June 20th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
The oil industry, whose image couldn’t be worse in the wake of the BP spill, was less than thrilled that Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) resolution to handcuff the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was defeated.
Predictably, Big Oil’s spokesmouth employed the usual Freddy Kruegeresque scare tactics.
“Massive and rapidly imposed restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions would harm the American economy and hit every American in his or her wallet,” warned Charles T. Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association. “If EPA’s aggressive campaign to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act is successful, it will add billions of dollars to the cost of doing business in the United States, raise the cost of energy and other products for American families, wipe out the jobs of millions of American workers and simply shift greenhouse gas emissions from the United States to other nations without any increase in environmental protection.”
Can I come out from under the bed now?
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), a true friend of the environment, quickly shot down Drevna’s sky-is-falling scenario, saying the Murkowski crowd has made false economic claims.
“Quite the opposite, it is [the Murkowski] resolution that will hurt our economy by causing the American people to forfeit a third of the greenhouse gas emissions reductions that are projected to come from last year’s historic agreement between the Obama Administration, the states, and the nation’s automakers and autoworkers,” he said.
“Much of what the special interests, and Big Oil and their lobbyists, have been saying in favor of this resolution is steeped not in science, but in politics and mistruths,” Leahy added.
Rebecca Rasch, communications manager for the Environmental Defense Fund, got it right when she noted that the Murkowski resolution would have nullified “EPA’s finding of scientific fact that greenhouse gases cause harmful global warming—a finding that forms the legal basis for any further steps EPA can take to address carbon pollution.”
Supporting the bill, Rasch added, would have been “a vote against the strong scientific consensus that climate change is a real threat we must avoid.”
For Your Organic Bookshelf: The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience
Read More:Oil Industry Resorts to Scare Tactics
June 14th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
My environmental hero of the week is Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), who actually cares about the ramifications of climate change and the quality of the air we breathe.
Before the June 10 defeat of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) resolution to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its power to enforce the Clean Air Act, Leahy employed an apt “punt, pass and kick” football analogy to chastise the “drill, baby, drill” crowd.
Murkowski’s resolution, he explained, “would punt away constructive action to begin addressing the many threats that each and every American faces from climate change, and the threats we face every day to our national security. It would pass on the opportunities to foster cleaner air and water for us, and for the generations that will follow us. And it would kick away the progress already negotiated by the Obama administration and key industries, such as our automobile and truck manufacturers, to usher in new products that would pollute less while creating good American jobs—jobs that cannot be sent overseas.
“Many on the other side of the aisle have been adamant in trying to wish these problems away and to forfeit the economic opportunities at our fingertips to lead the world in these new energy technologies,” Leahy added. “Powerful corporate interests are more than glad to contribute to these efforts to stalemate any progress.”
Passage of Murkowski’s resolution would have signaled that we’re “content to keep relying on the outdated, dirty and inefficient energy technologies of the past, and to let every other industrialized nation leap in front of us in developing and selling these new technologies,” Leahy said.
There’s no doubt that greenhouse gases are a “clear and present health and economic threat to the American people,” he added, noting that Murkowski’s resolution would give Congress permission to “undermine America’s ability to clean our air and our waters.”
Leahy wants the EPA to remain focused on protecting the American people, “whether it is arsenic in our drinking water, smog in the air, mercury in the fish we eat or greenhouse gases.”
He’s also calling on Congress to pass meaningful energy and climate legislation.
Read More:Vermont Senator Stands Up to Anti-Environmentalists
June 12th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Hmm. Where have I heard this before?
A Republican legislator from Alaska, who happens to be female, wants to restrict the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The only surprise?
I’m not talking about Sarah Palin, who’s consistently two dogs short of a full sled.
From somewhere within the bowels of Bizarro World, Sen. Lisa Murkowski introduced a resolution Jan. 21 to tie the EPA’s hands.
“The Clean Air Act was written by Congress to regulate criteria pollutants, not greenhouse gases,” she said, apparently splitting hairs over the specific particles in our crappy air.
