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.

Exporting Emissions: Coal Supplies Heading Overseas, But Pollution Will Hurt Everyone

The coal industry in the United States has found a way to increase their profits, while at the same time avoiding the cumbersome environmental standards in place to protect American citizens from coal emissions – they can just ship their filthy products overseas where regulations are scarce. As coal consumption in the U.S. has fallen in recent years, the dirty energy industry has hardly noticed, thanks to the increased demand from foreign buyers.

While the fact that the U.S. is burning less and less coal is a good thing, shipping the excess coal to foreign countries could more than negate the emissions reductions in the U.S. As Ezra Klein from The Washington Post points out:

The U.S. is burning less and less coal each year, thanks to cheap natural gas and new pollution rules. From a climate perspective, that’s a huge deal — less coal means less carbon. But here’s the catch: if the U.S. just exports its unused coal abroad, the end result could actually be more carbon…

So here’s one possible future: If we’re not going to burn our coal, someone else will. One Tokyo shipping company, Daiichi Chuo Kisen Kaisha, says that U.S. coal exports could double in the next three or four years. In Washington state, coal companies are proposing two large export terminals that would help ship tens of millions of tons of coal from the Powder River Basin to countries like China. That, in turn, could make coal even cheaper in places like China — which might spur the country to build even more coal power plants than its current, already hectic pace. And, since carbon-dioxide heats up the planet no matter where it’s burned, this outcome could cancel out many of the global-warming benefits of the U.S. coal decline. (emphasis added.)

Media Matters Analysis Shows Keystone XL Proponents Dominated Media

A compelling new study from Media Matters for America reveals that proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline were granted far more time in the media than those who opposed it. As their study reveals, the majority of the coverage of the proposed pipeline regarded the creation of jobs, which was overwhelmingly discussed in a positive light, with most news outlets reporting only the industry’s own analysis of the jobs that would be created, even as reports repeatedly showed the industry’s job numbers to be false.

In general, the report shows that the pipeline issue was often covered in a positive light, with industry “experts” being quoted or hosted on TV news programs, as well as in print. The only two print outlets that the study found to have reported more negatively about the pipeline were The Los Angeles Times and USA Today. However, they note that the USA Today editorial board did come out in favor of the pipeline.

Here is a chart detailing coverage by type of media outlet:

Another Industry Talking Point Laid To Rest: Oil Production Soars But Gas Prices Remain High

It is hard to believe that it's been almost four years since Americans were bombarded by the cry of “Drill baby, drill” that echoed throughout the halls of the Republican National Convention in 2008. That slogan became a rallying cry for conservatives who believed that increasing oil drilling – in spite of the environmental costs – would lead to an economic boom in the United States, and would also help ease prices at the pump for American consumers.

So today, nearly four years after those words were uttered to millions of conservatives, we have domestic oil production reaching a 24-year high, according to new reports. By industry and conservative logic, this should also mean that economic productivity has risen while consumer gasoline prices have fallen. But nothing could be further from the truth.

It turns out that increased oil production has nothing to do with the prices Americans pay at the pump. While industry leaders point to increased production in 2008 that was followed by lower prices, experts counter that the drop in price was due to simple market fluctuations: specifically, a drop in demand due to the global recession.

People travelled less and therefore didn’t use as much gasoline, creating a surplus that companies had to expel by lowering prices. These same experts also say that a rise in renewable energy use contributed to lower fossil fuel prices during this time period.

US Chamber of Commerce Jobs Plan Rehashes Old, Debunked Talking Points

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released its “The State of American Business 2012” plan this week, outlining their own vision of how to create jobs in America. There were no surprises in Chamber President Tom Donohue’s address to business leaders. He simply rehashed the same tired talking points that we’ve seen from them for years.

