J.C. Moore Online
Current events from a science perspective.

The Cornwall Alliance: Dominionism vs. Science and Religion

     Posted on Tue ,06/01/2015 by J.C. Moore

The Cornwall Alliance has been transformed into a propaganda machine to cast doubt on climate science and to urge Christian churches to “Resist the Green Dragon” of environmental stewardship.

 

According to the Cornwall Alliance, the Christian environmental movement is a Green Dragon swallowing up our churches, saying “Both professing Protestants and o gdRoman Catholics bear a burden of guilt for the current political mess we are in with the global warming and other hysterias.” Further, NASA is complicit , ”The environmental lobby and your government [NASA] want to indoctrinate your children into envirospies watching your every move and harassing you until you change your behavior.” Such is the messages of the Cornwall Alliance under the leadership of Dr. E Calvin Beisner.

Why the attack on NASA? NASA‘s research has shown that the rising burden of carbon dioxide caused by burning fossil fuels is causing the Earth to warm and for our weather to be more severe. Dr. Beisner is upset that NASA put together a children’s website to help children understand using energy wisely to reduce climate change. Dr. James Hansen, former head of the NASA’s Institute for Space Studies is one of the most respected climatologists in the world. His most famous quotes is, “If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, CO2 will need to be reduced from the current levels of 400 ppm to at most 350 ppm.” That can only be done if we greatly curtail our use of fossil fuels, which of course would hurt the profits of the fossil fuel industry. Attacking science. scientists, and Christian stewardship on behalf of the fossil fuel industry is what Dr. Beisner does best, and the Cornwall Alliance is his vehicle for doing so.

The Cornwall Alliance: The Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, in 2000, developed the Cornwall Doctrine. Its main goal was to address the challenges faced by the very poor because of climate change. The doctrine was based on Genesis 1:28 which says, ” Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”  Generally, those who argue for Christian stewardship think that dominion means “benevolent rule”. Dr. E. Calvin Beisner, a Dominionist, apparently interprets the scripture to mean “subdue and exploit”.  It is likely that not everyone who signed the Cornwall Doctrine would agree, but Dr. Beisner  promotes his views as that of the Cornwall Alliance. The Cornwall Doctrine was viewed as guiding principles until about 2007 when Dr. Beisner formed an alliance with the Heartland Institute.

The Heartland Institute: It became apparent in the early 1980’s that carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels was causing changes in the environment that would impact mankind, particularly those in poor and indigenous societies who do not have the resources to adjust to the changing climate. Many churches have adopted statements encouraging environmentalism based upon good stewardship, some specifically mentioning the threat of greenhouse gases. The  Heartland Institute was identified by Riley Dunlap and Aaron McCright as a part of the Climate Change Denial Machine  which receives “dark money” from fossil fuel companies and funnel it to front groups that create propaganda casting doubt on climate science.  Dr. Beisner makes a special point that dominion is not domination; however, the men who wish to dominate and exploit the environment for profit certainly find his arguments useful. They found in him a way to counter the Christian Stewardship movement, and the Cornwall Alliance, under Dr. Beisner’s leadership, became part of the sounding board for the climate change denial machine.

The Green Dragon: In 2010, the Cornwall Alliance chose the “Green Dragon” to symbolize its campaign against the growth of the environmental stewardship movement in Christian churches. The campaign was based upon the book “Resisting the Green Dragon”, by James Wanliss.  A review of the book shows that though Dr. Wanliss is a physicist, the book was not soundly based upon physics, but upon Martin Durkin’s movie, The Great Global Warming Swindle, though the movie is based upon bad science and fraud. Mr. Durkin misrepresents his credentials, presents fabricated data, and distorts the work of scientists he quotes.  The Cornwall Alliance has produced a series of videos based upon Resisting the Green Dragon, assailing its hold on the churches. There is little truth and much propaganda in the videos. They seem designed more to protect the profits of the fossil fuel companies than to protect the Earth, or the people who depend on the Earth for survival.  Though the book and the videos try to make a case that Christian churches should abandon environmental stewardship, they are apparently having little impact.

Science: Dr. Beisner doesn’t understand science, despite claiming to be an authority on energy and environmental issues. When God created the Heavens and the Earth, he also created the laws of physics which governs them. While Dr. Beisner may interpret the scriptures to suit his purposes, the Earth will follow the laws of physics no matter what he claims. Dr. Beisner’s degree is in Scottish history, which in no way qualifies him to make judgments about climate science, nor does it give him the expertise to decide whether the science Skeptics he quotes are legitimate. Every major science organization in the world has adopted statements similar to that of the American Chemical Society which says,” the Earth’s  climate system is changing rapidly in response to growing atmospheric burdens of greenhouse gases and absorbing  aerosol particles. There is very little room for doubt that observed climate trends are due to human activities. The threats are serious and action is urgently needed to mitigate the risks of climate change.” Dr. Beisner’s pronouncements are in conflict with the theories of climate science, the empirical evidence, and the opinions of the 97% of the scientists who are active in research.

