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Gristmill: Fresh, whole-brain news.


Newspaper presidential endorsements ignore climate change

Romney and Obama at Denver debate
Rick Wilking / Reuters

Newspaper candidate endorsements are an anachronism, a relic of a time during which readers didn't have access to the internet, didn't have an entire world of research and rhetoric at their fingertips. The Knoxville News Sentinel admitted as much earlier this year, when it announced that it would no longer endorse a candidate for the presidency. After all, they "have no sources of information that every other citizen does not have as well." That doesn't stop most newspapers. Most papers still see endorsements as a responsibility -- and an opportunity to establish their own importance.

We decided to survey the endorsements that have been given to date (by newspapers with circulations of 100,000 or more) to assess the extent to which those endorsements address issues of concern to Grist readers; specifically, the environment and energy, and food. (In case you're curious, the endorsements, like the polling, show a generally even split.)

Guess what? They rarely, rarely did. The only time food came up in any editorial was as part of the phrase "food stamps," used in editorials bashing the president. "Climate" came up every so often -- but more regularly when used in conjunction with "business." "Climate change" was mentioned twice -- twice! -- in the 21 endorsements we looked at.

(The University of California at Santa Barbara provides an ongoing list of endorsements, a hugely valuable tool that we relied on. Many more papers have yet to weigh in.)


Deadly 2011 Spanish earthquake linked to groundwater drilling

A church damaged in the 2011 Lorca earthquake.
Earlier this month, a suburb of Dallas experienced something unusual. Earthquakes. Tiny, subtle earthquakes, but earthquakes nonetheless. It didn't take long for a geologist from the University of Texas to draw a correlation to wastewater wells drilled for nearby fracking. Nor has it taken long to draw similar correlations elsewhere.

It's not only injecting wastewater (well, water mixed with other chemicals, including known carcinogens) into the ground that can result in earthquakes. So can drawing too much water out.

From the Washington Post:

Farmers drilling ever deeper wells over decades to water their crops likely contributed to a deadly earthquake in southern Spain last year, a new study suggests. The findings may add to concerns about the effects of new energy extraction and waste disposal technologies.

Nine people died and nearly 300 were injured when an unusually shallow magnitude-5.1 quake hit the town of Lorca on May 11, 2011. It was the country’s worst quake in more than 50 years, causing millions of euros in damage to a region with an already fragile economy.

Using satellite images, scientists from Canada, Italy and Spain found the quake ruptured a fault running near a basin that had been weakened by 50 years of groundwater extraction in the area.


Good news for lovers of non-organic peanuts

There's some relief on the horizon for the peanut-panicked -- at least those with a taste for Peter Pan and Jif. (Shudder.)

This time last year, peanut prices had more than doubled following sustained hot weather, resulting in a nearly 40 percent bump in the price of a jar of conventional peanut butter. Now the U.S. is poised to harvest its biggest annual peanut crop to date: 6.1 billion pounds.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food


Big brands want us to shop our way green

If you're a fan of buying your way to a better environment, you may be a fan of Lucy Shea's piece at The Guardian today championing sustainable consumption and the companies that sell it.


I, on the other hand, find her logic itchier than a thrifted wool sweater.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


Join Politico and the oil industry to discuss energy — and thanks, wind, for sponsoring

Every morning, I get an email from the news site Politico called "Morning Energy," a collection of daily news items sponsored (daily) by America's Natural Gas Alliance. Because I am a loyal subscriber, yesterday afternoon I (and every other loyal subscriber) received an invitation to a special event in Washington next month: "Energy & the Presidency: The Shift from Campaigning to Policymaking." Hm.

Join POLITICO to break down the energy issues that have shaped the election and what they mean for the future of energy policy.

Here's the invite I received:

Let's walk through that list, shall we?


Internet yells at David Brooks for idiotic column on clean energy

Jim Fruchterman
A guy who typed some things.

David Brooks took time out of his busy pretending-to-be-Mitt-Romney schedule to bash green energy. The piece is here; you can read it if you want, I guess. But reading it will probably count against your monthly limit of free Times articles, so, you know.

Here's how Ezra Klein at the Washington Post outlines Brooks' argument:

Addressing climate change by pricing carbon -- an idea Brooks supported then and supports now -- was a bipartisan project in 2003. It became a partisan project because Al Gore thought it was important enough to make a documentary about. Republicans began opposing efforts to price carbon, in part because they hate Al Gore. That left funding renewables research as the only avenue for those worried about climate change. Funding renewables research means funding some projects that won’t work out, and some that might make Al Gore rich. This led to bad publicity that tarnished the whole program.

And here's how Klein dismisses it:

The passivity of Brooks’s conclusion is astonishing. This isn’t a story of overreach, misjudgements, and disappointment. It’s a story of Republicans putting raw partisanship and a dislike for Al Gore in front of the planet’s best interests. It’s a story, though Brooks doesn’t mention this, of conservatives building an alternative reality in which the science is unsettled, and no one really knows whether the planet is warming and, even if it is, whether humans have anything to do with it. It’s a story of Democrats being forced into a second and third-best policies that Republicans then use to press their political advantage.

