I spoke with Duke Energy's Jim Rogers at the DNC. He's hearing from us! And 150k people. And Senators.
Written by Whit Jones, Energy Action Coalition Campaign Director, crossposted from We Are Powershift
You may have recently noticed that Duke Energy, the nation's largest utility, launched a major advertising campaign. This includes airing their first television commercials in 15 years. In light of the controversy surrounding their merger with Progress energy, it comes as no surprise they would attempt to repair their public image.
The ads all begin with someone flipping a power switch. A narrator explains how we “don't think about what it's connected to or how the power gets there,” but instead about what really matters in life, like family reunions, your son's basketball game, proposing to your wife... I think you get the idea. These ads try to illicit an emotional connection between us and Duke. Each ad ends with the line “You don't think about all that's going on behind that switch, because we do.”
Well Duke, we actually do “think about all that's going on behind that switch.” Last week, concerned members of the community came out to discuss the ways Duke works behind the scenes to maximize its bottom line. More importantly, we discussed what we as a community can do about it.
The meeting was held in Charlotte, NC, where Duke Energy has its headquarters. Greenpeace's NC field organizer, Monica Embrey, began by giving an overview of Duke's relationship with dirty energy. Duke owns dozens of coal-fired power plants, many just outside of Charlotte. Coal is the leading contributor to climate change, and releases harmful toxins into our water and air. This coal is obtained through a destructive strip-mining technique known as mountaintop removal . Embrey explained how we pay for dirty energy not only through out utility bills but ultimately through our healthcare costs.
Beth Henry, one of the leading experts on Duke, discussed how Duke uses our money to buy access to politicians in order to influence policy. Duke is on pace to become North Carolina’s largest political spender after having recently merged with Progress Energy. In the 2009-2010 election cycle, the companies collectively spent over $19 million on lobbying and state and federal campaigns. The company has a number of links to members of the NC Utilities Commission, a group that is supposed to regulate the industry. Henry explained how Duke has a long history of influencing legislators and regulators in its favor. Duke truly epitomizes the idea of the revolving door.
Henry also highlighted Duke's relationship with universities and charities. Duke essentially purchases allies and good PR through their contributions. Many of these institutions are beholden to Duke for funding. She gave specific examples of organizations reluctant to act or speak out against Duke due to this relationship.
I spoke about the relationship between Duke and the Democratic National Convention, which will be held in Charlotte. Duke's CEO, Jim Rogers, has been intimately involved in the fundraising process. He is co-chair of the the convention host committee and has personally given $100,000 to the group. Rogers has paid out of his own pocket to hire a personal assistant to work full-time on DNC fundraising. In fact, Duke is providing $1 million worth of uptown office space, rent-free, for the entire host committee. The company has even guaranteed the host committee a $10 million line of credit in case their fundraising runs short. Duke is also one of the leading contributors to New American City, Inc., a fund setup by the host committee in order to accept corporate money.
Tony Ndege, of Occupy Winston-Salem, described the troubling relationship between Duke and the American Legislative Exchange Council. Ndege explained how ALEC is essentially a corporate bill mill where corporations and special interests help craft model legislation. Duke has helped create bills attacking environmental regulations and attempts to reduce greenhouse emmissions. Corporations like Duke fund most of ALEC's operations. They sponsored ALEC's 2012 spring meeting in Charlotte. Duke has given ALEC $116,000 since 2009, according to the Charlotte Business Journal.
Afterward, members of the community engaged in an open discussion. People suggested what we can do to fight back against the destructive effects of dirty energy. Updates were given about key actions taking place around the state and nation. People were energized, inspired, and ready to act.
Now more than ever, people in Charlotte know what's “going on behind that switch.” No amount of Duke propaganda will hide the true facts of how they operate.
Missed the event but still want to hear what happened? Check out the video recorded live stream here.
When the oil and gas industry gets to write the rules supposed to govern them, public health and the public good are left by the wayside. Unfortunately that is exactly what is happening with the regulation of hydraulic fracturing in New York and other states.
In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration has been accused of conspiring with the fracking industry to develop regulations that limit the states ability to oversee fracking.
Documents recently uncovered by Environmental Working Group show that industry representatives were given drafts of the state’s proposed regulations before they were released to the public. Industry representatives then used the privileged information to lobby against commonsense rules, like testing for radioactivity in waste-water.
