Emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request reveal no evidence of the Environmental Protection Agency's so-called "war on coal," denying the conservative media ammunition against Gina McCarthy, President Obama's nominee to lead the agency. But Fox News is now using the lack of evidence to attack McCarthy, suggesting the administration is engaging in a cover-up to protect her.
Chris Horner of the fossil fuel-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) released more internal EPA emails this week as part of his ongoing effort to uncover the agency's crusade against coal. Instead, he found correspondence on the subject to be "remarkably absent," leading him to wonder: isn't it a little suspicious that the emails didn't uncover anything suspicious?
Remarkably absent are what should be the dominant class of records covered by our request seeking records: Gina McCarthy discussing her biggest assignment, the Obama administration's "war on coal".
The question is no longer whether they are hiding things, it's what are they hiding now. And the answer apparently is: Whatever they have to hide to protect Ms. McCarthy's nomination.
Fox News seized on CEI's report to claim that McCarthy is "under fire for a batch of internal emails just out," only to later admit that she is almost entirely absent from the emails:
Despite the overwhelming consensus among climate experts that human activity is contributing to rising global temperatures, 66 percent of Americans incorrectly believe there is "a lot of disagreement among scientists about whether or not global warming is happening." The conservative media has fueled this confusion by distorting scientific research, hyping faux-scandals, and giving voice to groups funded by industries that have a financial interest in blocking action on climate change. Meanwhile, mainstream media outlets have shied away from the "controversy" over climate change and have failed to press U.S. policymakers on how they will address this global threat. When climate change is discussed, mainstream outlets sometimes strive for a false balance that elevates marginal voices and enables them to sow doubt about the science even in the face of mounting evidence.
Here, Media Matters looks at how conservative media outlets give industry-funded "experts" a platform, creating a polarized misunderstanding of climate science.
The Economist has called the libertarian Heartland Institute "the world's most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change." Every year, Heartland hosts an "International Conference on Climate Change," bringing together a small group of contrarians (mostly non-scientists) who deny that manmade climate change is a serious problem. To promote its most recent conference, Heartland launched a short-lived billboard campaign associating acceptance of climate science with "murderers, tyrants, and madmen" including Ted Kaczynski, Charles Manson and Fidel Castro. Facing backlash from corporate donors and even some of its own staff, Heartland removed the billboard, but refused to apologize for the "experiment."
Heartland does not disclose its donors, but internal documents obtained in February reveal that Heartland received $25,000 from the Charles Koch Foundation in 2011 and anticipated $200,000 in additional funding in 2012. Charles Koch is CEO and co-owner of Koch Industries, a corporation with major oil interests. Along with his brother David Koch, he has donated millions to groups that spread climate misinformation. Heartland also receives funding from some corporations with a financial interest in confusing the public on climate science. ExxonMobil contributed over $600,000 to Heartland between 1998 and 2006, but has since pledged to stop funding groups that cast doubt on climate change.
Despite their industry ties and lack of scientific expertise, Heartland Institute fellows are often given a media platform to promote their marginal views on climate change. Most visible is James Taylor, a lawyer with no climate science background who heads Heartland's environmental initiative. Taylor dismisses "alarmist propaganda that global warming is a human-caused problem that needs to be addressed," and suggests that taking action to reduce emissions could cause a return to the "the Little Ice Age and the Black Death." But that hasn't stopped Forbes from publishing his weekly column, which he uses to spout climate misinformation and accuse scientists of "doctoring" temperature data to fabricate a warming trend. It also hasn't stopped Fox News from promoting his misinformation.
As the Earth's climate warms, glaciers are shrinking worldwide. But Fox News is using a recent study showing stable glaciers in one region of the Himalayas to obscure the global melting trend and cast doubt on climate change.
In 1994, the Environmental Protection Agency established an Environmental Justice Small Grants Program, which disburses about $1 million in grants every year to non-profit organizations and Native American tribes in the disadvantaged communities that are disproportionately affected by pollution. The grants help communities learn about and find solutions for local environmental and public health problems.
Following a Daily Caller report, Fox News repeatedly lambasted the program as "government waste" that "we can't afford." Fox's Tobin Smith even baselessly claimed that there is "hundreds of billions of dollars of waste" in "these things." In 2011, the grant program disbursed $1 million in funding - around .0000003% of federal expenditures. So for those trying to follow Fox's logic: We can't afford $1 million for local programs supporting environmental and public health, but if you try to reconsider $70 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy, it's "class warfare."
