Ben Jervey

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Ben Jervey has been covering and working in the climate, energy, and environmental fields for a decade. He is regular contributor to DeSmogBlog. He was the original Environment Editor for GOOD Magazine, and wrote a longstanding weekly column titled “The New Ideal: Building the clean energy economy of the 21st Century and avoiding the worst fates of climate change.” He also contributes to National Geographic News, Grist, OnEarth Magazine, and many other online and print publications. His book–The Big Green Apple: Your Guide to Eco-Friendly Living in New York City–has been called the “bible of green living for NYC.” A bicycle enthusiast, Ben has ridden across the United States and through much of Europe.

Koch-Funded Former Lobbyist Replaces Koch Lobbyist on Trump’s Energy Transition Team

Thomas Pyle, President of the Koch-funded Institute for Energy Research and its advocacy arm, the American Energy Alliance, has been tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to lead the transition team for the Department of Energy. E&E News reported last Monday that Pyle would replace Mike McKenna, who had to step down from the transition team because of the Trump team's crackdown on registered lobbyists.

McKenna, President of MWR Strategies, currently lobbies for a number of energy industry companies , including a contract with Koch Industries that dates back to 2008.

Taking a More Comprehensive Look at Coal Subsidies

Earlier this month, Robert Murray, President and CEO of coal giant Murray Energy Corporation, sparred with Tesla founder Elon Musk on the issue of subsidies. Murray called Tesla a “fraud” for failing to achieve a profit despite benefitting from consumer-facing electric vehicle tax credits, and then Musk lobbed back that EVs get “pennies on the dollar” compared to coal.

We reported the exchange here on DeSmog, adding some background on how the coal industry and companies like Murray actually do benefit from a broad range of subsidies. Murray took exception, and sent the following note to the managing editor of DeSmog:

The Doubt Machine: Documentary Explores Koch Brothers' War on Climate Science

David Koch and Charles Koch

The Koch brothers' attack on clean energy solutions is just one prong of their war on anything that threatens the dominance of fossil fuels. While funding fights against renewable energy policies at the federal and state levels, the Koch brothers have also been using their vast wealth to sow the seeds of doubt about the science of climate change.

This week, the Real News Network released “The Doubt Machine: The Koch Brothers' War on Climate Science,” a documentary that explores how Koch-funded entities attacked and threatened climate scientists like Micheal Mann and journalists like Jane Mayer. Both Mann and Mayer feature prominently in the documentary, which is narrated by Emma Thompson. You can watch it right here, and it's well worth your half hour:

Murray vs. Musk: Coal CEO Calls Tesla a “Fraud," Doesn't Mention Subsidies for Failing Coal

On Monday, Robert Murray, President and CEO of coal giant Murray Energy Corporation, called Tesla Motors a “fraud” on CNBC, going on to bash the company for failing to yet turn a profit despite subsidies.

Tesla is a fraud. [It] has gotten $2 billion from the taxpayer and has not made a penny yet in cash flow. Here again, it’s subsidies,” Murray claimed.

Koch-funded Fueling U.S. Forward President Calls Fossil Fuels “Sustainable”

While Charles Drevna was unveiling the Koch-funded Fueling U.S. Forward campaign to attendees at the Red State Gathering, he used a curious term to describe nonrenewable resources with limited reserves and wide-reaching environment impacts:

We need a sustainable energy to ensure the future of the country. Folks, that's of course the fossil fuels.”

Who Are the Expert Witnesses Hand Picked by Lamar Smith to Testify on #ExxonKnew Subpoenas?

In July, the chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, & Technology, Rep. Lamar Smith, issued subpoenas to two state attorneys general who are currently investigating what ExxonMobil knew about climate science, when they knew it, and if the company misled investors. 

The attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts both refused to turn over any information or communications about their investigations. Each AG's office argued the Committee had no authority to issue such a request, calling the subpoenas a violation of states' rights under the 10th amendment.

In a response last month, Smith, a Republican from Texas, announced a hearing to “affirm” that his Committee did have the legal authority to issue such subpoenas. The legal issue the September 14 hearing will address is whether a Congressional committee has subpoena power over state attorneys general and non-profit advocacy organizations. The subpoena was called “an unprecedented effort to target ongoing state law enforcement 'investigations or potential prosecutions'” by Leslie Dubeck, an attorney in the Office of the New York State Attorney General.

