It's one of those claims that, while superficially true, conceals many more important truths - like the following three:
1) The EPA rule is still only a proposal. Legally speaking, there is no EPA rule yet, so why on Earth would we need to defend ourselves against something the details of which are almost certain to change?
The way Federal regulatory processes work, the proposal goes out for comment, EPA has to review and respond to every comment and revise the final rule accordingly. And considering that EPA received over 2 million comments, nobody knows what the heck the final rule will look like. Much of the current bellyaching, then, is really about working the referee - to get EPA to change the final rule, rather than responding in any serious way to it.
2) Numerous states have more aggressive proposed goals than Virginia - yet the ones with the lowest goals are complaining the most. The Georgetown Climate Center has superb resources on EPA's Clean Power Plan, including a factsheet showing all the state CO2 goals and how they were derived. Bottom line per this analysis of the proposal is that 15 states have percentage CO2 reductions that are either more stringent than or equal to Virginia's. So no, we are not the scapegoat here.
But here's the funny part - some of the states with the toughest goals proposed by EPA, like Oregon, Washington and California, are among those who've written letters to EPA in support of the plan. Meanwhile, some of the states with the weakest proposed goals, like Alabama, Wyoming and Kentucky, are among those suing EPA to stop the rule.
Dominion and the politicians on their payroll give one justification for the power play bill that exempts the monopoly from govenrment audits until the year 2022 -- that EPA climate regulations will increase the company's costs, forcing it to raise its rates.
When companies face a financial threat, no one is more attuned to this situation than investors. If Dominion is truly in trouble, the alarm bells should be ringing on Wall Street. But are they?
Quite the contrary. In a superb piece on Dominion's endless drive to deregulate itself, Jeff Schapiro drops this bombshell:
As momentum built for Virginia's latest accommodation of the utilities, the investment adviser UBS - in an alert to the markets - labeled Dominion the "king of the hill."
Citing the company's spin to stock pickers at a private meeting in Manhattan last week, UBS said the latest legislation "removes one of the largest single risks" to higher earnings: That the SCC, if only temporarily, would be blocked from determining whether Dominion makes too much money.
Now, hold your horses -- we keep being told this legislation is needed to protect the poor consumer. Yet behind closed doors, Wall Street analysts are admitting that this legislation is really about letting Dominion profit -- at ratepayers' expense?
But wait, there's more. Here's what UBS had to say about Dominion last month:
Many analysts on Wall Street think that the EPA bill signed last year may actually provide a tailwind for this top utility.
More than a hundred representatives of energy efficiency and renewable energy businesses descended on Richmond Tuesday for Clean Energy Lobby Day. After meetings with legislators, many of them stayed to attend a critical subcommittee meeting where most of this year's clean energy bills came up for votes. And they came away with one overpowering impression: the only bills that can make it out of committee are the ones supported by the state's utilities, especially Dominion Power.
But that wasn't quite the end of the story. Because by the end of the week, they also found that the groundwork they had laid with their lobbing, and their tenaciousness before the subcommittee, created an opening they would not otherwise have had.
First, the bad news, and plenty of it Things started bleakly. The House Commerce and Labor Subcommittee on Energy turned back multiple proposals that would have benefited Virginia's small renewable energy and energy efficiency businesses, as well as their customers. Going down to defeat were bills to improve the renewable portfolio standard (HB 1913), create an energy efficiency resource standard (HB 1730), require a more rigorous study before utilities can impose standby charges (HB 1911), make third-party PPAs legal across the state (HB 1925), and enable an innovative vehicle-to-grid (V2G) project (HB 2073).
Sen. Frank Wagner is the chief sponsor of legislation that would weaken state oversight of Dominion Virginia Power's rate setting. The move could help the utility giant's bottom line and its shareholders, of which Wagner is one.[...] As a regulated monopoly, Dominion has a strong interest in staying on good terms with state lawmakers. The utility is the biggest corporate donor to state political campaigns and is the most generous gift-giver to state lawmakers. [...] most lawmakers who own the company's stock did vote for the legislation.
Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said doing nothing was not an option.
"I will vote to move it along, but I would just say this has a long way to go. I'm somewhat concerned about not having this biennial review," he said. And turning to Dominion officials in the hearing room, he said: "You might want to answer everything you heard here today from people who have a different perspective, on a point-by-point basis."
Yeah, take that -- happy to exempt the books of a monopoly chartered as a public utility from public scrutiny -- but you "might want to" actually respond to what other people say about you! I'll bet that hurt! (But keep those donations coming, please...)
Kudos to Attorney General Mark Herring, one of the few Democrats in the Commonwealth with the cojones to challenge Dominion's power play. Governor Terry McAuliffe, who has not taken a stand on the issue, needs to step up and follow Herring's lead if he wants to be considered leader of the state.