Fox predictably failed to mention that this grant program existed throughout the Bush administration. In highlighting several program successes, Bush's EPA described how a $15,000 grant helped an economically disadvantaged area in Michigan that is home to several Native American reservations collect over 47 tons of hazardous waste -- more than the county waste facility collected over the previous seven years.
It seems that in all the reporting on the trumped-up Climategate "scandal," one key fact often goes overlooked: the genesis of the whole affair was an act of theft.
The distorted and misinterpreted emails that formed the basis for Climategate were stolen, hacked from the University of East Anglia's servers. It was an act of criminality, and law enforcement agencies are actively pursuing the parties responsible.
Climate "skeptic" Chris Horner, however, is incensed that the police are trying to apprehend the as-yet unknown perpetrator(s), and considers the investigation "an abuse of the police power."
Horner penned an op-ed for the Examiner today alleging that "the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), Criminal Division, is working with United Kingdom police to pursue the leaker of the 2009 and 2011 'Climategate' emails." Sticking to variations of the term "leaked," Horner all but excuses the hacker's actions, arguing that the stolen emails were public records:
The leaked records derailed "cap-and-trade" legislation in the U.S. and, internationally, as well as talks for a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. The emails and computer code were produced with taxpayer funds and held on taxpayer-owned computers both in the US and the UK, and all were subject to the UK Freedom of Information Act, the U.S. Freedom of Information Act and state FOIA laws.
They also were being unlawfully withheld in both the UK (by the University of East Anglia) and the U.S. (Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), including stonewalling me for two years, and three other requesters for longer).
More to the point, Horner casts the "leaker" as the real victim, as opposed to the scientists who had their privacy invaded, property stolen, and reputations wrongly besmirched:
To review: The UK police and the US DOJ, Criminal Division, are pursuing a leaker of public records subject to one or more FOIA, records that were unlawfully withheld under those laws, which leaks indicate apparent civil violations (tortious interference by seeking dismissal of certain "skeptics"), and raising reasonable questions of fraud against taxpayers.
And they are pursuing the leaker.
Yes. They are pursuing the "leaker." Because the "leaker" is actually a criminal. And it speaks to the twisted pathology of climate science deniers that they'll condone, even defend, this sort of behavior.
A New York Times/Bay Citizen article cherry-picked statistics from a Brookings Institution report and reportedly misrepresented interviews to call the goal of creating 5 million green jobs in 10 years a "pipe dream." Conservative media have seized upon the Times article to claim that "even" the "left" agrees that investment in green jobs is a "a waste of money and time."
When Solyndra, a California based solar panel manufacturer, announced this week that it will file for bankruptcy, conservative media outlets immediately cheered the loss as evidence that solar power doesn't work. That couldn't be further from the truth.
Arizona-based First Solar is currently building its second U.S. factory, which will "roughly double the solar-panel maker's U.S. production capacity," according to the Wall Street Journal. The company is also investing in several large solar farms.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers announced in June that solar panels, which have great potential for increases in efficiency, could become most cost-effective electricity source within a decade, even challenging fossil fuels. The International Energy Agency also recently said solar generators, including both solar photovoltaic and solar-thermal plants, may produce most of the world's electricity within 50 years.
Despite all this, conservative media claim solar power isn't worth pursuing.
From the June 17 edition of Fox Business' America's Nightly Scoreboard:
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Conservative media outlets are reprimanding three prominent Republicans who recently acknowledged what scientists have been saying for years -- that human activities are contributing to global climate change.
Members of the right-wing media have distorted the administration's policies in the wake of the BP oil spill, claiming that President Obama shut down all drilling and production in the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, the temporary moratorium on drilling in the Gulf only applied to new deepwater wells and did not affect the thousands of wells already producing oil and gas.
In the wake of the earthquake in Japan and the resulting threat of nuclear disaster in that country, right-wing media have attacked renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, arguing that it's a waste of time to pursue these sources as possible alternatives to fossil fuels and nuclear power. However, studies show that the use of wind and solar energy is increasing at a record pace, and continuing investment in wind and solar will yield significant economic benefits.
From the February 2 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:
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On his Fox News show, Neil Cavuto hosted Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute to argue against the effectiveness of federal subsidies for the solar industry and claim that there would be no solar industry but for these subsidies. In fact, solar energy receives significantly fewer subsidies than fossil fuels and nuclear energy.
