Category Archives: Trump administration

Another Climate Denier and the White House (and more from DeSmog)

Repost of the DeSmog Blog Feb 23 newsletter
[Editor: Once again, I highly recommend the DeSmog newsletter.  Excellent coverage of climate news.  See below for most recent email, and sign up at right on their front page.  – R.S.]

Message From the Editor

The Trump administration is having a big week when it comes to entrenching fossil fuel industry interests in federal policy.

Climate science denier and retired Princeton physicist Will Happer — described by an actual climate scientist as “unmoored” — is expected to head a new White House committee to determine the national security risks of climate change. Which, of course, federal defense and intelligence agencies have already concluded.

Meanwhile, federal officials backed away from negotiations with California over fuel efficiency standards, which, as Ben Jervey explains, sets the stage for the Trump administration to revoke the state’s special authority to set stricter clean car rules.

The oil industry and Koch network have been lobbying hard to roll back federal clean car standards, making this development another win for their campaign.

And speaking of fossil fuel industry campaigns, a DeSmog investigation has revealed that not only do the fossil fuel and tobacco industries use the same PR playbook, they donate to dozens of the same so-called “free-market think tanks” that promote these industries’ interests.

Have a story tip or feedback? Get in touch: editor@desmogblog.com.

Thanks,
Brendan DeMelle
Executive Director

Physicist William Happer, the ‘Unmoored’ Climate Science Denier Heading a White House Climate Probe

By Graham Readfearn (4 min. read)

In 2016, retired Princeton physicist Professor Will Happer accepted an invitation from conspiracy theorist G. Edward Griffin to give a keynote at his conference to talk about the “positive effects of CO2.”

Griffin thinks the science behind global warming is a scam. He also thinks there is “no such thing” as the HIV virus and that some plane contrails are part of a political plot to spray the population with poisons.

In an interview at the conference, Happer repeated his well-oiled mantra that “CO2 will be good for the Earth” and how it was “pretty clear we are not going to see dangerous climate change.” Read more.

Trump Admin Hands Win to Kochs, Stops Clean Car Negotiations With California

By Ben Jervey (4 min. read)

The Trump administration just took a big step closer to handing the Koch network one of it biggest wins yet under this presidency. Bloomberg has reported that there will be no deal between the Trump administration and California on fuel efficiency and emissions standards for cars and light vehicles.

This move sets the stage for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to attempt to revoke California’s special waiver under the Clean Air Act, which allows the state to set its owns standards that are more stringent than federal standards. Read more.

Revealed: How the Tobacco and Fossil Fuel Industries Fund Disinformation Campaigns Around the World

By Mat Hope (11 min. read)

Fossil fuel companies have a long history of adopting public relations strategies straight from the tobacco industry’s playbook. But a new analysis shows the two industries’ relationship goes much deeper — right down to funding the same organisations to do their dirty work.

MIT Associate Professor David Hsu analyzed organisations in DeSmog’s disinformation database and the Guardian’s tobacco database and found 35 thinktanks based in the US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand that promote both the tobacco and fossil fuel industries’ interests. Read more.

The Inevitable Death of Natural Gas as a ‘Bridge Fuel’

By Justin Mikulka (11 min. read)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti recently announced the city is scrapping plans for a multi-billion-dollar update to three natural gas power plants, instead choosing to invest in renewable energy and storage.

“This is the beginning of the end of natural gas in Los Angeles,” said Mayor Garcetti. “The climate crisis demands that we move more quickly to end dependence on fossil fuel, and that’s what today is all about.”

Last year America’s carbon emissions rose over 3 percent, despite coal plants closing and being replaced in part by natural gas, the much-touted “bridge fuel” and “cleaner” fossil fuel alternative. Read more.

Entergy Poised to Get Green Light for Gas Plant Despite Role in Paying Actors in Astroturf Campaign

By Julie Dermansky (6 min. read)

Sparks flew at a New Orleans City Council’s utility committee meeting on Valentine’s Day, compelling the committee to delay voting on a resolution that would scrap plans to rescind the permit for Entergy’s proposed $210 million natural gas power plant in exchange for a $5 million fine.

The contentious permit was awarded to Entergy, which provides power to the city, on March 18, 2018, but the city council’s third-party investigation of Entergy found the allegations that the company took part in an astroturf campaign to influence the vote for its proposed New Orleans East gas plant to be true. The investigation concluded that the company was responsible for hiring paid actors, who were wearing t-shirts supporting the plant, to fill council chambers and speak in support of the project. Read more.

