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Mr. Romney thinks we should give big oil companies another $3.8 billion a year in tax breaks

"Laughing out loud!"

Mitt Romney is giving oil executives a good reason to vote for him. (Making, by our count, 465,361 such reasons.) From the Center for American Progress:

The world’s five biggest public oil companies—BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell—would keep special tax breaks worth $2.4 billion each year. And by cutting corporate tax rates, the Romney plan could lower the companies’ annual tax bill by another $2.3 billion, based on an analysis of the companies’ tax expense for 2011. The special tax breaks, supplemented by Gov. Romney’s lower corporate rates, could benefit the oil companies by more than $4 billion annually.

Ha ha. Perfect! Finally -- finally! -- oil companies will be able to make a buck or two!

Here's CAP's breakdown of what the five largest oil companies in the world -- half of the 10 largest corporations in America -- stand to get from Romney's tax proposals.

Click to embiggen.
Read more: Oil, Politics

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Senate Republicans introduce same-old energy legislation, give it funny name

Senate Republicans have released their energy (and, of course, jobs!) plan. It contains exactly what you expect.

Like, literally. Say it with me: More drilling! Less regulation! Attacks on the president! They claim this is leading on the issue, which I guess is leadership, in the insanity-means-doing-same-thing-and-expecting-different-result sense of leadership, which is not a sense of leadership.

Oh, by the way? They are literally calling this thing DEJA.

Photo by danie;.

They are calling it DEJA. As in, deja vu, the sense one gets when feeling one has lived a life event before. Are we experiencing DEJA vu here, America? Yes. That is what is happening.

Read more: Politics

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What to expect when you’re expecting more drought (black widows!)

This drought, man.

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) declared another 76 counties to be disaster areas as a result of the drought, bringing the total to 1,234. There are 3,033 counties in America. The map of declared disaster areas looks like this:

I mean, half of Hawaii is a disaster area.

Click to embiggen.

The drought is expected to lead to an increase in food prices (as we've noted previously). The New York Times has a big story on food prices this morning that's worth a look. And here's the USDA's preliminary prediction for what food price increases to expect. The expected drop in corn availability has already pushed at least one U.S. meat producer to import corn from Brazil as a hedge against a shortage this fall.

We can also expect an increase in insects, hooray. From Southern California Public Radio:

“Insects are cold-blooded, which means that their body temperatures are regulated by the temperature of their environment,” said Missy Henriksen, the vice president of public affairs for the [National Pest Management Association]. “In cold weather, insects’ internal temperatures drop, causing them to slow down. But in warm weather, they become more active. Larvae grow at a faster rate, reproduction cycles speed up and they move faster."

Which means perfect conditions for a host of pests including fleas, ticks, termites, mosquitoes, brown recluse and black widow spiders and scorpions to flourish in the coming weeks. What’s worse, the hot, dry temperatures will eventually drive those pests to seek out moisture and cool places to dwell -- like homes.

I repeat: hooray.

Read more: Uncategorized

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At least 70 percent of Arctic ice loss is due to climate change

Scientists have largely pinned down the cause for the huge loss in Arctic ice volume over the past 40 years. And guess what? It's because of climate change.

I mean, you already knew that. But scientists like to be thorough.

Researchers from the National Center for Atmospheric Science at the University of Reading used a computer model to look at how much of the ice loss could be attributed to natural cycles (specifically, the "Atlantic multi-decadal oscillation," or AMO). From The Guardian:

"We could only attribute as much as 30% [of the Arctic ice loss] to the AMO," [the researcher] said. "Which implies that the rest is due to something else, and this is most likely going to be man-made global change."

Previous studies had indicated that around half of the loss was due to man-made climate change and that the other half was due to natural variability.

Read more: Climate Change

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Good news for ExxonMobil investors!

ExxonMobil earned almost $16 billion last quarter [PDF], up nearly 50 percent from the second quarter of 2011.

That's $5.3 billion a month. About $176 million a day. $7 million an hour -- almost three times as much as the average college grad earns in a lifetime. The company also very likely pays less in taxes than you do.

Read more: Oil

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Will Fox News be angry at this obvious indoctrination in our schools?

Here at Gristmill, we like to keep you ahead of the game on the outrage of the day. So here's a little sneak peek at the next thing about which conservatives are going to be furious.

A school in Tulsa, where kids learn things. (Photo by pixelpackr.)

It seems that an environmental organization recently called together a group of 223 Oklahoma teachers for a workshop outlining ways in which the world could move to renewable power. The group was given teaching material and workshop ideas predicated on teaching the science behind the technology. The intention of the lessons was overt: get kids to understand the importance of renewable energy in the modern world. Get kids to embrace it. Here's the mayor of Tulsa:

"What you're going to hear today is the truth," Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr. … said while addressing workshop participants at the Memorial auditorium. "We need you to get the word out. You have the hearts and minds of those children at your beck and call every day."

