Tim Kaine's "Web of Denial" Speech: "Science and Religion Share a Duty to the Truth"

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 02 Aug 2016 15:38:00 GMT

A few weeks before Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) became the Democratic nominee for vice president on the Hillary Clinton ticket, he joined other senators to discuss the fossil-fuel industry’s “web of denial” preventing action to end their climate pollution. Below is a transcript of his July 12, 2016 speech.

Thank you, Madam President. I join rise to join my colleague to talk about the critical issue of climate change and especially the facts around climate change but also the fact that there are many who would deny the facts. This is a really important issue to the commonwealth of Virginia. Climate change is not a distraction. It’s not a next year or next decade issue. Climate change in Virginia is a today issue.

Earlier today, I was in Norfolk, Virginia, which is in the Hampton Roads area near the Atlantic Ocean. Norfolk and the surrounding communities is the largest concentration of naval power in the world. It’s the center of naval operations. The headquarters of the U.S. Atlantic fleet. And it is already having to spend millions of dollars to elevate the piers where aircraft carriers come and go due to sea level rise. The Hampton Roads area is listed as the second most vulnerable community on the east coast of the United States to rising sea levels after New Orleans.

This is a challenging issue in a lot of ways.

I have friends who live in these communities who bought homes recently but now their homes aren’t marketable. For most Americans, certainly for me, my home is the most valuable asset I own. And if you have that and then you suddenly can’t sell it because climate is changing sea level is rising, flooding is more recurrent, no one will buy your home, it’s a very, very serious issue.

In addition to the effect on individuals and businesses because of sea level rise, the effect on the naval station is significant. Current estimates are that rising sea levels in Norfolk will take the main road entrance into the center of American naval power and have that under water by 2040, three hours a day just because of normal tidal action. In times of storms it would be worse.

So imagine in America that counts on its navy, that counts on that naval presence around the globe having its largest naval base inaccessible because of sea level rise.

We have an interesting community. One of the most unique areas is Tangier Island. It’s been continually inhabited since the 1600’s as a community for men and women. The folks who have traditionally made their living by going out and catching crabs and oysters and fish, and this is a small island with a few acres. It’s one of the only places you can go in the United States where you can hear English spoken as Shakespeare would have spoken it with a language that is an Elizabethan language. The community is isolated in that way. You hear this beautiful English spoken there and the community has many wonderful virtues but the Chesapeake Bay is coming up around this community and eroding it. I received a letter from a middle school student within the last month, a handwritten letter that might have been the most heartfelt piece of communication I’ve received in four-plus years in the senate saying would are you doing about sea level rise, what can you do to help us deal with these issues so that Tangier as an island does not completely disappear.

For these reasons and many others in Virginia we take this very, very seriously and we have to deal with it. I’ll tell you something else about Virginians. Virginians believe in science. The Virginia political figure we most admire was the preeminent scientist of the day, Thomas Jefferson. Virginians overwhelmingly believe in science. 70% of Virginians accept the scientific consensus that human activity is causing climate change and that it is urgent that we do something about it. 70% of Virginians believe in that proposition.

But I’m here today because my friend from Rhode Island asked me to come and talk about the fact that there is an organized effort, not just a battle about the policy about climate science but to knowingly try to misrepresent the status of climate science and suggest that climate change is not occurring. They’re denying it exists. They’re denying that it’s a concern. They’re working against any reasonable solutions.

Now, of course, we’ve got to be open to points of view and reasonable differences of opinion and have a debate, but when the science is settled on some things and people are in an organized way who know better are trying to fight against it, we should be suspicious. So a group of senators are speaking today and tomorrow to discuss these organizations that constitute what my friend from Rhode Island has termed a web of denial, an organized effort to deny science.

And so let me just talk a little bit because a number of these deniers are companies that at least have P.O. boxes or nonprofit organizations that at least have P.O. boxes in Virginia. The same Virginia where Tangier Island is disappearing, the same Virginia where the navy is having to spend to shore up their infrastructure also has some shadowy organizations that are trying to deny the real science involved.

There’s an organization called the Science and Public Policy Institute. And it purports to summarize available academic literature. Here’s a quote. “They further note that availability in sea level is observed but to date there’s no detectable secular increase in sea level rise. They also report that no increase in the rate of sea level rise has been detected for the entire 20th century.” closed quote.

This is a group, they throw in a few sciencey words like “decadal variability.”

This is at odds with the conclusions of virtually every scientist who studied this issue, including scientists at Virginia universities, Old Dominion University, Institute of Marine Sciences, William & Mary. Those scientists says sea level rise — on the Virginia coast it’s anywhere from one and a half additional feet to 7 feet by the year 2100. Now, they will acknowledge some question about is it going to a foot and a half. Is it going to be 7 feet, but they don’t challenge the basic science surrounding sea level rise.

So which is it? One and a half to 7 feet or you don’t need to worry about it? Don’t worry, be happy.

Without getting a Ph.D. in atmospheric science and building your own quantitative models, how do you know who is right?

Here’s a clue. Look at who funds these organizations.

In the case of ODU, William & Mary, the Virginia institute of Marine Sciences which is one of the most preeminent marine sciences institutions in the nation along with Scripps in San Diego and Woods Hole, Massachusetts, it’s not hard. They are state universities. They’re funded by the general assembly of Virginia which is two Republican houses. And they are reaching a scientific conclusion that says climate change is serious.

