Brendan DeMelle

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Brendan DeMelle is Executive Director and Managing Editor of DeSmogBlog.com.  He is also a freelance writer and researcher specializing in new media, politics, climate change and clean energy. He has served as research associate for Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., researcher for Ring of Fire Radio, researcher for Laurie David and StopGlobalWarming.org, law and policy analyst for Environmental Working Group, campus organizer for Connecticut Public Interest Research Group, environmental justice associate for EPA Region 10, among other positions in his career. DeMelle has provided writing and communications services on a wide range of topics, with a demonstrated ability to simplify complex and technical issues into concise, accessible language for general public consumption. 

His work has appeared in Vanity Fair, The Huffington Post, GristEnergyBoom, The Washington Times and other outlets, including a peer-reviewed article in the Journal of Rural History about the social and ecological impacts of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project. He graduated from St. Lawrence University with a BA in Sociology and Environmental Studies in 1998, and lives in Seattle, Washington with his wife Anne.

Interview with 'Kivalina' Author Christine Shearer - Trivia Challenge For Free Copy

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Christine Shearer, author of “Kivalina: A Climate Change Story,” an important new book that probes some of the tangible consequences of climate change denial. Shearer chronicles the very real experience of the melting and eroding community of Kivalina, Alaska, a smalll but resilient village community that sued ExxonMobil and 23 other polluters for contributing to the global warming that is tearing down their homes.

**Answer the trivia questions at the bottom of this post for a chance to win a free copy of Kivalina.

Brendan DeMelle (BD): What inspired you to write this book?

Christine Shearer (CS): In 2007 I became part of a science project assessing the biggest human impacts to marine ecosystems, which required getting data from over 100 scientists. And the more I worked on it, the more it became clear to me that the data on climate change was really alarming, and that if we did not get a handle on this problem soon, it could be too late - we’d set into motions feedbacks that could not be reversed. Which made me wonder about the disconnect between what scientists knew about climate change, and what many in the U.S. were hearing about the subject - you know, that it’s not happening, or it’s not that bad, or it’s natural, etc.

At the same time I happened to be studying the disinformation campaigns of past industries in one of my graduate classes - like lead and asbestos, and also climate change. Academics and journalists have been documenting the tactics of industrial misinformation for decades now.

EIA's Politically Dictated “Garbage” Subsidy Report Obtained And Released Publicly

The Checks and Balances Project has obtained a copy of the controversial Energy Information Administration report that was called “garbage” by EIA Acting Administrator Howard Gruenspecht.  The polluter-friendly report was just delivered yesterday afternoon to the GOP House requesters, Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD). Checks and Balances provided a copy to DeSmogBlog, which we’re providing to the public here: “Direct Federal Financial Interventions and Subsidies in Energy in Fiscal Year 2010” [PDF].

Gabe Elsner, Deputy Director of the Checks and Balances Project, told DeSmogBlog that, “if it’s true that the Acting Administrator Gruenspecht called this report a “piece of garbage” he was right, because it deliberately leaves out the six other ways in which coal, oil and natural gas get government handouts.  The fossil fuel welfare tab is tens or hundreds of times greater than the cost of pro-renewable policy support.” 

EIA Head Objected to Politically Dictated “Garbage” Subsidy Report, But Delivers it Anyway

Stephen Lacey from ClimateProgress on Tuesday detailed a letter sent to the Energy Information Administration (EIA) by three GOP House members asking the EIA to use loaded assumptions in running its models to show that fossil fuels are a better taxpayer investment than renewable energy sources.

These members, each of whom has received campaign funding from fossil fuel interests, essentially requested a report designed to suggest that renewables get huge public subsidies (they don’t) and that government handouts to fossil fuels and nuclear energy are a better deal for taxpayers (they aren’t). It was a blatant attempt to defend oil industry subsidies, and it put EIA in the unenviable position of lending its credibility to the talking points used by the oil, gas and coal industries.
 
Lacey reported that in a rare moment of sanity in Washington, the report was halted before it was turned over to the GOP requestors. Lacey’s report says that EIA cited “quality assurance” concerns, and would revisit the report to ensure it gives a “full picture,” accurate account of energy subsidies, not a politically driven result.
 
But “quality assurance” was the kindest way to portray what really happened.

NY Times Editorial Urges Obama Administration To Reject Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline

The New York Times editorial today calls on the State Department and President Obama to reject the disastrous Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which it correctly labels the “wrong pipeline for the wrong oil.”

The NYT editors point to the environmental impacts of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline from Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast, noting the destruction it would cause to Canada’s boreal forests, the threats to Midwest drinking water supplies from inevitable spills and accidents, and the climate impacts of supporting the extraction of the dirtiest oil on the planet.

Hillary Clinton’s State Department is correctly called to account for its abysmal attempts at drafting an adequate Environmental Impact Statement, which the EPA has labeled “insufficient” both times it has reviewed the document.

In a clear nod to the intense lobbying efforts of the pipeline’s proponents, the Times urges Clinton’s State Department to judge “the pipeline on the merits, not because of politics or pressure from the Canadian government, big oil and the industry’s friends in Congress.”

Read the rest of the Times’ concise and necessary criticism of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline: “Wrong Pipeline, Wrong Assessment” at the Times’ website.

