favorite Mike Pompeo, and Texas politicians Joe Barton and Pete Olson.

I'm tired of seeing members of Congress put their head in the sand and deny climate change. It's an appalling manipulation of our future potential by people who are meant to represent us and do the right thing.

So why'd I show up for the hearing yesterday? People's lives and livelihoods are on the line. The strength and future resilience of our country and our communities and all we've built as a nation are at risk if we don't do anything. We're not do-nothing people. We're Americans. We lead. We work. We improve. We build. We innovate.

We need to stop the perpetuation of ignorance and denial. It will take some work to get there, so we need your help too. I hope you stand with me--extrovert or introvert--and join in saying enough is enough its time for action. There is no greater moment than now for us to come together and do the right thing on climate change.

Big oil front group poured millions into lobby against fracking regulation

The same oil and gas companies that set up a front group to campaign against regulations over hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) have spent a combined total of more than $126 million on lobbyists, while pouring money into the campaign coffers of the Hill’s loudest fracking regulation opponents.

DeSmogBlog recently exposed “Energy in Depth” as an oil and gas front group set up to lead the charge against anyone legislating against or even investigating the dangers of hydraulic fracturing and other natural gas industry practices that pose public health and water contamination threats.

Purportedly set up to represent “small, independent oil and natural gas producers,” instead “Energy in Depth” is funded by some of the largest oil companies on the planet, such as Chevron, BP, Shell and Occidental, along with the American Petroleum Institute and other trade associations.  

The “Independent” Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) memo obtained by DeSmogBlog was written in 2009, five days before the introduction of bills aimed at closing loopholes around the chemicals used in fracking.

In 2009, Congressional Democrats introduced two bills proposing to close the current loopholes around the use of chemicals used in fracking– The Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act (S. 1215), and The Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act of 2009 (H.R. 2766).

Greenpeace (thanks to OpenSecrets.org, DirtyEnergyMoney.com and MapLight.org) looked at the recent lobbying records of the giant oil and gas interests that describe themselves as “small and independent” operators that funded EID. During 2009 and 2010, the EID funders spent a combined $126.8 million on lobbying.

Of course these companies were also lobbying on other issues, but the two fracking bills were key issues listed in their lobby registration documents.

A ProPublica investigation into oil and gas money received by members of the Natural Gas caucus found that they received 19 times more money on average than members of Congress who signed a letter in support of a proposal to require fracking companies to disclose the chemicals they use when drilling on public lands.

All of the five members of Congress mentioned in the leaked “Energy in Depth” memo testified against the proposed legislation before it was tabled.  For their efforts, each have received regular payments from a majority of EID members, including the IPAA itself.  (See financial figures, compiled below)

The Congressional battles over regulation continue with Republican Representatives Joe Barton (R-TX) and Fred Upton (R-MI) taking up the issue late last year, and another key fracking supporter, Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) pressuring Ken Salazar to back off a proposal to introduce new regulations through the Department of Interior if Congress refuses to act.

Lobby figures:

The IPAA
2010: $1.1million
2009: $1.6 million
(it also contributed $15,000 to the coffers of one of the Republican fracking-defenders, Rep. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming).

Chevron
2010: $12.89 million
2009: $20.81 million
Total Chevron lobbying and political contributions.

BP
2010: $7.36 million
2009: $15.99 million
Total BP lobbying and political contributions.

Occidental Petroleum
2010: $2.58 million
2009: $2.76 million
Total Occidental lobbying and political contributions.

Shell
2010: $10.37 million
2009: $10.19 million

American Petroleum Institute
2010: $6.75 million
2009: $7.32 million

Marathon Oil
2010: $5.1 million
2009: $9.95 million
Total Marathon lobbying and political contributions.

Anadarko Petroleum
2010: $5.51 million (some of this was likely spent to deny culpability in the Deepwater Horizon disaster due to their 25% stake in BP's Macondo well)
2009: $2.81 million
Total Anadarko lobbying and political contributions.

El Paso Corporation
2010: $1.07 million
2009: $1.0 million

Halliburton
2010: $535,000
2009: $1.1 million
Total Halliburton lobbying and political contributions.

