TJ Scolnick

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Are Climate Deniers and Front Groups Polluting Online Conversation With Denier-Bots?

There appears to be an increasingly sophisticated and planned effort by conservatives and polluter front groups to use “persona management” software to pollute social media outlets and website comment forums with auto-generated sockpuppet swarms designed to mislead and misrepresent real people.

Leaked emails from Aaron Barr, CEO of a federal subsidiary for HB Gary, disclose the latest efforts and technology used underhandedly for “ganging up on bloggers, commenters and otherwise ‘real’ people to smear enemies and distort the truth.”

This phenomenon was first reported by Happy Rockefeller over at Daily Kos.

ClimateProgress is following this issue, particularly when it comes to the online discussion about climate change, noting that readers joke about pre-programmed ‘denier-bots’ and “how the same arguments and phrasings keep cropping up in the comments’ section of the many unmoderated news sites on the web.”

Canada Bullying The European Union Over Tar Sands, Threatening To Scuttle Trade Agreement

Canada is using Alberta’s dirty tar sands as an excuse to bully the European Union (EU) into watering down its climate change policies, leaving the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) in serious doubt.

This brewing transatlantic dispute over the tar sands stems from the likelihood that the EU could officially block the sale of Alberta oil in Europe given its high carbon content. 

The European Commission is reportedly “readying its defenses for a legal fight with Canada.”

New Report: Keystone XL Pipeline Is Not Safe

TransCanada Corporation is facing another key hurdle in its efforts to obtain State Department approval for its proposed Keystone XL pipeline to deliver dirty tar sands oil from Northern Alberta to Texas refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.

On Friday, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Pipeline Safety Trust, the National Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club jointly published a new report [pdf] which details the likelihood that there will be leaks and major oil spills into waterways along the pipeline’s path.

The report explicitly states how tar sands oil is more corrosive than conventional oil and therefore is a much higher risk to pipeline systems.

The True Cost Of Coal - Up To A Half Trillion Dollars Per Year

Update: Here is the Epstein paper:”Full cost accounting for the life cycle of coal.” [PDF]

Dr. Paul Epstein from the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard’s Medical School has written an article set for publication this month in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences quantifying the true costs of coal in terms of economic, health and environmental impacts.

Dr. Epstein’s study details how each stage of coal’s life cycle (extraction, transportation, processing, and combustion) has enormous costs, all of which are directly borne by the public. Notably, the report estimates some $74.6 billion a year in public health costs for Appalachian communities, mainly from increasing healthcare burdens, injury and death.

Beyond the direct health damage coal extraction and burning has on communities, the American public is paying $187.5 billion due to air pollutants, $29.3 billion for mercury poisoning, and anywhere between $61.7 and $205.8 billion for global warming emissions.

The Facts Are In, The Tar Sands Are Dirty, But Industry Spin Campaign Continues

Last year, as part of its review of the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline planned to deliver dirty tar sands oil from Alberta to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that the carbon emissions from Canadian oil sands crude would be approximately 82% greater than average US crude.
Tar sands oil producers, fossil fuel advocates and Canadian and Alberta politicians were understandably worried about the reputation of their dirty oil. To battle these new facts, these groups have actively engaged in a campaign to greenwash the tar sands by promoting it as “ethical oil”.  They’ve even commissioned their own report by the Cambridge Energy Research Associates suggesting that emissions from tar sands oil were only 5-15% higher than traditional oil products. 

New York Plans To Green Light Fracking In June

Coinciding with the end of its 7-month moratorium on “fracking” for natural gas in shale rock formations, New York announced on Tuesday that it expects to have draft rules ready for June in order to proceed with the destructive drilling technique that could threaten the state’s water supplies.

Following the city of Pittsburgh’s lead, on Tuesday, though mainly symbolic, councilors from the city of Buffalo, voted unanimously (9-0) to ban hydraulic fracturing as well as to ban “storing, transferring, treating or disposing fracking waste within the city,” due to the risks it poses to underground water supplies.

The Koch-Exxon-Skeptic Argument Went Up In Smoke On Eve Of Upton's Show Trial

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its authority to regulate global warming pollution went through its first shakedown today before the Koch Industries and ExxonMobil funded [pdf] House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Energy and Power Subcommittee.

The show trial was a chance for the Kochtopus, fossil fuel interests, and global warming skeptics (including Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) who announced he is releasing a denialist book) to cry foul that industry is being victimized and that global warming is not a threat, and does not pose any risks to the health and well-being of Americans, and the planet.

But Chairman Fred Upton’s (R-MI) and co-author Sen. Inhofe’s polluter-friendly bill, “The Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011” (see memo [pdf]) had to contend with the “bombshell” revelations released late on the eve before the meeting. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the Committee, posted a particularly relevant January 2008 letter [pdf] from former EPA Administrator Steven L. Johnson to then President George W. Bush.

Upton's Show Trial To Attack EPA Carbon Controls Set For Wednesday Morning

Remember reading about those Soviet-era show trials where politics and everything BUT the facts were actually discussed? Well on February 9th, the Koch brothers and Exxon Mobil are paying for a show trial of their own.

On Wednesday at 9:30 am, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power will hold a hearing to examine legislation (see memo [pdf])aiming to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from curbing global warming pollution from stationary sources (power plants, factories, etc.). The bill “HR __, The Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011” was proposed last week by self-anointed “manmade climate change” skeptic (see video below) and Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), with the help of Subcommittee Chair Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and well-known climate skeptic Senator James Inhofe (R-OK).

The Centre for American Progress Action Fund (CAP) has a brilliant backgrounder [pdf] on the hearing describing how polluter friendly support in the Committee on Energy and Commerce, primarily on the Republican side, has been paid for by Koch Industries and their partners in polluting the planet. CAP shows that during the 2010 election cycle, the Kochs and their employees gave $279,500 to 22 Republicans on the Committee and $32,000 to five of its Democrats.

Coal’s Main Man(chin) In Washington

On the heels of three short-sighted pieces of legislation in the US Senate aiming to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPAs) authority over global warming pollution (from Senators Barrasso, Rockefeller and Inhofe), last Thursday, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) delivered his first attempt to end the EPA’s general oversight capacity with the “EPA Fair Play Act.”

In spite of popular support for the EPA (77% feel the agency should be allowed to “do its job”), Manchin’s first piece of legislation has significant implications for undermining health, safety and environmental protections and bolsters Newt Gingrich’s recent calls to dismantle the EPA.

Oil Industry Spins Subsidies Discussion In Wake of President Obama's State of the Union Address

In his State of the Union address, President Obama urged Congress to stop subsidizing oil companies and set a goal for 80% of electricity generated by 2035 to come from “clean” energy sources. While there is much dispute over some of the technologies included in the “clean” category, the President is proposing some wise investments in genuine cleantech. To pay for low-carbon energy alternatives, the President proposed $302 million for solar energy research and development (up 22 percent); $123 million for wind energy (a 53 percent increase); and $55 million for geothermal energy (up 25 percent).

But fossil fuels subsidies are holding back growth in burgeoning clean energy industries, which face a momumental challenge to compete with entrenched industries that receive far greater government subsidies.

And when it comes to oil subsidies, the President says enough is enough:

“…I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.”