The teachers embraced the curriculum, recognizing the importance of renewable energy to our nation's future.

"It teaches kids when you see a [solar array] to go, 'Oh stay away from that,' " [kindergarten teacher Margaret] Trahern said. "This really brings a lot of jobs; it's what Oklahoma is all about."

Exactly. But, of course, you can expect Big Oil and their allies and hard-line supporters to condemn the exercise in short order. After all, in 2009, Fox News railed against environmental "indoctrination" in our schools for a much-less-thorough curriculum. Once they find out about this, they're going to go apoplectic.

Yeah, no they won't. The seminar wasn't about renewable energy at all. It was about oil.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Meatless Monday suggestion causes D.C. to have a cow

Please eat no more than six-sevenths of this animal. Thanks.

I'm going to begin with a caveat: Beef magazine is a real thing and it is perfectly safe for work.

Yesterday, Beef ("the nation's leading cattle publication," meaning about cattle, not by) reported on a tempest in a Crock-pot: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was suggesting people not eat meat.

Now, to clarify, they weren't saying everyone shouldn't eat meat, nor were they saying that people shouldn't eat meat all the time. The agency simply posted an interoffice newsletter that suggested, for purposes of reducing one's environmental footprint, that employees consider having a "Meatless Monday."

Meatless Monday is an initiative undertaken in association with the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. (Er, sorry: the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.) The effort suggests that Americans give up meat one day a week for a variety of reasons: health, weight loss, and, yes, the environment. Beef (the food, not the magazine) is a massive source of carbon emissions. Some innocent employee in the USDA read that fact somewhere, or got a press release, and added Meatless Monday to the "Greening Headquarters Initiative" section of the agency newsletter.

Cue outcry. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (link safe for work) represents an industry that is clearly on the brink of extinction. So they saw the USDA's internal newsletter as an existential threat, suggesting that it "calls into question USDA’s commitment to U.S. farmers and ranchers." The NCBA's allies on Capitol Hill got into the act, with famed-Twitter-user Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) writing:

(One response:)

Read more: Food

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Coal company changes its mind about sworn testimony, decides a big pile of coal ash outside is just fine

It seems like a decent bet that the Prairie State Energy Campus, a massive coal plant in southern Illinois that just started operation in June, is at the tail end of a long trend. There will be more coal plants, to be sure, but I'd be willing to bet there won't be many more at the scale of Prairie State. So it's only fitting that its debut be marked by broken promises and threats.

Coal ash, in its uncontained form, seen in Tennessee.

Midwest Energy News has the story. In 2005, while seeking a permit to begin construction, the company told the local zoning board that the tons of ash produced by burning coal would be shipped out of the county to permitted disposal sites. That was good enough for the county. Zoning variance granted.

About a month ago, shortly after the first generating unit went live, Prairie State Generating Company paid county officials another visit.

On June 26, the Washington County Board met behind closed doors with the lawyer from Prairie State and passed an amendment to an ordinance that granted the company permission to build a 720-acre coal ash landfill on flat farmland near the controversial Marissa, Illinois, plant.

The amendment allowed the company to bypass the normal zoning process, which would have involved public hearings, and negotiate a contract for the landfill with the county—all out of the public eye.

Why did the board agree?

“Our attorneys and powers that be told us there was a good chance if we did not negotiate they could go ahead and do it on their own,” he said. “So if we tried to fight, nothing would be gained other than a big bill over court fees.”

So did Prairie State actually threaten to sue Washington County if they failed to approve the landfill, and if so, on what grounds?

“That was never explained to me,” said Brent Schorfheide, another member of the Washington County Board. [Board member Gary] Suedmeyer said he was not at liberty to say because of the closed proceedings. And when asked that question, Prairie State spokeswoman Ashlie Kuehn responded, in an emailed statement, “no comment.”

Democracy in action.

Read more: Coal

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Greenwashing is better for business than real sustainability efforts

OMG, look how environmentally friendly this company is. (Photo by voltageek.)

Greenwashing is stupid and obnoxious. "Oh, we loovve the environment. We have 1) made our bottle green and 2) printed instructions on our boxes about how to put a can in a recycling bin!" Thank you, company! That is helpful and now I would like to give you money.

And now the punchline: Greenwashing is actually more helpful for businesses than sustainable practices. From EnvironmentalLeader.com:

The authors found symbolic actions have a higher impact on market value than substantive actions, when the company has higher [corporate social responsibility]-based assets. The study also concluded that a larger gap between symbolic and substantive actions has a higher positive impact on firm performance; and the more companies engage in both symbolic and substantive actions, the higher the value accumulates to the company. ...

Symbolic actions can be more generally described as “window dressing” or greenwashing -- essentially anything designed to give an appearance of an action while allowing business to proceed as usual.

In other words, here are the best things a company can do for its bottom line, in increasing order of benefit:

Read more: Uncategorized