Brendan DeMelle

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Brendan DeMelle is Executive Director and Managing Editor of  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, 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.

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” 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? 

Cue the Defections: Rep. Sensenbrenner First To Pull Out of Heartland Institute's Denial-a-Palooza Conference

Update May 7: Rep. Sensenbrenner says he will speak at Denial-a-Palooza after all because Heartland pulled its billboard, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Although not likely to be the last, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) became the first speaker to distance himself from Heartland Institute's outrageous billboard stunt today, telling the Washington Post that he will no longer attend Heartland's forthcoming denier conference in Chicago, a.k.a. Denial-a-Palooza.

Washington Post's Greg Sargent reports in his The Plum Line blog

GOP Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, a leading climate “skeptic,” will be pulling out of an upcoming conference sponsored by the group where he was supposed to speak.

Rep. Sensenbrenner's spokesman did leave the door open for him to attend if Heartland pulls the campaign (it has), but it would be difficult for any politician - even the leading sponsor of the Patriot Act - to continue associating with Heartland's extremist behavior.
Stay tuned for other defections as the insanity of Heartland's stunt - and its failure to apologize even though it decided to discontinue the billboards after only 24 hours - reverberates around the world.

More important than seeing the invited speakers bail on Heartland, expect to see some more of the corporations, including the 19 public companies, who have recently funded this denial shop jump off its sinking ship in the coming days.

Will Heartland Institute's Corporate Funders Tacitly Endorse Comparing Climate Realists to bin Laden and the Unabomber?

UPDATE: The Washington Post reports that Joe Bast and the Heartland Institute will discontinue the outrageous billboard campaign in a matter of hours. Bast issued the following statement to the Washington Post - notice the lack of an apology: 

We will stop running [the billboard] at 4:00 p.m. CST today. (It’s a digital billboard, so a simple phone call is all it takes.) The Heartland Institute knew this was a risk when deciding to test it, but decided it was a necessary price to make an emotional appeal to people who otherwise aren’t following the climate change debate.

The Heartland Institute has stooped to new lows today with the release of a billboard campaign in Chicago featuring “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski, Charles Manson and Fidel Castro. Heartland's intent with the billboards is to suggest that anyone who accepts the overwhelming evidence of manmade climate change is a radical on par with these murderers and madmen. 

Leo Hickman, who was first to cover this shameful stunt at the Guardian, sums it up best:

It really is hard to know where to begin with this one. But let's start with: “What on earth were they thinking?”

Among other head-scratchingly stupid elements, Heartland's announcement about its outrageous billboard campaign includes this insane statement:

The people who still believe in man-made global warming are mostly on the radical fringe of society. This is why the most prominent advocates of global warming aren't scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.

With a despicable stunt like this, it will be a miracle if Heartland retains financial support from any of the nineteen public companies that its internal documents revealed are fostering the group's work. Even Altria (a.k.a. PhilipMorris) should feel compelled to distance itself from Heartland after this. Who wants to sip Ste. Michelle wine (an Altria brand) knowing that the company funds this kind of extremism? 

Chesapeake Energy Well Blowout in Wyoming Causes Evacuation, Methane "Roared" For Days

A potentially dangerous oil well blowout at a Chesapeake Energy site in Wymoing caused at least 60 and perhaps 70 residents to evacuate within 5 miles of the disaster for several days until it was contained earlier today. Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK) was drilling the well in the Niobrara Shale region underlying parts of Wyoming, Colorada and Nebraska. 

“Potentially explosive methane gas roared from the ground at the site five miles northeast of the town of Douglas,” the AP reported.

Residents reported hearing the roar of escaping gas six miles away

The blowout occurred Tuesday afternoon at Chesapeake's Combs Ranch Unit well site. However, workers were unable to plug the well with drilling mud until today due to shifting winds that made the site too dangerous to attempt the now infamous “Top Kill” technique.  Halliburton subsidiary Boots & Coots workers were able to shove enough mud and other materials into the well to finally stop the methane gas leaking out of the well today.