But with the Science and Policy Institute, it’s a bit nebulous and it’s kind of hard to figure out. But there’s online sources that enable you to track how organizations are funded through foundations with ties frankly to the energy industry. According to one of these sources, it’s called DeSmogBlog, one of this institute’s, the Science and Public Policy Institute’s major funders is the Donors Capital Fund which has distributed $170 million to various conservative causes and describes itself as being, quote, “dedicated to the ideals of limited government, personal responsibility and free enterprise,” close quote.

A New York Times article as far back as 2003 documents a connection between this foundation and an organization that also has a point of view, ExxonMobil. ExxonMobil is a funder or in the past has been a funder of this organization. Now, why don’t—why doesn’t an ExxonMobil or conservative organization just publish the material on their own websites under their own bylines? Well, my guess is that they have scientists who actually know the science and there’s been recent information about ExxonMobil. They understand the climate science. They couldn’t publish this under their own byline and meet their own standards of truthfulness but they are providing funding to an organization that’s denying climate change.

In other words, the organization is a delivery vehicle for information that is meant to be seen as impartial scientific information but is in fact not impartial at all. So when you see one group saying that there’s been no sea level rise and another saying there’s been a lot and we could be in for more and if you’re wondering who to believe, take a look at who’s funding the research.

Here’s another organization, the Virginia Institute for Public Policy. Quote — here’s a quote from them. “Regulations prescribing a reduction or complete cessation of Virginia’s CO2 emissions will have absolutely no effect on global climate. “

If there’s Virginia regulations that even eliminate Virginia CO2 “it will have no effect on global climate.” That’s an interesting quote because it’s not technically a lie because it’s literally true. Virginia’s share of world CO2 emissions is infinitesimally small. It wouldn’t affect the entire globe in a measurable way but that’s like saying one vote? Your vote is not going to make a difference or one cigarette won’t hurt you so go ahead and have one.

This argument is a kind of a classic hide the ball argument that makes a statement that’s technically true but it essentially is promoting a false point of view that oh, well, we shouldn’t do anything about it. So again it’s the use of a literal truth that’s basically designed to pitch a message that’s grossly misleading.

So let’s ask about this group, the Virginia Institute for Public Policy. Who funds a group that would say something like that? Again the Donors Capital Fund that funded the first organization I discussed as well as the Chase Foundation of Virginia and the Roe foundation which support a list of conservative causes. If you call an organization the Virginia Institute for Public Policy it sounds kind of neutral and probably trying to do a good thing.

But if you go back and look at who’s funding it and you find the funding sources are heavily linked to the energy industry, groups like ExxonMobil you understand they’re not quite as impartial as they suggest.

Another group called the CO2 coalition, quote, “Concerns about carbon dioxide being a pollutant are not valid. Climate change is proceeding very slowly and the likely increase of the temperature for the 21st century is 1 degree celsius or less,” closed quote.

Well, yes, is that technically true? The temperature of the earth is increased by 1 degree since industrialization and 197 countries just signed an agreement in Paris last year to try to limit any further increase to no more than 1 degree additional. This group make it is sound like who cares about 1 degree. 100 degree is 1.4 degrees more than normal, enough to make you sick. The number of .08 sounds tiny in the abstract but if that’s your blood alcohol content, that gives you a DUI in Virginia. The number sounds small. Gosh, why would that make a difference? That gets you a DUI because you’re impaired. So, yes, the group using the one temperature, one degree in temperature makes it sound like it’s not that big a deal but it is that big a deal.

Now, here’s the last one I want to say, Madam President, before I close. This is kind of a doozy because it’s from an open letter to Pope Francis on the topic of the pope’s environmental encyclical. The group is called the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. Not like going big if you’re going to pick a name for yourself.

Their quote starts with a quote from the 19th Psalm. “The heavens declare the glory of god and the firmament claims his handiwork.” Then the group goes on to declare in their own words, “By using fossil fuels to generate energy to lift billions of god’s children, precious children out of poverty, we liberate from the tomb of earth the carbon dioxide on which plants and therefore all the rest of life depend. In light of these considerations, we believe it is both unwise and unjust to adopt policies requiring reduced use of fossil fuels for energy.”

So somebody is really using scripture to argue that making our energy production cleaner, safer, cheaper violates the Christian tenet of caring for the poor? I’m a Christian and many of us in this body have a deep faith background in one faith or another but I’ll use a non-Christian phrase to describe that argument. It takes a lot of chutzpah to claim your religious faith and compassion, especially when the organization refuses to reveal how it is funded.

In closing, Madam President, we certainly don’t want to imply that all groups that, you know, have an agenda or have a point of view are motivated by funding sources. But the web of denial that the senator from Rhode Island is asking us to come out and talk about tonight is one that includes a number of organizations that are climate deniers. They are denying science, that they actually in my view know to be true. There comes a point when the truth becomes so hard to deny that those who deny it or simply not credible.

And you have to ask the question then why are you denying it? I assert that most of these organizations understand the science and they accept the science. And they realize it to be true. Why do they deny the science? The answer is greed. That’s the basic answer.

