Endangered Species Act Fail

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been so ineffective at recovering species that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has fabricated a record of success.

That’s the finding from Robert Gordon in a Heritage Foundation report.

New Heritage Foundation report highlights failures of Endangered Species Act

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been so ineffective at recovering species that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has fabricated a record of success.”

Robert Gordon, The Heritage Foundation

Revealing a stunning record of failure and fabrication over nearly half-a-century, a new report by Robert Gordon of the Heritage Foundation calls for sweeping administrative reforms of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Enacted in 1973, the ESA has managed to “recover” only 40 species, or slightly less than one species per year.

“If not one more bird. beetle, or bear were added to the list of federally endangered or threatened animals and plants and somehow species recovered at 10 times that rate,” the report notes, “It would take well over a century-and-a-half to work through the current list. There is, however, no indication that the list of regulated species will stop growing.”

“Federally Funded Fiction”

Even worse, almost half of the “recovered” species – 18 out of 40 – are what Gordon calls “federally funded fiction.” It turns out that these 18 “recovered” species were never endangered in the first place and were placed on the endangered species list due to poor data. This, however, has not kept the Department of Interior’s Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) from trumpeting their “recovery” as a success.

“This deceitful practice portrays mistakes as successes, distorting the most important measure of the program,” Gordon writes. “It also triggers other mandatory actions further wasting taxpayer dollars, serves as a justification for the adoption of more restrictive land management practices by other agencies, obscures significant problems with the data used to justify listing species, and erodes the overall credibility of the Service and the program.”

Were it not for the incompetence and dishonesty of the FWS, the examples of phony recoveries cited in the report would be comical. The Concho water snake found itself on the endangered list, because the FWS determined that the construction of a reservoir would destroy its habitat. After the reservoir was created, the snake slithered right in, and its numbers thrived. Also, the FWS found that it had grossly underestimated the size of the snake’s range. In touting the success of the snake’s “recovery,” the FWS said the creature had faced “habitat modification and destruction” but refused to acknowledge that the water snake was never threatened.

Johnston’s Frankenia, a plant found only in a few counties in southern Texas, was put on the endangered species list in 1984. At the time, the FWS claimed there were only five population with about 1,000 plants and that they were facing “grazing pressure.” Subsequent surveys found about 4 million plants by one estimate – and over 9 million by another. While the estimate of 4 million was available by 1999, it took the FWS another 17 years to delist the plant.

Then there is the Maguire daisy, an example of taxonomic error. In 2011, the FWS triumphantly announced the delisting of the daisy in a press release titled. “[A]n Endangered Species Success Story,” stating that the “population of the daisy was known to number seven plants when it was listed as endangered in 1985 but now numbers 163,000 plants with 10 populations….It is the 21st species to be delisted due to recovery.” Gordon points out, however, that the larger numbers reflects more thorough surveys and “the fact that the Maguire Daisy and another plant that had been believed to be distinct were in fact the same species.”

Impact on Landowners and Businesses

“Even if a species should never have been listed, while it is listed, landowners or businesses whose actions might unintentionally harm a member are potentially subject to the ESA’s fines and penalties,” Gordon writes. The report’s appendix provides information on 100 listed species that were or may have been erroneously listed but remain regulated under the ESA as well as a number that are possibly extinct.

The ESA has been a mess for decades, wasting public and private resources while doing precious little for the plants and animals it is supposed to protect. In the absence of a thorough congressional overhaul of the broken law – something that is as desirable as it is unlikely – Gordon makes several recommendations for dealing with the ESA’s flaws administratively.

Among other things, he recommends having the Interior Secretary issue an order directing the FWS to accurately identify the data that form the basis for removing or downlisting a species. Also, the FWS should correct the record by identifying and revising the basis of delisting for those species that the FWS has wrongly declared to have recovered. In addition, FWS should be directed to aggressively pursue the delisting of species listed using erroneous data or that are extinct.

The meticulously researched Heritage report provides an overview of the sham that is the ESA. Bureaucrats at the FWS can spend a lucrative 30-year career overseeing the “recovery” of a grand total of two species while imposing land-use restrictions throughout rural America that harm humans and do next to nothing for wildlife.

About the Author:

Bonner Cohen, Ph. D.

Bonner Cohen, Ph. D.

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D., is a senior policy analyst with CFACT.

Protecting environmental quality

Last time we saw how technology allows us to use more fossil fuels and have a cleaner environment. Now let’s turn to the role of laws in protecting and improving environmental quality.

The importance of thresholds

One of the motivators of the technology improving environmental quality is having laws that protect individuals from having their environment contaminated by other people. Proper pollution laws set thresholds of health and safety.

When we discuss policy we’ll talk about the trade-offs involved in setting those laws. For example, you can’t demand a perfectly zero emissions environment, which would mean among other things not allowing other people to breathe. Human diseases are actually much more dangerous than the emissions from the machines that we use.

We need laws that recognize that some amount of emissions is inevitable so that we have the right to produce and use energy but at the same time we need laws to protect our health and safety.

All forms of energy can threaten environmental quality

This is not just an issue for fossil fuels. All forms of energy can pose a threat to environmental quality without proper technology and laws. For example, producing wind turbines involves rare earth metals, which are highly toxic and can make the people mining them very sick and they can also be very hazardous when you need to dispose of the materials.

We need environmental laws and health and safety laws for every form of energy. Remember, every form of energy has potential benefits and potential risks. None are completely perfect, although some are better in different respects than others.

We need to look at the full context and we need to look at it carefully.

RELATED ARTICLE: Scott Pruitt’s Mission to Make EPA Operate More Efficiently

Media laments Trump/North Korea summit ‘could have a negative effect on global warming’

WASHINGTON DC — The media’s obsession with “global warming” has now reached a new level of absurdity as concerns are now being raised that a President Donald Trump summit with North Korea “could have a negative effect on global warming.” And the media is even portraying North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un as more forward-thinking than Trump because Kim is “more in line with global thinking” on “climate change” and supports the UN Paris climate agreement.

E&E News reports that contrary to Kim, Trump “plans to withdraw the United States from [the UN Paris pact] despite an uproar from allies around the world.” The UK Guardian has also praised North Korea for being the ideal climate citizen state. See: 2014 UK Guardian: ‘North Korea: An Unlikely Champion in the Fight Against Climate Change’

The May 21, 2018 article in E&E News by Jean Chemnick, reports:

“The anticipated meeting between President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un could put the former real estate tycoon eye to eye with a reviled autocrat who appears more in line with global thinking on one issue: climate change. North Korea is a party to the Paris Agreement, the 2015 pact that Trump plans to withdraw the United States from despite an uproar from allies around the world.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shaking hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. White House/Twitter

That’s because if sanctions against North Korea are lifted, the hermit nation’s coal could flow onto the world market, with the bulk of it ending up in South Korea, Japan and China.

The E&E article notes that North Korea is making very impressive commitments to reduce it’s CO2 emissions and featured Kim hurling insults at Trump for not staying in the UN Paris agreement.

E&E News: North Korea — whose carbon emissions rank in the bottom half of nations worldwide — put forward a hefty commitment to cut its greenhouse gases 37.4 percent compared with 1990 levels. And as Trump was pulling the United States out of the agreement last June, Kim described Trump’s decision as “the height of egotism.’

Of course, it is not surprising that Kim supports the UN Paris agreement which purports to control the climate of the earth.  Kim believes he can control the weather:

See: 2017: North Korean media claims Kim Jong Un can control weather — According to North Korea’s state media, Kim Jong Un controlled the weather when he scaled a sacred mountain…The state media claimed that it was snowing because the mountain wanted to give a “warm welcome” to Kim Jong Un. According to the report, Mount Paektu wanted to “show joy at the appearance of the peerlessly illustrious commander who controls the nature.”

In addition, the E&E news article failed to present the most stunning image of North Korea’s dire energy poverty.

