Everybody needs one friend who, if things ever go south in a big way, will show up to help. And bring a gun. At least that’s what Big Oil thinks, and so it’s gone one better: It’s made friends with the guys who have all the guns -- the NRA.
We all know guns and oil are a natural pairing, like Milli and Vanilli, or Rodman and Van Damme -- just check out this footage from the guns and oil documentary series:
But what, you might wonder, do these two interests really have in common?
The working-class city of Oakland, Calif., wants to stop trains carrying crude, coal, and petroleum coke from reaching local refineries and export terminals.
The city council voted unanimously on Tuesday evening to "oppose" the "transportation of hazardous fossil fuel materials" along existing rail lines and through “densely populated” and waterfront areas -- which includes much of the city.
The city will now formally urge California and regional governments to take action on oil-train safety, and will consider formally opposing projects that threaten to bring fossil fuel–bearing trains into Oakland.
Lawmakers in the Californian cities of Davis and Berkeley have passed similar resolutions that attempt to block oil trains. San Francisco is considering something similar too. Tuesday's vote was particularly significant, given that Oakland operates a large port, which has recently been rejecting coal industry efforts to use its terminals for exports. Like Berkeley and San Francisco, Oakland, which is also in the Bay Area, is located close to major oil refineries, some of which are being expanded.
Increasing partisan polarization, which was widely discussed last week after the release of a major Pew survey, is driving the two major parties farther apart on environmental policy.
Consider, for example, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who will replace Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) as House majority leader this August. As The Wall Street Journalreports, McCarthy has a staunchly anti-environmental record. He does not accept the science of climate change. As House majority whip, he has rallied votes to overrule the EPA’s proposed regulations on power-plant CO2 emissions, and he is planning to try to prevent the regulations' implementation through the budget appropriations process. He also wants to make it easier for states to open federal land within their borders to fossil fuel exploration. But, until very recently, McCarthy supported the wind energy production tax credit (PTC), which has helped spur growth in the wind industry. He voted for its extension as recently as 2012 and boasted of his district’s thriving wind sector. Now, though, as McCarthy ascends to a more powerful role in the GOP, he's decided he opposes the PTC.
Cantor’s primary loss to a far-right challenger last week was itself a testament to partisan polarization. I predicted it would be bad for the prospects of any remotely pro-environment bill, and McCarthy is already proving me right.
Hillary Clinton is talking up a storm as she promotes her new book on TV shows and at readings across the country, but there's one subject she doesn't feel like chatting about: the Keystone XL pipeline.
As secretary of state, Clinton oversaw some of the protracted decision making over whether to approve the pipeline to carry Canadian tar-sands oil to refineries on the Gulf Coast. So she understands the environmental issues involved. And she also appears to be highly sensitive to the political issues involved.
The Central California wildfire that Monday destroyed three homes and forced hundreds of evacuations is just the latest blaze to strain the nation's overburdened federal firefighting system. By Monday evening, the Shirley Fire had consumed 2,600 acres near Sequoia National Forest and cost over $4 million, as more than 1,000 firefighters scrambled to contain it (it's now 75 percent contained). Meanwhile, families on an Arizona Navajo reservation are being evacuated today in the face of an 11,000-acre blaze that as of Tuesday morning was 0 percent contained.
This year, in the midst of severe drought across the West, top wildfire managers in Washington knew they were going to break the bank, even before the fire season had really begun. In early May, officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (which oversees the Forest Service) and the Department of Interior announced that wildfire-fighting costs this summer are projected to run roughly $400 million over budget. Since then, wildfires on federal land have burned at least half a million acres, and the Forest Service has made plans to beef up its force of over 100 aircraft and 10,000 firefighters in preparation for what it said in a statement "is shaping up to be a catastrophic fire season."
But the real catastrophe has been years in the making: Federal fire records and budget data show that the U.S. wildfire response system is chronically and severely underfunded, even as fires -- especially the biggest "mega-fires" -- grow larger and more expensive. In other words, the federal government is not keeping pace with America's rapidly evolving wildfire landscape. This year's projected budget shortfall is actually par for the course; in fact, since 2002, the U.S. has overspent its wildfire fighting budget every year except one -- in three of those years by nearly a billion dollars.
The Koch brothers have seen Tom Steyer's $100 million bet and they're raising it by almost $200 million more.
Steyer, billionaire hedge-fund manager turned climate activist, set a goal earlier this year of spending $100 million in the 2014 midterm elections to support candidates who care about climate change. So far fundraising for his super PAC has been weak, but the Kochs aren't taking any chances.
The Daily Beast reports that "the billionaire Koch brothers and scores of wealthy allies have set an initial 2014 fundraising target of $290 million which should boost GOP candidates and support dozens of conservative groups -- including a new energy initiative with what looks like a deregulatory, pro-consumer spin." Here's more:
This weekend, HBO aired something fairly astounding.
“I know!” you’re thinking. “A dwarf murdered his father on the toilet with a crossbow! Siblings had sex with each other! A paraplegic used psychic powers to fight off inexplicably enraged skeleton snow zombies!” (Spoiler alerts, whatever.)
To which I say: SNOOZEFEST! Unlike everyone else writing on the Internet today, I’m actually not talking about Game of Thrones. EPA administrator Gina McCarthy went ahead and all but declared the Obama administration’s war on coal on Real Time with Bill Maher. Admittedly, that declaration came with some prompting, and with a fuzzy pronoun reference that makes it possible for her to say she did nothing of the sort. See for yourself:
Maher: Last week Obama announced the Clean Power [Plan]. Some people called it "The War on Coal." I hope it is a war on coal -- is it?
McCarthy: Actually, EPA is all about fighting against pollution and fighting for public health. That's exactly what this is. Exactly.
In giving the commencement address at the University of California-Irvine on Saturday, President Obama called on young people to push the climate change issue past its current partisan divide. The speech was particularly notable for Obama’s forthright confrontation of climate change deniers.
He took oblique shots at the silly pseudo-scientific proclamations of Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.). (Inhofe claimed last year that “We're in a cycle now that all the scientists agree is going into a cooling period," while Rohrabacher previously raised the possibility of dinosaur flatulence causing warming in the Mesozoic Era to argue that the causes of climate change are unknowable.) Obama also implicitly went after Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who recently ducked a question on climate change by saying he’s not a scientist. As Obama points out, one doesn’t need to be a scientist to act on scientific issues while in public office. One simply needs to believe the overwhelming majority of scientists.
Well, we've got some surprising news for you from India's intelligence agency: Environmental activists like you must shoulder some of the blame. Your peeps in India have been accused of reducing the nation's GDP by 2 to 3 percent every year. Reuters reports: