Since January, on the side of a stretch of road in Preston, a group of local residents...
Warren Buffett - the fourth richest man on the planet and major campaign contributor to President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 - may soon get a whole lot richer.
That's because he just bought over half a billion bucks worth of Suncor Energy stock: $524 million in the second quarter of 2013, to be precise, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings. Suncor is a major producer and marketer of tar sands via its wholly owned subsidiary Petro-Canada (formerly Sunoco) and this latest development follows a trend of Buffett enriching himself through dirty investments and deal-making.
So far in 2013, Suncor (formerly Sun Oil Company) has produced 328,000 barrels per day of tar sands crude.
Though he receives far less negative press than the Koch Brothers, Buffett's no deep green ecologist. Not in the slightest.
Referred to as one of 17 “Climate Killers” by Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson in a January 2010 story, Buffett owns the behemoth holding company, Berkshire Hathway. It's through Berkshire that he's making a killing - while simultaneously killing the ecosystem - through one of its most profitable wholly-owned assets: Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF).
Buffett purchased BNSF for $26 billion and was “the largest acquisition of Buffett's storied career,” Dickinson wrote.
BNSF hauls around frac sand for the controversial horizontal oil and gas drilling process known as “fracking.” The rail company also moves fracked oil from North Dakota's Bakken Shale basin, tar sands logistical equipment and tar sands crude itself and tons of coal. And not only does Buffett's BNSF haul around ungodly amounts of coal, he actually owns coal-burning utility companies, too.
Part one of the DeSmogBlog investigation of “FrackNation” - a film made in response to “Gasland 2” - honed in on the past track records and funding streams of co-directors Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney.
We revealed that Donors Trust/Donors Capital - the “dark money ATM of the right” - partially funded their first two films, “Mine Your Own Business” and “Not Evil, Just Wrong.”
We also revealed that “Not Evil,” a climate change denial documentary, was utilized by a partner of Americans for Prosperity (AFP) to push the Balanced Education for Everyone (BEE) campaign.
That campaign calls for a “balanced” scientific teaching of the climate change “controversy” and parallels ones pushed for via an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bill, by the Discovery Institute, and by the Heartland Institute.
Yet, what about “FrackNation”? Who bankrolled it and are the screenings and is the tour really a grassroots endeavor?
It might seem that way based on its marketing, but as Jean de La Fontaine once said, “Beware, so long as you live, of judging men by their outward appearance.”
Today, 12 groups sent a strong message to the Koch Brothers consisting of over 500,000 signatures delivered to Tribune Company Newspapers protesting the prospective “Kochtopus” buyout of the news outlets, which are up for sale by CEO Peter Liguori.
Major funders of right wing causes and politicians, David and Charles Koch are also notorious climate change deniers and funders of the climate change denial echo chamber.
The “Save Our News Coalition” leading the day of action included Forecast the Facts, Courage Campaign, AFL-CIO, Climate Reality Project, Common Cause, CREDO, Daily Kos, Democracy For America, Free Press, Greenpeace, The Other 98, Progress Florida, SEIU, United New York, Working Families Party and yours truly - DeSmogBlog.
AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka weighed in on the prospective deal, too, saying if the Kochs take over the Tribune Company, it could morph into another “Fox News-style propaganda machine.”
Others noted the troubling prospect of climate change deniers owning a major newspaper conglomerate.
“Billionaire oil barons David and Charles Koch are major funders of the Tea Party and right-wing think tank politicians, ” Shani Smith, a spokesperson for Stand Up Chicago said at a rally outside of the Chicago Tribune office. “We don't want a historic Chicago newspaper to become their mouthpiece for destroying unions, defunding public education and denying global warming.”
Maine’s clean energy legislation has spurred more than $2 billion in local investment and created at least 2,500 jobs in the Pine Tree State. That isn’t stopping some state lawmakers from trying to weaken and kill these laws, as the local political puppets do the will of their fossil fuel masters, the Koch brothers.
A quick reminder: there’s a coordinated national campaign to dismantle renewable portfolio standards (RPS) at the state level. Behind the campaign is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), who we’ve covered quite a bit before. Behind ALEC is the Heartland Institute and the Koch brothers.
It’s a scene playing out in State capitols around the country – from Kansas to Missouri to Michigan to North Carolina. And now in Maine. State legislators, who typically receive hearty contributions from the Heartland Institute, Big Fossils, and local front groups who are wholly funded by the former, introduce legislation that was drafted by ALEC (a “corporate bill mill”) with the help of Heartland and the Big Fossils. The state legislators then present biased studies created by compromised think tanks that are funded by Heartland and the big fossils to support this boilerplate legislation. The legislation, of course, written to benefit Big Fossils – and the Koch brothers – and not the people of the respective states, where renewable portfolio standards are having great positive economic and environmental impact.