Shock Image: It’s Always ‘Earth Hour’ in North Korea: Electricity ‘is the difference between the Dark Age and the present age’

satellite image of the korean penninsula at night, showing city lighting

E&E News did note: “Most ordinary North Koreans live without power during the day, despite the country’s status as a net energy exporter. That energy poverty kept North Korea’s greenhouse gas emissions at 63.8 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2013, while South Korea put out 673.5 MtCO2e — more than 10 times as much.”

Related Link: 

NY Times Warns Climate Change May Be ‘Greater Threat to Guam’ than N. Korea

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is by by Yonhap.

The Government Relies on Flawed Data to Determine Endangered Species

Americans who live in or near a community built around a lake should be careful about stepping outside to mow the lawn if the temperature isn’t just right and the grass isn’t a certain height.

They should keep pets indoors. They should forget about using weed killer. And they should be prepared to pony up a steep homeowners association fee.

That’s because there may be snakes in the area protected by the Endangered Species Act of 1973, which imposes stiff penalties and fines for violating its rules and restrictions.

Rob Gordon, a senior research fellow with The Heritage Foundation, discovered the situation while researching the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 1999 decision to list the Lake Erie water snake as a “threatened” species.

The Fish and Wildlife Service estimated the population of that particular water snake to be somewhere between 1,530 and 2,030 at the time. But just a few years later, the agency revised it to 5,690.

The government either made a “substantial underestimation” with the initial listing or the water snake had “a truly miraculous population growth rate” in a short time, Gordon observes in a recently published research paper that finds the listing process under the Endangered Species Act to be riddled with “erroneous data.”

Gordon concludes that “essentially half of the species” identified by Fish and Wildlife Service officials as “recovered” never should have been listed in the first place.

The regulatory fallout for developers, homeowners, and business owners who run up against the endangered species law is the same regardless of whether federal officials used sound science or flawed methodology, Gordon told The Daily Signal in an interview.

“Once a species is listed, it is regulated and the way it’s regulated doesn’t vary dependent upon the quality of the data the agency used,” Gordon said. “If one listing is legitimate and another listing is illegitimate based on erroneous data, the practical consequences are the same to the property owner or the business owner. He or she still faces the same restrictions whether or not these restrictions are legitimately based on science.”

After reviewing the Fish and Wildlife Service’s documentation in the case of the Lake Erie water snake, Gordon found the agency worked to impose “surreal regulatory hurdles” against a developer who sought to build seven houses on 15 acres.

The Fish and Wildlife Service called for easements to be placed on over five acres of lakefront property that would be donated to a nonprofit organization. The agency also sought a $50,000 “contribution” from the developer to cover construction of a hibernation habitat for the snakes, and creation of a homeowners association that would impose additional restrictions.

‘Federally Funded Fiction’

The case of the Lake Erie water snake “is a small example of the heavy-handed regulatory process for just one of the nearly 1,700 listed species to which landowners and businesses are repeatedly subject across the nation,” Gordon writes in his paper.

Although the government delisted the snake in 2011, numerous restrictions popped up in the meantime.

Homeowners association restrictions stipulated that residents make sure no snake was within 20 feet when applying weed killer to poison ivy, that they not allow cats outside, and that they abide by seasonal height and temperature guidelines for mowing lawns. Collectively, residents also had to provide up to $18,750 for snake research, and allow researchers to have access to their properties.

“This seems really over the top, doesn’t it?” Gordon asked in the interview with The Daily Signal. “And keep in mind that the snake’s actual population numbers were probably undercounted in the first place.”

Gordon describes the recovery figures that Fish and Wildlife officials cite as “federally funded fiction” that dramatically inflate the number of species that genuinely were endangered and subsequently preserved.

“With all the ESA’s costs and burdens, it should perhaps come as no surprise that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is fabricating success stories to cover up this unsustainable mess and substituting fluff for statutorily required reporting regarding the recovery program,” he writes of the law in his paper.

The errors that result in listing species that are not genuinely endangered stem in large part from the “low bar for scientific data” set by the agency, Gordon concluded.

The Endangered Species Act calls for the “best available scientific and commercial data” to be used in the listing process. But here’s the problem, from Gordon’s point of view: Fish and Wildlife officials interpreted this directive to mean the information underpinning a listing doesn’t need to be complete or accurate.

“The agency has not set a high enough bar and sometimes they are using scant or even nonexistent data to list species,” Gordon told The Daily Signal. “They are using speculation and surmise as opposed to verifiable data, and in some instances they won’t even share the data. It’s no wonder that consequently all sorts of species are erroneously listed. That’s what happens when you have weak data standards.”

How bad is the problem?

Of 1,662 plants and animals listed by the Fish and Wildlife Service as either “endangered” or “threatened” in the past 45 years, the government had removed 68 before Gordon published his paper in April.

Of those 68, 11 were removed from the list because they had gone extinct and 19 were removed because of errors in the original data. That leaves 38 species delisted because they were “recovered.”

Taxpayers on Hook for ‘Deceitful Practices’

Under the Endangered Species Act, the conservation process involves “the use of all methods and procedures which are necessary to bring any endangered species or threatened species to the point at which the measures provided … are no longer necessary.”

Endangered species are considered to be at the brink of extinction, while threatened species are considered likely to be so in the near future.

Gordon initially determined that “almost half” of the 38 species listed as “recovered” were actually “false recoveries” because they were based upon original data error.

However, since his paper was published three more species have been delisted and he has concluded that two—the lesser long-nosed bat and the black-capped vireo—were listed based on erroneous data.

For this reason, he now says “essentially half” of the species the Fish and Wildlife Service identified as recovered are not genuine recoveries.

Gordon says he also found other examples of “recovered” species that are really “mixed bags,” meaning the number of recoveries resting on erroneous data could be much higher.

(The full list of delisted species is available here.)

The Daily Signal sought comment from the Interior Department and the Fish and Wildlife Service on Gordon’s findings and whether Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke might consider his recommended reforms. Officials had not responded as of publication.

Unfortunately, U.S. taxpayers are footing the bill for “deceitful practices that portray mistakes as successes,” Gordon told The Daily Signal.

That’s because each listing sets in motion mandatory actions and government expenditures under federal law, he said.

For instance, according to Gordon’s paper, the Fish and Wildlife Service reported in 2014 that the “median cost for preparing and publishing a 90-day finding is $39,276; for a 12-month finding, $100,690; for a proposed rule with critical habitat, $345,000; and for a final listing rule with critical habitat, $305,000.”

“These are just the paperwork costs and the bureaucratic costs of listing species whether they were legitimately listed or if they were listed based on erroneous data,” he told The Daily Signal. “But they are a drop in the bucket compared to the costs borne by private parties such as companies, farmers, and ranchers who have to comply with all kinds of mandates and have to absorb the loss in the value of their land because of their inability to use it and other significant opportunity costs.”

Special Interest Groups Drive Litigation

Gordon points to restrictions the Fish and Wildlife officials sought to impose to protect the Lake Erie water snake as an example of excessively burdensome costs.

Gordon’s paper was the subject of a panel discussion April 25 at The Heritage Foundation where he was joined by Rob Roy Ramey, a wildlife biologist based in Denver, and Jonathan Wood, a lawyer with the Pacific Legal Foundation who specializes in environmental and constitutional law.

Ramey called for greater openness and transparency on the part of federal officials and suggested that all the data Fish and Wildlife officials use in their decisions to list species should be made public.

“That way we have a common currency of accountability available to the entire nation,” Ramey said at the Heritage event. Without access to the data, he said, “there’s no opportunity for reproducibility,” which means listing and delisting decisions may not be based on the best scientific information.

Ramey cited several examples of responses from government officials who resisted information requests. His personal favorite came from a “rogue recovery team member” who said:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service data was deliberately provided in a format that would not facilitate detailed analysis by those unfamiliar with the manner in which the data was collected.

Other examples included “the data you requested are proprietary,” “we are still using this data,” and “those data may no longer exist.”

