In a paywalled article at Politico Pro, reporter Elana Schor describes how the Democratic effort to cut a deal to lift the decades-long crude oil export ban is being quietly directed by the White House. The administration has quietly walked back its October veto threat against this top oil-industry priority, despite the global attention on climate change during the Paris climate talks. Remarkably, even climate champion Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) indicated her willingness to cut a deal that would rejuvenate the tar-sands and Bakken-shale industry, telling Schor, “I’ve heard environmentalists say this is a great opportunity; others say it’s not.”
Schor’s story did not make mention of which environmental groups are on which side. The Sierra Club has been leading the fight to ensure the ban stands, whereas the National Wildlife Federation has been pushing for a deal in order to achieve some of its land-conservation goals.
The carbon pollution caused by lifting the ban on crude oil exports, depending on future oil prices, could be equivalent to the pollution from 42 new coal plants.
Lifting the crude oil export ban would be a dramatic blow to American prestige within the international climate negotiations, where the United States, led by President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, have been claiming the moral high ground. Youth activists from historically black universities who are monitoring the talks recently sent a video plea to President Obama and the U.S. Senate, saying “the ban must stand.”
White House keeps GOP hopes for oil exports alive
The White House on Tuesday declined to rule out accepting a Congressional measure to allow U.S. oil exports for the first time in four decades, a potential signal to senior Democrats who are considering striking a deal with the GOP to overturn the ban in exchange for other party priorities.
The White House “continues to oppose” a legislative provision rolling back the decades-old ban on exporting U.S. crude, spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters, “but I’m just not going to get into a detailed list of things we are going to veto or not veto.”
Asked about ending the ban as part of a potential budget package that would otherwise be favorable to the White House, a senior Obama administration official said only that legislation on the issue is “not needed at this time”- repeating the language and tone used previously that’s raised alarms among some green groups.
Climate Hawks Vote political director Brad Johnson urged President Barack Obama to close the door to oil exports to reinforce the administration’s goal of reaching a strong global emissions pact at the climate change conference in Paris this week.
“All the efforts of his climate negotiators in Paris could be blown away by this one boneheaded appeasement of Big Oil,” Johnson said.
The We Mean Business coalition of private-sector climate activists has released detailed recommended language for the upcoming climate negotiations in Paris. The report was prepared by BSR and DLA Piper for the coalition, which includes B-Team, Ceres, Carbon Disclosure Project, the Climate Group, the Prince of Wales Corporate Leader Group, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Funding was provided by the ClimateWorks, IKEA, and Thomson Reuters Foundations.
Corporate members on the board of We Mean Business include Starbucks, Nike, IKEA, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Kingfisher, Unilever, HP, Tata, CLP Power, and NEUW Ventures.
The following is the text of the e-mail sent by the League of Conservation Voters on November 9, 2015, to members announcing the organization’s unprecedented early endorsement of Hillary Clinton.
Message from Ben Santer: Here is a message of support I sent to Tom Karl on November 17, 2015. I remain deeply concerned by the unwarranted Congressional scrutiny that the 2015 Karl et al. Science paper continues to receive.
I have no concerns about public distribution of this letter.
Dr. Thomas R. Karl
Director, National Center for Environmental Information
Veach-Baley Federal Building
151 Patton Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801-5001
I just wanted to express my gratitude and scientific appreciation for the critical research you and your NCEI colleagues have performed over the last several decades. You have been pioneers in many different areas: in producing observational estimates of global-scale changes in land and ocean surface temperatures, in identifying non-climatic artifacts in temperature measurements, in developing rigorous scientific methods of adjusting for such artifacts, and in accounting for the incomplete, time-varying coverage of observations.
NCEI has made its surface temperature data sets freely and openly available to the entire climate science community, thus enabling important research on the nature and causes of climate change, climate variability, and climate model evaluation. NCEI staff have clearly and thoroughly documented each surface temperature data set that NCEI has released – in scientific publications, in presentations to policymakers and professional societies, and in extensive online material. No scientific organization has done a more thorough or transparent job in developing and analyzing observations of 20th and early 21st century changes in Earth’s climate.
I am deeply concerned that NCEI’s science is now being subjected to Congressional scrutiny and criticism. Such scrutiny and criticism is not warranted. The leadership of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology should understand that science is dynamic rather than static. All observational temperature data sets have evolved in important ways over time, in tandem with improvements in the ability to identify and adjust for inhomogeneities introduced by changing measurement systems, changing measurement practices, and changes in the spatial coverage of measurements. This is true not only for surface temperature data sets, but also for measurements of the heat content of the world’s oceans, and for satellite-based estimates of temperature change in Earth’s lower and upper atmosphere. Evolution of observational temperature data sets is a normal, on-going scientific process. It is not evidence of non-scientific behavior.
If our country is to take informed decisions on how to address problems arising from human perturbations to the climate system, we need access to the best-available scientific information on how Earth’s climate has actually changed. NCEI provides such critically important information to the scientific community, policymakers, and the public. You and your NCEI colleagues deserve our sincere thanks and our continued support.
With best regards,
Distinguished Member of Scientific Staff, Lawrence Livermore National Lab
Member, U.S. National Academy of Sciences
After a protracted political battle pitting the climate movement against the power players of Washington DC, TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline has been rejected by President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.
Below is a brief and far from exhaustive list of political insiders who supported the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline or predicted its approval at some point between 2011 and today:
- President Barack Obama
- Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
- Former president Bill Clinton
- Former president George W. Bush
- Former Obama chief economic advisor Austan Goolsbee
- Former senator Joe Lieberman
- Former senator Jeff Bingaman
- Former CNN reporter Steve Hargreaves President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness
- Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich
- Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney
- American Legislative Exchange Council
- Rep. Fred Upton
- Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt
- Council on Foreign Relations fellow Michael Levi
- Harvard environmental economist Robert Stavins
- Former Montana governor Brian Schweitzer
- All corporate media
Actual climate scientists were near-unanimous in their opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, based on a serious analysis of the pipeline’s potential climate impact. Ralph Keeling, James Hanson, Ken Caldeira, Peter Gleick, James McCarthy, Michael Oppenheimer, Michael Mann, Steve Running, Richard Somerville, Jason Box, George Woodwell, and many others supported calls for civil disobedience against the pipeline. Hansen and Jason Box were themselves arrested.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, called for a civil RICO investigation of ExxonMobil and the “climate denial machine” on the floor of the U.S. Senate Tuesday afternoon. Whitehouse, who speaks on climate change every week that the Senate is in session, had raised the possibility of such an investigation in a speech in May that compared the fossil-fuel industry’s campaign of deception to that of the tobacco industry.
With new investigations by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times about ExxonMobil’s history of knowing climate deception, and rising calls from the public led by Climate Hawks Vote for civil or criminal action by the Department of Justice, Whitehouse again took the floor.
Whitehouse took on his critics, mocking the “histrionics on the far right” and describing the Wall Street Journal editorial page as the”Troll-in-Chief for the fossil-fuel industry.”
The senator concluded with a call for a civil RICO investigation of the “climate denial scheme,” from the fossil-fuel giants like ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers to the organizations they back, like the Wall Street Journal and the Manhattan Institute.
This was Senator Whitehouse 115th “Time to Wake Up” climate speech.
Whatever the motivation of the Wall Street Journal and other right-wing climate denial outfits, it is clearly long past time for the climate denial scheme to come in from the talk shows and the blogosphere, and have to face the kind of truth-testing audience that a civil RICO investigation could provide. It’s time to let the facts take their place, and let climate denial face that “greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.”
With his speech, Whitehouse joined the growing ranks calling for a DOJ investigation of the fossil-fuel industry, which now include Merchants of Doubt author Naomi Oreskes, Representatives Ted Lieu and Mark DeSaulnier of California, and Democratic presidential candidates Martin O’Malley and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
The Climate Hawks Vote petition, which unlike Sen. Whitehouse’s call includes language open to criminal investigation of ExxonMobil’s activities, can be found here.
