Farron Cousins

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Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine, and his writings have appeared in publications such as California's Information Press and Pensacola's Independent Weekly.  He has also worked for the Ring of Fire radio program with hosts Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Mike Papantonio since August 2004, and is currently the producer of the program, in charge of guest booking, research, and scripting the week's show.  Farron also runs Mike Papantonio's publishing company - Seville Publishing. 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.

Republican Senator Scott Brown Suffering From "Subsidy Amnesia"

With a straight face, Republican Senator Scott Brown told a crowd in Massachusetts this week that “oil companies don’t get subsidies” from the federal government. Brown tells us that, just like other companies, they are able to “take deductions,” but nothing more.

The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) was quick to jump on the story, compiling an astounding array of information that proves that Scott Brown is either the most misinformed member of Congress when it comes to subsidies, or that he’s a plain old liar. From an LCV press release:
  

Experts say oil company tax credits are essentially the same as direct spending subsidies. In a May 5, 2011 article, the Center for American Progress noted: “[T]he tax code is stuffed with a host of subsidies for oil and gas. These subsidies are delivered through the tax code but they are essentially no different from government spending programs that provide money directly.” Additionally, citing nonpartisan organizations including the Tax Policy Center and Pew Charitable Trusts, Media Matters for America documented in an April 10 article that “experts say that [oil industry tax] incentives – legally categorized as tax expenditures – have effects similar to more direct cash transfers from the government.” The Tax Policy Center stated that “Tax expenditures operate essentially like direct expenditures, even though they appear as tax breaks.” Pew’s SubsidyScope.org website stated: “Tax expenditures have a similar effect on the federal deficit as government spending. They can also have effects on recipients that are similar to grants or other types of subsidies.” [Center for American Progress, 5/5/11; Media Matters for America, 4/10/12].

Prominent members of Scott Brown’s own party recognize that tax expenditures are subsidies. In a March 28 article, Think Progress documented that “Numerous Republican leaders have noted that a tax break is the same as a direct government [payment] or subsidy, in a different form. This includes President Ronald Reagan’s chief economic advisor, Martin Feldstein, former Senate Budget Committee Chair Pete Domenici (R-NM), House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-MI), and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH).” Think Progress included quotes for each of these Republicans in the article. [Think Progress, 3/28/12].
 

Not only does the oil industry receive subsidies from the federal government, but as the LCV points out, earlier this year, Scott Brown actually voted against repealing the subsidies for the oil industry, that are currently costing U.S. taxpayers as much as $7 billion a year.

What To Expect When You’re Electing: President Barack Obama

Part 3 in a series, see Part 1 and Part 2.

Perhaps more than any other sitting U.S. President, Barack Obama has been Commander in Chief through some of the most obvious examples of what climate change will do to America. The last few weeks alone have given us severe droughts in some areas of the country while others have seen unprecedented flooding; The state of Colorado is battling some of the worst wildfires in their history; and massive heat waves are engulfing large swaths of America. And let’s not forget the massive snowstorms in the winter of 2010 – 2011.

Then there were the manmade environmental atrocities like the BP oil geyser in the Gulf of Mexico, the deadly Massey Upper Big Branch mine disaster, the Kalamazoo River tar sands spill, fracking-induced earthquakes in Ohio, water contamination from unconventional oil and gas drilling – the list could go on and on.

So in the face of these disasters, how has President Obama fared on environmental issues? Let’s take a look.

In 2008, then-candidate Obama told supporters that if elected, he would set a goal of an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by the year 2050. He acknowledged that man-made climate change was a real threat to America, and signaled a change in policy from the previous administration. Voters, especially environmentally conscious voters, were relieved to finally hear a candidate expressing such bold goals for the country.
  

Hot Enough For Ya? Extreme Weather Events Consistent With Climate Change Science

Large portions of the U.S. are on fire. Record droughts currently encompass massive swaths of America. The areas not experiencing droughts have been inundated with flooding. Winter weather in many areas was almost non-existent. A few years ago, an Academy Award-winning film called “An Inconvenient Truth” warned wary Americans that all of these events would become the new normal due to climate change. But these are no longer warnings – this is the reality that we’re living in now.

It is becoming increasingly more difficult to ignore the evidence of extreme weather that surrounds all of us. And it isn’t just the United States. Every corner of the globe is experiencing the direct effects of climate change in some form or fashion. And again, we were warned that all of this was going to happen.