Many of the organizations that we’re discussing are funded primarily by fossil fuel interests, and if they can delay even by a year or two years or five years or even six months, the enactment of policies that would move us toward fewer fossil fuels, it will hurt their bottom line. And so rather than come up here and argue about what the right transition should be, they’re handing funds over to organizations that are trying to confuse the American public about science itself. So let me close and read from Pope Francis’ — the Cornwall Institute on Stewardship. I’ll read a quote. “Is it realistic to hope that those who are obsessed with maximizing profits will stop to reflect on the environmental damage which they will leave behind for future generations? Where profits alone count there can be no thinking about the rhythms of nature, its phases of decay and regeneration or the complexity of ecosystems which may be gravely upset by human intervention.”

Once we start to think about the kind of world we are leaving to future generations, we look at things differently. Future generations. We look at things differently. We realize that the world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others. Since the world has been given to you, we can no longer view relate any in a utilitarian way geared entirely to our individual benefit. Intergenerational solidarity is not optional but a basic question of justice since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us.

Science and faith have a number of things in common, but one of the most important things they have in common is their first duty has to be to the truth. I hope all actors in the political process, whatever their views, will remember that and have that same commitment. Thank you, Madam President. With that, I yield the floor.

Fossil-Fuel Industry Apologist Michael Levi Becomes Top White House Energy Advisor

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 20 Jul 2016 14:39:00 GMT

Michael LeviMichael Levi, a prominent apologist for the Keystone XL pipeline, natural-gas exports, and other fossil-fuel industry priorities, has joined the White House, Hill Heat has learned. Yesterday, Levi began work as a Special Assistant to the President for Energy and Economic Policy on the National Economic Council staff.

For ten years, Levi was Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow for energy and climate policy. Previously, Levi was a nuclear non-proliferation expert at the Brookings Institution, while pursuing his doctorate at the University of London.

Possessed of undeniable brilliance, Levi has no formal training in climate science, economics, or energy policy; his undergraduate and master’s degrees are in physics, and his doctorate is in War Studies. In 2008 he began publishing on climate policy, overseeing a major CFR Task Force report on U.S. climate policy chaired by Tom Vilsack and George Pataki. He quickly established himself as a prominent (and convenient) climate centrist-cum-contrarian—embracing the urgency of climate action, while criticizing other proponents of strong climate policy and providing convoluted arguments for the continued expansion of fossil-fuel and nuclear projects. (Levi calls his approach a most-of the above policy.) Over the years, his pursuits included taking a skeptical view of green jobs, promoting tar sands exploitation, and defending natural gas as a bridge fuel.

Levi’s position as CFR’s energy and climate expert was endowed by David Rubenstein, the founder of the Carlyle Group, a major investor in the oil and gas industry.

Levi is part of a generation of industry-friendly climate experts whose influence is on the rise with the ascension of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, whose numbers also include Heather Zichal (BA, Rutgers), the Rhodium Group’s Trevor Houser (BA, City College of New York) and Columbia University’s Jason Bordoff (Harvard Law). These people are pundits whose careers as climate experts have been sponsored by fossil-fuel industry investors despite a lack of training in climate science. They are now in position to shape United States climate policy if Clinton succeeds President Obama in November.

Climate Movement Flexes Political Power: Clinton's Democratic Platform Adopts Strong Climate Principles

Posted by Brad Johnson Sun, 10 Jul 2016 01:47:00 GMT


Sanders and Clinton delegates speak in support of unity climate amendment.
In a tremendous victory for the climate movement, the Democratic National Platform — and thus the Hillary Clinton campaign — has adopted strong and clear language on tackling fossil-fuel pollution. The unity amendment, which passed unanimously, calls for a price on greenhouse pollution, prioritization of renewable energy over natural gas, and President Obama’s “climate test” for all federal decisions.


However, the Sanders delegates, led by Josh Fox, were unable to get the platform to include language calling for a national moratorium on fracking. Led by Hillary Clinton energy advisor Trevor Houser, the committee adopted language calling for more regulation of fracking and a rebuilding of existing natural-gas infrastructure instead.

The text of the adopted unity amendment is below:

Page 19 Line 18, insert: Democrats believe that carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases should be priced to reflect their negative externalities, and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy and help meet our climate goals. Democrats believe that climate change is too important to wait for climate deniers and defeatists in Congress to start listening to science, and support using every tool available to reduce emissions now.

Page 19, Line 26, insert: We will streamline federal permitting to accelerate the construction of new transmission lines to get low-cost renewable energy to market, and incentivize wind, solar and other renewable energy over the development of new natural gas power plants.

We support President Obama’s decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. As we continue working to reduce carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gas emissions, we most ensure federal actions don’t “significantly exacerbate” global warming. We support a comprehensive approach that insures all federal decisions going forward contribute to solving, not significantly exacerbating climate change.

Democrats believe that our commitment to meeting the climate challenge most also be reflected in the infrastructure investments we make. We need to make our existing infrastructure safer and cleaner and build the new infrastructure necessary to power our clean energy future. To create good-paying middle class jobs that can’t be outsourced, Democrats support high labor standards in clean energy infrastructure, and the right to form or join a union, whether in renewable power or advanced vehicle manufacturing. During the clean energy transition, we will insure landowners, communities of color and tribal nations are at the table.