Military: If Dr. Beisner will not listen to our scientists, then perhaps he should listen to our military leaders , ” Drastic weather, rising seas and changing storm patterns could become “threat multipliers” for the United States, vastly complicating security challenges faced by American forces.” Many low lying islands, and even some of our military bases, are threatened by rising sea levels and increased tidal surges. The accelerating rate of climate change poses a severe risk to national security and acts as a catalyst for global political conflict. It concluded that climate change-induced drought in the Middle East and Africa is leading to conflicts over food and water and escalating longstanding regional and ethnic tensions into violent clashes. The rising sea levels are putting people and food supplies in vulnerable coastal regions like eastern India, Bangladesh and the Mekong Delta in Vietnam at risk and could lead to a new wave of refugees.

Religions:  Despite Dr. Beisner’s insistence that environmentalism is a Green Dragon, eating the heart of the church and leading it into sin, the leaders of our churches differ .  At its 2014 meeting in Geneva, the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches , which represent some 590 million people in 150 countries, endorsed fossil fuel divestment, agreeing to phase out its own holdings and encourage its members to do the same.  Serene Jones, the President of Union Theological Seminary in the US, which recently committed to divest its entire $108.4 million endowment from fossil fuels says, “Scripture tells us that all of the world is God’s precious creation, and our place within it is to care for and respect the health of the whole. As a seminary dedicated to social justice, we have a critical call to live out our values in the world. Climate change poses a catastrophic threat, and as stewards of God’s creation we simply must act.”

The Catholic Church, who centuries ago made peace with science, is following suit. Pope Francis will release in March a comprehensive Vatican teachings on climate change, which will urge 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide to take action. “The document will take a position in favor of the scientific consensus that climate change is real … and link the deforestation and destruction of the natural environment to the particular economic model of which Pope Francis has been a critic.” The pope also plans to address the United Nations General Assembly and convene a summit of the world’s main religions in hopes of bolstering next year’s crucial U.N. climate meeting in Paris.

Representing the most conservative of Christians, the Evangelical Environmental Alliance  take great issue with Dr. Beisner’s claim that they are worshiping a false God. They assert: “ Pollution hurts the poor the most, and Christians are called to care for the poor and the less powerful (Mt. 25:37-40). Thus, caring for all of creation provides a Christian with the deepest sense of joy and contentment since it is part of loving God.” And, recently, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ (UNCC) adopted a strong resolution on climate change that calls upon church members to “make shareholder engagement on climate change an immediate, top priority for the next five years”, to “demand action from legislators and advocate for the creation and enforcement of carbon-reducing laws.” , to “make lifestyle changes to reduce the use of fossil fuels in our lives, our homes, our businesses and our churches”, and to “to reduce the use of fossil fuels, our carbon footprint, and our complicity with the fossil fuel industry.”

Funding: Dr. Beisner is vague about the funding sources for the Cornwall Alliance. Much of its funding is given through 501©(3) organizations that do not have to reveal the amount or the donors. Though it is difficult to trace the funds, many of the paths lead from the foundations aligned with the fossil fuel industry. When Leo Hickman, in a Guardian interview, asked Dr. Beisner directly about funding, he neatly evaded the question by replying  “ Here in the US, for a variety of different reasons, you can make a donation to one charitable foundation via another foundation and the receiving foundation does not know who you are. Sometimes it’s just as simple as, ‘Hey, Jesus, said don’t let the left hand know what the right it doing.” When he was asked in an interview with Bill Moyers about his role as a  resident scholar at the Acton Institute, he acted unaware that the Acton Institute for years has received steady support from Exxon-Mobil. Anyone who thinks that Dr. Beisner is not disingenuous in what he says, should read that interview. Think Progress traced the funding for the Cornwall Alliance back to what they call the “oily operators”,  showing that Dr. Beisner is likely hiding his main funding sources. Certainly, men who wish to dominate and exploit the environment for profit, and misguided  politicians, will find the Cornwall Alliance’s arguments useful, and be willing to pay for the propaganda.

 The Indigenous and poor: Though the Cornwall Alliance receives donations from individuals and corporations, there is no evidence that any of the money actually goes to help the poor. It’s main contribution seems to be a claim that environmentalism will keep them from having cheap energy from fossil fuels to develop into industrialized nations. Dr. Beisner should realize that civilization existed for thousands of years without fossil fuels and, though fossil fuels have been a great benefit to man, abusing their use is creating conditions on the Earth that threatens poor countries and indigenous people. If they are to develop energy sources, it would likely be from sustainable sources as they do not have the wealth or the infrastructure to support a fossil fuel system. He ignores the social justice element. The countries and the people feeling the greatest effects of climate change are those with the least infrastructure and economic capacity to deal with those impacts. And they’ve also contributed the least to the problem because they’re often small economically and small in terms of their carbon footprint. So as global leaders in countries that enjoy a very high standard of living, isn’t its partly our responsibility to do something that doesn’t wreck the climate for everybody else?

