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Lisa Hymas' Posts

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Is Keystone XL a distraction from more important climate fights?

Keystone protest sign in front of White House
Emma Cassidy
Say what you will about the anti-Keystone movement, but it's gotten a lot of activists enraged and engaged.

A new article in Nature highlights a supposed rift among some scientists over Keystone XL: Is it a smart focus for climate activists or a distracting sideshow?

There doesn't seem to be nearly as much of a rift as author Jeff Tollefson suggests, but he does talk to some scientists who are conflicted over the Keystone focus:

The issue has ... divided the scientific community. Many climate and energy researchers have lined up with environmentalists to oppose what is by all accounts a dirty source of petroleum: emissions from extracting and burning tar-sands oil in the United States are 14–20% higher than the country's average oil emissions. But other researchers say that the Keystone controversy is diverting attention from issues that would have much greater impact on greenhouse-gas emissions, such as the use of coal.

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Steve King insults climate scientists and religious Americans simultaneously

Steve King
Gage Skidmore
Steve King knows that cantaloupes don't grow in seawater.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has, shall we say, a vivid oratorical style.

Last month, he noted that not all of the young immigrants who would benefit from the DREAM Act are star students. “For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” he said.

This week, he turned his eloquence to the topic of climate change. Here's what he said on Tuesday at an event sponsored by the Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity, as reported by The Messenger of Fort Dodge, Iowa:

King said efforts to fight global warming are both economically harmful and unnecessary.

"It is not proven, it's not science. It's more of a religion than a science," he said.

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Seven ways the drought in the West really sucks

animal skeleton in the desert
Johnida Dockens

Almost 87 percent of the Western U.S. is in a drought, the Los Angeles Times reports today in a big, gloomy article with big, gloomy pictures. New Mexico is 100 percent droughty. Here are just a few of the ways that sucks.

1. The Rio Grande is so dry that it's been dubbed the Rio Sand. Satellite photos show reservoirs drying up too.

2. People in parts of New Mexico are having to take drastic measures to get water. "Residents of some towns subsist on trucked-in water," the L.A. Times reports, "and others are drilling deep wells costing $100,000 or more to sink and still more to operate."

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Time magazine catches on to the childfree movement, misses the green angle

Time cover: The Childfree LifeThe childfree trend is experiencing its biggest mainstream-media moment ever thanks to Time's new cover story: "The Childfree Life: When having it all means not having children."

(And the magazine gets kudos for using the word childfree, preferred by those who don't want children, as opposed to childless, which is more appropriate for people who want kids but don't have them.)

Writer Lauren Sandler notes that an increasing percentage of Americans are bypassing parenting:

The birthrate in the U.S. is the lowest in recorded American history, which includes the fertility crash of the Great Depression. From 2007 to 2011, the most recent year for which there's data, the fertility rate declined 9%. A 2010 Pew Research report showed that childlessness has risen across all racial and ethnic groups, adding up to about 1 in 5 American women who end their childbearing years maternity-free, compared with 1 in 10 in the 1970s. Even before the recession hit, in 2008, the proportion of women ages 40 to 44 who had never given birth had grown by 80%, from 10% to 18%, since 1976, when a new vanguard began to question the reproductive imperative. These statistics may not have the heft of childlessness in some European countries — like Italy, where nearly one-quarter of women never give birth — but the rise is both dramatic and, in the scope of our history, quite sudden.

Read more: Living

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Obama points out economic downsides of Keystone XL

President Obama doesn't seem sold on the economic benefits of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry carbon-intensive tar-sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast for export.

President Barack Obama
The White House

In his most extensive public comments to date on Keystone, made during an interview with The New York Times, he stressed the neutral or negative economic aspects of the proposed project.

First, he pointed out that Keystone would create few permanent jobs:

Republicans have said that this would be a big jobs generator. There is no evidence that that’s true. And my hope would be that any reporter who is looking at the facts would take the time to confirm that the most realistic estimates are this might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline -- which might take a year or two -- and then after that we’re talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 jobs in a economy of 150 million working people. ... that is a blip relative to the need.

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Seattle mayor wants to block Whole Foods because of its low wages

Mike McGinn
Dave Lichterman
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn says Whole Foods should pay more or get lost.