Ramey warned that Fish and Wildlife officials who have “cherry-picked” and “fabricated” data to list species as endangered or threatened drew resources away from creatures in genuine need of protection, such as blue whales, California condors, rhinoceroses, and gorillas.

Wood, the lawyer with the Pacific Legal Foundation, a nonprofit headquartered in Sacramento, California, credited Gordon with research that shows how often examples of species recovery touted as successes for the Endangered Species Act “are little more than fake news.”

Special interest groups play a role in the listing process, Wood said at the Heritage event.

“What really drives the Endangered Species Act is litigation,” he said. “The reality is that the listing process is fundamentally broken, it is completely litigation driven, and it is a problem for administrations regardless of party.”

The Obama administration sought to develop a work plan to “seize some control back” over the listing process, Wood told the audience, so that key factors such as a species’ actual vulnerability would be considered and a listing would not be the result of “which special interest group is yelling the loudest.”

Potential Reforms for Interior Department

In his research, Gordon highlighted examples of listings where the initial count of a species population was dramatically off based on flawed methodology. He cited the Monito gecko during his talk at Heritage.

This lizard resides on Monito Island off the coast of Puerto Rico, which spans about 40 acres surrounded by 217-foot cliffs. The initial search Fish and Wildlife officials used as the basis to list the species in 1982 was organized during the day, when 18 lizards were found.

“The problem here is that the lizard is nocturnal,” Gordon told The Daily Signal. “So, if you are walking around during the middle of the day, you are not going to find it. The creature burrows down into rocks. In 2016, they finally did a proper survey during the evening and they came up with an estimate of about 5,000 to 10,000 geckos. That’s what you call a big difference.”

Gordon spelled out several potential reforms that the Trump administration’s Interior Department could embrace under Zinke’s leadership.

For starters, Zinke could issue an order directing the Fish and Wildlife Service “to accurately identify the data that forms the bases for removing or downlisting species,” Gordon writes in his report.

He also recommends that the agency correct the record and acknowledge instances where a species was wrongly declared to have “recovered.”

“Right now, the Fish and Wildlife Service asserts that the listings are driven by science, but in truth the listings are often driven by litigation and the scientific standards are so weak that they are often listing species as endangered when they should never have been listed,” Gordon said, adding:

The first step in correcting the problem is to admit that it exists. What needs to be done now is to go back and look at species that were claimed as recovered and to put your foot down and acknowledge that many of them were not really recoveries and they were based on erroneous data. Then, going forward, they need to make sure future listings are not based on speculation.

COLUMN BY

Portrait of Kevin Mooney

Kevin Mooney

Kevin Mooney is an investigative reporter for The Daily Signal. Send an email to Kevin. Twitter: @KevinMooneyDC.

Dear Readers:

With the recent conservative victories related to tax cuts, the Supreme Court, and other major issues, it is easy to become complacent.

However, the liberal Left is not backing down. They are rallying supporters to advance their agenda, moving this nation further from the vision of our founding fathers.

If we are to continue to bring this nation back to our founding principles of limited government and fiscal conservatism, we need to come together as a group of likeminded conservatives.

This is the mission of The Heritage Foundation. We want to continue to develop and present conservative solutions to the nation’s toughest problems. And we cannot do this alone.

We are looking for a select few conservatives to become a Heritage Foundation member. With your membership, you’ll qualify for all associated benefits and you’ll help keep our nation great for future generations.

ACTIVATE YOUR MEMBERSHIP TODAY

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of U.S Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Meg Marriott, left, trudging with intern Amy Newman to a trapping site for the salt marsh harvest mouse near California’s Napa-Sonoma Marshes Wildlife Area in this 2011 photo. The mouse was first listed as an endangered species in 1970. (Photo: Aric Crabb/Oakland Tribune/MCT/Newscom)

More fossil fuels, a cleaner environment

It is certainly true that fossil fuel use can cause significant harm to environmental quality, but as you can see from this chart, as fossil fuel use has gone up in the US, concentrations of air pollutants have gone down, which contradicts the catastrophic pollution narrative.

image

We can use more fossil fuels and have a cleaner environment. What’s behind this? The cause is technology plus laws. Let’s start with the technology.

Technology vs. pollution

Here’s a question. What industry invented recycling? The oil industry invented recycling. In the 1800s the oil industry was refining crude oil into kerosene but they had a lot of waste material because you might get only 50% kerosene from the crude. The rest of it was unusable and sometimes would just be dumped into a river.

But thanks to human ingenuity, we not only stopped dumping the waste into rivers; we started transforming what had been waste into wealth. For example, the industry began generating waxes and lubricants and all kinds of other useful materials from oil.

Then in the 20th century, they developed processes to break down the crude oil and its hydrocarbons into petrochemicals, which as we’ve seen have created countless different products. That’s a way in which something that can be a negative can be turned into a positive.

You can also use technology to dramatically reduce emissions sometimes to the point where they are completely benign. North Dakota, for instance, has coal power and also some of the world’s cleanest air. How does that happen?

Using technology, you can mitigate threats–and you can even turn them into benefits.

EDITORS NOTE: University of Maryland economist Julian Simon noted in his 1981 book that the human brain is the “ultimate resource.” Humans can innovate themselves out of scarcity by becoming more efficient, increasing supply, and developing substitutes. Hammond presents the following facts:

New technologies and improved farming methods have led humanity to use less land, while producing more food, which is then sold at a cheaper price. In 2013, the world used 26 million fewer hectares of farmland than it did at the turn of the millennium. To take cereals as an example: A hectare today produces on average 118 percent more yield than it would have 50 years ago. If all farmers could reach the productivity of an average U.S. farmer, the world could return a land mass the size of India back to nature.

As for the finite resource that our modern world depends upon, consider fossil fuels. Thanks to improved detection and drilling technology, there are now far more oil and gas reserves than ever before. Since 1980, proven oil reserves have increased by over 151 percent; for gas this figure was 163 percent. To put these data into perspective, in 2015 we used 34 billion barrels of crude oil, while we discovered another 53.2 billion barrels each year between 2010 and 2015.

We’re solving the problems of hungerpovertyilliteracydiseaseinfant mortalityfood production and much more at an unprecedented rate. And instead of becoming more scarce, natural resources are actually declining in price.

How we create fossil fuel resources

Resources are things you can use. But despite the popular expression “natural resources,” nature gives us very little in the way of usable resources. It gives us raw materials but we need to use human ingenuity to transform those raw materials into resources.

Human beings are not resource depleters, we are resource creators.

That’s the issue I want to discuss here, focusing on energy resources.

We have more fossil fuel resources than ever before

The catastrophic depletion argument says we are depleting energy resources by using fossil fuels, which will be disastrous to us and to future generations because we have made ourselves dependent on these resources. In reality we have more resources now, including more fossil fuel resources, than people had 300 years ago, before we started producing fossil fuels.

Look at this chart.

image

The line on the bottom shows the world’s consumption of oil over time. Notice how the line slopes slightly up, which means every year on average we’re consuming a little bit more oil. Then the line on top represents our oil reserves.

Think about this for a second. We use more oil every year but we have more oil every year.

How we create fossil fuel resources

How is this possible? What’s going on is that fossil fuel resources are created, not taken. We’re taught to think of oil reserves as a fixed amount that nature gives us that we’re constantly using up. That’s not how it works. What happens instead is that people find progressively better ways to find, extract, refine, and use oil.

For example, in the 1800s people discovered something called “skunk oil.” It was unusable because it had a lot of sulfur in it and smelled like rotten eggs. Then people figured out how to refine it so this previously unusable product became oil. They used ingenuity to expand the supply of usable oil. The popular term “oil reserves” just refers to the amount that’s currently in inventory: basically, the amount it makes sense to develop given our current technology and economics.

As we evolve, as we figure out new ways to turn non-resources into resources, we can take more and more unusable hydrocarbon and make it usable. With any given fossil fuel there’s likely at least ten times more of it than we’ve used in the entire history of civilization.

That’s one reason we shouldn’t be worried about running out of fossil fuels. The other reason not to be concerned is that we have the unlimited ability to create other energy resources as well.

image

This doesn’t mean we can just ban some form of energy today without severe consequences. What it does mean is that over time we could potentially transform anything in the world into energy. Just the potential of nuclear technology alone shows that we don’t have to worry about running out of energy.

The key to abundant energy resources is to leave people free so that overtime they can continue to evolve new and better ways to get energy.

If people are free, then even if you would run out of fossil fuels in 200 years, you would gradually transition to something else. If fossil fuels became more scarce relative to demand, the price of fossil fuels would go up and then that would incentivize other people to compete.

I call this “evolving energy.” We’ll never run out of energy as long as we are always free to produce and use the most cost effective energy at any given time. The challenge we face isn’t using up a fixed amount of energy. There’s just an ongoing challenge of figuring out new ways to create the best form of energy under freedom.

The 3 Concerns About Fossil Fuels

As we learned last time, the three alleged unique risks of fossil fuels are:

  1. catastrophic resource depletion
  2. catastrophic pollution
  3. catastrophic climate change

In this column I want to briefly elaborate on each of those potential risks.

The catastrophic resource depletion argument

This argument claims that because fossil fuels are nonrenewable, because they don’t replenish automatically in the way that the sun or the wind do, we will inevitably deplete them and that will cause a disaster because we depend on them.

You can think of what I just said as the three Ds. We depend on them, deplete them, causing a disaster.

The catastrophic pollution argument

This argument claims that, because producing and using fossil fuels involve emissions and other wastes such as coal dust from coal mining or fluid from fracking, over time our air and water will continuously get dirtier and deadlier.

The catastrophic climate change argument

This argument claims that CO2 and other greenhouse gases are creating a progressively unlivable climate. While this argument often goes by “climate change,” I think that’s way too vague and it also assumes that CO2 has a certain effect without proving it. Instead, I like to start by talking about the issue in terms of CO2 or “the CO2 issue.”

As we’ll see, it’s a clearer way of thinking about the issue to start with the fact that burning fossil fuels releases CO2 and then to investigate the claim that a side effect of this process is catastrophic climate change.

image

The basic claim here is that CO2 emissions have a warming influence and that if we have enough of those emissions from using fossil fuels, it will lead to catastrophic climate change. We’ll go in-depth into the mechanics of the warming influence of CO2 but that’s the high-level idea.

The positive impact of energy

Those are the three potential unique risks of fossil fuels. Now, you might think that this covers everything, but there’s one more issue that we have to cover in order to assess the full context.

There’s an underlying assumption that when we talk about energy and environment that the impact of energy is either neutral or negative. A source of energy is either dirty or not dirty.

This is wrong in two ways.

One way is that every source of energy is dirty in the sense that everything has a byproduct in one form or another: in every energy process there is some degree of negative impact. A black-and-white view of “dirty versus clean energy” is counterproductive and leads to wrong decisions.

The other way the negative view of energy and our environment is wrong is that it only takes into account potential negative impacts of energy on our environment, including our climate. To understand the environmental impact of fossil fuels or any other form of energy, and to assess the risks, we need to learn about impacts that are almost never discussed: positive environmental impacts.

VIDEO: Move over Rachel Carson! – Politically Incorrect Climate Book outselling ‘Silent Spring’ at Earth Day

During the days following Earth Day, Rachel Carson’s venerable environmental book ‘Silent Spring’ is currently being outsold and deposed during the time of Earth Day by Marc Morano’s new best-selling book,  “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Climate Change,” from Regnery Books. Morano also presented the book to EPA chief Scott Pruitt and was featured in an 18-minutes interview on the 700 Club with Pat Robertson.

“The Politically Incorrect Guide to Climate Change,” is currently ranked an Amazon “best seller” and continues to be ranked number one in Climatology, Environment and Nature, Earth Sciences on Amazon. The book had been sold out for weeks at Amazon, Walmart, Target, Barnes & Noble. (See:Sold out! Politically Incorrect Climate Book sells out at Amazon, Target & Walmart! )

The book is now back in stock and on its third printing. The book continues to rank in top 100 on all book sales at Amazon.

As the book’s success continues unabated, Morano has been subjected to increasing hostility for his skeptical stance. See:DEATH WISH: ‘People like you should just die, motherf*cker’ — ‘Go to Hell’ – Skeptical climate book author Morano’s hate mail of the day

This week, book author Morano presented the book to EPA chief Scott Pruitt at EPA headquarters.

Blogger Marc Morano presents his book, “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Climate Change,” to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt yesterday. Photo credit: Marc Morano/Twitter

Marc Morano presented his book, “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Climate Change,” to EPA chief Scott Pruitt. (4-24-18) Morano/Twitter

Morano on EPA Chief Scott Pruitt: Begins at 31:27: ‘You see the attacks Trump’s under with all the daily attacks on his EPA chief Scott Pruitt. Pruitt has committed heresy in Washington. He’s done what no other Republican EPA chief has done and I’ll repeat that Scott Pruitt,  Donald Trump’s EPA chief — has done what no other Republican EPA chief had done. He’s stood up to the climate change establishment. George W. Bush appointees didn’t do it. George H.W. Bush’s appointees did not do it.  Pruitt had done it and they are going after him. They are trying to get rid of Pruitt because he had the audacity to try to actually fulfill Donald Trump’s campaign promises on climate which they cannot fathom in Washington.’

Sold out! Politically Incorrect Climate Book sells out at Amazon, Target & Walmart! Ranked as ‘Best Seller’

Order Your Book Copy Now! ‘The Politically Incorrect Guide to Climate Change’ By Marc Morano

Related Links: 

Sold out! Politically Incorrect Climate Book sells out at Amazon, Target & Walmart! Ranked as ‘Best Seller’

Order Your Book Copy Now! ‘The Politically Incorrect Guide to Climate Change’ By Marc Morano

E&E News Features Pic of Morano presenting ‘Politically Incorrect’ climate book to EPA Chief Pruitt at EPA HQ

Marc Morano presented his book, “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Climate Change,” to EPA chief Scott Pruitt yesterday. (4-24-18) Morano/Twitter

Read: Bonus chapter: Intimidating the ‘Deniers’ to Enforce the ‘Consensus’ – Climate ‘deniers’ threatened with being ‘thrown in jail’

Update: Morano’s new book shoots to #1 at Amazon in 4 Categories! Climatology, Earth Sciences, Env. Science & Nature & Ecology

New Book: ‘The Politically Incorrect Guide to Climate Change’ – by the ‘evil planet killer Marc Morano’ – ‘Like a bullet, it is now the #1 New Release in Environmental Science books

The book has been endorsed by Nobel Prize Winning scientist Dr. Ivar Giaever. (see below) The new book also comes out just in time to greet the upcoming UN IPCC climate report already making the media rounds: See: Leaked UN IPCC Draft Report calls for ‘a radical transformation of society’ – Predicts 1.5°C Warming By 2043

This book is the ultimate reference guide to climate change and no parent should be without a copy as their kids under climate education at school from elementary through college!

What about the risks?

In the next few columns we will be looking at concerns about the fossil fuel industry and how to discuss those concerns.

A quick review

So far we’ve discussed the unique benefits of using fossil fuels. The big idea there was that the fossil fuel industry produces cheap, plentiful, reliable energy on a scale that no other industry can match.

Therefore, for the foreseeable future, billions of people depend on the fossil fuel industry to have access to energy at all.

Everyone else depends on the industry to have access to cheap, plentiful, reliable energy.

We also saw that any discussion of what to do about energy has to recognize these unique benefits of using fossil fuels.

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Looking ahead

Just as we cannot ignore the unique benefits of fossil fuels, we cannot ignore any unique risks of using fossil fuels.