It’s a story, to put it simply, of Democrats doing everything they can to address a problem Brooks says is real in the way Brooks says is best, and Republicans doing everything they can to stop them. And it’s a story that ends with Democrats and Republicans receiving roughly equal blame from Brooks.


A Koch-allied group aims to make wind energy toxic

The Koch brothers don't like wind energy. This is because the wind is free, uncontainable, limitless. The Kochs prefer costly, contained, limited. Stuff they can dig up and put in a barrel and sell. People don't buy barrels of wind. So the Kochs try and kill it.

There was the time the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity held a protest to oppose kids flying kites. (This is a real thing that happened.) There is the thing about how Bill Koch (the less-popular third brother) is spending big bucks to stop an offshore wind project near his home in Massachusetts. And there's the thing with a Koch-backed group wanting to make a key support for the wind industry "toxic" to politicians.


That last one is new. From ThinkProgress:

The wind energy industry faces a lame duck fight in the House of Representatives over extending the expiring production tax credit. The tax credit has broad bipartisan support, and considering that 81 percent of U.S. wind projects are installed in Republican districts, GOP lawmakers have a good reason to support it.

But with Koch Industries and fossil fuel groups mobilizing to defeat the credit, its future after 2012 is uncertain. The American Energy Alliance, which has Koch ties, told Politico Pro this week that it aims to make the credit a toxic issue for House Republicans: ...

“Our goal is to make the PTC so toxic that it makes it impossible for John Boehner to sit at a table with Harry Reid and say, ‘Yeah, I can bend on this one,’” said Benjamin Cole, spokesman for the American Energy Alliance.


Hillary Clinton pushes a key diplomatic mission: Energy

The interplay of diplomacy and energy is a long-standing and evolving one. When most international borders were first drawn, oil hadn't been discovered. Huge coal seams lay underground, unseen. As the world has evolved, access to energy resources has become a massive source of international conflict. But the U.S. keeps the two issues housed separately. State. Energy.

Which is why Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's speech at Georgetown University yesterday was so revelatory. Smart and specific, the address pointed out the urgency of addressing global energy issues from a diplomatic perspective and offered strategies to do so. And it called clearly for action on climate change. (Clinton's full speech is definitely worth a scan, though some excerpts are below. ThinkProgress' recap is long, but thorough.)

Clinton started by outlining why the topic is important.


False killer whales to get real new protections

One small win for the whales -- er, well, the false ones.


The National Marine Fisheries Service has settled a lawsuit filed in June by Hawaii enviros who want to save the rare "false killer whale" dolphins getting caught in fishermen's unsustainable "longlines" which can stretch for miles and catch up all kinds of collateral sea creatures. After dropping the ball on the rules last year (as the feds are wont to do), the settlement will require new, more protective regulations by the end of November.

False killer whales are actually dolphins, the third largest kind. The cetaceans are covered by several international conservation agreements aimed at keeping them not dead. They're also one half of the mating pair (with a bottlenose) which produce the hybrid "wholphin" (i.e. they are awesome and don't deserve to die).

From The Honolulu Star-Advertiser:

Read more: Food, Politics


BP’s failed Deepwater containment dome is still down there, leaking away

A couple of weeks ago, a bunch of oil appeared on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. BP was all, "Hm? What's this about oil?" Then the government said, yeah, it's from the Deepwater Horizon spill. And BP was all, "Hm? Oh, that? Yeah, I guess." And the government suggested that maybe BP try and figure out what's happening? Maybe make sure the broken well isn't leaking again? And BP sighed heavily and whined about how none of its friends had to do chores and how it had all this homework and blah blah blah so the Coast Guard decided to just check for itself. BP, pleased, put its headphones back on and mumbled under its breath about what dicks these government dudes are.

Anyway, the Coast Guard figured out the source of the leak.

An undersea camera confirms that an oil slick discovered in the Gulf of Mexico came from a 100-ton device on the seafloor that BP had used several weeks after the 2010 oil spill in a failed attempt to cap its runaway Macondo well, the U.S. Coast Guard said Thursday.

The oil is not coming from the Macondo itself, which was sealed in a relief well operation months after the 2010 blowout.

Less than 100 gallons of oil per day is leaking from the containment device, the Coast Guard said. The oil will continue to dribble out slowly for the time being. Officials are trying to figure out the best course forward. …

“The latest survey marks the third time since the Macondo well was permanently sealed in September 2010 that it has been visually inspected at the seafloor and confirmed not to be leaking,” BP said in a statement.

I'm kind of amused by the idea of some BP dudes floating around above the broken well when it was still spitting out oil, then plunking down a giant cover on it that didn't work. Then just sitting on that boat, scratching their chins and saying, "hmmm" to each other, dropping litter all over the place.

So lame that the government wants BP to clean up this mess.