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Why Big Oil is giving piles of money to the NRA

gun-money.jpg
Shutterstock

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?

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get out!

Oakland votes to keep coal and oil trains away

Freight train in Oakland
Paul Sullivan

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.

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Democrats are getting greener and Republicans are getting dirtier

left-wing and right-wing signs
Shutterstock

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 Journal reports, 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.

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The Canadian pipeline (almost) everyone hates gets a go-ahead

Stephen Harper
The Prime Minister's Office

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has approved the Northern Gateway pipeline.

This is not a huge shock. This is the man, after all, who called Barack Obama to personally register his displeasure over the president's failure to approve Keystone XL. In the years before he was prime minister, Harper was a second-generation employee of the Imperial Oil Company. The man has governed in a way that is not only anti-environment but anti-environmental science. What else was he going to say to a pipeline besides "yes"?

Northern Gateway is tremendously exciting to those who invested big in Canada's tar sands, and then found that the pipeline that would get their product to market -- Keystone XL -- had become a symbol of everything dangerous about current energy markets. The Northern Gateway pipeline would carry diluted bitumen (a.k.a. dilbit -- tar-sands crude oil diluted in solvents so it's liquid enough to be pumped through a pipe) from Alberta through British Columbia to the Pacific port town of Kitimat. There, it would be loaded onto tankers bound for China -- now the world's largest net importer of petroleum and other liquid fuels -- and other countries in Asia.

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Hillary Clinton won’t discuss Keystone XL

Hillary Clinton
JStone / Shutterstock.com

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 Toronto Globe and Mail published a Q&A with Clinton that included an oddly framed question about Keystone and her waffling answer:

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This is how much America spends putting out wildfires

wildfire.jpg
Shutterstock

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.

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Kochs in the kitchen again

The Kochs are cooking up a new dirty-energy political scheme

The Greenpeace Airship A.E. Bates flies over the location of oil billionaires David and Charles Koch's latest secret political strategy meeting, with a banner reading "Koch Brothers: Dirty Money."
Gus Ruelas / Greenpeace

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:

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HBO shocks us again: Did Gina McCarthy just declare war on coal?

Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 2.04.17 PM
HBO

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.

[Raucous audience applause, smiles all around.]

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Obama calls out climate deniers, asks young people to force climate change issue

obama
UCI UC Irvine

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.

From Obama's speech:

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India blames environmental activists for its economic problems

Greenpeace in India
Salvatore Barbera

India's economy is growing, but not as quickly as some pundits had forecast. You might guess that rampant corruption was curbing the country's economic potential. Or maybe you would put some blame on worsening heat waves, which have been knocking out electrical grids. Or perhaps the crippling health effects of pollution from coal power plants?

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: