Category Archives: Fossil fuels

America Voted. The Climate Lost.

Repost from The New Republic
[Editor: Benicia wasn’t alone in this last election, suffering from the intrusion of Big Oil’s Big Money.  Oil companies ratcheted up their meddling in local politics all across the land.  This article highlights only a few: oil interests apparently spent $20 million in WA and $40 million in CO defeating key measures (carbon fee & fracking safety rules respectively).  – R.S.]

Fossil fuel companies spent record amounts to oppose pro-climate ballot initiatives, and it paid off.

By EMILY ATKIN, November 7, 2018

The last two years in American politics have spelled trouble for the global climate, thanks largely to the Trump administration. And the next two years probably won’t be much better, given the results of Tuesday’s midterm elections.

Voters failed to pass a historic ballot initiative in Washington state to create the first-ever carbon tax in the United States. They rejected a ballot measure to increase renewable energy in Arizona, and to limit fracking in Colorado. Some of Congress’ most outspoken climate deniers held onto their seats. Several candidates who ran on explicitly pro-climate agendas lost.

Democrats did not quite get the blue wave they wanted, but it was even worse for environmentalists. There was no green wave whatsoever. That’s partially because of record political spending by the fossil fuel industry to oppose pro-climate initiatives, but also because of the Democratic Party’s failure as a whole to draw much attention to the issue.

The midterm elections were always going to be consequential for climate change. The world’s governments only have about twelve years to implement policies that can limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. That’s the point at which catastrophic impacts begin, according to a recent report from an international consortium of scientists.

The U.S., as the largest historical emitter of greenhouse gases, is essential to achieving that target. But for the last two years, the U.S. government has been ignoring the need to reduce emissions—and in many cases, actively working against it. Along with withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, President Donald Trump has been attempting to repeal and weaken existing climate regulation, with the support of the Republican-controlled Congress.

The midterms gave voters two opportunities to change America’s course on climate change. They could have elected a Congress that would no longer support Trump’s anti-climate agenda. And they could have approved strong statewide climate policies to counter the federal government’s inaction.

Voters took the first opportunity, but only slightly. Democrats won the House of Representatives, making it near-impossible for Trump to pass any anti-climate legislation.

But voters didn’t elect many candidates who ran on pro-climate agendas. Environmentalists had hoped that Florida, being on the front lines of climate change, would make history in that regard. But Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, a climate champion, was unseated by Governor Rick Scott, a Republican accused of banning the word climate from state government websites. And Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, who pledged to act swiftly on climate, lost to a Republican who has dismissed the problem.

Voters rejected almost every opportunity to enact strong state-level climate policies.The biggest failure by far was in Washington. Initiative 1631 would have made the state the first in the country to charge polluters for their emissions. The proceeds from the carbon fee could have provided Washington with “as much as $1 billion annually by 2023 to fund government programs related to climate change,” Fortune reported, and “potentially kickstart a national movement to staunch greenhouse gases.” The measure lost by 12 percentage points.

The renewable energy ballot initiative in Arizona also presented a big opportunity to reduce emissions. Proposition 127 would have required electric companies in Arizona to get half of their power from renewable sources like solar and wind by 2030. (In a rare win for the environment on Tuesday, Nevada voters passed their own version of that initiative.) Proposition 112, Colorado’s ballot initiative to keep oil and gas drilling operations away from where people live, was far more about protecting public health than it was about limiting climate change. But the effect would have been to limit further fossil fuel extraction in the state.

The oil and gas industry spent quite a lot of money opposing all of these pro-climate ballot initiatives. The campaign against Washington’s carbon fee “raised $20 million, 99 percent of which has come from oil and gas,” according to Vox. The carbon fee was thus one of the most expensive ballot initiative fights in Washington state history. The renewable energy fight in Arizona was also the most expensive in state history because of oil industry spending. The same was true for Colorado’s anti-fracking measure, as the oil and gas industry clearly spent nearly $40 million opposing it.

While Tuesday’s results show the impact of massive political spending by the fossil fuel lobby, they also shine a light on Democrats’ failure to mobilize voters on the issue. The Democratic Party has failed to treat climate change with much, if any urgency this election season. According to The New York Times, the “vast majority” of the party’s candidates did not mention the problem “in digital or TV ads, in their campaign literature or on social media.” And the party’s leaders in Congress have given little indication that they intend to prioritize climate change in the future. Is it any wonder voters weren’t excited about solving the problem, either?


Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Nevada voters rejected Question 6, a ballot initiative on renewable energy. The measure won. 

Emily Atkin is a staff writer at The New Republic.

    Trump White House: global catastrophe inevitable, we might as well pollute

    Repost from The Rolling Stone
    [Editor: thanks to Marilyn Bardet for alerting us to this deep and shocking analysis of Trump’s latest disaster.  – R.S.]

    Why Aren’t We Talking More About Trump’s Nihilism?