The text of Houser’s amendment supporting the continued fracking of natural gas is below:

Democrats are committed to closing the Halliburton loophole that stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to regulate hydraulic fracturing, and ensuring tough safeguards are in place, including Safe Drinking Water provisions, to protect local water supplies. We believe hydraulic fracturing should not take place where states and local communities oppose it. We will reduce methane emissions from all oil and gas production and transportation by at least 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2025 through common-sense standards for both new and existing sources and by repairing and replacing thousands of miles of leaky pipes. This will both protect our climate and create thousands of good-paying jobs.
Also unanimously adopted was language introduced by Sanders delegate Russell Greene of Progressive Democrats of America:
Democrats believe it would be a grave mistake for the United States to wait for another nation to lead the world in combating the global climate emergency. In fact, we must move first in launching a green industrial revolution, because that is the key to getting others to follow; and because it is in our own national interest to do so. Just as America’s greatest generation led the effort to defeat the Axis Powers during World War II, so must our generation now lead a World War II-type national mobilization to save civilization from catastrophic consequences. We must think beyond Paris. In the first 100 days of the next administration, the President will convene a summit of the world’s best engineers, climate scientists, climate experts, policy experts, activists and indigenous communities to chart a course toward the healthy future we all want for our families and communities.

Draft 2016 Democratic Platform's Climate Mentions

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 01 Jul 2016 20:46:00 GMT

Climate Hawks Vote is calling for the Democratic Platform to call for a national ban on fracking.

Preamble

Under President Obama’s leadership . . . We are getting more of our energy from the sun and wind, and importing less oil from overseas.

Democrats believe that climate change poses a real and urgent threat to our economy, our national security, and our children’s health and futures, and that Americans deserve the jobs and security that come from becoming the clean energy superpower of the 21st century.

2. Create Good-Paying Jobs

We will build 21st century energy and water systems, modernize our schools, and continue to support the expansion of high-speed broadband networks. We will protect communities from the impact of climate change by investing in green and resilient infrastructure.

c. Clean Energy Jobs
We must help American workers and businesses compete for jobs and investments in global clean energy, high-tech products, internet technology products, and advanced manufacturing and vehicles. And we must make American manufacturing more internationally competitive by making it the greenest and most efficient in the world, including by investing in industrial energy efficiency.

3. Fight for Economic Fairness and Against Inequality
d. Taxes
Democrats will claw back tax breaks for 22 companies that ship jobs overseas, eliminate tax breaks for big oil and gas companies, and crack 23 down on inversions and other methods companies use to dodge their tax responsibilities.

e. Trade
On the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), there are a diversity of views in the party. Many Democrats are on record stating that the agreement does not meet the standards set out in this platform; other Democrats have expressed support for the agreement.

4. Bring Americans Together and Remove Barriers to Create Ladders of Opportunity
k. Honoring Indigenous Tribal Nations
We are committed to principles of environmental justice in Indian Country and we recognize that nature in all its life forms has the right to exist, persist, maintain, and regenerate its vital cycles. We call for a climate change policy that protects tribal resources, protects tribal health, and provides accountability through accessible, culturally appropriate participation and strong enforcement. Our climate change policy will cut carbon emission, address poverty, invest in disadvantaged communities, and improve both air quality and public health. We support the tribal nations to develop wind, solar and other clean energy jobs.

6. Combat Climate Change, Build a Clean Energy Economy, and Secure Environmental Justice

Climate change is an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time. Fifteen of the hottest years on record have occurred this century. While Donald Trump has called climate change a “hoax”, 2016 is on track to break global temperature records once more. Cities from Miami to Baltimore are already threatened by rising seas. California and the West have suffered years of brutal drought. Alaska has been scorched by wildfire. New York has been battered by superstorms, and Texas swamped by flash floods. The best science tells us that without ambitious, immediate action to cut carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases across our economy, all of these impacts will be far worse in the future. We cannot leave our children a planet that has been profoundly damaged.

Democrats share a deep commitment to tackling the climate challenge; creating millions of good-paying middle class jobs; reducing greenhouse gas emissions more than 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050; and meeting the pledge President Obama put forward in the landmark Paris Agreement, which aims to keep global temperature increases to “well below” two degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius. We believe America must be running entirely on clean energy by mid-century. We will take bold steps to slash carbon pollution and protect clean air at home, lead the fight against climate change around the world, ensure no Americans are left out or left behind as we accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy, and be responsible stewards of our natural resources and our public lands and waters. Democrats reject the notion that we have to choose between protecting our planet and creating good-paying jobs. We can and we will do both.

Clean Energy Economy
We are committed to getting 50 percent of our electricity from clean energy sources within a decade, with half a billion solar panels installed within four years and enough renewable energy to power every home in the country. We will cut energy waste in American homes, schools, hospitals, and offices; modernize our electric grid; and make American manufacturing the cleanest and most efficient in the world, creating new jobs and saving families and businesses money on their energy bills. And we will transform American transportation by reducing oil consumption through cleaner fuels, making new investments in public transportation, expanding electrification of the vehicle fleet, increasing the fuel efficiency of cars, boilers, ships, and trucks, and by building bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure across our urban and suburban areas. Democrats believe the tax code must reflect our commitment to a clean energy future by eliminating special tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuel companies as well as defending and extending tax incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy.

