Senator John Kerry Speaks the Scary, Ugly Truth on Climate Change

There are precious few voices in the U.S. capital these days that are speaking the truth about climate change. Which is what makes Senator John Kerry's speech on the Senate floor today so powerful, and so necessary. 

In his speech, which clocked in at nearly 55 minutes, Senator Kerry attacked a “calculated campaign of disinformation” that, he says, “has steadily beaten back the consensus momentum for action on climate change and replaced it with timidity by proponents in the face of millions of dollars of phony, contrived ‘talking points,’ illogical and wholly unscientific propositions and a general scorn for the truth wrapped in false threats about job loss and tax increase.”

The senator from Massachusetts' words were clearly timed to inject some energy into the Rio+20 meetings of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, which begin in earnest tomorrow and which are struggling to stay relevant during a time when Europe is barely functioning and the U.S. is moving into election season. President Obama's decision not to attend the meetings has many diplomats and activists gathering in Brazil questioning the American committment to climate change and the great global environmental challenges.

Senator Kerry didn't mince words in his talk, calling out the “disgraceful” campaign of climate denial as the “conspiracy” that it is, and also placing some blame on the media for its reluctance or inability to bring reason and truth to the climate conversation.

Beginning of The End for Big Oil’s Billion Dollar Subsidies?

Democratic Senator Bob Menendez (N.J.) has introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate to kill, once and for all, the billions of dollars worth of subsidies that are flowing from the federal government to the oil industry.

Under Menendez’s proposal, the $4 billion annual corporate welfare handed out to oil companies would instead be used to pay down the federal deficit and be re-invested into renewable energy technology.

Given the Republicans’ history of fighting for the oil industry and their subsidies, you would expect this bill to be dead on arrival. However, in an odd combination of arrogance and ignorance, Senate Republicans actually sided with Democrats in a vote to move the bill onto the floor for debate.

Republicans currently believe that any issue involving gas and oil is a home run for their party, so they’re banking on the issue actually helping them out, politically. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following statement about the issue:

“We’re going to use this opportunity to explain how out of touch Democrats are on high gas prices, and put a spotlight on the common-sense ideas Republicans have been urging for years – ideas that reflect our genuine commitment to the kind of all-of-the-above approach the President claims to support but doesn’t.”

McConnell’s comment demonstrates both the arrogance and ignorance of the Republican Party on the issue of gas prices.

Senate Hearing Confirms Natural Gas Export Plans Will Raise Prices For Americans

Considering the rate at which natural gas resources are being developed, and the sudden push from industry to export the product, it might come as a surprise that the Senate’s Energy Committee hadn’t had a hearing on liquified natural gas (LNG) since 2005.

Last Tuesday, for the first time in six years, Senators brought the issue back to the Capitol spotlight, as they considered the impact of exporting LNG on domestic prices.

In order to export or import natural gas, companies can either transport it through pipelines, or ship it as liquefied natural gas (LNG). LNG is natural gas cooled to -260 degrees Fahrenheit, at which point the gas becomes a liquid. Back in 2006, LNG imports far outstripped exports, and industry used that trade deficit to push for a massive expansion of domestic drilling, relying heavily on the argument for American “energy security.”

Now that that expansion is well-underway, with the infamous Utica and Marcellus shales the frontier of rapid development, utilizing controversial fracking and horizontal drilling techniques, the industry is eager to start exporting LNG to international markets where the fuel fetches a much heftier price.

New Lake Michigan Coal Ash Spill Raises Old Concerns

On Monday, a bluff surrounding a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based power plant collapsed, sending a cascade of debris and coal ash waste from the power plant into Lake Michigan. No injuries were reported by We Energies, the company who owns the power plant, but the environmental assessment will likely be less optimistic. We Energies, a subsidiary of Wisconsin Energy Corporation (NYSE: WEC), has confirmed that the debris that made it into the river likely contained coal ash.

As of Monday afternoon, a “fuel sheen” appeared on the surface of Lake Michigan as a result of the bluff collapse. Cleanup crews from Clean Harbor were contracted by We Energies to help contain the spread of the sheen, and will be deploying about 1,500 feet of boom to help contain the waste on the surface. Shortly after the accident, residents living up to a mile away from the site along the lake were already reporting debris washing onshore.

As we have reported extensively in the past, coal ash contains countless toxic substances, including mercury, hexavalent chromium, arsenic, and cadmium. It has also been reported to be more radioactive as nuclear waste. In spite of these findings, the EPA has yet to issue any firm stance on whether or not coal ash will be regulated as a “toxic waste,” partly due to the fact that the coal industry has unleashed a cadre of lobbyists to Washington to fight to protect their coal ash interests.

The EPA’s delay in issuing a ruling on coal ash has allowed the Republican-controlled Congress to gain the upper hand on the issue. In early fall 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would prohibit the EPA from regulating coal ash, and preventing them from classifying the substance as “hazardous.” Instead of EPA regulations, the bill would allow states to issue their own standards on coal ash and prevent any federal standards.

Aussie Landholders Lock Gates to Keep Out Coal Seam Gas Industry

IN AUSTRALIA, landholders are responding to the country’s rush to exploit massive reserves of unconventional coal seam gas with a simple but defiant gesture.

