debate

Coal Utility CEO dismisses link between Hurricane Sandy and Climate Change

  • Posted on: 31 October 2012
  • By: Connor Gibson

Image source: Knoxville News Sentinal

Duh. That's probably what you thought to yourself when you read my headline.

Yes, as American families on the east coast are reeling from an unprecedented weather disaster, Southern Company CEO Thomas Fanning told CNBC:

“I don’t think the data supports that the storms are more frequent or unusual than they have been in the past. But the point is right now that we are not dedicated to getting into an ancillary argument.” (h/t The Hill)

Fanning probably considers the much-needed conversations considering Hurricane Sandy and climate change as "ancillary" because Southern Company plays a very central and very inconvenient role in creating global warming. Apparently, Fanning's home and livelihood weren't damaged by superstorm Sandy, although his birthplace of Morristown, NJ was hit by the storm. Lucky him--out of sight, out of mind! Apparently there's no need to talk about the deeper issue of global warming. (Greenpeace photos of damage from Sandy).

See, not only is Southern Co one of the nation's largest coal-burning utilities, but it creates more carbon pollution than any other utility in the country and ranks #7 in global power company carbon emissions. Southern Co is responsible for dumping over 145 million tons of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere each year, making it a key culprit in the global climate crisis.

In turn, global warming creates conditions that can make cyclones like Hurricane Sandy more intense than they naturally would be, not to mention increasing the likelihood of other extreme weather events like droughts, floods, and heavy storms. If you live in the U.S., you know this year was particularly suspicious in terms of climate-related disasters.

Suspicious unless you have your head in the sand, as Mr. Fanning appears to. What's worse is how much Thomas Fanning's company has paid money to stuff other people's heads in the sand with them.

While aggravating global warming through its immense greenhouse gas emissions, Southern Company has also been a key manipulator in our national dialog over global climate change:

  • Funding shill groups: Southern Co. is a member of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, a front group run by coal utility lobbyists at the law firm Bracewell & Giuliani. Through ERCC lobbyists Scott Segal and Jeff Holmstead, Southern Co and other dirty utilities bitterly opposes any requirements for coal companies to reduce their pollution or greenhouse gases causing global warming. Southern Co is also a member of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), another front group opposing strong environmental standards for coal pollution. You may be familiar with ACCCE for its multimillion dollar ad buys around the election, or for its involvement in a scandal where forged letters were sent to Congress to oppose climate legislation in 2009.
  • Buying politics: Since 2008, Southern Co. has spent over $61 million lobbying our federal government, much of which was to block environmental laws and legislation addressing climate change. Southern Co. has spent over $10 million each year on federal lobbying since 2004. To support its lobbying expenditures, Southern Co. has also sent over $1.6 million to federal politicians and registered political groups since the 2008 election cycle.
    • In the 2012 presidential election, Southern Co. has sent $46,650 to Republican candidate Mitt Romney and $8,580 to President Barack Obama (OpenSecrets).

Unfortunately for the climate and those who are now suffering from weather disasters, Southern Company is just one of many companies funding our politicians and then paying lobbyists, setting up front groups and financing hack scientists to push politicians even farther into an anti-science fantasy-land. Along with Southern are other key bad actors like Duke Energy, Peabody, ExxonMobil, Chesapeake Energy, Koch Industries and other fossil fuel interests that also want to stomp any mention of global warming out of politics, protecting billions in profit and limiting their liability over pollution problems.

Understanding how these behemoths operate and coordinate makes it less surprising, though no less offensive, that we didn't hear about climate change in the first presidential debate series in over 20 years.

It doesn't matter if global warming is an "ancillary" issue to Southern Company after disasters like Hurricane Sandy, or if the presidential contenders won't be honest with Americans about the problem. Our changed climate is only going to keep changing.

As Koch Orchestrates Political Strategy Session, Student Demands Debate

  • Posted on: 21 October 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

Student leader, Joel Francis, challenges Charles Koch to debate Prop 23 and CA's economic future

A challenge released today from Cal State LA senior Joel Francis directly confronts Charles Koch, CEO of Koch Industries, to a debate on Proposition 23 and the future of California's economy.

Francis calls it like it is, noting that Prop 23 is backed by dirty industry, namely Koch Industries subsidiary Flint Hills and Texas refiners Valero and Tesoro.

The student also told Mr. Koch that he could choose the terms of debate, and warned that he would not allow Charles to ignore his request:

"Please know that silence isn't an option.  I'm not going to let you hide behind your billions of dollars in Wichita, Kansas.  If I don't hear back from you by Tuesday, I will be at the front door of your office to issue this challenge again, in person.  As the CEO of one of the largest privately-owned companies in the country, I know you couldn't possibly be afraid of just one college student."

Joel Francis is calling Charles Koch out

This video comes out at a time where the Koch brothers are receiving increased scrutiny for their role in funding and orchestrating the climate denial movement and other efforts to block societal progress.  Most recently, the New York Times and ThinkProgress drew national attention to a memo sent by Charles Koch to major "titans of industry," inviting wealthy and politically influential elites to a January meeting in Palm Springs, California.  Supplemental material in the memo warns that "the proceedings of this meeting are confidential," asking guests not to leave materials laying around and noting that the media will not be allowed in (check out the full memo, signed by Charles Koch).

This meeting is the next step in a series of biannual strategy sessions that the billionaires have been running for years.  The meetings that the Koch's orchestrated in the past have included some notable public figures, including Fred Malek (Karl Rove's top attack-ad fundraiser and former Nixon campaigner), Americans for Prosperity president Tim Phillips, and Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, and Glenn Beck, who just days later thanked Charles Koch on his show for "information" that he used to attack climate change science.

As more and more of the Kochtopus is revealed to the public eye, it is going to be increasingly difficult for David Koch to continue to act as the benevolent billionaire and for Charles to hide behind the curtain, pulling strings of influence from his Wichita headquarters.  Maybe it's time for Charles to start opening up to the world - he can begin by accepting Joel Francis' debate challenge.

 

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