2009 - %3, December

How Do You Say "Astroturf" In Danish?

| Thu Dec. 3, 2009 11:02 AM EST

Americans for Prosperity, a "grassroots" group funded by a dirty energy conglomerate, has been travelling around the US this year to protest cap and trade legislation. Next week, it's taking its show to Copenhagen.

AFP President Tim Phillips and policy director Phil Kerpen will be broadcasting live from the United Nations Climate Change Conference on the day that Barack Obama plans to attend the summit. They worry that the US is bowing to "international 'green' pressure," said Phillips in a press release, and intend to call attention to "international global warming alarmism."

AFP's "Hot Air Tour" has made 75 stops in the US to date, complete with an actual hot air balloon. But this is the group's first foray into an international forum. Christopher Monckton, one of the world's more zany climate change deniers, will be joining Phillips and Kerpen. (See also this piece I wrote about Monckton's appearances before Congress earlier this year.) And for those back home in the US, AFP is also planning "grassroots" viewing events around the country.

But there's nothing particularly "grassroots" about AFP. It's funded largely by Koch Industries, the oil and gas industry giant. Back when the organization was known as Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation it also received money from ExxonMobil, before changing its name in 2003.

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Birther/Swiftboater Denied Copenhagen Press Credentials

Thu Dec. 3, 2009 10:46 AM EST

This year, the far-right news site WorldNetDaily has been consumed with "investigating" Barack Obama's eligibility to be president. But with the climate summit in Copenhagen approaching, WorldNetDaily has found some time to chase another big scandal: the coming era of one-world government, to be engineered by a secretive gaggle of world leaders using climate change as a cover. In order to report on this unfolding conspiracy, WND sought media credentials for its staff writer, Jerome Corsi. But the United Nations denied the request—and now WorldNetDaily is threatening to sue.

According to WND, a media co-ordinator named Axel Wuestenhagen turned down the website's request on the grounds that "advocacy publications of non-governmental or non-profit organizations do not qualify for media accreditation." WND's editor, Joseph Farah, counters that WND is an independent for-profit media corporation (the site also claims to be "the largest English-language independent Internet news agency.")

The UN announced earlier this week that it was suspending credential applications after receiving 5,000 requests, more than the venue at Copenhagen can hold. But it's possible that WND's journalistic track record didn't help its case, either. This year, WND published a document circulated by the queen bee of the birther movement, Orly Taitz, who claimed it was Barack Obama's Kenyan birth certificate. It was quickly shown to be a fake. Corsi, the staff writer that WND wanted to dispatch to Copenhagen, is the author of Unfit for Command, the book that fueled the swiftboating of John Kerry during the 2004 election. His second book, Obama Nation, was packed with so many errors that FactCheck.org said it would take a separate book to list them all. Last month, he wrote a piece that falsely claimed that Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, had advised the Obama transition team on homeland security matters.

WND's coverage of climate change has been similarly disingenuous. The site has published pieces—including some by Corsi—stating that the Earth is cooling, not warming, that science does not prove the existence of climate change, and that Obama's science czar, John Holdren, advocated forced abortions. Another piece observed that a British campaign to make children aware of energy efficiency was reminiscent of the Hitler Youth in Nazi Germany. WND has also sought to profit from its climate denialist stance. Its online store sells DVDs such as Global Warming or Global Governance? —just $14.99—which shows "how global governance puts global institutions that are not accountable to the American people in control of every aspect of our economy." Or, as WND editor Farah puts it: "These guys are essentially trying to take over the world." He's threatening to "aggressively" pursue all legal avenues should Corsi be denied access to the summit.

Three Questions: Will the EPA Regulate Greenhouse Gases? Is 100% Renewable Energy by 2030 Possible? Are PETA Really Terrorists?!?

| Thu Dec. 3, 2009 7:00 AM EST

 

Editor's Note: A weekly roundup from our friends over at TreeHugger. Enjoy!