OK, let’s see if we can connect the dots: Murkowski, ranking Republican member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, received $433,989 from the oil and gas industry between 2002 and 2010, as well as $473,563 from the electricity industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Her five top contributors this year included:
- Exxon Mobil (oil company)
- Constellation Energy (natural gas/electricity provider)
- Van Ness Feldman (law firm representing energy/transportation industry)
Do I detect a pattern here?
“You betcha,” as Palin might say.
Now, for the Good News
Murkowski’s resolution was defeated Thursday by a vote of 53–47.
EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson estimated its passage would increase our dependence on oil by 455 million barrels.
But some Republican lawmakers, like Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, will continue to fight “the Obama EPA’s job-killing, global warming agenda.”
FYI: Over the last 5 years, Inhofe has received $564,700 from the oil and gas industry, as well as $398,390 from electric utilities. His top 20 contributors over the last 5 years include Koch Industries (petroleum refining), Murray Energy, Devon Energy, OGE Energy, Anadarko Petroleum—and the far-from-green list goes on.
Read More:Senate Thwarts Effort to Weaken Clean Air Act
June 11th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Sarah Palin’s “drill, baby, drill” mantra seems all the more idiotic as we watch the environmental scoundrels at BP try to contain the disastrous oil spill they caused along the Gulf Coast (with, I should add, a little help from Dick Cheney’s greedy cohorts at Halliburton).
“While this is a popular strategy among Republicans, Tea Partiers and Blue Dog Democrats, it is a terrible policy,” says Rafael Reuveny, PhD, a professor of public and environmental affairs at Indiana University, Bloomington. “It risks the health of America’s environment and, even more so, the global ecosystem.”
Offshore drilling is growing costlier and more dangerous, Dr. Reuveny says.
“We don’t even know how to solve the current problem in the Gulf,” he explains. “Offshore drilling pushes our technology and safety measures to the limit. The more we drill offshore and the deeper the sea bed is, the higher the risk of these catastrophes. It is a simple game of probability.”
From Climate Change to Outright Violence
Instead of weaning the planet off fossil fuels, the United States is escalating its dependence and accelerating climate change.
“Climate change increases the frequency and intensity of weather disasters such as storms, floods and droughts,” says Dr. Reuveny, who coauthored Climatic Natural Disasters, Political Risk and International Trade in the May issue of Global Environmental Change. “As a result, these disasters have reduced foreign trade and investments and promoted waves of environmental refugees from poor, affected countries. In Arizona, the arrival of migrants has led to civil strife. In other cases, it has led to outright violence.”
As the United States continues to increase carbon emissions, other countries must wonder why they should cap theirs, Dr. Reuveny says.
Pursuing an Irrational Course
President Obama’s initial executive order to continue offshore drilling, which he reversed by moratorium after the BP spill, “brings all of us closer to the brink of social collapse due to severe environmental decline, which has occurred many times throughout history,” Dr. Reuveny asserts.
A better strategy is to preserve oil as an insurance plan for the future.
“Leaving our oil in the ground is like an underwater bank with an outstanding interest rate as oil becomes increasingly scarce and its price rises,” he says. “In the meantime, we must invest in new technology and alternative energy sources. These are the ways to maintain our status as world leader. We will only self-destruct if we continue on this irrational course.”
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Energy Independence: Your Everyday Guide to Reducing Fuel Consumption
Read More:Just Leave the Damn Oil in the Ground
June 6th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
More than 275 million people visit America’s national parks each year, but “years of underfunding, pollution and climate change have taken a toll on our national treasures,” says Theresa Pierno, executive vice president of the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA).
That’s why four-time Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year Kenny Chesney has partnered with granola-bar company Nature Valley to raise up to $500,000 for the NPCA. .
“To me, there’s nothing better than being outside, enjoying the parks, the lakes and the oceans—and that’s what makes protecting our national parks so important,” Chesney says. “Teaming up with Nature Valley to raise awareness and funds is a great way to make sure the public realizes how special these parks are.”
You may make a donation to support restoration projects by clicking here.