And it's time for Democrats to stop allowing Saslaw to embarrass us, and finally replace him with a Senate leader who proudly upholds progressive values, and puts the people before the power companies.
If there's anybody government needs to keep an eye on, it's a MONOPOLY. But through one of the big loopholes in our system of government, the monopolies that we call utilities get to shovel the money they make from their non-competitive positions into the offices of politicians who are supposed to be regulating them.
The predictable result is these politicians giving the utilities pretty much anything they ask for. But every once in a while, they get too greedy and go too far - and will find the public coming after them with pitchforks.
A bill filed by Sen. Frank W. Wagner (R-Virginia Beach) would [...] free Dominion from regular financial audits conducted by the State Corporation Commission, which oversees utility rates in Virginia.
We're talking here about legislation to block the state of Virginia from financial oversight of its 8th largest company. Legislation that Sen. Wagner actually admitted was drafted by...Dominion.
The fox guarding the henhouse? No, more like the fox taking over the whole freaking Department of Henhouses.
If you're sick and tired of the political tools down in Richmond acting like lobbyists for Dominion rather than doing their job to regulate it, let them know ASAP. Contact your Delegate (find them here) and your Senator (find them here).
And contact Dominion too, especially if you're a customer, to let them know that you won't stand for this powerful monopoly trying to shield itself from public scrutiny. You can send them a tweet at @DomVaPower or post to their Facebook page.
We are the citizens of a democracy, not corporate vassals. Businesses certainly have a role in our society, but is the role of an actor, not that of our ruler. When companies like Dominion go too far, they need to hear from the public, loud and clear. Otherwise, they will keep going until their power over us is absolute. Don't stand for it - fight them while we still have the power to fight.
The latest fashion among right-wing trolls? Attempt to halt all criticism of the Koch Brothers by bringing up the name of environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer. We have our billionaire political donors, you have yours - what's the difference?
Ah, false equivalency, the last refuge of the simple mind. Well, in case you need some troll repellent, here are four fun facts demonstrating the enormous differences between Steyer & the Kochs:
1) Making money vs. losing it: As Steyer puts it, the Kochs' priorities "line up perfectly with their pocketbooks - and that's not true for us."
If you want to know why the Koch brothers went to the bother of spending hundreds of millions of dollars to create a vast infrastructure for casting doubt on climate science, well, it's not too hard to find a motive. Just check out their stake in oil and petrochemicals, investments whose value is likely to go down the moment we put a price on carbon dioxide emissions.
They've clearly leveraged that investment with the millions they've spent indoctrinating rubes through their multitudinous Tea Party organizations such as Americans for Plutocracy (er, I mean "Prosperity"). Convince an army of ignorants that climate change is a Vast Conspiracy of Evil Scientists and you can spend more time relaxing at the golf course knowing that your oil and coal investments are safe and sound.
"Let the seas rise. Let the wind blow." That's top Republican commentator Erick Erickson's position on climate change. I would say he's a "conservative" commentator, but there's absolutely nothing conservative about wanting to gas up your SUV cheaply now and while leaving the pollution bill for future generations to pay. It's pure selfishness - "I've got mine so screw you" presented as profound political philosophy.
Erickson may just be one blogger, but here he gets to the core motivations of today's Congressional Republican leadership - America isn't worth investing in. Energy? Just give me what's cheapest today - if we need alternatives tomorrow, someone else can spend the money on it. Education? If my family needs that, I can pay to send my children to private school, but I won't volunteer a dime in additional taxes to improve our community. The environment? I can buy home air filters and bottled water - if you can't, too bad for you & yours.
"We are all going to die," Erickson cynically concludes. "Just not today." And by then, it'll be up to our children and grandchildren to build massive hurricane barriers outside every East Coast city to keep out the rising seas and monster storms as the bill comes due for all that cheap coal, oil and fracked gas.
The CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp. says there's no quick replacement for oil, and sharply cutting oil's use to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would make it harder to lift 2 billion people out of poverty.
"What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?" CEO Rex Tillerson said at the oil giant's annual meeting Wednesday.
Think about how much oil the world's poor consume. Are they buying cars and driving to work, or are they walking or biking? Would they be helped more by lower gas prices for cars they can't afford anyway, or by making small-scale clean energy more affordable - solar-powered local water filtration systems, home solar stoves, and better battery storage?
A new Gallup poll shows worry about global warming and acceptance of the climate science consensus is up sharply in the last two years. Those spikes are not being fueled by Democrats or independents - they're being fueled by Republicans.