My hometown of Gulf Breeze, Florida feels like it's been a petri dish for climate change disaster stories. In the past month, we’ve had two separate droughts that were both ended by flash flooding. In between these events, we avoided a hit from pre-season tropical storm Debby, which turned eastward and drenched central Florida with torrential rains. Last weekend we had a heat index of 112 degrees, and I awoke this morning (again, after weeks of drought) to find half of my yard underwater due to coastal flooding.

In the U.S., the reality of climate change has certainly been an eye opener for many Americans.
  

FreedomWorks Fails Basic Math And Economics To Smear Renewable Energy Investments

The corporate funded, Libertarian/Conservative “think tank” FreedomWorks is doing their best to convince Americans that taxpayer-funded energy subsidies and loans are a waste of our resources. Of course, that doesn’t apply to the massive giveaways to the dirty energy industry, only to the federal loan programs established to invest in cleaner, renewable energy companies.

Touting the superiority of the so-called “free market” over the actions of the government, a recent report titled “Free Markets, or Government Knows Best?” by Wesley Coopersmith broke down the amount of money that the federal government has allocated to renewable energy projects, per the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and compared the amount of money given to the number of permanent jobs created by each company. Here’s what Coopersmith had to say:
  

Under the 1705 loan program, taking up half of the funding form the Loan Guarantee Program, 2,378 permanent jobs were claimed to be created. If you do the math right, this works out to costing the taxpayer $6.7 million per job created. I don’t know about you, but if it takes the government $6.7 million to create one permanent job, something is wrong.

The combined amount of money given to alternative energy companies, through the 1705 and 1703 Loan Programs, totals around $19.2 billion. According to the US DOE, 3,498 jobs have been or will be created because of these loans. This comes out to almost $5.5 million in cost per one permanent job created.

Unfortunately, these projected permanent jobs created are an overestimation, if you take away the jobs lost due to six of these companies going bankrupt. Solar Millennium Inc., LSP Energy LP, Ener1 Inc., Beacon Power Corp, Abound Solar, and Solyndra LLC combined have received over $3.5 billion from the Logan Program yet have produced zero jobs and hurt the fragile U.S. economy.
 

Coopersmith also provided a helpful chart that shows exactly how much money each (of a select few) company received and how many permanent jobs were created. For credibility purposes, Coopersmith even linked back to the U.S. government’s official website and used their own numbers on permanent jobs per company, as well as how much each received.

The problem with Coopersmith’s analysis is that he omitted several important numbers in his calculations. For example, he only lists the permanent jobs created by each company, failing to add in the number of construction jobs that would be created by each project. He also used the total amount of money that had been allocated to each company, not the amount that had actually been paid.
  

What To Expect When You're Electing: Part 2 - Mitt Romney

In Part 1 of this series, we explored the overall environmental issues that are facing the U.S., mostly as a part of coordinated attacks by politicians in Washington. In the next few articles, we’ll take a look at what each candidate has said or done in regards to both environmental and energy issues.

At this point in the race, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is the presumptive Republican nominee for President of the United States, a title that will become official after the Republican convention in August. Because Romney previously served as a governor, we have the benefit of looking at what he’s actually done when placed in charge, not just committee votes or proposed legislation.

And just like his record on other issues, Romney’s environmental record is one that has constantly changed to fit the political landscape. He has somehow managed to take both sides of virtually every major environmental issue, with his recent positions being more in line with that of the extremist, climate change denying branch of the Republican Party.

But the shift in ideas and rhetoric for Romney (which has quickly become his trademark as a candidate) is actually also in line with that of other major Republican candidates.

What To Expect When You’re Electing: Part 1 – What’s At Stake

Environmental and energy issues became one of the central issues of the 2008 U.S. presidential election. While the economy itself took center stage, energy issues were right behind it, being pushed by the insufferable chant of “Drill baby drill.” In the four years that have followed, the U.S. has seen a boom in hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the worst oil spill in our history, skyrocketing (and then plummeting) gas prices, a disastrous oil pipeline plan that threatens the safety of our aquifers, and a Republican-led assault on environmental safety standards.

With all of these issues weighing heavily in the mind of the American public, there’s no doubt that both energy policy and environmental concerns will once again play an important role in the 2012 election cycle.

To help educate those voters concerned about the environmental policies and histories of the 2012 candidates, we’re putting together a multi-part series “What to Expect When You’re Electing,” and we will discuss the statements, policies, positions, and industry money received by both major presidential candidates, as well as those seeking lower offices.