Though Dr. Beisner asserts that efforts to reduce climate change will hurt the poor and indigenous people, just the opposite is true.  The poor do not have the resources to adapt to climate change or to recover from climate disasters. In many cases, climate change is threatening the way of life that has sustained them for centuries. Last year’s drought on the Horn of Africa led to widespread famine and many deaths among the poor. The people of Kashmir are concerned that the glaciers that feed their streams in the summer are receding – making less water available. The Sherpa of Tibet worry that their villages may be flooded by lakes that now form each summer from melting glaciers, held back by unstable ice dams. The Inuit in Greenland cannot use their traditional hunting grounds at the ice is too thin for their dog sleds to traverse. Those in the Arctic are having to move their coastal villages to keep them from being eroded away by wave action of open seas, which used to be ice year-round. Their inland villages are threatened because the permafrost upon which they are built now becomes a quagmire in the summer. They are being forced to change a way of life that sustained them for centuries. While some may adapt, their way of life and culture will be destroyed, and many will likely end up among the poor and unemployed. As reported in The Guardian, thousands of indigenous people from the Andes, the Amazon, and neighboring South American countries invaded the Peruvian capital during the Climate Conference. They marched outside demanding a solution to climate change, and a solution to the corporate invasions of their traditional lands.

Bill McKibben is the founder of 350.org, dedicated to reducing the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere to a safe 350 ppm. In his acceptance speech for the Right Livelihood Award, akin to a Nobel Prize for humanitarian work, he expressed it eloquently, “We stand in solidarity with Andean activists losing the glaciers that supply their drinking water, and with Bangladeshi activists watching the seas rise in the Bay of Bengal. We learn from African leaders like Desmond Tutu, who recently called climate change the greatest human rights challenge of our time, and from Sámi leaders from the top of the world, who are watching berserk winter weather wreck time-honored ways of life. We struggle alongside residents of Delhi and Beijing and the other smog-choked metropolises of our planet… We look with great inspiration to the countries like Germany that are demonstrating daily that it is entirely possible to turn to renewable energy for the power that we need on this planet.”

Conclusion: Dr. Beisner’s opinions are not only in conflict with climate scientists, our military leaders, and mainstream Christian churches, but with his own Presbyterian Church. The Presbyterian Church stated in 1989 and reaffirmed in 2008, its “serious concern that the global atmospheric warming trend (the greenhouse effect) represents one of the most serious global environmental challenges to the health, security, and stability of human life and natural ecosystems.” While Dr. Beisner may believe what he wishes, he should not bear witness to ideas which are so much in conflict with those of his own faith and with the majority of scientists, nor should he encourage others to do so. Clearly, the conspiracies theories he spins and promotes in his newsletter have little evidence to support them.

Even the book, “Resisting the Green Dragon”, upon which his attacks upon stewardship are based, was published by WND Publishing which is well known for publishing conspiracies. It seems wrong for the Cornwall Alliance to use the power and respect that people have for ministers and Scripture to criticize the Christians who believe in good stewardship. The Cornwall Alliance does just that, as resisting the Green Dragon aligns more with profit motives than Christianity. There are millions of Christians around the world who consider the Cornwall Alliance’s views, as presented by Dr. Beisner, as a misinterpretation of the Scriptures and a failure to reflect what Jesus actually taught. The only time Jesus showed anger in the Bible was when he drove the money changers from the Temple. How might Jesus feel about the Cornwall Alliance bringing corporate interests into places of worship? Perhaps Dr. Beisner should rethink whether he really wishes to do that.

(C) 2015 J.C. Moore

Nominate Your Candidates for the 2014 Environmental Hall of Fame/Shame Awards

     Posted on Thu ,01/01/2015 by J.C. Moore

It is important that we keep in mind those who have most affected the environment by words or action.  Each year, this site Earthrise2takes a poll to find those most deserving to be in the Environmental Hall of Fame and the Environmental Hall of Shame. Please send  your nominations  for  each category by e-mail through the “Contact” link or put it in the comment section . If you would, please include a short reason that your nominee should be chosen and suggest a suitable gift if they win.

Nominations will be taken until January 31st, 2015. The nominees will then be  listed  and this site will conduct a poll to determine the winner in each category.   You may suggest a suitable prize for your nominee. Please be imaginative, as particularly thoughtful or humorous  nominations will  be recognized and published on this site

Past years winners and their awards were:

Hall of Fame Winners – Award

2013       Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org – Many new members so subscribe to his is weekly newsletter .

2012       President Barack Obama – A little coöperation from Congress, so please write your Representatives.

2011        James Hansen – A massive presence at the 2012 Citizen’s Climate Lobby 

2010        RealClimate.org  – A recommendation from this site. ( Priceless)

2009       Benno Hansen,  ThinkAboutIt Blogger – A Subscription to Science News.

Hall of Shame 

2013      The Koch Bothers -A boycott of their products: less money, less lobbying.

2012       Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund – An IRS investigation of their of their tax-exempt status.

