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.

The Sky Is Pink: New Josh Fox Video On Fracking Controversies in New York (and Much More)

Gasland director Josh Fox is back with a must-watch new short video taking a look at the controversy in New York where Governor Andrew Cuomo is considering plans to lift the state's moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for unconventional gas.

But it's much more than just a local story. Fox goes into some great details - including in interviews with former Pittsburgh City Councilman Doug Shields and Merchants of Doubt co-author Naomi Oreskes - looking at the irresponsible journalism practice of 'he said, she said' reporting of issues where reporters don't bother to parse fact from industry propaganda. 

Fox also details the facts behind the 'tapwater on fire' scene from Gasland and the extreme efforts by industry to attack Gasland on this point. It's a must-watch takedown of the industry's slippery PR efforts to distract the public from the real threats that fracking poses to our drinking water and health. 

These are just a few highlights. It's really impressive how much great information is packed into this 18-minute video. Please watch it and share it widely. Otherwise, “the sky is pink” might actually turn into a reality for New Yorkers and everyone else being lied to by this reckless industry. 

Watch Josh Fox's new production, The Sky Is Pink:
  

Breaking: Leaked Rio+20 Earth Summit Final Agreed Text - Utterly Inadequate Response to Global Crises

DeSmogBlog has obtained the final negotiating text that will emerge from the Rio+20 Earth Summit and it is an utter disappointment to anyone who hoped that world leaders would pull together a meaningful global agreement on ending fossil fuel subsidies or other needed steps to protect future generations from resource depletion and global climate change.

Read the final text here: “The Future We Want”[.DOC] or [.PDF provided by DeSmog for those without Word]

Update: The Guardian (which first posted the text earlier today) has this summary of the implications:
  

Barring a last-minute rejection by one of the main negotiating blocks, the draft that will be presented to the 100 leaders attending the summit will contain almost no timetables, definitions or ways to monitor new sustainable development goals, nor will it strongly commit nations to move to a “green economy” that integrates environmental and social costs into decision-making.

Instead, civil society groups say the new text simply acknowledges the world's dire environmental and social problems without spelling out how to deal with them. 


Read the early reactions to the final text below from Greenpeace and WWF
  

What Chesapeake Energy's Financial Scandals Mean For The Rest of Us

Given radioactive wastewater, earthquakes, and flammable tap water, one might think that drilling and fracking could not possibly have any more dirty secrets. But here’s the biggest secret of all: it’s expensive.

With natural gas at historic low prices – the Wall Street Journal ran a column recently suggesting that the price of gas might even sink to negative numbers, so that producers would need to pay buyers to take it off their hands – it may seem odd to think that fracking is costly. But it’s true. Not just in terms of its environmental footprint, but also in terms of its financial costs.

And everyone should care about how expensive gas is, especially those concerned about energy security and the environment, because the answer will determine the fate of renewables, the way we use land and water, and whether our nation’s energy policies are fundamentally sound.

To understand what’s going on, you need to look at Chesapeake Energy, the second largest producer of natural gas in the US, the company described by its founder and CEO Aubrey McClendon as the “biggest frackers in the world.”

For 19 of the past 21 years, the company has operated at what investors call “cash flow negative” – last year by $8.547 billion dollars – meaning that Chesapeake has consistently spent a whole lot more than it earned. For decades.

To fund all that fracking, the company has been flipping land, engaging in so many financial transactions that it’s been said to resemble a hedge fund more than a gas driller.

McClendon's company has become the environmental Enron, with Chesapeake's accountants creating some of the most labyrinthine and impenetrable books since Enron, according to some investors.

Joe Bast Announces the Death of Denial-a-Palooza at Final Heartland ICCC Conference

During his closing remarks at the Heartland Institute's Seventh “International Conference on Climate Change,” Heartland President Joseph Bast revealed that the group has no plans to hold another conference and is struggling to pay its staff following the defections of corporate sponsors in the wake of the disastrous Unabomber billboard campaign and Deniergate document dump.

“I'm not a good fundraiser,” Bast admitted to the crowd today in Chicago as the gathering wound down.