For any product we have to look at the full context, both unique benefits and the unique risks. Or to be more precise, the potential unique benefits and the potential unique risks. I stress the word “potential” because before you explore something that might be a risk or a benefit, you don’t know if it’s a risk or a benefit. We didn’t know, before we explored the potential positives of fossil fuels, whether there were any unique positives.

By the same token, we don’t know whether there are any unique negatives, when we start. We certainly know that there are some very strong claims that there are unique negatives. Those claims are worth understanding and exploring.

There are three main claims that exist about the risks of fossil fuels:

  1. catastrophic resource depletion
  2. catastrophic pollution
  3. catastrophic climate change

We need to understand these three arguments for our own decision making and for persuading others.

This was a lot of what motivated my own interest in the fossil fuel issue and why I did research over a long period of time. I didn’t feel like there were any discussions that carefully looked at the full context.

When I did look at the full context I came to a surprising conclusion: that certain perceived negatives of fossil fuels are extremely exaggerated while other perceived negatives are actually positives.

Alex Epstein: “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels” | Talks at Google

Energy philosopher Alex Epstein, author of The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, challenges conventional wisdom about the fossil fuel industry and argues that if we look carefully at the positives and negatives of all our energy alternatives, we have a moral obligation to use more fossil fuels, not less.

Updates from the Twittersphere

Are you following me on Twitter (@AlexEpstein)? If not, here is some of what you’ve missed:

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Join me at Energy Disruptors, get special discount

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In a few weeks I’ll be speaking at the Energy Disruptors conference, which takes place in Calgary, May 15-16. This is a unique conference since it has high-level energy influencers from multiple industries and perspectives.

They’ve offered a special discount for subscribers to this list. You can get tickets for 10% off if you use the promo code ALEX10. You can find more details and order your tickets here.

Also, I’m planning on doing a special meetup and discussion for subscribers to this list. So let me know if you’re going.

Apple’s “100% renewable” lie

A few years ago tech giant Apple announced that it was using 100% renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind for many of its power needs, including its data centers, and that 87% of its global operations were run on “renewables.”

Now Apple says it that it is “globally powered by 100 percent renewable energy.”

As part of its commitment to combat climate change and create a healthier environment, Apple today announced its global facilities are powered with 100 percent clean energy. This achievement includes retail stores, offices, data centers and co-located facilities in 43 countries—including the United States, the United Kingdom, China and India.

It’s not true. As I explained in a 2016 Forbes column, Apple is cooking its energy books to sell us on the lie that it runs on solar and wind.

Apple, like nearly every other international technology company in the world, gets the overwhelming percentage of its power from cheap, plentiful, reliable coal and almost none from expensive, unreliable solar and wind.

Like any other large tech company, Apple requires a lot of energy for its operations–and this energy needs to be cheap and reliable. But today’s politically correct sources of energy, above all solar and wind, are neither reliable nor affordable. To call them “renewables” is a misnomer, because “renewables” advocates generally refuse to support the only cost-effective “renewable” option, large-scale hydroelectric power: building a dam, they say, is not sufficiently “green.” Solar and wind should be called “unreliables” because the intermittent nature of sunlight and wind have made them useless as scalable, reliable sources of energy that can meaningfully substitute for hydro, nuclear, let alone fossil fuel power. These unreliables require subsidies and government mandates to exist.

So how can Apple claim to be between 87-100% renewable yet actually be a coal-powered company?

By committing two types of energy accounting sleight-of-hand:

  1. Paying off other companies and consumers to give Apple “green credits” for its coal electricity usage.
  2. Concealing that the vast majority of computer energy use comes from coal-powered manufacturing and the coal-powered Internet.

You can read the whole thing here.

Unfortunately, Apple isn’t the only company dishonestly portraying itself as “100% renewable.” Everyone from Intel to LEGO to Whole Foods to Google is trying to ride the green bandwagon by lying about their energy usage. (One news story describing Apple’s recent announcement had to append this note: “Clarified that Apple, like Google, is not actually 100 percent powered by clean energy, but it uses the term to signal that it buys enough green energy to offset its global power consumption.”)

It is bad enough that these companies are making false claims to build up their image, but they are using their unearned status to promote policies that would deprive others—especially poorer Americans who can’t afford to live in San Francisco mansions—of energy. That is shameful.

Tim Cook and the other “100% renewable” CEOs owe the public—including members of the fossil fuel industry—an apology. They should tell the truth about their energy usage, and thank the men and women who provide the reliable energy that allows them to flourish.

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Thank you for presenting in Ferndale, WA on March 29th at the Silver Reef. I enjoyed your balanced view of the role of energy and how to frame the conversation in a positive way. Unfortunately, the discussion is biased, sloppy, and anti-human just as you described. Framing the issue with the goal of human flourishing versus unchanged nature is the way to have a productive conversation.

Thanks for your perspective, it’s refreshing. -Jason J.

1. Change a mind by sharing my Google talk. Do you have someone you know who needs to learn pro-human thinking about energy issues? A great place to start is by sharing my talk at Google, which is designed to persuade even those immersed in the biased, sloppy, and anti-human energy thinking in our culture. Click the button below and I’ll send you the link to the talk.

Access Google Talk

2. Empower a friend by inviting them to this newsletter. If you know someone who wants to increase their clarity and influence on energy issues, click the button below to invite them to this newsletter.

Invite to Newsletter

3. Bring me to speak at your next event. If you have an upcoming board meeting, employee town hall, or association meeting, I have some new and updated speeches about the moral case for fossil fuels, winning hearts and minds, and communications strategy in the new political climate. If you’d like to consider me for your event, click the button below and I’ll send you the info.

Send Speaking Engagement Details

4. Recommend me for a high-level speaking event (and get an I Love Fossil Fuels t-shirt). One way to influence a high-level audience is to have me speak to them. If you are connected to any high-level events at companies, associations, and conferences, your recommendation could make a huge difference. A simple way to do this is to send an email to your event contact, CC’ing me, with: 1. That you’ve seen me speak. 2. Why you liked it. 3. Why I might be a good fit for their event. For every introduction you make I’ll send you an “I Love Fossil Fuels” t-shirt or a signed copy of The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.

The Connection Between Russia and 2 Green Groups Fighting Fracking in U.S.

New Yorkers who are missing out on the natural gas revolution could be victims of Russian spy operations that fund popular environmental groups, current and former U.S. government officials and experts on Russia worry.

Natural gas development of the celebrated Marcellus Shale deposits has spurred jobs and other economic growth in neighboring Pennsylvania. But not in New York, which nearly 10 years ago banned the process of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, to produce natural gas.

Two environmental advocacy groups that successfully lobbied against fracking in New York each received more than $10 million in grants from a foundation in California that got financial support from a Bermuda company congressional investigators linked to the Russians, public documents show.

The environmental groups Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club Foundation received millions of dollars in grants from the San Francisco-based Sea Change Foundation.

“Follow the money trail, and this [New York] ban on fracking could be viewed as an example of successful Russian espionage,” Ken Stiles, a CIA veteran of 29 years who now teaches at Virginia Tech, told The Daily Signal.

To Stiles and other knowledgeable observers, this looks like an actual case of knowing or unknowing collusion with Russia.

Both Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club Foundation also accepted tens of millions from the Energy Foundation, the top recipient of grants from Sea Change, according to foundation and tax records.

When New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, renewed his state’s ban on fracking three years ago, the Natural Resources Defense Council issued a statement supporting the ban. So did the Sierra Club, the primary recipient of grants from its sister organization, the Sierra Club Foundation.

Environmental activists associated with the groups receiving Sea Change Foundation grants continued to pressure Cuomo and other public officials to maintain and expand New York’s fracking ban.

Most recently, the two environmental groups scored another victory when the Delaware River Basin Commission, an interstate regulatory agency that includes the governors of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, proposed a ban on fracking within the Delaware River Basin cutting across all four states.