EPA Petitioned to Regulate CO2 Using Clean Air Act, Cap at 350ppm

On and off for the past year we've heard statements about how the Environmental Protection Agency could really make an end run around Congressional inaction on climate and set a cap on carbon dioxide emissions though the Clean Air Act. Even Al Gore hinted at it during Climate Week NYC. Well now the Center for Biological Diversity and 350.org have petitioned the EPA to do just that.

USDA Classifies PETA as Terrorist Threat

PETA is one of the most controversial activist groups operating today. The group's contentious media campaigns, undercover operations, infamous advertising, and high profile demonstrations have made them perhaps the most notorious--and most polarizing--nonprofit organization there is. But are they terrorists? According to the US Department of Agriculture, they are now.

100% Renewables by 2030: Ambitious Plan or Pipe Dream?

A recent study by Mark Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, and Mark Delucchi, a research scientist at the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis, claims that the world could get to 100% renewables by 2030. Considering the immensity of the scale the world's power grids, nobody can't fault these two for lack of vision. But it is realistic, or just something nice to dream about, but without much chances of actually happening?

TreeHugger's Interview with Raul Vazquez, CEO of Walmart.com

Wal-Mart embodies truths and prejudices that reflect our consumer culture. They are a straw-man for a lot of what is wrong. But, especially in recent years, they are a powerful potential leader in trying to be right. Thanks to some networking by our fearless leader, Graham Hill, TreeHugger had an opportunity to speak at some length with Raul Vazquez, CEO of the growing eCommerce powerhouse walmart.com. We hear from his own mouth how walmart.com will implement the sustainability index being developed in cooperation with respected Universities and NGOs, whether walmart.com is out to take Amazon down, and how business on-line is developing for the retail giant.

Debunking the Great Global Warming Conspiracy Conspiracy

One of the strangest things about the ongoing non-controversy over the hacked climate emails is that it's revealed how irrational much of the thinking behind global warming denial really is. It's always been understood that people have fundamental reasons for resisting the idea that man's behavior is causing the climate to change—especially if they're deeply comfortable with said behavior. But I hadn't realized how many people actually—I mean really, truly—believe that climate change is a nefarious conspiracy concocted by elite liberals to... do what, exactly?

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for December 3, 2009

Thu Dec. 3, 2009 5:59 AM EST

A dog rides in a US Soldier's backpack on Combat Outpost Jeleran, Afghanistan, Nov. 20, 2009. The dog, named Cookie, is the unofficial mascot of the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment. (US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Francisco V. Govea II.)

Need To Read: December 3, 2009

Thu Dec. 3, 2009 5:58 AM EST

Today's must reads:

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Where are the Jobs?

| Thu Dec. 3, 2009 1:52 AM EST

Here's the end of Robert Samuelson's column today:

Obama can't be fairly blamed for most job losses, which stemmed from a crisis predating his election. But he has made a bad situation somewhat worse. His unwillingness to advance trade agreements (notably, with Colombia and South Korea) has hurt exports. The hostility to oil and gas drilling penalizes one source of domestic investment spending. More important, the decision to press controversial proposals (health care, climate change) was bound to increase uncertainty and undermine confidence. Some firms are postponing spending projects "until there is more clarity," Zandi notes. Others are put off by anti-business rhetoric. The recovery's vigor will determine whether unemployment declines rapidly or stays stubbornly high, and the recovery's vigor depends heavily on private business. Obama declines to recognize conflicts among goals. Choices were made — and jobs weren't always Job One.

Is he serious?  Unemployment is high because we don't have a trade agreement with South Korea and new oil fields haven't been opened up?  To say that's tissue thin is to insult tissues everywhere.  And suggesting that healthcare reform and "anti-business rhetoric" are slowing down the recovery hardly passes the laugh test either.  Surely Samuelson could have invented something better than this if he was really that desperate to hang something on Obama?

If Samuelson really cared about job growth, he might have spared a word or three for Republicans in Congress, who have steadfastly refused to consider the kind of serious stimulus measures that might actually promote employment.  But they stay oddly out of the picture.  I wonder why?

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Housekeeping Update

| Thu Dec. 3, 2009 1:14 AM EST

Ok, let's see if everything works.....

