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“Aura Of Invincibility Is Gone”: Obama’s Keystone Veto Threat Is Proof That Climate Activism Works, No Matter What The ‘Insiders’ Say

When the news arrived from the White House on Tuesday that Barack Obama would veto the GOP’s Keystone pipeline bill – or at least “that the president would not sign this bill” as is – I thought back to a poll that the National Journal conducted of its “energy insiders” in the fall of 2011, just when then issue was heating up. Nearly 92% of them thought Obama’s administration would approve the pipeline, and almost 71% said it would happen by the end of that year.

Keystone’s not dead yet – feckless Democrats in the Congress could make some kind of deal later this month or later this year, and the president could still yield down the road to the endlessly corrupt State Department bureaucracy that continues to push the pipeline – but it’s pretty amazing to see what happens when people organize.

The fight against the XL pipeline began with indigenous people in Canada, and spread to ranchers along the pipeline route in places like Nebraska. And then, in the spring of 2011, when the climate scientist Jim Hansen pointed out the huge pool of carbon in the Canadian tar sands, the fight spread to those of us in the nascent climate movement. We had no real hope of stopping Keystone – as the National Journal poll indicated, this seemed the most done of deals – but we also had no real choice but to try.

And so people went to jail in larger numbers than they had for many years, and wrote more emails to the Senate than on pretty much any issue in history, and made more public comments to the government than on any infrastructure project in history. And all that effort didn’t just tie up this one pipeline in knots. It also scared investors enough that they shut down three huge planned new tar-sands mines, taking $17bn in capital and millions of tons of potential emissions off the table. And it helped embolden people to fight every other pipeline, and coal port, and frack field, and coal mine. The Keystone fights helped spur a full-on fossil-fuel resistance that now mounts a powerful challenge to the entire fossil-fuel industry at every single turn.

It’s not as if we’re winning the climate fight – the planet’s temperature keeps rising. But we’re not losing it the way we used to. If the president sticks to his word, this will be the first major fossil-fuel project ever shut down because of its effect on the climate. The IOU that the president and the Chinese wrote in November about future carbon emissions is a nice piece of paper that hopefully will do great things in the decades ahead – but the Keystone denial is cash on the barrelhead. It’s actually keeping some carbon in the ground.

The fossil-fuel industry’s aura of invincibility is gone. They’ve got all the money on the planet, but they no longer have unencumbered political power. Science counts, too, and so do the passion, spirit and creativity of an awakened movement from the outside, from the ground-up. So the “energy insiders” of Washington are going to have to recalculate the odds. Because no one’s going to believe that any of these fights are impossible any more.

 

By: Bill McKibben, The Guardian, January 9, 2015

January 12, 2015 Posted by | Big Oil, Fossil Fuels, Keystone XL | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Destructive In The Long Run”: The Red State Economic Miracle That Wasn’t

For years progressives in blue states have had to put up with listening to conservatives in red states bray about their supposed economic “miracles” of low-tax, low-investment paradises of low employment in places like Texas and North Dakota.

The fact that these economies were creating mostly minimum-wage jobs with terrible safety nets and awful infrastructure fell on deaf ears. So did the response that those jobs were temporary and fossil-fuel based, and would not last. Undiversified economies based on a single natural resource tend to fare poorly over time.

And indeed it looks like progressives are getting the last laugh due to low oil prices:

States dependent on oil and gas revenue are bracing for layoffs, slashing agency budgets and growing increasingly anxious about the ripple effect that falling oil prices may have on their local economies. The concerns are cutting across traditional oil states like Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Alaska as well as those like North Dakota that are benefiting from the nation’s latest energy boom.

“The crunch is coming,” said Gunnar Knapp, a professor of economics and the director of the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Michael Hiltzik at the L.A. Times had more on the topic earlier this week:

A greater danger to the state’s boom-era reputation is that the receding tide may expose a lot of economic wreckage to public view. One consequence of the state’s low-tax, low-service credo is that infrastructure spending has been starved, just at the moment when it’s most needed. As the Texas Tribune reported last year, local roads have become so damaged by heavy oil-patch traffic that in some districts the only option has been to convert paved roads to gravel — there’s no money for repaving, despite the state’s burgeoning wealth.