As Cleanup Dispute Looms, Peabody-Linked Group Pushes Navajo Nation to Buy West’s Largest Coal Plant

By Sharon Kelly (12 min. read)

In September 2018, two prospective buyers announced they were dropping out of negotiations to purchase the Navajo Generating Station (NGS), the American West’s largest coal-fired power plant.

Avenue Capital Group and Middle River Power had sought to keep the aging coal plant in business, but “said they could not get anyone to commit to buying power from the plant, delaying the start of an environmental review,” the Associated Press reported. The plant, located in northern Arizona near the Utah border, is currently scheduled to shut down in December, after its current owners concluded in 2017 that its power was too costly to be competitive. Read more.

‘It’s About Economics’: Two Coal Plants to Close Despite Trump’s Tweet

By Lorraine Chow, EcoWatch (4 min. read)

Trump is losing his rallying cry to save coal. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) voted on Thursday to retire two coal-fired power plants in the next few years despite a plea from the president to keep one of the plants open.

Earlier this week, the president posted an oddly specific tweet that urged the government-owned utility to save the 49-year-old Paradise 3 plant in Kentucky. It so happens that the facility burns coal supplied by Murray Energy Corporation, whose CEO is Robert Murray, is a major Trump donor. Read more.

What Green New Deal Advocates Can Learn From the 2009 Economic Stimulus Act

By Joseph Aldy, Harvard Kennedy School (6 min. read)

Congressional Democrats have introduced a “Green New Deal” proposal that calls for a 10-year national mobilization to curb climate change by shifting the U.S. economy away from fossil fuels. Many progressives support this idea, while skeptics argue that a decade is not long enough to remake our nation’s energy system.

The closest analog to this effort occurred in 2009, when President Obama and Congress worked together to combat a severe economic recession by passing a massive economic stimulus plan. Among its many provisions, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided US$90 billion to promote clean energy. Read more.

From the Climate Disinformation Database: CO2 Coalition

The CO2 Coalition is a 501(c)(3) group formed from the now-defunct climate science-denying George C. Marshall Institute. Its stated purpose is promoting “the important contribution made by carbon dioxide and fossil fuels to our lives and the economy.” It was co-founded by Will Happer (who is poised to lead a White House probe of the national security risks of climate change) and former Exxon manager Roger Cohen. The coalition has received funding from the Koch family foundations and Mercer Family Foundation (the Mercers are conservative mega-donors).

Read the full profile and browse other individuals and organizations in our research database.

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    Analysis: 2018 was better for Valero than 2017 (if you don’t count Trump’s billion dollar 2017 tax gift)

    Repost from Seeking Alpha
    [Significant quote: “Valero Energy’s operating income climbed up to $4.7 billion in 2018 from $3.7 billion in 2017. However, due to a $0.9 billion income tax benefit in 2017 versus a $0.9 billion income tax expense in 2018, it appears that the firm’s income generation materially weakened…which isn’t really the case.”  Update: “Valero Keeps Gushing Profits And A 4%+ Dividend Yield.”  For more check out this phone transcript Listening in: Valero on recent earnings, then Q&A with investors.  – R.S.]

    Valero Energy Posts A Tremendous 2018

    By Callum Turcan, Feb. 3, 2019 8:06 AM ET
    Summary

    Image result for valeroValero Energy Corporation performed very well in 2018.

    Management is committed to rewarding shareholders via buybacks and dividend increases.

    Covering the financial and operational performance of Valero Energy’s three main divisions.

    Refining giant Valero Energy Corporation (NYSE:VLO) just reported its earnings for the fourth quarter of 2018 that won over some love from Wall Street. Both its earnings and revenue generation beat expectations, which is always a good sign. As of this writing, Valero yields 4.2%, as management boosted the firm’s quarterly payout by 13% in January 2019. This is on top of rewarding investors through $1.7 billion in share buybacks and $1.4 billion in dividend payments last year. Let’s dig in.

    Strong refining margins carry the firm higher

    Valero Energy’s operating income climbed up to $4.7 billion in 2018 from $3.7 billion in 2017. However, due to a $0.9 billion income tax benefit in 2017 versus a $0.9 billion income tax expense in 2018, it appears that the firm’s income generation materially weakened last year, which isn’t really the case. From 2017 to 2018, Valero Energy’s net income attributable to stockholders fell from $4.1 billion to $3.1 billion. A 4% reduction in its outstanding diluted share count helped offset some of the pain as its EPS dropped from $9.16 to $7.29 on a fully-diluted basis.