Currently, the major federal environmental laws regulating hazardous waste, air pollution and water pollution all have significant loopholes and exemptions for fracking. This is because the fracking industry has fought hard to keep regulation at the state level, where it is easier to influence and harder to enforce. As a recent report by the OMB Watch illustrates, state laws, many of which may have been written by the fracking industry, have failed to protect public health.
For more on the environmental, public health, and community impacts of fracking, see Greenpeace’s recently updated fracking page.
We don’t want the oil and gas industry writing the laws that are supposed to regulate them.
The fracking industry does not have the health of the public in mind. As Josh Fox’s latest video discusses, the oil and gas industry continues to publicly deny that fracking leads to poisoned water wells, though internal industry documents show that they have acknowledged and attempted to address the problem (unsuccessfully). The industry has even deployed military personnel and tactics against Pennsylvanians, which one company executive referred to as “insurgents.” Frackers want cheap access to the hydrocarbons in the shale, which means externalizing environmental, public health, and community impacts.
The frackers don’t care about American jobs, the economy, or “energy independence.” One of the most popular talking points used by the oil and gas industry is summed up by the bumper sticker “drill here, drill now, pay less.” The idea being if we allow oil and gas corporations to exploit our land and water to extract fossil fuels, it will benefit the average citizen by lowering energy prices, reducing independence of “foreign” energy supplies, etc. This is completely false, as Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil will tell you. Companies involved in fracking want to increase the price of natural gas by exporting it out of the country. They want to sell it on an open market, to the highest bidder, no matter who that is.
The fracking industry’s short-sightedness hurts everyone involved, including themselves. When the fracking boom took off a few years ago, the oil and gas industry treated it like a gold rush. Companies like Chesapeake Energy put every dime they had into acquiring land and drilling wells, while taking out massive loans to finance the expansion. The frackers produced so much gas that gas prices dropped through the floor, to historically low prices. Right now, these companies are losing money and can’t even afford complete the wells they have already drilled. In Pennsylvania there are 5,000 wells awaiting completion, sitting idle, as their well casings deteriorate. Like the bankers responsible for the financial collapse, the fracking industry’s ravenous approach to drilling created a bubble, which the public will pay for with toxic water and a landscape ravaged by heavy industry.
At a recent meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson laid down some knowledge on the general public, which he referred to as "lazy" and "illiterate." Mr. Tillerson is supremely confident that technology will solve the problems of resource extraction and climate change, if those "problems" even exist. Here are some of the highlights:
Think the tar sands are destructive and dirty?
“There are always technological solutions to these challenges and the risk associated with resource development.”
Worried about hydraulic fracturing ruining groundwater and damaging the environment?
“If you look at the technologies that are front and center today around the shale resources -- hydraulic fracturing, horizontal drilling, the integration of those technologies, how we drill these wells, how we protect fresh water zone, how we protect emissions -- we have all of that engineered.”
"And the consequences of a misstep by any member of our industry -- and I'm speaking again about the shale revolution -- the consequences of a misstep in a well, while large to the immediate people that live around that well, in the great scheme of things are pretty small, and even to the immediate people around the well, they could be mitigated."
Well. Rex thinks the permanent poisoning of your water well is "in the great scheme of things are pretty small." Good to know.
Worried about Global climate change, rising seas, crippling drought?
“And as human beings as a -- as a -- as a species, that's why we're all still here. We have spent our entire existence adapting, OK? So we will adapt to this. Changes to weather patterns that move crop production areas around -- we'll adapt to that. It's an engineering problem, and it has engineering solutions. And so I don't -- the fear factor that people want to throw out there to say we just have to stop this, I do not accept."
Have high hopes for electric cars and renewable energy as a solution to the coming climate change related problems?
“No, I think we're not [going to use electric cars], which is why I'm not optimistic because it is a -- it's a very, very difficult science-physics problem to overcome.”
So when it comes to pumping more oil and gas from the ground, the answer is “yes, we can,” but when we talk about reducing carbon and the technologies required to do it, Tillerson sings a different tune.
Dan DiMicco (picture right), CEO of Nucor, recently sent a letter to a concerned shareholder defending Nucor's support of the Heartland Institute. The letter contained numerous talking points commonly used by Heartland's campaign of climate science denial, and revealed DiMicco to be either pitifully ignorant of the state of climate change science, or a calculating executive willing to misinform his own shareholders.