2011        Halliburton (Cheney) -  A big glass of water from a well next to a hydrofracking operation.

2010        Koch Brothers – A petition to the Wizard of Oz for  the grant of a social conscience.

2009       SpaceGuy,  Newsvine Blogger – The movie Wall-E,  representing his view of the future of Earth.

 

(C) 2015  J.C. Moore

Profits at All Cost: Shareholder Value Vs. Stakeholder Value

     Posted on Tue ,30/12/2014 by J.C. Moore

At one time, most American companies saw their role as being responsible to their stakeholders, i.e., being a good corporate citizen and taking 0paycare of both its stockholders and its workers. There was a change in the 1980’s toward increasing shareholder value, i.e., a shift toward considering the companies’ profits to be primary even if it hurt the rest of its stakeholders. The graph at the right shows how that change affected our economy. Corporate profits increased,  CEO pay increased remarkably, and worker wages stagnated.

An example: Wal-Mart is a good example of that shift. As with many companies, the corporate culture changes when the founder dies. Sam Walton believed you should buy American and that you should treat workers fairly, a policy of maximizing stakeholder value. His heirs apparently thought that profits should be the main goal, a policy of maximizing shareholder value, and in the process making themselves fabulously wealthy. The company now imports many of their products and pays its workers poorly. Wal-Mart just announced that it may raise its minimum salary to $8.50 an hour. The Tulsa World editorial board approved saying,” If they (the workers) earn more, they will spend more, spurring the economy. They also will be less prone to need government entitlements such as food stamps.”  True, and while the salary increase may sound generous, it really isn’t. In 2009, when the minimum wage was raised to $7.50, Wal-Mart stock was worth $50 a share. In 2014, workers still earn only $7.50, but the stock is now at $88. If wages had kept up with the stock price, the minimum wage worker would get $13.20.

Earnings: Corporate earnings are one of the most closely watched indicators of a company’s profitability. Stock prices reflect the companies earning or its potential for earnings. Wall Street likes it that way, as it boils a company’s value down to one number which can be measured or approximately estimated for the future. CEO salaries are closely tied to their stock’s performance, making increased shareholder value the 0ratioprimary goal of the company. This leads to policies which boost the company’s earnings and the CEO’s pay in the short term, even though it may hurt the company in the long term. That’s why most CEOs insist on Golden Parachutes which make them fabulously wealthy even if the company declines in the future. Rewarding CEO’s for increased profits had led to policies that created a huge pay gap. While in 1980 CEO earned 42  times as much as an average worker, that gap has grown to 354 times as much.

Abuses: Salaries are one of the biggest expenses for most companies, and keeping average employee salaries low increases profits. Announcing layoffs, though it may reduce a company’s future productivity, is often rewarded with an increase in stock price. Some companies resort to practices such as shifting earnings overseas, setting up tax havens, or ignoring safety and environmental regulations which would cost money to implement. These policies hurt the workers, damage the US economy, and sometimes shift a companies business expenses to the US taxpayer. Many companies justify these practices by saying that they are following the law, but we should not forget that many of the laws were made by politicians influenced by lobbyists and money. Even though they are following the law, the ethics and the patriotism of those companies are questionable.

Stakeholders: Though Wall Street and CEOs may profit from the focus on shareholder value, there are other stakeholders in the company who should be considered. Workers have a stake in the company as their well-being depends on it. Yet, low pay makes workers lives miserable and many of them must sacrifice time with their family in order to take a second job. Taxpayers also a have a stake in companies. shareholdersTax avoidance and tax havens reduce tax revenue and add to the national debt. Shifting jobs overseas hurts American worker’s buying power and reduces their contributions to income taxes. Workers who are unable to afford health insurance or enough food for their family are forced to apply for government assistance. This shifts the burden to taxpayers and the reduced purchasing power slows the economy. Cutting corners on safety means damage to worker’s lives and health and puts a burden on our healthcare and workmen’s compensation system. And, we are all stakeholders in the environment as clean air, pure water, and a hospitable environment are considered our birthright.

 

Stakeholder value: The idea that corporations exist to reward shareholders arose not from law but from the work of ideologically driven economists. It’s a shift that Wall Street and corporate executives brought about, as they reap the rewards. They argue that shareholder capitalism will bring about the greatest good for our society, but in reality it is created economic inequality that is destroying the quality of life for a majority of American citizens. Gap As a contrast, Germany has adopted an emphasis on stakeholder values.  German corporation are required by law to have at least 50% of hourly workers on corporate boards. German workers are involved in decision about wages, healthcare, pensions, overtime, vacations, and other decisions that affect them. The workers certainly have an incentive to see that the company succeeds and they have more security and opportunity than ours. Germany has the strongest economy among the European Union countries and a much greater after tax economic equality .

Socially responsible investors recognize the value of considering all the stakeholders in a company. Many retirement funds and investment firms have social choice investment funds.  The fund’s investments favor companies that are strong stewards of the environment; devoted to serving local communities; committed to higher labor standards; dedicated to producing high-quality and safe products; and those managed in an exemplary or ethical manner. Though the funds are chosen for their ethical values, some of them do quite well. The TIAA-CREF Social Choice Equity Fund, for example, now has $2.6 billion in assets and has grown at the rate of 15% a year for the last five years.  Socialist choice funds are often less volatile as they are more immune to the wild swings in stock prices that occur when earnings reports come out.

