SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Work boots towered above Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott as he moved down rows of shelving at Justin Boots’ distribution center in Fort Worth.
The campaign ad promised a “new era of economic opportunity.” And the staunchly conservative gubernatorial candidate used the setting to make his message clear: Abbott is the one to protect Texas’ record-breaking oil boom that suddenly has the state producing more oil than Iran.
As fall election season gets underway, the situation is much the same across the nation: Job creation and oil development is becoming the mainstay of campaigns.
Left-leaning activists hoping to turn this year’s mid-term elections into a referendum on climate policy, fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline are likely to be disappointed come November, analysts warn. They might find that the country’s oil and gas boom not only upends debate – it could flip the Senate into Republican hands.
From Louisiana to West Virginia to Montana and Alaska, Democrats risk losing the six seats they need to retain control of half of the Legislative branch.
A climate vow
Billionaire activist and former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer has vowed to bring a focus on climate change in races across the nation this fall, hoping to build off his success making climate and science an issue in last fall’s Virginia governor’s race.
But climate activists will run into a wall of energy money built from an oil and gas production boom that has spread jobs and royalty payments across the country.
Analysts say that money could doom any effort asking voters to link weird weather, drought, floods or even the environmental impacts of the Keystone pipeline to climate change in this election.
"There’s an old saying in Texas politics," said Tom "Smitty" Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office. “‘The only thing that will beat money is organized people. These days, however, more and more of those people are putting food on their tables with oil money."
Oil and gas revenue
Texas, a state coping with more than a decade of drought, the worst wildfires on record and crippling heat waves, has never had much of a climate movement. New money feeding Republicans and Democrats alike is slowing efforts to build momentum in Texas, Smith said. And it’s changing the political calculus in several key states where Senate seats are most vulnerable to Republican gains.
The Cook Political Report’s 2014 voter index lists the most likely Republican takeovers in pockets of the country heavily seeded by oil and gas revenue: Arkansas, West Virginia, Alaska, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Montana.
Big money is gearing up to steer the message.
Oil industry billionaires Charles and David Koch have built a complex network designed to conceal political donors that, according to the Washington Post, raised $400 million in 2012. Through their nonprofit Americans for Prosperity Foundation, they’ve already launched attack ads aimed at unseating Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.
The American Petroleum Institute, the industry’s main trade group, has rolled out a new web-based ad campaign – ChooseEnergy.org– and aired ads focusing on energy policy, said spokesman Carlton Carroll.
Heavy ad buys
On the other side, Steyer spent $8 million of his own money to keep then-attorney general Ken Cuccinelli from Virginia’s governor’s seat last year. Steyer’s campaign focused unrelentingly on Cuccinelli’s attacks on global warming and climate change science.
Steyer hasn’t indicated what races he’ll target this year, though he’s asking visitors to his NextGen Action PAC blog to choose among five candidates – including Landrieu – who support the proposed Keystone XL expansion.
"I plan to back candidates across the country that will take bold action on climate – and to expose those who deny reality and cater to special interests," Steyer said in an e-mail.
The League of Conservation Voters also intends to engage in heavy ad buys this year hoping to repeat success, said spokesman Jeff Gohringer. In 2012 its “Flat Earth Five" campaign helped unseat four of five conservative House Republicans.
But the squeeze on energy-state Dems is evident.
Alaska’s Democratic Sen. Mark Begich likely faces a tough fight from either Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell or former Attorney General Daniel Sullivan. Alaska is warming twice as fast as the rest of the nation and is beset with slumping roads and villages as permafrost thaws. But oil – and conservative voters – are the kingmakers there, and Alaska tea partier Joe Miller has promised to make climate science denial a conservative litmus test for Republican contenders seeking Begich’s seat.
In West Virginia, long-serving U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, a Democrat, was the subject of the most political ad buys during 2013’s off-year, according to Kyle Kondik at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. The campaign included two weeks of advertisements by the pro-petroleum nonprofit American Energy Alliance alleging that his support for the federal budget bill was a support for a carbon tax. The 13-termer, one of four Democrats to join Republicans in a 2011 effort to stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases, is considered unlikely to hold his Republican-leaning district.
Increasing light pollution in tropical habitats could be hampering regeneration of rainforests because of its impact on nocturnal seed-dispersers.These new findings were reported by scientists from the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research Berlin (IZW). The study – published in the British Ecological Society’s Journal of Applied Ecology – is the first to show that seed-dispersing bats avoid feeding in light-polluted areas.
