In the letter (in entirety after the fold), Steyer calls for an “independent and transparent review” of the EIS. As a prominent example, one has to wonder how the ‘business savvy’ analysts writing the EIS come to such a radically different conclusion about the pipeline’s importance to enabling increased tar sands exploitation compared to the CEOs of the very Tar Sands-invested Corporations.
Of particular concern are FEIS conclusions that conflict with and are contradicted by tar sands industry executiveswho confirm that they need the pipeline in order to continue to develop the tar sands and to reach international markets. The FEIS fails to consider that construction of the KXL pipeline is a necessity to fully maximize extraction of tar sands.
While the State Department report essentially calls the pipeline irrelevant for investment decisions as to tar sands production, industry executive after industry executive have called it critically important.
While the report has assertion after conclusion after assertion for which there are significant and serious reasons for disagreement (and seems to dismiss and/or ignore reasons why the Keystone XL pipeline is NOT in U.S. national interest), there remains a fundamental challenge that Steyer calls on the Secretary of State to investigate and address: the entire process was tainted in such a way that makes wonder how the report could ever have been released.
Monday, 3 February, there will be #NoKXL vigils around the nation. Find an Anti-Keystone vigil near you.
And, somewhat big time … if your state isn’t represented (and 43 are, already, just from Friday), create a vigil in your state. Pretty amazing if, the business day after the late Friday release, all 50 states (plus DC) have vigils.
PS: And, there is another issue — amid a raft of contractor controversies and failures (Snowden, Affordable Health Care Act debut, Navy criminal investigations, etc …), what does the Keystone EIS say about the Department of State’s ability to contract effectively? ….
A typical Washington ploy — release late on Friday afternoon material that you hope disappears into the dustbin of weekend inattention to serious matters. The State Department’s release, earlier today, of a flawed look at the Keystone XL pipeline’s climate impact derived from a highly questionable (highly questioned with Inspector General investigations ongoing) process is a classic example. The world, however, is changed. The movement of information has changed. And, this is not something watched solely by people locked to their M-F, 9-5 jobs.
To start with, based on a quick initial read, here are a few examples of how this looks to be a flawed report?
It essentially assumes away the possibility that not building the Keystone XL pipeline would lead to reduce production of Tar Sands dilbit.
This is highly questionable.
The reason for the pipeline: to get the oil to Gulf Coast refineries so that it can be sold into Chinese and European markets at world prices, rather than depressed Midwest US prices. Taking the oil out of the US market and sending to China would create roughly $20 per barrel greater profit for the producers. (This is, of course, the absolute core reason for building the pipeline — to maximize profits for those devastating Alberta digging up tar sands.) Hmmm … according to the State Department, against the logic of basically every single economic textbook ever written, more or less profit is irrelevant for (dis)incentivizing more or less aggressive efforts to expand production. Harvard MBAs watch out — everything you learned is, evidently, wrong.
Even with rapid growth in rail transport capacity, the issue is not just price but capacity for moving dilbit out of Alberta. Keystone XL would be like opening a valve to release pressure, giving confidence to those considering Tar Sands extraction investments that they would be able to send their product to market for higher prices.
The oil industry knows and even, when honest, admits this. As per one oil industry executive: “If there were no more pipeline expansions, I would have to slow down.”
If you assume that the Dilbit will get produced and burnt no matter what you decide to do, of course the pipeline construction will not “significantly” impact climate change. The carbon will be pumped, according to this assumption, no matter what.
The report is at odds, in essence, with stated US policy on climate change.
It, in essence, uses a “business as usual” case for examining the KXL impact rather than “business as necessary”. This choice is a policy one and was not, as far as I can tell, ordained by law.
These examples of flawed (if not biased, skewed, questionable, ….) analysis are not, however, perfectly relevant for this posts’ title.
In Washington DC, information is currency. On Wall Street, information translates into massive currency.