But the political conventional wisdom in Washington presents a very real obstacle to this reality breaking through. The same pundits who bemoan partisan polarization in one breath perpetuate it the next - all Democrats hate coal, and all Republicans hate clean air! The nuance of rank-and-file Republicans disagreeing with Republican party leadership stands little chance of breaking through these stereotypes.
Let's dig into the poll numbers. You could make the case that Republicans are just cooling off from the heated fight over clean energy & climate legislation that had party leaders, polluters, and conservative media telling them that they had to oppose climate action to support the team.
But we're just coming off an election year in which Republican candidates went after climate science and clean energy with renewed fury, yet rank-and-file Republican acceptance of the climate science consensus went up anyway. What's really going on here?
Is Ken Cuccinelli moving to the political center to win the Virginia governor's race? Um...no.
Quite to the contrary, our Ayatollah General is once again petitioning the courts to validate his favorite climate change conspiracy theories. Just last week, he asked the Supreme Court to throw out the US EPA's scientific finding that climate change represents a threat to human health.
If he wrote that he is filing his petition out of concern for his fossil fuel industry donors, who may have to sell a yacht or two if oil, gas and coal stocks sink, I might give him an A for honesty. No such luck -- his rationale (or more accurately, irrationale) is that thousands of scientists worldwide falsified their data as part of the biggest conspiracy since the faked moon landing.
David Doniger of NRDC demolishes this shoddy edifice in his blog by playing the dirty trick of quoting the last court -- the US Court of Appeals in Washington -- to throw this bum and his bull-hockey out on the street:
State and Industry Petitioners assert that EPA improperly "delegated" its judgment to the IPCC, USGCRP, and NRC by relying on these assessments of climate-change science. ... This argument is little more than a semantic trick. EPA did not delegate, explicitly or otherwise, any decision-making to any of those entities. EPA simply did here what it and other decisionmakers often must do to make a science-based judgment: it sought out and reviewed existing scientific evidence to determine whether a particular finding was warranted.[...]Relying again upon substantial scientific evidence, EPA determined that anthropogenically induced climate change threatens both public health and public welfare.[...]State Petitioners have not, as they assert, uncovered a "pattern" of flawed science. Only two of the errors they point out seem to be errors at all, and EPA relied on neither in making the Endangerment Finding.
But undeterred, our Kook presses onward. If you feel any temptation to praise him for his doggedness, please note that most conspiracy theorists tend to be just as persistent. That is because they are, not to put too fine a point on it, INSANE.
Predictions that a major El Niño warming event - and the coming solar maximum - would help make next year the warmest on record now seem wide of the mark. All eyes will probably be on the Arctic instead. Some say the record loss of sea ice in summer 2012 was a one-off, others that it was the start of a runaway collapse. If the latter, summer sea ice could virtually disappear as early as 2016. What is certain is that the ice reforming now will be the thinnest on record, priming it for destruction next summer. [...]
When our children are wondering why we didn't solve the climate crisis when we had the chance, I'm sure they'll be thankful we took the time to try to gut their retirement benefits.
This morning I watched Meet The Press host David Gregory and his panel not only agree Social Security and Medicare must be cut, but to brainstorm aloud strategy for making it happen. This very same panel had just gotten done unanimously agreeing that objective journalists are not allowed to say that Republicans are the problem in Washington. But they were now designing their very own political campaign.
Because people in the insular, wealthy world of Beltway politics will never need to put off a trip to the grocery store until their Social Security check arrives. The threat of going hungry could never compare to the alleged threat of the budget deficit.
The White House is now calling former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel a "solid" candidate for Defense Secretary, per the Washington Post. And certainly Hagel, who emerged as an opponent to Bush's bloody, wasteful Iraq War, has some things going for him.
But it's important to consider his entire career in making such a choice -- including Hagel's fierce and tragically successful efforts to kill the Kyoto climate treaty in the U.S. Senate.
Hagel was a Congressional observer in Kyoto during the negotiations over the landmark climate change treaty in 1997. His position on Kyoto was never ambiguous: "We will kill this if the president signs it." Or as he put it a few years later, in over-the-top language in support of the Bush administration's limp approach to the issue:
The Kyoto Protocol would have eliminated millions of jobs in America. It would have driven our economy downward. It would have eliminated opportunities for investment, such as clean energy technology, in developing countries. It would have driven a stake through any hope of prosperity for America.
Dr. Mann, a Professor and Director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, has instituted this lawsuit against the two organizations, along with two of their authors, based upon their false and defamatory statements accusing him of academic fraud and comparing him to a convicted child molester, Jerry Sandusky. [...]
In response to these types of accusations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation and seven other organizations have conducted investigations into Dr. Mann's work, finding any and all allegations of academic fraud to be baseless. Every investigation-and every replication of Mann's work-has concluded that his research and conclusions were properly conducted and fairly presented.