In the first year, Nature Valley will contribute to the NPCA through the National Parks Project, with a guaranteed minimum donation of $250,000. Money raised will focus on three preservation projects:
- Reestablishing plant life critical to the Grand Canyon
- Restoring habitat for Yellowstone’s wildlife
- Rebuilding Biscayne National Park’s damaged coral reefs
Pierno says the new partnership “is another step toward ensuring our national parks get the care and support they need for the enjoyment of our children and grandchildren in the years to come.”
You can follow park conservation efforts on Twitter.
For Your Organic Bookshelf: The Natural Parks: America’s Best Idea
Photos courtesy of Kenny Chesney; Jim Peaco/National Park Service
Read More:Give Our National Parks Some TLC
June 1st, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
While the BP oil spill has officially become the worst in U.S. history, Americans remain divided over whether the government should increase offshore oil drilling, according to a nationwide survey of 1,001 adults conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center for Public Policy.
When asked specifically about drilling’s risks and benefits, 51% said the environmental risks outweigh the benefits, while 35% think the benefits outweigh the environmental risks. Nonetheless, 45% support increased offshore drilling, with 44% opposing it (margin of error: ±3.7%).
- 80% say pollution of the country’s rivers, lakes and reservoirs is a major problem; 16% say it’s a minor problem; and 3% say it’s not a problem.
- Air pollution is considered a major problem by 74%, and 73% worry about our overreliance on energy from oil and gas.
- 54% say global warming is a major problem, 23% consider it a minor problem, and 19% say it’s not a problem.
- Views about global warming are divided along partisan lines, with 70% of Democrats identifying it as a major problem; only 27% of Republications agree. Most Independents (53%) think global warming is a major problem.
- Perceptions lean toward the view that scientists are divided over global warming, with 49% of those polled saying many scientists have serious doubts about the evidence; 37% believe the evidence is widely accepted in the scientific community. Once again, views were split along partisan lines.
For Your Organic Bookshelf: The Bridge at the End of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability
Read More:Public Divided on Environmental Issues
May 31st, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
BP’s most recent failure to contain the massive Gulf Coast oil spill will add millions, if not billions, of dollars to the company’s remediation bill.
But American consumers will also feel the pain as gas prices rise. How else can Big Oil recoup the money it has lost from the spill?
Meanwhile, in other financial news, fishermen are losing significant income, and fishing may be banned for an extended period. Coastal towns that survive on tourism dollars will be forced to close recreational areas.
The economics of our dependence on fossil fuels has always posed a fascinating paradox.
“In the last month, we have seen a 15.61% decline [$80+ per barrel to less than $70 per barrel] in the price of oil per barrel, yet the price of gasoline at the pump remains in the stratosphere—$3 and higher, in most instances,” says George R. Cook, MBA, executive professor of marketing at the University of Rochester’s Simon School of Business. “I find it interesting that when the price of oil skyrockets, the next day the price of gasoline at the pump shoots upward, as well—but the reverse is not true. When the price of oil plummets, as it is doing now, the price of gasoline at the pump continues to remain high. Where is justice in this game?
“All we get are excuses from the oil companies about why it has to remain high,” Cook adds. “The real reason is that the oil companies’ philosophy is, ‘Sock it to the consumer,’ while they line their pockets with gasoline profits in the upper stratosphere. Here is an area for Congress and the administration to look into and set up commissions to investigate. Try helping the average consumer for a change.”
But Congress has too much on the line to cut its ties with Big Oil, whose lobbyists have contributed $143.8 million to congressional campaigns over the last decade’s election cycles (73% to Republicans, 27% to Democrats), according to the watchdogs at opensecrets.org.
Clearly, money impedes our transition to a clean energy future. As long as our elected representatives choose their wallets over their constituents’ well-being, nothing will change—and we’ll stand by as the political machine rapes our planet.
Read More:Spill, Baby, Spill
May 20th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
As we reported a few weeks ago, Disneynature contributed a percentage of opening-week ticket sales for its latest film, Oceans, to The Nature Conservancy’s Adopt a Coral Reef program.
The environmental partners have since announced that the proceeds will be used to protect more than 35,000 acres of coral reefs in The Bahamas. At 55 square miles, the area is 250% larger than Manhattan and could house more than 412 Disneylands.