Democrats are committed to defending, implementing, and extending smart pollution and efficiency standards, including the Clean Power Plan, fuel economy standards for automobiles and heavy-duty vehicles, building codes and appliance standards, and the reduction of methane emissions from oil and gas production. We will work to expand access to cost-saving renewable energy by low-income households, create good-paying jobs in communities that have struggled with energy poverty, and oppose efforts by utilities to limit consumer choice or slow clean energy deployment. We support President Obama’s decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. And we believe that the federal government should lead by example, which is why we will take steps to power the government with 100 percent clean electricity.

Environmental and Climate Justice
Democrats believe clean air and clean water are basic rights of all Americans. Yet as we saw in Flint, Michigan, low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately home to environmental justice “hot spots,” where air pollution, water pollution, and toxic hazards like lead increase health and economic hardship. The impacts of climate change will also disproportionately affect low-income and minority communities, tribal nations, and Alaska Native villages—all of which suffer the worst losses during extreme weather and have the fewest resources to prepare. Simply put, this is environmental racism. The fight against climate change must not leave any community out or behind—including the coal communities who kept America’s lights on for generations. Democrats will fight to make sure these workers and their families get the benefits they have earned and the respect they deserve, and we will make new investments in energy producing communities to help create jobs and build a brighter and more resilient economic future.

All corporations owe it to their shareholders to fully analyze and disclose the risks they face, including climate risk. Those who fail to do so should be held accountable. Democrats also respectfully request the Department of Justice to investigate allegations of corporate fraud on the part of fossil fuel companies accused of misleading shareholders and the public on the scientific reality of climate change.

Public Lands and Waters
Democrats believe in the conservation and collaborative stewardship of our shared natural heritage: the public lands and waterways, the oceans, Great Lakes, the Arctic, and all that makes America’s great outdoors priceless. As a nation, we need policies and investments that will keep America’s public lands public, strengthen protections for our natural and cultural resources, increase access to parks and public lands for all Americans, protect species and wildlife, and harness the immense economic and social potential of our public lands and waters.

We oppose drilling in the Arctic and off the Atlantic coast, and believe we need to reform fossil fuel leasing on public lands. We can phase down extraction of fossil fuels from our public lands, starting with the most polluting sources, while making our public lands and waters engines of the clean energy economy and creating jobs across the country.

11. Global Threats
g. Climate Change
Climate change poses an urgent and severe threat to our national security. According to the military, climate change is a threat multiplier that is already contributing to new conflicts over resources, catastrophic natural disasters, and the degradation of vital ecosystems across the globe. While Donald Trump says that climate change is a “hoax” created by and for the Chinese, Democrats recognize the danger facing our country and our planet. We believe the United States must lead in forging a robust global solution to the climate crisis. We will not only meet the goals we set in Paris, we will seek to exceed them and push other countries to do the same by slashing carbon pollution and rapidly driving down emissions of potent greenhouse gases like hydrofluorocarbons. We will support developing countries in their efforts to mitigate carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases, deploy more clean energy, and invest in climate resilience and adaptation. And as a proud Arctic nation, we are against putting the region at risk through drilling in the Arctic Ocean or the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Instead, while protecting our strategic interests, we will seek collaborative, science-based approaches to be good stewards of the rapidly changing Arctic region.

June 8 Democratic Platform Forum In Washington DC: Details of Time and Location Revealed

Posted by Brad Johnson Sun, 05 Jun 2016 04:13:00 GMT

Beginning on Wednesday, the Democratic Party plans to hold a two-day forum in Washington DC to solicit public testimony on the national platform. Details on when and where the forum will take place were released to press on Saturday. The forum was announced on May 27.

On Wednesday, June 8th and Thursday, June 9th at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., the 2016 Democratic Platform Drafting Committee will hold the first in a series of regional events. The forum is broken up into three thematic sessions, the first beginning at 1:30 pm on Wednesday and scheduled to go to 5 pm. Thursday has two sessions scheduled, a morning session from 9 am to 12 pm, and and afternoon session from 1 pm to 5 pm.

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Platform Drafting Chair Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), and Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) CEO, Rev. Leah D. Daughtry will deliver opening remarks at the forum. The Drafting Committee will then hear from policy experts and other Democrats, chosen from people who have applied to testify.

The schedule for Wednesday involves one afternoon session entitled “Leveling the Playing Field: Creating Opportunity and Removing Barriers.” Thursday morning is “Moving America Forward: Education, Jobs, and the Economy,” and the afternoon is “America’s Role in the World.”

Although there are not explicit references to climate, energy, and the environment in the session titles, it is expected to come up in public testimony.

The Platform Drafting Committee includes two prominent environmentalists, one chosen by each campaign. Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, was selected by the Sanders campaign. Carol Browner, the former EPA Administrator under Clinton’s husband, and the chair of the League of Conservation Voters (which endorsed Hillary Clinton last fall), was selected by the Clinton campaign. Browner works for the international lobbying and consulting firm Albright Stonebridge Group.

See below for the full press release:

MEDIA ADVISORY

Democratic National Convention Committee Convenes Mid-Atlantic Democratic Platform Forum

Democrats Asked to Make their Voices Heard by Providing Written Testimony, Submitting Video Testimony or Requesting to Appear in Person

PHILADELPHIA, PA – On Wednesday, June 8th and Thursday, June 9th at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., the 2016 Democratic Platform Drafting Committee will hold the first in a series of regional events designed to engage every voice in the Party. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Platform Drafting Chair Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), and Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) CEO, Rev. Leah D. Daughtry will deliver opening remarks at the forum. The Drafting Committee will then hear from policy experts and Democrats from all walks of life to inform the Democratic National Platform.