For the past few days, key oil interests and players with, evidently, insider knowledge – such as the American Petroleum Institute’s Jack Gerard — created a buzz, telling reporters and who knows who else, that the State Department review of Keystone XL would come out Friday and that it would be favorable to the project. Hmmmm … their creation of buzz seems to have, clearly, been based on some real information.
Who in the Department of State (or elsewhere) provided this information to Gerard?
Let’s be clear — the Keystone XL pipeline is a multi-billion dollar project with tens of billions of dollars of impacts for the Tar Sands industry and other business interests. Many — probably most — of these are publicly traded firms whose business prospects and, more specifically, stock prices can be impacted (if not driven) by major government reports and decisions. Those with insider knowledge of Government decisions — able to place trades minutes, hours, or days before anyone else with that information in hand — have an unfair (hmmm, might one say illegal) advantage on Wall Street.
Consider, for a moment, some other scenarios:
Someone gained information from a source that a government report was going to recommend FDA approval of a drug with $10s of billions of potential revenue. Would they be in an advantageous — illegally advantageous — position for trading that stock?
Company executives began telling reporters, days beforehand and accurately it turns out, that the Pentagon was going to announce that their company won a major project that would double their revenue. Would it make sense for the SEC to take a look at seeing whether there was any unusual trading in the stock in the week(s) before the announcement and to look into how the company executives knew (and were stupid enough to tell people what they knew) that they had won the project prior to the announcement?
Again, in Washington, DC, information is currency. On Wall Street, information is massive currency.
Doesn’t it seem reasonable to wonder how petroleum interests had an inside track on this currency this week?
An alliance of corporations and conservative activists is mobilising to penalise homeowners who install their own solar panels – casting them as “freeriders” – in a sweeping new offensive against renewable energy, the Guardian has learned. …
For 2014, Alec plans to promote a suite of model bills and resolutions aimed at blocking Barack Obama from cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and state governments from promoting the expansion of wind and solar power through regulations known as Renewable Portfolio Standards.
[Director of the Energy and Policy Institute Gabe] Elsner argued that after its bruising state battles in 2013, Alec was now focused on weakening – rather than seeking outright repeal – of the clean energy standards. “What we saw in 2013 was an attempt to repeal RPS laws, and when that failed … what we are seeing now is a strategy that appears to be pro- clean energy but would actually weaken those pro- clean energy laws by retreating to the lowest common denominator,” he said.
So, is there a particular reason why ALEC going after rooftop solar photo-voltaic installations now, after having to beat a retreat on its 2013 effort to win wholesale repeals of Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards? Why yes, there does appear to be a particular reason for going after the economics of rooftop solar PV.
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) program to put people impassioned about clean energy within major Corporations and institutions to help drive energy efficiency and clean energy projects that will save money while reducing pollution is about to get a lot better known.
This evening, sitting alongside the First Lady of the United States, will be:
Tyrone Davis, from Winston-Salem, NC, has been legally blind since the age of nine. Despite his vision loss, he ran cross-country and track in high school, and received a political science degree and Masters of Public Administration from North Carolina State University.
He developed an interest in environmental issues during his time as an undergraduate, which led to a fellowship with the Environmental Defense Fund in 2010, placing him at Elizabeth City State University, a historically black university. His recommendations showed the school how to achieve savings of more than $31,000 a year, resulting in nearly 200 tons of carbon emissions reductions annually.
Tyrone’s father owns and operates a small office cleaning service, while his mother is a cost clerk for the county’s school transportation department. He has one younger brother currently attending North Carolina A&T State University. Now in his third year at Elon University School of Law, Tyrone hopes to use his skills to benefit the environment and make communities safer
The analysis traced the chemicals which are made airborne from burning coal and found a number of health damages were caused as a result. It estimates that coal burning in China was responsible for reducing the lives of 260,000 people in 2011. It also found that in the same year it led to 320,000 children and 61,000 adults suffering from asthma, 36,000 babies being born with low weight and was responsible for 340,000 hospital visits and 141 million days of sick leave.
attribution: Greenpeace via Think Progress
NOAA model tracks smog from coal plant sources to Shanghai & eastern China cities.
