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. 

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.

Monday, March 13, 2017 - 00:00 • Mat Hope
Key documents on the BP sponsored student tutoring scheme in Aberdeenshire
Key documents on the BP sponsored student tutoring scheme in Aberdeenshire

Oil giant BP is promoting its brand to thousands of schoolchildren in almost 100 schools in Aberdeenshire, an area in which it recently slashed a fifth of its workforce.

Documents obtained by DeSmog UK through freedom of information requests show BP sponsoring a tutoring scheme and cooperating with the local council and universities to place its branding in schools.

DeSmog UK’s investigation shows:

  • BP’s branding has been present in primary and secondary schools in Aberdeenshire, with students aged five to 16 years old.
  • Some participating schools and tutors are unconvinced of the scheme’s benefits.
  • BP pays only £2,000 a year to get its branding in front of thousands of students, despite posting profits of almost $3 billion in 2016.
  • BP is closely involved in the design and implementation of the scheme as a member of the controlling steering committee.
  • BP retained control over some of the scheme’s output, and sought to use the resources of publicly funded co-sponsors to promote the company’s involvement.
Saturday, March 11, 2017 - 04:58 • Guest

This is a guest post by David Pomerantz originally published by Energy and Policy Institute

California’s legislators received $253,771.98 in 2016 in free trips, dinners, and hotel stays from groups at least partly funded by or affiliated with companies from the oil industry, according to legislators’ financial disclosure forms released last week. The Energy and Policy Institute analyzed the disclosures, and we found a correlation between who got the most valuable gifts from Big Oil and the Democrats who voted with the oil industry the most.

With large Democratic majorities in California, the oil industry has pinned its hopes in the state on a group of so-called “moderate” Democrats that it has assiduously courted in recent years. (Republicans have tended to vote in lock-step with the oil industry.) Reporters have investigated how the oil industry has showered those Democrats with campaign contributions, but our analysis is the first that systematically looks at the gifts that oil companies and their allies have given to Democrats, in the form of free international and domestic travel, hotel stays, dinners, baseball tickets and bottles of wine and booze.

Thursday, March 9, 2017 - 16:17 • Guest

This is a guest post by Dan Zegart crossposted from Climate Investigations Center

The Trump administration is asking an Oregon federal judge in the Our Children's Trust case to let a higher court review her decision to permit a historic climate change lawsuit to proceed, and to halt the case pending the outcome of that review.

In 2015, a group of 21 young plaintiffs aged 9 to 20 from all over the United States, along with renowned climate scientist James Hansen, who is acting as guardian for future generations, sued the federal government for allegedly violating their constitutional rights via policies that promote global warming.

The suit, filed by the non-profit Our Children's Trust organization, claims there is a “public trust” obligation by the federal government under the constitution to take necessary measures to protect the climate.  In a November 10, 2016 decision, federal District Court Judge Ann Aiken agreed with the OCT plaintiffs, and ruled they were entitled under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to a trial to decide if the government failed in that duty, a startling decision.

In papers filed Monday, in Eugene, Oregon, U.S. Department of Justice attorneys requested permission from Judge Aiken to appeal her decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals — and also asked that the process be expedited due to “the significance of the issues raised and the burden on Federal Defendants that discovery is likely to impose.”

Thursday, March 9, 2017 - 11:17 • Farron Cousins
Scott Pruitt
Scott Pruitt

Today Scott Pruitt, the recently appointed head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, stated in a CNBC interview that he does not believe that carbon dioxide is one of the primary contributors to global warming.

According to a partial excerpt of Pruitt’s interview posted on The Hill, Pruitt stated the following:

Thursday, March 9, 2017 - 04:55 • David Suzuki
Suncor tar sands mine in Canada
Suncor tar sands mine in Canada

Apparently, fossil fuel companies protect watersheds and rivers by removing oil. That’s according to comments on the David Suzuki Foundation Facebook page and elsewhere, including this: “The amount of contamination occuring [sic] from extraction is far less than if we just left the oil there to continue polluting the waterways.”

The “logic” of climate change deniers and anti-environmentalists is often baffling. Although the person who posted that comment doesn’t appear to claim professional background or knowledge, Canadian anti-environmentalist Patrick Moore — who capitalizes on his science degree and long-ago association with Greenpeace to shill for polluting industries — told the Vancouver Sun in 2011 that oil companies are “leaving the soil cleaner than they found it because they’re removing the oil from it.”

Wednesday, March 8, 2017 - 13:38 • Steve Horn
U.S. Capitol building
U.S. Capitol building

Though the U.S. Congress has been in session for two months, much of the policy action which has taken place since Donald Trump assumed the presidency on January 20 has centered around his Executive Orders.

As some have pointed out, Trump's first speech in front of a joint session of Congress on February 28 can be seen as a reset moment, with the clock ticking on Republicans to deliver on promises made to voters in the 2016 election. In the energy and environment sphere, those efforts will likely center around gutting climate and environmental protections, and much of it will be carried out by congressional committee staffers. 

A DeSmog investigation has revealed that many Republican staff members on key committees are former fossil fuel industry lobbyists, which could help fast-track the industry's legislative agenda in the weeks and months ahead. In total, 15 staffers on the eight main energy and environment congressional committees previously worked as industry lobbyists on behalf of oil, gas, mining, coal, petrochemical, and electric utility interests. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017 - 10:46 • Alex Kotch
Rick Perry pointing up
Rick Perry pointing up

Last week Rick Perry, the former Republican governor of Texas, became the Secretary of Energy. As head of the Department of Energy (DOE), he is now responsible for guarding the U.S. nuclear arsenal, cleaning up nuclear waste, directing federal energy research and development, and advancing domestic energy production, from nuclear and renewables to, yes, oil, gas, and coal. 

On March 2, the day Perry was confirmed, right-wing think tank the Heritage Foundation published a document laying out its goals for Perry in his new post. Like the Heritage Foundation, Perry has received considerable funding from oil and gas interests, creating potential conflicts of interest as DOE chief and suggesting he might be inclined to take Heritage’s advice.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017 - 14:40 • Guest
Trump international hotel and tower sign in Chicago
Trump international hotel and tower sign in Chicago

This is a guest post by Dave Anderson, originally posted on the Energy and Policy Institute.

President Donald Trump is well known for his record of over-the-top attacks on clean energy, but properties managed by the Trump Organization have taken advantage of state energy efficiency incentives to save money and reduce their carbon dioxide emissions.

As first reported by Hiroko Tabuchi in today’s New York Times, the Trump Tower at City Center in White Plains, New York, benefited from a lighting upgrade, the addition of a combined heat and power (CHP) system, and other energy efficiency improvements. The project received more than $280,000 in incentives from the Multifamily Performance Programrun by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). A low-interest loan from NYSERDA covered the remainder of the cost.

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