The Environmental Spectator

The Environmental Spectator

A Persistent Ground Game

By 2.9.16

Going forward, we know what the new year of environmental activism looks like. Activists have told us. They’ve made it perfectly clear. They call it: “Keep it in the ground.”

The campaign is about all fossil fuels: oil, gas, and coal. Instead of an “all of the above” energy policy, when it comes to fossil fuels, they want “none of the above.” A big part of the effort is focused on preventing the extraction of fossil fuels on public lands — which is supported by presidential candidates Senator Bernie Sanders and Secretary Hillary Clinton. The recent moratorium of leasing federal lands for coal mining, announced by Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell, is considered a great victory for “keep it in the ground.”

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Cronyism and the Bureaucratic Reset Button

By 2.2.16

“Superfund” is a word we rarely hear in the major media these days. Climate change is the environmental cause du jour, but back in the late 1970s and into the 1980s, as America was learning about Love Canal and solving the problem of rivers catching on fire, the cleanup of industrial waste was the nation’s major environmental priority.

In 1980, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) was passed. Known colloquially as “Superfund” (and the sites themselves as “Superfund Sites”), CERCLA is a fairly straightforward example of what America’s environmental laws look like: massive, complicated, and demonstrative of just how unwieldy the bureaucracy can be in practice.

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Hardball at Yosemite National Park

By 1.28.16

On Jan. 14, the National Park Service announced that Yosemite’s iconic Ahwahnee Hotel will become the Majestic Yosemite Hotel on March 1. A news release explained that because of a trademark dispute with outgoing concessionaire Delaware North of Buffalo, N.Y., the Wawona Hotel will become Big Trees Lodge and Curry Village will become Half Dome Village. People readily saw a case of corporate greed. At Mother Jones, Kevin Drum posted a blog with a photo of company executives and the heading: “Meet the corporate suits who claim to own the trademark to ‘Yosemite National Park.’”

The next day, Drum conceded his initial take was “probably wrong.” The story is less of an outrage than “a fairly pedestrian contract dispute.” It turns out Delaware North does have rights to its concession’s intellectual property — including names — because the company had to buy those intangible assets from the previous operator. The National Park Service acknowledges this fact and values these assets at $3.5 million. Delaware North wants $51 million. The matter will be settled in federal court.

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Solar Initiative Circling the Drain

By 12.18.15

Floridians for Solar Choice, an ad hoc group seeking a carve-out for the already heavily subsidized solar industry in Florida, appears to be running out of sunshine (it wouldn’t do to say gas here) in its constitutional amendment petition drive.

The group has gathered 271,000 certified signatures to put a constitutional amendment on the November 2016 state ballot that would oblige the state to promote solar power over other forms of electrical power generation and would allow citizens to generate solar power through a solar power company. This generation and sales would not be regulated in any way by the state’s Public Service Commission, which regulates electric utilities. And the power would be sold not by individuals but by solar power companies. The amendment is about as naked a push for a single industry’s self-interest as one is likely to encounter.

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American Energy Buried Alive

By 12.15.15

Recently, the Sierra Club announced its next effort: “to prevent the extraction of fossil fuels right from the start” — a campaign known as “Keep it in the ground.” The plan is to “shut down coal mines, and crack down on hydraulic fracturing, along with stopping the transportation of fossil fuels in oil trains, pipelines and coal export terminals.”

This should sound ludicrous to anyone who understands energy or follows the topic, but activists are buoyed by several recent victories. A post on states: “Remember when we told you that the movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground was gaining momentum? We weren’t making that up.” The author then goes on to list the “much-discussed” successes — including rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline.

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#COP21: The Great Climate Propaganda Failure

By 12.11.15

Despite all the catastrophic hyperbole tossed around leading up to the climate mega-conference in Paris, the American public is not paying much attention. For months we have been warned by the prophets of doom that the United Nations’ climate conference marks the final and best chance for humanity to save itself from certain destruction. We are told that if the 2015 Conference of the Parties (COP21) fails to deliver a major climate change treaty, the world will have missed the last opportunity to mitigate global warming and avert a worldwide disaster. To save ourselves, we simply need our collective governments to agree to impose regulations that change our lifestyles, downgrade our standards of living, and sacrifice our economies. But the alarmist sales job isn’t working, and any binding agreement is highly unlikely to emerge from Paris.

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Presidential Meltdown in Paris

By 12.8.15

Paris, the City of Light, which earned its moniker by being an early adapter of natural gas to light its public spaces, is currently hosting COP21 (the 21st Conference of the Parties) — often referred to as the UN Climate Change Conference — that aims to end the use of fossil fuels. There, more than 150 world leaders gathered under the guise of, supposedly, slowing the warming of the planet.

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#COP21: We’ll Always Have Paris, Unfortunately

By 12.2.15

Paris is lovely in the autumn.

According to the attendees of the Conference of Parties, 21, however, by this time next year, Paris — along with every other major city — could be an abandoned ruin, smothered in smog, with lava floes running through the streets, burning out only where they meet the melted ice caps. Humans will have long since adapted to living at the poles, sunning themselves in the ozone hole, feasting off the last remains of polar bears, and bemoaning that moment when they failed to take notice of a five-day, five-star, 575-million-pounds-of-CO2 gathering of world leaders and “climate activists” that was meant to save us all. 

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Report Concedes Failure in Green Smuggling Effort to Co-opt Evangelicals on Climate Change

By 11.24.15

Without the evangelical community’s involvement, efforts to build a “broad coalition to pass major climate policies” are “doomed,” according to a just-released report from New America—a nonprofit group that claims to be “dedicated to the renewal of American politics, prosperity, and purpose in the Digital Age.”

“Spreading the Gospel of climate change: an evangelical battleground,” according to E&E News, offers an “autopsy of evangelicals’ influence on U.S. Climate law.” While the efforts “failed,” the report concludes it is “not a lost cause,” as the authors posit that “there is an untapped potential for environmental activism in the world of evangelical Christianity.” The closing words are “it is a battle worth fighting.”