The Sierra Club and the Natural Resource Defense Council have pressed the regional commission to impose the ban, issuing statements (here and here) calling for  restrictions that are tighter than what the commission proposed.

PennEast Pipeline Co. is set to begin construction on a 120-mile-long pipeline to transport natural gas from the Marcellus Shale across Eastern Pennsylvania into New Jersey. In a new public relations campaign, PennEast asks New Jersey residents if they would rather obtain their energy from Pennsylvania or Russia.

PennEast cites media reports describing how anti-pipeline policies in Massachusetts forced the state into a position where it had to rely on Russian imports of liquified natural gas during peak cold periods this past winter.

The Russian Money Trail

Government officials and environmental leaders have a responsibility to track the money, Stiles, the former CIA officer, told The Daily Signal in an interview.

“The Russians are very adept and skilled at making long-term investments,” Stiles said. “They sit back very patiently to see how their funding can pay off over a period of many years.”

Stiles added:

Whether these environmental groups realize it or not, they could be operating as what we [in the CIA] call ‘agents of influence.’ By working to block natural gas production, environmental activists are advancing policies that work to the advantage of Russia and to the disadvantage of America and America’s allies.

Logo of the Natural Resources Defense Council

Karen Moreau, who is in charge of the New York office of the American Petroleum Institute, a trade association for gas and oil companies, argues that the resulting policy hurts state residents and businesses.

“New York remains at a disadvantage because other states are not just more pro-energy, they are more pro-business and therefore pipelines that could have been constructed in New York taking gas from the Marcellus Shale are instead moving south, not north,” Moreau told The Daily Signal.

“The manufacturing renaissance that is taking place in this country thanks to the president’s policies is not happening in states like New York,” she said.

A senior adviser to the State Department told a recent conference that Trump administration policies supporting energy dominance could help the U.S. eclipse the amount of natural gas Russia exports to the European Union.

The Daily Signal unsuccessfully sought comment from the Sierra Club Foundation and its affiliate the Sierra Club, as well as Natural Resources Defense Council and Sea Change Foundation, on the allegations of Russian financial support for environmentalists’ anti-fracking and anti-pipeline campaigns.

The Marcellus Shale is a geological formation of sedimentary rock with large deposits of natural gas that cuts across southwestern New York, northern and western Pennsylvania, western Ohio, most of West Virginia, and small portions of Kentucky and Tennessee.

The U.S. Geological Survey determined that the Marcellus Shale contains “about 84 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered, technically recoverable natural gas and 3.4 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable natural gas liquids.”

Since the U.S. is now the top producer of natural gas in the world, and well positioned to export liquefied natural gas across the globe, Russia recognizes it gradually could lose influence in parts of the world where Moscow has been the dominant supplier of oil and gas, Stiles said in a phone interview.

“America’s natural gas revolution has huge geopolitical ramifications, so Russia’s motivation to try to block our natural gas development is easy to understand,” the CIA veteran said. “If you are worried about the Russian bear rearing its ugly head in the next several years, the way to stop that and put it back into its cage is to cut it off at the knees financially.”

“That’s what natural gas pipelines are all about and that’s what fracking is all about. We are providing affordable energy to average Americans at home and our allies overseas.”

The Sierra Club Foundation’s logo

US Gains in Market

In the fracking technique applied to shale formations, engineers inject water mixed with sand and chemicals into a well at high pressure, producing a fluid that fractures the rock and releases trapped oil or natural gas.

Environmentalists continue to challenge fracking, arguing among other things that it contaminates well water.

The natural gas import-export equation has changed radically in the past few years, with trends pointing to the U.S. becoming a net exporter.

Richard Westerdale, the senior adviser with the State Department, made this point in November during the Heartland Institute’s America First Energy Conference in Houston, Texas.

“By 2020, the U.S. will be approaching nearly 100 billion cubic meters in [liquefied natural gas] exports,” Westerdale said in a presentation. “It’s simply amazing to me to think that back in 2010, we were building [liquefied natural gas] import terminals.”

As natural gas markets become increasingly competitive, the “world wins,” he added, since “well-functioning markets reinforce global energy security, foster economic growth and commercial interests abroad, and, depending upon how host countries choose to use [natural gas resources], it can in fact enhance environmental stewardship.”

In three of the first five months of 2017, U.S. natural gas exports were greater than imports, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The most recent available data shows that U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas increased for the duration of 2017 as new facilities went operational.

Logo of Sea Change Foundation

What Consumers Know

Stiles, who teaches espionage and national security issues in Virginia Tech’s geography department, defines espionage, or spying, as “an operation that is planned and executed as to conceal the identity of, or permit plausible denial by, the sponsor.”

One way for Moscow to conceal its sponsorship of anti-fracking campaigns in New York or elsewhere in the U.S. is to move its funding indirectly and anonymously through various entities, the former CIA analyst told The Daily Signal.

“I think the groups and individuals on both sides of the debate over fracking and pipelines have a tendency to just look in their own back yards, without looking at the larger geopolitical picture,” Stiles said. “If it was more widely known that anti-fracking, anti-pipeline operations may be benefitting from a foreign source of funding, this would certainly impact the debate.”

The agents of influence described by Stiles range from “controlled agents” and “trusted contacts” who know they’re working for a foreign government to “manipulated sources” who have no idea that they’re doing the bidding of a foreign power.

The former CIA analyst said he is inclined to characterize environmental activists who received Russian funding through indirect channels, such as Sea Change or the Energy Foundation, as manipulated sources.

Stiles calls on the leadership of environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council, which accepted large amounts through such channels, to start asking hard questions.

“It’s either a lack of due diligence or incompetence, or they may actually know something about a particular donor, but they don’t want to ask that question,” Stiles said. “I tend to think the issue is more that they are just not looking the gift horse in the mouth, and they are just taking the money.”

Energy Foundation’s logo

Paperless Money Trail

Sea Change Foundation, a family charity, is identified in congressional reports and correspondence as a major incubator of funding from foreign sources, including Russia. That money ends up in the coffers of U.S. environmental groups opposed to natural gas development and drilling techniques such as fracking that make that development possible.

Nathaniel Simons and his wife, Laura Baxter-Simons, established Sea Change Foundation in 2006. Simons is the son of James Simons, founder of the New York-based Renaissance Technologies hedge fund firm.

Sea Change, according to its website, works to “address the serious threats posed by global climate change,” focusing on “climate change mitigation and clean energy policy in the United States and internationally.”

In July 2014, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee released a report describing how a Bermuda-based company, Klein Ltd., “was set up for the sole purpose of funneling anonymous donations to Sea Change.”

Bermuda law permits Klein Ltd. to conceal foreign sources of funding, the report explains.

“It appears that Klein exists on paper only, as it does not have an internet presence, and was set up for the sole purpose of funneling anonymous donations to Sea Change,” the report says.

Subsequent investigations building on the findings of the Senate committee—including that of the Washington-based Environmental Policy Alliance—established a connection between Wakefield Quin, the law firm that set up Klein, and top Kremlin officials, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Lawyers and others at Wakefield Quin have been associated with Russian energy companies and worked with Leonid Reiman, a former Russian minister of telecommunications and longtime Putin ally, these investigations found.

Environmental Policy Alliance, which opposes the agenda of liberal green groups, is affiliated with Washington lobbyist Rick Berman and his Berman & Co. public affairs firm.

Sea Change has not responded directly to The Daily Signal in the past, and did not respond for this report.

In an email to Salon, however, the foundation in July 2017 acknowledged receiving financial support from Klein, saying it accepted the company’s grant money as “general support” with no proviso that it be used for specific programs.

Response From Klein Ltd.

In an email to The Daily Signal, Roderick M. Forrest, a Wakefield Quin lawyer representing Klein Ltd., described allegations against his Bermuda-based client as “completely false and irresponsible.” Klein, he said, “has no Russian connection whatsoever.”

Forrest made similar assertions in an email to The Washington Times in July 2017.

