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Max Greenberg

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  • News Corp. Cries "Dictator" Over Clean Air Act Enforcement

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    Gina McCarthy via Alex Brandon, AP

    The Wall Street Journal and Fox News are suggesting that President Barack Obama's nomination of Gina McCarthy as head of the Environmental Protection Agency is a sign that he is acting like a "dictator," using an "end-around" to regulate carbon emissions that drive climate change. But they failed to mention that efforts to curb this greenhouse gas through the EPA are not an invention of the Obama administration -- they were given the go-ahead by a George W. Bush-era Supreme Court decision.

    Earlier this week, the president nominated  McCarthy, a former official for then-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, to succeed Lisa Jackson as EPA administrator. McCarthy is likely to play a major role in the administration's presumptive plans to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants.

    But News Corporation's Fox News and Wall Street Journal are launching a preemptive attack on these efforts, claiming they are "antidemocratic" by once again ignoring a Supreme Court decision that all but required action. Monday, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly incorrectly suggested that action through the EPA is unprecedented, saying "It used to be that if you wanted to make a major change or have a major impact on climate change or green energy regulations in this country, you went through Congress" but the president "has found an end-around, and as a result this EPA is extremely powerful right now." The next day, a Wall Street Journal editorial smeared McCarthy as "antidemocratic," adding, "Mr. Obama has been going around saying that the problem is that he's a President, not an 'emperor' or 'dictator,' but on carbon regulation this is a distinction without much difference."

    Both failed to note that a 2007 Supreme Court ruling found that greenhouse gases fit the definition of an "air pollutant" and could be regulated under the Clean Air Act if they were determined to be harmful. A subsequent "Endangerment Finding," privately authored during the Bush administration but suppressed until 2009, stated that this was the case due to their contribution to climate change. Stephen Johnson, then the EPA Administrator, told President Bush in early 2008 that the Supreme Court decision "combined with the latest science of climate change requires the Agency to propose a positive endangerment finding," adding "the state of the latest climate change science does not permit a negative finding, nor does it permit a credible finding that we need to wait for more research." The Bush administration reportedly refused to open the email containing the Endangerment Finding, leaving it to the next president to take action. As noted by Legal Planet, the environmental law and policy blog of the University of California Berkeley and UCLA law schools, regulation of carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act is not undemocratic. In fact, "[T]here's nothing here that's an end-run around Congress. EPA is (as bureaucracies should do) implementing the orders of the legislature through duly enacted laws." If the president has "given up getting Congress to agree" to regulate emissions by other means, as the Journal argued,  it is only because Congress has repeatedly failed to pass legislation doing so, thus compelling the executive branch to act. 

  • Fox News' Wind Power Hypochondria

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    Fox News is using a Massachusetts town to suggest that wind turbines cause "devastating" health problems. However, multiple studies have found no evidence that wind turbines are associated with health problems.

    In late January, two wind turbines built in Falmouth, Massachusetts, were targeted for removal due to noise and supposedly related health concerns sometimes referred to as "wind turbine syndrome." Tuesday, Fox News' America's Newsroom covered the local community's upcoming decision, saying that residents claim to have experienced "devastating" health impacts:

    But Fox News failed to note that "wind turbine syndrome" has not been substantiated. A 2012 panel of independent physicians and scientists convened by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection concluded "There is no evidence for a set of health effects from exposure to wind turbines" and "limited" evidence connecting wind turbines to annoyance or sleep disruption. Simon Chapman, a professor of public health, has noted that "wind turbine syndrome" may well be "what we can call a 'communicated' disease: it spreads via the nocebo effect by being talked about, and is thereby a strong candidate for being defined as a psychogenic condition [a condition that originates psychologically]." The Colbert Report first noted Chapman's comments in an investigation mocking "wind turbine syndrome." 

    The Falmouth turbines were older models that may have developed problems from lying in storage that led them to be particularly noisy, limiting the local story's implications for the national surge in wind installations.

  • Fox Ridicules Obama For Saying We Should Use Less Oil

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    Fox News is mocking President Barack Obama for saying the U.S. must use less oil in a recent interview, suggesting it was a callous and unfounded idea. But experts across the political spectrum agree that the only way to reduce our vulnerability to gasoline price spikes is to cut our oil dependence.

    On Wednesday, the president gave an interview to a local South Carolina news station. Responding to a question on high gasoline prices, President Obama said he was "proud" that oil production during his tenure has been high, but emphasized that the "overall economy [must] use less oil."Obama referenced ways that he has worked toward this goal, including implementing fuel economy standards that a group of retired military officers and business leaders called "the most important energy security accomplishment in decades," and proposing further research into alternative transportation technology.