Another factor driving the shift toward stakeholder investing is the choice by socially responsible institutions to divest from corporations which have a history of worker or environmental abuses. At its 2014 meeting in  Geneva, the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC), a fellowship of over 300 churches which represent some 590 million people in 150 countries, endorsed fossil fuel divestment, agreeing to phase out its own holdings and it encouraged its members to do the same.

Social entrepreneurism: Is not likely that the United States will pass laws requiring more emphasis on stakeholder values, but there is beginning to be a shift in that direction. There was recently an entrepreneurial seminar which promoted “Social entrepreneurism: the tricky balance of doing good while doing well”. It pointed out that twenty-seven states have passed legislation to make ”for benefit corporations”, called B Corporations,  possible. These are tax paying for-profit corporations which include an explicit social mission in their corporate charters.  One example is Grameen Bank, an organization that popularized micro-credit, which makes small loans to impoverished families in developing countries so they can invest in small businesses. Its founder was recognized with a Nobel Prize. Another example is Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, with its explicit corporate emphasis on social causes, such as paying more for sustainably grown milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla and chocolate; curbing climate change; and mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms. People are apparently willing to pay more for a product from companies that emphasize stakeholder values.

(c) 2014   J.C. Moore

 

The 1956 Republican Party Platform vs. Todays

     Posted on Sun ,02/11/2014 by

The chart at the right compares the 1956 Republican platform when Eisenhower ran with what the party’s platform seems to be today. Some things aagop platformevolve, and some things devolve. The modern Republican Party is an example of the latter. Trying to hold power, rather than govern well, the party has molded itself to satisfy the religious right, the anti-science anti-intellectuals, the false conservatives, and the very wealthy. Unable to progress as the world changes, without offending those, the party leaders have taken the path of obstructionism.

It is a rather vicious cycle for Republicans. As moderates and progressives move away from the party, the extremist are more in control. That influence is seen most in the primaries where the extremist and money interests can insert more influence to elect their candidates. It is tough to be an Eisenhower Republican these days.

The 2014 platform is very similar to that developed by the Republican Party in 2012. Republican leaders  used a push poll to develop the 2012 Republican presidential platform. Here  is an analysis of that poll.  The poll was an affront to intelligent Republicans as it was not really to solicit their opinions but instead an effort to spread propaganda and to raise money. It signaled the big money interests and extremists that if they gave generously, the Party would reward them. And it did. Here is an analysis of the 2012 Republican Party platform that Romney ran on. Can any Republican actually be proud of that platform? It is no wonder Romney lost.

Which platform in the chart do you prefer? It will never be 1956 again, but think where we might be today if the Republican Party had remained progressive. It is time for the Grand Old Party to become Grand again.

The League of Conservation Voters: Do We Need These Policies to Benefit Big Oil

     Posted on Sun ,02/11/2014 by

Oil has helped us develop our civilization and our economy and we will need it far into the future as a fuel and as a raw material. Four generations of my family have worked in the all business, and Big Oil does not represent the small independent oil companies we helped develop in Oklahoma.  Nor aaoildoes Big Oil represent the average American citizen very well. They represent the large international oil companies who have little loyalty to the United States, but who have enough money to influence our politics to pass laws and provide subsidies in their favor.

Big Oil has opposed regulations designed to protect people’s health and the environment. There is nothing conservative about that. The Canadian XL pipeline will allow a foreign country to take American property by eminent domain, will greatly increase the risk of damage from oil spills, and will provide oil to be shipped overseas to increase the profit of the international oil companies.

It is important that we preserve our national wildlife areas and the natural resources under them for the future, yet Big Oil is trying to remove the protections provided on our parks and federal lands. It is fiscally irresponsible to give large subsidies and tax breaks to Big Oil, made up of very profitable and well-established companies – when our country is trying to cut our national spending. And while Big Oil is promoting free market principles for itself, it is promoting anti-competitive principles and laws to reduce competition from renewable energy sources.

Recently one of big oil’s lobbyists, Richard Berman, was secretly taped as he solicited $3 million from oil and gas executives to finance an advertising public relations campaign to discredit environmentalists and celebrities that support them. He told the executives they must be willing to exploit emotions like fear, greed, and anger and turn it against environmental groups. And major corporations secretly financing such a campaign should not worry about offending the general public. he said, because “you can either win ugly or lose pretty”.

The League of Conservation Voters wishes to remind us that Big Oil is spending millions of dollars to promote candidates who will further their interests. And while some of their interests are in our national interest, many are not – and it is important that we elect candidates who will distinguish between the two. Although in the past, many conservative Republicans were champions for the environment, that has changed .  Many Republican candidates now are ranked at less than 10% by the LCV, while the national average is 43% for Representatives and 57% for Senators.   The League of Conservation Voters rates the candidates based upon their past voting records, and you may find out which candidates represent you and the environment at the LCV website.

The Economic Recovery in the Past Five Years: Then and Now

     Posted on Sun ,02/11/2014 by

We have heard so much bad economic news that most people believe it, even though it is not true.The economy has recovered to the point that theRecovery economic stimulus is being ended. That would normally be good news. It is strange that it has not been widely disseminated and many people may be unaware of it. You may read a little piece here and there in the paper about it, but it hasn’t seemed to enter the public’s mind. Actually, since it would help the Democrats, great efforts have been made by some money interests and obstructionists to downplay the recovery.