They’re locking their gates.

More than 100 environmental and land groups have joined the Lock the Gate Alliance, fearing the multi-billion dollar industry could threaten their land, their health and their food supplies.

But in Queensland, many fear their concerns have come too late. In the last 12 months, federal and state governments have approved three major projects in the state worth AU$66 billion (US$ 67 billion). As many as 35,000 wells will be drilled across the state, according to Government estimates.

The three projects, known as GLNG, QCLNG and APLNG, involve major national and international resources companies including BG Group, Santos, Petronas, Santos, ConocoPhillips, Total and Kogas.

But questions remain over the impacts of drilling and fracking on the viability of farm lands and vital underground water supplies, with a current Federal Senate inquiry now attempting to find answers.

Bill to Block EPA Climate Regulations Moves Forward in Congress

On Tuesday, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives moved one step closer to passing a bill to permanently prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating global warming pollution. The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the bill, H.R. 910 or the “Energy Tax Prevention Act,” in a vote that fell mostly along party lines.

Under the guise of lowering gas prices, the bill would deliver several very lethal blows to EPA efforts to address climate change – and to President Obama’s energy agenda – by:

Republicans Aim to Limit EPA Power Through Polluter-Friendly Legislation

Republican U.S. Senators are following in the footsteps of House Republicans in their attempt to strip the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of their ability to regulate carbon emissions. A total of eleven Republicans have signed onto the Defending America’s Affordable Energy and Jobs Act that would prohibit the EPA from regulating any global warming pollution without Congressional approval.

Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), a climate change denier who created the bill, claims that it will “shrink Washington’s job-crushing agenda and grow America’s economy.” Barrasso and his Republican co-sponsors believe that the EPA’s attempts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions are a backdoor effort to enact “cap and trade” policies.

Since he came to Congress in 2007, Barrasso has received $179,750 from oil and gas interests, and another $133,000 from electric utilities, for a total of $312,750 from dirty energy interests.

Why Wait For The US? Report Recommends Unilateral Canadian Action On Climate Change

Canada’s National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE), a panel composed mainly of government appointees from industry and former Conservative politicians, has released a new report assessing whether Canada should “lead, lag, or harmonize” climate policies with the US, and the consequences of doing so.

In recent years, the Canadian federal government has opposed unilaterally acting on climate change, instead committing to harmonize greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions with the US in a continental approach. This has been a favourite position for Canadian Environmental Ministers wishing to postpone acting on climate change for fear of locking Canada into GHG emissions reductions, and notably for Jim Prentice who quit as Environment Minister late last year:

“Our determination to harmonize our climate change policy with that of the United States also extends beyond greenhouse gas emission targets: we need to proceed even further in aligning our regulations.”

“We will only adopt a cap-and-trade regime if the United States signals that it wants to do the same. Our position on harmonization applies equally to regulation…Canada can go down either road — cap-and-trade or regulation — but we will go down neither road alone.”

Canada Votes to Ban Tar Sands Oil Tankers off BC Coast; Enbridge Front Group Exposed

Today, Canada’s House of Commons approved a motion calling for a permanent ban on oil tankers off British Columbia’s coast.  The passed NDP motion introduced by MP Nathan Cullen urges the government to immediately propose legislation to “ban bulk oil tanker traffic” through the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound, off the north coast of B.C.  The bill received Parliamentary support in a tight a vote of 143-138, with all opposition parties supporting it and Conservatives opposed.

British Columbia is now one step closer to having a full legislated ban on supertankers off its north and central coasts. The opposition is sending a clear message to the Conservatives to legislate a formal moratorium. 

Today’s ban could seriously impact Enbridge, who has plans to develop a $5.5 billion 1,170-kilometre pipeline to carry dirty tar sands bitumen to Kitimat, B.C., where it would be loaded onto supertankers bound for growing energy markets in Asia.

Canada Already on Track to be Fossil of the Year in Cancun; Cleans up on Day One of the Talks

Canada is off to an impressive start at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, if what you’re measuring is climate inaction and environmental embarrassment. 

Today, at the first set of the Fossil of the Day awards, Canada took home not one, or two, but all three of the awards.  The dubious ‘honour’ is voted on by an international coalition of than 400 leading international environmental organizations, including Greenpeace, who vote on the countries that performed the worst during the past day’s negotiations.  Turns out if you are really committed to climate inaction, fail to have any plan to meet already weak targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, defeat a climate change bill that was already passed in your House of Commons by holding a snap vote by an unelected Senate after no debate, and are complicit in trying to weaken climate policy outside of your own national borders, you can win all three of the humiliating prizes. 

The gentleman accepting the shameful awards on behalf of Canada hopped from podium step to podium step, barely able to juggle his armful of awards.  Looks like Canada can clean up humiliating awards, but can’t clean up its act.

In the next two weeks, we’ll see if Canada will take home the Fossil of the Year for the forth year in a row.  From the look of things now, we might as well preemptively cue the Jurassic Park theme music. 

Watch this hilarious video to see Canada’s flagrant lack of commitment to climate change policy given its due recognition.  We can only hope that history does not repeat itself once more.  Prove us wrong, will you Mr. Baird? 


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