The Daily Signal had sought the law firm’s comment on allegations of Russian funding of U.S. environmental groups and Klein’s alleged role in easing movement of Russian funds to the Sea Change Foundation.

“Our firm has represented Klein since its inception,” Forrest said in the email, “and we can state categorically that at no point did this philanthropic organization receive or expend funds from Russian sources or Russian-connected sources and Klein has no Russian connection whatsoever.”

The lawyer for Klein added:

Attorneys, law firms, financial institutions and all other companies based in Bermuda operate under a regulatory and anti-money laundering regime which applies standards which are amongst the highest in the world. Illicit movement of funds falls well below such standards and any informed party would understand that, not only is there no substance or truth to such allegations in this case, the allegations appear to be intended to damage the reputation of the Bermuda-based individuals and businesses named.

Bermuda and the U.S. have in place an information exchange framework under which the U.S. government, its regulators and law enforcement agencies have access to all information concerning financial transactions in Bermuda and by Bermuda entities. Through this framework, information is available to such proper authorities, enabling them to be satisfied as to the probity of any alleged payments.

Julie Hill, a professor at University of Alabama School of Law with expertise in regulation of financial institutions, told The Daily Signal that it is not “as easy as it was at one time to engage in money laundering” in places such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

That’s because monetary authorities now collect more information from companies than they did previously, Hill said.

“This information is not made public, but it can be given to foreign governments,” Hill said in an interview, adding:

The advantage in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands now would be more in terms of tax neutrality rather than anonymity. But it’s certainly true that various entities have in the past engaged in money laundering schemes in these locations, and the Russians would be part of this history. Today there are more barriers than in the past. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done, it just means it’s harder.

‘Ripe for Investigation’

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, sent a letter in June to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying allegations of Russian financial support for U.S. environmental groups “are ripe for an investigation” by the Treasury Department.

In the letter, previously reported by The Daily Signal, Smith noted that Klein Ltd. and Wakefield Quin share the same Bermuda address “with more than 20 other companies” apparently run through the law firm.

A review of IRS 990 Forms shows that Klein contributed $23 million to Sea Change in 2010 and 2011, almost half of what the California foundation received in that time. The 990 forms indicate Sea Change then made grants concentrated on environmental advocacy groups.

From 2010  through 2015, the Sierra Club Foundation received more than $18 million from Sea Change and Natural Resources Defense Council received more than $15 million.

Both groups are on record opposing natural gas development in New York, and both are among the top 10 recipients of Sea Change grants, according to an analysis of foundation records.

The Energy Foundation, at $64 million, was the top recipient of Sea Change grants from 2010 through 2015, the most recent year for which 990s are available.

The 2014 Senate report describes the Energy Foundation as a “pass through” public charity that donates to environmental activist groups such as the Sierra Club Foundation and Natural Resources Defense Council.

The idea behind a “pass through” organization, according to the Senate report, is “to create the appearance of a more diversified base of support” and to “shield” donors from accountability.

Between 1998 and 2015, the Energy Foundation paid 30,178 grants to 12,058 recipients totaling more than $1.2 billion, records show. Grantees included environmental groups active in opposing natural gas development of the Marcellus Shale.

The top recipient was Natural Resources Defense Council, with more than $35 million. The Sierra Club Foundation received more than $16 million. (The council has $236.5 million in net assets, while the foundation has $113.2 million in net assets.)

Recalling Cold War History

Paul Kengor, a Grove City College political science professor who has researched the history of Moscow’s manipulation of U.S. political figures, told The Daily Signal that he sees an “old Cold War powder keg that went dry suddenly being reignited.”

“What makes the current situation more nefarious today is the possibility—if this is indeed accurate—of Russian manipulation of domestic groups inside the United States and the willful cooperation of those domestic environmentalists,” Kengor, a biographer of Ronald Reagan, said in an email, adding:

In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan had one heck of a time trying to enlist the support of our Western allies in blocking the Siberian gas pipeline in Russia. Even [British Prime Minister] Margaret Thatcher balked; in fact, that’s an understatement: Thatcher was vehemently opposed because she wanted Britain to have the cheap Russian gas and wanted some British firms to have some of the construction contracts. The same was true for the West Germans and the French.

Ronald Reagan boldly proceeded almost alone in this effort in the 1980s. But here today … we have the extremely troubling possibility of our own U.S. citizens being targeted by the Russians for manipulation in undercutting our own domestic energy industry, our workers, and our citizens.

What stands out in terms of Cold War history and its relevance to contemporary questions of espionage is the role of Putin, warns Bonner Cohen, a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, a Washington-based think tank that supports free market solutions to policy challenges.

“Putin, let’s not forget, is an old hand at using Western pressure groups to serve the Kremlin’s purposes,” Cohen said in an email.

“When, in the 1980s, the old Soviet Union was manipulating self-styled ‘peace groups’ in Western Europe and the U.S. in an effort to divide NATO and isolate the U.S., Putin was a mid-level KGB agent in East Germany.”

Cohen added:

Though that effort ultimately failed, Putin learned his lesson well. Then it was U.S. missiles to defend Western Europe that had to be demonized; today, it is U.S. oil and natural gas that are portrayed as a threat. In both cases, money changed hands, and scare tactics were the order of the day.

New Yorkers and High Energy Costs

New York residents continue to pay the price for Cuomo’s ban on drilling techniques that make it possible to access natural gas from the Marcellus Shale, laments Moreau, executive director of the American Petroleum Institute’s New York office.

“People who could have had inexpensive natural gas instead have had to pay very high electricity prices due to the cold snap this winter,” Moreau told The Daily Signal, “and many power generators were actually forced to burn oil instead of natural gas due to the constraints on natural gas.”

The 625 members of API, a national trade association, include major energy companies in the oil and gas industry.

Although New York is the fourth-largest consumer of natural gas in the nation, that natural gas primarily is imported from other states, Moreau said.

“If not for the pro-energy development policies of other states, New Yorkers would be bitterly freezing this winter,” she said.

The Daily Signal sought comment from Cuomo’s office to ask if the New York governor had concerns about allegations of Russian support for environmental groups active in his state. His office has not responded.

Cohen, of the National Center for Public Policy Research, said he sees a connection between Putin’s government in Moscow and influential U.S. environmental groups that is difficult to deny.

“The Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and other advocacy groups may have their own ‘green’ reasons for opposing America’s realizing the energy potential of its abundant fossil fuels,” Cohen said in an email to The Daily Signal.  “At the same time, these groups know full well that they receive funding from the Sea Change Foundation and the Energy Foundation, both of which, according to a congressional report, are funded by Russian interests via a Bermuda-based shell company.”

Some green groups and Russia under Putin “have a common interest in demonizing fracking and related technologies that have tilted global energy markets in America’s favor,” Cohen said.

“Just as the shale revolution has been an economic godsend to millions of Americans, providing them with affordable electricity and transportation fuel, it has been a nightmare for Russia and environmental activists.”

Ken McIntyre contributed to this report.

COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of Kevin Mooney

Kevin Mooney

Kevin Mooney is an investigative reporter for The Daily Signal. Send an email to Kevin. Twitter: @KevinMooneyDC.

RELATED ARTICLE: PennEast Pipeline Backers Tout Lower Energy Prices in Fighting Well-Funded Green Groups

Dear Readers:

With the recent conservative victories related to tax cuts, the Supreme Court, and other major issues, it is easy to become complacent.

However, the liberal Left is not backing down. They are rallying supporters to advance their agenda, moving this nation further from the vision of our founding fathers.

If we are to continue to bring this nation back to our founding principles of limited government and fiscal conservatism, we need to come together as a group of likeminded conservatives.

This is the mission of The Heritage Foundation. We want to continue to develop and present conservative solutions to the nation’s toughest problems. And we cannot do this alone.

We are looking for a select few conservatives to become a Heritage Foundation member. With your membership, you’ll qualify for all associated benefits and you’ll help keep our nation great for future generations.

