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Thu, 2011-11-17 19:22Farron Cousins
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Brazilian Officials Investigating Chevron Oil Spill Off Coast

Law enforcement agencies in Brazil announced today that they would begin investigating the cause of an oil spill that occurred off the coast. Chevron's Frade Well off the coast of Brazil has been leaking for more than a week. From the start, Chevron tried to downplay the significance of the spill, suggesting it had natural causes, but Brazilian officials are now saying that Chevron did, in fact, cause an oil spill.

Mike G at The Understory lays out the story:

Brazil’s Federal Police agency has announced that it is investigating the spill, and said in a statement that those responsible could be facing up to 5 years in prison…After Chevron tried to blame it on natural seepage for a week, officials have confirmed that the oil spill off the Brazilian coast is in fact the result of Chevron’s operations at its Frade well.

Echoing last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil disaster and BP’s defensive and often misleading public communications during that disaster, Chevron has continuously downplayed and underestimated the amount of oil that has leaked out of their well (which, according to the company, was sealed today). The oil giant claims that the amount of oil leaked out of the Frade well was somewhere between 400 and 650 barrels of oil, with only about 65 barrels worth of oil remaining on the surface of the water after a week of natural dissipation and the application of chemical dispersants.

However, independent analyses performed by organizations tell a different story.

Thu, 2011-11-17 14:15Farron Cousins
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Climate Change Spin A Growing Problem For Fox News

When it comes to climate change denial, a new study shows that the folks at Fox News are leading the pack. Through politically-charged news segments and commentary, Fox News personalities are helping spread misinformation about climate change while convincing their viewers that scientists are torn on the issue.

The International Journal of Press/Politics has published a new study titled “Climate on Cable: The Nature and Impact of Global Warming Coverage on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC,” [PDF] which details the ways in which the major American news outlets are reporting stories on climate change.

From the report:

National surveys reveal that many Americans do not believe that scientists are in agreement over this issue. More troubling, the number of Americans who believe that global warming is happening and that it is a result of human activities has declined in recent years: In April 2008, 71 percent of Americans perceived solid evidence for global warming, relative to only 57 percent in October 2009. And while President Obama has pledged that passing legis- lation to curb pollution that contributes to global warming is a priority of his admin- istration, in January 2009, Americans ranked global warming last in a list of twenty policy issues that they felt were important for the president and Congress to address. These surveys also point to stark partisan divides in global warming perceptions, with Democrats far more likely to accept the evidence for the human causes of global warming and to consider environmental protection a policy priority than Republicans.

The views that many Americans have towards climate change are clearly reflected in the cable news arena. Fox News, sadly, has the highest ratings of any other cable news organization, and the study shows that their viewers are for more likely to believe that manmade climate change isn’t happening. More from the study:

Of the three networks, Fox News was simultaneously the least likely to be accepting and the most likely to be dismissive of climate change. Nearly 60 percent of Fox News broadcasts were dismissive of climate change, whereas less than 20 percent were accepting of climate change. On the other hand, more than 70 percent of CNN and MSNBC broadcasts were accepting of climate change. Not a single MSNBC broadcast took a dismissive tone toward climate change and just 7 percent of CNN broadcasts did so.
Fri, 2011-11-11 10:51Farron Cousins
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Koch Brothers Behind Push To Dismantle EPA

During last week’s Americans For Prosperity (AFP) event, a common theme kept creeping into the speakers’ presentations: Dismantle the EPA. And as the major funders of AFP, Charles and David Koch are the ones pulling the strings of the American elected officials who keep clamoring for an end to all environmental protections.

Since the new Republican-controlled Congress took over earlier this year, calls for the EPA to be disbanded and general attacks on the agency have been constant. In the last 11 months, we have covered those stories here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Those in favor of saying goodbye to the EPA include presidential candidates like Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, elected officials like Republican Representatives Mike Rogers and David McKinley, and even media figures like Fox News’s John Stossel. The attacks include false claims that the agency is destroying jobs, or just general claims that the agency’s usefulness has run its course.

But when you look past those claims, the money from the Koch brotherss and their organizations is all that you can see.

Sun, 2011-11-06 10:46Farron Cousins
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Bogus Job Numbers Used To Sell Keystone XL Pipeline

As thousands of protestors gather at The White House today to voice opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline plan, one of the major selling points from the pipeline proponents is revealed as flawed and perhaps completely bogus. According to The Washington Post, the prospect of job creation – the reason so many people in America support the pipeline – isn’t as rosy as TransCanada would have us believe. In fact, their numbers don’t add up at all.