Bast appealed directly to the crowd for donations, saying that “if you've got a rich uncle” [ask him to donate to Heartland]. 

“At this point we have no plans to do another ICCC,” Bast said, referring to the somewhat-annual gatherings which DeSmogBlog dubbed Denial-a-Palooza years ago. 

Watch Bast's closing remarks here (fast forward to 01:31:20). 

See below the fold for excerpted quotes from Bast's final remarks.

Bast announces at 1:38:05:

“I hope to see you at a future conference, but at this point we have no plans to do another ICCC.”

Heartland Denial-a-Palooza Sponsors Have Received $67 Million From ExxonMobil, Koch and Scaife Foundations

The Heartland Institute's Seventh “International Conference on Climate Change” - the somewhat-annual gathering of climate deniers that we call Denial-a-Palooza - is underway in Chicago. Heartland's contrarian gathering this year is clouded by the group's incredibly offensive billboard campaign that flamed out within hours but is causing lasting damage to the group's fading financial support from corporations, defections by staff and board directors and other headaches

Below is DeSmog's analysis of the “co-sponsors” of this year's ICCC7 conference showing that these organizations have received more than $67 million over the past three decades from ExxonMobil, the Koch Brothers and the right-wing Scaife family foundations. This is just a subset of the funding flowing to these groups from just three sources, and is certainly not all earmarked to cast doubt about climate change science and policy. But it provides a window into Heartland's current and historical support from fellow travelers who endorse the group's anti-science agenda. 


Here's the breakdown of funding to Heartland Institute *conference co-sponsors* from these sources:

ExxonMobil (1998-2010):              $7,312,500
Koch Foundations (1986-2010):     $14,391,975
Scaife Foundations (1985-2010):   $45,337,640

Grand Total:                               $67,042,115 


Here's the complete list along with the funding totals for each of the organizations.

Peter Sinclair's New Video Skewers Heartland's Offensive "Murderers, Tyrants and Madmen" Billboard Campaign

Peter Sinclair, the creator of the “Climate Crock of the Week” series, has a new video posted at the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media documenting just how out of touch with reality the Heartland Institute's recent offensive Unabomber billboard campaign is. Featuring the calm and insightful comments of Margaret Thatcher, Sinclair shows the stupidity of Heartland's claim that all of us who acknowledge climate change science are “murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”

Watch Sinclair's piece, part of Yale Forum's “This Is Not Cool” series:

  

Oil and Gas Industry Moves to Silence Critics

Shutterstock image by iodrakon

At an industry public relations conference last year, Michael Kehs of Chesapeake Energy described a Wall Street Journal op-ed to gathered oil and gas officials, saying it pointed out the industry's “credibility problem.”

“And I’m sure some of it relates to defensiveness,” Kehs added. (MP3 Audio

Small wonder.

For years, the oil and gas industry has adopted a war-like mentality towards its critics. When confronted with problems caused by drilling and fracking, instead of acknowledging them and working to prevent more, their approach has too often been to cover up the issues while attacking any critics who make problems known publicly.

This pattern has sharply accelerated in recent months.

Earlier this month, Al Armendariz, the EPA's regional administrator for the oil-and-gas rich states of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, sent his letter of resignation to Lisa Jackson, head of the EPA. Mr. Armendariz had come under heavy fire over comments he made two years ago at a local government meeting in Texas. 

In explaining his law enforcement philosophy, he analogized his agency's strategy to the early Romans, who he said would “crucify” law-breakers to make examples of them. After a video of these remarks was circulated last week by Sen. James Inhofe, Republican from Oklahoma, who counts the oil and gas industry as one of his largest donors, a firestorm of controversy broke out.

As Media Matters pointed out, when Mr. Armendariz said he intended to make an example of offenders, he was referring only to companies that actually broke the law – but this was not enough to save his career.

Tar Sands Oil Companies 71 Percent Foreign-Owned - Cue Ezra Levant's Outrage

ForestEthics Advocacy released a game-changing research brief today documenting the massive foreign control of Alberta's tar sands oil industry. Publicly traded oil companies with active tar sands operations have a very high level of foreign ownership – 71 per cent.

