Farron Cousins

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Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine, and his articles have appeared on The Huffington Post, Alternet, and The Progressive Magazine. He has worked for the Ring of Fire radio program with hosts Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Mike Papantonio, and Sam Seder since August 2004, and is currently the co-host and producer of the program. He also currently serves as the co-host of Ring of Fire on Free Speech TV, a daily program airing nightly at 8:30pm eastern. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009.  Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced.

Industry Funded Front Group Attacks Government Estimates Of Oil Drilling Revenues

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently released a report detailing the many ways in which expanded oil exploration and drilling in federally protected areas would not yield an overall economic benefit for the United States.  The CBO report says that the revenue generated by these operations would take too long to come to fruition, and that our current areas of drilling are where the real money is in this situation.

But the dirty energy industry will never go down without a fight, so they had their friends at the Institute for Energy Research (IER) fund a study that showed that the CBO was way off the mark with their estimates.  IER has received funding from both Exxon and Koch Industries.

Record Fines For BP In Gulf Disaster Deal

After a ruling earlier this week by a federal judge in New Orleans, BP now holds the record for the largest criminal penalty in U.S. history.  The penalty, totaling $4 billion, is strictly related to the criminal conduct of the company that led to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and oil leak into the Gulf of Mexico.

As part of the deal, BP agreed to plead guilty to a total of 14 counts of criminal conduct, which includes charges of felony manslaughter. However, as CNN.com points out, the charges are against the company, not any individuals involved, so prison time for those responsible will not be part of the deal.

The $4 billion criminal penalty does not affect the settlement deals for the victims along the Gulf Coast, nor does it include any environmental fines for the company. Those are separate cases that are still being worked out, and will result in several billions more in financial penalties for the company.

Mystery Company Posts Job Opportunity For Anti Wind Power Protesters

Earlier this week, a Craigslist posting popped up that had that fresh stink of industry astroturf. The posting, listed for New York City, was from a mysterious company known only as “Ovation,” who was looking to hire “volunteers” to protest the construction of wind farms in Scotland and England.  The protest is to take place in front of the British Consulate in Manhattan on January 30.

Here is the full Craigslist posting, which has since been removed:

Renewable Energy Capacity Surging, But America Betting On Shale Gas

A report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Office of Energy Projects says that, in 2012, the capacity for renewable energy electrical generation accounted for almost 50% of all new installations for energy projects in the United States.  This includes solar, biomass, geothermal, and water-based generation capacity.

On top of making up nearly half of all new installation, renewable energy generation capacity also increased by 51% over the previous year.

However, generation capacity and actual electrical generation are two very different things, and total renewable generation for the year 2012 only amounted to about 13% of total energy production last year in the U.S.

The amount of renewable energy produced in the U.S. last year was slightly less than the global average of 15%, meaning that America is not too far off the mark compared to the rest of the world.  The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has set a worldwide goal of 30% renewable energy by the year 2030, but they currently remain pessimistic about the ability of countries to achieve that goal, and believe that there could be at least a nine-percentage point deficit between reality and their goal.

So why the pessimism in the face of good news from the U.S.?  The answer is shale gas.

National Climate Assessment Delivers Dire Warning On Climate Threat

A draft version of the 2013 National Climate Assessment is making headlines this week, and not because it is so uplifting.  According to the report, the effects of climate change are becoming alarmingly visible throughout America and the rest of the world.

The 1146-page report reads less like a government assessment and more like the Old Testament.  Accounts of hurricanes, droughts, floods, impending famines, and natural disasters of every kind are listed in the report, and all of these occurrences have been directly linked back to climate change.

Poll Shows Strong Bipartisan Support For Healthy Environmental Choices From Congress

While politicians in America have been slow to react to both the threat of climate change and the need for expanded renewable energy resources, the American public has made their priorities clear:  Give us clean energy that protects our health, our environment, and our resources.

According to a new poll conducted by ORC International for The Civil Society Institute and the Environmental Working Group, strong majorities of Americans from both ends of the political spectrum believe that Congress should take public health and safety measures into consideration before giving a blank check for production to the dirty energy industry.

Among the major findings of the survey:

RFK, Jr. & Bill McKibben: Time To Act On Climate Change

Originally published on Ring of Fire

New reports have come out this week showing us that 2012 was officially the hottest year on record.  North America alone was plagued with hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, floods, blizzards, and numerous other forms of weather that have almost all been linked back to anthropogenic climate change. 

Earlier this week, Ring of Fire Radio’s Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. spoke with 350.org founder Bill McKibben about the threat of climate change and what President Obama needs to do during his second term to address the problem.  The transcript of that conversation follows, and the interview will run this weekend on the Ring of Fire radio program:

Dirty Energy Lobby Optimistic About Obama’s Second Term

Despite the years that they have spent attacking President Obama, the dirty energy industry is incredibly optimistic that the White House is going to give the oil and gas industry everything they want in Obama's second term.

Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute (API), said that his group is confident that the Obama administration’s second term will turn into a boom for the natural gas industry.  As we’ve pointed out in the past, Gerard’s vision for America is to have a dirty energy lobbyist strategically placed in every district in the country.

The Hill has the latest from Gerard:

Citizens Take Action Against Coal Company For Clean Water Act Violations

A citizens group in Pennsylvania has filed a lawsuit against Emerald Coal Resources LP (ECR) for polluting waterways in their state.  ECR operates a coalfield in Waynesburg, which is the focus of the suit.

The suit is being handled by The Center For Coalfield Justice, and alleges that ECR committed numerous violations of the Clean Water Act over the last five years, with those violations greatly intensifying in the last 12 months.

Huffington Post has the specifics on the suit:

The lawsuit contends Emerald Coal has violated pollution levels for iron, manganese, aluminum and other pollutants more than 120 times in the past 12 months and more than 400 times in the past five years. The group is basing those claims on violations the company has been self-reporting to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection under Emerald's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit as part of the federal Clean Water Act.

The Center for Coalfield Justice said that they had attempted to reach an amicable resolution to the violations with ECR, but that the company was less than willing to cooperate.  As such, the group felt that a lawsuit would be the only way to force the company to comply with federal laws.

The Clean Water Act allows for citizens to sue when corporations have violated the law, provided they give the federal government 60 days notice. The Center for Coalfield Justice has followed that protocol

Shell’s Kulluk Rig Grounding Proves Folly of Arctic Oil Drilling, Again

Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell spent a good portion of 2012 defending allegations that the company wasn’t “arctic ready.”  The disaster that occurred with their offshore drilling rig Kulluk on New Year’s Eve only served to prove that the company is not to be trusted.

Tug crews towing the floating Kulluk rig in the Arctic Ocean off the coast of Alaska lost connection with the vessel during a storm on December 31. Kulluk subsequently washed ashore with the waves. The U.S. Coast Guard says that the Shell vessel currently does not appear to be leaking, but it is estimated to have about 150,000 gallons of diesel fuel aboard.

In response to Shell’s failures to safely operate this vessel, as well as their countless failures in recent history, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune issued the following statement

In just one year, Shell has proven over and over again that they are completely incapable of safely drilling in the Arctic. Their ships have caught fire and lost control, they’ve damaged their own spill containment equipment, and they’ve been caught entirely unprepared for the challenges of the Arctic…This is the last straw.  We should judge Shell not by their assurances or their PR tactics, but by their record – and Shell’s record clearly demonstrates that letting them operate in the Arctic is an invitation for disaster.

The Sierra Club is calling on the Obama administration to immediately revoke Shell’s Arctic drilling permits. NRDC, the Wilderness Society and other groups are expected to issue similar requests this week.