“This study provides an unprecedentedly detailed picture of the health fallout from China’s coal burning,” said Dr Andrew Gray, a US-based expert on air pollution, who conducted the research. Using computer simulations, Gray said he was able to “draw a clear map tracing the trail of health damages left by the coal fumes released by every power plant in China, untangling the contribution of individual companies, provinces and power stations to the air pollution crisis gripping the country.”
Smog levels in Shanghai this December have been the worst in China’s long history. Many residents avoid going outside and many of those who do are wearing masks to try to filter out the dangerous small particulates in the air that came from coal fired power plants.
The smog was so thick it was visible indoors at the Shanghai airport on December 5.
“Heavy smog seeps into Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport on the evening of Dec 5, 2013. Air Quality Index (AQI), which measure PM2.5 particulates, topped 400 on Friday morning in Shanghai, meaning the city was “severely polluted”- the highest level on the air pollution scale - for the second time in a week. [Photo/icpress.cn]“
[This guest post comes from a scientist who feels like a FishOutOfWater contemplating the gap between scientific knowledge and understanding of environmental (especially climate change) issues and the societal/political community understanding of and action on them.]
According to Think Progress blogger Zack Beauchamp, “2013 was the best year in human history”. As an institution with “Progress” in the title, we should expect that there should be serious discussions by the Center for American Progress (CAP) not just about problems requiring solutions but also on the reality that across a wide range of domains, humanity has made and is making serious progress.
Beauchamp, however, takes this further (as per the title) to assert that this has been the best year that ever was and that essentially everything is rosy looking out into the future.
Contrary to what you might have heard, virtually all of the most important forces that determine what make people’s lives good — the things that determine how long they live, and whether they live happily and freely — are trending in an extremely happy direction. While it’s possible that this progress could be reversed by something like runaway climate change, the effects will have to be dramatic to overcome the extraordinary and growing progress we’ve made in making the world a better place.
To be clear, there is much of value in Beauchamp’s post. Beauchamp’s discussions of his five ‘reasons’/'trends’ are interesting and worthwhile material to consider. There are real positive developments across the planet that often get overlooked, there is real progress, and there is a great deal of truth to Beauchamp’s conclusion,
the reason humanity is getting better is because humans have decided to make the world a better place. We consciously chose to develop lifesaving medicine and build freer political systems; we’ve passed laws against workplace discrimination and poisoning children’s minds with lead.
So far, these choices have more than paid off. It’s up to us to make sure they continue to.
That value, however, comes within the shadow of Buzzfeed-type structuring designed to gain eyeballs and traffic. Strawmans and truthiness are great for getting eyeballs but not for advancing truthful discussion. Imagine if the title had been along the lines of:
Lots of things are going right … and we can make things even better: Five mega-trends that are going the right way
Or course, this isn’t just about differing concepts of how a post should be titled. Beauchamp (the material cited above (”possible … runaway climate change … effects will have to be dramatic”)) clearly implies a dismissal of the risks of catastrophic climate chaos (or, even more simply, a dismissal of the baseline predictions as to unmitigated climate change impacts or even what is already happening). A more honest and more in line with Center for Progress work (such as at Climate Progress) emphasis would have been that “unchecked climate change threatens all of these …”
Hmmm … with such a muted title, it seems reasonable to think that there would be fewer eyeballs to the post and fewer reaction posts like this one.
The segment focused on a mother convinced that her 20-year-old daughter died after a cycle of Gardasil immunization, and a second family whose 14-year-old daughter fell ill after the shots. Neither presented any medical evidence to support their claims.