In an effort to welcome every voice in the Party, the DNCC has announced multiple ways in which the public can participate in the series of regional events. Democrats interested in providing testimony can go to www.demconvention.com/platform to submit written or video testimony. Members of the public interested in attending the events can also RSVP online; seating will be available on a first come, first served basis.

WHAT:         Democratic National Platform Forum
WHEN:         Wednesday, June 8 , 2016
Session 1 – 1:30 to 5:00 PM
Leveling the Playing Field: Creating Opportunity and Removing Barriers

Thursday, June 9 , 2016
Session 2 – 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Moving America Forward: Education, Jobs, and the Economy

Session 3 –1:00 PM to 5:00 PM
America’s Role in the World

(All times are approximate)

WHERE: The Omni Shoreham Hotel, 2500 Calvert Street, NW, Washington, DC 20008

All Platform forums and meetings will be live streamed atwww.demconvention.com/platform and open to press. Members of the media interested in attending must RSVP by emailing chuntley@demconvention.comby Tuesday, June 7, 2016 at 5:00 PM ET.

About the Democratic National Convention

The 2016 Democratic Convention will be held at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia July 25-28, 2016. Working in partnership with the Philadelphia Host Committee, the City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, our goal is to make this the most engaging, innovative and forward looking Convention in history. The 2016 Democratic National Convention will leverage technology to take the Convention experience well beyond the hall in an effort to engage more Americans than ever before in the event. With the birthplace of American Democracy as a backdrop, the 2016 convention in Philadelphia will highlight our shared Democratic values and help put the Democratic nominee on a path to victory.

The CEO for the 2016 Democratic National Convention is Reverend Leah D. Daughtry.

The DNCC will hold platform events in the following locations: Mid-Atlantic – Washington, DC on June 8 and 9 (forum with testimony); Southwest – Phoenix, Arizona on June 17 and 18 (forum with testimony); Midwest – St. Louis, Missouri on June 24 and 25 (drafting committee meeting); Southeast – Orlando, Florida on July 8 and 9 (platform committee meeting). Members of the public will be admitted to platform events on a first come, first served basis.

The official website of the 2016 Democratic National Convention is www.demconvention.com

In Upstate Ad, Pro-Fracking Clinton Promises To 'Stand Firm With New Yorkers Opposing Fracking'

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 19 Apr 2016 01:30:00 GMT

In an unannounced climate-change ad running in upstate New York, the Hillary Clinton campaign declares allegiance with the anti-fracking movement, despite the candidate’s support for fracking. With images of dirty rigs and anti-fracking protest signs, the narrator promises that a President Clinton will “stand firm with New Yorkers opposing fracking, giving communities the right to say no.”

Watch:

The ad’s characterization of Clinton’s stance on fracking is technically accurate, though misleading, as Clinton will cede localities control over fracking, while supporting natural gas as a ‘bridge fuel’. One could say that Clinton will “stand firm” with other states supporting fracking, such as Wyoming, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania. Clinton has not taken a position on the Constitution Pipeline, a controversial fracked-gas pipeline being constructed through upstate New York from Pennsylvania. Clinton is on record supporting “new natural gas pipeline investment.”

Her opponent, Bernie Sanders, unequivocally opposes fracking nationally.

The television ad also credits Clinton’s work at the failed Copenhagen climate talks for “laying the groundwork” for the Paris climate agreement. The ad confusingly displays a photo of Clinton at Copenhagen under a Washington Post headline about the Paris talks six years later.

The ad began running in upstate New York communities on Wednesday, April 13, six days before the April 19th primary. It has aired over 200 times cumulatively on Albany, Rochester, Syracuse, Watertown, Elmira, Binghamton, and Utica stations.

The ad was not announced to the press by the campaign, allowing it to avoid scrutiny by fact-checkers or the public. Following New York, the election heads to Pennsylvania, where fracking is allowed.

Transcript:

NARRATOR: China. India. Some of the world’s worst polluters. As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton forced them to the table, making real change by laying the groundwork for the historic global agreement to combat climate change.

As president, she’ll invest in a clean energy future, and the jobs that go with it. And stand firm with New Yorkers opposing fracking, giving communities the right to say no. Because our future depends on getting this right.

CLINTON: I’m Hillary Clinton, and I approve this message.

Hillary Clinton: "We're going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business."

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 14 Mar 2016 16:06:00 GMT

Clinton at town hallAt last night’s Democratic town hall in Columbus, Ohio, Hillary Clinton bluntly declared her intention to shut down the American coal industry in order to fight global warming pollution. Clinton went on to say that “we’ve got to move away from coal, and all the other fossil fuels.” Her declaration of war on the fossil-fuel industry was in the context of her plan to support job transitions into renewable energy and other sectors for the coal miners:

“I’m the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity — using clean, renewable energy as the key — into coal country. Because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business. And we’re going to make it clear that we don’t want to forget those people. Those people labored in those mines for generations, losing their health, often losing their lives, to turn our lights and power our factories. Now we’ve got to move away from coal, and all the other fossil fuels. But I don’t want to move away from the people who did their best to produce the energy we rely on.”