    The White House now says we might as well pollute because global catastrophe is inevitable

    By MATT TAIBBI, OCTOBER 1, 2018 12:28PM ET

    President Donald Trump pauses while speaking at a campaign rally at WesBanco Arena, in Wheeling, West Virginia. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP/Shutterstock

    While America was consumed with the Brett Kavanaugh drama last week, the Washington Post unearthed a crazy tidbit in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) latest environmental impact statement.

    The study predicts a rise in global temperatures of about four degrees Celsius, or seven degrees Fahrenheit, by the year 2100. Worse, it asserts global warming is such an inevitable reality, there’s no point in reducing auto emissions, as we’re screwed anyway.

    “The emissions reductions necessary to keep global emissions within this carbon budget could not be achieved solely with drastic reductions in emissions from the U.S. passenger car and light truck vehicle fleet,” is how the report put it.

    To make a real difference, it adds we’d have to “move away from the use of fossil fuels,” which is “not currently technologically feasible or economically practicable.”

    There’s been just a flutter of media attention about this, mostly focusing on the hypocrisy. Trump, as is his wont, has at one point or another occupied basically every inch of territory on the spectrum of global warming opinions.

    He went from urging President Obama to act to prevent “catastrophic and irreversible consequences… for our planet” (2009), to calling global warming a Chinese conspiracy (2012), to calling it an “expensive hoax” (2013), and “bullshit” (2014), to switching up again during the election to concede the existence of “naturally occurring” (i.e., not man-made) climate change.

    Now comes this Linda Blair-style head turn. The NHTSA report deftly leaps past standard wing-nut climate denial and lands on a new nihilistic construct, in which action is useless precisely because climate change exists and is caused by fossil fuels.

    The more you read of this impact statement, the weirder it seems. After the document lays out its argument for doing nothing, it runs a series of bar graphs comparing the impact of various action plans with scenarios in which the entire world did nothing (labeled the “no action” alternative).

    These absurd illustrations make Thomas Friedman’s time-traveling efforts to graph the future seem like the work of a Nobel laureate.

    “A textbook example of how to lie with statistics,” is how MIT professor John Sterman described it to the Post.

    There’s obviously a danger at overinterpreting this paper, which mostly seems like a desperate bureaucratic attempt to square science with Trump’s determination to roll back environmental policies for his business pals.

    But even as accidental symbolism, it’s powerful stuff. A policy that not only recognizes but embraces inevitable global catastrophe is the ultimate expression of Trump’s somehow under-reported nihilism.

    While the press has focused in the past two years either on the president’s daily lunacies or his various scandals, the really dangerous work of Trump’s administration has gone on behind the scenes, in his systematic wreckage of the state.

    Implicit in this campaign of bureaucratic dismantling has been the message that pandemonium is a price Trump is very willing to pay, in service of breaking the “disaster” of government. Many of his top appointees have been distinguished by their screw-it-all mentality.

    Remember, he appointed Mick Mulvaney, a man who had once inspired a downgrade of America’s credit rating by threatening to default on the debt, to be his budget director.

    He later put Mulvaney in charge of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where he fired his own 25-person advisory board — after requesting a budget of $0 and promising to fulfill the bureau’s mission “no further.”

    Trump’s original EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, was best known for having used his time as Oklahoma’s attorney general to sue the EPA repeatedly and zero out the environmental-enforcement budget. Trump made a robotization enthusiast his choice for labor secretary, chose a hockey-team owner to run the Army (he withdrew, thankfully), and so on.

    There are still hundreds of top federal jobs left unmanned, and some of the non-appointments seem like Nero-level acts of madness. Trump asked for 25 percent cuts to the whole State Department on the grounds that they were “prioritizing the efficient use of taxpayer resources.” But what country goes without ambassadors for years? Trump fired dozens upon inauguration and to this day still has 34 vacancies. We have no ambassador in South Africa, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, even Mexico. We’re a ghost state with nukes.

    All of this is part and parcel of Trump’s doomsday message. He’s been a textbook example of Richard Hofstadter’s famed theory of paranoid politics. See if any of this (especially the line about “barricades”) sounds familiar:

    The paranoid spokesman sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms — he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization… Like religious millennialists, he expresses the anxiety of those who are living through the last days…

    From Day One of Trump’s campaign, pundits have reached for traditional political explanations to describe both his behavior and his appeal. Because we’re trained to talk in terms of left and right, progress and reaction, we tried to understand him in those terms.

    But Trump sold something more primal. His core message was relentless, hounding negativity, lambasting audiences with images of death and disaster.

    His first campaign speech was basically a non-denominational end-times sermon, in which America was either kaput or close to it, surrounded on all sides by bloodthirsty enemies. “They kill us,” he preached. “They beat us all the time… We have nothing…”

    He ranted about a system befouled by false prophets. “Politicians are all talk, no action,” he howled. “They will not bring us— believe me — to the promised land.”