In addition to enacting what they call a “globally competitive tax code” and “fixing our broken immigration system,” the Chamber threw out some classic gems that persist despite being able to withstand the truth test. From their newly launched FreeEnterprise.com website:

Produce American Energy and Rebuild Infrastructure. Approve the Keystone XL pipeline to put up to 250,000 Americans to work over the life of the project while preventing the EPA from enacting new regulations on fracking that sabotage a natural gas revolution. Complete Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization, which is more than four years delayed, to strengthen our aviation system and deploy the NextGen air traffic control system. Renew surface transportation funding legislation before it expires in March and invest in water infrastructure.

Advance Regulatory and Legal Reform. Pass the Administrative Procedure Act to restore sound science, quality data, and common sense to the regulatory system while curbing regulatory overreach by EPA and the National Labor Relations Board. Stop the expansion of liability at home and abroad that is sucking the vitality out of our nation’s job creators.

Put more bluntly, this is the Chamber's message: Do away with environmental and health protections and let the same companies that brought us the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and countless other “accidents” expand oil drilling, fracking, and other dirty energy extraction methods in every possible place. “Trust us, we're experts,” they say.

The Fracking Job Creation Myth

The prospect of job growth in the United States has been a major selling point for industry in the four years since the beginning of the recession. And even with positive gains being made in the job sector over the last year and a half, unemployment is still hovering around 8.5%. That is why unemployed Americans are still eager to jump onto plans that promise to create much-needed jobs in our country.

The dirty energy industry is well aware of the fact that promising jobs in these times can get you ahead, and they are using this to their advantage. In an attempt to push for increased hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the industry is touting the alleged job creation benefits of the practice. They are pitching fracking as a snake oil salesman would pitch a “cure-all tonic,” claiming that allowing them to continue fracking and drilling activities will help our economy by creating jobs and it will help our country by solving our energy problems.

But fracking has been going on for decades, the industry likes to remind us, although it has picked up tremendous steam in the last 5 years with the advent of directional drilling. So where are all those hundreds of thounsands of jobs that we’ve been promised? The answer to that question is simple: They don’t exist - At least not in the numbers the industry wants us to believe.

Helene Jorgensen from the Center for Economic and Policy Research outlines how the dirty energy industry has tried to hoodwink the American public:

BP Launches PR Blitz To Repair Image

College football fans aren’t the only ones who’ll be paying close attention to what’s happening in Louisiana this evening – BP is hoping that tonight’s BCS championship game will be the ultimate payoff for their aggressive public relations campaign which is aimed at convincing the American public that the oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster has disappeared, and that they can come back to the Gulf Coast without fear of finding oily beaches.

For the last few weeks, those of us on the Gulf Coast have been inundated with ads from BP, telling us that they’ve made good on their promise to clean up the mess from the April 2010 oil rig explosion that released millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. This multi-million dollar ad campaign is their last-ditch effort to bring tourism back to the economically-depressed Gulf Coast.


The Associated Press lays out the key elements of BP’s new campaign:

Rupert Murdoch’s Newspapers Mislead Public On Climate Change and Environment

When it comes to climate change misinformation, arguably no single person has done more to spread false information to confuse the public than Rupert Murdoch. With his vast media empire that spans the globe, Murdoch has helped misdirect the public, as well as to openly advocate against government policies that would curtail carbon emissions or impose other environmental safeguards.

And while most American media outlets saw a decline in their coverage of climate change-related stories, Murdoch’s overseas newspapers actually increased their coverage of such stories – though not in a helpful way. The story that got the most attention involved a government policy in Australia that put a price on carbon pollution. Here is an analysis of Murdoch’s coverage, via Think Progress:

The range of findings show a clear political bias against the carbon pricing policy moving through parliament in 2011:

The claims by many single sources about the likely impact of the carbon policy were not tested against the views of other sources. Only 42% of the rest of the articles included more than two sources.

Fossil fuel lobby and other big business sources opposed to the policy were very strongly represented, often without any critique or second source.

Business sources (23%) receive more coverage than all Australian civil society sources together including unions, NGOS, think tanks, activists, members of the public, religious spokespeople, scientists and academics (17%).