By stating that “we’ve got to move away” from all fossil fuels, Clinton recognized the first law of climate policy: global warming won’t end until we stop burning fossil fuels.

However, in this campaign she is promoting a long glide path towards that goal, which involves increased domestic and international fracking as a “bridge” to a zero-carbon pollution future. She has not set a date for such a transition; like her Democratic opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, she has set a goal of an 80 percent reduction in domestic greenhouse pollution by 2050. Unlike Sanders she supports continued domestic production of fossil fuels for domestic use and for export, which threatens the climate goals set by President Barack Obama and her successor at the State Department, John Kerry.

Clinton misspoke when she claimed to be the “only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity — using clean, renewable energy as the key — into coal country.” In fact, in December Sanders introduced legislation with that specific aim, the Clean Energy Worker Just Transition Act (S. 2398). The 2007 climate legislation introduced by Sanders and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and 2013 Boxer-Sanders climate legislation had similar provisions.

In fact, in 2007 Clinton co-sponsored a Sanders amendment which successfully allocated $100 million for green-collar job training and resources, including for displaced energy-industry workers.

Fracking-Fund Billionaire Marc Lasry is a Top Clinton Advisor and Fundraiser

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 01 Mar 2016 16:39:00 GMT

Marc Lasry and Hillary Clinton
Marc Lasry and Hillary Clinton
Wall Street hedge-fund billionaire Marc Lasry is one of Hillary Clinton’s biggest financial supporters, and has built deep family and financial ties between himself, Obama, and Clinton. Now he is betting on a Hillary Clinton presidency, while betting the retirements of public-school teachers on a fracking renaissance.

In 2014, Lasry, founder and chair of Avenue Capital Group, raised $1.3 billion for a fund that bought loans of distressed energy companies, only to watch the debt become even more worthless. $200 million raised for the Avenue Energy Opportunities Fund came from the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System. Lasry has shrugged off the losses, confident the good times will come again for the frackers.

“There’s going to be a huge turnaround on energy,” Lasry told reporters this January. The oil and gas slump has hurt exploration and production companies, but prices “will always come back. The question is, does it take six months or does it take three years?”

Meanwhile, Marc Lasry—a co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks—has become a top contributor and bundler for the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign. When Clinton announced her campaign, Lasry emailed his friends looking to quickly raise $270,000 with ten maxed-out contributions of $2700 each.

“It’s been a long time coming, and now there’s a huge amount of excitement behind her,” Lasry told Bloomberg News. “You will start seeing it in the numbers as people start donating.”

The exact amount of money bundled by Lasry has not been publicly disclosed; the Clinton campaign only discloses which bundlers have raised over $100,000.

She’s moving a little bit to the left, and I think that’s fine,” Lasry told Bloomberg in May 2015, after hosting one her first campaign fundraisers at his townhouse. “People who are giving money to her understand that. Obviously, some people have some issues. I think the vast majority won’t have issues.”

On February 12 of this year, Clinton came out in favor of new domestic natural-gas fracking and pipeline infrastructure.

Marc Lasry has deep financial and familial ties to the Clintons and Obamas.

Lasry’s daughter Samantha was a Congressional intern for Rahm Emanuel in 2005, the future chief of staff for Barack Obama. Meanwhile, Lasry donated to Rahm’s campaign.

In 2006, Marc Lasry hired Chelsea Clinton to work at his hedge fund, Avenue Capital Group, while Hillary Clinton was Senator of New York. Meanwhile, Lasry contributed to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Marc Lasry was a top contributor and bundler for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Meanwhile, Alexander Lasry, his son, was a special assistant to Valerie Jarrett in the Obama White House from 2010 to 2012.

In 2011, Marc Lasry and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein invested in Eaglevale Partners, the hedge fund set up by Marc Mezvinsky, Chelsea Clinton’s husband. Lasry invested $1 million. The fund “underperformed.”

Oddly enough, Lasry was also one of Donald Trump’s top investors: he managed the bankruptcy buyout of Trump’s casinos in 2010. He then served as the chairman of Trump Entertainment Resorts, Inc. from 2011 to 2013, with a 22 percent stake and managerial control of the Trump Plaza, Trump Marina and Trump Taj Mahal casinos.

In the same interview this January where Lasry bet that the oil and gas industry would rise again, he expressed similar confidence about his chosen candidate.

“Hillary is going to be the next president of the United States.”

Bernie Sanders: 'Hillary Clinton Supports Fracking. I Do Not.'

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 26 Feb 2016 15:27:00 GMT

“Hillary Clinton supports fracking. I do not.”

These words appeared in a recent fundraising email from Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, which fiercely attacked fracking and Hillary Clinton’s support from and for the natural gas industry.

In blunt language, Sanders contrasted his call for a national moratorium on fracking against Clinton’s fundraising from natural gas investors:
Just days before the Iowa caucus, Hillary Clinton left the campaign trail for a high-dollar fundraiser at a hedge fund. That same hedge fund is a major investor in fracking, an incredibly destructive practice of extracting natural gas by pumping hundreds of secret chemicals into the ground.

Hillary Clinton supports fracking. I do not.

And just as I believe you can’t take on Wall Street while taking their money, I don’t believe you can take on climate change effectively while taking money from those who would profit off the destruction of the planet.