A critically important ecosystem, The Bahamas’ 700 islands straddle the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Miles of coral reefs serve as the foundation for a healthy ocean environment, providing shelter, nurseries and feeding grounds for hundreds of marine species, including dolphins, sea turtles and a wide range of fish.
Scientists estimate Caribbean coral reefs could disappear in 50 years unless they have a network of well-managed protected areas.
“Disneynature has captured the beauty, wonder and fragility of our world’s marine habitats and species in Oceans,” says Nature Conservancy President and CEO Mark Tercek. “We appreciate Disney’s commitment to help protect marine areas in The Bahamas, which is home to 30% of all coral reefs in the Atlantic Ocean.”
Disney Stores will also donate $1 from the sale of each eco-friendly Save Planet Earth Reusable Bag to the Adopt a Coral Reef program. Bags are now on sale for only $1.49 (50% off).
Read More:Coral Reefs to Benefit from Disney’s “Oceans”
May 13th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
At 88, Betty White (right) killed on Saturday Night Live last weekend, and she has the ratings to prove it.
The TV legend scored the show’s highest viewership since November 2008, when Ben Affleck’s hosting gig featured guest appearances by Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain and Tina Fey as Sarah Palin. (For the record: Palin’s “Drill, Baby, Drill” idiocy should force her to de-oil a few hundred bird victims of the massive British Petroleum oil spill that remains uncontained.)
White has served as a Morris Animal Foundation trustee for more than 40 years, and she has promised to match $25,000 in contributions to help wildlife scientists determine animals’ needs created by the oil spill. (Click here to donate.)
“The need is so great right now,” White says. “There are some species that may not make it through this. Morris Animal Foundation’s rapid-response fund was set up just for these types of needs.”
“When starting this fund two months ago, we had no idea we would need to use it so quickly,” says veterinarian Wayne A. Jensen, the foundation’s chief scientific officer.
“Although tragic, events such as these provide research opportunities to develop better methods to diagnose disease and treat affected animals. Through this fund, we hope to provide researchers with much-needed funds to act quickly to address wildlife health needs in times of crisis.”
If you enjoyed White’s performance as much as I did, please donate to her worthy cause.
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Night Fire: Big Oil, Poison Air, and Margie Richard’s Fight to Save Her Town
Read More:Help Betty White Save Oil Spill Victims
May 6th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Craving shrimp, crab, oysters and other seafood indigenous to the Gulf Coast?
Good luck finding them.
Supermarkets and restaurants are taking fish and seafood off their menus—a result of the British Petroleum oil spill that’s threatening area wildlife and marine animals.
And if you do happen to locate these ocean delicacies, expect to pay a substantial premium.
Todd Waldschmidt, manager and seafood buyer for Peoria, IL-based Jonah’s Seafood House, told the Peoria Journal Star that the greatest price increases may be felt toward summer’s end. Similarly, restaurants and grocers from New York to California may be forced to jack up prices or source seafood from overseas.
A $2.5 Billion Price Tag
As the Environmental Defense Fund notes:
“A huge fraction of the fish production in the region is at risk—a body blow both to marine ecosystems and the multibillion-dollar coastal industries tied to commercial fishing and seafood, and sport fisheries and recreation. It is especially sad that this catastrophe threatens the fishing communities of the Gulf that have become national leaders in transforming ocean fisheries to models of sustainability.”
CNBC reports the ultimate price tag for spill cleanup may exceed $14 billion. As for the seafood industry, Louisiana could lose $2.5 billion.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has restricted fishing in the area, and its scientists are testing water and seafood samples.
“There are finfish, crabs, oysters and shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico near the area of the oil spill,” confirms NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Administrator Roy Crabtree. “The Gulf is such an important biologic and economic area in terms of seafood production and recreational fishing.”
NOAA estimates that Gulf Coast commercial fishermen, whose livelihoods depend on healthy seas, harvested more than 1 billion pounds of finfish and shellfish in 2008.
Read More:Oil Spill Creates Seafood Shortage