A common theme in cheesy slasher horror movies is to have the main characters lulled into a false sense of security. The rampaging psychopath has seemingly been destroyed, everyone breathes a sigh of relief, and just as someone cracks a joke, the killer re-emerges and claims another victim. This scenario is playing itself out in American politics. But instead of a serial killer, the rampaging psychopath is the coal industry’s pollution of the public discourse.
As I’ve pointed out in the past, the coal industry-sponsored talking point of an Obama administration “war on coal” failed to resonate with the American public during the 2012 election cycle. That’s not speculation, it’s the industry’s own admission. They conceded that the public didn’t buy into the idea, and that it was a lousy attempt. Despite this evidence, their bought and paid for political lackeys are still beating the 'war on coal' drums.
During the run-up to the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election, Republican candidate Mitt Romney ran ads and the party adopted as a platform the “war on coal” being waged by President Barack Obama. While the platform failed when it came to securing votes for the Republican Party, it hasn’t stopped the GOP from re-launching the same talking points in the wake of President Obama’s recent climate change action speech.
Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner was one of the first to voice his concerns for the coal industry, saying that the President’s plan to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants would have a devastating impact on employment and the industry itself.
Anyway, ‘war on coal’ never resonated with much conviction among ordinary Americans. For them, the EPA keeps the air and water clean, their kids safe. The Appalachian permits the EPA held up, the Spruce Mine permit the agency yanked, the regulatory standard it proposed to slow greenhouse gas emissions and stop new coal plant construction – all that flew over the head of most voters who, let’s face it, know far more about the Kardashians than they do about coal.
The claim, which reached the most ears during the President’s 2012 State of the Union Address and was parroted throughout the campaign season, was that the new shale gas bonanza would bring 600,000 new jobs to America over the next decade. With job creation as a top campaign issue, this talking point resonated well with American voters.
After many weeks of silence, Republican politicians and the dirty energy industry have re-launched their attacks on President Obama and Democrats over the price of gasoline. The silence from these groups was the result of a price drop for most of the summer, but a price increase over the last few weeks has once again caused the old familiar, and debunked, talking points about Obama raising gas prices to resurface.
Leading the charge is the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), which this week issued a press release claiming that “Democrats aren’t working” for America because gas prices are at an all-time high. Their solution? Immediately approve the Keystone XL pipeline.
When the Obama White House begins adopting the same talking points as the dirty energy industry, something has gone horribly wrong with our government. But that is exactly what is happening today, with the White House apparently buying into the repeatedly debunked industry talking point that claims that government regulations are killing jobs.
The White House has created a new page on their website – whitehouse.gov/advise – where they are asking businesses to tell the government which regulations are burdening their business so that the government can decide whether or not to kill that regulation.
In Part 1 of this series, we explored the overall environmental issues that are facing the U.S., mostly as a part of coordinated attacks by politicians in Washington. In the next few articles, we’ll take a look at what each candidate has said or done in regards to both environmental and energy issues.
At this point in the race, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is the presumptive Republican nominee for President of the United States, a title that will become official after the Republican convention in August. Because Romney previously served as a governor, we have the benefit of looking at what he’s actually done when placed in charge, not just committee votes or proposed legislation.
And just like his record on other issues, Romney’s environmental record is one that has constantly changed to fit the political landscape. He has somehow managed to take both sides of virtually every major environmental issue, with his recent positions being more in line with that of the extremist, climate change denying branch of the Republican Party.
But the shift in ideas and rhetoric for Romney (which has quickly become his trademark as a candidate) is actually also in line with that of other major Republican candidates.
Repeat something often enough, and it becomes true. That phrase has been a common theme among think tanks and politicians for decades. And sadly, there is a lot of truth behind that statement.
But the claim itself relies on the belief that people will not seek out the truth for themselves; that they won’t take the time to verify, fact check, or question the official story given by a media outlet or elected official.
And when that lack of follow up and lack of questioning occurs, then the lie does in fact become the truth.
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the mainstream media has been all too willing to echo the “job killer” talking point for industry. This isn’t a new phenomenon, either.
According to a new, joint report from Occidental College and the University of Northern Iowa, the media has been pushing the myth of “job killing regulations” for nearly 30 years. In fact, the report shows that the myth has been pushed without any verification and without any honesty behind the claims.
Since at least last summer, conservatives have been parroting the oil industry talking point that President Obama is somehow the one responsible for the spike in gasoline and oil prices. As we have pointed out, they base this on their assertion that the President has been “hostile” towards the dirty energy industry by prohibiting drilling and denying the passage of the Keystone XL Pipeline proposal. While the Keystone deal is currently on hold (although not even close to being off the table,) the assertion that the president has been hostile to the oil industry is beyond false.
Furthermore, the claim that Obama is responsible for the rise in gasoline prices is untrue on all premises. Just this week, the Associated Press released a report explaining the numerous ways in which gasoline prices are far beyond the control of the President, regardless of his actions or policies that he puts in place regarding oil exploration. Here are some highlights from the new report:
It is hard to believe that it's been almost four years since Americans were bombarded by the cry of “Drill baby, drill” that echoed throughout the halls of the Republican National Convention in 2008. That slogan became a rallying cry for conservatives who believed that increasing oil drilling – in spite of the environmental costs – would lead to an economic boom in the United States, and would also help ease prices at the pump for American consumers.
It turns out that increased oil production has nothing to do with the prices Americans pay at the pump. While industry leaders point to increased production in 2008 that was followed by lower prices, experts counter that the drop in price was due to simple market fluctuations: specifically, a drop in demand due to the global recession.
People travelled less and therefore didn’t use as much gasoline, creating a surplus that companies had to expel by lowering prices. These same experts also say that a rise in renewable energy use contributed to lower fossil fuel prices during this time period.
If you follow the cycle of anti-climate change talking points, you’ll notice a pattern that repeats itself every few years. In between spurts of outright denial, the anti-science crowd will occasionally revert back to a less-heard talking point: Climate change is actually a good thing.
Even as the year 2011 has ranked the 10th warmest year on record, the “climate change is good” talking point has crept back to center stage among conservative pundits and dirty energy apologists who can't help but to acknowledge that climate change is real, but suggest that we don’t need to worry about it.
This particular talking point gained a lot of steam in 2004, when the Cato Institute began hyping the idea that climate change was going to be a net benefit for mankind. From Cato:
Theory predicts and observations confirm that human-induced warming takes place primarily in winter, lengthening the growing season. Satellite measurements now show that the planet is greener than it was before it warmed. There are literally thousands of experiments reported in the scientific literature demonstrating that higher atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations – cause by human activity – dramatically increase food production. So why do we only hear one side about global warming?
Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.
There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.