    On Thursday, Fox & Friends' Brian Kilmeade asked, "really? So I should stop driving to work, I should start jogging? I'm not really sure what that means." Steve Doocy added, "So if you want to save money, use less oil. Just stop driving. Don't go anywhere, stay in your house, watch television." At no point did the co-hosts reference the policies that Obama specifically cited so that we can move toward lower oil use economy-wide:

  • WSJ's "Fringe" Attacks On Interior Nominee

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    Source: Still from C-Span

    The Wall Street Journal's Kimberley Strassel is claiming that newly-minted Interior secretary nominee Sally Jewell is part of the "environmental fringe," suggesting she is hostile to business and was chosen by President Obama to "kill traditional jobs." In fact, she boasts a wealth of business experience, and her support of national parks conservation bolsters a multi-billion dollar outdoor recreation industry that sustains millions of jobs.

    Strassel dismissed Jewell as an "activist" who will "Lock up land, target industries, [and] kill traditional jobs," which she exemplified as mining, logging and farming. Strassel pointed to REI as an example of a company "on the radical extreme" because it has supported rules such as the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which safeguards National Forest lands from road construction and logging, and criticized the National Parks Conservation Association, on whose board Jewell serves, for its "efforts to kill jobs." 

    But Jewell's conservation efforts have helped support the multi-billion dollar outdoor recreation industry. According to a 2012 report by the Outdoor Industry Association, an industry trade group, Bureau of Economic Analysis data shows that outdoor recreation generates $646 billion in annual consumer spending, or nearly twice as much as the pharmaceuticals industry. According to the group's analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, outdoor recreation spending directly supports some 6.1 million jobs -- from retail jobs to park rangers to lodging operators -- nearly three times as many as the American Petroleum Institute claimed from the oil and gas industry in 2007:

    Source: Outdoor Industry Association based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data

  • Fox Cedes Solar Industry To Germany

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    Fox News is claiming that the future of solar power in the U.S. is "dim" because we have less sunlight than countries like Germany, the current world leader in solar generation. But Fox has completely reversed the facts: the U.S. receives far more direct sunlight, but has been outperformed due to Germany's superior solar policies.

    On Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson claimed that the U.S. solar "industry's future looks dim." The show brought on Fox Business reporter Shibani Joshi, who said that Germany's solar industry is doing "great" because "they've got a lot more sun than we do," before adding,  "In California, it's a great solution, but here on the East Coast it's just not going to work."

    The U.S. is lagging behind Germany in solar power generation, but it doesn't have anything to do with our solar potential. In fact, the Southwest has "among the best photovoltaic resources in the world," according to a report by GTM Research. Even the East Coast states have greater solar potential than Germany, as illustrated by this map from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory:

    Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory

    But while Germany gets relatively little sunlight, it does have a more coherent national solar policy than the U.S., as Bloomberg Businessweek reported in October 2012:

  • Conservatives Wrongly Blame Super Bowl Blackout On Energy Efficiency Measures

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    Source: DOEThe Drudge Report and others are suggesting that energy efficiency efforts somehow caused the power outage that occurred during the Super Bowl. But these attempts to scapegoat green energy are wrongheaded -- the outage occurred within the stadium, not among the energy efficient lighting outside the stadium. 

    Prior to Super Bowl XLVII, the New Orleans Host Committee worked to reduce the environmental impact of the game on and off the field, including by installing an energy efficient lighting display of LEDs outside the stadium.

    During the second half of the game, many of the Superdome stadium's overhead lights blinked off, along with scoreboards, CBS-run cameras and other systems. The partial outage lasted for more than 30 minutes. The Drudge Report used the blackout to mock the possible "CURSE" from an efficient lighting display composed of LEDs on the outside of the Superdome:

    The Drudge Report

    Many prominent conservative media figures seized on the false implication -- Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich said "it's all [former Energy Secretary Steven Chu's] fault," and the Daily Caller suggested that the energy efficient lighting was the "cause" of the blackout.

    But, as Politico and TIME's Mike Grunwald pointed out, these exterior LED lights did not go dark:

    The Drudge Report snarkily linked to an Energy Department article published Saturday that praised New Orleans for being at the "Energy Efficient Forefront" and noted that the Superdome "features more than 26,000 LED lights" that conserve energy. However, others quickly pointed out that those are exterior lights, not the lights that went dark inside the dome.

    [...]

    Whatever the cause turns out to be, New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman saw one enduring U.S. tradition alive and well in the blackout aftermath.

    "Only in America," he tweeted Sunday night, linking to Drudge's DOE link. "Blackout at Superdome actually becoming a political issue."

  • Fox Uses Super Bowl To Attack Obama On Gas Prices

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    Fox News is once again blaming President Obama for a rise in gasoline prices by pointing to unusually low prices early in his first term. But experts say that market factors, not U.S. energy policy, have driven prices upward since a temporary price drop in early 2009. 