Chesapeake had to resort to the “Top Kill” technique last year at a Pennsylvania gas fracking well blowout. In that case, Chesapeake used a junk shot of “a mix of plastic, ground up tires and heavy mud to plug the well.”

New Poll: American Voters Very Concerned About Global Warming Pollution, Support Taxing Dirty Energy

A new poll released today shows that American voters take global warming pollution very seriously and want to see action from government and the private sector to curb emissions and support clean energy solutions.

The new Yale-GMU survey found that 76% of Americans believe that regulating CO2 emissions should be a high priority for the federal government – a stark contrast to Republican politicos who consistently suggest that the government is over-stepping its bounds by trying to regulate global warming pollution. The Yale-GMU findings echo those of a Gallup poll released earlier this month that found 65% of Americans support “imposing mandatory controls on carbon dioxide emissions/other greenhouse gases.” (H/T Joe Romm)

The Yale-GMU poll found that 75% of Americans would support policies and candidates that would raise taxes on dirty energy sources like coal, oil, and natural gas, while passing the extra money onto American taxpayers by reducing the federal income tax by the same amount - a “revenue-neutral” tax shift.

While 79% support funding more research into renewable energy sources, those who strongly support it fell to 36% from 53% in 2008, and those who strongly oppose it rose to 21% from 8%, possibly due to the Solyndra bankruptcy and the coordinated attacks on clean energy by fossil fuel interests.

Support for building more nuclear power plants has dropped dramatically in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, from 61% who supported it overall in 2008 to just 42% now.

The Climate Change "Hoax" Hoax [Video]

Some clever person used Xtranormal to create a great video addressing climate change denial and correcting common myths held by global warming skeptics. It sounds a lot like a Skeptical Science-inspired project, doesn't it? Whoever did it, our hats are off. Great work. 

Check it out: 

Heartland Payments to University of Victoria Professor Susan Crockford Probed

University of Victoria adjunct professor Susan Crockford doesn't seem interested in discussing the monthly payments she appears to receive from the climate denying Heartland Spinstitute.

Crockford would not respond to emails, and refused to speak with the Martlet,” reports a UVic student newspaper attempting to probe the payments.

The Heartland Institute's Denialgate documents indicate that the spinstitute gives Crockford $750 per month. She is one of three Canadian university professors on the denier dole at Heartland, along with Madhav Knandekar and Mitch Taylor.

Greenpeace contacted the University of Victoria to raise conflict of interest questions relating to Heartland's payments to Crockford, who has a history of denying climate science as a speaker for its anti-science International Climate Science Coalition. See Greenpeace's letter to the University of Victoria.

But apparently the University isn't interested in investigating the matter, stating that, because Crockford is “not a member of regular faculty,” it won't probe allegations of conflict of interest.

“She is a member as a non-remunerated appointment as an adjunct, a professional zooarcheologist associate,” a university spokesperson told The Martlet correspondent Mark Worthing.

On 2nd Anniversary of Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster, Documentary Explores Lasting Impacts of Mountaintop Removal

Today marks the two-year anniversary of the Massey Energy Upper Big Branch mine disaster that claimed the lives of 29 coal miners. will premiere a special show tonight at 9pm EST called “Explore: West Virginia – Hillbillies, Coal Miners, Treehuggers & God,” taking a closer look at the disaster and the lasting impacts on the community of Whitesville, West Virginia.

The candid interviews with local residents discussing the many challenges posed by mountaintop removal coal mining are a great way for people unfamiliar with this issue to learn about the disaster and the larger issues firsthand.

Documentarian Charles Annenberg Weingarten does an excellent job chronicling the stories of Appalachian coal country. The half-hour documentary special takes the viewer through the heart of Appalachia to examine how the Massey mine disaster and ongoing mountaintop removal mining have affected local communities.