Congressional Climate Hawks to DOJ: Investigate Exxon's "Immoral" And "Sustained Deception Campaign" On Climate
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.)
The request, motivated by independent journalistic investigations by Inside Climate News and the Los Angeles Times, compared Exxon’s deliberate “campaign to deceive the American people about the known risks of fossil fuels” to the tobacco industry’s actions “to deceive the American people about the known risks of tobacco.” The tobacco industry was the subject of a successful RICO lawsuit.
The apparent tactics employed by Exxon are reminiscent of the actions employed by big tobacco companies to deceive the American people about the known risks of tobacco. In this case, Exxon scientists knew about fossil fuels causing global warming and Exxon took internal actions based on its knowledge of climate change. Yet Exxon funded and publicly engaged in a campaign to deceive the American people about the known risks of fossil fuels in causing climate change. If these allegations against Exxon are true, then Exxon’s actions were immoral. We request the DOJ to investigate whether ExxonMobil’s actions were also illegal.
The representatives’ letter follows a public call for such an investigation made by the members of Climate Hawks Vote in September of this year.
Also on Thursday, climate activist Bill McKibben held a one-man protest against Exxon, getting arrested at an ExxonMobil gas station in Vermont in order to raise public knowledge of the news stories.
Download the DOJ letter or view the full text below.
Speaking at a town-hall event in Iowa, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton announced her opposition to the approval of the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline.
“I oppose it because I don’t think it’s in the best interest of what we need to do to combat climate change,” Clinton told the crowd.
This marks a dramatic turnaround for the Democratic frontrunner.
During Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, her department recommended the pipeline be approved. Clinton let contractors for the pipeline’s owner, the Candian company TransCanada, control the approval process. A single State Department staffer assigned in the Bush administration to oversee the contractors remained in that position until October 2010. Public hearings on the State Department’s draft approval for the pipeline were run by a TransCanada contractor. As public outcry against the pipeline grew, TransCanada hired former staffers for Hillary Clinton to lobby on its behalf.
In March 2012, her husband and former president Bill Clinton announced his support of the pipeline’s construction, saying, “I think we should embrace it.”Samantha-Jo Roth:
.@HillaryClinton – “I oppose Keystone XL pipeline” #IAcaucus
Originally published at The Jacobin.
At the beginning of August, President Obama unveiled with great fanfare the “Clean Power Plan,” a “Landmark Action to Protect Public Health, Reduce Energy Bills for Households and Businesses, Create American Jobs, and Bring Clean Power to Communities across the Country.”
Stripping away the poll-tested language, the president was announcing — after epic delays — EPA regulations for carbon-dioxide pollution from existing power plants, finally fulfilling a 2000 George W. Bush campaign pledge. The proposed rule’s compliance period will begin in 2022.
From a policy perspective, the proposed rule is a perfect distillation of the Obama administration’s approach to governance: politically rational incrementalism that reinforces the existing power structures and is grossly insufficient given the scope of the problem.
The information necessary to understand the rule is impressively buried on the EPA website amid “fact sheets” that list out-of-context factoids and fail to cite references from the one-hundred-plus-page technical documents or ZIP files of modeling runs. The structure of the plan is complex (for example, states can choose to comply with “rate-based” pollution-intensity targets or “mass-based” total-pollution targets) and carefully designed to satisfy a wide range of stakeholders.
Speaking in Alaska at a conference on the Arctic, President Barack Obama spoke with force about the urgency of addressing climate change, acknowledging the failings of his own administration’s efforts. His speech, a far-reaching address on national and international climate policy, was given at the Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience (GLACIER) in Anchorage before various foreign ministers grappling with the geopolitical implications of an Arctic region on “the leading edge of climate change.”
“It’s not enough just to talk the talk,” Obama concluded. “We’ve got to walk the walk. We’ve got work to do, and we’ve got to do it together.”
Obama’s speech came days after approving oil giant Shell’s application to commence exploration for oil in the melting Arctic Ocean.