That shows how little pressure has been placed on the oil industry to carry its fair share of the public cost of the boom or contribute adequately to public investment. When the boom becomes a bust, there will be even less money, and you can bet that the oil industry will be pleading poverty.

When it isn’t simply padding the bottom lines of the wealthiest Americans, most conservative economic policy tends to be about taking the easiest, most aggressive and short-sighted approach to any problem. Eliminating taxes so you can entice corporate grifters may net some immediate transitory gains, but it’s destructive in the long run. Similarly, putting your eggs into the fossil fuel basket doesn’t just destroy your local environment and add to the climate change already ravaging your state, it also puts you at severe risk of economic seizures if fossil fuel prices decline.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 27, 2014

December 28, 2014 Posted by | Big Oil, Fossil Fuels, Red States | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Selfless Libertarian Activist?”: Charles Koch Personally Founded Group Protecting Oil Industry Hand-Outs, Documents Reveal

“Lifestyles of the Rich Environmentalists,” produced by a group called the Institute for Energy Research, is a slick web video campaign designed to lampoon Leonardo DiCaprio and will.i.am as hypocrites for supporting action on climate change. The claim is that wealthy celebrities who oppose industrial-scale pollution supposedly shouldn’t fly in airplanes that use fossil fuels. The group, along with its subsidiary, the American Energy Alliance, churns out a steady stream of related content, from Facebook memes criticizing the Environmental Protection Agency, to commercials demanding approval of new oil projects like the Keystone XL, to a series of television campaign advertisements this year attacking Democratic candidates in West VirginiaColoradoNorth Carolina and Alaska. On Capitol Hill, IER aggressively opposes any effort to repeal tax breaks afforded to the oil and gas industry.

Documents obtained by Republic Report reveal for the first time that the group was actually founded by none other than Charles Koch, the petrochemical, manufacturing, and oil-refining tycoon worth an estimated $52 billion.

IER has no information about its founding members on its website, and only lists a board composed of seemingly independent conservative scholars and businessmen. Earlier reports revealed that IER/AEA has received grants from Koch-funded foundations, and its leadership includes several individuals who have at times worked for Koch or Koch-related interests. But this is the first time it has been revealed that Charles personally founded the organization.

In October of 1984, Charles, then using a Menlo Park, California address, founded a non-profit called the Institute for Humane Studies of Texas. That organization briefly lost its charter in 1989 for failure to pay the Texas state franchise tax. Four years later, incorporation documents reveal, the group rebranded as the Institute for Energy Research, or IER, which later formed a subsidiary called the American Energy Alliance.

IER/AEA’s advocacy contrasts sharply with Charles’ personal brand as a selfless libertarian activist. The industrialist has argued that he is resolutely against special government handouts, such as tax credits or subsidies that benefit one industry over another. “Far from trying to rig the system, I have spent decades opposing cronyism and all political favors, including mandates, subsidies and protective tariffs—even when we benefit from them,” Charles wrote in a column for The Wall Street Journal this year.

But Charles’ group, IER/AEA, has fought to protect special tax breaks that benefit fossil fuel producers. Along with issuing press releases against various federal efforts to eliminate oil and gas industry tax credits, IER/AEA commissioned a study claiming that such tax reforms would have an adverse effect on jobs and on oil production.

Charles and his brother David are personally responsible for founding and funding much of the modern conservative infrastructure. The popular libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute, was in fact first named the Charles Koch Foundation, Inc before rebranding. The largest political organization in America outside the Democratic and Republican parties is Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party-organizing foundation also founded by the Kochs.

The latest organs in the Koch political network have carefully guarded the sources of their funding and direction. There is the new youth group, Generation Opportunity, along with the new veterans-related campaign organization, Concerned Veterans for America. But IER/AEA’s true origin casts new light on its motivations.
 

By: Lee Fang, Public Report, September 3, 2014

September 4, 2014 Posted by | Environment, Fossil Fuels, Koch Brothers | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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