From the letter:
"As you can see from Nucor’s website, We take environmental issues very seriously, including the debate surrounding “climate change.” (See http://www.nucor.com/responsibility/environment/issues/Warming/)"
Nucor doesn't take the realities of global climate change seriously if it's PowerPoint presentations on climate cite the Heartland Institute. Heartland is well known as a corporate front group that specializes in attacking science and confusing consumers, teachers and policymakers. Not long ago Heartland was denying the health effects of tobacco and opposing tobacco regulations, while being funded by the biggest tobacco corporations. As of last week, Heartland still claimed that the proven risks of smoking tobacco products are based on "junk science"....sound familiar? Now, Heartland denies the ill effects of carbon pollution, while on the payroll of major carbon polluters like Nucor. Note that the same PowerPoint also references the Institute for Energy Research, a group run by former Koch Industries lobbyist Tom Pyle with notable support from the Kochs and other vested interests (see Politico).
It is most likely that the information that formed the basis of your inquiry concerning the Heartland Institute (“Heartland”) had its genesis with a group entitled “Forecast the Facts,” whose activities are chronicled at http://fakegate.org/the-heartland-institute-replies-to-forecast-the-facts/.
Why would DiMicco cite "Fakegate," a website created by Heartland rather than a legitimate news source? The "fakegate" website was originally created to assault scientist Peter Gleick, who duped Heartland into releasing damaging internal funding and strategy documents. As Heartland's credibility slid from poor to nonexistent once their internal operations became transparent, they were desperate to shift focus away from the contents of the leaked information. Fakegate was the result.
As you can read from the webpage, much of the uproar is a result of stolen and fabricated documentation.
In this line, DiMicco is referring to a document leaked by scientist/activist Peter Gleick that Heartland claims is fabricated. There is no reason to believe the document in question is not genuine, and everything in the document is verifiable by Heartland's 2012 budget and 2012 fundraising plan, which Heartland does not dispute. In these documents, Nucor was outed as a direct supporter of Heartland's climate science denial program and the outrageous tactics associated with that campaign. Tactics paid for in part by Nucor include billboards asserting that only terrorists recognize climate science and an effort to teach climate science denial in K-12 school programs (Washington Post).
Heartland “does not ‘deny the existence of climate change.’”
Actually, Heartland's position on climate change is even less consistent than Nucor's. Consider the following statements by Heartland president Joe Bast, which all link to Heartland sources through PolluterWatch.
- "Most scientists do not believe human activities threaten to disrupt the Earth's climate" (Eight Reasons Why ‘Global Warming’ Is a Scam, Heartland Institute, Feb. 1, 2003).
- "A modest amount of global warming, should it occur, would be beneficial to the natural world and to human civilization" (2003, same article).
- “The wind has gone out of the sails of the global warming scare" (Heartland President addresses Common-Sense Environmentalism, May 29, 2004).
Notable also are interviews with Joe Bast this year where he contradicts his own position from one day to the next:
- Feb 22, 2012: "We believe that climate has warmed in the second half of the 20th Century, we believe that there is probably a measurable human impact on climate but it's probably very small, we think that natural forces probably overwhelm any impact that human activity can have, that computer models are too unreliable to forecast what the future might hold for climate and finally that a modest amount of warming is probably going to be, on net, beneficial both to human beings and the ecosystem. We think that that's pretty much actually the consensus of working scientists in this area." (Wall Street Journal Digital Network interview)
- Feb 23, 2012: "I'm confident that the scientific basis behind the threat has pretty much melted away. So I talk about the global warming ... delusion and how it's gradually unwinding." (ClimateWire interview)
None of this is new. Back in 1997 when the Kyoto Protocol sparked massive oil and coal interest in financing climate denial groups like Heartland, the Heartland Institute claimed "Satellite Temperature Records Show No Global Warming" in a headline of its June edition of Environment News.
Joseph Bast, Heartland's president, frequently contradicts or denies his own outrageous commentary, as demonstrated by his recent response to Forecast the Facts' aggregation of Bast's quotes in defense of the tobacco industry. (UPDATE: Popular Science notes that Joe Bast says he has a raspy voice "from years of smoking.") Bast claimed that Forecast had no citations for his own quotes (a lie, check the linked dates for yourself on Forecast the Facts' page) but admits he's not keen on finding the truth: "I have not tried to confirm the authenticity of the quotations attributed to me, and won’t."