    To mark President Obama's "second Super Bowl in office," Fox & Friends ran a segment highlighting "what has changed over the last four years, especially when it comes to the money you are spending." Steve Doocy noted that "gas has soared more than 56 percent since Super Bowl XLIII," when the national average was $1.93 per gallon:

    However, Fox's comparison was disingenuous. At the time of Super Bowl XLIII, in February 2009, the U.S. was just beginning to crawl out of a recession that dampened demand -- and thus prices -- for crude oil. Michael Canes, former chief economist of the American Petroleum Institute, told Media Matters that prices were unusually low "because the world economy began to slow down and ultimately to experience a deep recession."

    The following chart from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis shows that crude oil and gasoline prices fell sharply in late 2008, just before President Obama took office:

    Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

    As the Wall Street Journal has noted, higher prices today reflect stronger demand.

  • Fox Promotes Debunked Claim That Scientists Exaggerated Climate Change

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    Fox News seized on a leaked draft of a U.N. climate report to suggest that climate change has been "overstated for the last 20 years." But the draft itself clarifies that observed temperatures over the last 20 years have fallen within the range of past projections despite natural short-term variation.

    Fox & Friends First claimed "scientists say" that "global warming been overstated for the last 20 years," based on a draft of the fifth assessment report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The report, which was leaked in December 2012 to a blog called "stopgreensuicide," contains a graph that conservative blogs claimed showed observed temperatures were lower than the projections of IPCC's first assessment report in 1990.

    But scientists debunked this claim when the IPCC draft was first leaked in December. The draft itself notes that "Even though the 16 projections from the [previous temperature] models were never intended to be predictions over such a short time scale [1999-2010], the 17 observations through 2010 generally fall well within the projections made in all of the past assessments." Indeed, as climatologist James Annan told Media Matters in December, "The grey bounds [...] indicate the range of uncertainty including natural variability, and the observations are well within that range":

    Source: IPCC

  • After Failed Climate Coverage, CNN Reports Americans Don't Understand Climate Change

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    Promoting a recent poll, CNN is treating climate change as a matter of opinion, saying Americans are divided over whether or not it is real. But the network itself has fueled such confusion, often failing to report that manmade emissions are driving climate change or giving credence to those who deny the science behind it. 

    The CNN/ORC International survey, released the morning after President Obama's inaugural address highlighted the need to address climate change, found that 49 percent of Americans accept that climate change is "a proven fact" and caused by manmade emissions. This represented a seven-point drop since 2007. A CNN blog suggested that this showed Americans do not "agree with Obama on climate change," and failed to clarify that decades of research have led the vast majority of climate scientists to agree that manmade emissions are causing climate change.

    Source: NASA

  • Fox News Questions Whether Government Faked Hottest Year On Record

    Quotes "Skeptic" Blogger Suggesting Scientists Should Go To Jail

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    Source: Climate Central using data from NCDC

    A FoxNews.com article questioned whether 2012 was actually the hottest year on record, quoting "skeptics" who suggest a government office is manipulating data to fabricate proof of rising temperatures. In fact, statistical adjustments made by the agency are required, publicly-documented changes to correct for errors and known sources of bias in the raw data. 

    In January, the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) announced that 2012 was the hottest year on record in the contiguous U.S. - an announcement that Fox News ignored until one of Fox News' few liberal commentators, Bob Beckel, tried to bring it up on The Five. Soon after, FoxNews.com reporter Maxim Lott solicited the views of a few professional climate "skeptics" to claim that scientists made unjustified data adjustments to exaggerate 2012's heat. 

    Under the headline "Hottest year ever? Skeptics question revisions to climate data," Lott quoted Roy Spencer, a rare climate contrarian scientist who considers it his job to "minimize the role of government," and Steve Goddard, a climate denier-cum-birther writing under a pseudonym, to cast doubt on the temperature record. According to Goddard, the U.S. only "appears" to have warmed as a result of the agency's adjustments, making the data "meaningless garbage." Lott gave the final word to former television weatherman and blogger Anthony Watts, who said, "In the business and trading world, people go to jail for such manipulations of data." 

    But the NCDC has publicly explained that it needs to make adjustments to the raw temperature data to account for flaws that can result, for example, when stations are moved, are measuring temperatures at different times of day, or are measuring temperature with different instruments. The NCDC carefully applies these adjustments after publishing their methods in multiple peer-reviewed papers. As several scientists tried to explain to FoxNews.com, these adjustments make the temperature data more accurate: 

    Government climate scientist Peter Thorne, speaking in his personal capacity, said that there was consensus for the adjustments.

    "These have been shown through at least three papers that have appeared in the past 12 months to be an improvement," he said.

    NOAA spokesman Scott Smullen agreed.

    "These kinds of improvements get us even closer to the true climate signal, and help our nation even more accurately understand its climate history," he said.