Business sources quoted 4 or more times over the 6-month period were quoted being negative towards the policy in almost 80% of occasions. Many Australian readers would have been left with the impression that the nearly the entire business community was opposed to the carbon price policy. In fact this was far from the truth.

Academics and scientists were also poorly represented.

Fracking Earthquakes Becoming Serious Cause for Concern

For the fracking industry, 2012 is off to a shaky start…literally. On New Year’s Eve 2011, a 4.0 magnitude earthquake was recorded in Ohio, one of the largest fracking-related quakes to date. According to reports, the quake was felt across hundreds of square miles in the state of Ohio, and scientists suspect it is related to hydraulic fracturing wastewater disposal near Youngstown, Ohio.

The New Year’s Eve quake is just the latest in a growing list of fracking-related earthquakes that have made headlines in the last 12 months. From DeSmogBlog’s Year In Dirty Energy: Fracking report:
  

New reports are surfacing that link fracking to earthquakes that occurred in January in Oklahoma. According to a new study by the Oklahoma Geological Survey [PDF], fracking is linked to 50 mini-earthquakes that occurred on January 18, 2011 in Oklahoma.

The occurrence of so-called “induced seismicity” – seismic activity caused by human actions – in conjunction with fluid injection or extraction operations is a well-documented phenomenon. However, induced earthquakes large enough to be felt at the surface have typically been associated with large scale injection or withdrawal of fluids, such as water injection wells, geothermal energy production, and oil and gas production. It was generally thought that the risk of inducing large earthquakes through hydraulic fracturing was very low, because of the comparatively small volumes of fluid injected and relatively short time-frame over which it occurs. As the controversy over hydraulic fracturing has heated up, however, researchers and the public have become increasingly interested in the potential for fracking to cause large earthquakes.

But this is hardly a new phenomenon. Studies show that fracking practices in the 1970s had caused similar seismic activity in Oklahoma, according to E&E News.
 

What We Didn’t Learn From The Deepwater Horizon Disaster

Almost 20 months have passed since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. And to this day, the lessons we should have learned from that disaster remain completely ignored.

In spite of an intense battle involving a moratorium on deep water oil drilling after the explosion, the Obama administration was out-maneuvered on the issue by the powerful oil industry, losing court battles as well as facing three separate bills in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to overturn the drilling moratorium. (An interesting side-note about the court battle is that the judge who overturned the ban, Martin Feldman, actually owned stock in Transocean at the time of his decision.)

With oil still washing ashore at the time of the first proposed moratorium, right wing bloggers helped muddy the waters by claiming that the moratorium was devastating Gulf economies. The conservative website Free Republic even posted a video and story about the “Victims of the Obama Drilling Moratorium,” that turned oil companies into the victims as local fishermen and tourist-centered businesses were struggling to make ends meet. Their analysis of the real “victims” was based on “investigations” by oil-funded groups like The Heritage Foundation and the Institute for Energy Research. A commenter on that video had the audacity to claim, “Obama just killed Louisiana more than Katrina.”

But the right wing attacks on the moratorium paid off, and today the deepwater offshore oil industry is once again thriving in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Year In Dirty Energy: Fracking

The practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has taken center stage this year as one of the most important environmental threats facing North America (and increasingly in other parts of the world). Thanks to inadequate state oversight and Dick Cheney's hamstringing of EPA oversight with the Halliburton Loophole, fracking has expanded through the United States incredibly rapidly over the past few years. In 2011, fracking faced much closer scrutiny as scientists, researchers and affected communities continue studying water, air and property impacts reported in areas where the controversial unconventional energy drilling is taking place.

Fracking awareness received a huge boost this year with “Gasland,” a documentary film which earned director Josh Fox an Academy Award nomination. Featuring interviews with landowners and families affected by fracking, the film is helping to bring the issue to the mainstream.

DeSmogBlog has published dozens of posts detailing the latest information available on fracking over the several years. 

In May 2010, DeSmogBlog released an extensive report, Fracking The Future: How Unconventional Gas Threatens Water, Health, and Climate, delving into many of the health, environmental and climate threats posed by the fracking boom.  

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