TransCanada threw out a figure of 20,000 jobs (13,000 construction, 7,000 for suppliers) that would be created directly and indirectly through the pipeline construction process. This is the figure that politicians have used to sell the pipeline to their constituents. But as The Washington Post points out, TransCanada chief executive Russ Girling admits the 20,000 figure is far from honest:

Girling said Friday that the 13,000 figure was “one person, one year,” meaning that if the construction jobs lasted two years, the number of people employed in each of the two years would be 6,500. That brings the company’s number closer to the State Department’s; State says the project would create 5,000 to 6,000 construction jobs, a figure that was calculated by its contractor Cardno Entrix.

As for the 7,000 indirect supply chain jobs, the $1.9 billion already spent by TransCanada would reduce the number of jobs that would be created in the future.

A TransCanada statement Sept. 30 said the project would be “stimulating over 14,400 person years of employment” in Oklahoma alone. It cited a study by Ray Perryman, a Texas-based consultant to TransCanada, saying the pipeline would create “250,000 permanent jobs for U.S. workers.”

But Perryman was including a vast number of jobs far removed from the industry. Using that technique in a report on the impact of wind farms, Perryman counted jobs for dancers, choreographers and speech therapists.
Fri, 2011-11-04 07:38Farron Cousins
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IBM Launches 2nd Annual Smarter Cities Challenge

At a time when corporations’ misdeeds are under a bright spotlight (and rightfully so,) we needn’t overlook the few companies that are working to bring innovation and technology to cities across the planet in desperate need of modernization. One of those companies is IBM, which is currently working on its 2nd annual Smarter Cities Challenge.

The program for this year will include a $50 million grant to cities to help improve infrastructure, technology, and energy efficiency. From a press release on this year’s program:

This highly successful grant program provides select applicant cities with access to teams of elite IBM employees with expertise on a variety of urban-related matters, such as finance, sustainability, public safety, and citizen services. They devote weeks of their time analyzing unique opportunities and challenges facing municipalities, particularly within the context of today's challenging economic climate. After conferring with officials, citizens, businesses, academics and community leaders, the IBM teams recommend actions to make the delivery of services to citizens more efficient and innovative. Issues addressed include jobs, health, public safety, transportation, social services, recreation, education, energy, and sustainability.

Earlier this year, IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge announced its 2011 grant winners, which included grants for much-needed environmental improvements in developing areas. For example, the city of Antofagasta, Chile received grants to help improve their irrigation systems, a social media infrastructure to voice environmental concerns, and an sustainable green energy program that will pull in government, academics, and private sector companies to help shift the city to cleaner, renewable energy programs.

Thu, 2011-11-03 17:31Farron Cousins
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Fracking Linked To Earthquakes In The U.S.

On the heels of yesterday’s report detailing Cuadrilla Resource’s admission that their fracking practices were responsible for small earthquakes in the U.K., new reports are surfacing that link fracking to earthquakes that occurred in January in Oklahoma. According to a new study by the Oklahoma Geological Survey [PDF], fracking is linked to 50 mini-earthquakes that occurred on January 18, 2011 in Oklahoma.

The NRDC describes the events as follows:

The occurrence of so-called “induced seismicity” – seismic activity caused by human actions – in conjunction with fluid injection or extraction operations is a well-documented phenomenon. However, induced earthquakes large enough to be felt at the surface have typically been associated with large scale injection or withdrawal of fluids, such as water injection wells, geothermal energy production, and oil and gas production. It was generally thought that the risk of inducing large earthquakes through hydraulic fracturing was very low, because of the comparatively small volumes of fluid injected and relatively short time-frame over which it occurs. As the controversy over hydraulic fracturing has heated up, however, researchers and the public have become increasingly interested in the potential for fracking to cause large earthquakes.

But this is hardly a new phenomenon. Studies show that fracking practices in the 1970s had caused similar seismic activity in Oklahoma, according to E&E News.

To date, none of the quakes have caused any deaths or any significant damages, but Grist echoed a great point from Joe Romm: “Would we tolerate this sort of impact from any other sort of industry? Would we tolerate it from a renewable energy industry? The answer there is no.”

As the pressure heats up over fracking, these seismic events will certainly become a cause for concern, and possibly even litigation, for citizens who are already unhappy with fracking activities occurring in their backyards.

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