Hooray, it works!  Normal blogging to commence shortly.

Colorado State Considers Gun Ban

| Wed Dec. 2, 2009 9:52 PM EST

Colorado State University is one of the only universities in the country that allows concealed weapons on campus, but public safety experts and the university president's advisors think its about time for a gun ban, the Denver Post reports.

Following state law, the school's policy allows someone carrying a concealed weapon to bring it almost anywhere on campus, residence halls excluded. But in spite of calls for a ban, students are lobbying their university president to keep the school's gun policies as they are. "I think really it's an issue of if it's not broken, why fix it," Matt Strauch, spokesman for the Associated Students of CSU, told the Denver Post.

Twenty three states allow public colleges and universities to decide on their own weapons policies, but almost all of them chose to be "gun free," according to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. Along with CSU, a few other schools that allow concealed weapons on campus include Virginia's Blue Ridge Community College and Michigan State University. Utah is the only state that prohibits public institutions from barring guns on campus.

Students against the ban drafted a formal proposal yesterday in favor of maintaing the school's current gun policies, arguing that most shootings on college campuses take place at schools with bans on concealed weapons. A gun ban would leave students defenseless against the threats of rape, robbery, and assault, the proposal states.

CSU faculty council chair and physics professor Richard Eykholt says encouraging students to respond to a campus shooting with more gun fire creates the unecessary opportunity for more bystanders to get hit with additional flying bullets. Plus, perpetrators in school shootings are determined to kill themselves and others, he told the Denver Post. "I don't think they'd be deterred by threates of anyone having a gun."  

A Congressional vote this past summer indicated that some politicians in Washington may agree with the CSU faculty. In July, the Senate voted 58-39 to defeat an amendment to a military spending bill that would have allowed concealed weapons carriers to bring their guns across state lines. The measure would have forced states with tough gun laws to accept gun-toting visitors from states with weaker laws. Check out David Corn's post on the topic for more about the vote.

UN Targets China's Wind Farms

| Wed Dec. 2, 2009 5:25 PM EST

The Clean Development Mechanism, a UN body which helps industrial countries like China cut emissions by paying undeveloped countries to cut their emissions instead, has saved the Chinese government millions of dollars. But many environmentalists worry that China’s renewable energy projects, particularly its wind farms, do not fulfill the CDM's "additionality" requirements. In other words, they could be receiving foreign funds for projects that would have been built anyway. Responding to these concerns, the CDM has suspended some Chinese wind farms until it can be proven that they meet additionality requirements. 

Officials in China were predictably opposed to the decision:

CDM officials raised questions after Beijing cut prices that utilities would be required to pay for wind power, said Lin Wei, general manager of Easy Carbon Consultancy Co. in Beijing, a consultant for CDM projects. Such a price cut might make projects appear to need more foreign financing by reducing their revenues.
"They thought the government believed CDM money would be coming in anyway so the government was making prices lower so that Chinese projects could have extra 'additionality' to get extra funding," Lin said.
However, Wang and Lin said the price cuts reflect lower costs for wind projects as technology improves.
"Of course we don't agree" with the CDM board, Wang said. "They totally know nothing about the real situation in China's wind power (industry)." (emphasis mine)

In the current issue of Mother Jones, Mark Schapiro writes about CDM's potential for manipulation by developed countries and international corporations, and a carbon sink dilemma in Brazil that has displaced the region's indigenous population. Heading into the Copenhagen Climate Conference, the UN's decision to crack down on China's wind farms could signal heightened accountability for the CDM and carbon sinks. But will it only make China a more difficult bargaining partner?

Housekeeping Note

| Wed Dec. 2, 2009 1:55 PM EST

We're upgrading our site today to newer, faster, better, and more reliable software.  Hooray!  That also means the site will be shut down for the next few hours.  Boo!  You'll still be able to read everything, but comments will be shut down and there will be no new posting for the rest of the afternoon.

I'll be back later tonight if everything goes well.  We may encounters a few hiccups as we settle in (did I mention that this is a software upgrade?), but after that everything should be much smoother around here.  Keep your fingers crossed.