    The “What have you got to lose?” line he pulled out later was supposedly just a pitch to African-American voters, but all of Trump’s audiences picked up on the “it just doesn’t matter” theme. (If you want to be wigged out, check out the similarities between Trump speeches and the famed Bill Murray speech from Meatballs. Just substitute “China” for “Mohawk.”)

    Obese and rotting, close enough to the physical end himself (and long ago spiritually dead), Trump essentially told his frustrated, pessimistic crowds that America was doomed anyway, so we might as well stop worrying and floor it to the end.

    If that meant a trade war, environmental catastrophe, broken alliances, so be it. “Let’s just get this shit over with,” is how Trump’s unofficial campaign slogan was described in the show Horace and Pete, one of the few outlets to pick up on Trump’s Freudian death-wish rhetoric.

    Trump made lots of loony promises to bring us back to the joyous Fifties (literally to Happy Days, if you go by his choice of Scott Baio as a convention speaker). But even his audiences didn’t seem to believe this fable.

    The more credible promise of his campaign was a teardown of the international order, which he’s actually begun as president. Trade deals, environmental accords, the EU, NATO, he’s undercut all of them, while ripping government in half like a phone book.

    He keeps inviting destruction like it’s a desirable outcome. He even pushed through legislation for “low-yield” nuclear weapons, whose only purpose is to be more theoretically usable than the other kind (although he’s wrong about this, too).

    His fans even cheered when he played nuclear chicken with Kim Jong-un, tweeting that his “nuclear button” was “bigger & more powerful” than Kim’s (and “my Button works!”).

    It’s easy to understand the nationalist sentiment behind reversing trade deals or backing Brexit. But what’s the populist angle on burning the planet, or nuclear war? How does hating elites explain cheering a guy on for turning nuclear diplomacy into a penis-measuring contest?

    On a policy level, this apocalypse politics is pure corporate cynicism, with Trump’s big-business buddies showing a willingness to kill us all for a few dollars now.

    The broader electoral pitch is just an evil version of every nuclear-age dance tune ever, “99 Luftballoons” or “1999.” The world is ending, so fuck it, let’s party. As crazy as it is, it’s a seductive message for a country steeped in hate and pessimism. Democrats still don’t understand it. Trump’s turning America into a death cult, with us as involuntary members.

      SB100 – California Assembly Passes Historic 100% Carbon-Free Electricity Bill

      Repost from the Sacramento Bee
      [From GreenTechMedia.com: “The world’s 5th largest economy will have to eliminate carbon emissions from electricity by 2045.”]

      Plan to power California with all renewable energy clears major hurdle

      By Taryn Luna, August 28, 2018 05:29 PM

      The California Legislature is poised to send a bill to the governor that would require all retail electricity to be generated from solar, wind and other renewable energy sources by 2045.

      Despite objections from utilities and oil companies, the Assembly voted 43-32 to eliminate fossil fuels in the state’s energy sector on Tuesday. Senate Bill 100, introduced by Sen. Kevin de León, must return to the Senate, and is all but guaranteed to reach the Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk before the legislative session ends this week.

      “When it comes to fighting climate change and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, California won’t back down, ” de León said. “We have taken another great stride toward a 100% clean energy future.”

      Climate activists and environmental groups have hailed the plan as a critical step forward in the battle against climate change. The bill’s passage in California will serve as a symbolic strike against the Trump administration, which has steadily attempted to erode environmental protections, roll back fuel economy standards and weaken existing rules meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fire plants.

      Opponents have long argued that California’s efforts to combat climate change are futile and fail to make a substantial difference as the planet continues to warm. Some Assembly members warned the bill would hurt workers in the fossil fuel industry and raise prices for utility customers.

      “We pass all these goals for renewables, but at the same time our families back home will pay the cost with an increase in the electric bills every year as we try to achieve this,” said Assemblyman Devon Mathis, is, R-Visalia.

      The bill is opposed by Pacific Gas and Electric Company, San Diego Gas And Electric Company, Western States Petroleum Association, Agricultural Council of California and more than two dozen others.

      The proposal toughens regulations in a state seen as a global leader on climate change.

      State lawmakers set a goal two years ago of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders last year extended the state’s cap-and-trade program, a market-based system that allows polluters to buy permits for the greenhouse gases they emit, through 2030. Lawmakers described the cap-and-trade program as the state’s best tool to encourage companies to reduce their carbon footprint and allow the state to reach its greenhouse gas goals.

      De León initially introduced SB 100 in 2017 and the Assembly held the bill, effectively killing it for the year. In addition to setting the no-carbon standard, the bill would revise interim goals along the way. The bill bumps up an existing target by four years to hit 50 percent renewable energy in 2027 and sets the state on track to meet the 60 percent threshold by the end of 2030.

      Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Vice President Al Gore wrote separate letters of support for SB 100. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom pledges to issue a directive on his first day of office, if elected, to put California on target to achieve 100 percent renewable energy. He has not publicly endorsed SB 100.

      Gov. Jerry Brown, who is hosting a global climate summit in San Francisco next month, has also remained silent on the proposal.