Just days ago, Media Matters published internal e-mails showing Fox News' managing editor Bill Sammon instructing the network's reporters to cast doubt on climate science. Despite the exposure of this blatant attempt to slant Fox's coverage of issues related to climate change, Fox's assault on environmental regulations aimed at mitigating the effects of carbon emissions continues unabated.
On today's edition of Your World with Neil Cavuto, guest-host Brian Sullivan welcomed Chris Horner of the right-wing Competitive Enterprise Institute to discuss a pending lawsuit launched against the EPA by American automakers. Horner, a longtime dispenser of climate change misinformation, attacked the EPA for a recent ruling that would allow gasoline to contain up to 15 percent ethanol (up from 10 percent), claiming that the blended gas would destroy the engines of cars, lawnmowers, and "all those vehicles that you'll see on Sarah Palin's Alaska that nobody in the administration sees or wants to see."
Horner repeatedly refers to the ethanol mix as "moonshine" that will wreak havoc on a wide variety of engines used by Americans every day. Horner doesn't, however, have very much faith in the American consumer. He contends that the lure of cheaper E15 gasoline will lead unsuspecting consumers to fuel up with what will eventually erode their fuel lines. Horner goes so far as to claim that this will lead to "people putting gasoline in four fifths of the engines on the road that are not designed for it," which will eventually damage their engines and accomplish what he purports to be the Administration's purported "goal" of taking the "larger, more safe, more comfortable vehicles" off the road.
However, neither Horner nor Sullivan acknowledge that the EPA has established specific guidelines in its waiver allowing the use of E15 fuels. While Horner alludes to the fact that E15 is only approved for use in certain vehicles, he ignores the fact that the EPA has outlined specific guidelines which explain that only vehicles built after 2007 should use the fuel. Likewise, Horner makes no note of the warning labels consumers would have to ignore when fueling vehicles that explain that E15 is only for use in certain vehicles and machines.
While the specifics of such a label have not been finalized, the EPA specifically requires that "Labels must be placed on E15 retail dispensers indicating that E15 use is only for MY2007 and newer motor vehicles." The proposed label is bright orange, features the word "CAUTION!" and notes that "Federal law prohibits" the use of E15 in vehicles and engines made before 2007.
So Horner's argument then is that when everyday Americans go to the gas station, they will, in overwhelming numbers, either accidentally or knowingly choose to violate federal law and cause costly and potentially irreparable damage to their engines - all for slightly less expensive gas.
Horner's fearmongering about the impact of ethanol is unsurprising given his employer's close ties to big oil companies, who have an obvious financial interest in ensuring that what consumers buy at the pump contains as much of their product and as little ethanol as possible. CEI has received more than $2 million from ExxonMobil alone in addition to the more than $600,000 it has received from the foundations run by the petroleum magnates, the Koch brothers. In fact, his argument that consumers will either purposefully or mistakenly use ethanol fuel that will damage their vehicles closely mirrors the argument against E15 given by the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association which argues that "misfueling may occur intentionally, due to price differential or a quality perception, or unintentionally, due to consumer confusion or inattention."
In keeping with Fox's method of reporting on environmental issues, Horner's potential conflict of interest posed by his ties to big oil were left unmentioned in the segment.
Tonight's edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto featured a segment on proposed legislation that would allocate billions of dollars in funding to the development of alternative-fuel cars. Cavuto and his guest, the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Chris Horner, took the news as an opportunity to attack Fox News' least favorite American-made car, the Chevy Volt. Horner, who has never let facts get in the way of his contempt for efforts to curb climate change, said "the market will not allow the Volt to survive," while Cavuto called the car "risky" because people might forget to plug it in:
CAVUTO: Well, I always look at this as, any car you have to plug in is risky, because I could just picture couples -- I don't mean to be, you know, saying that this is something that could lead to divorce -- but could you imagine, they get up in the morning, "I thought you plugged it in honey." "No, I thought you plugged it in, honey." I mean, that's a disaster in the making.
Cavuto suggested that if you forget to plug in your Volt, you can't go anywhere, revealing that he doesn't understand the vehicle that he is attacking. As GM explains:
When the battery's energy is depleted, a gasoline-or biofuel-powered generator seamlessly provides electricity to power Volt while sustaining the charge of the battery. This extends the range of the Volt for several hundred additional miles, until the battery can be recharged or until additional fuel is added.