Some supposedly “Canadian” oil companies including Suncor, Canadian Natural Resources Limited, Imperial Oil and Husky are predominantly owned by foreign interests. More than half of Canada’s oil and gas revenue goes to companies under foreign control.

This revelation stands in stark contrast to the talking points of the Harper administration and its media echo chamber, which insist that there is too much foreign influence over Canada's resource decisions from environmental groups. In fact, the evidence shows overwhelmingly that foreign interests are influencing tar sands and other resource decisions - chiefly Chinese and other foreign oil companies. 

Cue Ezra Levant's outrage at this foreign influence in Canadian interests! Where's Vivian Krause when you need her? Surely the Ethical Oil Institute will agree that this level of foreign intervention is a dangerous threat to Canada's future

Recall that when the Ethical Oil Institute launched its allegedly “100% Canadian” OurDecision.ca website, this was the statement by spokesperson Kathryn Marshall:  “We’ll never take foreign money to undermine our country’s national interests.” 

The group admits that it receives funding from companies active in the tar sands. Now that it's been revealed that all these companies are predominently foreign-owned, the group's claims to be 100% Canadian are highly misleading. We await their statement correcting the record.

Anticipating that someone, perhaps from the 'ethical oil' team, will quickly attempt to do damage control by claiming that this is just some ginned up report by ForestEthics, let's be crystal clear that the data underlying the report are all from independent sources including Bloomberg Professional and industry journals. 

Corporate Exodus From Heartland Institute Continues As USAA and Insurers Bail

In the wake of the outrageous Heartland Institute billboard campaign equating everyone who acknowledges the science of global warming with “murderers, tyrants, and madmen,” many of the group's corporate donors are fleeing away, lest their public reputations get sullied by Heartland's recklessness.  

Today, Forecast The Facts announced that USAA, a Fortune 500 financial services company, has denounced the Heartland Institute and pulled its funding. A USAA spokesperson announced their decision on Facebook, saying, “In light of recent personnel departures at Heartland, we decided to end our support for the organization.” 
 
Earlier the group announced the withdrawal of around two dozen insurance companies, most notably State Farm, who have now ditched Heartland, joining GM, AT&T, Diagio and what's sure to be a continuing list of defections. E&E ($ubscription required) has a great recap of the fallout in the early wake of the billboard disaster, and The Guardian covered the insurance industry exodus today.   
 
Bravo to these companies for dumping Heartland. It is ridiculous to describe everyone from the Pentagon, President Obama, religions leaders and a majority of global citizens as “mostly on the radical fringe of society.” In Heartland’s twisted worldview, we’re all “murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”
 
This type of reckless behavior isn't new at Heartland, in fact it's par for the course for their leadership. The billboard idea illustrates Heartland's core mentality.
 

The Onion Skewers The Boom in Fracking PR Spin

In typically grand fashion, satirical news source The Onion has skewered the rise of misleading PR bankrolled by the oil and gas industry to defend the dangerous practice of fracking.
Although the piece is not “real” news, anyone could be forgiven for taking it as fact since it isn't far fetched at all.

Head over to The Onion to read the entire (short) piece, “Fracking Industry Now Largest Employer of Recent PR Graduates.”

Here is an excerpt featuring a manufactured quote that is pretty spot on:

“These days, media-savvy professionals who know how to publicize questionable scientific data in order to downplay the environmental dangers of forcing toxic fluids into the ground can pretty much write their own ticket,” said Bart Hobijn of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, adding that this year at least 2,500 graduating seniors will be put to work obfuscating the levels of carcinogens in groundwater. “And in the long term, the job demand will only increase. Fracking has become a high-growth sector in which there is an extraordinary amount of spinning to be done.” 

It would be funnier if it weren't so true.

The only thing missing is a reference to the industry's use of military psychological warfare tactics to intimidate citizens and divide communities.

Perhaps they didn't find that fair grounds for humor since it's such a devastating indictment of the oil industry's unethical behavior? 

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