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.

Mapping EPA Nominee Scott Pruitt's Many Fossil Fuel Ties

Map of Scott Pruitt's connections to fossil fuel interests

On Thursday, January 12, Senate Democrats raised another set of conflict of interest concerns about Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who has been nominated to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In a letter to the Office of Government Ethics, members of the Senate's environment panel requested more background on Pruitt's dealings with the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), which Pruitt led for two years while coordinating with other state AGs to combat the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan.

“During his tenure as Attorney General of Oklahoma, Mr. Pruitt has blurred the distinction between official and political actions, often at the behest of corporations he will regulate if confirmed to lead EPA,” the letter said. “Public reporting based on documents produced by Freedom of Infomation Act requests illustrate how Mr. Pruitt and members of his staff have worked closely with fossil fuel lobbyists to craft his office's official positions.”

New York Times Examines Fueling U.S. Forward, the Koch-Funded "Exploitative, Sad and Borderline Racist" Campaign

Back in August at the Red State Gathering in Denver, Fueling U.S. Forward President Charles Drevna revealed that one of the campaign's major strategies would involve targeting minority communities. A remarkable article just published by The New York Times reveals how the group is enacting this strategy, hosting and supporting events in minority communities while promoting the “importance of domestic oil and natural gas to making people’s lives better,” as Drevna put it.

Eddie Bautista, executive director of the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, called the Fueling U.S. Forward campaign “an exploitative, sad and borderline racist strategy.”

The Trump Administration Is Filling Up With Koch Allies

Koch Ties Trump Administration

On the campaign trail, President-elect Donald Trump boasted that he had no need for the Koch brothers, claiming to have rejected meetings with them and calling his Republican primary opponents “puppets” for meeting with the Kochs.

Yet, today, Trump's transition team and Cabinet are quickly filling with a number of Koch affiliates, confidantes, and business associates.

Politico has called it Trump's Koch administration. Talking Points Memo noted that “Behind Make America Great, the Koch agenda has returned with a vengeance.” Others have called Trump an unwitting “puppet” of the Koch brothers.

Trump Energy Agenda Revealed in Thomas Pyle Memo

Memo on Trump's energy plan

The energy agenda of the incoming Trump administration just got a lot clearer. A memo sent by Thomas Pyle, president of the Koch-funded Institute for Energy Research (IER) and head of the Trump transition's energy team, laid out “The Trump Administration's Energy Plan.”

The memo, which was received and published by the Center for Media and Democracy, was sent by Pyle to a private email list just days before the Trump team announced that it would replace a Koch lobbyist with Pyle, a Koch-funded former lobbyist, to lead the Department of Energy transition team efforts.

TV Show 'Years of Living Dangerously' to Ask, "Who Killed Electric Car Sales in Georgia?"

Ty Burrell in an electric car

Just two years ago, Georgia was an unlikely national leader in electric vehicle sales. Boosted by one of the nation’s most generous state-level EV tax incentives, by early 2014, Georgia trailed only California in EV registrations. Then, in January 2015, a new measure slipped into the state’s $1 billion transportation bill killed the credit, and added another $200 annual fee for EV drivers. Electric car sales immediately fell off a cliff.

According to Don Francis, the coordinator of Clean Cities-Georgia and Executive Director of the Partnership for Clean Transportation, overall EV sales fell by 90 percent, and sales of the Nissan LEAF are off nearly 95 percent.

On Wednesday night, Years of Living Dangerously will cover the brief, volatile history of electric cars in Georgia, with actor Ty Burrell traveling to Atlanta to see the effects of the slashed EV incentives on the transportation system and talk with local drivers.

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.”

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