Stephen Colbert Skewers Talisman Energy Over Gas Fracking Coloring Book

Stephen Colbert devoted a must-see segment of The Colbert Report last night to the subject of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), mocking gas company Talisman Terry for its coloring book propaganda, “Talisman Terry’s Energy Adventure” [PDF] and generally eviscerating the gas industry’s efforts to greenwash fracking in the wake of widespread public concern over water contamination and other threats posed by the industry’s drilling operations.

Colbert’s team certainly had fun mocking Talisman’s “Friendly Fracosaurus” character, revealing some “bonus pages” of the dinosaur facing his “violated ancestors” and committing suicide - frackicide? - by lighting a cigarette in the shower.  These references were surely amusing to viewers of Gasland and other followers of the fracking controversy.

Watch the video:

Denial-a-Palooza 6: Heartland's Sixth International Conference on Climate Change, Courtesy of Koch, Scaife & Exxon

The Heartland Institute is convening a who’s-who of the global warming denial machine in Washington, DC over the next two days for the sixth International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC6).

Seemingly content to let the world burn, the denizens of Denial-a-Palooza work year-round to sow doubt and confusion about climate change among the public - aided by Fox News and other friendly media outlets - so that no action is taken to limit heat-trapping gasses in the atmosphere. This event is attended by the best corporate front groups that polluter money can buy, and this year is no exception.

As in past years, the speakers and sponsors lists are dripping with oil money, and comprise nearly the full roster of groups who share a common interest - greenwashing dirty energy sources like oil and coal while simultaneously attacking the credibility of the world’s top climate scientists. The presentations will misrepresent the state of climate science, while the real action will take place backstage, as these groups coordinate their ongoing efforts to smear the reputation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (Note the intentional naming of this “ICCC” to sound like the IPCC.)

Let’s take a look at the funding of the sponsors of ICCC6:

17 of the 43 sponsors of the Heartland Institute’s Sixth International Conference on Climate Change, including the Heartland Institute itself, have collectively received over $46 million from either Scaife Foundations, Koch Foundations, or ExxonMobil and its foundation.

Most of these organizations, including many that choose not to disclose their funding sources, comprise the core of the industry attack on global warming science. See below for a complete breakdown of funding details:

Denial For Hire: Willie Soon’s Career Fueled by Big Oil, Coal and Koch Money

Willie Soon, the notorious climate denier who has made a career out of attacking the IPCC and climate scientists, has received over $1 million in funding from Big Oil and coal industry sponsors over the past decade, according to a new report from Greenpeace.

The Greenpeace report, “Dr. Willie Soon: a Career Fueled by Big Oil and Coal,” reveals that $1.033 million of Dr. Soon’s funding since 2001 has come from oil and coal interests. Since 2002, every grant Dr. Soon received originated with fossil fuel interests, according to documents received from the Smithsonian Institution in response to Greenpeace FOIA requests.

The documents show that Willie Soon has received at least $175,000 from Koch family foundations (Soon is a key player in the Koch brothers’ climate denial machine, as Greenpeace documented previously), $230,000 from Southern Company, $274,000 from the American Petroleum Institute, and $335,000 from ExxonMobil, among other polluters.

Scientists and Activists Issue A Call To Action To Stop Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline

A group of eleven veteran U.S. and Canadian scientists and environmentalists today jointly issued a call to action for non-violent civil disobedience in front of the White House later this summer to stop the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.  This proposed Transcanada pipeline, which must be approved by President Obama in order to proceed, would carry filthy tar sands oil from Alberta to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries, and further solidify North America’s commitment to mutual fossil fuel addiction for generations to come. 

“This is one issue where the president has total control–he has to grant or deny the necessary permits. Congress can’t get in the way. It’s where Obama can get his environmental mojo back. But we need him to lead,” said Bill McKibben, author, DeSmogBlog contributor and signatory on the letter.

The letter ask citizens to come to Washington for a peaceful and dignified protest against the Keystone XL pipeline, which the authors describe as a “1500-mile fuse to the continent’s biggest carbon bomb.”

Manhattan Institute Op-ed Exemplifies Why NY Times Should Require Disclosure of Financial Conflicts

The New York Times ran an op-ed last week by Robert Bryce of the Manhattan Institute, a group funded by Koch Industries, ExxonMobil and other polluters to confuse the public about climate change and energy issues. Robert Bryce goes to great lengths to portray solar and wind power as land-hogging energy choices. He suggests that fracked shale gas and nuclear are somehow more environmentally preferable energy options.

This is a common argument from Bryce, who had a similar pro-fracking op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this week, and who has emerged as one of the loudest of a growing cadre of critics of clean energy. Most of these critics are, not surprisingly, affiliated with “institutes” (i.e., front groups) that get money from the dirty energy industries that solar and wind are starting to disrupt.

Bryce’s argument was quickly debunked by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), which points out a number of factual errors and omissions in the Manhattan Institute representative's piece.  AWEA was correct to take on Bryce's misinformation and set the record straight. Climate Progress also picked apart Bryce's claims in detail.

But one important question remains - why does The New York Times print such misleading opinion pieces without revealing the clear conflict of interest that a Koch/Exxon-funded front group representative has on such matters? Did the Times’ even ask, and does it do so as a matter of standard practice? {C}

Bill McKibben's Recent Op-Ed On Climate and Severe Weather Remixed Into Video

Check out this excellent video version of Bill McKibben’s recent Washington Post op-ed “A link between climate change and Joplin Tornadoes? Never!”

Narrated and illustrated by Stephen Thomson of Plonomedia.com, the video is a great visual representation of McKibben’s widely-circulated op-ed.

Watch here, and share this widely:

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