Nucor and Pfizer continue to fund Heartland in the company of Altria and Reynolds American, major tobacco companies that are forced to turn to extreme groups like the Heartland Institute for their public relations campaigns.
The issues surrounding the “climate” debate are real and difficult questions to answer, but Nucor has been consistent in its support for scientific answers instead of political consensus. Heartland is just such an institution, “bringing together the world’s leading scientists and economists to study the issue.” It is entirely appropriate for Nucor and other like-minded companies and groups to fund The Heartland Institute. Working together we will ﬁnd solutions, so that our best days are still ahead of us.
Perhaps if DiMicco recognized the contemporary scientific conclusions of 97% of working climate researchers around the world, NASA, NOAA, the American Geophysical Union, other major US scientific institutions and all of the National Academies of Sciences for every industrialized country on the planet, he wouldn't think that these are "difficult questions to answer."
However, it is important to realize that DiMicco stands to profit substantially as long as carbon emissions are not regulated and not addressed. Nucor makes and recycles steel, which requires tremendous amounts of electricity and releases substantial amounts of CO2. If people doubt the science of climate change and ignore scientists' pleas to reduce carbon emissions, DiMicco can continue to externalize the cost of CO2 pollution, which raises Nucor's profit margins.
In addition, Dan DiMicco sits on the Board of Directors for Duke Energy, a major coal-burning utility known for its repeated doublespeak on issues of pollution and climate change. By delaying meaningful cuts in carbon emissions, Duke and DiMicco can continue to burn coal, spew greenhouse gas pollution, and reap large profits.
Full text of the letter is available here.
Climate change denial is a set of organized attempts to downplay, deny or dismiss the scientific consensus on the extent of global warming, its significance, and its connection to human behavior, especially for commercial or ideological reasons. Source: Wikipedia
In a bold and innovative new move for climate change deniers, Dan Dimicco, the CEO of Nucor - one of the largest steel companies in the U.S - has denied that the Heartland Institute is involved in climate change science denial.
For background, the Heartland Institute is a corporate front group, well known for attacking scientific findings that their corporate paymasters find inconvenient. Heartland has denied the health effects of tobacco smoke while taking millions of dollars from tobacco corporations, and currently denies the cause and effects of global climate change, while being paid by major carbon polluters like the oil and gas industry and Nucor.
Dimicco’s denial of Heartland’s climate denial came in the form of a letter to a concerned Nucor shareholder. The letter contains a number of outright fallacies, chronicled below:
"Heartland does not deny climate change"
Really? Then why has Heartland organized 7 conferences on climate denial? Why does Heartland president Joe Bast frequently say things like: "Most scientists do not believe human activities threaten to disrupt the Earth's climate."
See this blog by ThinkProgress for a longer list of Heartland's climate denial.
"[Heartland] supports research and scholarly debate on causes and effects of climate change"
An example of research and scholarly debate:
The Heartland Institute unveiled this banner in Chicago.
"It is entirely appropriate for Nucor and other like minded companies and groups to fund the Heartland Institute."
Because of Heartland’s extreme climate stance and indefensible tactics, many major corporations have distanced themselves from Heartland. In 2007 ExxonMobil, a major funder of climate science attacks, stopped funding the Institute, saying they could no longer support groups that “serve as a distraction” to the climate issue. In the last six months, 19 other major corporations like GM, Pepsico, and Bayer have cut ties with Heartland over their climate stance. These major corporations don’t think supporting Heartland is appropriate, why does Nucor?
Though it is tempting to find Dan Dimicco’s (picture right) absurd comments on Heartland and the climate change “debate” laughable, it is a deadly serious issue.
If all people act responsibly, including Nucor and the rest of the steel industry, overcoming the threats of climate change will be an enormous task. If industry leaders like Nucor continue to sit on the sidelines - or worse, intentionally obstruct climate solutions, people and the planet will suffer immensely.
Tell Nucor to stop obstructing solutions to climate change and stop funding attacks on climate science. Nucor needs to create a coherent and fact based stance on climate and stand by it.
Sign this petition and tell denier Dan Dimicco to stop funding attacks on climate science.
Nucor, the largest producer of steel in the U.S., takes great pains to present a “green” image. Nucor's website is full of oak trees and pastoral scenes next to the tag line “Nucor: It’s Our Nature.”
