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Andrew Coyne's Connections to Free Market Think Tanks; Disclosure Lacking

Andrew Coyne, the a former editor of Maclean's magazine, founding opinionator for the National Post and frequent political pundit on CBC, has a rather long history tying him to free-market think tanks in Canada. 

According to the Canadian government's charity registry, Coyne has been a director for at least the last six years in a group called the Aurea Foundation. The Aurea Foundation was founded by Peter Munk, the head of Barrick Gold, and is a major funder of a small but influential network of free-market think tanks in Canada, including: The Fraser Institute, the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, the Frontier Center for Public Policy, the Montreal Economic Institute and the MacDonald Laurier Institute. 

Most of these groups espouse a philosophy similar to US free market think tanks like the Competitive Enterprise Instiute, the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation. In fact, most of these think tanks and some of their Canadian counterparts have been a major focus of the DeSmog team's work dissecting and exposing the climate change denial machine.

Making this complicated for Coyne is that the fact that some of these Canadian think tanks have been used as sources of information for Coyne's articles and op-ed pieces without the disclosure by Coyne that he sits on the board of Aurea.

The Natural Gas Lobbyist Rush is on in British Columbia

According to lobbyist registry data, there are currently 57 lobbyists representing the natural gas industry to elected officials and government agencies in the province of British Columbia. This is a pretty astounding number when you consider that the provincial government only consists of 85 elected representatives.

British Columbia, Canada is where I grew up and it is a place of natural beauty, in fact the main city of Vancouver is commonly cited as one of the most liveable cities in the world. But with all that nature comes a lot of natural resources and there has been a huge rush to extract these resources under the current business-friendly government (disclosure: I worked for this government for 3 years as a political advisor). 

So friendly in fact that just yesterday the BC government announced it would forgo more than $120 million in natural gas royalties in order to spur new investment in natural gas extraction.

I Love You Huffpo but What's Going On?

I have been writing on environmental issues on the popular news blog Huffington Post going on five years now but I am not sure if I will continue.

In an article today about yet another oil pipeline burst in the Northern Alberta tar sands, the editors of the Huffpo Canada section included a shiny happy “slideshow” at the end touting all the upsides of this massively destructive industry. 

It is blatant spin with factoids like: “Alberta will reap $1.2 trillion from oil sands” (leaving out the next part about the fact that emissions will triple in the same number of years):

Mordor found in Northern Alberta

Following up on an article I wrote last week for Huffington Post Canada, a commenter suggested that the Alberta tar sands looked like a real-life version of Mordor, the home of the evil Sauron in J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings. 

I agree. So does that make Stephen Harper Gollum

(click to enlarge)

'Peer of the Realm' Monckton now a Birther

This is a guest post by Greenpeace USA's Kevin Grandia, former DeSmog Managing Editor.

Christopher Monckton, well known for his wacky behavior attempting to deny the scientific realities of climate change, has now moved on to look into the conspiracy theory around whether US president Barack Obama was actually born in the United States!

Monckton, decked out in an American flag shirt, fire arm on his hip and a cowboy hat, tells the interviewer that:

My purpose in being here [in Arizona] is to have a further look into whether the president of the United States is the president of the United States. Now you might say, what has this got to do with someone from Britain… I am here because I am curious. As a peer of the realm I am allowed to stick my long aristocratic nose into anything I want to stick it in.

Seriously, you can't make this stuff up. Here is the video:

Russia's Hidden Arctic Nightmare Revealed [shocking never-before-seen video]

"I have to see it to believe it," was the reaction to my Russian colleague, Jon Burgwald, when he told me that every spring the rivers in Northern Russia turn black with oil saturated ice.

He sent me the pictures last night (But I am now debuting the video for the first time) from his visit to Usinsk which borders the Arctic and has the unenviable title of Russia's oil capital. Before oil was discovered here in the 1970's Usinsk was a pristine area, with rivers villagers could drink from, teeming with life.

Now the winter thaw marks the annual running of the black ice. You have to see it to believe it and here is the video. It is b-roll with no narrative, but this kind of messed up content needs no explanation [note: send me some Effexor to help me deal with this kind of thing]:

Please don't be impatient with this, wait until you see the oil literally gooping its way down the river. [oh, and if you are on Chrome the video code is a mess so click here]

Biomass - bad for trees, bad for the planet

A new report out today finds that using forest timber (biomass) for heating, electricity generation or liquid ‘biofuel’ could severely harm forests and accelerate global warming.

The report titled, Fuelling a Biomess, and authored by Greenpeace Canada, points to scientific evidence showing how using forests for energy can be worse for the climate than burning coal. 

The US is set to overtake Canada as the world’s biggest exporter of wood pellets, which are used in power plants and burnt instead of fossil fuels.

The report recommends:

  • Using woody biomass for energy production should be restricted to a local, small-scale use of mill residues.
  • Approval of new wood-based bioenergy projects should cease, pending public hearings, a full accounting of the life-cycle climate and biodiversity footprints, and a re-thinking of government policies. 

You can read a complete version of the report here: Fueling a Biomess, burning trees for energy puts Canadian forests and climate at risk.

[Note: a big warm hello to all the DeSmog readers! Been a while since I have written here, but I think I have the time to do so now.]

Summary of the 61 Scientist Letter

Dr. Ian D. Clark, professor, isotope hydrogeology and paleoclimatology, Dept. of Earth Sciences, University of Ottawa

[Astro] Turf Wars Uncovered in New Undercover Documentary

In his recently released documentary, [astro] Turf Wars, Australian filmmaker Taki Oldham goes undercover to try and answer the question: “Just how real are the roots of the tea party’s supposed grassroots uprising.”

Oldham, examines the role corporate-funded grassroots groups (known as ‘astroturf’) have played in the recent health-care and climate debates and their central role in the tea party movement.

Here’s the very amusing trailer:

Republicans running climate change denier for Governor in Maine

Paul LePage, the Republican (and Tea Party) candidate for Governor in the State of Maine is on the record as early as two weeks ago stating that there is still no scientific agreement on the realities of global warming.

This is of course despite decades of research by some of the top scientific academies in the world like the US National Academy of Science, NASA and the UK Royal Society.

Here’s what LePage had to say in a recent interview:

“Next one is very difficult, is true science. I’ve been listening about global warming for years. You have the pros and the cons. Quite frankly, we need to get our scientific community to come up to a baseline of a common agenda, a common understanding of where we are. Science has to be proven to be fact and if the science is not true, it’s not proven, then it’s rhetoric.”

By LePages’ defintition, the only rhetoric is from those who continue to say climate change isn’t happening despite a complete lack of scientific evidence to back up their claim.

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