ACTIVATE YOUR MEMBERSHIP TODAY

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaking on Jan. 21st in Lower Manhattan, renewed a ban on fracking for natural gas in his state. (Photo: John Roca/Polaris/Newscom)

Oil is everywhere

On top of the many benefits that fossils fuels provide, including the ability to use machines to amplify our productivity and improve our lives and the ability to provide cheap, plentiful, and reliable energy on a scale of billions, we have yet another set of benefits.

Our hydrocarbon world

Using oil and gas, the hydrocarbon industry also produces a caliber of synthetic materials that cannot be matched by any other industry. We have so many diverse materials. We have artificial hearts, bullet-proof vests, insulation, carpet, golf balls, ink.

Where did these materials come from? Let’s take something as seemingly unrelated to oil as paper. You might say, “I know where paper comes from. Paper comes from trees.” But if you notice, there’s a coating on the paper that makes it a lot easier to write on.

It’s worth asking with all of these things, “Where does it come from? Does it come from a rock, does it come from a plant, does it come from metal? Glass? Sand? Where does it come from?”

If you ask that question, you’ll find that the answer more often than not that it comes from oil, or from natural gas. It’s amazing how much in our life is made from hydrocarbons.

Another question you should ask yourself is, “How frequently do I use oil-based materials?” You may be surprised to find that it’s nearly impossible to get through an entire day without coming into contact with dozens of oil-based products that improve your life. And when I say oil-based, I include natural gas-based products too.

An oil walk

Let’s try this. Say you wake up reaching to snooze your alarm clock. It’s an electric device so why aren’t you worried about potentially getting electrocuted? Well, there’s a cord that insulates the electricity and protects you from that. What’s that made of? It’s made of oil, which means that some brilliant engineers figured out how to take this substance, this hydrocarbon, and turn it into a cord, and do it very affordably.

How does that work? Basically, hydrocarbon molecules have a potential to be very versatile, but you need human ingenuity to figure out how to break them down into “monamers,” which are very small hydrocarbon molecules. Then, the brilliant engineers figure out how to make the monamers into “polymers,” which are these different combinations of the hydrocarbon molecules that can serve any purpose.

Next, say you don’t want to get out of bed because it’s so comfortable and you think, “Gosh, I love this Tempur-Pedic bed, it feels so good.” Where does Tempur-Pedic come from?

This is oil, too. You might think, “Well, this isn’t relevant to me because I have a Sleep Number bed, and that’s high gauge plastic, not just foam.” Wait. The oil industry makes that, too.

You can’t even get out of bed in this exercise, because there’s so many things about your bed that are made from oil.

When you do get up, what’s the first thing your feet touch? The floor and very likely a rug or carpet. What’s that carpet made from? It’s made from oil. And why are you warm? It’s not just because of the natural gas-based heating you may have, but also because of the insulation in the walls. “What about the paint on the walls?” That too, is from oil.

And as you get dressed, you’ll find that your plastic eyeglass lenses, your nylon socks, and your rubber-soled shoes all come from oil, too. You see that so much of our lives is based on using hydrocarbons, for all of these amazing modern materials.

What if hydrocarbons were more expensive?

Here’s the question to ask. What would happen to these materials if oil and gas were more expensive? It’s very simple. The products that use those materials are made that way, because the oil-based materials enable them to be higher quality, less expensive, and sometimes exist in the first place. Sometimes there’s no other way to do it.

To recap what we’ve covered so far:

  • Energy is fundamental
  • Energy needs to be cheap, plentiful, and reliable
  • The process for creating energy also needs to be cheap, plentiful, and reliable.
  • The fossil fuel industry is the only industry that can provide cheap, plentiful, and reliable energy for billions of people

And that brings us to the conclusion that without the hydrocarbon industry’s unique efficiency, vital energy and materials would not be affordable or available to billions more people.

Fossil fuels = access to energy

Simply put, using fossil fuels means more people have more access to energy. Which means all things being equal, more years of life added on to billions of people’s lives.

And thus, every fossil fuel discussion should incorporate the context that the fossil fuel industry is the only industry that can produce cheap, plentiful, reliable energy for billions of people.

RELATED ARTICLE: Which Energy Sources Are Actually Sustainable

Overcoming Bias in Energy Conversations

Last week I gave a 5-hour workshop on How to Have Constructive Conversations about Energy. Here’s a clip where I discuss the biased thinking behind opposition to fossil fuels–and a simple but deeply powerful technique for framing a conversation to minimize bias.

Please share the video. And if you’re interested in having me host a Constructive Conversation Workshop or speak on some other topic click the below link.

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What are fossil fuels?

The hydrocarbon industry has developed a highly resource efficient process to find, extract and harness a naturally concentrated, plentiful and stored source of energy. It’s the only industry that has come up with a process that is cheap, plentiful and reliable. To understand why that is, it’s important to understand what fossil fuels are and how to explain it to someone who doesn’t work in the fossil fuel energy.

Fossil fuels 101

Fossil fuels are created by the decomposition of living organisms over millions of years. Let’s take the example of coal. The organic matter decomposes and combined with time, heat, and pressure, becomes more and more dense, getting buried under several layers of earth and eventually forming coal.

Fossil fuels are also referred to as hydrocarbons because they are very rich in molecules made of hydrogen and carbon atom combinations. When these atoms bond together, they have some remarkable properties.

One is that they are able store a lot of energy in a very small amount of space that is released when burned. This is what allows hydrocarbons to power engines, such as an internal combustion engine or a steam engine.

When you burn fossil fuels, you introduce oxygen into the system, leading the carbon atoms to bond with oxygen and become carbon dioxide, while the hydrogen atoms bond with oxygen to become dihydrogen oxide—that is, water. The energy formerly holding them together is released in the form of heat, which creates pressure that can move the engine. That’s basically how all the different engines in modern life work. It’s a very efficient way of generating energy.

Just how plentiful are fossil fuels?

It’s important to note that there is an enormous amount of hydrocarbon in the earth. But even though there is a huge amount of this material, if we don’t know how to get it or don’t know how to use it, it’s useless. For most of history, we haven’t been able to do either. However, today, thanks to the ingenuity of the fossil fuel industry, we’re able to find and extract those hydrocarbons and use them more efficiently.

Exactly how much is there? What we often discuss is what are called reserves, which is the amount we have in inventory. The thing to realize is that the reserves are usually a very small fraction of the overall in-place amount or deposits that actually exist in the earth.

If you notice, what this graph shows with oil—and the same is true for natural gas—our consumption over time goes up, but our reserves also go up.

image

That seems impossible unless you realize that the overall deposits are massive; many, many, more times than we have used in the whole history of civilization.

So the key question is not how much deposit is there; it’s whether we have the ingenuity to turn those deposits into usable energy.

The hydrocarbon industry has answered this question by continuing to improve how we access and use these resources, which has translated into an abundant energy source for billions.

Vitamin O

The hydrocarbon industry produces energy for every kind of use: heating, electricity, but perhaps the most distinctive form of energy it produces that no other industry can replicate, is oil.

Oil is a cheap, plentiful, and reliable form of portable energy. Why is portability important? It has allowed us to create new applications for energy, such as cars, planes, and harvesters, which would not exist if their energy sources were not portable.

For example, a modern harvester that reaps enough wheat for 500,000 loaves of bread a day needs to carry its energy with it. Nothing can match liquid hydrocarbons, in this case in the form of diesel fuel. That’s why over 90% of the world’s transportation comes from liquid hydrocarbons, because in terms of portability, it is the best.

So when people talk about restricting that, particularly oil-based fuels, the conversation should include all of the potential consequences. The hydrocarbon industry produces energy for so many different types of uses.

It is the only industry that can produce cheap, plentiful, and reliable energy that we need to power our machines, amplify our productivity, and provide significant amounts of power on the go. It is the only industry to do so for billions of people throughout the world.