Dirty Energy Industry Sues EPA Over Clean Air Initiatives

In a blatant insult to the millions of Americans who would breathe easier under the EPA’s air pollution controls, the dirty energy industry, along with other groups, has sued the EPA to stop regulating toxic industrial air pollution. The Center for American Progress has the story:
  

Two essential Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, regulations to protect children, seniors, the infirm, and others from air pollution are under attack from the coal industry and many utilities.

Last year the EPA issued two rules that would reduce smog, acid rain, and airborne toxic chemicals: the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.

On July 6, 2011, the EPA finalized the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution—two of the main ingredients in acid rain and smog—from power plants in upwind states that were polluting downwind states. An interactive EPA map demonstrates that pollution doesn’t stop at state borders.

Then, on December 16, 2011, the EPA finalized the first standards to reduce mercury, arsenic, lead, and other toxic air pollution 21 years after controls on such pollution became law.

Today more than 130 coal companies, electric utilities, trade associations, other polluting industries, and states are suing the EPA in federal court to obliterate, undermine, or delay these essential health protection standards. A parallel effort is underway to block the mercury reduction rule in the Senate, which is scheduled to vote on it this week. This CAP investigation found that these utilities were responsible for 33,000 pounds of mercury and 6.5 billion pounds of smog and acid rain pollution in 2010 alone.

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The industry has been actively working to undermine the work of the EPA for years, and this lawsuit comes on the heels of a package of legislation recently introduced by House Republicans that would gut the EPA of most of their regulatory authority over air pollution emissions, including mercury emissions.

Media Helps Sell The Myth Of “Job Killing Regulations”

Repeat something often enough, and it becomes true. That phrase has been a common theme among think tanks and politicians for decades. And sadly, there is a lot of truth behind that statement.

But the claim itself relies on the belief that people will not seek out the truth for themselves; that they won’t take the time to verify, fact check, or question the official story given by a media outlet or elected official.

And when that lack of follow up and lack of questioning occurs, then the lie does in fact become the truth.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the mainstream media has been all too willing to echo the “job killer” talking point for industry. This isn’t a new phenomenon, either.

According to a new, joint report from Occidental College and the University of Northern Iowa, the media has been pushing the myth of “job killing regulations” for nearly 30 years. In fact, the report shows that the myth has been pushed without any verification and without any honesty behind the claims.

House Republicans Go All In With Dirty Energy Industry Bonanza Legislation

The dirty energy industry might experience Christmas in June if House Republicans have their way. Earlier this month, members of the House Energy Action Team (HEAT) unveiled a “package” of legislation that includes numerous bills that would give the industry everything that they’ve dreamt of for years. The legislative initiative, known as the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act, would grant almost unbridled access to federal lands for oil drilling and strips the EPA of their ability to properly regulate industry.

From a House Energy and Commerce Committee press release:
  

Will Dismal Jobs Report Give New Life To Keystone XL Plan?

While the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline might have disappeared from the front pages in the last few weeks, the battle is still raging. And a grim jobs report for the month of May might just be the catalyst that Keystone proponents have been looking for to renew their push for the disastrous plan.

Ignoring the fact that, even though fewer jobs than predicted were added in May, we’ve now seen 26 consecutive months of job growth, Republican politicians have already jumped on the less-than-stellar report as an attempt to paint President Obama as a failure at creating jobs. With this attack, expect to see the dirty energy industry beating the drum for a quick approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

In fact, those drum beats can already be heard coming from industry friendly think tanks. The Institute for Energy Research (IER) has created a page on their website strictly devoted to touting the many “benefits” of the Keystone XL pipeline. One of the main arguments in favor of the pipeline is the massive amount of American jobs that will be created by its construction, a claim that, even if true, would not be close to being worth destroying some of our nation’s largest and most important aquifers.

IER claims that the lack of approval for Keystone XL is costing America $70,000,000 every single day. They base this on the amount of oil that we’re buying from foreign countries, instead of “getting in from home” via the Keystone pipeline. First of all, the Keystone pipeline would bring oil to the U.S. from Canada, who is already our largest oil supplier. Secondly, adding the pipeline would not make a single cent’s worth of difference in our cost of energy in a positive way, and most analysts say that the pipeline would actually increase the cost of energy in the United States. But now that gas prices are easing up a bit in the U.S., the real push for Keystone will come from the “job creation” myth peddlers.

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