The Washington, D.C., city council made national news earlier this month with its effort to force Walmart to pay higher wages at six new stores the company hopes to build in the city.

A similar fight is afoot in Seattle -- but over Whole Foods. Mayor Mike McGinn, who's up for reelection this year, is leading the charge against a proposed new store in the West Seattle neighborhood. Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat reports:

“I’m setting a new standard here, that we are going to look at the wages they pay, and benefits, when a company wants to develop with land that involves public property,” McGinn told me in an interview. ...

McGinn contended in a letter that the nonunion Whole Foods pays “significantly lower” wages and benefits than other grocery stores, including some already in West Seattle. So the idea of allowing Whole Foods to go in there violates the city’s social and economic justice goals.

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The EPA gets a new boss — finally

Gina McCarthy
Reuters/Jason Roberts
Gina McCarthy got a thumbs-up from the Senate. It just took four and a half months.

It's been 136 days since President Obama nominated Gina McCarthy to head the U.S. EPA. It's been even longer, a record-breaking 154 days, since the agency had a permanent administrator.

Now, finally, she and the agency are out of limbo: The Senate confirmed McCarthy by a vote of 59-40 on Thursday.

Senate Republicans had thrown a tantrum over her nomination and blocked it in various ways -- not because she's unqualified (she's highly qualified, and she's even worked for Republicans like Mitt Romney) but because they just really don't like the EPA.

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These conservatives like renewable energy

farmer and engineer with wind turbines
Plenty of conservatives like clean energy too -- especially clean-energy jobs.

We told you recently that right-wing efforts to overturn state-level renewable-energy mandates have been failing across the nation. Here's one big reason why: Many conservatives actually like the mandates.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Conservatives fighting against alternative-energy mandates—which they see as unwarranted and costly market interference—are losing ground even in some Republican-controlled states, where legislatures are standing behind policies that force electric utilities to buy renewable energy.

Some of the most vocal support for the policies is coming from an unlikely corner: farmers who see profit in rural renewable-energy projects.

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Here’s how the Koch brothers retaliate against journalists they don’t like

Charles and David Koch
Beware of Koch-fueled vendettas.

The right-wing, oil-baron Koch brothers haven't yet succeeded in taking over any of our nation's major newspapers, so in the meantime they're trying other tactics to influence news coverage of their activities. The Washington Post has a chilling report:

When environmental journalist David Sassoon began reporting about the billionaire Koch brothers’ interests in the Canadian oil industry last year, he sought information from their privately held conglomerate, Koch Industries. The brothers, who have gained prominence in recent years as supporters of and donors to conservative causes and candidates, weren’t playing. Despite Sassoon’s repeated requests, Koch Industries declined to respond to him or his news site, InsideClimate News.

But Sassoon, who also serves as publisher of the Pulitzer Prize-winning site, heard from the Kochs after his story was posted.

In a rebuttal posted on its Web site, KochFacts.com, the company asserted that Sassoon’s story “deceives readers” by suggesting that Koch Industries stood to benefit from construction of the Keystone XL pipeline — a denial Sassoon included in his story. KochFacts went on to dismiss Sassoon as a “professional eco-activist” and an “agenda-driven activist.”

It didn’t stop there. The company took out ads on Facebook and via Google featuring a photo of Sassoon with the headline, “David Sassoon’s Deceptions.” The ad’s copy read, “Activist/owner of InsideClimate News misleads readers and asserts outright falsehoods about Koch. Get the full facts on KochFacts.com.”

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A Republican calls for climate action — and has to remain anonymous to keep job

faceless man
Shutterstock

A Republican staffer at the U.S. House has written a fervent call for conservative action on climate change, winning second place in a young conservative writing contest sponsored by the Energy and Enterprise Initiative. But he won't be collecting his prize in person. He's afraid to reveal his name or face.

The piece was published yesterday on the Real Clear Science website under the pseudonym of Eric Bradenson. The author explains that he is "writing under a pen name to protect his boss and himself." Here's how his piece kicks off:

Someone in the GOP needs to say it: conservation is conservative; climate change is real; and conservatives need to lead on solutions because we have better answers than the other side.

... conservatives have long fought to protect the natural rights and property rights of individuals, living and unborn, from infringement by environmental degradation and pollution.