Friday, March 24, 2017 - 03:57 • Steve Horn
Person holding biochar in hand

After years of investigating biochar, which promoters have touted as a potential climate change fix, DeSmog is releasing its findings on the science, claims, and controversy surrounding this approach to sequestering carbon. 

Biochar is the product of plant or animal products (biomass) undergoing pyrolysis, a high-heat chemical reaction, to convert the carbon-containing biomass to a stable, non-decomposing form of charcoal. Introduced to mainstream audiences in a Time Magazine article from December 2008, biochar as a climate geoengineering technology has hit a number of peaks and valleys since then. In that time, its best chances at reaching commercial scales so far have failed, according to a new DeSmog report, Biochar: Climate Change Solution or False Hope?

Biochar's failure to date is due to a number of reasons, such as the lack of scientific consensus surrounding its ability to sequester carbon indefinitely, the vast amounts of land needed to produce biochar at a large enough scale to affect the climate, and the lack of legislative or regulatory frameworks required for investment in commercial-level production. 

Friday, March 17, 2017 - 14:11 • Guest

This is a guest post by Dan Zegart of the Climate Investigations Center

With builder Southern Company still promising that the Kemper power plant will go online soon, a group of key engineers and managers who work on the plant's so-far-inoperable gasifier has left the company.

Earlier this month, Southern Company posted a cluster of want ads on its web site for a “gasification owner,”  a “refinery technician-mechanic,” a “refinery technician-entry level,” and a “gasification technician.”

Those four positions are located at the gasification island, home to the patented TRIG technology developed by Southern Company and Kellogg Brown & Root that is supposed to turn lignite coal from an adjacent mine into a cleaner burning syngas to produce electricity.  The project's twin gasifiers, however, have been troubled by frequent shutdowns and lengthy repairs.

Friday, March 17, 2017 - 03:58 • Steve Horn
Bill Cooper
Bill Cooper

Confidential sources have told Politico that Bill Cooper — current congressional staffer and former fossil fuel industry lobbyist and attorney — is under consideration to head President Donald Trump's White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).

CEQ works to coordinate various federal agencies dealing with environmental and energy public policy issues and oversees the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process for proposed infrastructure projects.

Cooper served as legal counsel for the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee on what is today known as the “Halliburton Loophole,” a clause which exempts hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act. The Halliburton Loophole was slipped into the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and became law under President George W. Bush.

Thursday, March 16, 2017 - 11:18 • Farron Cousins
James Inhofe
James Inhofe

In August 2016, Republican Senator and noted climate change denier Jim Inhofe told conservative radio host Eric Metaxas that children were being “brainwashed” into believing in climate change in school, and that we needed to “un-brainwash” them once they come out. This entire exchange (available here) arose from a conversation Inhofe claims to have had with his granddaughter because she dared ask him why he doesn’t believe in climate change.

On March 16, 2017, more than eight months after Inhofe told Metaxas about this alleged brainwashing scam, the Senator decided to double-down on his previous comments. He told CNN’s New Day that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was in the business of “brainwashing our kids” by releasing “propaganda” about climate change and the role that human beings are playing in the destruction of the planet.

Thursday, March 16, 2017 - 09:36 • Sharon Kelly
Donald Trump
Donald Trump

In a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, Wednesday (March 15), President Donald Trump handed a victory to the oil industry, in a move that will have severe and long-lasting ramifications for the climate — and could leave American automakers lagging far behind in the emerging world market for highly fuel-efficient vehicles.

Trump announced he was taking the first steps to rollback rules requiring automakers to build increasingly fuel-efficient cars in a speech delivered to CEO's from some of the nation's largest automakers, including GM, Fiat Chrysler, and Toyota of North America.

Thursday, March 16, 2017 - 03:57 • Ashley Braun
J. Howard Miller's We Can Do It! poster that became known as Rosie the Riveter
J. Howard Miller's We Can Do It! poster that became known as Rosie the Riveter

Her image is iconic — red polka dot bandanna around her hair, blue sleeve rolled back, exposed bicep curled in a show of strength, a speech bubble declaring, “We Can Do It!”

We know her today as “Rosie the Riveter,” and she’s shown up on t-shirts, coffee cups, oven mitts, bobble-head dolls, and now, even a quarterly report of the fossil fuel industry–funded think tank, the Heartland Institute.

In its report, the Heartland Institute — infamous for its offensive 2012 billboard depicting the Unabomber as a “believer” in global warming — displays the image of Rosie over the slogan “Winning the Global Warming War.” It sits atop an article by Joseph L. Bast, Heartland's president, issuing a call to arms for “free-market advocates” against global warming. While Bast’s litany of commonly debunked arguments against the science and threat of climate change isn’t notable, Heartland’s choice of imagery is proving to be.

To me, it seems like an obscene appropriation of feminist iconography, and I find it, frankly, offensive,” Sarah Myhre, University of Washington ocean and climate scientist, told DeSmog. “And I looked for a mention of women or women’s lives and there’s no mention of women in the article whatsoever.”

Wednesday, March 15, 2017 - 18:12 • Graham Readfearn

Coral reefs across the globe cannot be saved from devastating bleaching events unless rapid action is taken to cut greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning, major new research has found.

Published in the journal Nature, the research finds the world’s biggest reef system — the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) in Australia — has been suffering the impacts of global warming since its first mass bleaching hit in 1998.

Now, after two further major bleaching events, the authors says nine out of ten individual reefs that make up the 1400-mile long system along the Queensland coast have bleached at least once.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017 - 11:33 • Farron Cousins
Bottles of Roundup herbicide on a store shelf
Bottles of Roundup herbicide on a store shelf

Agrichemical giant Monsanto is currently facing lawsuits from people who claim that exposure to the company’s blockbuster product Roundup has caused cancer, specifically non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancers of the blood. The active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, is the suspected culprit. Roundup is the most widely used herbicide on the planet right now.

As part of this ongoing litigation, Judge Vince Chhabria has unsealed some of the documents that have been filed with the court. These documents appear to show that Monsanto had numerous contacts with regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during the time that the agency was supposed to be investigating the link between Roundup and certain cancers.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017 - 10:02 • Farron Cousins
Email from Rep. Gaetz asking whether constituents support abolishing EPA
Email from Rep. Gaetz asking whether constituents support abolishing EPA

On November 8, 2016, Matt Gaetz (R-FL) was elected to his first term in Congress, representing Florida’s 1st District. This happens to be the district that I have called home for my entire life.

The first piece of legislation he introduced as a federal representative was to completely abolish the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by December 31, 2018.

“Completely abolish” is not an exaggeration or an overstatement — that is what the bill is designed to do. The summary of the legislation simply states: “This bill terminates the Environmental Protection Agency on December 31, 2018.”

While Rep. Gaetz is standing by his bill, that doesn't mean his constituents or colleagues are crazy about it, or that it's realistic.

Monday, March 13, 2017 - 04:58 • Guest
Factory smokestack releasing clouds of pollution
Factory smokestack releasing clouds of pollution

By , University of Oregon

The Trump administration intends to roll back two pillars of the Obama administration’s climate policy — regulations to limit carbon emissions from vehicles and power plants.

Under President Obama, the Environmental Protection Agency was central to these regulations. But new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has said he plans to return the agency to its “core mission” of ensuring clean air and clean water, rather than addressing climate change.

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