The chart at the right summarizes the recovery in the last five years. Though it was put together by the Occupy Democrats, the numbers seem to be accurate and can be checked. Normally the President would get credit for the recovery, but not so much in this case as it would likely help the Democrats in the next election. The news could probably have been even better except for the missed opportunities caused by obstructionists in Congress. I hope some of them will join the jobless after the next election.

More on ALEC: Beware the influence of ALEC in Oklahoma

     Posted on Sun ,03/08/2014 by

This article by the author  was first posted in the Oklahoma Policy Institute’s blog.  

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has a great influence on our Oklahoma state politics, but many Oklahomans ALEC2have heard little about the organization. On the surface,  ALEC is an organization made up of corporations and state-level elected officials which meets three times a year to write “model legislation” for states. Officials can then take the model legislation back to their state for consideration. That sounds like a good process, except that what goes on under the surface of ALEC is kept secret.

In May of 2013, ALEC met in Oklahoma City. While corporate representatives from ALEC met with our legislators, a group of citizens protested across the street. The protesters, as well as members of the press, had been barred from attending by security guards. The agenda of the meeting was secret and an elaborate drop box system was created to avoid FOIA requests. Now, over a year later, there is still little known about the meeting or its influence on our legislators.

Rep. Gary Banz, who organized the 2013 event, described it as “a giant coaches clinic for legislators” and said that, though ALEC has been criticized for its secrecy, “The bottom line is if it’s not on our website, it’s not an issue or area that we have embraced.” That’s not quite right.  While ALEC’s website lists some of its policies and model laws, a part of the website is off limits for non-members. The public, journalists, and small business owners are excluded from ALEC membership by steep fees and by a screening process which insures new members are in harmony with ALEC’s mission. ALEC’s membership and funding sources are kept secret .

Much of what is known about ALEC has been discovered by leaked documents and by citizen’s watchdog groups, such as SourceWatch.  ALEC is a 501(c)(3) organization which is not required to reveal its donors or its funding. It has 300 corporate and 1,800 legislative members, but it will not release its membership lists. Rep. Banz said 70 Oklahoma legislators are members, but  SourceWatch lists only 38, leaving 32 members’ identities secret.

Because of the secrecy, it is hard to know what legislation comes from ALEC. Legislators can copy the bills, change them to disguise their source, and present them as their own. Most voters, the press, and even legislative colleagues often do not realize that the legislation came from ALEC. Sponsoring ALEC legislation ensures politicians they will receive support for their re-election campaigns. ALEC’s legislation is often supported by one-sided research, talking points, and op-ed articles designed to convince voters that the politicians are really looking after their best interests.

Many of ALEC’s model laws claim to promote freedom, fairness, and reform, but the end result is often that average citizens lose out in the process.  Citizen’s watchdog groups, such as Common Cause and SourceWatch, are critical of ALEC, saying its bills undercut health care reform, undermine environmental regulations, promote school and prison privatization, limit workers’ rights, restrain legislatures’ abilities to raise revenue through taxes, and mandate strict election laws that disenfranchise some voters, among many other issues.

As Bill Moyers argues in his documentary, United States of ALEC, ALEC is undermining our system of democracy. The strength of the United States is its unity, but some corporations are working through ALEC to undermine that unity at the state level so they can escape regulation and avoid taxes. ALEC is designed to give more power to corporations, claiming that businesses making decisions in their self-interest will lead to the most good for everyone, but the reality is that it does the most good for the already wealthy. We live in a state with enough resources to ensure that every citizen has food, shelter, medical care, education, and an opportunity to contribute back to society. That won’t happen if our state legislature is unduly influenced by ALEC.

What to do about ALEC is the hard question. ALEC hides its members and its funding sources, and it operates as an educational organization to escape lobbying restrictions. There are apparently 32 ALEC members in our state legislature who have not been identified. My plan is to give ALEC as much publicity as possible and to make it a campaign issue by asking candidates to pledge they will not join any organization which will keep them from representing the best interests of Oklahoma citizens.

J.C. Moore is a retired science teacher, a member of the the American Geophysical Union, and co-founder of OKcitizensfirst.org.

Bits and Pieces: Blogging Tips from an Amateur

     Posted on Wed ,25/06/2014 by

I sometimes get requests about website design, platforms, and for tips about blogging. I put my replies together in a short article in hopes it will help others get started.

Before getting started, you must choose a web host, which charges a small fee to host your blog. There are a number of platforms you can choose, but Free WordPress is a good platform, and it is a great way to get started. The paid upgrades aren’t that expensive and have more features. It is important to have an uncluttered website which goes along with the theme of your posts. I think it is a good idea to choose a theme and stick with it so that people who visit your site will recognize it immediately and be able to navigate it easily.

 Here is some advice I gave a friend of mine:

> Have a son who designs web sites. :>) He solves most of my problems.

> Have patience. If you have a quality site with good information, your readership will grow and people will return.

> Do not allow trolls to post comments on your site. Delete personal attacks and obviously false assertions.