Around the country, an increasing number of people are refusing vaccines — in no small part due to media reporting like Couric’s. And, this is putting them at risk. Consider measles. According to the director of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), amid a surge in US cases, about 90 percent of US cases this year are people who did not get the vaccine. As a commentator put it,
The measles vaccine is one of the triumphs of public health; Katz and his co-creators are believed to have saved the lives of 30 million children. Over 50 years, measles has been chased entirely out of the Western Hemisphere. Yet keeping it from becoming re-established, and eliminating it from the rest of the world, requires increasing vaccination at a time when so many are turning away.
Oh, but we were just raising questions is the well-worn excuse of sensationalists everywhere, but if you are raising questions where there are, in fact, no serious questions, you are doing harm.
The problem here is, once again, scientific illiteracy.
Hunter discussed the challenge of complex science, in the popular discussion, confronted by the “anecdote”. How does mathematics, statistical analysis, long-trend surveying, and otherwise stand up to the “anecdote” of Aunt Martha’s certainty that the common cold is cured by hopping on one foot while chewing on garlic?
In the scientific realm, vaccinations and climate change are regularly “debunked” by assertions that “someone somewhere died in the same month that they were given a vaccine for something” or “it is cold today, therefore the climate is not changing.” Because the anecdotes are easy to understand and broad statistical measurements are, for many people, not, the anecdotes are given more credibility.
And. let’s be clear, the “anecdote” might be true. After all, for example, people do die during heart surgery and get injured by car air bags even if the surgeries and air bags — in general and in balance — save people’s lives.
Hunter continued in a rather ‘unscientific’ appeal to a greater deity.
God help us if a single anecdote actually prove true, in the single instance provided, as that shifts the question from scientific illiteracy to statistical innumeracy.
Yes, it might snow in Washington, DC, today. Putting aside the minor issue of it being December, with all due respect to Jim Inhofe (R-Exxon), that white stuff won’t disprove climate science and suddenly stopped global warming.
While I recommend Hunter’s thoughtful and passionate discussion, my key take-away was this post’s title: that our society (U.S. and global) faces a serious challenge in our public discussion of a wide range of issues. Whether in the media, popular discussion, or political debate,
we are all too often (faced by)
anti-science by anecdote
when we should be (discussing options and making decisions on the basis of the)
evidence-based scientific method.
The first will kill people, is causing damage, and undermines our prospect(s) for the future.
The second strengthens society.
The choice should be clear.
For readers of this blog, a reminder that Katie Couric merits credit for one of the best questioning re climate in American political reporting when she asked 10 questions of the 10 leading Presidential campaigns in 2007 and included this: Is the Global Warming threat overblown? While not the question I would have asked, it did make differences quite clear. In any event, my reaction at that time:
To be honest, I simply do not know what to write or say in the face of that question. The real value, as someone said to me, is that it did offer the opportunity to respond: “No. Actually, it is being far understated.”
Sadly, none of the candidates answered that way.
Amid the many excellent discussions of challenges to science in the United States, I would highly recommend Shawn Lawrence Otto’s Fool Me Twice and Chris Mooney’s Unscientific America. You cannot go wrong with either (actually recommend both) of these.
One key element (in both) is how anti-science syndrome suffering skews across the political spectrum and its impacts in political discussion/policy making differ across the political spectrum.
For example, generally, anti-vaccination anti-science attitudes are perceived as being ‘liberal’/'left-wing’ – but these do not drive policy-making and are rather rarely embraced by significant political actors/politicians. The ‘anti-science’ elements exists ‘on the left’ but, writ large, remain on the margins of, rather than dominating, policy approaches.
According to work done by Stephen Lewandowsky, et al, the climate denial skews very strongly with the “right” and the Republican party while they were unable to make a strong linkage to the “left” with anti-vaccine and anti-GMO attitudes.
Among American Conservatives, but not Liberals, trust in science has been declining since the 1970’s. Climate science has become particularly polarized, with Conservatives being more likely than Liberals to reject the notion that greenhouse gas emissions are warming the globe. Conversely, opposition to genetically-modified (GM) foods and vaccinations is often ascribed to the political Left although reliable data are lacking.