Political Recipients:

Dan Boren (D-OK), chair, House Natural Gas Caucus.
For the 2009-2010 election cycle Dan Boren raked in $216,250 from the oil and gas industry.  He is the natural gas transmission and distribution industry’s top recipient, and second highest for the oil and gas industry.  Among his funders are Chevron, Occidental, Anakardo, Marathon, and, of course, the Independent Petroleum Association of America.

Doc Hastings (R-WA)
At $84,671 in contributions, the oil and gas industry is Hastings' top contributing industry with regular payments from the EID member companies.
Hastings has been fighting any rules or transparency around fracking and its chemicals, writing to Ken Salazar late 2010 arguing that such rules would “ threaten thousands of jobs, deepen the federal deficit through reduced revenues, and harm natural gas development and our nation’s energy security.”

Doug Lamborn (R-CO)
Lamborn’s second-highest industry favorite was oil and gas, at $31,500, again with EID members prominent in the ranks. 

Louie Gohmert (R-TX)
Gohmert raked in $48,550 in oil and gas money in the last election cycle. The oil and gas sector was his third highest donor by industry, a contributions from EID members included Chevron, Marathon and Halliburton.
 
John Fleming (R-LA)
Oil and gas was Fleming's second biggest earner at $123,500, including Chevron, Occidental, Marathon, IPAA, Halliburton.

Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)
Lummis’s top funders are the oil and gas industry, with $89,550 in 2010 dirty donations.

Koch Brothers, Cuccinelli, Peabody and others Named "Climate Villains"

Similar to Rolling Stone's "The Climate Killers" article that was released at the beginning of the year, AlterNet has just profiled some of the most influential political, financial and popular enemies of the Earth's increasingly disrupted climate.

Snide comments aside, both reports nail some of the most influential staples: Koch Industries, an infamous engine of the climate denial machine; Warren Buffet, the filthy-rich investor who has placed his bets on coal; and Joe Barton, Big Fossil's purchased U.S. Representative (over 1.7 million dirty dollars over the last decade).

AlterNet's newer spotlight identifies Harold Lewis and Freeman Dyson, who are similar to the likes of S. Fred Singer and Patrick Michaels in their use of scientific credentials for corporate public relations rather than, say, active climate studies...or scientific study in general.  Also like Singer and Michaels, they have ties to prominent denier think tanks such as Cato, the Heartland Institute, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, all of which are currently or formerly funded by Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.  Similarly, AlterNet mentions Anthony Watts, whose skeptic blog is the go-to hub for climate-solutions obstructionism, and whose credentials as a TV weatherman (not certified by the American Meteorological Society) fool people into thinking he's a climate expert.  Like the other junk scientists mentioned in the article, Watts has ties to the Heartland Institute.

In a contrasting look at university integrity, AlterNet also profiles Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia's attorney general who has used the "climategate" nonscandal as grounds to continue harassing Michael Mann, the influential University of Virginia climatologist whose university research was a primary target of the hacked East Anglia emails.  While Mann was defended by his university and cleared of wrongdoing after investigations, the same can't be said for George Mason University's Edward Wegman.  AlterNet points out that Wegman is currently under formal investigation his George Mason for pushing bogus climate material for none other than Texas Rep. Joe Barton.

It is worth noting that George Mason University (GMU) is a known breeding ground for climate deniers and heavily supported by the Koch brothers; both the Mercatus Center and the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) operate out of the University have received millions of dollars from the Kochs.  There's also Koch Industries executive Richard Fink, who taught and filled various other positions at GMU, co-founded and directs GMU's Mercatus Center, directs the Institute for Humane Studies, is the president of two Koch family foundations that fund these groups, founded the Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation (which became the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, of which Fink is a director)...Rich Fink pretty much lives up to his name.

Glenn Beck (who attended Charles Koch's secret election strategy meeting last June), Mitch McConnell, former BP CEO Tony Hayward, Peabody CEO Gregory Boyce, and others are also credited for their dirty work in the full article.

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