> Use all of WordPresses’ Spam Filters. At first I was delighted to get comments, even with a web address attached. I edited each. Then I started getting dozens a day and was overwhelmed so I installed Askimet, Bad behavior, and Captcha – they are available as free Plugins. Send a little payment to the plugin sites you use. They deserve it and make your site much better.

>Be sure to use strong passwords and get a security program for your site – I use Better WP security. Install it before you post much. It once locked me out of my site and I would have lost all my work had my son not saved me.

> Think about posting a few articles on Ezinearticles.com. They give you some exposure and let you link to your own site.

> Put a copyright notice on your articles. That keeps others from legally copying your articles and using them without your permission. (C) 2014 Your Name – is adequate.

> Check into a translator such as at the top of my site. There is a Plugin that does it. I get many more hits from other countries now – but I cringe a bit at the idea of how things may be translated. Machines are not as good as people at translating but the main ideas get through.

>As to ideas, I usually read something that sparks my interest and I write a title and a few short paragraphs to start. My articles are usually based on research so I then begin collecting articles and references on the topic and write short descriptions of them. When I get enough information to be clear on the topic, it is just a matter of arranging the data and adding the background and a narrative to keep the reader interested.

> Write, write, write – but be sure to pay attention to your family. My wife does a lot of art on her computer, so she is understanding – yet sometimes she claims my computer has stolen me away, and refers to it as “that redhead”.

Best wishes and good luck.
J.C.

Oklahoma SB 1456: It’s Not Really a Sun Tax

     Posted on Sun ,15/06/2014 by

asolar Oklahoma just passed and signed into law SB 1456, meant to allow power companies to assess an extra fee on  distributed generation (DG) customers who install renewable energy systems and hook to the power grid for backup. It is not really a tax as the extra fee will go to the power company instead of the state. The law was designed to discourage the investment in renewable energy by private individuals, but it may have unintended consequences for the power companies pushing the law.

Fairness:  The rationale for SB 1456 is based upon fairness arguments which have two very erroneous assumptions. It assumes it is not fair (1) that DG customers are being subsidized by other customers and (2) that DG customers cause an extra burden on the power grid. Research shows that states which encourage DG customers have found they provide a small positive benefit both to other customers and to the power grid.  Research (see below) indicates that distributive energy generation may require fewer upgrades to the power grid, benefiting all customers. Customers who use the grid for backup are required to have a net energy metering (NEM) contract with the power company. Under those agreements, they still pay a customer fee, which defrays the cost of infrastructure, and they are usually not reimbursed for any extra power they produce, essentially providing free energy for the other customers. The power companies agree that we should encourage people to use less energy as AEP/PSO’s states its mission is to “help customers use less energy and spend less for it”. Is it fair then that customers who cut their energy use in half by installing extra insulation are appreciated while those who cut their energy use in half by installing solar energy are charged an infrastructure fee? To be fair, DG customers should be charged as any other customer for the electricity they use and they should be compensated fairly for the excess energy they provide. 

ALEC: Since the author the law is AJ Griffin, my State Senator, I contacted her about the rationale for the law. She provided me with a document called Facts and Fiction, which was very similar to the rationale developed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to discourage the development of renewable energy. At their Chicago meeting last year, ALEC adopted discouraging the spread of renewable energy as one of its goals. Their plan to do this was by weakening renewable portfolio standards (RPS), by claiming that it would make electric rates go up, and by promoting the idea that those who install their own solar panels were “free riders” who did not pay their fair share of infrastructure costs.

When I asked Senator Griffin if she was a member of ALEC, she said that it she had attended one of their events, which turned out to be a trip to Alberta, but she did not know if she was a member or not. ALEC is apparently a very secretive organization. She denied that ALEC had anything to do with the bill, and I believe her, as she is apparently unaware of the connection.  Sen. Griffin told me the Facts and Fiction rationale, which was distributed to the legislators in support of the bill, was prepared by a group of people who represent the electric cooperative and the investor owned power companies. It is no wonder that it was very biased toward the position of the power companies.

Senator Griffin told me she had help writing SB 1456 from Kenny Sparks at the Oklahoma Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives. When I contacted him, he said that the idea of the bill had grown out of discussions with a consortium of power producers in Oklahoma which included representatives from investor owned companies. He said electric companies were worried that distributive generation might eventually increase their costs. One of the investor owned companies was AEP/ PSO, which is a member of ALEC, and the impetus and the rationale for SB 1456 likely came from them. Mr. Sparks told me that neither the consortium, nor the group which developed the Fact and Fiction rationale for SB1456, had a representative from any renewable energy group. It also apparently did it  consider the research which shows that private investors in renewable energy provide a net benefit to the other customers.

Research: There has been credible research which establishes that there is a net benefit to all electric customers in states where net energy metering has been encouraged. A study by Crossborder Energy in 2014 found NEM allows utilities to avoid costs of generation and fuel, maintenance and upgrade of transmission and distribution infrastructure, transmission losses (which account to 7% of losses), capacity purchases, and compliance with renewable energy standards. The study concluded,” The cost which utilities avoid when they accept NEM power exported to their grid shows that NEM does not produce a cost to nonparticipating ratepayers; instead it creates a small net benefit on average across the residential markets.” While it does cause power companies to have to adjust their loads accordingly, NEM reduces peak loads, transmission losses, and the need for new power plants.  In California, the study found NEM “delivers more than $92 million in annual benefits to non-solar customers”.

