Talk about the fox guarding the hen house: The same U.S. fossil fuel energy companies that have been prosecuted for violating the Clean Air Act are orchestrating the country’s environmental policy and/or spreading disinformation about greenhouse gases. This leads to more frequent extreme weather events, larger, more favorable conditions for pests and pathogens, and in turn, increases rates for disease such as asthma, heart disease, malaria, Lyme, dengue fever and outbreaks from E. coli and Cryptosporidium to name just a few.
Big coal and oil are the largest greenhouse gas culprits in the U.S. Lobbyists have been successful in defeating attempts to close a loophole that allows many aging US coal-fired power plants to operate as if the Clean Air Act doesn’t exist for some emissions. Some, such as Midwest Generation, which is being sued by the federal government for violating the Clean Air Act, are in court trying to keep their “grandfathered” status. Koch Industries, run by billionaire oil barons who have spent millions to remove government oversight and deny climate change, plead guilty in 2001 to covering up Clean Air Act violations after releasing at least 91 metric tons of benzene, a carcinogen.
The U.S accounts for 4.5 percent of the world’s population but leaves the largest global carbon footprint, even behind more densely populated China and India.
The average age of the approximately 500 coal plants in the US is 40 years and many of the U.S. coal-fired power plants are operating as if the Clean Air Act didn’t exist for some deadly emissions as they are “grandfathered in” that exempt them from modern pollution standards.
Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) tried to address this situation in 2001 and 2005 but lobbyists were successful in killing his attempts to close the loophole, despite Harvard University studies linking their elevated emissions to thousands of pre-mature deaths, asthma attacks and other ill health effects.
Uber-rich billionaire oil barons David and Charles Koch have spent millions to remove government oversight and deny climate change by funding think tanks such as the libertarian Cato Institute, corporate-chummy politicians, Smithsonian Museum exhibits and even junkets for judges. Their Wichita, Kansas-based Koch Industries has an environmental crime record in Texas that besides the benzene episode include a 1999 guilty jury decision in a deadly butane pipeline explosion that killed two teenagers.
Source: Democracy Now, December 28, 2010
Title: From Snowstorms to Heat Waves, How Global Warming Causes Extreme Weather and Climate Instability
Source: Grist.org March 7, 2011
Title: Waxman rails against Koch’s influence on climate change efforts
Student Researchers: John Dickow, Robert Larson and Tianyuan Ma, DePaul University
Faculty Evaluator: Marla Donato, DePaul University