(For a good overview of ALEC’s work to bully state legislators into weakening these laws that undeniably help the economies and environments of the states in which they’re passed, check out this NRDC Action Fund post.)
Up in Maine, some local groups are asking, “Why do two rich men from Kansas want to dismantle Maine's renewable energy policy?” A new report just published by the Maine People’s Alliance, Maine’s Majority Education Fund, and the Maine Conservation Alliance (PDF) seeks to answer that question for Mainers.
“It’s coming,” a baritone voice warns as images of a fiery hellscape flash across the screen. “Lies. Deception,” someone whispers, just before the narrator launches into a diatribe about Josh Fox’s new documentary, Gasland Part II, in a youtube clip whose esthetic falls somewhere between b-horror movie and election season attack ad. It’s the sort of video that might be campy if it wasn’t made with an actual budget.
Posted last November under the account energyforamerica, the faux trailer is one of the first hits in a Gasland 2 youtube search.
“I think it’s kinda unprecedented,” Mr. Fox said after the mock trailer appeared on youtube five months ago. “I don’t know of any other trailer that has attacked a film before even the actual trailer of the film has come out.”
Mr. Fox, the documentarian who made the Emmy-winning Gasland in 2010, and whose new movie Gasland Part II is now making its world premiere at Tribeca, has already withstood an aggressive P.R. campaign the likes of which few journalists and film-makers have ever experienced. The man who forever linked fracking to flaming tap water in the public mind has found himself, once again, in the oil and gas industry’s doghouse.
With funding from an array of oil companies, front groups like Energy in Depth have created entire websites devoted to “debunking” the first-hand reports shown in the first Gasland, produced their own film titled Truthland, and maneuvered behind the scenes to undermine Gasland’s credibility amongst the media.
Now the oil industry is gearing up for a new campaign to attack the sequel. And early signs indicate they plan to pull out all the stops.
Rumors are swirling around the Internet that Koch Industries is hoping to acquire a powerful new asset: The Tribune Company. The Tribune Company owns a large swath of newspapers across America, including the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Times, two papers with an extraordinary reach.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Koch Industries is considering purchasing Tribune because they are intensely interested in the clout that could be gained through the editorial pages of their papers. However, Think Progress notes that a spokesperson for the company refused to confirm or deny the rumors, stating that they cannot comment on “deals or rumors of deals,” so there is no official word on a buyout at this time.
The decision to purchase a large media outlet like The Tribune Company would be a logical one for the Koch Empire. They would be following in the footsteps of oil giants Chevron, Exxon, and Halliburton, who have all at some point sat on the boards of major media outlets.
A media buyout for Koch would allow them to control the message machine, which could be a disaster for America. In the past, corporate-controlled media outlets have been forced to shelve or otherwise censor stories that could damage the reputation of prominent board members and advertisers, thereby withholding valuable, pertinent information from the American electorate. Owning their own media outlets would effectively silence any critical voice against the Koch brothers in those markets.
To make matters worse for Americans, court rulings have told us that media outlets can legally distort or censor news stories at their whim, as FCC guidelines for honest reporting are not actually laws. In short, the media is legally allowed to lie and hide the truth from American citizens, even when their personal health and safety is at stake.
Richard H. Fink
Bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees in economics from Rutgers, UCLA and New York University, respectively. 
For Part 1 of this article, click here.
In the first part of this article, I described what specific challenges the climate movement faces when confronting its own limiting tendencies as well as industry funded public relations campaigns. In this second part I outline what I think are four essential ways the climate movement must evolve in order to overcome these obstacles.
FIRST, we must become a lot more political, in the sense that it’s fundamentally the laws, policies, and agreements that shape our greater society and economy. And it’s our society and economy which are the foundations of our personal lifestyles. What is available, affordable, practical, and possible in our lifestyles is largely a product of the society in which we live – what clean energy sources exist at what price relative to dirty energy, how available public transit is, how well or poorly our cities are designed for walking, cycling, and accessing our needs, how energy efficient our buildings are, and so on.
No individual is an island unto himself; the way we live is fundamentally shaped by the economy and society in which our lifestyles are nested.
After years of apathy and political inertia, North America’s climate sustainability movement has found itself in the midst of a timely resurgence, as is evident by the recent massive expansion of Bill Mckibben's 350.org movement against the Keystone XL pipeline.
With climate change regaining its footing as a central political issue, now is the time to pressure governments to enact the needed laws, policies, and agreements required to curtail runaway global warming. But unless the moment is seized right, climate action will be stymied again – and there is no time to wait for another opportunity.
During his State of the Union address on February 12, 2013, US President Barack Obama stated:
“For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change…We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.”
Recent studies project that the Earth’s average temperature is on course to rise over four degrees this century, far beyond the two degree rise when “runaway” global warming kicks-in due to positive feedbacks that make it extremely difficult to halt.