Lewandowsky, in a note to this author, commented that
there is Libertarian opposition to mandatory vaccinations (e.g. HPV) that’s allied with the political right. In my study, that effect was stronger than the slight left-wing bias (although the latter shouldn’t be dismissed outright).
Note 4: For some additional sources re Couric, see Tara Haelle’s two interesting/complementary pieces:
When it comes to certain issues–such as the risk-benefit analysis of vaccination and the existence of climate change–there are not actually two sides to the issue. There is only the scientific evidence and the consensus about what it means. The “other side” consists of the denialists who simply refuse to accept the science–or to accept the consensus that there is no evidence of serious side effects.
To present “both sides” is to commit the sin of false balance, or false equivalence. Emily Willingham defined that in Forbes as “giving equal weight to arguments that don’t carry equal weight of evidence.” (The Tracker previously covered an excellent CJR piece by Curtis Brainard about the media’s irresponsible reporting with false balance on vaccines.)
I also wanted to gather some of the best links I found about the show to post here. Ironically, I have been gathering research for an extensive myth-busting post about the HPV vaccine, but that’s a ways off still. I have my work cut out for me with formerly credible journalists like Couric helping to tear down any progress that’s been made in getting accurate information out about the HPV vaccine. ….
Honestly, about the only heartening thing about this whole disaster of a show was that when I googled “Katie Couric HPV vaccine” to see if there were any good articles I missed, every single results on the first two pages was a critical take on just how many ways Couric screwed over science yesterday.
Twitter has many uses and value streams. For me, the primary value is to learn about things that I should or want to know about. Most often, this is studies and articles in the energy, climate, environmental domains. Sometimes, well, this is something different.
Yes, of the $325,000 from large contributors through 2 December, just under 25 percent comes from two firms closely associated with seeking to undermine climate science, hamper Virginia’s moves to greater energy efficiency and a cleaner electricity system, and who strongly supported the campaign of fossil-foolish climate-science denier Ken Cuccinelli.
As a Virginian concerned about creating a prosperous clean-energy future for my children and my fellow Virginians, that these fossil-foolish interests can (seemingly) buy a seat at the table for such relatively paltry — for them — amounts is disconcerting and raises concerns of that ‘business as usual’ processes of buying access and influence in Richmond will continue on their merry way.
The Governor-Elect has an opportunity before him to send a signal that my concerns are misplaced and that he will seek all reasonable paths to create the clean energy future that he has spoken about. That opportunity is — in this case — countable to the tune of $75,000.
When it comes to questionable contributions — whether to politicians or to political activities such as the inauguration — many call for the money to be returned to the donor. Honestly, this has always seemed counter-productive to me. While there might be some bad associated press, that donor gets (implicit) credit for having made the donation for free as they get their cash back (okay, without interest).
To me, the far more sensible question in any such circumstance is to say: how can that dirty money be made clean?
If questionable comes from a drug dealer, why not donate money to drug counseling services?
If the dirty money is from people exploiting child labor, why not use it for building schools in economically deprived areas?
If the money comes from anti-science climate denying fossil fuel interests, why not invest in science education and/or clean energy programs?
In this case, Governor-Elect McAuliffe has a very interesting opportunity.
An opportunity to make truth from what he spoke about during his campaign
How might Governor-Elect McAuliffe “be moving forward” both symbolically and substantively with clean and safe solar power with $75,000 of dirty money?
Why not dedicate that money to putting solar panels up — using a Virginia solar contractor — at the Governor’s mansion in Richmond?
The roughly 20 kilowatts of capacity that $75,000 might get installed would generate in the range of 25 megawatt hours of electricity per year. That would be a bit more than twice the average electricity bill for a Virginia homeowner. Clearly, this is substance that is primarily symbolic.
With this symbolic move, the in-coming Governor would make a clear statement that he will seek reasonable opportunities to promote a clean energy future for all Virginians by “moving forward on the things we know work today.”