However, since 2010, Nucor has given at least $500,000 to the Heartland Institute, a right wing corporate front group that attacks climate change science and scientists. According to Heartland’s own fundraising documents, Nucor’s contributions were earmarked specifically for attacking climate science and environmental regulations. Heartland has recently made headlines for a billboard campaign featuring a picture of Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, next to the words “I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?”
The billboard campaign is the latest in Heartland’s continuing battle against the scientific evidence of climate change. Heartland has also sponsored and organized six conferences on climate denial in the past 5 years, and they recently held a seventh that took place May 21-23 in Chicago. The “International Conferences on Climate Change,” as Heartland calls them, provide a platform and meeting space for the small cadre of professional climate science deniers that have derailed meaningful solutions to the threats of global warming in the U.S.
This year’s conference featured the usual self-contradictory climate denier arguments, which includes everything from outright denial that the earth temperature is going up, to admitting the globe is warming but denying that humans and CO2 are involved, to admitting the earth is warming, humans and CO2 are involved, but the warming will be beneficial. However, this year’s meeting also delved in to other fanatical conspiracy theories, like the belief that President Barack Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate is not real.
Because of their outrageous attacks on climate science, 15 corporations have dropped the Heartland Institute. Send Nucor's CEO Dan Dimicco an email telling him to stop funding the Heartland Institute and climate denial.
The truth is, if Heartland’s deceptive and dishonest talk about climate science was aimed at the few aging contrarians that attended the latest meeting, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. However, Heartland doesn’t get paid by Nucor and other big carbon emitting corporations to mislead a fringe tribe of retired old white men (picture of conference at right). Heartland gets paid to derail solutions to climate change. This has meant creating anti-science curriculum for grade schools, paying spokespeople to deny climate science, and attacking the scientists that do real work on climate change.
Given that the $500,000 Nucor has given Heartland in the last 3 years was specifically for attacking climate science and environmental regulations, Nucor must be held accountable for Heartland's climate science denial.
Send Nucor CEO Dan Dimicco an email telling him to stop funding attacks on climate science and the Heartland Institute.
For updates on the Heartland Institute, see PolluterWatch's ongoing investigation.
More corporate funders drop the anti-science Heartland Institute, Including Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, Verizon, and CUNA
UPDATE: Statement from Forecast the Facts added below (click here to see)
Pharmaceutical giants Bayer and GlaxoSmithKline, along with Verizon, Wisconsin Insurance Alliance, and Credit Union National Association, have announced that they will not fund the climate change denying Heartland Institute in 2012. According to the Heartland Institute’s own fundraising document, it hoped to receive $130,000 from these potential funders this year. Today’s announcement brings the total number of corporate sponsors to drop Heartland to 15, representing $955,000 of Heartland’s projected $7.7 million budget this year.
This announcement comes in response to a petition signed by over 150,000 people calling for Heartland’s corporate funders to drop support of the organization, which recently ran a billboard campaign in Chicago comparing those that advocate for solutions to climate change to “murderers, tyrants, and madmen.” The petition was organized by Forecast the Facts, Greenpeace, SumofUs, Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, and 350.org.
The Heartland Institute just finished their 7th “International Conference on Climate Change” which ran from May21-23 in Chicago. The conferences, which provides a platform and meeting space for professional climate science deniers, are dedicated to attacking the climate scientists and the scientific consensus on climate change. This years conference also questioned the authenticity of President Obama's Hawaiian birth certificate. Because of the funding gaps brought on by the mass defection of corporate sponsors Heartland Institute president Joe Bast. Joe Bast said at the conference:
"I hope to see you at a future conference, but at this point we have no plans to do another ICCC.”
Major corporations and trade groups like Nucor, Pfizer, Reynolds American Inc., and Phrma continue to fund the Heartland Institute.
"Forecast the Facts applauds the decision of pharmaceutical companies GlaxoSmithKline and Bayer to sever their relationship with the Heartland Institute and its denial of scientific fact. Unfortunately, corporations like Pfizer and United Healthcare have yet to follow suit, ignoring the concerns of more than 160,000 concerned citizens, customers, and shareholders. Health-care companies have a special responsibility to act, as climate pollution is the key public health threat of the 21st century." -- Brad Johnson, Campaign Manager, Forecast the Facts