Smith has called three legal experts to bolster his claim — two with direct ties to the same Exxon-funded groups who have pushed climate science denial and inaction to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

How America Rising Ties the GOP Establishment to the Stalkers Harassing Bill McKibben and Tom Steyer

For the past few months, when they dare venture out to the supermarket, to church, or to a climate rally, Bill McKibben, Tom Steyer, and other climate activists are being stalked by a team of GOP-trained camera operators. The so-called “trackers” with the cameras are working for a group called America Rising Squared (aka America Rising Advanced Research or AR2), and publishing the occasional “embarrassing” display of alleged hypocrisy on a website called CoreNews.org

DeSmog first covered this new “creepy” campaign back in May, and since then, the harrassment has only gotten worse, as Bill McKibben writes in Sunday's New York Times. In his op-ed, “My Right Wing Stalkers” (the web headline is: “Embarrassing Photos of Me, Thanks to My Right-Wing Stalkers”), McKibben describes what it's like to live under surveillance, and the psychological toll that it takes on him and his family. (One particularly infuriating detail: McKibben's daughter believes that she, too, is being filmed in public.) 

CERES Report Reveals Which Electric Utilities Recognize the Clean Energy Future We Need

Electric utilities tend to take a lot of heat for clouding public understanding of climate change and standing in the way of energy resources that won’t cook the planet.

A number of utilities, for instance, have spent hundreds of millions over the past few years lobbying against the Clean Power Plan. Likewise, the Edison Electric Institute, the trade association representing the investor-owned utilities (IOUs) that serve nearly 70-percent of electric customers in the United States, has developed and is executing a multi-million dollar fight against rooftop solar.

It is, of course, unfair to lump all electric utilities together. A couple of recently published reports — including one released Tuesday by Ceres — reveal which investor-owned utilities are climate laggards and clean energy obstructionists, and which are working to transition to the clean, renewable energy future that the atmosphere demands. (Or at least are begrudgingly accepting said transition.)  

The Ceres report looks at actual renewable energy deployment. In Benchmarking Utility Clean Energy Deployment: 2016, the report's authors analyze and rank investor-owned utilities — which serve over two-thirds of American electric customers — for how much clean energy and energy efficiency they deliver to customers.

Peabody Energy Bankruptcy Claim Must Put Lands, Water and People Above Executives and Bankers, Say Protesters

One week ago, Peabody Energy cried uncle.

The world’s largest privately-owned coal producer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, following Arch Coal, Alpha Natural Resources, and Patriot Coal in begging the United States Bankruptcy Courts for mercy.

It would be easy for climate advocates to cheer the occasion as yet another signpost along the hard-fought road to a carbon-free future. But, unfortunately for many involved, Peabody’s bankruptcy could leave many vulnerable parties—from coal workers to Navajo tribes to students in St. Louis— suffering further.

Which is why activists from impacted communities gathered on Tuesday in St. Louis, home of Peabody’s headquarters, to demand that a “Just Transition Fund” is endowed as part of the bankruptcy proceedings before the “golden parachutes” are given out to reckless executives and the loans are repaid to the reckless banks that kept funding Peabody’s speculation.

State Investigations Into What Exxon Knew Double, and Exxon Gets Defensive

On Tuesday, the number of state attorneys general investigating ExxonMobil for potential climate denial fraud doubled. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker announced that they have opened up their own probes of what Exxon knew about climate change while it was denying the realities of climate science publicly and to shareholders

They follow the lead of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman — who in November 
first issued a subpoena to ExxonMobil for hundreds of thousands of pages of documents about the company's climate science research and internal communications spanning over four decades — and of California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who announced that state's investigation in January.

News of these investigations in Massachusetts and the Virgin Islands came as attorneys general and their representatives gathered in Manhattan for a daylong conference on climate change. During the proceedings, the top legal authorities from 15 states, the Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia announced a coalition to collaborate on legal efforts to “deal with climate change,” as Schneiderman put it.

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