Types of pollution we don’t even think about…
A long period of warm, wet weather spanning several decades helped one of history’s most fearsome tyrants to conquer most of Asia and Eastern Europe and form the largest continuous land empire the world has known, a study has found.
Genghis Khan owes his place in history to a sudden shift in the Asiatic climate from the cold, arid period that immediately preceded his ascent as leader of the Mongol empire, to the warmer, wetter weather that allowed his horsemen to expand out from Central Asia.
Scientists studying ancient Siberia pine trees in central Mongolia that date back nearly 2,000 years believe that Khan’s rise to power coincided precisely with a period of unusually heavy rainfall over a couple of decades which allowed the arid grasslands of the Asian Steppe to flourish.
Richer, more productive pastures for the herds of war horses on which the Mongols depended for their nomadic lifestyle helped Khan’s invading armies to take territory as far east as China, as far south as Afghanistan and as far west as Russia and Hungary, the researchers said.
Tree rings, which record periods of good and bad plant growth, show that the years from about 1180 to 1190, which immediately preceded Genghis Khan’s rule, suffered an intense drought that probably stoked the political turbulence that helped him to come to power.
After this period, the tree rings show a period between 1211 and 1225 of sustained rainfall and mild weather which coincided precisely with the meteoric rise of Khan’s empire, said Amy Hessl a tree ring expert at West Virginia University.
“The transition from extreme drought to extreme moisture right then strongly suggests that climate played a role in human events. It wasn’t the only thing, but it must have created the ideal conditions for a charismatic leader to emerge out of the chaos, develop an army and concentrate power,” Dr Hessl said.
“Where it’s arid, unusual moisture creates unusual plant productivity, and that translates into horsepower. Genghis was literally able to ride that wave,” she said.
The tree rings show that the normally cold, arid steppes of central Asia experienced their mildest, wettest weather in more than 1,000 years at the time when Genghis rose to power and established his enormous land empire with the help of his sons.
A study of the rings, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that the climate soon reverted to its cold, dry state, which led to droughts and lower grassland productivity.
The tree rings also show a disturbing modern trend. Since the mid-20th Century, the region has warmed rapidly and the drought years recently have been more extreme than at any time in the tree-ring record, said Neil Pederson, a tree-ring scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, who led the study.
Each Mongolian horseman in Genghis’s army is said to have had up to five horses, which provided a supply of meat as well as transport. Higher grass yields would have also caused a boom in camels, yaks, cattle, sheep and other livestock, Dr Pederson said.
“The weather may literally have supplied the Mongols with the horsepower they needed to do what they did… Before fossil fuels, grass and ingenuity were the fuels for the Mongols and the cultures around them,” he said.
“Energy flows from the bottom of an ecosystem, up the ladder to human society. Even today, many people in Mongolia live just like their ancestors did. But in the future, they may face serious conditions,” he added.
Genghis Khan died in 1227 but his sons and grandsons continued to conquer more territory and eventually controlled what became modern Korea, China, Russia, eastern Europe, southeast Asia, Persia, India and the Middle East – before the empire began to fragment.
Let me tell you a story. Once at a party, I had all the little girls sitting around me and I was asking them about their favorite parts of all the princess movies. The birthday girl was sitting next to me, and tells me, “Princess, your skin is the same color as mine.” I smile and agree, and try to move the game along, but she interrupts and says, “Your skin is brown and you’re a princess. It’s the same color as mine, but you’re a princess.”
“Well, if my skin is brown and your skin is brown, and I’m a princess, then you must be a princess too.” I tell her. And then I spent the next 10 minutes assuring all the black girls at the party that yes, they have lovely skin and yes, they can be princesses with me.
This happens at most of the parties I go to. I have had my arm stroked, my hair patted, my skin color commented on more times than I can remember. I am not simply hired out to entertain a bunch of cute little girls dressed in poofy skirts who want to play with a big girl in a poofier skirt. I am hired out because I am an affirmation. For these little black girls (and boys! I’ve dazzled a few of them too) Princess Tiana is proof that for once, they can be special BECAUSE of the color of their skin, not IN SPITE OF.
Adding some of her pictures for emphasis.
This made me cry. This is what we’ve done to these innocent little girls. This is what happens when we treat white beauty as default. These beautiful children should grow up KNOWING they are beautiful and can be princesses.
Might have something in my eye..