Sanders’ email comes on the heels of the Clinton campaign’s February 12th release of a policy promoting new natural-gas extraction and infrastructure. Clinton’s promotion of “safe and responsible natural gas production” (the phrase “safe and responsible” was used five times) was praised by LiUNA, a trade union that had vigorously supported the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

“Domestically produced natural gas can play an important role in the transition to a clean energy economy,” Clinton’s policy position states, making no mention of the candidate’s February 4th pledge, caught on camera, to ban the extraction of fossil fuels, including natural gas, from public lands.

The conflict between Sanders and Clinton on natural gas is set to become a point of major political contention, as voters go to the polls next month in states overrun by fracking, including Oklahoma and Texas on March 1, Kansas and Nebraska on March 6, and Ohio on March 15. These states are reeling from the boom and bust of the fracking industry, left with earthquakes, degraded water supplies, and thousands of non-union workers exploited and poisoned by the private fracking companies Clinton’s donors have financed. Fights over natural-gas pipelines and facilities have mobilized activists in dozens of other states.

On a national scale, a growing body of scientific evidence is building that the climate benefits of switching from coal to natural gas were a total mirage, with the catastrophic Porter Ranch methane blowout the most visible and extreme example of a nationwide surge in methane leakage as a result of the domestic fracking boom promoted by the Bush and Obama administrations. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide on a twenty-year timespan.

Read Sanders’ full email:

Sisters and Brothers -

Just days before the Iowa caucus, Hillary Clinton left the campaign trail for a high-dollar fundraiser at a hedge fund. That same hedge fund is a major investor in fracking, an incredibly destructive practice of extracting natural gas by pumping hundreds of secret chemicals into the ground.

Hillary Clinton supports fracking. I do not.

And just as I believe you can’t take on Wall Street while taking their money, I don’t believe you can take on climate change effectively while taking money from those who would profit off the destruction of the planet.

Please contribute to our campaign right now to help elect a president who isn’t beholden to special interests that profit off of pollution.

Dick Cheney pushed through changes to the Safe Drinking Water Act that legalized fracking, despite the fact that fracking companies keep the chemicals they pump into the ground a secret.

People who live near fracking locations no longer have drinkable water, and in some cases their tap water is actually flammable. Oklahoma has even seen a rash of earthquakes that many believe are a result of fracking.

In short, fracking is a disaster for the planet.

We need a president who is not beholden to special interests and who will do everything in his or her power to fight the effects of climate change. It’s clear that to elect that kind of president, millions of people need to come together and chip in whatever they can.

Make a contribution to our campaign now to send a message that you want to elect a president who will do everything possible to fight climate change.

We can’t afford to let people who would destroy our planet elect our next president.

Thank you for your support.

In solidarity,

Bernie Sanders

In Letter to Shareholders, Warren Buffett Mockingly Compares Global Warming to Y2K

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 22 Feb 2016 22:13:00 GMT

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett has dismissed the threat of global warming to Berkshire Hathaway, comparing it to the "dire" Y2K bug fear which caused only minor problems in a letter to investors opposing a shareholder resolution on climate. Athough Buffett admitted it is "highly likely" that climate change "poses a major problem for the planet," he concluded that "when you are thinking only as a shareholder of a major insurer, climate change should not be on your list of worries."

At the upcoming Berkshire Hathaway shareholders' meeting, the Nebraska Peace Foundation and Bold Nebraska are presenting a proposal calling for a report from Berkshire Hathaway's insurance division (which includes Geico) on the risks posed by climate change. The board, following Buffett's wishes, is opposing the proposed report.

Buffett's conglomerate is increasingly invested in the fossil-fuel industry, from his anti-community-solar NV Energy utility in Nevada to his railroad company BNSF, which profits heavily from oil-train and coal-train traffic.

Download the shareholder resolution and Buffett's opposition here.

The text of Buffett's letter is below:

It seems highly likely to me that climate change poses a major problem for the planet. I say "highly likely" rather than "certain" because I have no scientific aptitude and remember well the dire predictions of most "experts" about Y2K. It would be foolish, however, for me or anyone to demand 100% proof of huge forthcoming damage to the world, if that outcome seemed at all possible and if prompt action had even a small chance of thwarting the threat. If there is only a 1% chance the planet is heading toward a truly major disaster and delay means passing a point of no return, inaction now is foolhardy. Call this Noah's Law: If an ark may be essential for survival, begin building it today, no matter how cloudless the skies appear.

It's understandable that the sponsor of the proposal believes Berkshire is especially threatened by climate change because we are a huge insurer, covering all sorts of risks. The sponsor may worry that property losses will skyrocket because of weather changes. And such worries might, in fact, be warranted if we wrote ten- or twenty-year policies at fixed prices. But insurance policies are customarily written for one year and repriced annually to reflect changing exposures. Increase possibilities of loss translate promptly into increased premiums.

So far, climate change has not produced more frequent or more costly hurricanes or other weather-related events covered by insurance. As a consequence, U.S. super-cat rates have fallen steadily in recent years which is why we have backed away from that business. If super-cats become costlier and more frequent, the likely - though far from certain - effect on Bershire's insurance business would be to make it larger and more profitable.

As a citizen, you may understandably find climate change keeping you up at nights. As a homeowner in a low-lying area, you may wish to consider moving. But when you are thinking only as a shareholder of a major insurer, climate change should not be on your list of worries.

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