    When comparing the performance of its refining division on a year-over-year basis, it is clear Valero Energy did quite well in 2018. Its average total throughput volumes for the year climbed by 2% to 2,986,000 bpd, which lifted its product yield by 2% to 3,025,000 bpd.

    On top of higher throughput volumes, Valero’s refining margin grew by 10% year-over-year to $10.05 per barrel in 2018. Refining margin means the crack spread Valero received, the difference between its feedstock costs and the price received for its petroleum product production. Strong crack spreads ultimately enabled its refining division’s adjusted operating income per barrel of throughput (the amount of income generated per refined barrel after taking crack spreads and operating expenses into account) to grow by 22% year-over-year to $4.58 per barrel in 2018.

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      Trump shielded Big Oil from government shutdown effects

      Repost from the San Jose Mercury News

      Administration brought back furloughed employees to plan for radically expanding offshore oil and gas drilling

      By MARY CREASMAN, January 27, 2019 at 7:15 am, updated January 28, 2019 at 4:16 am
      Tug boats transport an oil platform, in this photograph taken above Ingleside, Texas, on May 5, 2017. | Eddie Seal/Bloomberg News

      President Trump’s government shutdown held our communities hostage over a racist and environmentally destructive border wall.

      Hundreds of thousands of federal workers were forced to go without paychecks while the bills piled up. (How long could you go without a paycheck?) Our national parks suffered what could be permanent damage. Public health protections and safeguards against pollution were put on hold.

      But one industry continued with business as usual — oil and gas.

      During the shutdown, Acting Interior Secretary and former oil lobbyist David Bernhardt brought back furloughed employees to continue working on plans to radically expand offshore oil and gas drilling.

      Leasing our oceans to polluters is apparently an “essential” function for this administration. As drafted, the plans would open nearly all of our nation’s coasts to oil and gas drilling, including California’s shoreline — where there have been no federal lease sales since 1984.

      The offshore drilling expansion itself is unacceptable, but the fact that the Trump administration prioritized work on it during the shutdown is a slap in the face to the furloughed federal employees and all Californians who care about our beaches and healthy oceans.

      And the Interior Department’s efforts to advance offshore drilling wasn’t Trump’s only effort to keep the oil and gas industry happy despite the shutdown.

      While thousands of other government employees were furloughed, the Trump administration was quietly moving ahead with its efforts to advance drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Western Arctic region of Alaska.

      Similarly, even as national parks remained largely unstaffed, the Bureau of Land Management, an agency in the Interior Department, moved forward on 22 new drilling permit applications on public lands in Alaska, North Dakota, New Mexico and Oklahoma.

      This blatant catering to the oil industry is unprecedented. The shutdown was so good for Big Oil that the head of the American Petroleum Institute — the oil industry’s main trade association — admitted they “have not seen any major effects of the shutdown on our industry.”

      That statement contrasts deeply with the harm imposed elsewhere by the shutdown. Here in California, communities suffering from drinking water contamination had to wait for the EPA to reopen for action on toxic chemicals.

      Overflowing trash bins and toilets, permanent vandalism and destruction left lasting damage on our national parks, and these places had to rely on volunteers to fill the gaps while federal workers and contractors were forced off the job. Joshua Tree National Park, for example, saw visitors chopping down iconic Joshua trees, illegal off-roading and graffiti — and the Park Service didn’t have staff to investigate.

      These misplaced priorities should not come as a surprise given the Trump administration’s efforts, from Day 1, to sell our public lands and waters to Big Oil and other corporate polluters. The administration is stacked with industry executives focused on profits over people.

      Our environment and our communities deserved better than the needless damage inflicted by the Trump shutdown. Thankfully, we have representatives in Congress who will fight to protect our coast.

      Reps. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, and Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, have introduced legislation that would preserve California’s coast from the Trump administration’s drilling expansion. And California voters decisively sent a bold and pro-environment freshman class to the House of Representatives to stand up to Trump’s toxic agenda.

      The Trump administration is shameless about its agenda to ruin our environment and poison our families, all to ensure more corporate profits. But California is paying attention, and we won’t let it happen.

      Mary Creasman is CEO of the California League of Conservation Voters.
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