Another important study  was performed at the request of the Vermont legislature and carried out by the Vermont Department of Public Service. They were charged with determining if there is a cross-subsidization with net metering and other retail customers and to examine any benefits or cost of net metering systems to the distribution and transmission system.  The report addressed the specific ratepayer benefit as well as the statewide, societal benefit of solar net as: “Avoided energy costs, including costs of line loses, capacity costs, and avoided internalized greenhouse gas emission costs.; Avoided regional transmission costs.; Avoided in-state transmission and distribution costs.; Solar coincided with times of peak demand and market price suppression.; And an additional benefit explicitly not covered in the study is the economic multiplier associated with the local investment and job creation created from the local manufacturing and installation of net metering systems. “ Even considering subsidies, the report found that solar net metering was a net-positive for the state of Vermont.

It appears from these studies that net energy metering provides a benefit to the states which encourage the installation of solar and wind generation by private individuals. That benefit even extends to other customers.

Unintended Consequences: Though SB 1456 was an anticompetitive bill designed to discourage private investment in renewable energy, it may not turn out that way. Upon signing the bill Gov. Fallin attached a letter requiring “the Corporation commission to conduct a transparent evaluation of distributed generation consistent with the Oklahoma First Energy Plan. It also said, ” This evaluation mandates inclusion of all stakeholders including representatives of the solar distributed wind energy industries and utilities.” and “A proper and required examination of these other rate reforms will ensure an appropriate implementation of the Oklahoma first energy plan while protecting future distributed generation customers.”

The Oklahoma First Energy Policy encourages development of wind and solar energy, but it relies heavily on the increasing development of our natural gas resources. However, fracking and the associated disposal wells may be related to the increased incidences of earthquakes in Oklahoma. Oklahoma is now in the process of replacing some of its coal-fired power plants with natural gas plants. It would be prudent to encourage a greater development of renewable resources in case a definite link was established between fracking activities and earthquakes, which might greatly curtail Oklahoma’s production of natural gas.

Some electric co-ops , such as Oklahoma’s Indian Electric Cooperative, apparently recognize the value of net energy metering. The company allows net metering customers to accumulate credit for excess power and pays them at the end of the year for any excess credit at the wholesale rate, essentially treating them as any other power provider. If the Oklahoma Corporation Commission would adopt a similar model and require that NEM customers be compensated for the excess power they produce, it would greatly encourage private investments in renewable energy installation. It seems it would be in Oklahoma’s best long-term interest to encourage private investment in renewable energy, and SB 1456 may be the vehicle for that to happen.

(C) 2014 J.C. Moore

Bits and Pieces: ALEC at Work in the Oklahoma Legislature

     Posted on Mon ,02/06/2014 by

In a Readers Forum article in the Tulsa World, “Responsible, conservative reforms working”, Brian Bingman, president pro tem of the Oklahoma Senate, states how proud he is of what the legislature has been able to accomplish. Mr. Bingman is rather quick to pat himself and the legislature on the back, as the reforms he cites were more to the benefit of corporations than of the average citizen. The tax reform and tax cut leaves the state badly underfunded. The balanced budget, achieved by cutting needed services, does not meet the needs of the state. The Capitol building repair was funded by bonds, rather than taxes, which has further indebted the state in the future. The education system is badly underfunded and the tax cuts have only made the situation worse in the future.

The workers compensation reform limits an injured workers right to full compensation for his injuries. Tort reform makes it harder for the average citizen to seek redress in court and limits the liability of corporations. The reform to the state’s public employee pension system, by privatizing the future pension system, destabilizes the existing program, and is a boon to private fund managers. The failure to expand Medicaid will cost the state billions of dollars in Federal funds, that we pay as taxes, and has left 144,000 Oklahomans without adequate healthcare. The hastily passed changes and extensions to corporate oil and gas subsidies, demanded by Oklahoma’s three largest oil and gas companies,  were unnecessary and will make the state’s budget problems worse in future  – and were likely unconstitutional.

Next to the Governor, Mr. Bingman is the highest ranking member of ALEC in our state and his achievements are  high on the list of ALEC’s model legislation. Many of those “accomplishments” benefit  ALEC’s corporate members, but in the end they will hurt Oklahoma and its citizens.  The Governor and 70 of our 149 legislators are members of ALEC, so what chance does an average citizen have?

flag

If you would like to end the influence of ALEC on politics in Oklahoma, please go to http://okcitizensfirst.org/2014/04/24/alec/ and ask your candidates for office to pledge that they will put the needs of Oklahoma citizens first. Let’s vote out anyone who won’t.

Note: The related Credo Petition to Governor Fallin about Medicaid expansion is at:  https://www.credomobilize.com/petitions/governor-fallin-release-the-31-e-mails-about-medicaid-expansion