Despite their knowledge of the results of these many investigations, the defendants have nevertheless accused Dr. Mann of academic fraud and have maliciously attacked his personal reputation with the knowingly false comparison to a child molester. The conduct of the defendants is outrageous, and Dr. Mann will be seeking judgment for both compensatory and punitive damages.
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli clumsy attempt at "investigating" Dr. Mann's work was laughed out of court. Mann has been contemplating a lawsuit for months and is now moving forward, so he must feel he has a much stronger legal case than science's hapless enemies.
It's not true that if you slowly turn up the heat, a frog won't notice that his surroundings are getting hotter - the frog will jump out of the pot if he can. That's an allegory - but whether humans will recognize & respond to their warming climate is a very real & open question.
The Washington Post has no mention of climate impacts in its main story on the storm. Even its sidebar story detailing the record-shattering temperatures that fueled the derecho waits until its final sentence to say the rare storm "raises the question about the possible role of man-made climate warming" - but says any judgement must be left to after the frog has already boiled future case studies. Next to the storm coverage is an in-depth look at tar sands, one of the most carbon pollution-intensive fuels on the planet, but true to modern American journalism's View From Nowhere, the Post makes no connection between the two stories, not even on the editorial page.
The New York Times and CNN.com make no mention of climate change in their stories on the storms. Last night, CBS Radio News blamed the storms on "Mother Nature," skipping past ignorance to outright denial.
Reading these stories, I can't help but think of Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond. Past dominant societies have proved quite capable of blissfully ignoring all evidence of impending doom. So far, America's media is proving no different. Will 2012's record temperatures and extreme weather change that? Or be just another milepost on the road to disaster?
Norfolk, VA was 6 degrees above normal & broke its March record by 1 degree
Green Bay, WI was 10.4 degrees above normal & broke its March record by 4.4 degrees
Des Moines, IA was 9.8 degrees above normal & broke its March record by 3.7 degrees
Boston, MA was 6.4 degrees above normal & broke its March record by 1.6 degrees
Bismarck, ND was 9.1 degrees above normal & broke its March record by 0.5 degrees
While Europe and much of Asia have been colder than usual this year, it's not enough to offset the global trend. January-February were 0.67 degrees above the 20th century average and the 20th-warmest on record globally. NOAA has been unequivocal that global warming is fueling the trend. Have your local meteorologists been willing to point out that fact? And do your elected officials know it's time to act?
The National Park Service now agrees with what the Capital Weather Gang first predicted - our warm winter will have the Tidal Basin's cherry blossoms challenging the earliest peak bloom record, continuing the global warming-fueled trend. As this photo from Flickr's Richard Cline shows, they're already beginning to emerge.
A 2000 Smithsonian study showed the climate crisis already has the cherry blossoms emerging about a week earlier than they used to - but a new report says that could be just the tip of the iceberg:
Now comes a team of scientists theorizing that with drastic warming of the globe, future decades could see blossom times not just a few days early but advanced by almost a month.
That could mean a bloom process that begins in January, rather than February, a blooming period in February instead of March, and a peak bloom in early March, instead of early April, the research suggests.
Oddly, the study doesn't frame the challenge not as one of limiting our use of carbon-intensive fuels like oil and coal, but one strictly of limiting population growth:
Sea levels have already risen 8 inches since 1880 and thanks to global warming are forecast to rise at least several more feet in the lifetime of a child born today. A new study from Climate Central takes a look at what that means for people who live on America's coasts:
The studies look at people who live in homes within three feet of high tide, whereas old studies looked just at elevation above sea level, according to work published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Research and an accompanying report by Climate Central.
That's an important distinction because using high tide is more accurate for flooding impacts, said study co-author Jonathan Overpeck, a scientist at the University of Arizona's Institute of the Environment. And when the new way of looking at risk is factored in, the outlook looks worse, Overpeck said.
"It's shocking to see how large the impacts could be, particularly in southern Florida and Louisiana, but much of the coastal U.S. will share in the serious pain," Overpeck said.
And what about here in Virginia? I entered a very modest number - three feet of sea level rise, storm surge & tide - into the ClimateCentral.org model & here's what I got:
Climate science tells us it fits a long-term pattern and we can expect more of it if we don't cut our carbon pollution
Moms doing their exercises outdoors! With cute babies!
And that's it! Not controversial. Not political. No sound bite from the American Petroleum Institute necessary. Just the facts.
Many reporters think the way to dodge politics and controversy is to avoid mentioning the connection between climate change and extreme weather altogether. Just the opposite! Omitting facts and leaving a void of confusion in their place is no better than manufacturing a false "balance" with he said, she said reporting.
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